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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

What do you want? What do you need?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - What is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts:Job 9:1-13,14-16; Lk 9:57-62

While part of this text is found also in Matthew, the latter part (9:60b-62) is exclusive to Luke. It concerns the would-be followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ warnings about what discipleship will entail.

To the first would-be follower who promises to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus responds by stating clearly that unlike even the foxes that at least have holes, he does not have anywhere he can call his own. If the would-be follower is ready for this insecurity, he may follow.

The second person is called to follow by Jesus, but responds by asking for permission to bury his father. This was a duty that was binding on all devout Jews. Jesus’ response is harsh and demands that the disciple be primarily concerned about the kingdom.

The third would-be follower puts conditions to his following namely that he wants to say farewell to his family. However, here too the response of Jesus is clear. Looking back while ploughing leads to a crooked furrow.


While it is not necessary to give up the state of life one has chosen in order to follow Jesus, what is to be understood is that following will necessarily mean changing one’s style of life. It will mean a move from selfishness to selflessness, from acquiring material possessions to sharing them with others and from anything negative to everything that is positive.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of your time and irritates the pig.

To read the texts click on the texts:Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23; Lk 9:51-56

The section of the Gospel of Luke beginning from 9,51 and ending at 19:28 is known as the Travel Narrative or Journey to Jerusalem. Beginning today and on all weekdays till the feast of Christ the King, (except on feast days) we will be reading from this section of Luke’s Gospel. It is therefore important to have an understanding of what this section means. 

Luke begins this travel narrative by telling us that when the days drew near for Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem in 19:28 marks the end of this section. One important reason for this section where Luke diverts from Mark, is so that Luke can add here material from his own special source and also material from the source known as “Q” which he and Matthew have in common. In this section we will also find many parables, sayings meal scenes, controversies and warnings, through which the Lucan Jesus explicates his way of life.

In the text of today, we will read of the opposition that Jesus encounters already at the beginning of his journey. A Samaritan village refuses to welcome him. This rejection of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry coincides with the rejection at the beginning of his ministry in Nazareth (4:16-30). This foreshadows the rejection that Jesus will face in Jerusalem. In response to the rejection, James and John want to react and destroy the whole village. Jesus’ rebuke of James and John is an indication that he will not use violence in his ministry, but will win people only through love. The last verse of this text where we are told that they went on to another village also makes clear that Jesus will not force his teaching on anyone who does not want to listen to it.


Sometimes we are faced with opposition with regard to an idea that we may put forward or a suggestion that we may offer. When we identify with that idea or suggestion and feel rejected when it is rejected, then we might be tempted like James and John to react. The attitude of Jesus invites us to detach ourselves from all that we propose, so that we can continue to stay calm and collected.

A gift for the Feast of the Angels

Sunday, 28 September 2014

September 29, 2014 - STS. MICHAEL, GABRIEL AND RAPHAEL

To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 7:9-10,13-14; Rev12:7-12; Jn 1:47-51

The three Archangels Michael (Who is as God? or Who is like God?), Gabriel (Strength of God) and Raphael (God heals) are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture. However, ancient apocryphal literature mentions others beside these three, but the names are spurious.

Archangel Michael is invoked for protection against evil and regarded as a Champion of God’s people. Gabriel is mentioned four times in the Bible. Of these the most significant are in the New Testament when he makes the announcement of the birth of john the Baptist and Jesus to Zechariah and Mary respectively. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit and is the one who heals Tobias’ blindness. Raphael is not mentioned in the New Testament, but is invoked for healing and acts of mercy.

The choice of the Gospel reading from John is because of the mention of angels in the last verse of the text. Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though skeptical, he is willing to be convinced. Jesus addresses Nathanael as an “Israelite” which signifies his faithfulness to the law and is used here in a positive sense. He is without guile because though he has questions and even doubts, he is open and receptive and willing to learn. Jesus’ intimate knowledge of Nathanael and the revelation that he makes to him leads to a transformation in Nathanael and he comes to faith. He responds to Jesus with a confession and though he begins with Rabbi, he moves on to recognizing Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.

However, Jesus responds by pointing out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning of the revelation that Jesus makes. If he continues to remain open he will experience even greater things. By means of a double “Amen”, Jesus points out to Nathanael and to others there that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth. Through the phrase “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51) which combines images from the descent of the Son of Man as narrated by Daniel (7:13) and the ladder of Jacob’s dream in Genesis (28:12), Jesus states that Jacob’s ladder is replaced by the Son of Man. He will be that place and person in whom the earthly and divine encounter each other. He as Son of man will make God known. The Son of Man becomes the place where the earthly and the heavenly, divine and human, temporal and eternal meet.


When looked at from this angle, the feast of the Archangels seeming to be saying to us that our God is not merely in the heavens. Our God is not merely a God who has created the world and left it to its own design. Rather our God is a God who is intimately connected to the world and present to and in it. Our God is a God who is concerned about our world and ever willing to lend a hand whenever any one of us requires it.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Love is Action

Sunday, September 28, 2014 - Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year - Not words, but deeds

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32

A priest friend was telling me how during the time of heavy rains in his town because of which many people lost a lot of their belongings, he made an appeal during his Sunday homily for people to come and help him reach out to those who were affected by the rains. When he asked people to raise their hands to indicate if they would come, about 70% of the 500 people present raised their hands. He fixed the following Saturday as the day on which they would go out to help. When the day came, five people turned up. They said, but did not do. They had words but no action.

There is an intimate connection between all three readings of today. In the reading from Ezekiel, the prophet calls the people to realize that it is not God’s ways that are unfair but their own. He asks the people to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions and not lay the blame on God’s door. It is not God who punishes or condemns, but punishment is the consequence or result of a person’s wrong doing. The ones who persist in their evil ways condemn themselves. Ezekiel’s portrayal is of a generous and forgiving God who wants everyone to come back to him. Anyone who turns back to God will be accepted and forgiven.

This theme of acceptance and forgiveness is affirmed by Matthew in the Gospel text. At the end of the parable of the two sons he says that those who turn to God after renouncing their former evil ways will indeed be saved. This turning to God has be a turning that is shown in action and not mere words.

It is important to understand the immediate context. It is placed in the Gospel almost immediately after Jesus has entered the temple in Jerusalem and “cleansed” it. This action leads the chief priests and elders of the people to question Jesus’ authority. It is in this context that the parable is told and the audience continues to be the chief priests and the elders. It brings out powerfully the fact that these who just questioned Jesus’ authority are themselves rejecting the kingdom.

The first son initially refuses his father’s request. It was culturally unacceptable, so afterwards he does go and do what his father asks. Thus his initial refusal is followed by eventual obedience. The second son not only agrees to go but also reinforces this agreement by addressing his father as “Lord”. However, he does not go and his initial agreement is followed by eventual disobedience. Though the answer to Jesus’ question as to which son did the will of the father is obvious and the Jewish leaders answer correctly. What shocks and offends them is the application that Jesus makes. They are compared with the son who was ready with words and even words of respect, but with what remained mere empty words. Though God spoke to them through the Law and numerous prophets, they had merely heard and not obeyed. The tax collectors and prostitutes on the other hand, who are likened to the first son, are the ones who are entering the kingdom and receiving salvation because they dared to do so, even though they may have initially refused to listen.

The second reading from Philippians provides the Christological foundation of such conversion. Jesus himself is the model of the truly obedient son, who says yes to his Father in the most radical and action oriented way. His actions match his words. There is no dichotomy. In this he goes one better than the first son in not only doing but also saying. The initial verses of the hymn explode with verbs of action. Jesus did not grasp at equality with God; he emptied himself; he took on the form of a slave; he came in human likeness; he was obedient to the point of enduring the ignominy of death in one of the most shameful of ways: on a cross. This is the attitude that true followers of Jesus are challenged to adopt. In the second half of the hymn, the verbs then shift. God becomes now the actor or doer exalting Jesus and giving him a name above every name. Doing the will of the Father, for Jesus, was more than simply a matter of words; it is always a matter of deeds. Appropriate and relevant action, accompanying the words, is the way of a true disciple of Jesus.


The repentance that today’s texts call for is a radical change of heart, mind and vision that is seen in denying self and reaching out to everyone in need. It is true that there will be times when, like the first son, we may say an initial “I will not”, but when we dare to look at the example of Christ that continues to shine brightly before us, we are challenged to imitate him and have that same mind and heart. We are called to realize, like him, that if we dare to open ourselves to obedience, even though it might not seen at first glance as the best option, we too like him will conquer death and be that example which the world so badly needs today.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Prayer and you

Saturday, September 27, 2014 - 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: Ecclesiastes 11:9 – 12:8; 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. Moat 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, 25 September 2014

Look only with LOVE

Friday, September 26, 2014 - 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: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; 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 different situations, he will always be bigger than anything we can ever imagine.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

TANTUM QUANTUM

Thursday, September 25, 2014 - You 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: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; 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, 23 September 2014

It is not a sin to be wrong

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - What does mission mean for you today? How and where will you proclaim it?

To read the texts click on the texts: Prov 30:5-9; 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, 22 September 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - Would Jesus point to you as a member of his family? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Prov 21:1-6,10-13; 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, 21 September 2014

Do not be afraid of change

Monday, September 22, 2014 - What is the Good News according to you? Will you share it with others today? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Prov 3:27-34; 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, 20 September 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014 - Twenty-fifth Sunday of the year - Writing crooked on straight lines

To read the texts click on the texts: Is. 55:6-9;Phil 1:20-24; 27; Mt 20:1-14

After reading the title above you would be forgiven if you think I made a mistake and especially if you know the regular phrase which is: God writes straight on crooked lines, While God can surely write straight on crooked lines, he also sometimes writes crooked on straight lines.

Three years ago after the Gospel of today had been read I invited eight children to come and stand near the altar in full view of each other and the congregation.  I had a bag of chocolates with me and I began the distribution. To the first child I gave three and to each of the other seven one each. Each of the seven after looking into the hand of the first child kept waiting at the altar quite sure that the drama was not quite over. When I asked them to go back to their pews they looked at me with some confusion. The only child on whose face there was a broad smile was the one in whose hand I had put three chocolates. Even as they were returning, one child looked back at me in something like anger and even some disgust and asked as only children can: “Why you gave him three?”

The last verse from the first reading of today explains even if inadequately why the first child was given three. It was go drive home a point, to communicate a message. God’s ways are surely not our ways and no matter how hard we may try, they cannot be understood with our finite minds. “As high as the heaven s are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways” (Is 55:9). The context in Isaiah seems to be the questioning of the people of the prophetic message of Isaiah. The people were finding it difficult to understand how God could use a Gentile, Cyrus, the Persian king to free them from bondage and move them to freedom. They thus began to question the ways of God since they did not fit in with what they expected God to do for them. They were not able to comprehend that God sometimes writes crooked on straight lines. He turns logic on its head and sometimes even our world upside down.

A classic example of how God does this is narrated in the Gospel text; the parable found only in the Gospel of Matthew and sometimes called the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. However, the focus is not so much on the workers but on the owner of the vineyard and his seemingly unjust and illogical actions. The parable makes three striking points. The first of these is that while the earlier four groups are simply told to go to the vineyard, it is only the labourers hired at the eleventh hour who are asked why they have been standing idle all day. The reason for this seems to be, to bring out through their response that they have not been considered worthy of being hired. They are the rejected, the unworthy, the undesirable. However, despite their unworthiness, these too are given the same invitation as the earlier groups. The second point is the manner in which the workers are paid. The ones hired last are paid first. This prepares for the objection of the ones hired earlier and for the response of the master. The response of the master to the objection by the labourers that a great injustice was done to them is the third striking point. The distancing term “friend” (which Jesus uses in the garden of Gethsemane when addressing Judas the betrayer in 26:50) used here sets the tone for the response of the master. Since the master has kept to the terms of the contract agreed upon, no injustice has been done and it is the master who decides that the last must be treated in the same way as the first. There is here a distinct note of grace. Though the last ones did not deserve what they got, they were given it because of the graciousness of the master. Only in the realm of grace upon which the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus is based, it is wrong to set one’s mind on the rewards that will set one on a higher level than others.

The fundamental assertion of the parable is that God’s grace is granted also to those who come last. Even those who come in the eleventh hour, the unwanted and the unworthy, will receive the same reward to be given to those who have come before. When we tend to despise those whom we consider unworthy either because of their manner of life or their way of proceeding which may not fit in with ours, we need to keep this in mind. When we consider ourselves as superior as or holier than others we need to remember that if not for God’s grace we could never be worthy to receive any of his blessings and it is only grace that makes us worthy.


The parable summons us to believe that God’s justice played out in this world is not limited by human conceptions of strict mathematical judgment, by which reward is in proportion to effort or merit. As a matter of fact, grace cannot be earned by even the most strenuous effort. Mercy and goodness are not opposed to justice, but they challenge us, as they did the workers in the parable, to move beyond justice. God’s ways are not human ways. God indeed does write crooked on straight lines.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Yours, mine, OURS

Saturday, September 20, 2014 - Do you sometimes act as the “General Manager of the Universe”? Will you resign from that position today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 15:35-37,42-49; Lk 8:4-15

The text of today combines both the Parable of the Sower (8:5-8) and the allegory (8:11-15) {in an allegory, every element in the story is given a meaning. So, the seed is regarded as the word of God, those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe an be saved, and so on}. 
Though it is true that the Sower disappears from the scene after he is first mentioned, and the seed takes centre stage, the parable is really one of contrast between the beginning and the middle, and the end. Thus, the Sower (whom the end will affect) is still an important figure in the parable. Since many have confused the allegory with the Parable, the meaning of the parable may have been missed. In this reflection we will focus on the Parable.

The farmer would sow along “the path”, because according to research done on the agricultural practices in Palestine at the time of Jesus, the practice was to sow seeds first and then plough it into the ground. Sowing on “rocky ground” is not surprising because the underlying limestone, thinly covered with soil, barely showed above the surface until the ploughshare jarred against it. Sowing among “thorns” is also understandable, because this too will be ploughed up. Though the ploughing of the three kinds of soil above will be done, it will result in a loss, because in none of them will the seed grow. It will seem that seventy-five percent of the effort is lost. While most of the parable focuses on “sowing”, in the last verse it is already “harvest time”. The abnormal, exaggerated tripling, of the harvest’s yield (thirty, sixty, a hundredfold) symbolises the overflowing of divine fullness., surpassing all human measure and expectations (A tenfold harvest counted as a good harvest and a yield of seven and a half as an average one).

To human eyes much of the labour seems futile and fruitless, resulting in repeated failure, but Jesus is full of joyful confidence; he knows that God has made a beginning, bringing with it a harvest of reward beyond all asking or conceiving. In spite of every failure and opposition, from hopeless beginnings, God brings forth the triumphant end, which he has promised.

Do I usually focus more on the reaping than on the sowing? Do I focus more on the result than on the action? Do I focus more on the future than on the present?

How do I react when most of my effort seems to be in vain? Do I throw up my hands in despair? Do I give up? Do I get despondent? Or do I carry on despite all odds? Do I continue to persevere? Do I keep on keeping on?

How attached am I to the result of my action? Can I plunge into the din of battle and leave my heart at the feet of the Lord?

Thursday, 18 September 2014

When the going gets tough....

Friday, September 19, 2014 - Does the plight of others affect me at all? What do I do about it?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1Cor 15:12-20; 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, 17 September 2014

Today is THE Day

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 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 Cor 15:1-11; 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, 16 September 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - St. Robert Bellarmine SJ - 1542 - 1621 - When was the last time you performed an action without any expectation of reward? Will you perform one today?

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 viĆ¢, 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.

Do not try this anywhere. It is dangerous

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 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 Cor 12:31-13:13; 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, 15 September 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 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 Cor 12:12-14,27-31; 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 moved with compassion, and intervenes. God does not 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.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014 - Our Lady of Sorrows

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 5:7-9; Jn 19:25-27; Lk 2:33-35

The title, “Our Lady of Sorrows,” given to our Blessed Mother focuses on her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord. Traditionally, this suffering was not limited to the passion and death event; rather, it comprised “the seven dolours” or “seven sorrows” of Mary, which were foretold by the Simeon who proclaimed to Mary, “This child  is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Luke 2:34-35). 

These seven sorrows of our Blessed Mother included the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the loss and finding of the child Jesus in the Temple; Mary's meeting of Jesus on His way to Calvary; Mary's standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord was crucified; her holding of Jesus when He was taken down from the cross; and then our Lord's burial. In all, the prophesy of Simeon that a sword would pierce our Blessed Mother's heart was fulfilled in these events. For this reason, Mary is sometimes depicted with her heart exposed and with seven swords piercing it. More importantly, each new suffering was received with the courage, love, and trust that echoed her fiat, “let it be done unto me according to Thy word,” first uttered at the Annunciation.

The readings chosen for the feast are from Hebrews and a choice of either John or Luke. All three readings speak about how Jesus and Mary handled suffering in their lives and how we can learn from them.

The text from Hebrews speaks about the total humanity of Jesus to make abundantly clear that the suffering that Jesus went through was an integral part of his earthly life. Though he was challenged with accepting the Cross and though he prayed that the Cross be taken away, what was more important than that was ‘doing God’s will’. This led to acceptance of the Cross willingly and courageously.

The Gospel text from Luke is Simeon’s second oracle and addressed specifically to Mary.  It prefigures the rejection of Jesus. Not all will receive the salvation that has been prepared, see the light of revelation, or recognize the glory of God in the coming of Jesus. The sword that will pierce Mary’s heart refers to the rejection of her son and to the final rejection on the Cross. Mary’s response is courageous, because she knows like Jesus that God’s will for her son is infinitely better than anything she could hope for.

The scene in the Gospel of John is where four women are named standing by the Cross (his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene). Of these the focus falls on Mary, the mother of Jesus and the beloved disciple who is given charge of the mother of Jesus. While the beloved disciple is indeed a historical figure, he/she can also be anyone who loves Jesus. The command of the Lord to such a disciple, who loves him, is that he/she must also take his mother into their home because she is an integral part of the family of Jesus.


The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is relevant for each of us today. It shows first of all that though Jesus and Mary were constantly doing God’s will, they were not spared from the Cross and the challenges and vicissitudes of life. Second it shows that even in the midst of these challenges we must always remember that God walks ahead of us and will never abandon us. This is why we never give up or give in. Finally, it reminds us that sorrow and the Cross is never the end, but only a step towards resurrection and the fullness of life.