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Saturday, 28 February 2015

God is....

Sunday, March 1, 2015 - Second Sunday in Lent - Look at the Son.

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 22: 1-2, 9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
 

I still remember that night, eight years ago, when I received a call at 11.45 p.m. I knew immediately that it would be from someone with a very great need or someone in great despair. It was. The father of a young man was calling to tell me that his 23 year old son had just died. He was his only son. The boy was coming home from work when a drunk driver knocked him down and fled the scene. He was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival. At the funeral Mass the next day, there was not one person in the church who was not moved by tears by the sight of that young man in his coffin. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “How could God…” and “Why”?

I do believe that the answer to our every “How could God…” and “Why” is provided for us in God sending his only son.

The first reading also speaks to us about a father and his only son. Abraham was asked to give up his only son, and this, after being promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. How could God, who had made such a promise, expect it to be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed? This kind of sacrifice would result in cutting Abraham off from his future. Abraham did not know that God was actually testing him. He heard the command from God as something that he was being called to do. However, he did know that God would provide and find a way. He believed that God could do even what was impossible. This is why his constant response to God was “Here I am”. This willingness and faith of Abraham resulted in God being able to work in and through him. It resulted in the promises of God being fulfilled in the life of Abraham. He did, indeed, become a great nation and his descendants were as numerous s grains of sand on the seashore.

The willingness and faith that Abraham showed was exemplary. However, it pales in comparison with the willingness and faith that Jesus showed when he took up his cross. This is what God commanded Jesus to do and this is what he did. While in Abraham’s case, he was stopped before he could complete the act of offering his son, in the case of Jesus, he had to go the full way to show his obedience to God’s will and fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.

We are given a foretaste of this obedience in the scene of the Transfiguration. The figures that appear with Jesus on the mountain are Elijah and Moses. These were prophets who were considered (along with Enoch) as alive in the presence of God. The voice from heaven, after addressing Jesus as beloved son, asks the three disciples who were with Jesus on the mountain to listen to him.  Despite being God’s beloved son, Jesus would have to go to his suffering and death and, only then, enter his glory. There was no other way. Jesus did not simply obey God; he obeyed God because he trusted. He knew that God was in charge and, even in what seemed like defeat and death, there would be victory and new life.

We sometimes tend to think that Jesus is most clearly Son of God only in glory, not in suffering. The transfiguration challenges us to revise our understanding of how God’s presence comes to the world. Even as he stands transfigured, Jesus is aware that the cross is a certainty in his life. He is aware that, though he is beloved son, he will have to suffer and die.  The command to silence, given by Jesus to the disciples, reminds us that glory and suffering cannot be separated.

Yes, Jesus was able to go to the cross in the full knowledge that God would always do what was best for him. He was aware that the God who delivered Elijah and Moses would also deliver him. He was able to go through the cross because he knew that, in and through the cross, he would save the world. That Jesus continues to live today is proof that his faith and confidence in the goodness of God was affirmed and confirmed. It was a proof that Paul experienced when he told the community in Rome that “neither death nor life…. nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.


The message then, on this second Sunday of Lent, to every one of us, is that God continues to be in charge. He continues to want what is best for each of us at every moment of our life. Even at those times when we cannot see his hand as clearly as we would like, or cannot feel his presence as tangibly as we would want, he is still working for our good. This was confirmed in the life of Abraham, but fulfilled in the most perfect way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to look at his Son.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Focus on weightier issues not insignificant ones

Saturday, February 28, 2015 - How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48

In the last of the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. . While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. This is the behaviour expected of a true disciple of Jesus. They cannot merely love those who love them, since one does not require to be a disciple to do this. Everyone, even the vilest of people can do this. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

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


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

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Convert the Heart

Friday, February 27, 2015 - How many times did you get angry yesterday? Will you attempt to make it one less time today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26

The righteousness of the disciples of Jesus must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees whose standard of religious piety and practice was high. These of course did what they did only to be seen by people and to show off their piety. The disciples are called not merely to avoid being hypocritical.

In the six antitheses (5:21-48) that follow, Matthew shows what it means in practice for the righteousness of the disciples to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. In these verses (5:21-26) Matthew narrates first of the six, which is about the Torah’s prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:18). The supplementary “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement” is not found verbatim anywhere in the Old Testament, and seems to have been added by Matthew to introduce the word “judgement” which he uses in the next verse. After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (5:22). The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realize that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (5:23-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward which they are journeying.


If we come to worship God and there are feelings of anger, revenge or hatred in our hearts, then our worship remains incomplete. It is only an external worship and not true worship. God does not need our adoration, but if want to adore him it must also come from within.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

God's love is definite

Thursday, February 26, 2915 - Is the home of your life built on rock or sand? How will you show that it has been built on rock today? Is the home of your life able to withstand the storms that threaten it from without? If No, what will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 26:1-6; Mt 7:21,24-27

The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew, known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.  This is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew.  Each of the five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). The Sermon on the Mount begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi, teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet, addressing the crowds (7:28). The Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are also found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come, not to abolish but to fulfil the Law and Prophets.  He issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.  This they will do if they internalize the law rather than if they simply follow it as a set of rules and regulations.

The text of today is from the conclusion of the Sermon. It begins with Jesus stating emphatically that mere words on the part of people, even if one addresses him with lofty titles and fervent pleas, will not gain one entry into the kingdom.   Entry into the kingdom is determined by “doing” the Father’s will. Right action is more important than right words.

What it means to do the Father’s will is brought out clearly in the parable of the two builders. The point here, besides action, is one of foresight. The builder who builds his house on sand is doing, at first glance, as well as the one who builds his house on rock. It is only when the rain falls, the storm comes, and the wind blows, that the difference is seen. The house built on rock continues to stand, whereas the one built on sand falls. The wise person represents those who put Jesus' words into practice; they too are building to withstand anything. Those who pretend to have faith, which is a mere intellectual commitment, or who enjoy Jesus in small doses as and when it suits them, are foolish builders. When the storms of life come, their structures fool no one; above all, they do not fool God.

The sermon speaks of grace, but the grace of God is known only in that community committed to doing God’s will, as revealed in Jesus. There can be no calculating “cheap grace.”  One must take the Sermon on the Mount seriously as the revealed will of God to be lived. The subject matter of the sermon is not the person of Christ, but the kind of life Christ’s disciples are called to live. One cannot avoid Christology and appeal only to the teaching or great principles of Jesus, for these are inseparable from the claims of his person. But, for Matthew, the converse is also true: “Correct” Christological understanding can never be a substitute for the ethical living to which Jesus calls his disciples. Christology and ethics, like Christology and discipleship, are inseparable for Matthew.


While some regard the Sermon as an ideal to be read and not lived, others see it as being capable of being lived out by only a select few. These kinds of interpretations miss the point. Since the Sermon is addressed to both the disciples and the crowd, there is no doubt that it is meant for all. It is a challenge to be lived out by anyone who professes to be a disciple of Jesus.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Live life

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without this sign?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jon3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32

Jesus’ debate with the crowd following the exorcism of the demon that made a man mute (11:14-16) continues. One of the challenges posed by some in the crowd was to demand from Jesus a sign from heaven. The response of Jesus is not to give in to their demand for a sign. A similar saying is also found in Matthew (12:38-42) which indicates that both Matthew and Luke have taken it from the “Q” source {Mark also has the episode of the demand for a sign and Jesus’ response (Mk 8:11-12), but it is much shorter and does not have the details found in both Matthew and Luke}. However, Luke has so formulated the response of Jesus, that it forms an inclusion. It begins and ends with Jonah. Through this, Luke has associated Jonah’s preaching with Solomon’s wisdom. Since Luke makes this association, for him the sign of Jonah was not Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40), but the call to repentance that Jonah preached. As the people of Nineveh repented after the call by Jonah, so Jesus calls the crowd to repentance after his proclamation. The Queen of Sheba, or the Queen of the South, journeyed from her kingdom in southwest Arabia to test the reports she had heard of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kgs 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12). When she had tested Solomon with “hard questions” (1 Kgs 10:1), she was convinced of the wisdom God had given to him and blessed the Lord who had set Solomon on the throne of Israel (1 Kgs 10:9). At the judgment, therefore, she also would rise to condemn that wicked generation because they had one who was greater than Solomon, and they did not hear him.

Jesus thus refuses to give the crowds any other sign, because any demand for a sign meant that they have not understood what Jesus was about, and what his mission was. Jesus also knew that for those who believe, no sign is necessary, whereas for those who do not, no sign is sufficient.


The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus. If one persists in the old way of looking which is a way of finding God only in miraculous and spectacular events, one will miss him. Now he can be found in all things and all things can be found in him.

Make a Difference

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - How will you acknowledge your dependence on God today? Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?



To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15

The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.

It is important to have a brief background of the Sermon in order to appreciate fully each separate text within it. The first point that we note about the Sermon on the Mount is that it is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7:28). 

The second point that must be kept in mind is that the Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner. 

The third point is the theme, which will determine how one will interpret the Sermon as a whole. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and Prophets, and issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.

The mountain is a “theological topos” in the Gospel of Matthew (Luke’s Sermon is from “a level place” see Lk 6:17) and therefore means much more than simply a geographical location. Matthew does not name the mountain, but by choosing it as the place from where Jesus delivers the Sermon, he probably wants to portray Jesus as the New Moses delivering the New Law from a New Mountain. While Jesus in the Gospel of Luke “stands” and delivers the Sermon (Lk 6:17), in Matthew, Jesus sits down. This is the posture that the Jewish Rabbis adopted when communicating a teaching of importance or connected with the Law. In Luke the crowd is addressed from the beginning of the Sermon and addressed directly, “Blessed are you poor…” (Lk 6:20), but in Matthew, it is the “disciples” who come to Jesus and whom he begins to teach.

The section on Prayer begins in 6:5 and Jesus contrasts the prayer of his disciples with the prayer of hypocrites who like to be seen by all and also Gentile prayer which heaps words upon words and may also mean a prayer made to many “gods” to placate them. This kind of prayer is only for self gratification or to receive favours. The prayer of the disciple is to God who is Father and who knows what they need even before they can ask. Thus, prayer is not simply to place the petition before God who is all knowing but primarily to acknowledge dependence on God for everything.

What follows this contrast is the prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples and which is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11:2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". In Matthew this prayer is at the very centre of the Sermon and must be read with that fact in mind. It begins with an address and then goes on to make two sets of three petitions. The address of God as “Father” brings out the intimacy of the relationship that disciples and God share. The pronoun “Our” here indicates that God is not merely the father of individual believers but of the community as a whole and therefore all in the believing community are brothers and sisters.

The opening petitions indicate that prayer does not begin with one’s needs, but with the glory and honour due to God. God’s name is and will be honoured by all men and women, since God as revealed by Jesus is primarily a God of mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. The kingdom of God has come in Jesus and is also in the future when God will be all and in all. This is a situation in which God will show himself to be king as he has done in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus constantly did God’s will, so it will continue to be done both in heaven and on earth. It is only when God’s will is done rather than one’s own that there can be true and lasting peace and harmony.

Despite petitioning God for something as stupendous as the kingdom, the disciple also acknowledges dependence on God for something as regular and ordinary as bread. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and without any merit on the part of the disciples. However, in order to receive this forgiveness which God gives graciously and gratuitously, the disciple will have to remove from his/her heart any unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness or anger that might be present there. The prayer ends with a final petition that God, who always leads the people, will not bring them into a time of testing, when the pressure might be so great as to overcome faith itself, but that he will save them from the ultimate power of evil.

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

Sunday, 22 February 2015

NET RETREAT 2015 - MARCH 23 - APRIL 05, 2015

I am planning a Net Retreat for people of all faiths (though there may be some specific Christian ideas and thoughts). This will entail registering for it by making a payment of Rs. 100 (Rupees One hundred) to the Parish Office at St. Peter's Church, Bandra. 
Once this is done send me an E mail on netretreat2015@gmail.com. After I confirm your registration, I will send you daily from March 23, 2014 onward till April 05, 2015 material for prayer in three formats. One will be a youtube link of a talk by me, another will be an mp3 soundtrack and the third will be a word document. All these will be sufficient for at least one hour of prayer which you can do at ANY TIME and ANYWHERE. 
I do hope many of you will join. You do not have to travel for this Retreat except to go deep into your heart.

Give without counting the cost

Monday, February 23, 2015 - Will the life of one person be better today because of you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Lev19:1-2,11-18; Mt 25:31-46

The Gospel text of today is a passage about the "kingdom" of God, about all those who are kin to God, and, therefore, who are kin to each other. We are each of us kin to one another. We are all indeed one. The deepest expression of this truth, on this side of life, is a spirituality in which there is no split between our devotion and our deed; no split between mystery and commandment; no split between piety and ethics and no split between being and doing. Like mystery and commandment, interwoven as they are, Jesus is one with the hungry and the thirsty, is one with the stranger and the prisoner, and is one with the naked and the sick. To care for these, is to care for Jesus. To care for them is to reach back into the very essence of life and to touch the God who takes shape in the hungry, in the thirsty, in the naked, in the sick, in the stranger, in the prisoner. "And then the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.'" The text, thus, is not so much about the condemnation of God, as it is really about the universal vision of the love of God, about the very scope of God's love in Jesus for the whole world. Jesus remains the model of unconditional and eternal love. This was shown in the most powerful of ways by Jesus himself, when in total obedience to the Father, he dared to spread his arms on the Cross in total surrender of self. Therefore, God raised him.

This understanding is important to avoid any kind of misinterpretation that might arise due to a person thinking that it is his/her deeds that earn merit and reward. The righteous who reached out to the least of their brothers and sisters, did so because of the necessity to help, love, serve, visit and feed. They dared to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and responded to these promptings. They did not do what they did for reward. It was not the condition of their good deeds, but its consequences. They did not earn the kingdom but inherited it. Inheritance is determined by the giver not the receiver. The kingdom remains a free gift of God.

Though the unrighteousness also address Jesus as Lord – a title used in Matthew’s Gospel only by those who at least have some faith - it is not enough. Their address remains at the theoretical level and is not translated into action. They did not act because they did not believe that God could hide himself in the poorest of the poor. They did not believe that God could be present in the scum of society and in those who live on the margins. They believed that God could be present only in a beautiful sunset or in the stimulating fragrance of a rose or in the silence of one’s heart. They did not realize that our God had been made visible in Jesus, who taught all who were willing to listen, that God was primarily a God of the poor, and that though he was king, he came only to serve.

The sufferings borne by the least of our brothers and sisters continue to summon and challenge us as Church today. They continue to ask us to dare to be credible and authentic witnesses of the Gospel. They invite us not merely to preach acts of loving kindness but to do them. However, what we need is not merely more action, more doing for the sake of doing. No! What we need is a universal unity of love and togetherness. It is a togetherness that transcends all of our frontiers, the frontiers of our mind and of our heart, the frontiers of our creeds and doctrines, the frontiers of our ideas and concepts. This is a radical call to transcend all of those externals that keep us apart, that keep us separated and split.


The challenge for us today is to forget our own needs for love and happiness and to reach out in love to make someone else happy who may be in greater need. For whatever we do to the least of these needy children of God, these brothers and sisters of Jesus, we do to Jesus Himself. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

If you have it there is no need to show it

Sunday, February 22, 2015 - FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT - Love Encourages New Thoughts

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 9:8-15; 1 Pet 3:18-22;Mk 1:12-15

Lent is a forty-day period of fast and abstinence before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday when we go into Easter. Sundays are not counted, since they commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord. While Lent is actually a translation of the Latin term, quadragesima, which means ‘forty days’ or literally the ‘fortieth day’, it also refers to the spring season. The forty-day period is symbolic of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, a detail mentioned by all the synoptic gospels. This is why, in all three years, the Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent is about the temptations of Jesus in the desert.

While Matthew and Luke narrate the three temptations in the desert and Jesus’ responses, Mark does not do so. His focus is different. Mark’s narrative of the temptations compares Jesus, who is faithful, with unfaithful Israel. Jesus overcame the temptations when tested for forty days, but Israel succumbed to temptations during their forty year period of testing in the desert. The overcoming of the temptations by Jesus leads to the wilderness being transformed into paradise, the desert being transformed into an oasis and humans being no longer subject to Satan or his rule. However, the overcoming of temptation, with angels ministering to Jesus, is only one part of the story.

The second part – the positive overcoming of temptation – is integral to the story and completes it. Soon after overcoming temptation, Jesus comes into Galilee to proclaim his experience of who God really is. Mark prepares for this revolutionary and radical proclamation through four pointers or indicators. The first of these is a time indicator (proclaiming), and a content indicator (the Good News of God). These serve to clarify the proclamation.

The arrest of John serves to remove him from the story, so that he can make way for Jesus, with whom a new time has begun. Galilee is home for Jesus, a place of acceptance, a place of the proclamation of the kingdom. That Jesus comes “proclaiming” instead of “teaching” indicates that this is the message to be heard by all. The good news that Jesus proclaims is not made up by him, but is the good news of God. It is God who has mandated Jesus to speak these words. This indicator is crucial because it speaks of who God is and how he regards humans who are created in his image and likeness.

A glimpse of this good news of God is given to us in the first reading in the covenant or promise that makes to Noah. It is a promise that is made after the destruction of the whole world by the flood. God’s promise here is significant, because it is the first promise in the Bible that is to be fulfilled, not only in the lives of the Israelites but, in the lives of all people. The whole of humanity will never again be threatened with destruction. This covenant marked the start of a whole new world and a whole new way of looking at, and dealing with, God. It was completed when God sent his son, not merely to make a new covenant but also, to be the Covenant or Promise for all times and all ages.

This then is the good news that Jesus proclaims from God that, in him, as never before, all people everywhere have been saved. If in the promise made to Noah, the focus was on non-destruction of the human race, in the proclamation of Jesus, the focus is on salvation through love. The core of the proclamation of Jesus is that God has taken the initiative. He has loved first, he has forgiven first, and he has accepted first. The kingdom has come, not because we are worthy or have done something commendable. It has come because, in Jesus, God loves unconditionally. Peter echoes this idea in the second reading of today, when he explicates that this Covenant or Promise made by God was made even when men and women were sinners.

As humans, we have only to respond to that love, forgiveness, and acceptance. This response is done through repentance which never means being sorry. Rather, it means a change of heart, mind, and vision. It is a call to realize that God’s love is given freely, unconditionally and without measure.


Thus, on the first Sunday of Lent, the call is to leave every negative thing. It means a refusal to walk in the path of frustration, anxiety, or despair and to take instead the road of happiness, peace, and joy. It means that, though the road might get steep and the going difficult, we will continue to carry on walking the path, confident in the knowledge that, in Jesus, we are saved, and that sin is overcome by love. The old has gone, the new has indeed come.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Faith Indeed!!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015 - How will you celebrate today your call to be a disciple of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32

The call of Levi the toll collector and his response to that call is the text for today. Toll collectors like Levi was were those individuals who paid the Roman authorities in advance for the right to collect tolls. Since they decided the value of the goods being brought in, they could abuse the system and many did. Due to this also because they were seen as colluding with the Romans, they were despised by the people and made targets of scorn and ridicule. The calling of Levi is a revolutionary act on the part of Jesus. When almost everyone else would have seen Levi as a thief and corrupt individual, Jesus was able to see him as a potential disciple. This is an indication not only of the deep insight into  people that Jesus had but also of God’s grace which is given without any merit on the part of the individual. It is a gift and not earned but gifted.

Levi on his part accepts this call. He leaves “everything” for the privilege of following Jesus. Luke’s Gospel alone mentions the word “everything” to stress the total sacrifice that Levi was called to and made. It is an indication that he left his old way of life behind to take on a new kind of life that Jesus was calling him to. He then arose and followed Jesus. The sequence of the actions of Levi is interesting. He gets up and follows, only after giving up.

Levi then gives a feast in his own house to celebrate his call. The scribes and Pharisees complain about the scandal of sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners. By doing so those who sat at table with them were making themselves unclean, but they were also showing social acceptance of a group that was considered as outcasts. Jesus’ response is in and through a proverb and a statement. It is obvious that the services of a physician are required by those who are sick not be those who are well. The mission of Jesus is very clearly directly to those who need him: the sinners. Repentance is not the condition for following Jesus; it is his purpose for coming into the world. He has come in order that sinners might be transformed.

The call which Jesus made to his disciples and here to Levi is startling brief: “Follow me”. This is because his call was a call to a personal commitment to him. It was not a call to a set of values or principles. It was not a call to any kind of philosophy or theology. It was not a call to a particular political programme. It was a call that had as its base and origin Jesus himself. The only reward that one could expect from such a following was that others would be drawn to Jesus because of one’s own commitment and perseverance.


The call is made here to Levi, who was considered as an outcast and one who was beyond the bounds of God’s mercy. This indicates that no one is excluded from the Mission of Jesus. Everyone has a place, all are called. Like Levi it is important to give up the former way of life and then to get up and follow. This requires God’s grace surely, but also human response.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Repentance = Newness

Friday, February 20, 2015 - Do you often do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:1-9; Mt 9:14-15

The question of fasting is raised by the disciples of John the Baptist. They want to know why they and the Pharisees follow the rule of fasting, but the disciples of Jesus do not. Jesus’ first response is that the guests at a wedding do not fast at the wedding. It would be absurd to do so. Since the coming of the kingdom has often been portrayed as a messianic banquet, Matthew seems to want to insist that Jesus is the messianic bridegroom and with his coming the wedding feast has begun. There will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away and that will be the time to fast. The “taking away” of the bridegroom refers to the death of Jesus.


The book of Ecclesiastes points out wisely that “there is a time for everything”. There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. But here is the rub: To know which time is for which. Even as we discern about the times for suitable actions, we must keep in mind that rules and regulations can never be ends in themselves. They are only means to an end. All rules are at the service of humans no matter how good or noble they may be. If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Lenten Calendar - Take one day at a time

Tuesday
FORGIVENESS
Wednesday
TIME FOR OTHERS
Thursday
THANKSGIVING
Friday
FASTING
Saturday
VISIT OTHERS
FEBRUARY 17
SHROVE TUESDAY






Mk. 8:14-21
FEBRUARY 18
ASH WEDNESDAY
True Fasting is NOT ONLY fasting from food, but abstaining from anything that will take you away from others and from God.

Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18
 FEBRUARY 19

At the end of today, will you be able to say that you have lived EVERY MOMENT to the full?

Lk. 9:22-25
FEBRUARY 20
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
If you want to do the RIGHT thing today, it will almost always be the MOST LOVING thing.

Mt. 9 : 14-15
FEBRUARY 21
VISIT AN OLD PERSON/FRIEND
Will you look at everyone (esp. those you are prejudiced against) as if looking at them for the first time, with eyes of love?

Lk. 5 : 27-32

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - At the end of today will you consider your life as having been one that has been worthily lived?

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 30:15-20; Lk9:22-25

On the day following Ash Wednesday, the church makes explicit through the choice of the readings what the overarching theme of the season will be. It has to do with suffering, the cross and death, which here, is not primarily physical death, but death to self and the ego.

This is seen clearly in the first passion and resurrection prediction in the Gospel of Luke which is part of the text for today. Like in the other two synoptic gospels, the prediction in Luke appears immediately after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Immediately following Peter’s confession Jesus sternly commands the disciples not to tell anyone of this. This is because he does not want to be misunderstood as a glorious and triumphant Messiah or as one who will come conquering, but as a Messiah who will suffer and die. This is because God has ordained it and Jesus will always be obedient to God’s commands.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must be of the same mind. The first saying on discipleship which follows emphasizes not so much the readiness to die for Jesus as much as the courage to persevere in following him. This is why Luke adds the word “daily” after the call to take up the cross. It is in spending oneself for the good of others rather than pursuing one’s own selfish ambitions that true joy, peace and fulfilment can be found. Paradoxically, spending one’s life for others results in gaining one’s life. The final saying of the Gospel of today cuts the ground from under our preoccupation with material and temporary wealth. What will we have gained, even if we acquire all the possessions in the world, but lose ourselves in the process? This saying reminds us that there are dimensions of life vital to fulfilment and happiness that are not satisfied by financial security or material wealth.


The impulse to succeed in a given profession, to acquire material possessions, and to prosper is powerful. In a materialistic culture we are easily seduced by the assumption that security and fulfilment are achieved by means of financial prosperity. We strive for things that do not last and in the process of our striving, are not able to see the beauty that life has to offer. We exist without really having lived. The challenge is to seek for that which brings real fulfilment and not illusory happiness.

Love Encourages New Thoughts

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Ash Wednesday - Repentance means a New Mind and a New Heart

To read the texts click on the texts: Jl 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is derived by counting back 40 days {not including Sundays} from Easter day. Ash Wednesday is so called because of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, which serve as a reminder of the call to repentance and to believe in the good news. The period of Lent is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before taking up the mission he received from his Father at his baptism.

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves. The focus thus is on the motivation with which one does what one does. If the motivation for doing good is to win the admiration of human beings, then that action is selfish and self motivated and so does no good at all. If the action is done out of a sense of duty or obligation, it cannot be called pure and is instead diluted. However if one does the action and accepts that the reward is in the performing of the action itself, such an action can be salvific. This is the challenge not only of Ash Wednesday, but of the whole season of Lent, “to give and not to count the cost, to labour and to look for no reward.”


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

Stay human. Do not try to be God.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - Have you seen and met the Risen Lord? If no, what is preventing you from doing so?

to read the texts click on the texts: Gen 8:6-13, 20-22; Mk 8:22-26

The miracle story that is our text for today is the second of the two miracle stories in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The first was in 7,31-37 in which Jesus cures a deaf man with an impediment in his speech. By placing this miracle immediately after Jesus poignant question to his disciples about their lack of understanding (8,21) and just before Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (8,27-30), Mark probably intends to hint to the reader that the disciples too wall understand. Their blindness will also be healed. 

The healing takes place in two stages to probably correspond with the two answers to the questions of Jesus (8,27-30) about his identity. The first is the response of the people who say that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets (8,28) and this seems to correspond to the first stage in which the blind man can see people but who like trees walking (8,24). The second is the response of Peter on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ (8,30) which seems to correspond to the stage where the blind man can see everything clearly (8,25). At the end of this episode, Mark leaves his readers with the question of whether the disciples like the blind man will also be able see.


Some of us have a tendency to pigeon hole God and put him in a compartment. This leads to seeing him merely as one who fixes things for us or one to whom we go only in need. We might fail to see that he is always there and is much bigger than anything we can ever imagine.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Hate not

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 6:5-8; 7:1-5,10; Mk 8:14-21

The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4,1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4,35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6,45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6,51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8,21).

The disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ need. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.


Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.