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Sunday, 30 June 2013

What excuses have you been giving to the call to follow Jesus? What will you do about them today?


To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 18:16-33; Mt 8:18-22

Today’s text follows immediately after the first three miracles of Matthew’s Miracle Cycle. In the first three miracles, the disciples are not mentioned at all and the focus is solely on the authority of Jesus. The text of today and the miracles that follow emphasise discipleship. The scribe who addresses Jesus in the text of today is clearly not a disciple because of the term he uses to address Jesus, namely “Teacher”. In Matthew, only disciples address Jesus as Lord. The scribe is informed through Jesus’ response that firstly Jesus is the one who will take the initiative to call and secondly that his priorities need to be changed. The life to which Jesus calls will need a reversal of priorities. To the second disciple, Jesus’ response seems hard and brusque. Some interpret this to mean that the spiritually dead must be left to bury the physically dead. However, the point is that absolutely nothing can come in the way of Jesus’ call.

Following Jesus on Mission means become an “other-centred” person from being self-centred. It will mean giving up the Ego and placing the other’s need before my own. It may mean giving up what one holds dear and near. It is an unconditional following. 

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR


To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 19:16b,19-21; Gal5:1,13-18; Lk 9:51-62 

“Rejection” seems to be one word that summarizes, at least partly, the readings of today. Other words are “perseverance, determination, and commitment”. As soon as Jesus sets out for Jerusalem where he will be finally rejected, he faces rejection in a Samaritan town. However, he will not be deterred. His face will be set like flint for Jerusalem because that is where the will of God will be finally accomplished. This is all that matters for Jesus: to do God’s will no matter the consequences. He is determined to see the completion of the task assigned to him.  He is committed till the end. He will persevere.

The response of Jesus to James and John, who want to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, is a double response. On the one hand, Jesus is not Elijah and so will not call down fire from heaven like Elijah did. On the other hand, Jesus’ response makes clear that his mission is not to pull down and destroy but to build up and enhance. He has come not to condemn but to save.

It is in this context that the call to the “would be” disciples must be seen. Though the mission of Jesus is not to win through domination and subjugation, but rather through unconditional and continual love, he will demand from his disciples an unconditional following. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because his way is more challenging than the way of conquest and invasion that there can be no half hearted or lukewarm response to his call. Unlike Elisha, who is allowed to go back and say farewell to his father and mother, Jesus demands radical and total commitment. This kind of commitment can result in being able to fulfil the task of discipleship. It is a decision that is not made lightly, but after much thought, consideration, and contemplation.

Jesus does not use coercion or force to gain disciples. He only invites. However, even as he invites, he makes it abundantly clear to those who would dare to follow what the consequences will be of their following.  They will have to be as ones who have no security of home or hearth. They will have to be as ones who have no family to call their own. They will have to be as ones who are ready to face opposition, hostility, and conflict. They will be as ones who profess total and complete detachment. This is the kind of detachment that Elisha shows when he slaughters his oxen and uses the equipment that comes with them for fuel. Through this act, Elisha, though allowed to say farewell to his father and mother, demonstrates that he is prepared for an unconditional following of God through his mentor, Elijah.

The work of the kingdom which Jesus inaugurated is heavy and demanding work. It requires a persevering commitment. It is easy to get discouraged and want to give up in the face of trials and difficulties and what sometimes seem to be insurmountable odds. It is easy to give up in the face of rejection. It is because of this that Jesus states, in unambiguous terms, what it entails to follow him. The disciple who follows will have no place to lay his/her head.

Following Jesus will mean, as Paul explicates in the second reading of today, the desire to communicate love and to do it constantly, even in the face of fear and rejection. Love indeed sums up the whole law. Those who decide to follow will have to show through both word and deed this love which Jesus manifested when he was on earth. This means first, living by the spirit and not by the flesh. This means that any kind of behaviour which makes the self more important than others is unacceptable and not part of the kingdom. This means that, even in the face of haughtiness, arrogance, pride, and conceit, the disciple will always respond with modesty, humility, and love.

Like Elijah before him, Jesus knew that if the work of the kingdom had to be carried on, he had to choose disciples who would do this. To be sure, the disciples would not be perfect.  They would stumble and fall numerous times and would pick themselves up again and again. Yet, the work of the kingdom would go on. Even Elijah, who had experienced God's providence and power, had his moments of darkness. He had been blessed with much success, but at the slightest sign of a reversal of fortune, he was ready to quit. He was quick to blame others for the situation in which he found himself. On numerous occasions, he felt all alone. Yet, just as in all these situations he was consoled by God and invited to carry on, so too will the disciples of Jesus who feel alone be consoled by him. They will feel the presence of God in Jesus even when they and their message are rejected and go unheeded. On their part, they must make it their constant endeavour never to give up, but to carry on with perseverance, determination, and courage. Rejection of the message of love must not be a hindrance to the disciples task of spreading this love to everyone they meet. They had been set free by Christ.  Now it is their responsibility to set others free from the bondage of fear and self centeredness.  Now it is their responsibility to free others for the true freedom of love.


Friday, 28 June 2013

Does Jesus Christ have faith in you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 18:1-15; Mt 8:5-17

The text of today contains the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. The healing of the Centurion’s servant is also found in Luke (7:1-10) and John but with variations. While in Luke the centurion never makes an appearance personally, in Matthew he addresses Jesus as “Lord”, which is an address only believers use in Matthew. The response of Jesus to the Centurion’s need is seen by some as a question rather than a statement, “I should come and heal him?” This is in keeping with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus who is sent as Messiah only for the lost sheep of Israel (10:5-6) and not for Gentiles. The Centurion is not deterred by Jesus’ question, and responds with faith. The healing takes place from a distance. The focus, however, is not on the miracle but on the faith of the centurion and through his faith the faith of “unbelievers”. The centurion does not claim to have faith. It is Jesus who testifies to his faith.


We can get deterred and lose our focus when thigs do not go the way we want them to. At these times we may blame our family, our neighbours and even God. The Centurion’s attitude is a lesson to us never to get deterred from what we have to do and continue to keep our sights fixed on what we want to achieve confident that our perseverance will pay rich dividends.

Retreat in Moss Vale

I leave for Moss Vale on Friday, June 28, 2013 to give a Retreat to the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres. The Retreat will be at St. Paul's International College, Moss Vale. I will be back in Mumbai on July 10, 2013. I will keep updating my blog, so please keep reading and keep the Sisters and me in your prayers.
God be with you all and Mary always intercedes.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

LET THIS BE YOUR PRAYER


Are there some around you whom you have been treating as lepers? Will you have the courage to reach out and touch them today? In your prayer do you express the confidence that the leper in the story expresses? If No, why not?


To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 17:1,9-10,15-22; Mt 8:1-4

We begin reading today in the liturgy and will continue for the whole of next week from Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. These Chapters contain what is known as the “Miracle Cycle” of Matthew, because in them we find ten miracles in series of three miracles each. The fact that the Miracle Cycle follows immediately after the Sermon on the Mount and both are framed by a summary statement in 4:23 and 9:35 is an indication that Matthew’s intention is to show through such a placement that Jesus is the Messiah in words (through the Sermon on the Mount) and deeds (through the Miracle Cycle).

The healing of a leper, which is our text for today, is also found in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, but where Mark narrates the emotional reactions of Jesus, Matthew and Luke omit them. The term leprosy was used for any kind of skin disease, and those with such kind of diseases were considered as unclean and not allowed to be part of society. They had to live on the outskirts of the city, and had to make their presence known whenever they entered the city, so that others could avoid any kind of contact with them and so not get contaminated.

The leper addresses Jesus as Lord, which is a title used only by believers in the Gospel of Matthew. In this miracle, Jesus not only heals the leper, but also reaches out and touches him. This probably means that Jesus cannot be contaminated or made unclean by anything from outside. It could also indicate Jesus’ wanting to reach out to the leper in a personal manner and treat him as a full human being.

The prayer of the leper is a lesson for each one of us on the meaning of prayer. In his prayer the leper both acknowledges his dependence on Jesus through the words, “If you will” and also has faith in the ability of Jesus to heal through the words, “you can make me clean”. Prayer means to acknowledge our dependence on God and also to have faith that God can do what to us may seem impossible.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

NAMES, PLACES ET AL IN THE READINGS OF TODAY

Unscramble each of the clue words.
Copy the letters in the numbered cells to other cells with the same number.

ROCK OR SAND?


Do your actions speak louder than your words?


To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 16:1-12,15-16, Mt 7:21-29

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

If the foundation of our lives is strong, then what we build on it will also be strong. If we have a strong sense of values and know what our priorities are in life, we can continue to be focussed on what we have to do.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

ACTIONS NOT WORDS


THE LORD WAS TRUE TO HIS PROMISE TO ABRAM


Is your being good? What will you do to make it better?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 15:1-12,17-18; Mt 7:15-20

The text of today is from the latter part of the Sermon on the Mount. In it Jesus asks his listeners to focus on the internal i.e. the heart from which everything else flows. If the heart is pure than everything that a person does or says will also be pure. The external is only an expression of the internal. A person's actions or words flow from what is in his/her heart.

Our actions do not often coincide with our words, because we do not always mean what we say. Sometimes we say one thing and do another. There is a dichotomy between our words and actions. We are called to synchronise the two.

WHICH GATE WILL YOU CHOOSE?


THE LARGE HEARTEDNESS OF ABRAM


Monday, 24 June 2013

How will you show that you have chosen the narrow gate?

To read the texts click on the texts: Genesis 13:2.5-18; Mt 7:6.12-14

The first verse of today (7:5) introduces a new subject: holiness. The point that seems to be made here is that holy things have their place and should not be profaned. 7:12 has often been termed, as the Golden rule, which the Matthean Jesus states, is a summary of the law and prophets. Here it is stated positively. One must treat others in the same way that one expects to be treated. This also means that one must take the initiative in doing the loving thing that does not wait to respond to the action of another. In the final two verses of this pericope (7:13-14) the point being made is that it is the narrow gate that leads to life and salvation and the broad or wide gate to damnation. One must make a choice for one or another.

We wish that people would be kind and understanding with us but we are seldom kind and understanding towards them. Often the behaviour that we find revolting in others is the behaviour we ourselves are guilt of. When we criticise others for being too harsh, we need to ask whether we have not been so.

The words that you use to complete this sentence will give you a fairly good idea of how you treat others: People are usually ……………………

Sunday, 23 June 2013

THE STRENGTH OF THE LORD


THE BIRTH OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST - Will you speak God’s word to at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66,80

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24 each year. The reason for this is the mention in the Gospel of Luke that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when the Announcement was made to Mary (Lk 1:36) about the birth of Jesus. Thus if Christmas is celebrated on December 25 each year, John the Baptist who was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah had to have been born six months before Jesus.

According to some, John is born when the days are longest (June 24), and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest (December 25), and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3:30).

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

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


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

Saturday, 22 June 2013

TWELFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - Who do I say Jesus is?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 12:10-11;13:1; Gal 3:26-29; Lk9:18-24

The two questions regarding Jesus’ identity are found in all three Synoptic Gospels and are extremely significant. The first question concerns who the “people” think Jesus is and the second, who the “disciples” think he is. The answers that the people and the disciples give will determine if they have really understood Jesus. It is clear from the answers of the people that they have not grasped the full import of the person of Jesus. For them, he is merely another prophet, another messenger of God. Peter acts as the spokesman for the disciples in the Synoptic Gospels. His answer differs slightly in each, but the core is the same: Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, the Messiah.

The question concerning the Messiah or the Christ was a question that was uppermost in the minds of most people at the time of Jesus. They were waiting anxiously for the Messiah to come and redeem them. Roman occupation had tired them and their one hope was redemption through the Messiah. Many saw redemption as the overthrow of the Romans and some even expected it to be violent. No one, not even the disciples, would have expected the Kingdom to come in the way Jesus brought it. His way was beyond their wildest expectations.

We are given some indication of this novel and radical way in the Gospel of Luke, who alone has the scene of “Peter’s Confession” immediately after the feeding of the 5000. Through this, Luke already indicates that Jesus will be the Messiah who, instead of overthrowing the Romans and using violence, will be one who will feed the hungry with bread and make the sick and invalid whole. He will be a Messiah who reaches out in compassion and love. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke avoids mentioning the name of the place where the Confession was made, possibly to avoid any association with Caesar and the tetrarch, Philip, after whom the place was named. Luke places it instead in the context of the prayer of Jesus.  This highlights the fact that the way of Jesus stood in direct opposition to the way of the Emperors of this world and their tetrarchs. Their way would be the way of domination, exercising authority, and striving for supremacy.  Jesus’ way would be the way of service, humility, and being least and last. This is confirmed by the command to silence and in the sayings that follow Peter’s Confession.

The command to silence that Jesus gives in each of the Gospels after Peter’s Confession, is a caution that Jesus is unsure if the disciples have understood him as they ought. Although on one level, Peter’s answer is the right one, Jesus needs to ensure that Peter and the disciples have understood the true meaning and consequences of the answer.

The sayings which follow the command to silence reiterate that Jesus is neither a violent Messiah nor one who will come to dominate and subdue. Rather, he will be one who will lose himself so that others may find themselves. He will face all kinds of trials and tribulations, all kinds of insult and injury, and all kinds of ingratitude and thanklessness. He will even carry courageously his daily cross to teach people his way, the way of unconditional love. He will stand by his convictions irrespective of the consequences. He will do what God wants him to do, no matter the outcome.

This way of unconditional love is hinted at in the first reading of today.  The prophet Zephaniah prophesies that the one who has laid himself on the line by standing for his convictions has been put to death. Though he seems defeated in death, this is the one at whom people will look in awe and in wonder. This is the one for whom they will mourn because they will have realized that he was courageous and bold, that he stood for what he believed in.

Today, more than two thousand years after Jesus, his questions remain the same: Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?  Peter’s answer must remain that: Peter’s answer. Each of us will have to answer these questions for ourselves. Though they seem like two separate questions, they are in fact, intimately connected. The answer to the first question depends on how we answer the second. When we know who Jesus is for us, then people will know who Jesus is. The reason for this is that, unlike two thousand or so years ago, Jesus does not walk the earth physically but only in and through those of us who believe in him. It is we who reveal him to the world.  It is through our words and our actions that those who do not know him can come to know him and recognize him for who he is.

Paul gives us some pointers in the second reading of today of how we are to be if people are to recognize Christ today. When we love without distinction as Jesus did, when we spend ourselves in service, when we are content with letting the reward for our actions be the doing of the actions, and when we give, give, and ever give, then we show that Christ, whom God sent, is present in our midst even today and people will know him and love him as the one who was sent.


Friday, 21 June 2013

WHAT GIVES PAUL STRENGTH?


PRIMACY OF THE KINGDOM


How often do I try to be in two places at the same time or at two times in the same place?

To read the texts click on the texts:2 Cor 12:1-10; Mt 6:25-34

The text of today begins by stating a general rule that undivided attention can be given to one person alone at a time. If there is more than one, then the disciple’s loyalty is certainly split. One must decide whether one will allow oneself to be controlled by wealth and the things of this world, or whether one will realise that they cannot bring true happiness. The prohibition, “Do not worry” dominates the rest of this pericope and is used six times in it. The call to look at nature (the birds of the air and the lilies of the field) is a call to learn how God in his providence provides for them. This does not mean that human beings do not have to work for their living, rather it means that even after working as hard as they can, humans must realise the life is much more than simply work and earning a living. It has also to do with being.


There are indeed many distractions in life, which sometimes can take us away from where we ought to look and focus. While planning is good and desirable, what is undesirable is useless worry or anxiety. When we stir the sugar in our coffee or tea every morning we are already thinking of drinking it. When we are drinking our coffee or tea, we are already thinking of washing the cup. When we are washing our cup, we are already thinking or drying it When we are drying it, we are already thinking of placing it on the rack and when we are placing it on the rack we are already thinking of what we have to do next. We have not stirred the sugar, nor have we have drunk the coffee, nor have we washed it nor placed it on the rack. If one takes one moment of one day at a time and gives of one’s best to that moment, life will be well lived. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

TRUE RICHES AND WHERE THEY CAN BE FOUND


If you were given the chance to take just ONE THING with you when you die, what would it be?


To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 11:18, 21-30; Mt 6:19-23

The section that begins in 6:19 concerns knowing where one’s priorities lie. Treasure stored on earth is of not much use because it is temporary and passing and gathers rust and also can be stolen. Rather heavenly treasure is permanent and eternal. A person’s attention will be concentrated on where his/her treasure is. Thus instead of concentrating on the temporary it is better to concentrate on the eternal, the impermanent. If one does not perceive correctly, one’s whole orientation will be incorrect and one will live a life of futility, concentrating on what is really not essential.

Sometimes we lose focus in our lives and waste so much time on trifles. We are so concentrated on gathering up for tomorrow and the next day, that the present day passes us by and we find that we have live it unaware. An occasional examination of our priorities is required to bring back our focus on what is really necessary.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

FORGIVE. IT IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH


Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?


To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 11:1-11; Mt 6:7-15

In the text of today, we read what is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11:2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". Also the context of the prayer in Matthew and Luke is different. While in Matthew the prayer is told in the context of the Sermon of the Mount, in Luke it is told in response to the disciples’ request to Jesus to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1). Be that as it may, in both Matthew and Luke the point is clear that the prayer is primarily a prayer of dependence on God who is Father. This dependence is for something as dramatic and magnificent as the Kingdom and also for something as routine and regular as bread. Both prayers have also the theme of forgiveness, which is received from God and given to others.

The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer; it is also a way of life. The words of the prayer communicate the attitude that one must have toward God and others. While we must acknowledge our dependence on God for everything that we need and regard him always as the primary cause, our attitude to others must be one of acceptance and forgiveness.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

ALMS GIVING AND THE CHRISTIAN


A PROMISE IN THE SECOND LETTER OF PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS


How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts click on the texts:2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely alms giving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Alms giving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves.


For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love. When there is love then all our actions come from our hearts and spontaneously without counting the cost. Alms giving becomes generous and spontaneous, prayer becomes union with God and leads to action and fasting is done in order to show our dependence on God and not on earthly things.

Monday, 17 June 2013

RETREAT TO SEMINARIANS

Thanks for your prayers for the Retreat to the Seminarians (Students of First and Second Year Philosophy). They have been silent when they were supposed to and their sharing gave some indication of the fact that they are on track. We will conclude the Retreat by lunch time tomorrow (Tuesday, June 18, 2013).
We will need to continue to pray for them.
Thanks again and God be with you all. Mary will never stop interceding.

THE NEW WAY OF LOVE


How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?


To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 8:1-9; Mt 5:43-48

In the last of the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. . While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

The command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” does not mean to be without faults, but means to be undivided in love as God is undivided in love.

The love we have for others is more often than not a conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love. We are willing to do something for someone and expect that they do the same or something else in return. It is a matter of “give”, but also a matter of “take”. When Jesus asks us to be like the heavenly Father, he is calling us to unconditional love.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

THE PARADOX OF CHRISTIANITY - SEE THE FIRST READING OF TODAY


How often have you gone beyond the call of duty? Will you do so today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 6:1-10; Mt 5:38-42

The text of today contains the fifth antithesis. In it, Jesus not only affirms the thrust of the Law in opposing unlimited revenge, but also calls for a rejection of the principle of retaliatory violence as well.. In the five examples that follow (being struck in the face, being sued in court, being requisitioned into short-term compulsory service, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers) the one point being made is to place the needs of others before one’s own needs. The disciple of Jesus is called to go beyond the call of the Law and do more than it requires.


It is so easy for us to be reactors. If someone does something to hurt us, we think that it is “natural” for us to want to do something to hurt him or her in return. In the text of today, Jesus is calling us to be actors and not reactors and to do what we do because we think it is right and just and not as a reaction to someone else’s action.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

ALL THE ANSWERS ARE IN THE READINGS OF TODAY

Across 1. FROM WHOSE HAND HAD THE LORD RESCUED DAVID? 3. WITH THE WEAPON OF WHICH GROUP WAS URIAH KILLED? 4. WHAT WAS THE NAME OF HEROD’S STEWARD? 6. WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE PHARISEE WHO INVITED JESUS FOR A MEAL? 7. WITH WHICH WEAPON WAS URIAH STRUCK DOWN? 8. HOW MANY DENARII DID THE FIRST DEBTOR OWE THE MASTER? 10. WHAT PART OF JESUS’ BODY DID THE WOMAN ANOINT? 11. HOW IS A PERSON JUSTIFIED ACCORDING TO PAUL? Down 2. IN WHAT KIND OF JAR WAS THE OINTMENT CONTAINED? 5. HE WAS THE HUSBAND OF BATHSHEEBA 8. HOW MANY DENARII DID THE SECOND DEBTOR OWE THE MASTER? 9. WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE PROPHET THAT LORD SENT TO DAVID?

ELEVENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR - GOD EVER FORGIVES

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 12:7-10; Gal 2:16,19-21; Lk7:36-8:3

I was preaching in a Church one Sunday morning about the unconditional forgiveness of God and about God’s unfathomable mercy and love. In the course of my homily, I said that God forgives us before we sin; God forgives us after we sin; and God forgives us even when we are in the act of sinning. I insisted that God constantly and continuously forgives and loves. I also quoted 1 Jn 4:10 which says: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” This means that, no matter what we do or how far we stray, God will always take us back. After the final blessing, many parishioners came to ask me questions about the homily. One of them said; “Then, Father, does it mean that I can do whatever I want and be forgiven.” She probably thought I would say “No” but my answer was “Yes, yes, yes.”

The same question is raised and answered by the readings of today. The first reading and the Gospel both speak of the sinfulness of each one of us. They remind us that all of us, without exception, are sinners. The second reading answers the question of God’s unconditional forgiveness and mercy in one word: grace.

The attitude of King David in the first reading and that of Simon the Pharisee in the Gospel reading are similar. Both are unable to open themselves to receive God’s grace. There is a double consequence to their attitude. The first is that they see sin easily in the other but not in themselves.  The second, and as a direct result of the first, is that they condemn the other and so, close themselves to receiving forgiveness and pardon.

David is indeed “the man” who is guilty of the sin brought out by Nathan in the parable. Yet, immersed as he is in his own sin, he cannot see it. This is why the initial emotions that well up in his heart are anger, indignation, and fury, and not repentance. He points his finger at the other, not realizing that three fingers are pointing back at him. This is also what Simon the Pharisee does. He is able to recognize that the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet is a sinner, and indeed she is. However, his self-righteousness and conceit does not allow him to see himself also as a sinner. He, like David, points a finger at her and through her, points at Jesus.  Like Nathan, who points out David’s sin, Jesus points out to Simon where he falls short.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the Gospel text of today stands in contrast to both David and Simon. She is aware. She knows she is a sinner and thus, in need of grace. She knows she has fallen short and thus, has to repent. She knows that forgiveness from Jesus is assured and thus, she can love. Her act is an act of love because she has been forgiven. In other words, forgiveness is first and the consequence of that forgiveness is her reaching out in love.

This is what Paul means when he speaks of grace in the second reading of today. No one can demand God’s forgiveness. No one is worthy of receiving God’s forgiveness. No one can merit God’s forgiveness, mercy, and pardon simply because it is given freely and gratuitously. All the good that we do, all the benevolent acts that we perform and all the love that we share has its source in God’s unconditional love for us. God loved first, and so we are able to love. We live in the knowledge that God loves us, even when each of us is steeped in sin. God’s love is not given “because of” but “in spite of”.

Though many pages of scripture speak about this reality, there are so many who are not aware of this unrestricted and unreserved love of God. We continue to think that God’s love has to be earned and merited. We continue to think that we must be good for God to love us. We continue to think that God’s love will be given only when we are obedient and compliant. The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. The truth is that even the most lethal mortal sin is forgiven because of God’s magnanimity and generosity.

How then are we to respond? What are we to do?  The best response is shown in the attitudes of the woman in the Gospel text of today and in the second reading from Paul. First, we must become aware of the reality that it is grace that saves, not our deeds. This means that we become aware of the fact that all that we do in love is not for reward but a consequence of our being loved. The woman in the Gospel text was able to love because she became aware of the forgiveness she had already received.

Second, because we have received such unconditional love we must, like Paul, be able to say that Christ lives in us. The consequence of Christ living in us is that we will never condemn others or point a finger at them. We will realize that we are all in the same boat and all in need of grace. Our attitude toward others (even if we know that they are sinners) must be one of empathy and concern. While on the one hand, we are called to be like Nathan and make others aware of their sin, on the other, we must also realize the danger of being like Simon and David, being blind to our own sin.

Finally, we are also called, like Jesus, to understand, understand, and understand again.




Friday, 14 June 2013

When you say, “YES” do you mean YES?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 5:14-21; Mt 5:33-37

The fourth of the six antitheses is completely a Matthean composition. There is no precedence for the absolute prohibition of oaths in Judaism. Rather, an oath invoked God to guarantee the truth of what was being sworn or promised, or to punish the one taking the oath if he was not faithful to his word. The Matthean Jesus here rules out oaths completely. He rejects not only false and unnecessary oaths, but also any attempt to bolster one’s statement claim to truth beyond the bare statement of it. It is a demand for truthfulness in everything that one says.


If we are convinced that we are telling the truth as we see it, there may not be any need for us to either raise our voices when making our point or to swear or even to call others to witness what we have said.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

DO NOT GIVE UP - PAUL IN CORINTHIANS


Will you bother less about your “doing” and focus more on your “being”? How?


To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt 5:27-32

The text of today contains the second (5:27-30) and third (5:31-32) of the six antitheses (5:21-48), which appear in the Sermon on the Mount immediately after the theme. All six while addressing various aspects of the law move the focus away from the letter to the spirit. Each of the six begins similarly i.e. with a juxtaposition of what was said (by God through Moses) and what is now being said (by Jesus to his disciples).

In this pericope, Jesus reaffirms the prohibition against adultery (Exodus 20:14), but goes beyond i.e. to the intention of the heart.
The third antithesis about divorce is related to the earlier one about adultery in subject matter. Deut 24:1-4 assumes the legitimacy of divorce, and in Jewish tradition divorce was relatively easy to obtain. Jesus, however, prohibits divorce. Matthew alone adds the exception clause, not found in Mark 10:2-9 which here is more original and reflects the position of the historical Jesus.

There is sometimes in our understanding of Christianity too much emphasis on what constitutes and does not constitute sin, and on how far we can go before we commit sin. The real question we must ask is how far we must go in love.