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Friday, 31 May 2013

For those who believe no proof is necessary, for those who do not no proof is sufficient. Which kind of person are you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 51:12-20; Mk 11:27-33

Mark links the incident of the Challenge to the authority of Jesus (11:27-33) with the incident of the Cleansing of the Temple (11:15-19). When asked by the Pharisees where his authority comes from, Jesus points back to the baptism of John and so to his own baptism (1:9-11) where he received the invitation to be both slave and son. Since they are not able to answer because whatever answer they give will result in their condemnation, Jesus too refuses to answer their question. The point that Mark seems to be making is that the authorities had closed themselves to the revelation of God in Jesus and so would not be willing to accept Jesus as God’s chosen one. There would not be much use in trying to explain to those who were not open to listen.


We sometimes make up our minds about something and take so rigid a stand about it that we are then unwilling to change our stance or see someone else’s point of view. The danger of this attitude is that we might miss out on learning something new and the revelation that the situation or person makes to us.

THE LORD'S DOING


Thursday, 30 May 2013

THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - Will you like Mary have the confidence to believe that God will work ONLY for good in your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:14-18; Lk 1:39-56
The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth was begun by St. Bonaventure among the Franciscans in 1263 C.E, and became a universal Feast in 1389 C.E., during the papacy of Urban VI. It celebrates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.

The call of the first reading chosen for the feast of today is a call to rejoice. This rejoicing is for many reasons. The first of these is that judgement has been taken away. The Lord is now in the midst of his people. This being in the midst of his people is confirmed by the Gospel text of today where Jesus is already in the womb of Mary and so among his people. There will be no more reproach or condemnation. Now, there will only be unconditional love.

This unconditional love is confirmed both by the physical act of Mary’s visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth and also the Magnificat which is attributed to Mary. In this hymn, Mary extols God’s greatness because God has indeed redeemed his people. The verbs that are used in the hymn are all in the past tense though signify future actions. This is an indication of the faith and confidence that Mary has in God who she is confident will accomplish all that he has promised.


Though on the surface level the Visitation may appear to be Mary’s concern and love for her cousin, on the deeper level it means that Mary wants to share with Elizabeth what God has done in each of their lives and through the sons to be born of them, what God will do in the world.

The Key to Good Health


God's House


If the Lord were to come to the tree of your life, would he find fruit or only leaves?

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 44:1,9-13; Mk 11:11-26

In the first part of today’s text Mark uses what is know as a “sandwich construction”. This means that he begins narrating an incident, interrupts it by another incident, which is completed, and then the first incident, which was begun and left incomplete, is completed. There are various reasons for the use of this technique.
Here, Mark begins by narrating what is known as the cursing of the fig tree (11:12-14). Only Mark tells us that it was not the season for figs and yet, when Jesus did not find any fruit on the tree he cursed the tree. It is the only miracle that occurs within the Jerusalem section of the Gospel and the fact that it destroys nature does not fit the pattern of the other miracles of Jesus, which make people whole. Mark wants his readers; therefore to see the symbolic character of the miracle of the curing of the fig tree and associate its fate with the fate of the Temple, which is also not producing the fruit, at is meant to produce. 
Mark keeps in suspense what happens to the fig tree till much later (11:20-21), after he has narrated the incident that he places in the middle of the sandwich. This is what is known as the Cleansing of the Temple (11:15-19). It is an incident that is narrated by all the four Gospels though John narrates it quite differently from the manner in which the Synoptics do and even within the Synoptics there are slight differences. Mark is the only one of the evangelists who tells us that Jesus would nod allow anyone to carry anything through the temple which indicates that for Mark Jesus has the power to determine what activity is proper to the Temple. The teaching of Jesus is a combination of two Old Testament texts Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. The chief priests and scribes take affront when they hear about this incident and look for a way to kill Jesus.
Mark then continues the first incident (the cursing of the fig tree) and completes it (11:20-21). The fig tree has indeed withered. This is what will happen to the Temple if it continues in the way of the fig tree, namely if it does not produce the fruit required of it.
Peter is amazed that the fig tree has withered and comments on it (11:22). This gives an opportunity for the Marcan Jesus to teach has disciples about prayer (11:23-25). The first saying about the mountain being thrown into the sea (11:23) brings out forcefully through a dramatic metaphor what is possible for one whose faith does not waver. The second saying (11:24) applies to the community the general principle of the previous verse, namely that there must be absolute confidence in prayer. The final saying (11:25) speaks about forgiveness as a condition to receive the forgiveness of God. This is because if there is unforgiveness in one’s heart it is not possible to receive the forgiveness of God. The unforgiveness acts a block to receiving God’s forgiveness.

Most doctors today are convinced that the larger majority of the illnesses we suffer are psychosomatic. This means that because our mind/heart/internal (psyche) is affected, our body/external (soma) will also be affected. Keeping grudges, harbouring feelings of revenge, nurturing anger and not forgiving are sure ways to spoil one’s health. Illnesses like acidity, hyper tension, fistula, piles, stress diabetes, high blood pressure and many others can be controlled and even avoided if one removes all the negative from one’s heart and mind.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 42:15-25; Mk 10:46-52

This miracle of the healing of blind Bartimaeus is the final miracle in the ministry of Jesus. On hearing Bartimaeus the crowd attempts to silence him. However, he exhibits great faith and perseverance. The title that he uses to address Jesus: “Son of David” carries messianic overtones. This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that such a title is used for Jesus. When he is called by Jesus, Bartimaeus goes to him throwing off his cloak, which could signify a throwing away of the old order to put on something new. After enquiring what he would like to be done to him and hearing his request for sight, Jesus heals him with a mere word. Jesus attributes the healing to the faith of Bartimaeus. Only in Mark are we told that after he was healed, Bartimaeus followed Jesus “on the way”.


We often imagine that we can see only with the eyes in our head and so judge people based on what we see physically. We must realise that this is only one way of seeing and sometimes it is more important to see with the eyes of our hearts. Though Bartimeaus was physically blind, he could recognise with the eyes of his heart who Jesus really was. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

TRUE GREATNESS


How would you define honour? What does your definition say about you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 36:1.4-5.10-17;Mk 10:32-45
 
In this pericope Jesus predicts for the third and final time that he is to suffer and die and be raised (10:32-34). It is the most detailed of all the three. Here too, like in the case of the two previous Passion and resurrection predictions there is a misunderstanding. This time it is on the part of James and John who want places of honour in the kingdom. In response to Jesus’ question of whether they are able to drink the cup that he must drink and be baptised in the baptism with which he must be baptised, they say that they are able. Jesus promises that they will indeed drink the cup and undergo the baptism, but cannot he cannot determine the position of places in the kingdom. That role is left only to the Father.

The other disciples who become agitated with the request of the brothers are in the same boat as they are, and once again Jesus has to teach them the way of the kingdom. Only those willing to serve others can hope to have a place of honour in the kingdom. The last verse of this section points to the Son of man who has come to show the way to the kingdom through his service.


The attitude of the ten towards James and John may be termed as confrontation. This often happens when one desires what the other person is striving for and so feels jealous and envious of the other. It also leads to backbiting and thinking ill of the other like the ten did in the case of James and John. An alternative to confrontation is the attitude of “care-frontation” which would involve challenging the other person to rise above trifles and that, which is not necessary. It arises out of a genuine concern for the good of the person. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

What is the thing, which is the person, what is that event which is preventing you from working for the kingdom? Will you give it up today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 35:1-12; Mk 10:28-31

In response to the statement of Jesus that it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, Peter states that they as disciples have left everything to follow Jesus. The response of Jesus is a reassurance that what they have given up will be replaced by the new bond that they will share with each other both in this life and in the life to come. It must also be noted that the Marcan Jesus also mentions persecutions as being part of the lot of the disciples. These are to be expected by anyone who is a true witness of the Gospel. The last verse of this pericope speaks about the reversal of status that will be part of the kingdom indicating that that the values of the world do not apply in the kingdom.


When we sacrifice something for a cause we must realise that our reward must be the sacrifice itself. The reason why we sacrifice is because we believe in the cause, whether it is helping the poor, reaching out to the needy or any other and we must gain our satisfaction from the understanding that someone has lived more fully because of the sacrifice that we have made.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

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

To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 17:24-29; Mk 10:17-27

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.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

ALL THE ANSWERS ARE IN THE TEXTS OF TODAY

Across
2. WHICH QUALITY ACCORDING TO THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS WILL NOT DISAPPOINT US?
6. HOW MANY CHAPTERS DOES THE BOOK OF PROVERBS CONTAIN?
7. WHO IS SPEAKING IN THE FIRST READING OF TODAY?
8. HOW MANY CHAPTERS DOES THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CONTAIN?
Down
1. WHAT DOES ENDURANCE PRODUCE ACCORDING TO THE SECOND READING OF TODAY?
3. WHAT DOES SUFFERING PRODUCE ACCORDING TO THE SECOND READING OF TODAY?
4. WHAT HAS HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF FAITH ACCORDING TO THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS?
5. THROUGH WHOM HAS GOD’S LOVE BEEN POURED INTO OUR HEARTS ACCORDING TO THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS?

TRINITY SUNDAY - Three in One and One in three


To read the texts click on the texts: Prv 8:22-31; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15

Trinity Sunday might also be termed Mystery Sunday. This is because the focus on this Sunday is solely on God, and God is a mystery. The meaning of a mystery is that there is something about it that we can know, but there is also a great deal about it that we do not and can never know.  Even a cursory look at our ordered world makes us aware that all that is in it has surely come from the hand of a God whom we call Creator. As a matter of fact the first reading of today makes this very point. We can also know who God is through the revelation that Jesus Christ has made as Paul points out in the second reading of today. However, even as we do know something about God it is always important to realise that God will continue to remain a mystery and that there is a great deal that we do not and can never know about God because our minds are too finite to know the Infinite God. Much as we try to understand and define who God is, we keep in mind that we will always fall short. As a matter of fact the more we try to understand the more we realise that we simply do not know. This does not deter us. Rather it makes us keep wondering about the mystery of God. We as Christians are fortunate that God has been revealed to us in a unique manner in the person, mission, death and resurrection of Jesus and that much of what we know of God, is through the revelation that Jesus has made.

The first reading from the Book of Proverbs includes part of this revelation when it introduces Wisdom as both part of the ordering of the created universe and its delight. Just as creation is both intrinsic to God and an expression, delight is intrinsic to the relationship within the Trinity as well as its effect. The reason for the choice of this reading is to show that Jesus as Wisdom is both the love and delight of God.  Toward the end of her life, Julian of Norwich penned this short but profound exchange which can be regarded as a summary of the first reading: “Would you know your Lord's meaning?” she asks. “Know it well, love was God’s meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did Love show you? Love. Why did Love show it? For love.” God is love and only love.

This is also the love that Paul speaks of in the second reading of today when he tells the Romans and us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts because of Jesus Christ and the Spirit that Jesus gives. This love made manifest on the Cross by Jesus Christ is a love through which a new relationship is established between God and the whole of creation. It is a love that is unconditional and given freely and a love which helps us to endure all and any kind of trial and tribulation.

The ability to undergo trials is because the Spirit that Jesus promised his disciples and gave them is a life giving Spirit. It is not something given at a moment in time but continuously and constantly. The gift of the Spirit ensures that those who believe in Jesus will not be left alone but will always have help and assistance. It is an indication that God’s presence in Jesus will be with the community of disciples always.
This constant presence of the Spirit of God made manifest in Jesus is an indication that God is not for the Christian one who is merely Creator, but also Redeemer and Sustainer. God is Father, Son and Spirit and Almighty God, Word made flesh and Comforter. God is past, present and future. God was, is and will be. God is all and in all.

Even as this eternal presence of God with us and for us is true, it is also true that three persons one God indicates community, unity and inclusiveness. God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. In other words, God is not a loner or a recluse. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. God is found in one’s heart but also in community and in relationships. Since God is present in the now and in the world, it is right and fitting to find God in all things and all things in him. Thus, the ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world away from contact with other people and society but an immersion into the world with a view to transforming sorrow to joy, injustice to justice, negatives to positives, darkness to light and death to life. It is a spirituality which seeks to transform fear into love.

Since love in Universal, there is no one who is outside the kingdom of God. There is no “us” and “them”. There is only “we.” And we are all connected and interconnected. Yet, though the Trinity is united it also embraces diversity. We are not required to be the same. We can be different and yet united, we can be different and yet one, we can be different and yet integrated. We are asked each of us to offer our unique gifts for the good of the community. We are not asked to all be the same. There is unity even in diversity. There is oneness even in difference. There are three persons yet one God.

Friday, 24 May 2013

CHILDREN AND THE KINGDOM


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


To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 17:1-15; Mk 10:13-16

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, 23 May 2013

MADONNA DELLA STRADA - OUR LADY OF THE WAY


To read the texts click on the texts: Prov 4:10-18; Lk 2:15-19

In 1537 St. Ignatius hired a small house near a small church on a narrow street in Rome. The Church was named as Our Lady of the Way, because of a picture of Our Lady in the church and its proximity to the narrow street. Here St. Ignatius celebrated Mass and prayed with his companions.

For many years ‘La Strada’ (the wayside) was the ‘heart of the Society’. It witnessed the long hours of prayer of St. Ignatius, his discussions, meditations, and reflections with his companions. The Constitutions were written here. The first novices were trained by St. Ignatius here. Hundreds of letters went from here to St.Ignatius’ companions round the world. Fr. Cordacio, a wealthy and influential diocesan priest who became a Jesuit used all his money and influence to buy the rented house and secure the Church through Pope Paul III for the Society. In course of years the ‘Gesu’ Church and other buildings came up. All this through the powerful intercession of Mary, Queen and Mother of the Society whose same picture is venerated in a special chapel in the ‘Gesu’ and who is honoured with today’s feast, granted to the Society of  Jesus by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.

The Gospel text chosen for the memorial of the feast concerns the response of the Shepherds to the revelation that they have received. It also concerns the response of Mary. While all are amazed at the Shepherds report of the things that have taken place, Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (2:19). Mary is not only the servant of the Lord, but also she quietly considers the meaning of these wonderful events. In this she is the handmaid of the Lord who let it be done in and through her.

DIVORCE


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


To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 6:5-17; Mk 10:1-12

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. 

SALT


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

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


To read the Texts, click on the Texts: Sirach 5:1-8; Mk 9:42-50

This pericope contains a series of sayings against those who cause scandal and lead others to sin. The “little ones who believe in me” points backward to the “little children” received in Jesus’ name. Anyone who scandalises or causes someone else to stumble is a danger to those who believe. "To cause to stumble" indicates a loss of faith. 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.

These sayings challenge us to examine the quality of our discipleship. Is following Christ at the core of our being, something too precious to be surrendered lightly? Or is our Christianity merely a matter of taste and convenience, something we shelve at the slightest difficulty or inconvenience? Belief that is easily set aside cannot be the faith that Jesus calls for among his disciples.

Christianity is not a private religion, but one which is open to all. A Christian is called to be like leaven in dough, like a lamp on a lamp stand, like salt in food. 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. 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, 21 May 2013

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?


To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 4:11-19; Mk 9:38-40

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 suing 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 in 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 worshippers. 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, 20 May 2013

THE LORD'S WAY


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.


To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 2:1-11; Mk 9:30-37

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/she leads than if he/she tries to dominate.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

BELIEVE


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


To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 1:1-10; Mk 9:14-29
 
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.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

PENTECOST - THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


To read the texts click on the texts:Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn20:19-23

A story is told of a man, who, when a very young boy, was taken to nursery school by his mother. Attentive to his anxiety about being abandoned, the boy’s mother leaned down, kissed her son, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.” Each day, his mother would bid him farewell with those same words. The boy was too young to recognize the paradox, and embraced his new existence and quickly adjusted to new and frightening surroundings. Day after day, and week after week, his mother bid the same farewell: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”

The boy grew into adulthood, and was during this time confronted with the reality of having to place his mother in a nursing home. She -- now elderly and frail, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease -- barely recognized him, often forgot to eat, and simply could no longer care for herself. As he departed from her, leaving her in her new and frightening surroundings, he remembered her words. He leaned down, kissed his mother, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving” -- words his mother recognized even though she no longer recognized him. A tear appeared in her eye, as she clasped his hand and repeated, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”

This is Jesus’ message on his departure to the Father: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving”.

Jesus is departing from us, out of our sight. We find ourselves in the new and frightening surroundings of this life, in a place where we are uncomfortable and often feel ill-equipped to carry on. And yet, Jesus continues to assure us of his continued presence through his gift of the Holy Spirit. This is why though he says Good bye, he is not leaving. This is shown in the Gospel text of today when he comes to the frightened disciples after his Resurrection on Easter evening, with a twofold greeting of peace. These disciples, who fled in fear at Jesus’ arrest, are now themselves forgiven and told to continue his mission from the Father. Though they abandoned Jesus, he will not abandon them; though they failed him, God’s love will not fail them. Then, reminiscent of God’s action at creation, Jesus breathes on them, and gifts them the gift of the Spirit and with it the gift of new life. They have become a new creation. Along with the gift of the Spirit is also a commission which is to forgive and retain sin.” Retaining sin” has sometimes been equated with a juridical act, but two indicators caution us that it should not be so. The first is that it is not just the eleven but the “disciples” who are gathered in the room. John uses the term “disciples’ for a much larger group than the twelve or eleven. This group could also have included women and so the commission has to do with something that is more than juridical. The second is that the Greek “kratein” can also mean “restrain or hold in check.” This thus means that through the gift of the Spirit, who is also the Spirit of truth, the disciples are given power to take away sin the sin of the world and unmask and control, hold in check, the power of evil as Jesus himself did. They are not to act as arbiters of right and wrong, but through their just and loving actions in imitation of the Lord, they are to communicate the unconditional love of the Father.

At Pentecost, as the Acts of the Apostles narrates, the Spirit of God and through the Spirit God’s unconditional love comes down upon the disciples, resting on each of them and thereby bringing them—and us—together once again.   The disciples get a crash course as it were in the language of God.    After Pentecost the days of Babel and confusion are over.   The great differences among us, in communication and dialogue, culture and background, wealth and poverty, are scattered in “the rush of a violent wind.” They are burned away by tongues of fire. It does not matter now whether we are Parthians, Medes or Elamites of old, or Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis of today. Each one hears the same message in his/her native tongue simply because it is a language of forgiveness and love, and the language of love is one.
   
The unity which this love brings is summarized by Paul in the text of his first letter to the Corinthians. The Spirit, though one, is never bottled or canned.  It is at work in each of us, always fresh and always new, waiting to be translated into the language of our own lives, into the language of love. 

Our world, however, is still tongue-tied. Babel, the parable of our first clash of cultures and failure to communicate, is more than a mythic explanation of the differences among nations and languages.   It is an apt description of the human condition itself.   We often do not understand one another even when we speak the same language.   We all remain stymied by our fundamental inability to accept the differences among us in how we live and what we believe. It is only to the extent that we make an effort to accept the other, no matter how different or foreign, that we come to understand the language of God.   Only then is Babel turned to Pentecost.

As the Spirit used the discourse of the disciples on Pentecost to reshape and redirect the lives of those who listened to their words, so the Spirit on this Pentecost will reshape and mould us if we but listen.  After all, God speaks to us in the one abiding word that ends fear and brings lasting peace and love—the Word- Made-Flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Friday, 17 May 2013

THE LORD IS BIGGER THAN ANYTHING WE CAN IMAGINE


Would Jesus point to you as a beloved disciple today? Why?


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 28:1-20,30-31; Jn 21:20-25

The first two verses of today’s text shift the focus from Peter to the Beloved disciple. Like he does elsewhere, with other characters in his Gospel, John reminds the reader of when the beloved disciple first appeared in his narrative. The question of Jesus to Peter in 21:22: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” has caused consternation. John already provides a correction of the misunderstanding that this disciple would not die and so, this is not what Jesus meant. By using a favorite word of his, “remain”, John points out what he means by Jesus’ seeming enigmatic words. This disciple will indeed remain through the words that he has written in his Gospel. Though he will die a physical death, he will continue to live in the witness that he has given to Jesus in his Gospel. Just as Peter will give witness to Jesus by dying a martyr’s death, the beloved disciple will give witness to Jesus by his Gospel.

The Gospel ends with a hyperbolic statement which also serves as a warning of how the Gospel and all of scripture must be interpreted. The Gospel is only a pointer and must be seen in that light. The person of Jesus is bigger than any writing or Gospel can ever contain and, no matter how much is said of Jesus, in the final analysis, it will always be inadequate. This does not mean that we must not say what we know. Rather, it means that, even as we say what we know, we must realize that there is much more that we do not know and so cannot say.

There is an obsession with so many today with prolonging life. These use all kinds of artificial means to try to look younger. They dye their hair black; get tummy tucks, nose jobs, and even plastic surgery to remove wrinkles. They imagine that they can cheat death and live forever. They hardly realize that what is important is not the length of time one lives, but how one lives in the time given to us. It is quality, not quantity, that is important. Jesus’ words about the beloved disciple are not about his living forever, or not dying, they are about the witness that endures even after he dies. This means that each of us, like the beloved disciple, has the ability to leave a legacy even after we are gone from this world. It is up to us to decide what kind of legacy it is going to be.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

YOUNG OR OLD THE LORD IS IN CONTROL


Be careful of saying you are a friend of Jesus, he will call you to live and love for him.


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 25:13-21; Jn 21:15-19

The first verse of today’s text links this section with the previous one (21:4-14) through the words, “When they had finished breakfast”. It is a continuation of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at Lake Tiberius where, because they obey his instructions, they are able to haul in 153 fish.

The verses of today’s text narrate the conversation that Jesus has with Simon Peter. Some are of the opinion that the reason why Jesus asks Peter three questions is because Peter denied him three times. While this may be so, it is also important to realize that the questions are all different. The first question which Jesus asks is inclusive. It includes the other disciples, the boat, the nets, and the fish. Jesus is asking Peter whether Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples and/or his livelihood. The second question is direct and involves only Jesus and Peter. Everything else recedes into the background. The spotlight shifts only to the two. Does Peter love Jesus? Though the third question seems similar to the second, it is really different because in it, Jesus asks Peter about friendship. It reads: “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” This is a crucial change from the earlier question because, in 15:13, Jesus had explained the true meaning of friendship when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” By affirming that Peter is, indeed, a friend of Jesus, he is affirming his willingness to die for Jesus.

This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that as soon as Peter affirms his friendship, Jesus invites him to lay down his life. This invitation begins with the double Amen in 21:18, and so marks the introduction of a solemn pronouncement. The saying of Jesus that follows explains how, when Peter was young, he fastened his own belt and went wherever he wished to go. This is an indication of the freedom that Peter experienced earlier. However, soon he will have to stretch out his hands and someone else will fasten his belt for him, and take him where he does not wish to go. This is seen as a specific reference to Peter’s death by crucifixion, and is confirmed by the explanation that John gives in parenthesis in 21:19: “(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)”

The text ends with Jesus inviting Peter to follow him. Though this command of Jesus may be seen as a general invitation to discipleship, here it means a specific command to martyrdom and even death.

It is significant that the call to martyrdom to Peter is given only after his threefold confession of his love of Jesus, and he is given charge of the sheep only after he has confessed this love. It is thus clear that there is no coercion on the part of Jesus, but a call that Peter has accepted freely. Peter knows, even as he answers, that trials and difficulties are part and parcel of his commitment. He is aware that following Jesus is not going to be easy and that he will be called to make great sacrifices. He is ready, willing, and able.

The call to follow Jesus today is a call that will continue to be heard as long as there are people who dare to open their hearts to this call. While it will not always be a call to martyrdom by death, like it was in the case of Peter, it will always be a call to be a martyr or witness. This is because the voice of Jesus can only be heard today in his disciples and he can be seen and experienced only when those who profess to follow him reach out in love. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

KNOWING THE FATHER AND SON


Are the troubles and difficulties of your neighbour as real to you as your own? Or do you regard their problems as of no consequence to you?


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 22:30-23:6-11; Jn 17:20-26
In these last verses of the prayer, Jesus expands the circle of those for whom he prays to include believers of the future. Since Jesus did not come to make a limited revelation, but one that was meant to embrace the whole world, it is only appropriate that he pray also for those who will believe because of the disciples’ word and witness. The primary invocation that Jesus makes here is the all be one. It is a petition for unity. The reason for this petition is that Jesus wants all those who will believe in him to share in the same relationship that he shares with his Father. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, so, he prays, that all believers will also share in this mutual indwelling. When this unity is seen by those who do not yet believe, they, too, will be inspired to know and believe that Jesus was indeed sent by God. Unity of the community, which has as its source the unity of the Son and Father, will be the drawing force that will lead others to Jesus. By the unity that is shown in community, those who believe in Jesus will also be able to complete God’s work in the same way in which Jesus did.

In the last three verses of the prayer (17:24-26), there is a greater intensity. Petition changes to want. This is not to be interpreted as selfishness but rather, as audacity or confidence. Jesus is confident that his Father will give him what he wants and also, that this is his Father’s will for him and all believers. What Jesus wants is that God, he, and the believers, share in a mutual indwelling. What he wants is that all be one. This oneness and unity is expressed in the tangible reality of love.

Christianity was never meant to be, and can never be, a private religion. Everything about Christianity is both individual and communitarian. The seven Sacraments are beautiful examples of the communal dimension of Christianity. This is because Jesus did not come to make a private or esoteric revelation to only a small group of individuals but to make a revelation to the whole world. Thus, the community of believers today is faced with this challenge of showing the communal dimension or unity of the community and so, drawing others to believe. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege because we are called to continue the work of Jesus himself and so share in the mission entrusted to him by his Father. It is a responsibility because, as believers, we cannot be complacent and content with our private devotions or individual faith.  We must manifest it to everyone we meet. It is a faith that is to be shown in action, a faith that is to be shown in tangible love.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

TRUTH


How do I measure my own success? Is the aim of my striving to “have more” or to “be more”?


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:28-38; Jn 17:11-19

The prayer of Jesus continues with a prayer for the disciples. In the first verse today, Jesus prays for God’s protection for the disciples and the oneness that they must share. This unity must be like the unity that the Son, Jesus, shares with God, his Father. While Jesus was on earth, he was able to instruct his disciples on this unity and show it in his own words and actions.  Now that he is going to the Father, he entrusts this teaching to God. The “world”, with its own set of values and way of proceeding, will try to draw the disciples away from the teaching of Jesus, much like it drew Judas Iscariot. Yet, he was the one who decided that he wanted to break away from the community and align with the “world” and so, made his choice. The disciples need to be given the same strength that Jesus had and be sanctified in the truth.

It is so easy to be sucked in by all that the “world” has to offer. The lure of money, riches, and the desire to have more, are tempting and inviting. Success is often measured by how much a person has rather than by how much he/she is. This results in a striving to possess more and more even, if at times, it is at the cost of someone else having less than is their due. The prayer of Jesus for his disciples must be read today in this context and we need to constantly ask ourselves if, as his disciples, the prayer that he made is having its desired effect on us.

Monday, 13 May 2013

ONENESS


Does my prayer show in action? How?


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:17-27; Jn 17:1-11

Chapter 17, from which we will read today, tomorrow, and the day after, is titled “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. However, this may also be seen as a farewell hymn of praise to God. This farewell is not simply the death of Jesus, but is the “departure” from this world, a return to the Father, after completing the work entrusted to him. It is thus a prayer of thanksgiving and confidence. Since is the last prayer before the Passion Narrative, which begins in Chapter 18, it must also be interpreted with this in mind. The intimacy that Jesus shares with the Father shines through every sentence of the prayer. Jesus speaks in this prayer directly to God.

The prayer is divided into three parts. In the first (17:1-5), though it seems that he is praying for himself, what Jesus is really doing is giving thanks to the Father for his graciousness and love. In the second part (17:6-19), Jesus prays for his disciples and, in the final part of the prayer (17:20-26), Jesus prays for those who will believe because of the disciples preaching, i.e. future generations of disciples.

The prayer begins with Jesus adopting a formal posture of prayer, looking up to heaven, and addressing God as “Father”. On the one hand, this shows that Jesus now distances himself from his disciples and, on the other, indicates the intimate relationship that Jesus shares with God. The announcement of the “hour” at the beginning of the prayer points to the fact that the prayer will be directed to God, keeping this in mind. It is the “hour” of glorification because during it, Jesus will obey God completely, and in that obedience, God will be revealed and glorified. Jesus, as Son, has revealed God’s gift of eternal life to all who were willing to receive it. Jesus has completed this work on earth and now, he has to return to the Father in order to complete the work of glorification.

The work of glorification included making the name of God known to all. Jesus has revealed the Father as Father and God as a God of unconditional and bountiful love. The disciples have been able to see God revealed in Jesus and thus, have kept God’s revealed word. Since Jesus is not going to be in the world in the same way in which he was with the disciples, he prays for their protection. This protection is to be manifested in the oneness that the disciples will share to show those who do not yet believe, that Jesus has indeed come from God and is with God.

Prayer is not primarily words, but an attitude. This is what Jesus displays in his prayer. The manner in which one addresses God displays the relationship that one shares with him. “Father” was the most intimate term for Jesus to use and it shows the oneness that he felt with God. Each of us has to find our own intimate term with which to address God. It is important to realize that, after Jesus, God can never be looked at with fear or trepidation, but only with confidence, courage, and hope.

Prayer does not begin with “me” but with God and his glorification. However, the glorification of God is complete when love abounds, because where love is, there God is. The effect of our prayer has to be seen in tangible love, expressed in deeds, like it was in the life of Jesus.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

THE PROMISE


When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem today will you believe that you, like Jesus, will overcome?


To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 19:1-8; Jn 16:29-33

Though the disciples think that they have understood everything that Jesus has said, and that it is plain to them, they actually misunderstand. While Jesus has used many figures of speech to make his points, the disciples mistakenly think that he has used only one. They also do not realize that Jesus had spoken of a future time when he would speak plainly and when things would be clear, and erroneously think of that time as the present. Where Jesus was appealing to the heart, the disciples used their minds. Their knowledge is an intellectual knowledge and thus, focuses only on the present and not on the future. They forget that the whole story of Jesus can only be completed with the departure to the Father. This is why Jesus has to reorient them and remind them again of the “hour”. The “hour” here is the hour of death which will result in the scattering of the disciples. They will all abandon him at his death. Yet, Jesus will not be alone because he knows that the Father will be with him, even if no one else is. Thus, even when faced with the most difficult situation, namely death, Jesus can have peace and this is the peace that he will gift to the disciples. This peace will enable the disciples to stand up to all the trials and tribulations they will encounter.

The last words of Jesus here are words of confidence and hope: “But take courage; I have conquered the world.” Even as he goes to his death, Jesus knows that victory will be his. He will overcome, through his cross, all the negative powers that try to prevent his love from reaching the ends of the earth.

It takes courage to believe when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties of life. It is at times like these that our faith is tested and tried. It is at times like these when we have to ask ourselves whether we believe that God is still working for our good. To have courage in the face of adversity, to believe in the face of trials, and to trust and have faith when everything seems to be going wrong, is to have the confidence in the Father that Jesus had. This attitude can be ours if we open ourselves to God’s abundant grace and realize the impermanence of all that assails us. It is to know that, like Jesus, we too will overcome the “world”. The movement from present sorrow, pain and trial, to future joy, peace and hope, is possible and even guaranteed because Jesus has overcome.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

Across
4. Which place were the disciples not to leave
6. The number of men in white robes mentioned in the first reading of today?
7. To which Church is the second reading of today addressed?
8. What does the second reading regard as the Body of Christ?
Down
1. At which hand of God is Jesus seated?
2. The person for whom the Gospel of Luke was written
3. To which place did Jesus lead the disciples before blessing them?
5. In which other place besides Jerusalem and Judea, would the disciples, be witnesses?