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Monday, 31 August 2015

Tuesday, August 31, 2015 - Will your actions speak louder than your words today? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Thess 5:1-6,9-11; Lk 4:31-37

Immediately after leaving the synagogue, Jesus works a miracle. This miracle is the healing of a man possessed by a demon, thus putting into action immediately the manifesto he had spoken about. This exorcism is the first of the four exorcisms in the Gospel of Luke. The unclean spirit refers to Jesus here as Jesus of Nazareth and as the Holy one of God, which is a title Luke has taken from Mark, since it does not appear again in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus exorcises the demon with a command. 

It is interesting to note that the people who witnessed the miracle refer to it not as an action but as a teaching simply because there was never a separation between the words and deeds of Jesus, there was never a separation between what Jesus said and did. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015 - Do you agree with the manifesto of Jesus? How will you help him put it into action today?



To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Thess 4:13-18; Lk 4:16-30

“Nazareth’ has figured prominently in the Infancy Narratives of Luke, but Luke reminds us that it was where Jesus had been brought up. Jesus is faithful to the tradition he received from his fore fathers, and does not flout rules for the sake of flouting them. He is not an armchair critic. Standing to read was customary. While he taught, he would sit. There were many parts to the worship in a Jewish synagogue, and various people might have been asked to lead in reading or praying. Luke’s description of Jesus finding the place where the verses quoted from Isaiah occur probably means that Jesus himself chose this passage. The scriptures would be read in Hebrew and then interpreted in Aramaic. Jesus could have chosen a text which spoke about the glory of the Prophet, or about God’s Chosen One (see for example Isaiah 63), yet, he chooses a text where he will as Prophet and Chosen One spend himself in service.

The reading is from Isa 61,1-2a and 58,6. Luke, however, omits “to bind up the broken hearted of Isa 61,1 and adds from Isa 58,6, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. The threefold repetition of the pronoun “me” is an indication that this passage describes the ministry of Jesus rather than Isaiah. It is also important to note that Jesus in Luke does not go on to read the second part of Isaiah 61,2 “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
1.  Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. The “poor” figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (see Lk 14,13.21; 16,20.22; 18,22; 21,3).
2.  Jesus released persons from various forms of bondage and oppression: economic (the poor), physical (the lame, the crippled); political the condemned) and demonic.
3.  The restoration of sight to the blind was closely associated with the prophetic vision of fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. When Jesus restores sight to the blind (Lk 7,21-22; 18,35) he is dramatically fulfilling the role of the one who would be “ a light for the nations” (Lk 2,32).
4.  “the acceptable year of the Lord” In Isaiah, this term refers to the Jubilee year legislation in Lev. 25. Following a series of seven sevens (forty nine), the fiftieth year was to be a time of liberty (Lev 25,10). The coming of Jesus means that the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come. 

Jesus followed the usual practice of rolling the scroll and giving it back to the attendant. The posture of sitting was the usual posture when teaching. (See how in Mt 5,1-2 when Jesus goes up to the mountain, he sits down before beginning to teach). Through his first words to the people in the synagogue, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”, Jesus conveys that the centuries of waiting on God’s blessing and promises have ended.

There is initial enthusiasm for Jesus’ announcement. This is a positive response to what he has said. They are happy because what they hear suits them. It fits in with their way of thinking. The question, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” need not be hostile, especially because earlier Luke reports that all spoke well of him. It might be paraphrased in this manner; who would have thought that someone who grew up in our village could reach so far? 

Jesus interprets the crowd to say that he must begin in his own hometown what he has been doing in so many other places. They are ready to receive God’s blessing.

While this proverb, “Truly (Amen) I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” is also found in Matthew (13,57), Mark (6,4) and John (4,44), the form varies. Luke is the only one of the four who introduces the proverb with “Amen”. In Luke like in John, there is no exception clause (which is found in Matthew and Mark –“except in his own country and in his own (house”). Luke changes the word “honour” found in the other three forms and substitutes it with “accepted”. The word “hometown” can also mean “home country”, and anticipates the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth and also in the whole of Israel. The examples of Elijah and Elisha serve as a reminder that God’s blessings are not restricted to only a few but are available for all. Also the blessings will not be forced on anyone, but must be accepted with an open heart as gift. The passive verbs imply God’s direction: God closed the heavens (4,25), God sent Elijah (4,26) and God cleansed Naaman (4,27 see also 2 Kings 5,1-14).

At first Jesus had seemed to be promising them the blessings. He was saying what they wanted to hear. But now, he had said something different. He had woken them from their stupor. He had challenged them to get out of their complacency. He had taken them beyond boundaries and stereotypes, and had spoken about the graciousness and magnanimity of God’s unmerited blessing.

“went on his way” may be translated “he was going on”. Through this Luke makes clear that he does not want anyone to read that Jesus had a miraculous deliverance, but that Jesus would remain steadfast and resolute no matter what the consequences. Human power and objections could not come in the way of his mission to proclaim God’s justice and unconditional love

Saturday, 29 August 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Sunday, August 30, 2015 - Twenty Second Sunday of the Year - Be doers of the Word.

To read the Texts click on the texts: Dt 4:1-2,6-8; Jas1:17-18,21-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

At first glance, it might seem to us that Moses is advocating, in the First reading of today, what can be termed as a quid pro attitude or what may also be termed as an “If …then” way of proceeding. He seems, at first glance, to be saying that they will be rewarded if they obey and follow the commands that he gives them which have come from the Lord. However, this is certainly not so. What Moses is advocating instead is an attitude of being true to oneself and the way to do this is to put into action the words that one speaks. It is an attitude of obeying the commands of the Lord. In other words, it means to do what one says. The reason why Moses does is because he is aware that this kind of attitude can have only one consequence and that is peace within oneself and peace with everyone else. This is because it will show a sense of wisdom and discernment in the one who lives in such a manner. One who lives in this manner will live as a friend of God.

In the second part of the second reading, James says the same thing as Moses does, but in different words. He asks his readers to be, not merely hearers of the word, but doers. This “doing” has to be shown primarily in concern for the poorest of the poor and those who are regarded as the scum of society. However, even before this exhortation, he makes a noble theological statement. This is the basis and foundation for the “doing”. He affirms that everything that is good and perfect comes from the Lord who remains constant. This gift, that is good and perfect, was shown in the fullness of time in the Gospel but more than that, in the one who brought the Gospel, Jesus Christ the Son of God. It was in Jesus that God showed his faith in human beings in action. The appropriate response to such an unimaginable gift of God and his faith in us can be shown only in deeds and not words.

Jesus offers an invitation to such a response, in the Gospel text of today, to those who focus on the Law and not love, and to those who give too much importance to human traditions and enough to what God deserves. The invitation and challenge is to move from lip service to heart service and to move from empty words to loving action. Even as he does this, Jesus invites the crowd who are listening to understand that it is not merely external action to which he is inviting them. The action that they are called to perform is a loving action and this is possible only if that loving action first finds root in one’s heart. If, instead, the heart is filled with selfishness, corruption, and negatives, then the actions that flow from such a person will not be very different from these attitudes and will break rather than build.

Thus, even if the focus in all three reading seems to be on DOING, it is not merely on doing that the focus lies, but on the kind of action that one will do. For Moses, the right kind of action is following the commands of the Lord as summarized in the Ten Commandments. These call for right action with God and the world. They call one to realize that every creation of God is precious and to be honoured. For James, the right action is expressed in reaching out tangibly and practically to the least of the members of Society and making them feel wanted and loved. For Jesus, the right action stems from the heart. Thus, one must always ensure that the heart is filled only with positives so that what comes out from there and into action will be positive. The German mystic, Eckhart von Hochheim, or as he was more commonly known, Meister Eckhart, put it wonderfully well when he said: “You should bother less about what you ought to be, because if your being were good then your works would shine forth brightly.”


This is not always easy to achieve as is evident from the Gospel text of today. All too often, we might make the mistake of focusing a little too much on the external action and not give enough thought to the inner disposition. Our focus might be, too often and largely, on the body and not enough on the heart. Like he called his listeners two thousand years ago, Jesus continues to call us to imitate him in having a pure heart from which the right actions will flow. This will result in our following the statutes and ordinances of the Lord and practicing a religion that is pure and undefiled. It will result in the world we live in becoming a better place and furthering the kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurated.

Friday, 28 August 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Saturday, August 29, 2015 - The Beheading of John the Baptist - Growing up means accepting responsibility for my actions.

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 1:17-19; Mk 6:17-29

Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.

While Mark has mentioned the Herodians before (3:6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2:1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14:1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34).

Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. 

According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. 


Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. 

Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015 - Is there enough oil in the lamp of your life? If not what will you do about it today?



To read the texts click on the texts: 1Thes 4:1-8; Mt 25:1-13

In the parable of today we will hear of the ten bridesmaids, five of whom were prepared and five unprepared, five of whom had oil and five of whom who did not. We are told that five were foolish and five were wise right at the beginning of the parable, because we cannot tell this just be looking at them. All ten have come to the wedding; all ten have their lamps burning; all ten presumably have on their gowns. The readiness is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish.

Five are ready for the delay and five are not. Five have enough oil for the wedding to start whenever the bridegroom arrives; the foolish ones have only enough oil for their own timetable. 

It is easy to be good for a day if goodness is seen only as a means to an end. It is easy to be merciful for a day if mercy is seen only as a means to an end. However, if we see goodness and mercy and everything that is positive as an end in itself, then it is possible to be good and merciful and positive always. We are called then to be like the wise ones with our lamps always burning so that we will then be able to welcome the Lord whenever he comes.

MORNING OFFERING


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - If Jesus were to call you to himself now, would he find you ready? Why?



To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Thes 3:7-13; Mt 24:42-51

We will hear for the next few days’ readings from Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which are known as the Eschatological Discourse. The word Eschatological comes from the Greek word “Eschaton” that means “the last things”, “the things of the afterlife”. In these chapters, Jesus speaks to all the people about how they must behave in the present, if they are to expect to be judged with mercy in the future. In the text of today, the disciples are asked to “stay awake”, because no one knows when the hour of departure will be. The disciples are called to be busy with the assigned mission not with apocalyptic speculation. The wise servant is the one who obeys not calculates.

Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we may associate goodness with being serious and sombre and not enjoying every single moment of life. On the contrary, goodness means exactly the opposite. It means that one is in the present moment and so living it as fully as possible. It also means that for a person who does this there is no need to worry about the day or hour when he/she will be called simply because such a person is always ready.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - How will you ensure that your being is good today so that your works too might be good? Your clothes may be in the right place, your hair might be in the right place, but is your heart in the right place?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Thess 2:9-13; Mt 23:27-32

The text of today contains the sixth (23:27-28) and seventh (23:29–36) woes begun in 23:13. The sixth Woe concerns “whitewashed tombs”. As a public service, tombs were whitewashed to make them more obvious, since contact with the dead and with graves, even if unintentional, transmitted ritual impurity (Num19:11-22). This was especially important to pilgrims at Passover time, who would not know the places they visited. The point that Matthew makes is “ostentatious exterior, corrupt interior”. The seventh and final Woe extends the tomb image and modulates into the concluding theme: The rejection of the prophets God has sent.


The challenge then to each one of us is to bother less about what we ought to do and think more about what we ought to be, because if our being were good then our works would shine forth brightly.

Monday, 24 August 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - If your being is good, then all you do will also be good. How will you ensure that your being is good today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1Thess 2:1-8; Mt 23:23-26

The fourth (23:23-24) and fifth (23:25-26) woes against the Pharisees are about focussing on the insignificant matters and externals while forgetting what is significant and internal. 

The Pharisees were extremely particular about tithing and to ensure that they did not err in this regard, tithed even small garden vegetables used for seasoning which Matthew mentions here as mint, dill and cumin and probably in order to correspond with justice and mercy and faith. Gnat and Camel, which the Matthean Jesus contrasts in 23:24, were the smallest and largest living things in ordinary experience. While the Matthean Jesus does not state that what the Pharisees are doing is wrong, his critique is that while focussing so much on these insignificant items, they lose sight of the larger picture. 

Too much focus on the external can also lead to forgetting the internal. What is on the outside is merely a reflection of what is within.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Monday, August 24, 2015 - St. Bartholomew - Is believing seeing?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 21:9-14; Jn 1:45-51

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified as Nathaniel (mentioned in the first chapter of John's Gospel). According to the Gospel of John, he was brought to Jesus by Philip. It is Nathaniel whom Jesus calls “an Israelite in whom there is no guile”. Though Nathaniel is not mentioned in any list of the Twelve, Bartholomew is mentioned by all the Synoptic Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles. One reason why Bartholomew is identified as Nathaniel is because is all the lists of the Twelve Bartholomew is named in the company of Philip.

Unlike the first two disciples who followed Jesus (1:35-40), here Jesus invites Philip to discipleship. Even more significant that the call of Philip, is what happens to Philip as a result of his call. He cannot remain silent about it and wants another to know and encounter Jesus. Thus, he finds Nathanael and bears witness about Jesus. This he does in two ways. He first points Jesus out as the fulfilment of all scripture and then he refers to him as “Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” This witness seems to bring out both divine and human origins of Jesus and once again reminds us of the mystery that Jesus is and continues to be. Immediately after Philip’s testimony, there is resistance on the part of Nathanael, yet Philip does not argue but responds in the words that Jesus had used to invite the first two disciples: “Come and see”.

Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though sceptical, 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. 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.


Scepticism and cynicism are common among many people. While this is not a problem in itself, what causes the problem is when these lead to a closed attitude. In a world in which we refuse to believe unless we first see, Jesus seems to be saying to us like he said to Nathanael “First believe than you will see”.