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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - In which areas do I need a new Vision, a new way of looking at Persons/Things/Events? What does it means that I can rise, take up my mat and walk?



To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 47:1-9; Jn 5:1-3,5-16

The miracle of the healing of the paralytic is exclusive to the Gospel of John. The story is set in Jerusalem and the miracle occurs during one of the Jewish festivals though John does not specify which one. Later in the narrative we are told that the day of the festival was also the Sabbath and this adds to the significance of both the festival and the Sabbath and thus the miracle and the controversy that follows. Festivals in John are used as a platform for a deep revelation of the person of Jesus and this festival is no exception.

John gives a detailed description of the place where the miracle was performed as if encouraging the reader to place him/herself in that place. Three kinds of invalids are mentioned: the blind, the lame and the paralyzed. These are at the pool waiting for the stirring of the water. Popular belief was that an angel was responsible for the stirring of the water and thus for the inexplicable bubbling at the surface. Of these one is singled out. He is a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years, which symbolizes that his illness is almost permanent. At this point the text does not tell us what his illness is. Jesus picks out this man and again we are not given a reason. Did he come across to Jesus as the one most in need? Was he the only one who did not have someone to help him? We are only told that Jesus “knew that he had been there a long time”. Jesus initiates the miracle by approaching the man. Yet, he does not force his healing on the man as is evident in the question that he asks him; “Do you want to be made well?” The man does not answer the question but begins his litany of complaints. He has already set limits to what he believes can be done for him. He does not expect the impossible. Jesus responds to the man’s complaints with three imperatives: “stand up, take your mat and walk”. That Jesus’ words are effective and transformative is evident in the fact that the man was made well. He obeys Jesus’ commands to the letter: “He took up his mat and walked”.

Immediately after the miracle, there is an objection on the part of “the Jews” (which here refers to the Jewish authorities who oppose Jesus and not the Jewish people in general) because the man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath and this constituted work which was not allowed on the Sabbath. The man responds that he is simply obeying what Jesus asked him to do. The Jewish leaders prefer to focus not on the fact that he had been made well, but on the one who told him to violate the Sabbath. The man cannot respond to the question of the Jewish leaders about who Jesus is, since he does not know Jesus.

At this point Jesus reenters the story and finds the man in the temple confirming that he has been made well and speaks to him about sin. He invites the man to move from the mere physical healing to spiritual healing. The man on encountering Jesus again, announces to the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. While some see these words of the man as pointing Jesus out to the Jewish leaders, others interpret them as an announcement of the man about who Jesus is. Again the leaders refuse to focus on the positive action of the man being made well and focus instead on the violation of the Sabbath. This is why they decide to persecute him.

Two issues are brought out in this story. The first is that of illness. While we may be able to see with the eyes of our head, it is possible that we too like many of those who were at the pool may be psychologically or spiritually blind. We may not be able to see another person’s point of view and imagine sometimes that ours is the only correct viewpoint. We may also be blind to the sufferings of the numerous people around us and close ourselves in on our own small worlds. We may have the facility and use of both of our legs, but may have given in to lethargy or laziness. We may have lost the desire and drive to do what we have to do. We may be able to use all our limbs and move about freely, but may have given in to fear. We may also be carrying resentments, bitterness, anger, jealousy and even rage in our hearts because of which we are paralyzed and not able to move freely.

The second issue which the story brings out is that of law versus love. Like the Jewish leaders we are also guilty sometimes of focusing too much on the law and not enough on love. Like they were not able to focus on the man’s wholeness but only on the violation of the Sabbath, so we are sometimes prone to focus on the negatives rather than on the positive. We prefer often to give a negative interpretation to a person’s actions and words rather than a positive one.

The miracle thus calls each of us to give up the blindness of our heart and the lameness of our mind and the paralysis of our spirit and to focus on the positive of God’s unconditional healing and love made visible in Jesus.

Monday, March 31, 2014 - Do you believe in God only when things go the way you plan or do you continue to believe in all circumstances? Is your God only a miracle worker or is he a God with you and for you?



To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 65:17-21; Jn 4:43-52

The healing of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) which is part of our text today begins after the dialogue with the Samaritan woman (4:1-42). The first two verses of today’s text (4:43-45) serve as an interlude between the two stories. John uses the saying of the prophet having no honour in his own country, to show why Jesus came to Galilee. In John, Judea is Jesus’ own country and since he was not accepted there, he had to go to others including the Samaritans. Like the Samaritans, the Galileans welcome him.

The first verse of the miracle story that follows is an introduction narrating the case. The son of a royal official is ill in Capernaum. The mention of Cana and a summary of the first miracle of turning water into wine anticipate another miracle. The healing in this miracle, however, is done at a distance. The official makes a request for Jesus to come down and heal his son who is at the point of death. The immediate response of Jesus is directed not to the official alone but to all. That Jesus did heal the official’s son is an indication that his words are not meant merely as a rebuke, but go deeper. Though the people will base their faith in him merely on signs and wonders, Jesus invites them to realize that these are not what will motivate him to act. He will act only in accordance with the will of God. Human expectation cannot determine his action. Even after hearing this seeming rebuke, the official is not deterred. He perseveres in his request. With a word and from a distance, Jesus performs the healing. The official’s faith is Jesus is seen in his obedience to the command to “Go”. He does go on his way.

The attestation of the miracle is provided by the servants of the official who meet him when he is still on his way to his home. The official on further enquiry realizes that Jesus is the one who has performed the healing and is led to faith. The man now believes in Jesus, not only in Jesus’ word.

At the end of the miracle John remarks that this was then second sign that Jesus worked after coming to Galilee. In his Gospel, John always refers to the miracles of Jesus as signs.

Sickness and brokenness are very much visible in our world today and most are in need of some form of healing or another. At times doctors are not able to diagnose an illness and at other times when they are and perform a complicated operation, ask the patient and family members to pray and have faith. There is only so much that they can do, the rest is in God’s hands. The official in the story had probably gone to Jesus as a last resort (his son was not merely ill but at the point of death) after having explored and exhausted all other avenues. He is single minded in his purpose and will let nothing deter him. He believes and perseveres. His faith gains for him not only his son’s life but also the gift of faith in Jesus.

This means that faith cannot be based on external signs alone and remain at that level. If it is and does, then one will look at Jesus as a mere miracle worker. The focus here would be only on the actions of Jesus and not on his person from which his actions flow. If one is able to go beyond the action to the person of Jesus, then one will also be able to see who God is: God with us, for us and in us.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT - ALL THE JUMBLED WODS ARE FOUND IN THE THREE READINGS OF TODAY

TO READ THE TEXTS IN WHICH YOU WILL FIND THE WORDS, CLICK HERE

Sunday, March 30, 2014 - FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT - "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye"


To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 16:1,6-7,10-13; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

Some time ago, a young man came to see me to pour out his heart. He was a self-admitted workaholic, because of which he was increasingly distancing himself from his wife and two children. His marriage was on the verge of breaking up, since he could not find time to spend with his family. He was caught in a vicious circle. He worked hard in order to provide for his family and the harder he worked and the more time he spent in the office, the further was he moving away from his family. As he poured his heart out, I simply listened. His job had become his obsession. He wanted to give his wife and children things he had never had as a child and this effort to gain all things for his family became an enemy of the persons he loved most. He finally looked up at me and exclaimed, “I’ve lost sight of everything that matters most!” 
The fox says something similar to the Prince in the book titled “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The young man realized that he had lost his vision. He had not lost his external sight or vision, but the inner vision, the heart vision, which enables one to see clearly. He left my room with a promise to set his priorities right and thanked me for listening. 

The loss of vision, which the young man above experienced, is similar to the one experienced by both Samuel as narrated by the first reading of today and the Pharisees in the Gospel text. In the case of Samuel, the reason for the loss vision is due to mistaken perception and judging by outward appearances alone. However, God makes it clear to him that he judges not by the external but looks at the heart. In the case of the Pharisees, the loss of vision was caused by their set opinions and understanding. They wanted to follow the law as thoroughly as they could but did not realize that they had mixed it up with their interpretation and preconceived ideas and thus had shut the door to any kind of revelation that God was constantly making in Jesus through his Spirit. They were so sure of everything ---- that God did not work on the Sabbath, that Moses was God's only spokesperson, that anyone born blind and anyone who broke the Sabbath had to be a sinner, that God did not work through sinners, that God did not work on sinners and that furthermore no one could teach them anything. 
In this context, it must be noted that John makes abundantly clear in this text that physical illness is not the effect of sin. Rather sin here is connected with spiritual blindness and anyone who rejects the true light who is Jesus is guilty of sin and so is spiritually blind. This is an even more dangerous blindness than the physical one. The man born physically blind comes to both physical sight and spiritual sight in his being able to see and recognize Jesus as the one who is sent. Through opposition and persecution the blind man moves from a confession of “the man Jesus,” to “prophet,” to “one from God” and finally to a confession of Jesus as the Son of Man and Lord.

The second reading of today reminds the Ephesians and us, that like the man in the Gospel who represents all of us, we were also blind and stumbling in darkness.  But now we live in the light of Christ and his Good News. And that light is seen in the way we behave, in the way we relate with other people in "complete goodness and right living and truth".  Our lives are to have a transparency where there is no darkness, no hidden behaviour which we would be ashamed to reveal to others.

We have been “enlightened” through baptism and are commissioned to confess and witness to our faith.. Imitating the journey of the man toward greater insight about Jesus, we progress to an inner enlightenment so they can ultimately confess the crucified one as the Son of Man, who, when lifted up, will draw all things to himself. 

Lest the Pharisees be too harshly blamed, we must ask about their own blindness. Of course, acknowledging our own spiritual blindness can be embarrassing, painful, and threatening. To confess our own groping darkness and howling demons, our frustrations, fears, and failures, unnerves us. And as unsettling as that confession is to make to our own selves, there is the added anxiety of what others might say, think, or do. Whether it was tradition, jealousy, or legalism, something blinded the religious leaders and prevented them from seeing the obvious. What blinds us to the truths that we should be seeing? Regardless of what it is, Jesus offers to remove the blindness and show us the light.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014 - Does the content of your prayer include despising or condemning others? Has pride prevented you from encountering God?



To read the texts click on the texts:Hos 5:15-6:6; Lk 18:9-14

The parable that forms the text today is knows as the Parable of the Pharisee and tax Collector but is not so much about these persons as it is about the disposition for prayer in any person. It is exclusive to Luke. The parable is addressed not to the Pharisees, but to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. This could be a description of any self righteous person.

The two men who went up to the temple to pray are introduced as a Pharisee and a tax collector. Pharisee means “separated one” and the Pharisee in the parable takes this prayer position. He stands apart or by himself. Though he begins his prayer with thanksgiving, it is soon clear that it is not genuine thanks, but self centered. He is aware of the presence of the tax collector in the temple and regards him with contempt even as he prays. The Pharisee makes clear that he follows the law perfectly and obeys even the injunctions to fast and give tithes. He asks nothing of God probably because he thinks he is self sufficient.

By contrast the tax collector will not dare to come near but stands “far off”. This indicates his position before God. He does not consider himself worthy. While the commonly accepted posture of prayer was with hands folded and looking up to God, this tax collector stands with his head bowed and “would not even look up to heaven”. Instead he beats his breast in acknowledgement of the fact that he is unworthy and a sinner. His prayer is God centered. He cedes all power to God. He has nothing to boast about.

The comment at the end of the parable makes clear its intent. The Pharisee returned to his home without having been made righteous, but the tax collector was accepted before God.

Those who trust in their own righteousness will regard others with contempt, and those who regard others with contempt cannot then bring themselves to rely on God’s grace. Therefore, persons who exalt themselves over others and boast of their virtue before God will discover that they have cut themselves off from both, and persons who are aware of their need for grace and forgiveness will not be able to despise other people.

The nature of grace is paradoxical: It can be received only by those who have learned empathy for others. In that regard, grace partakes of the nature of mercy and forgiveness. Only the merciful can receive mercy, and only those who forgive will be forgiven. The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous, but not enough to be humble. As a result, his religion drove him away from the tax collector rather than toward him.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fridat, March 28,2014 - Will your love for God show in your love for at least one person today?



To read the texts click on the texts: Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28-34

In Matthew 22:35, the lawyer asks the question about the great commandment in order to test Jesus; in Mark he is not hostile and does not intend to test Jesus. As a matter of fact Mark mentions at the beginning of the incident that the lawyer thought that Jesus had answered the Sadducees well and at the end of that response, he commends Jesus for his answer. Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question in the words of the “Shema”, which speaks of love of God (Deut 6:5-6), but adds also the love of neighbour (Lev 19:18). The scribe’s response to this is to acknowledge Jesus’ answer as correct and to add that following these commandments is greater than sacrifices and burnt offerings. Jesus concludes the dialogue by stating that because the scribe has recognized what his priorities are, he is not far from the kingdom of God.

Love of God cannot really be separated from love of neighbour. The two go together. Our love for God is made manifest and tangible only when we reach out in love to someone else.  While Paul gives a beautiful description of what love is and what it is not in 1 Corinthians 13, my own definition of love is that in love there is no “I”.