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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - St. Therese of the Child Jesus - How will you acknowledge your dependence on God today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 66:10-14 or 1 Cor 13:4-13; Mt 18:1-4

St. Therese of the Child Jesus is one of my most favourite saints. I admire and am inspired by her for a number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons for this is her response to life. She had more challenges than most of us will ever have, yet her response was always positive no matter what the challenge she faced. In this regard she teaches us how we too must be able to see the hand of God in everything that happens to us.

She was born in 1873 and died very young at the age of 24 (1897). At the age of 14, she had an experience that transformed her life. She decided to give her whole life to God and entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux. Though she was often sick and often plagued with doubts, she remained faithful and received the ability to find God in all things and all things in God. Her focus was not on doing great things but on doing all that she did with unconditional love. She would do even the most ordinary tasks with extraordinary love.

The Gospel text for the feast  is taken from what is termed by as Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). It is the fourth of the long discourses in Matthew. Some see the discourse as divided clearly into two parts (18:1-14 and 18:15-35), with various indications, which point to such a division. Some of these indications are as follows: Both sections end with a parable (18:12-13 and 18:23-34), after the parable is a concluding statement of Jesus, which begins with the word “So” (18:14.35), there is also in the sayings, a reference to the heavenly Father and the saying is about the subject of the preceding section (“little ones” and “brother/sister”).

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


This was the attitude of St. Therese to life and she lived as a child of God all through her life. She inspires and invites us to the same.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - What is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts:  Neh 2:1-8; 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, 28 September 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

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

The English word Angel comes from the Hebrew ‘malakh’ or the Greek ‘ángelos’ which means messenger or envoy. The Angel is regarded as a being which bears messages from God and communicates what God wants to communicate. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a reminder that our God is not a God who created the world and left it to its own designs, but a God who is constantly involved with and in the world. It is a reminder that when we need succour or help, we can always call on God’s angels.

The Gospel of Luke narrates how Angel Gabriel carries God’s message of birth to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, when speaking of the ‘little ones’ in Community, Jesus says, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Mt 10:18).

The Feast was placed in the General Roman Calendar in 1607 by Pope Paul V. The papal decree establishing the feast was co-signed by Robert Bellarmine, which has led some scholars to speculate that the feast was created under the influence of the Society of Jesus.

The Gospel text for the feast is Nathanael’s encounter with Jesus as narrated by John. Nathanael does have an opinion about where the Messiah must come from, yet 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”.


The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a reminder that God (through the Angels) is willing to be constantly available, whenever we make a decision to turn to God.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Monday, September, 28, 2015 - How will you show through your actions that you belong to the kingdom?

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

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

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

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


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

475th Birthday of the Society of Jesus

Today is the 475th Anniversary of the Society of Jesus. Kindly pray for the Society of Jesus all over the world.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Sunday, September 27, 2015 - Beyond Boundaries

To read the texts click on the texts: Num 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk9:38-43, 45, 47-48
The English word, prophet, comes from the Latin, propheta or Greek, prophetes which means “one who speaks on behalf of God.” Since the prophet is the mouth by which God speaks to humans, what a prophet says are not his own words, but God’s words. Moses, who figures in the first reading of today, is an example of a prophet from the Old Testament. James, from whose letter the second reading of today is taken, is an example of a prophet in the New Testament.
The first reading, from the book of Numbers, tells about an incident that occurred, as the Israelites were marching through the desert toward the Promised Land, God offered to bestow some of the spirit that was in Moses on seventy elders of the people. These seventy would then share the duties of leadership with Moses. When God bestowed the spirit on the elders, they, like Moses, became prophets and were able to prophesy or speak on behalf of God. Two men, Eldad and Medad, who had not been part of the group of seventy, also received the spirit and began prophesying. Joshua, who was the assistant to Moses, told Moses to stop them, apparently thinking that it was improper for anyone who had not been part of the group of seventy to prophesy. But Moses refused to accept Joshua’s advice. The point that Moses makes is that the Spirit of God cannot be controlled by human structures. It is a force for change that blows where it wills. The charisma of God can appear in people who are not supposed to have such power. Their prophesying illustrates that the boundaries of even minimal forms of hierarchy can be broken by the uncontrollable Spirit of God. The role of Moses in this episode illustrates how an ideal and charismatic leader will promote and recognize such power in unexpected places, rather than view it as a challenge to his own authority, as did Joshua. Charisma breaks established boundaries both inside and outside of communities. Charismatic leadership forces communities to be self-critical, because the power of God can appear in unexpected places and persons.
Such charismatic leadership is noticed in the second reading of today where James also speaks as a charismatic prophet. With words that are bound to sting, he berates the oppressors of the poor. He does not mince words and is categorical and forceful in his criticism of the rich. Speaking on behalf of God, he asks them to realize that it is their riches which will be used as evidence for their condemnation and judgement.
This Lord, who speaks in the Gospel text of today, is not merely a prophet. He does not speak on behalf of God, for he is God. If the words of the prophet have to be taken seriously and acted upon, how much more so the words of God himself. In the first part of the Gospel text, Jesus corrects John, like Moses corrected Joshua. Like Joshua, it seems that John too is jealous of the unnamed exorcist who was able to exorcise, despite not being part of the inner circle of Jesus. Jesus, however, is open and accommodating. He will not set limits on persons as long as they are doing what God wants them to do. He will not be an obstacle in the way of anyone who is doing God’s work to make his kingdom a reality He does not claim a monopoly on such work, and he exhorts his disciples to adopt this way of thinking.
However, the kingdom will remain a distant dream and will not be translated into reality if there are stumbling blocks that keep coming in the way of the kingdom. These are not external events, but persons and their attitudes and this is what Jesus addresses in the second part of today’s Gospel. The behavior and attitude of the disciples can become a scandal to those who witness them. Jesus warns his disciples that their behavior can scandalize simple people.
The scandals that we can cause, as disciples of Jesus, can be seen in two areas. One area is when, like Joshua and John, we become narrow minded and parochial. We may focus so much on the external that we might lose sight of the internal. The second area in which we can cause scandal is through the words that we speak and the actions that we do. Our words and actions may, at times, drive people away from Jesus rather than draw people to him.

The call of the readings them, is a twofold call. It is first a call to each one of us to be a prophet of God and to have the courage to speak on his behalf to a world that has grown deaf and will not hear and to a world that has grown blind and will not see. It is also a call to an open-minded attitude that will welcome the actions of those who may not belong to our “inner circle” of faith, realizing that the Spirit of God can work when and where the Spirit wills It is also to live our lives as Christians and followers of Jesus in such a manner that, when people see and hear us, they will be seeing and hearing Jesus Christ. It is to dare to say with Paul, that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:20).

Friday, 25 September 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015 - Does it make sense to proclaim a “Suffering Messiah” today? How will you do it if it does?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 2:5-9,11-14; 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, 24 September 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015 - Can you identify with a “Suffering Messiah”? Would you have preferred that Jesus not go to the Cross? What kind of death would have preferred Jesus to die?

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

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

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


Who Jesus is cannot be captured by a title and we must not attempt to do so or imagine that this is possible. Any title we may use for Jesus will always be inadequate and this leads us to the realisation that while we may encounter him in different situations, he will always be bigger than anything we can ever imagine.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 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: Haggai 1:1-8; Lk 9:7-9

This text (9:7-9) forms the meat of the sandwich formed by the sending out of the Twelve (9:1-6) and their return (9:10-17). 

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


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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - What does mission mean for you today? How and where will you proclaim it?

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

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

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


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

Monday, 21 September 2015

Tuesday, September 21, 2015 - Would Jesus point to you as a member of his family? Why?

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

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


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

Sunday, 20 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Monday, September 21, 2015 - St. Matthew - Matthew wrote a Gospel to communicate to the world his experience of Jesus. What will you do to communicate your experience of Jesus?

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

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

Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which goes back to Abraham. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary (1:16) since Matthew is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is then narrated, followed by the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. This leads the family to go to Egypt where they remain till Herod’s death and then return to Nazareth. The birth, flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth all fulfil scripture. Matthew then goes on to narrate the Baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ temptations and his overcoming them. Jesus then begins his public ministry in Galilee after calling the first four disciples. Unlike Mark, which is a story, Matthew intersperses his narrative with long discourses. The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7,29). There are four other discourses in the Gospel. These are The Mission Discourse (10:1-11:1), The parable Discourse (13:1-53), The Community Discourse (18:1-19:1) and the Eschatological Discourse (24:1-26:1). Each of these discourses ends in a similar manner with the words, “and when Jesus had finished (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). This is also Matthew’s way of focussing on the teaching of Jesus and giving it as much if not more importance that the deeds of Jesus. Like in Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, but soon encounters opposition, which grows and leads to his arrest, passion and death. The Gospel ends with accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and what is known as the Great Commission, in which the disciples are commanded to go to all nations and make disciples of them and assured of the presence of the ever present Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (28:16-20).
       
The text chosen for the feast contains the call of Matthew, and Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew that the tax collector is called Matthew. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi. However, in the lists of the Twelve in both Mark and Luke, the disciple is named Matthew and Levi does not appear. It is unlikely that Matthew and Levi refer to the same person. It was rare for Jews to have two different Jewish names. The reason for the author choosing the name Matthew remains unknown. However, in the text what strikes one is that whereas most people who passed by the tax office would see a corrupt official; Jesus was able to see a potential disciple. It was Jesus’ way of looking that led to the transformation and the response of Matthew to the call. In his response to the objection of the Pharisees, Jesus responds with a common proverb about the sick needing a doctor, and also quotes from Hoses 6:6, which here is interpreted to mean that the mercy of God in Jesus is extended to all humanity and takes precedence over everything else. All else must be understood in this light.


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

Saturday, 19 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Sunday, September 20, 2015 - To serve and not to be served



To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 2:12,17-20; Jas 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37


The Gospel of Mark contains three Passion and Resurrection predictions. Three times in the Gospel, albeit with some differences in each, Jesus speaks about his suffering, death, and resurrection. After each of these predictions, there is a misunderstanding of what Jesus says. In the first instance, Peter misunderstands. He insists that Jesus must not suffer and die. In the third instance, the brothers, James and John, misunderstand. They ask for places on the right hand and left hand of Jesus in the kingdom.
It is the second prediction of the Passion and Resurrection, and what follows after, which is the Gospel text of today. Immediately after Jesus has spoken, Mark states unambiguously that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying. This is shown also by the silence with which they respond to Jesus’ question “What were you arguing about on the way?” The reason they do not respond is because they had been discussing which one of them was the greatest. They knew, even as they remained silent, that this kind of discussion was not appropriate and did not fit in with Jesus’ world view and scheme of things.
Be that as it may, some more important questions that the Gospel of today raises are these: How could the disciples, who had been so closely associated with Jesus and knew him so intimately, even consider thinking about greatness? Did not all the time they spent with Jesus have any effect on them at all? How come the values that Jesus lived and spoke about constantly, values of self abnegation, service, selflessness, and the like, have no impact on them?
The answer to these questions is provided in part by the first and second readings of today. The first reading spells out how the attitude of a righteous person, like Jesus, is not at all easy to accept. The righteous person is someone who is inconvenient and tiresome to many. There are two responses to such a person. The first is to ignore him and all that he stands for. However, sometimes, through his life of righteousness, he exposes us who are unrighteous. The second response, therefore, is to do away with him as quickly as one can. It is to test him with opposition, insult, and torture, in the hope that he will give up his position of righteousness and buckle under the pressure. It is to test his forbearance, and patience, and perseverance. It is to find out whether he is really serious about what he preaches and whether he will be able, in reality, to practice it. The disciples choose the first response.
They pretend not to understand because what Jesus preaches is too difficult to translate into action. They prefer, instead, to go the way which most normally go. They prefer to walk the easy road, trod by most others; the road of power, prestige, and honour. The adversaries of Jesus, however, choose the second response. They will do away with Jesus. His presence, and all he stands for, is a threat to them. They will not tolerate this new way that he preaches. It is against everything that they want to be.
The reason they will do this is because, as James explains in the second reading of today, there is envy and selfish ambition in the very core of their being. There is a lack of wisdom and thus, disorder and wickedness of every kind. Their cravings and covetousness prevent them from seeing that there is another way. Their unchecked desires prevent them from daring to walk the path of selflessness and service. They would rather be served than serve.
Jesus, however, will make no compromise. He is convinced that the only way to live life, fully and completely, is through serving rather than being served. In his scheme of things, and in his view of life, the only way to be first is to be last; the only way to be master is by being servant. The only way to be No. 1 is by being No one. He makes this explicit, not only through his words, but also by his action of placing a child in front of the disciples. He points to the child, one who was regarded as a non-person, as his representative. In doing so, Jesus is telling his disciples, and each of us, that in his kingdom, egolessness, dying to oneself, and serving as he served, are the only ways through which one can hope to enter his kingdom.
Greatness in the kingdom overturns the usual perceptions we have of greatness and honour. It is almost normal to consider the first as first and the last as last. The challenge is to learn to think as God thinks which runs counter to well-established behavior patterns. We often pay lip service to the view that the “first shall be last,” as long as we are not challenged to put that view to the test. The readings of today then, issue a call and challenge to each of us to dare to see that there is another way: the way of being No one so that one can indeed be No.1.

Friday, 18 September 2015

MORNING OFFERING


Saturday, September 19, 2015 - 4. Write down your response to this statement of St. Ignatius – “WHEN YOU WORK, WORK AS IF EVERYTHING DEPENDS ONLY ON YOU. WHEN YOU PRAY, PRAY AS IF EVERYTHING DEPENDS ONLY ON GOD.”

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 6:13-16; 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.
1. 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?
2. 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?

3. 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, 17 September 2015

Thanks for your prayers


Friday, September 18, 2015 - Does the plight of others affect me at all? What do I do about it?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 6:2-12; Lk 8:1-3

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

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


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

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

My mum will be operated on for a hip fracture at 12 noon (IST). Please keep her in your prayers.


Thursday, September 17, 2015 - St. Robert Bellarmine SJ - 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 viâ, alleging as his reason for this promotion that "the Church of God had not his equal in learning".

His spirit of prayer, his singular delicacy of conscience and freedom from sin, his spirit of humility and poverty, together with the disinterestedness which he displayed as much under the cardinal's robes as under the Jesuit's gown, his lavish charity to the poor, and his devotedness to work, had combined to impress those who knew him intimately with the feeling that he was of the number of the saints.

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

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


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