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Monday, 30 September 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - St. Theresa of the Child Jesus - "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth". How about you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 66:10-14; 1 Cor 14:4-13; Mt 18:1-4
It is extraordinary that even though she was a Cloistered Carmelite nun for most of her short adult life, Thérèse managed to be more outward looking than most of us who are on the outside. She was an extraordinary woman who though she died when she was only 24 years of age left behind a legacy that is so relevant even 116 years after her death.

She was born on January 2, 1873 and died on September 30, 1897 and is known variously as “St. Theresa of the Child Jesus”, “The Little Flower of Jesus” or simply “The Little Flower.”

Thérèse’s approach to spirituality was simple and practical and that is why she is one of the most popular saints in the Church today. She is along with St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Mission.

Shortly before she died, Thérèse wrote: "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." And good indeed she did do.

The text of today is taken from what is termed by some as Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35).

The discourse begins with a question about the disciples regarding greatness. Unlike in Mark 9:33, there is no dispute among the disciples about who is the greatest. In his response, Jesus makes clear that being in the kingdom or coming into it, is not a matter of one’s talents or qualities, but “becoming like a child”. In first-century Judaism, children were often regarded as inferior and were treated as property rather than as persons. The point Jesus makes here is that one must acknowledge dependence on the Father. The reception of a child is an indication that one has accepted the values of the kingdom and one is no longer concerned about being greatest. 

Since God does not give up on anyone, Christians must also be prepared to accept those who may have strayed. Not only must they be valued, but they must also be sought out like God himself seeks them. The focus in Matthew’s parable is on the sheep that has gone astray. This means that the straying members of the community ought to be the focus also of the community.


While to be a Christian one has to make an individual commitment, one cannot forget that Christianity is also and even primarily a communitarian religion. This means that each is responsible for the other. I am indeed my brother or sister’s keeper.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD ACCORDING TO ZECHARIAH - READ ZECHARIAH 8:1-8 TO FIND OUT HOW


Monday, September 30, 2013 - How will you show through your actions that you belong to the kingdom?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 8:1-8; Lk 9:46-50

This scene shows the disciples debating among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. The fact that this episode occurs immediately after Jesus has predicted his passion, death and resurrection for the second time, shows that the disciples have not understood the meaning of Jesus’ predictions. In his response to their argument, Jesus puts a child by his side as an example of what it means to be the greatest. The one who like a child acknowledges total dependence on God, the one who does not have any visible means of support, is the one who is greatest.

The second scene in this section is the last one before Jesus turns towards Jerusalem, and also shows the disciples of Jesus in a poor light. This is the only scene in which the apostle John appears alone in the Synoptic Gospels. Here he acts as the spokesman for the group. The reason why they try to stop the unnamed exorcist is because he does not belong to the “inner circle”. The irony is that they as disciples were not able earlier to cast out a demon (9,40), and now someone who is not even part of their group is able to do so. Jesus’ response calls for openness and tolerance. Jesus also seems to say that one’s actions will determine who belongs and does not belong to the kingdom.

Even two thousand years after Jesus, we do not seem to have understood the meaning of what it takes to belong to the kingdom. We keep associating greatness with possessing things or having authority to dominate. Authority for anyone who belongs to the kingdom can only be translated as service.

Though the Gospels do seem to indicate that Jesus came primarily for the Jews, his was an inclusive approach. He excluded no one. All who were open to receive his radical message were welcome to be part of his community. We need to be constantly aware of this especially when we make such clear distinctions between those of other faiths and ourselves. They are also called in their own way.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

ARE YOU ATTENTIVE TO THE SUNDAY READINGS? FIND OUT HOW ATTENTIVE YOU ARE BY COMPLETING THE PUZZLE BELOW

Across
3. What is the name of the poor man in the Gospel text of today?
5. How many brothers does the rich man have?
8. Who was the architect of the Exodus who is also mentioned in the Gospel text of today?
9. To whom is the second reading of today addressed?
10. Over whose ruin are the rich in the first reading not grieved?
Down
1. On which mountain does the prophet accuse people of feeling secure?
2. From which Prophet is the first reading of today taken?
4. Which Patriarch is mentioned in the Gospel text of today?
6. What kind of beds do the rich lie on?
7. Which character (besides Jesus) from the Passion narrative is mentioned in the second reading of today?

Sunday, September 29, 2013- Twenty Sixth Sunday of the year - Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?

To read the texts click on the texts: Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31

While at first reading, both the text from Amos and the Gospel text of today might seem to indicate that riches are bad, or that luxury is to be shunned, or that one must live an ascetic life. A deeper reading however, indicates that the core question of these texts is “Am I my brother/sister’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Riches and luxury are a problem when they are gained at the expense of others’ misery.  They are a problem when they deaden the mind and the senses to responsibility. They are a problem when they become ends in themselves or when those who possess them become insensitive and unfeeling to the needs of others around them.

This is what the readings of today seem to point to. The Gospel parable of today has often been titled as the parable of “Dives and Lazarus”. It may be seen to be divided into three parts. In the first part, the focus is on rich man’s opulence and wealth.  The rich man is not named. The Latin term “dives” means “rich”.  In the second part, the focus is on the rich man’s death and burial. In the third part, which is the longest, there is, for the first time in the story, a dialogue. It is between the rich man and Abraham and this is the climax of the story.  

The story begins by describing the rich man and his dress and food. The “purple and fine linen” may signify that he was a high ranking official, since the Romans had set standards regarding who could wear purple and how much purple they could wear. In contrast to the rich man, there is a poor man, named Lazarus. It is significant that Lazarus is the only character in any of Jesus’ parables who is given a name. The name Lazarus means “God helps”. The fact that he is at the gate of the rich man’s house signifies that, though the rich man could see Lazarus, he was not aware of his existence. He was so caught up in his world of material things; he was so caught up in his luxuries and personal enjoyment, that he was unable to see reality right before him. The problem was not so much the riches or luxuries that the rich man was enjoying but that they had blinded him from the reality around him.  They had made him immune to the suffering of those whom he could see.

Amos speaks, in the first reading of today, of this same callous attitude on the part of the rich. These are the ones who, like the rich man of the parable, have lived lives of ease and eaten their fill, without being concerned about the numerous poor and their unmet needs. This is why they are the ones who will be the first to suffer exile and punishment. They have not been their brother/sister’s keepers.

God, however, is the keeper of the poor as is made explicit in the detail found in the Gospel.   Lazarus was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man may have deliberately ignored Lazarus and pretended that he did not exist, but God is aware of Lazarus. God indeed came to Lazarus’ help.  The death of the rich man, in contrast, is described in a short sentence: “The rich man also died and was buried.” This indicates both that he was forgotten soon after his death and strikingly, how transient is his opulence and wealth. His riches are of no consequence now. He has to leave all that he has behind. He can take nothing with him. No matter how rich he was, or how much he possessed, he had to let go when his time was up.

None of us knows when that time will be, but all know that we can take nothing with us.  Paul exhorts Timothy, in the second reading of today, to shun riches which can be as shown, in the case of the rich man and to the people of Amos’ time, as the root of many evils. He must pursue instead that which remains, even when all else has gone, namely, concern for others manifested in unconditional love. It is love alone which is eternal and which does not die. It is love alone which remains forever. This is the love that was manifested by Jesus from the beginning of his ministry right to the time that he stood, witnessed before Pilate, and was put to death. Jesus lived a life that showed that every human being was his brother or sister and he was indeed, their keeper. As disciples of Jesus, we have to realize that each one of us, like Jesus, is indeed, our brother or sister’s keeper.

A number of questions to which there are no easy answers are raised by this parable and we must reflect on them constantly if we are not to lose touch with reality.

Ø Can I be accused of sins of lack of concern, inability to assess the reality of situations, closing my eyes and ears to the injustices around me, being caught up in my own small world? Does my reflection on sin include “sins of omission”?
Ø Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Do I regard them as persons, like myself?
Ø Did the brothers of the rich man get the message?
Ø How would you like to conclude the story? Place yourself in the position of the rich man’s brothers and write down what you would do to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as the rich man.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - Does it make sense to proclaim a “Suffering Messiah” today? How will you do it if it does?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 2:5-9,14-15; Lk 9:43-45

The second Passion prediction in the Gospel, which is our text for today, follows immediately after Jesus’ mighty work in exorcising the demon in the previous scene. It is only in Luke that Jesus announces his passion and death while “all were marvelling at everything he did.” Only Luke adds the phrase, “Let these words sink into your ears;” in order to bring out the gravity of the pronouncement. He abbreviates the Passion prediction of Mark, so that his passion prediction simply has “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” Through this shortening, Luke focuses on Jesus’ “being handed over” or “delivered”, and omits any reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Like in Mark, here too the disciples’ are not able to understand. However, Luke gives a reason for this, namely “it was concealed from them”, though he does not say by whom.


It is not easy for us to give up control. Many of us like to be in control of every situation so that we do not need to depend on someone else. These verses are calling us to understand that this is not always possible or even necessary. There may be times when we need to give up control and especially to God acting through humans if we are to be faithful to his will.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

473rd ANNIVERSARY OF THE APPROVAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS - PRAY FOR JESUITS IN A SPECIAL WAY TODAY

The Society of Jesus or Societas Jesu (S.J.) was approved by Pope Paul III on September 27, 1540, through the Bull, "Regimini militantis ecclesia. From that year on the Society of Jesus has tried to remain true to the spirit of its founder St. Ignatius of Loyola whose one desire was to serve the Lord alone in all things. Thus, whether through his meditation on "The Principle and Foundation" or his self offering through the now famous hymn "take and receive', Ignatius and Jesuits after him sought to give all to their Creator and Lord imitating God's son Jesus after whom the Society is named.

Today more than ever the Society of Jesus needs prayers. In this challenging world we need to open ourselves constantly to God's grace and love and be focussed on God alone in all things.


Continue to pray for Jesuits all over the world and thanks in advance for your prayers.

THIS IS WHO JESUS IS


Friday, September 27, 2013 - Can you identify with a “Suffering Messiah”? Would you have preferred that Jesus not go to the Cross? What kind of death would have preferred Jesus to die?

To read the texts click on the texts: Haggai 1:15-2:9; Lk 9:18-22

Though Luke depends on Mark for this scene of Peter’s confession, he has made some significant changes in order to bring out his meaning of the text. The first is that unlike Mark, Luke does not give the geographical location (Caesarea Philippi), but gives instead the context of the prayer of Jesus. Through this change, Luke makes the confession a spiritual experience. Luke also changes Marks, “one of the prophets” to “one of the old prophets has risen.” Though the difference does not appear to be great, it is for Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, before Jesus everything is old. Jesus makes all things new. Luke has also eliminated Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus as the suffering Messiah and the rebuke of Peter by Jesus. Luke avoids narrating Marcan texts that show Peter and even the disciples in a bad light.

The second question to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” shows on the one hand that the answers given of the crowd’s understanding of Jesus are inadequate, and on the other that Jesus wants to know their understanding of him. In all the Synoptic Gospels it is Peter who answers, but here too Luke adds to Mark’s, “You are the Christ”, the words “of God”. The Greek word “Christos” means in English “the anointed” and this conveys the meaning of royalty. However, by his addition, Luke also brings in the prophetical dimension of Jesus’ person and mission. This prophetical dimension is explicated in the verses, which follow the confession of Peter, in which Jesus explains the kind of Christ/Messiah/Anointed One that he will be. The reason for the rebuke or “stern order” not to tell anyone is because Jesus wanted to avoid any misunderstanding of the term which could be understood only in the glorious sense. Jesus as “the Christ of God” will come in glory, but only after he has gone to the cross, died, been buried and then raised.


Who Jesus is cannot be captured by a title and we must not attempt to do so or imagine that this is possible. Any title we may use for Jesus will always be inadequate and this leads us to the realisation that while we may encounter him in events and situations which go as we plan, we must also learn to encounter him when we have to carry the crosses of daily life.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013 - You may know a great deal about Jesus, but do you really know him? When did you last meet him personally?

To read the texts click on the texts: Haggai 1:1-8; Lk 9:7-9

This text (9:7-9) forms the meat of the sandwich formed by the sending out of the Twelve (9:1-6) and their return (9:10-17). In a sandwich construction, an event is begun, interrupted by another event and the first event is continued and completed. In this instance, the disciples are sent on mission (9:1-6), the return is interrupted by the question of Herod (9:7-9) and the event of the sending out of the disciples is continued and completed by their return (9:10-17). In such a construction, the first and the third events throw light on the event in the middle or the meat of the sandwich. The first and third events narrate the sending and successful return, and it is in this light that the question of Herod, “Who is this?” which is the second event or in the centre, must be read. Herod’s desire to see Jesus foreshadows coming events. When Herod did meet Jesus, his desire to see Jesus was fulfilled, but he wanted only to see Jesus perform a sign. He never really grasped the answer to his own question. Though John the Baptist has been beheaded and Jesus will also be killed, yet the violence of the wicked will be no match for God’s grace. The success of the disciples’ in mission is only a shadow of the success that Jesus will experience in mission.


The intention behind wanting to meet Jesus is extremely important. If one’s approach is curiosity that will be the level at which one will see him. If one’s approach is faith, then one will encounter him as he is.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

POPE FRANCIS FOLLOWS JESUS


Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - What does mission mean for you today? How and where will you proclaim it?

to read the texts click on the texts: Ezra 9:5-9; Lk 9:1-6

This passage may be seen as the culmination of the entire section Lk. 7:1 – 8:56. In this section, we were shown the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom mission. The Twelve now share in that same mission. These verses may be termed as the Mission Discourse according to Luke. Though Luke has taken much material from the Mission Discourse of Mark (see Mk. 6:6b-13), he has also made changes, which bring out his meaning of mission more clearly. Before Jesus instructs his disciples on how they must go about their mission, he gives them not only authority as in Mark, but power and authority. This power and authority is given not only over the unclean spirits as in Mark, but over all demons and to cure diseases. Only in Luke are they also sent to “preach the Kingdom of God”. This indicates that for Luke, mission is inclusive and includes both doing as well as saying, both action as well as word.

Besides power and authority, Jesus also gives the disciples a strategy for mission. This may be summed up as detachment from things (take nothing for your journey), persons (stay there and from there depart) and from events (and wherever they do not receive you, when you leave shake off the dust from your feet). Dependence ought to be only on the Providence of God. The rejection shown Jesus is also in store for those sent by Jesus. The last verse in today’s text, underscores the disciples’ obedience to the commands of Jesus by reiterating the principal features of mission: preaching the good news and healing the sick. That mission is universal is made clear in the last word, “everywhere”.


As missionaries today, we are called to continue to the Mission inaugurated by Jesus and put into motion by his first disciples. It is a mission, which includes every aspect of life and involves all persons. This means that we are called not to be part-time missionaries or disciples, but on mission always and everywhere. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

CHECK IF YOU ARE RELATED TO JESUS


Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - Would Jesus point to you as a member of his family? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20; Lk 8:19-21

Though this text, which concerns the mother and brothers of Jesus, is found also in Mark 3:21-22 and 3:31-35 and Matthew 12:46-50, Luke narrates it quite differently from both. In Mark 3:33 and Matthew 12:48 Jesus asks who his mother and brothers are. In Luke, however, Jesus does not ask this question, but says simply when told that his mother and brothers desire to see him, that his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. Luke thus gives a positive thrust to the scene unlike Mark and Matthew. It might be said that while in Mark and Matthew Jesus seems to reject his physical family and choose instead the crowd (so Mark) or his disciples (so Matthew), in Luke he does not do so. This means that though family relations with Jesus are not based on physical relations but on the word of God, his physical family does indeed hear the word of God and acts on it.


We might possess the name Christian because of our baptism, but this does not necessarily mean that we belong to the family of Jesus. In order to belong what is also necessary is putting into action what Jesus has taught.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013 - What is the Good News according to you? Will you share it with others today? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezra 1:1-6; Lk 8:16-18

These verses in Luke are a commentary on the Parable of the Sower, which in Luke appears in 8:5-8. Just as a farmer sows the seed so that all of it may bear fruit, so also a lamp is lit so that it may give light. Like seed is sown not to be trampled on, eaten by birds, to wither or to be chocked, so a lamp is lit not to be hid under a jar or under a bed. Knowledge of the kingdom is not esoteric or secret, reserved for a particular group alone, but must be made known to all. It is knowledge, which must be shared openly with others. It is indeed the Good News, since it is a communication of love, and therefore it must not only be heard, but also experienced. By adding, “Then pay attention to how you listen”, the Lucan Jesus reminds listeners that they can choose and control how they will listen to the word of God. A total openness to the word of God results in an appropriate response to it.

Hearing is an active process. It calls for a commitment. Those who are open to that word are like a lamp, which gives light to all. An attentive hearing of the word of God can result in the transformation of one’s life and the living out of that word can lead to transformation in the lives of others.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013 - Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - You are allowed to do ONLY ONE act before you are called by God? What would that be?

To read the texts click on the texts: Am8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13

The story is told of a man who was caught stealing. He was ordered by the king to be hanged. On the way to the gallows, he said to the governor that he knew a wonderful secret and it would be a pity to allow it to die with him. He wanted to disclose it only to the king and so, he was taken to the king. He told the king that he would put a seed of a mango into the ground and, through a secret taught to him by his father, he would make it grow and bear fruit overnight. There would be no need to wait for the mango season or for years; the result would be almost immediate. The king was intrigued. The next day, the thief, accompanied by the king and several ministers and officers of high ranking, was taken to a field. There, the thief dug a hole in the ground and spoke out the secret saying, “For this seed to grow overnight, it must be put into the ground only by a man who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. That man must be a totally honest man. Since it will only grow if this condition is fulfilled, I cannot do it since I am a thief. One of you will have to plant the seed.” The thief turned to the Vizier who, frightened, said that in his younger days he had retained something which did not belong to him. The treasurer said that dealing with such large sums, he might have entered too much or too little and even the king owned that he had kept a necklace of his father’s without permission.  The thief then looked at all of them and smiled. The king, pleased with the ruse of the thief, pardoned him.

On the one hand, a story like this might lend itself to being interpreted to mean that dishonesty or thievery is all right. It might be taken to mean that, though the man had done something wrong, he got away with subterfuge and cunning. However, the point is not so much that, as the fact that, when faced with death, the thief uses all his ingenuity, creativity, and inventiveness to save his life. He uses all his skill to get out of an extremely difficult situation. This is also the point that Jesus makes in the parable that forms the Gospel text for today. Jesus is not praising dishonesty or even the dishonest steward. His focus in the parable is on the prompt and speedy action that the steward takes. He takes control of a terrible situation and acts decisively because his livelihood and therefore, his life are at stake. He casts caution to the winds, seizes an opportunity and makes provisions for his future. More importantly, the focus of Jesus is on the contrast between the steps that a person takes for things that are temporary and the lethargy that is shown by most when it comes to things that are eternal. This is what Jesus means when he says, “… for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

This lethargic attitude regarding things that are eternal is the attitude that Amos berates in the first reading of today. The people imagined that the good fortune that they were presently enjoying would continue forever and so, concentrated only on earthly, temporary realities. They would not repent, or seize the opportunity to make amends.  They would continue to carry on with the evil they were doing. They would continue to “practice deceit with false balances” “trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land”. They would continue to cheat the poor and downtrodden and be concerned only with how much they can earn for themselves and that, through unfair and unjust means. Their belly has become their god.

Yet, now is the time of salvation, now is the appointed hour and so, decisions as important as these cannot be left for tomorrow or even later. The kingdom of God is indeed in our midst and in us and this why we who are called to focus on permanence and eternalness have to act in the present moment. How is this focus attained? What changes must we make in order to get back this focus?


Paul gives us an indication in the second reading of today when he calls Timothy, and us, to supplications and prayers for a peaceable life. This is a life where each person will live in dignity. This is a life where no one will be in need because there will be equitable distribution and each will have what he/she needs.  This is a life in which none will show the greed and selfishness that has become so much part of our culture and way of living. This is a life in which “Christ Jesus, himself human,” who dared to give himself as a ransom for all, is the inspiration that, if followed, will make that life a reality. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

THE FOCUS OF JESUS IN MATTHEW


Saturday, September 21, 2013 - ST. MATTHEW, EVANGELIST - Can you look at an egg and see (not merely a chicken) but an eagle?

To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 4:1-7,11-13; Mt 9:9-13

Most scholars hold today that the Gospel of Matthew was written after Mark. Matthew’s Gospel was the one that was used most often in the early Church and so it has been placed before Mark in the Bible. It is known as the Ecclesial Gospel or the Gospel of the Church. One reason for this is that Matthew’s thesis seems to be that since Israel for whom Jesus came rejected Jesus as Messiah, the Church has become now the new and true Israel. Also Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who uses the word “Ekklesia” translated “Church” in his Gospel (16:18;18:17). There is however, throughout the Gospel the tension between Particularism on the one hand and Universalism on the other. The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew is sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (15:24; see also 10:6) and the same Jesus can tell Israel “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (21:43).

Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which goes back to Abraham. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary (1:16) since Matthew is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is then narrated, followed by the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. This leads the family to go to Egypt where they remain till Herod’s death and then return to Nazareth. The birth, flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth all fulfil scripture. Matthew then goes on to narrate the Baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ temptations and his overcoming them. Jesus then begins his public ministry in Galilee after calling the first four disciples. Unlike Mark, which is a story, Matthew intersperses his narrative with long discourses. The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7,29). There are four other discourses in the Gospel. These are The Mission Discourse (10:1-11:1), The parable Discourse (13:1-53), The Community Discourse (18:1-19:1) and the Eschatological Discourse (24:1-26:1). Each of these discourses ends in a similar manner with the words, “and when Jesus had finished (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). This is also Matthew’s way of focussing on the teaching of Jesus and giving it as much if not more importance that the deeds of Jesus. Like in Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, but soon encounters opposition, which grows and leads to his arrest, passion and death. The Gospel ends with accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and what is known as the Great Commission, in which the disciples are commanded to go to all nations and make disciples of them and assured of the presence of the ever present Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (28:16-20).

The text chosen for the feast contains the call of Matthew, and Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew that the tax collector is called Matthew. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi. However, in the lists of the Twelve in both Mark and Luke, the disciple is named Matthew and Levi does not appear. It is unlikely that Matthew and Levi refer to the same person. It was rare for Jews to have two different Jewish names. The reason for the author choosing the name Matthew remains unknown. However, in the text what strikes one is that whereas most people who passed by the tax office would see a corrupt official; Jesus was able to see a potential disciple. It was Jesus’ way of looking that led to the transformation and the response of Matthew to the call. In his response to the objection of the Pharisees, Jesus responds with a common proverb about the sick needing a doctor, and also quotes from Hoses 6:6, which here is interpreted to mean that the mercy of God in Jesus is extended to all humanity and takes precedence over everything else. All else must be understood in this light.

There are times when we judge people too easily and many of these times our judgement of them is negative. This is also how we often look at the whole of creation and because we put labels on things, people and all else in creation, we may miss out on the uniqueness that each possesses.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013 - Does the plight of others affect me at all? What do I do about it?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 6:6-12; Lk 8:1-3

This is a text that is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke and is about the women who ministered to Jesus during his ministry. It begins by presenting Jesus as an itinerant preacher going through the cities and villages in order to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.

Luke often mentions a corresponding female or group whenever he mentions a male. He does this first in the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and then in the examples of Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna. Here too, after Luke has mentioned the Twelve, he mentions women. Mary Magdalene is identified at the one from whom seven demons had gone out and Joanna as the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza and these two appear also in 24:10 in the episode of the empty tomb. Susanna the third woman named here does not appear elsewhere in the Gospel. These and other women provided for Jesus out of their resources.


The striking point about this text is the fact that the disciples were women. At a time when a woman was looked down upon and her place in society was pre-determined, it is quite amazing to note that these became followers of Jesus and even provided for him. This is an indication of the openness that Jesus possessed and of his freedom from all kinds of constraints.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

FORGIVENESS LEADS TO LOVE


Thursday, September 19, 2013 - Does love lead to forgiveness or is the ability to love the result of being forgiven?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 4:12-16; Lk 7:36-50

This is a fairly well known story from the Gospel of Luke. However, it is important to note that though the woman is termed as a “sinner”, she is not named. 

The dinner given by the Pharisee would have been much more public than a dinner in a private home today, so the presence of uninvited persons would not have been unusual. The guests would have been reclining on pillows, supported by their left arms and would be eating with their right hands, with their feet away from the mat on which the food would have been spread before them. Thus the woman could easily approach Jesus’ feet. The fact that she brought a jar of ointment shows that she had planned to anoint Jesus – a sign of her love. 

Though the woman’s act expresses love and gratitude, it also violated social conventions. Touching or caressing a man’s feet could have sexual overtones, as did letting down her hair, so a woman never let down her hair in public. Moreover the woman was known to be a sinner. Assuming that she was unclean, she would have made Jesus unclean by touching him. In the Pharisee’s eyes the woman’s act represents a challenge both to his honour and to Jesus’. In response, Jesus poses a riddle for Simon to solve, based on patron-client relationships. If a patron had two debtors, one who owed him much and the other who owed him little and he cancelled the debts of both, who would love him more? After Simon answers that it would be the one who had the greater debt cancelled, Jesus exposes the contrast between Simon’s lack of hospitality and the woman’s selfless adoration of Jesus. 

The main point of the story is Jesus’ pronouncement in 7:47. Did the woman love because her sins were forgiven or was she forgiven because she loved much? The woman’s loving act is evidence that she has been forgiven. She recognised her need for forgiveness and therefore received it totally, whereas the Pharisee did not recognise his need and therefore received less.


This story seems to make two points that we can reflect on. The first is our judgement of others without knowing all the facts. Some of us are sometimes quick to judge from external appearances, only to realise later that we misjudged. The second point is the acceptance of our need for God’s mercy and love. Like the Pharisee, there may be some of us who do not consider ourselves as grave sinners and consequently we may not be open to God’s unconditional love and grace.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

YOU CANNOT PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.... EVEN IF YOU ARE JESUS


Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - Will you dance to the tune of the Lord or are you dancing your own dance?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 3:14-16; Lk 7:31-35

The point of these sayings of Jesus is to bring out the failure of the crowd to respond to the invitation of John and Jesus. Though John and Jesus are different from each other and went about their ministries differently, the people accepted neither. John lived a very austere life and indulged in no excesses at all, but he was not accepted. Rather he was labelled as a wild man. Jesus on the hand lived quite openly and freely due to this was labelled as a glutton and drunkard.


Many of us are so concerned about what people say about us that we sometimes live our lives based on their opinions. The text of today teaches us that you cannot please everybody every time. There are some who will neither join in the dance nor in the mourning, but sit on the fence and criticise. It is best to leave these alone and do what one believes one ought to do.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - If God were to call you to himself now, what are the three things you would regret not having done? Will you do them today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 3:1-13; Lk 7:11-17

The miracle of the raising the widow’s son at Nain is a miracle that is found only in the Gospel of Luke. If the centurion’s servant healed in 7:1-10 was ill and at the point of death, the son of the widow in this story is already dead. There are many similarities between this story and that of Elijah’s raising the widow’s son in 1 Kings 17:10,17-24. Luke emphasises that the son was the widow’s “only son” (7:12). Luke also states that when Jesus saw the widow, he had compassion for her.. Jesus raises the boy quite simply with an authoritative command. The crowd responds by regarding Jesus as a prophet and by affirming that God has been favourable to his people through the deed that Jesus had just done.


The scripture offers many instances where men and women of faith ask for help, and are granted it, even though under normal experiences they might have gone on for the rest of their lives with sin or weakness or sickness or oppression. Does prayer change anything? Again and again the scripture teaches that it does indeed. God can and does intervene in the normal running of his universe. We see just such an instance in this passage. The young man is dead -- his life cut short by sickness perhaps, but death is a "normal" experience in our fallen world. Then Jesus sees a mother's tears, realizes that this widow -- there is no husband and other children mourning beside her -- has lost her only son, and Jesus is moved with compassion, and intervenes. God doesn't intervene every time we are hurting or have problems, just as loving parents do not or cannot intervene to soften everything for their children. Sometimes we are angry with God for not giving us the answer to prayer that we desire. Sometimes we blame him for not intervening when our loved ones are sick or die. But it is not because God lacks compassion, for Jesus shows us the Father, and Jesus is full of compassion. We are left with the fact that Jesus indicates that the Father will do things as a result of our prayers, because of his compassion, that he will not otherwise do. Prayer can appeal to the heart of God to bring about change.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - St. Robert Bellarmine SJ - 1542 - 1621

To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 7:7-14; Mt 5:17-19

Robert Bellarmine was born on October 4, 1542 and entered the Society of Jesus on September 20, 1560 when he was 18 years old. His intellectual ability led him to earn a reputation as professor and preacher. His spiritual depth was so much that many lay people, Priests, Bishops and Cardinals flocked to him for solace and advice. He was available to all.

In 1592 he was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian and likewise Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. Further, in 1599 he made him Cardinal-Priest of the title of Santa Maria in viâ, alleging as his reason for this promotion that "the Church of God had not his equal in learning".
His spirit of prayer, his singular delicacy of conscience and freedom from sin, his spirit of humility and poverty, together with the disinterestedness which he displayed as much under the cardinal's robes as under the Jesuit's gown, his lavish charity to the poor, and his devotedness to work, had combined to impress those who knew him intimately with the feeling that he was of the number of the saints.

Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church.

Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.
The readings for the feast of this great Saint contain what are commonly known as the “theme” of the Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, the Matthean Jesus makes explicit that he is a law abiding Jew. His attitude towards the Jewish law is fundamentally positive. However, Jesus also makes explicit here, that he has come not merely to confirm or establish the law, but to fulfil or complete it. This means that he will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action. This was exactly the attitude that Robert Bellarmine possessed.


While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013 - Will you keep on keeping on today; even when things might not go the way you plan?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 2:1-8; Lk 7:1-10

In the story of today’s Gospel, we will read of a centurion’s response of faith in Jesus. The emphasis in the miracle is given to the power of Jesus’ word. There is a close parallel to this story in Matthew and a more distant parallel in John. In Matthew, the servant is “lying paralysed at home”, whereas in Luke, the “slave is at the point of death”. While in Matthew, it is the centurion himself who comes to make the request of Jesus, in Luke; he sends first a delegation of elders who would have been leaders of the synagogue. They vouch for the merit of his request. As Jesus starts for the centurion’s house, a second delegation is sent. This time it is the friends of the centurion. The centurion’s words, “I am not worthy” contrast sharply with the tribute paid to him by the Jewish elders, who testified, “He is worthy”. The effect is to place the centurion in an even better light. The centurion’s words may also convey that he was aware that the Pharisees’ regarded a Gentile’s house as unclean and that a Jew would be defiled by entering his home. He is also confident that Jesus could heal at a distance. Just as he acts by commanding his subordinates, he expects no more than that Jesus would do the same. The point of the story is Jesus’ affirmation of the centurion’s faith and not the report of the healing that concludes the story. Luke’s description communicates Jesus’ surprise at the Gentile’s faith, and his approval as well. Where Jesus would have expected to find faith in an Israelite, here he finds it in a Gentile.


There are times when after having tried all available means to solve a problem that we might be facing, we might be tempted to throw up our hands in despair and simply give up. The centurion’s faith is an inspiration to everyone of us that we need to keep on keeping on despite all evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

CHECK THE READINGS OF TODAY {Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32} FOR THE ANSWERS

Across
2. Of which animal was the image that the people had cast for themselves?
5. Which son asked the father for his share of the property?
8. How many parables does the Gospel text of today contain?
9. Besides the Pharisees which other group grumbled against Jesus?
10. To whom is the second reading of today addressed?
Down
1. What was put on the feet of the son when he came back home?
3. Besides Isaac and Israel (Jacob) which other Patriarch is mentioned by Moses?
4. Whom did God command to go down to the people God had brought out of Egypt?
6. How many coins does the woman in the parable have with her at the beginning of the parable?
7. How many sheep will the shepherd leave in the wilderness to go after the lost sheep?
9. Besides tax collectors which other group were drawing near Jesus?

Sunday, 15th September 2013 - The Prodigal Father

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32

If, after reading the three texts for today, anyone can still be foolish enough to think that God is waiting to catch and punish us when we do wrong, or that God focuses on sin rather than on love, then that person is indeed foolish. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the theme of all three readings of today is the unconditional, bountiful, and magnanimous love of God for each and every one of us and especially for sinners.

The Parable in the Gospel text of today is popularly known as “The Prodigal Son”. However, a more apt title is “The Prodigal Father”. This is because the son is prodigal only with material things.  It is the father who is the real prodigal in the story. It is the father who is lavish.  It is the father who is wasteful.  It is the father who is a spendthrift, but with his love. The prodigality of the father’s love shines through the whole story.

Demanding his share of the property while his father was still alive would mean that the younger son regarded his father as dead. The younger son’s selfishness and self-centeredness led him to concentrate only on his own wants. The needs of the other did not matter. Despite this offensive and rude demand, the father gives the younger son what he demands. The father will be selfless. He will hold nothing back. For the father, the son’s wants are greater than his own needs. The selfishness of the son reaches its depths when he spends all that he receives from his father for his own pleasure and enjoyment.

This is the selfishness shown by the people in the first reading of today when they make “gods” of things. They are so caught up in their own desire for pleasure and gratification that they will stoop down to making things ends in themselves.  They forget that the one end is God. However, like the father in the Gospel text, God shows that, despite the people’s selfishness, God will be selfless. Despite their abandoning God, God will not abandon them. Though by right, and in justice, God ought to have let God’s wrath burn against the people, God relented and, after listening to Moses, did not bring on them the destruction that was intended. God’s love exceeds mercy and this love is shown in giving people a chance to change, a chance to repent.

The repentance that the people are called to is shown by the younger son in action. When he is in dire straits and at the lowest depth of his life, he comes to his senses. He realizes that he can go back. He realizes that there is mercy. He realizes that his father’s love will take him back. However, the reality of the father’s welcome goes beyond the younger son’s expectations. He is not even allowed to finish the act of contrition that he had prepared.  He is not allowed to finish speaking his words of remorse and regret. His father does not need words. His father does not need to know how many sins his son has committed.  His father does not ask for an account of the money that he squandered, nor does he impute guilt to his son. It is enough for the father that his son has come home. It is enough that his son who had gone away has returned. It is enough that the son, who was lost and dead, is now found and alive.

The Apostle Paul experienced this mercy and love and he speaks about this in the second reading of today. God did not count his sins against him. God did not hold his wrong doings in front of his face. God forgave his blasphemy. God showed him mercy. This mercy is intrinsic to God and is borne out by the name that the Son of God bears: Jesus. It is a name which means God saves from sin. It is a name which means that God is a loving God. It is a name which means that, no matter how far away we might go, no matter how many graces we squander, no matter how many sins we commit, God, in Jesus, will ever love and forgive.

If this is so evident why do so many people find it difficult to believe that God is good and loving, that God is forgiving and merciful, and that God’s mercy always outweighs human sinfulness? The answer to this is found in the second part of the Parable of the Gospel text and in the attitude of the elder son. For him, like for many of us, the relationship with his father is one of quid pro quo or barter exchange, rather than love. He is good only because he hopes to receive reward. He does not address his father as “Father”, nor does he refer to his brother as “brother”. He distances himself from both his father and his brother and attaches himself to his own merit and fidelity. He argues his case on the grounds of what he thinks he rightfully deserves. Even as he does this, he points to the failings of the younger son.

The elder son represents all of us who think we can make it on our own, all of us who might be proud of the kind of lives we live. He represents all of us who have an image of God as one who must reward us for the good that we do and a God whom we dare not displease because we might be punished. However, even to persons such as these, God continues to reach out in love. God continues to plead with such persons to realize that their good actions must not stem from a desire for reward or from a fear of punishment.  Good actions must be the consequence of having received God’s unconditional mercy and love. They must be the result of having been loved. All persons must love and forgiven unconditionally because that is the way God loves and forgives them.



Friday, 13 September 2013

SEE THE READINGS Num 21:4-9; Phil 2:6-11; Jn 3:13-17 FOR THE ANSWERS

Across
2. From which mountain did the Israelites set out to the Red Sea?
4. Which reptile bit the people of Israel in the wilderness?
6. Besides human form what other form did Jesus take?
9. Which part of the body of every human will confess Jesus as Lord?
Down
1. To which Christian community did Paul write the letter that is the second reading of today?
3. Besides God, who else did the Israelites speak against?
5. Of what metal was the serpent that Moses made?
7. From which country were the Israelites brought out?
8. Which part of the body of every human being will bow at the name of Jesus?