To hear the Audio of the Reflections of Friday, April 1, 2016 click HERE
Thursday, 31 March 2016
Friday, April 1,2016 - Do you prefer to sit on the fence or do you take a stand on issues? When you are unable to do something and someone offers a suggestion, how do you respond? Do you reject it outright because you think you know it all, or do you try it out? Can you accept the differences of others easily, or do they have to be like you to be accepted?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts4:1-12; Jn 21:1-14
Most scholars today see Jn 21:1-25 as a later addition to the Gospel of John. It is not clear whether this material was added by the Evangelist or added later by another redactor or editor. It is true that the language of Chapter 21 differs from the rest of John’s Gospel but, it is also true that all existing manuscripts of John contain Chapter 21. The difference in language is explained as being conditioned by the content and not because someone other than the Evangelist wrote it. Yet, some are clear that, because of the ecclesial concerns which are at the forefront in Chapter 21, and which are not the focuses of the Gospel until Chapter 20, it was added later. Others see the ecclesial concerns as essential to the ending of the Gospel and so, regard Chapter 21 as an integral part of the Gospel. Be that as it may, Chapter 21 is now part of the Gospel and so must be interpreted within the framework of the whole Gospel of John.
There are two parts to this post resurrection story. The first deals with the miraculous catch of fish and the second with the recognition of the risen Lord.
The text begins by informing the reader that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples and then goes on to narrate how this revelation took place. The story is thus to be interpreted as an epiphany. Seven disciples are mentioned, of which only three are named. The beloved disciple, who is mentioned later in the narrative, is one of the seven. The activity of fishing on the part of the disciples, even after they had received the commission from the risen Lord in Chapter 20, may be seen as a sign that they had not obeyed the command. It might be seen as a sign that they had given up and returned to their former way of life or even as an indication of their aimlessness. This means that an appearance of the risen Lord, and even a command from him, is not enough to cause a transformation in one’s outlook to life. One must be willing to take risks and believe.
The response of the other six to Peter’s statement that he is going fishing is to go with him. This indicates a sense of community and oneness. Though they may not be able to fully understand the significance of going fishing at this crucial time, they will collaborate with Peter. They will pull together. However, despite all their efforts, they are not able to achieve anything. Jesus appears unobtrusively when it is light, and asks a question about the catch. They respond that they have caught nothing. They obey Jesus’ command to cast the net on the right side and are successful. The quantity of fish is so great that they struggle to haul in the net.
The second part of the story narrates the recognition of the risen Lord. The miraculous catch seems to be the reason why the beloved disciple is able to recognize that it is the Lord. Here, too, like at the empty tomb (20:8), he is able to recognize through his intuition. Peter responds to this statement with alacrity, though his desire to be clothed and therefore, respectful, restrains him. The other disciples respond soberly.
The enormity of the catch is detailed in the number of fish caught, namely one hundred fifty three. A variety of interpretations have been offered to explain this number.
proposed a mathematical way of reading this
number which is regarded even today as plausible. His explanation was that the
number 153 is obtained when all of the integers from 1 to 17 are added
together; this mathematical fact thus suggests the completeness of the number
153. Others regard the number as clearly indicating that the narration of this
event is an eyewitness account of what actually happened. This is why the
number is not a round number, but 153. Still another interpretation is that 153
was the number of species of fish known to Greek zoologists of that time and
thus, it signifies that every kind or species of fish was caught in the net.
This symbolizes that no one is excluded. That the net did not break, despite
the fact that there were so many fish, is an indication of unity even in
diversity. That this seems to be the best explanation is confirmed by the fact
that the verb “to haul” used here of Peter’s hauling the net ashore is the same
verb used to describe those who come to Jesus from God (). It
is the same verb that is used to describe the salvific effect of Jesus’ death
when he will “draw’ (haul) all people to himself (). Thus, the disciples continue the mission
of Jesus even when they fish, by drawing all to him. St.
Since the disciples “know’ it is the Lord they do not ask him his identity. Jesus plays the host and invites them to dine with him.
At least three significant points are made by this text. The first is that there is no guarantee that, just because a person has “seen” and “heard” Jesus, he/she will obey his commands or continue his mission. It is possible that, even after such an experience, one will continue in the old ways.
Second, any mission that is undertaken without the help of the Lord will rarely meet with success as is evident in the disciples’ failure to catch anything, even after all their strenuous efforts. Sometimes, it is the words of a stranger that result in the transformation of a situation. To hear these words, it is important to be as open and receptive as the disciples were though they did not know who that stranger was. If the disciples, instead of listening to what the stranger was saying, had acted arrogantly and with pride, they would never have made the miraculous catch and may never have encountered Jesus.
Third, exclusivity has no place in any mission that has its roots in Jesus’ mission. All are included and all are welcome. Even more, each retains his/her identity and is still very much a part of the whole. There is no need for uniformity in the family of Jesus, but unity is very much a core value.
Wednesday, 30 March 2016
To hear an Audio Reflection of the Gospel Reading of Thursday, March 31, 2016 click HERE
Thursday, March 31, 2016 - Have you received the forgiveness that Jesus proclaimed? How will you preach this forgiveness today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts3:11-26; Lk 24:35-48
These verses contain the appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven and their companions. Luke’s account has parallels with the accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and John. Here, too, like in the Emmaus story, the disciples are unable to recognize Jesus. When Jesus appears to them and greets them with a wish of peace, they think they are seeing a ghost and so, are frightened and terrified. Jesus’ response to these emotions is to ask why they are frightened and why doubts must arise. In order to prove to them that it is indeed he, Jesus shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him. This is to prove that he is not a spirit which has no flesh and bones. Despite this invitation, they continue to doubt. Jesus then asks them for something to eat. He eats what they give him, in front of them. This gesture results in portraying the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Yet, Luke does not explicitly state that the disciples believed, even after seeing Jesus eat.
Jesus does something more. He explains to them, like he did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the scriptures and the things concerning him that the scriptures had foretold. Scripture could only be fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. After this, he commissions them to be witnesses of this fact and through it, the gift of forgiveness of sins to all nations, which will begin in
Thus, the text which began with the doubt and confusion of the disciples ends with them being made witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. They are witnesses that his death and resurrection have resulted in salvation and forgiveness of sins for all humankind.
The points that Luke seems to want to make here are first, that Jesus has indeed been raised, and bodily, and second, that the disciples who will proclaim this fact were eye witnesses to this event. It was not simply an event that took place beyond history (though the resurrection, as such, is a meta-historical event) but happened in space and in time, was real, and witnessed by the disciples who saw the risen Lord.
The hands and feet that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are to be shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - What is it that keeps you from recognizing Jesus? Is it your focus on the negative? Are you not able to see God because he does not reveal himself or because you do not open wide your heart?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts3:1-10; Lk 24:13-35
“That very day” – This phrase refers to the immediately preceding scene in which the women who saw the empty tomb return and narrate to the eleven and to all the rest what they had witnessed. The response of those who heard about the empty tomb from the women interpreted it as an “idle tale and they did not believe them” (24:11).
“two of them” – these are not identified, though later we are told that one of them is Cleopas (24:18). Luke could be intending that the reader place him/herself in the position of the ones who are travelling.
“all these things that had happened” – This phrase refers to all that has happened in the passion and death of Jesus.
“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” – They are discussing the things that happened to Jesus when Jesus himself approaches them. These verses also make us wonder how and when they will recognize him. While the use of the passive tense “were kept” may indicate that God prevented them from recognizing him, it may also indicate that their closed attitude or their despondency kept them from recognizing Jesus.
“What is this conversation…? And they stood looking sad.” – The question of Jesus takes them by surprise so that they have to stop their walking.
“Cleophas” – now we are given the name of one of the travelers. The fact that Cleopas was not well known in the early Christian community, and is not in any lists of the Twelve, adds credibility to the story.
“Are you the only visitor to
who does not know the things that
have happened there in these days?” – the irony is that, whereas the question
assumes Jesus is the only one who does not know of these earth-shattering
events, he is the only one who does know the meaning of all that has taken
“What things?” – Jesus feigns ignorance. This simple question of Jesus leads to a lengthy explanation.
Cleopas summarizes the events of Jesus’ life, leading to his death. The death of Jesus, which was indeed the fulfillment of all hope, is seen by Cleophas as the frustration of their hope. He also narrates the report of the women, and concludes with an emphatic statement, “But him they did not see.”
“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe…” - Jesus brings the irony to an end and reveals himself and the meaning of the resurrection to them. In his explanation, Jesus insists that suffering was a necessary condition for the resurrection.
“He appeared to be going further” – While on the surface, it seems that Jesus did not want to intrude on their plans. On a deeper level, it reinforces the idea that Jesus never forces himself on others. Jesus always leaves the other free. Faith must be a response to God’s constant revelation and grace.
“Stay with us. So he went in to stay with them” - Jesus accepts the invitation offered by the two disciples.
“took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” – These are the same verbs that are used at the feeding () and at the last supper (). Jesus the guest becomes the host.
“And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” – At table they saw who the stranger was. Sharing bread with a stranger makes the Lord present.
“and he vanished from their sight” – God cannot be captured only by the external senses. We need to encounter him also in our hearts.
“Did not our hearts burn within us..?” – Any encounter with Jesus cannot leave one untouched.
“And they rose that same hour and returned to
...” – Jerusalem
The Gospel of Luke begins and ends in
and the journey to Jerusalem
dominates the ministry of Jesus. The return journey is narrated very briefly.
This could also indicate the urgency of the disciples in wanting to communicate
to the others their experience of Jesus. It was an experience that they could
not contain in their hearts, but had to share with others. Jerusalem
Only after the two hear of the appearance to Simon do they get a chance to share their own experience. The words “what had happened on the road” signifies the conversation that took place between them and Jesus, in which Jesus opened the scriptures to them. “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” signifies the meal that Jesus shared with them.
This story of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which is found only in the Gospel of Luke, speaks about the failure of two disciples to recognize their fellow traveler. The moment they recognize the Lord, he disappears from their sight. The story is for the sake of those who will believe without seeing. It tells us that the presence of the Lord can be known in experiences that transcend the events of the resurrection appearances. It tells us that, even in the darkest moments of our lives, when we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair, when we are tempted to give up, the Lord is walking by our side. We have only to “open” our eyes to see. Emmaus is not simply a geographical location. It is a place to which we go to escape from the realities of life when we find them too hard or harsh to bear. This may be an external place (a movie theatre, out of the home, somewhere on the road) or a habit (excessive drinking) or even an internal disposition that we may adopt (giving into frustration, despair, despondency, depression, etc). Emmaus may be a feeling that life is not worth living; that everything is in vain, that it is of no use to anyone whatsoever. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die, that even noble and pure ideals like love, fellowship, and freedom, have been twisted by people for selfish ends. The risen Lord meets us on this, our road to Emmaus, and assures us of his presence. He invites us not to give up or give in. He tells us that we must continue despite all evidence to the contrary, and that we must keep on keeping on. The story also warns us that the Lord will not always come in the manner in which we expect him to come and, that he may come when we least expect him.
Monday, 28 March 2016
Tuesday, March 29,2016 - Have your “tears” come in the way of your encountering the Lord? Will you stop crying today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts2:36-41; Jn 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene had seen the empty tomb and went and told Peter and the beloved disciple about it. They, too, go to the tomb and find it empty. While Peter and the beloved disciple return home (20:1-10), Mary returns to the tomb. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.
Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground. Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.
Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so. Jesus will not allow this. Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.
Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension. For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.
Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.
Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.
Sunday, 27 March 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:14, 22-33; Mt 28:8-15
The scene which forms the text for today is found only in Matthew’s Gospel. Immediately after the women leave the empty tomb, to obey the command of the angel to tell Jesus’ disciples about his resurrection, Jesus himself meets them and thus, they are the first to see the risen Christ. Through this appearance of the risen Christ, Matthew stresses a point he made earlier through the Emmanuel prophecy () in the Mission Discourse () and in other parts of his Gospel, that Jesus would accompany his disciples on
. His presence
with them would be a constant presence. The risen Christ, who is simply Jesus,
thus stressing the continuity with the crucified Jesus, repeats the command of
the angel. However, in Jesus’ command, the disciples become “brothers,”
indicating that they now belong to the family of Jesus and that all the past
has been forgiven. Thus, the women, besides being communicators of the good
news of the resurrection, are also commanded to communicate reconciliation.
Though Jesus appears as he would have in his life time, he is, nevertheless,
the risen Lord as is evident in the response of the women who take hold of his
feet and worship him. The risen Jesus is real but he is also new. Mission
The second part of the text (28:11-15) narrates the bribing of the guards and interrupts the flow of the story. However, it also completes the story begun in 27:62-66 in which the chief priests and Pharisees ask Pilate to make the tomb secure and Pilate responds to their request by asking them to place their own guards, which they do. Though the guards had seen the same events as the women, they do not come to faith. They narrate to the chief priests “everything that had happened.” The height of the irony is that the chief priests and elders become the perpetrators of the very story that they accused the disciples of Jesus of possibly fabricating. The soldiers are instructed to fall in line with the story fabricated by the chief priests and elders and money is used as the lure.
The presence of Jesus is an eternal presence. It is a presence that is always there even when we try to deny it like the Pharisees did or even when we cannot feel is as tangibly as we would like. This is not only because of the promise of Jesus to his disciples and us, but also because of the fact that whenever love is made present Jesus is, whenever concern for another is shown, Jesus is and whenever we reach out in love and forgiveness, optimism and hope, Jesus is and continues to be.
Friday, 25 March 2016
Click HERE for a Sound cloud rendition of the Homily on the Resurrection.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 10:34, 37-43;Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
John Donne, the sixteenth century poet, ends his poem, “Death Be Not Proud” in the following manner: “One short sleep past we wake eternally. And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
This is a good summary of the Easter event. Death is no more; death has died because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter thus is primarily a feast of hope. Light has conquered darkness, truth has conquered untruth, and eternal life has conquered death. No more will death hold sway. No more will death be a threat. No more will death be something to be feared. Those who believe in the Resurrection can look death in the face and not be afraid. The hope that Easter brings is that, no matter how bleak the present might look, no matter how daunting the road ahead might seem, no matter how intimidating the situation at hand might be, one need not give in to despair, one need not give up or give in, one needs only to hope, trust, and believe. Jesus went to his death believing his Father would raise him on the third day and, his Father did.
The Gospel text of today brings out this fact in the narrative of the Empty tomb. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, where Mary Magdalene is accompanied by other women, in the Gospel of John, she comes to the tomb alone. John alone mentions that “it was still dark”. John is not stating here a time of the day, or narrating the physical situation. He is saying that, no matter what time of the day it is, no matter how brightly the sun might be shining, it will continue to be dark, because Jesus is not present. The absence of Jesus is what causes the darkness. Once Jesus appears, it will always be light. This darkness that Mary experiences is the darkness all of us experience when Jesus is absent from our lives. Ordinary problems of life seem overwhelming. Small difficulties seem intimidating and life becomes a burden. However, with the appearance of Jesus, darkness retreats and only light appears.
The fact that the stone is rolled back does not necessarily mean that the Lord is not in the tomb, yet, that is how Mary Magdalene interprets it. She goes even further when she interprets the absence of the body of Jesus as his having been taken away. She does not know where his body has been placed. This is indeed the mystery that all of us encounter. We cannot capture Jesus, we cannot confine him. We have only to dare to follow and believe.
Peter and the beloved disciple act on Mary’s information and, like her, they run to the tomb to see for themselves what has been told them. If Mary saw only the stone rolled back, the beloved disciple sees that and also the linen cloths used to wrap the body of Jesus. Peter sees even more. Besides what the beloved disciple sees, Peter sees also the cloth that was used to wrap the head of Jesus. Thus, there is a progression, a development, an enlargement of the picture. The puzzle is not so much a puzzle now.
The leaving behind of the grave cloths is very significant since the empty tomb, by itself, does not signify that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thus, the cloths are an indication of two facts. First, the body of Jesus could not have been stolen by grave robbers since it is extremely unlikely that they would unwrap the body before stealing it and leave the cloths behind. What is more likely is that they would take the cloths and leave the body behind. Second, by leaving the grave cloths behind, it means that Jesus has left death behind. Death is symbolized by the grave cloths. When Lazarus, who was raised by Jesus from the dead, came out of the tomb, he brought out with him his grave cloths. This was because he would need them when he died again. Jesus, however, will never die again and so, will not need the grave cloths. He has risen to a new life. He has risen, never to die again. Death has died. However, as Peter makes explicit in the first reading of today, the conquering of death by Jesus is only one part of the story. There is a second part, also narrated by Peter, and even a third part explicated in the second reading of today.
The second part of the story is that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, everyone who believes will also partake of the same privilege. For everyone who believes, death will never be the end. For everyone who believes, there is the hope of new life. This is because in Jesus, and through his death and resurrection, forgiveness of sins has been obtained by all. God forgives and welcomes all in Jesus, the Risen Christ.
The living out of the forgiveness follows the forgiveness and the new life we have received. This is the third part of the resurrection story. The manner in which it is to be lived out is spelled out in the second reading of today which is part of the letter to the Colossians. Those who accept this forgiveness of God, in Jesus, will be determined to seek only that which enhances and builds up. They will strive only for what is positive and life giving. They will never give in to despair, they will never give up or give in, and they will never lose hope.
Thursday, 24 March 2016
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 12:1-8,11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15
The English word Maundy comes from the Latin Man datum which means a command. What is this command? And who gives this command and to whom? The command is the command to love. The command is given by the Lord Jesus; and the command is given to his disciples and through his disciples to the whole world. Throughout his life, Jesus has lived a selfless life. Throughout his life he has lived a life of giving, of reaching out, of encouraging, of boosting up. Throughout his life he has led a life of unconditional love which requires nothing in return. He has lived a life of love that only wants to give. And now, on this Maundy Thursday, he brings together his entire life through two symbols.
I direct you to the first of those symbols found in Mk 14:22-26. It is the scene of the Last Supper. And Jesus knows that the time has come for him to depart from this world and to go to the Father. So what does Jesus do in symbolic form? In symbolic form he brings together his life through two symbols, of bread and wine, to the symbol of the Eucharist. The English word Eucharist comes from the Greek Eucharistene which means to thank. So at the Last Supper in this Eucharist which he celebrates with his disciples, Jesus gives thanks to the Father. Thanksgiving even though he knows that he is going to die. Thanksgiving even though he knows that his body is going to be broken on the cross and his blood shed; thanksgiving because he knows that the Father always does what is best for him and for the world. And while they were eating, Jesus breaks this bread and identifies the broken bread with his body. He shares the cup of wine and identifies the wine with his blood, and the command here is to do this breaking and shedding of body and blood in remembrance of the Lord. The symbol will remain at the level of symbol unless it is transformed into reality. In the case of Jesus the reality of his life was brought together in these symbols and from the symbol taken to the cross. Is the Eucharist the centre of my life? When I use the term Eucharist or Mass, what do I mean? Do I refer to the ritual that is celebrated in the Church? Am I one of that who hears Mass and forgets about it later? Am I one of those who goes to the Sacrament of the Eucharist only to fulfill an obligation or because I am scared of punishment by God? Does my Eucharist end in the Church or is my life a Eucharistic life. If I have to be a true disciple of Jesus I cannot let the ritual end in the Church. The ritual has to be transformed into reality. Like in the case of Jesus, the symbols of bread and wine became in reality his body and blood, so in my case whenever I participate in the Eucharist I need to be transformed. I need to become a better person, I need to give and to reach out and to love. If not, then I need to ask myself whether I am really participating in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist you will be celebrating today every single sacrament is contained Every single sacrament is brought forth, the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of community, the sacrament of baptism, the sacrament of giving and of giving till it hurts. And so my plea to you be that as we celebrate the Eucharist this Maundy Thursday, that you ask God to keep your mind open to the grace that he wants to pour therein, that your Mass, that your Eucharist will be celebrated on the altar of the world and that the bread that is broken and the wine that is shed will be your own giving of yourself, a giving till it hurts, a giving even when there is nothing to give; a giving which will go beyond everything that you have ever done before.
A second symbol which is used by Jesus in the gospel of Jn 13:1-12 is a symbol of the washing of the feet, and even though washing of the feet may be interpreted as the sign of humble service, as the sign of doing humble labour, as a sign of choosing the lesser place, it goes beyond. Because it is not merely humble service or choosing the menial job, it is a prophetic gesture. Jesus does not wash the feet of his disciples before the meal like may have usually been done but Jesus begins to wash the feet of his disciples when they are in the midst of the meal in order to open their eyes. So already, when he got up from the meal they would have been confused, they would have been wondering what he was doing. If he had washed their feet before they began the meal, we could have interpreted it merely as humble service. However, because it is in the midst of the meal that Jesus gets up from the table, he wants to give a completely different interpretation to this prophetic gesture. Later on he explains what he means when he asks his disciples to do what he has done. “If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also must do likewise, which does not mean merely physically washing the feet, but which means living the life of Jesus. And that is why when Peter refuses the washing, Jesus says “unless you let me wash your feet you’ll have no meros. Meros is heritage, meros is something which you leave behind, meros is legacy, meros is translated as a part. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus if he doesn’t serve you and you do not accept his command to love and to serve forever.
And so as we enter into Maundy Thursday, as we listen to the mandatum, to the command of the Lord inviting us to a fuller life, let us realize that it is in giving that we receive, it is in reaching out that we are reached out to. It is in dying to our ego and ourselves that we will have life eternal.
Tuesday, 22 March 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - Do you often blame God and others when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you grow up and accept responsibility for your actions today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa50:4-9; Mt 26:14-25
The text on the day before Maundy Thursday invites us to reflect on the initiative taken by Judas in going to the chief priests and agreeing to betray Jesus, the preparation for the Passover and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal.
Matthew’s reason for the betrayal by Judas is greed. Judas wants something if he agrees to betray Jesus and agrees to the thirty pieces of silver offered to him, a detail mentioned only by Matthew. Unlike in Mark where the money is promised, in Matthew Judas is paid on the spot. Some see the reference to the thirty silver pieces as taken by Matthew from Zech 11:12-13 in which there is an obscure reference to the wages of a shepherd, who puts money back into the treasury. In Exod thirty silver pieces is the price of an injured slave.
According to Exod 12:1-20, the Passover lambs were to be killed on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and the festival itself began with the ritual meal on the evening that began the 15th of Nisan. The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th and continued for seven days, during which no leaven should be found in the house. By the first century, the two festivals had merged and their names were used interchangeably. In addition, the pious practice of removing leaven one day early, the 14th, had become common.
Preparation for the Passover involved (1) locating an appropriate place within the city walls of Jerusalem, the only legitimate location for eating the Passover meal; (2) searching the room for leaven and removing any items that might contain yeast (bread crumbs, etc.); (3) obtaining a lamb and having it ritually slaughtered by the priests in the Temple; (4) roasting the lamb and preparing it with the other necessary items for the meal in the place previously arranged. While it is important to Matthew for theological reasons that the last supper was a Passover, he narrates none of the details associated with the Passover meal and ritual, concentrating his interest on the meal of the new covenant to be celebrated.
While Judas’ question to the chief priests focuses on himself and what he can gain, the disciples question to Jesus focuses on Jesus and what he wants them to do.
After Jesus takes his place at the table, he announces the fact of his betrayal by one of the Twelve. This announcement leads to distress on the part of the disciples. Each asks in turn whether he is the one. Jesus responds by indicating that one of those who eat with him will betray him, but does not explicitly identify Judas. Judas’ question is left till after Jesus’ response.
The dialectic of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the passion is brought out strongly in Jesus’ comment that it would be better for the betrayer if he had not been born. Jesus is fully aware of who it is that will betray him. God is not taken by surprise in the betrayal that leads to crucifixion; it goes according to the divine plan expressed in Scripture. But this does not relieve the burden of human responsibility. God is fully sovereign, humanity is fully responsible.
Judas who is in the process of betraying Jesus asks if he is the one. Unlike the other disciples who address Jesus as Lord, Judas addresses him as Rabbi indicating that he is not an insider but an outsider. Jesus’ response “You said it” is a clear affirmation that Judas is indeed the one.
There are some, who because they find it easier, prefer to lay the blame at God’s door for their “misfortune”. These are people who have not yet grown up. If children blame others for the mistakes they make or refuse to accept responsibility it can be understood, but when adults do that it is a sign of not having grown up. While it is true that God remains sovereign, it is also true that we as humans have total freedom and thus must accept responsibility for our actions. We are always free to act as we see fit, but we must also realize that our every action has consequences which we must be willing to accept.
Monday, 21 March 2016
Tuesday, March 22,2016 - When things do not go the way you plan do you throw in the towel too quickly? Has your arrogance sometimes led to your downfall?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
The text of today begins after the action of the washing of the feet of his disciples by Jesus and the words that he speaks explaining the meaning of the event. Thus this text must be read with that background in view.
It begins by an announcement of the betrayal in the context of Jesus’ emotional distress. This announcement is greeted with confusion on the part of the disciples. This confusion is an indication that betrayal can lie in the heart of any disciple and that no one is really exempt or can take for granted his/ her fidelity. This confusion leads to questioning on the part of the disciples. Each wants to know who Jesus meant. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is introduced for the first time in the Gospel and plays a prominent role from now on. The fact that the disciple is not named points to the fact that it is not so much the person, but his relationship to Jesus that defines and determines who he is. Like the Son who is in the bosom of the Father () so this disciple reclines in the bosom of Jesus. Prompted by Simon Peter’s nod, the beloved disciple asks Jesus who the betrayer is. Through the gesture of giving the morsel to Judas and his words, the contrast between the intimacy of the meal on the one hand and the betrayal by Judas on the other is brought into sharp relief. Even as he is offered a sign of friendship, intimacy and fidelity, Judas chooses distance, betrayal and infidelity. Though Jesus “knows” who will betray him, he still reaches out in love and friendship.
The mention of Satan entering Jesus indicates that the real battle is not between Jesus and Judas but between Jesus and the powers’ of evil, between light and darkness, and between falsehood and truth. Jesus is willing to face head on and immediately the powers’ of evil and so instructs Judas to act quickly. Jesus alone understands the significance of the hour. The disciples remain ignorant and even misunderstand. That Judas leaves immediately is an indication that his commands are followed even as he is going to be betrayed. Jesus remains in control of all the events of his “hour”. The phrase “and it was night” can mean on the surface level a chronological notation. However, it has a much deeper meaning in John. On the deeper level it means that Judas has cut himself off from Jesus who alone is the light and also that he has sided with the darkness which tries to overcome the light.
The verses which follow and complete the reading of today can either be seen as a conclusion to the previous episodes of the washing of the feet and the prediction of the betrayal or as an introduction to the Farewell Discourse. They speak of the glorification of Jesus as Son of Man and also of the glorification of the Father. While it is true that the mutual glorification began when the father was manifested through the Son at the incarnation and continued in the words and works of Jesus, it will be completed and reach its fulfillment in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the Father. This final departure from the world and return to the Father is here seen as a seal of the disciples’ new relationship with God, with him and with one another. Jesus responds to Simon Peter’s question about his final destination by predicting Peter’s denial of him. Though Peter protests by offering his life to Jesus in keeping with the command to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, he speaks more from a misplaced enthusiasm than from the reality of the situation. When confronted with reality, Peter will in fact deny Jesus three times.
There are numerous times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan. It is as times like these that we tempted to throw in the towel like Judas and Peter did. However, the challenge is that even at times like these to continue to trust and believe that even though we may not fully understand why things happen the way they do, that God is still in control and will never let anything happen to is that is not for our good and for his glory.
Remaining with Jesus, following his commands and living the life that he demands is thus not an easy task. The numerous laws, rules and regulations of the Jews have been summarized into one command which is to love God by loving neighbour. This reduction of the numerous into one does not mean that the one is easier; it means that the focus has changed from external observance to internal disposition and from personal achievement to grace. That grace is at the heart of the command is made evident in the cases of Judas and Peter who both fail in keeping it. While Judas’ betrayal may be seen as a dramatic and extreme case of refusing to remain with Jesus and follow his commands, the denials by Peter indicate that every disciple is at risk of failure if he/ she depends on his/her own strength and not enough on the Lord.
Sunday, 20 March 2016
Monday,March 21,2016 - How will you make the unconditional love of Jesus tangible for at least one person today? Will you respond to the unconditional love of God like Mary or like Judas?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 42:1-7; Jn 12:1-11
The story of the anointing of Jesus is found in all four Gospels. Yet, the manner of the anointing, the reason for the anointing and the anointing on the head as mentioned by Mark and Matthew and the feet as mentioned by Luke and John indicate that each evangelist interprets the anointing differently. While in Mark and Matthew the anointing is as a preparation for the burial of Jesus’ body and is thus just before the Passion, in Luke the anointing of the feet of Jesus by a sinful woman is an explication of her love and respect for Jesus and his love for her shown in the forgiveness of her sins. The woman is named only in the Gospel of John and is not Mary Magdalene. In John, she is Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Though it is not the head but the feet of Jesus which Mary anoints, the focus of the anointing here is the “hour” of Jesus. The dinner that Jesus is attending here is an anticipation of the last dinner that he will have with his disciples soon.
The story begins with the dinner given for Jesus by Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. The anointing by Mary is narrated immediately after this. Though Mark also points to the quality of the ointment, only John mentions the quantity. By wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, Mary anticipates the wiping of the disciples’ feet by Jesus at the last supper. The anointing here therefore points to the washing and wiping of the feet of the disciples by Jesus. The protest about the extravagance of the gesture is voiced in John by Judas alone. This is already an anticipation of the betrayer’s role that Judas will play later in the garden. The protest of Judas is not genuine, because his concern stems from his own desire to steal. Jesus’ response to Judas is to point to the revelatory significance of Mary’s act. It is an anticipation of the final anointing after the death of Jesus and thus confirms that it will take place. Jesus also reminds his disciples of the limited time before his “hour” and invites them to recognize it like Mary did. They need to respond like her.
Since many of the Jews were going to Jesus and began to believe in him, the chief priests make plans to kill Jesus. They also plan to kill Lazarus so as not to leave any trace of the miraculous powers of Jesus and also to stop people from believing in him.
The contrast between the insight of Mary and the blindness of Judas is brought out powerfully in this story. She recognizes who Jesus is and the fate that awaits him and so acts accordingly. Judas on the other hand has closed himself to the revelation of God in Jesus and thus can only act to suit his selfish interests. The anointing of the feet by Mary and the wiping them with her hair is also an indication of the action of a true disciple of Jesus. She anticipates what her master and Lord will do and does it. She does not need to be taught it like the other disciples at the last supper. She has learnt it by observing the actions of the Lord. Judas on the other has shown that he is not a true disciple because he is able to see only the negative in the loving action of service and reaching out. His only response is therefore to protest.
The love command was not only spoken of by Jesus but lived out by him throughout his life. The best manner in which that love command was manifested was not only in the washing of the feet of his disciples, but in the spreading out of his arms in total surrender and unconditional love. This is the love to which we as disciples are challenged today. We can decide to respond like Mary because we are convinced and have experienced the unconditional love of God ourselves, or we can be like Judas who focus on our own selfish interests and so miss out on the beauty and reality of unconditional love.
Saturday, 19 March 2016
To hear the Audio Reflections of Passion/Palm Sunday click HERE
Passion/Palm Sunday - March 20,2016 - The Cross was a scandal for some and folly for others, but after Jesus it is a symbol of VICTORY
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 50:4-7; Phil2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23:56
The parents of a young boy in a Private school were at their wits end about what to do with their child. He was failing in all subjects and no amount of coercion, rewards, or gifts, could effect any change. They consulted many of their friends and relatives. They took the child to Psychologists and academicians but, to no avail. Finally, one of their relatives suggested that they send their son to a school run by the Jesuits. Since they had tried every other means, and since they did not think the child could get any worse, they enrolled him in the local school run by the Jesuits. After the first semester results were out, the parents were pleasantly surprised to find that their son had not only passed in all subjects, but had topped the class in three of the six subjects that he was studying. They rushed to the school to thank the Jesuit Principal whom they thought was responsible for the change. The Principal accepted the praise as humbly as he could. He then called the boy to his office to find out from him the reason for this dramatic change. When the boy was asked the reason, he looked up at the Crucifix hanging in the Principal’s office and said, “When I looked up at that man hanging on the Cross, I got scared because I knew that you were serious about things and I decided not to take any chances.”
The man hanging on the Cross is what Passion Sunday is all about. This Sunday is also called Palm Sunday, since palm branches are distributed. However, the focus is on the betrayal, arrest, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus rather than on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem just before his death. Passion / Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in which the Church commemorates the Last Supper and the first Eucharist on Holy Thursday. Christ’s death on Good Friday, and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. By identifying ourselves with the ‘mystery’ of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we ourselves experience a great liberation, a ‘Passover’ from various forms of sin and enslavement to a life of joy and freedom.
The Passion narrative in Luke, read in this year, begins with the Last Supper. During the meal, three significant events take place, all of which are connected with what happens in the rest of the narrative. The first is the prediction of betrayal by Judas, the second is the teaching on greatness, and the third is the prediction of Peter’s denial. With regard to the betrayal, it must be remembered that being a participant at the last supper must be remembered that being a participant at the last supper will not protect one or absolve one from the act of treachery. Judas must accept responsibility for his action. This is, therefore, true for all those disciples who think that they are greater than others, and for Peter who vehemently denies that he will deny. The followers must accept responsibility for their failings. These acts are the exact opposite of Jesus’ attitude of service and fidelity which are so powerfully brought out in the narrative.
Jesus was able to have these attitudes because of his being in constant touch with God and, even now, in this hour of crisis, he turns first, not to humans for consolation, but to God. The first part of the prayer is for what Jesus wants, but the second, the conclusion, is for what God wants. Jesus will state, clearly and unambiguously, his own need for deliverance, but he will not forget to add that, to do God’s will is his final aim. On the surface level, it might have seemed more conducive to be delivered from trial and tribulation, to be delivered from the Cross and delivered from ignominy, shame, and death. However, at the deeper level, it was infinitely better that Jesus embrace the Cross in order to gain victory over death and to be born to new life.
Jesus is serene and calm when he is arrested and even reaches out to heal the servant whose right ear was cut off in the melee. This is the effect of prayer. The effect of his prayer also sustains him before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod. Jesus will not be cowed, browbeaten, or intimidated. He will stand for what he believes in. He will stand for the truth. Even if it means that he is not understood, even if it means that he is abused, and even if it means that he is condemned to death, he will continue to hold his head high. He will not be overcome with self pity. He will not be defeated. This is why his last words, before he breathes his last, are to commend his Spirit into God’s care.
The veil of the Temple being torn in two, the Centurion proclaiming Jesus’ innocence, and the people going to their homes beating their breasts, all these occurrences point to the fact that true worship is now, no longer in the Temple but, on the Cross. They point to the fact that, in death is victory, and that only in dying is there the possibility of new life. They point to the fact that the man who hangs on the Cross is not someone of whom we should be scared. They point to the fact that the Cross is no longer a symbol of fear or defeat, but a symbol of victory forever.
Saturday, March 19, 2016 - St. Joseph, Husband of Mary - When in a dilemma do you usually do the right thing or the loving thing? Would your life have been any different if Jesus had not been born?
To read the texts click on the texts:2 Sam 7:4-5,12-14,16; Rm 4:13,16-18,22; Mt1:16,18-24
Devotion to St. Joseph became popular from the 12th century onward and in the 15th Century the feast of St. Joseph began to be celebrated on March 19 every year. Devotion to St. Joseph as foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary grew tremendously in the 19th Century and continues till this day.
This Gospel text for the feast of today includes one verse of the genealogy, which specifies that Joseph was the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born. The verses that follow narrate the story of his birth. Since Mary and Joseph were engaged, they were legally considered husband and wife. Thus, infidelity in this case would also be considered adultery. Their union could only be dissolved by divorce or death. Though Joseph is righteous or just, he decides not to go by the letter of the law and publicly disgrace Mary, but he chooses a quieter way of divorcing her. God, however, has other plans for both Joseph and Mary and intervenes in a dream. Joseph is addressed by the angel as “Son of David” reiterating, once again after the genealogy, the Davidic origin of Jesus. He is asked to take Mary as his wife and also informed that is the Spirit’s action that is responsible for her pregnancy. He is told that he is to give the child the name “Jesus". Jesus (Iesous) is the Greek form of "Joshua" which, whether in the long form yehosua, ("Yahweh is salvation") or in one of the short forms, yesua, ("Yahweh saves”), identifies the son, in the womb of Mary, as the one who brings God’s promised eschatological salvation. The angel explains what the name means by referring to Ps 130:8. The name “Jesus” was a popular and common name in the first century. By the choice of such a name, Matthew shows that the Savior receives a common human name, a sign that unites him with the human beings of this world rather than separating him from them.
Matthew then inserts into the text the first of ten formula or fulfillment quotations that are found in his Gospel. This means that Matthew quotes a text from the Old Testament to show that it was fulfilled in the life and mission of Jesus. Here, the text is from Isa 7:14 which, in its original context, referred to the promise that Judah would be delivered from the threat of the Syro-Ephraimitic War before the child of a young woman, who was already pregnant, would reach the age of moral discernment. The child would be given a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence “God is with us” (Emmanu‘el) corresponding to other symbolic names in the Isaiah story. Though this text was directed to Isaiah’s time, Matthew understands it as text about Jesus, and fulfilled perfectly in him, here in his birth and naming.
This birth narrative of Matthew invites us to reflect on a number of points. Of these, two are significant. First, many of us are often caught in the dilemma of doing the right thing which might not always be the loving thing. If we follow only the letter of the law, we may be doing the right thing but not the most loving thing. However, if we focus every time on the most loving thing, like Joseph, it is surely also the right thing. Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.
Second, the story also shows us who our God is. Our God is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other. This God does not come in power, might, and glory, but as a helpless child. As a child, God is vulnerable. He is fully human and in his humanity, is subject to all the limitations that humanity imposes on us. Yet, he will do even that, if only humans respond to the unconditional love that he shows.
Friday, 18 March 2016
To hear the Audio Reflections of the Gospel text of March 19, 2016 click HERE
Saturday, March 19, 2016 - Impatience is trying to go faster than the Holy Spirit. Are you by nature impatient?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek37:21-28; Jn 11:45-56
The first two verses of today can be seen as the conclusion of the miracle story of the raising of Lazarus. While some of those who witnessed the miracle respond positively, others do not. However, the number of those who believe is more than that of those who do not as is evident in the use of “many” for those who believed and “some” for those who did not. The chief priests and Pharisees respond to the information they receive about the miracle by calling a meeting during which they discuss the fate of Jesus. Their main concern seems to be their own loss of power. They do not seem really interested in the destruction of the temple or even
but with the effect that Jesus’
popularity will have on their own selfish interests. Jerusalem
Caiaphas who was high priest speaks on behalf of all of them. Even as he wants Jesus to die so that greater trouble can be avoided, he is in fact unknowingly prophesying about the true meaning of the death of Jesus. Though his sole aim is political expediency, he is collaborating in God’s plan of salvation for the whole of the human race. He uses his power to suppress God’s word but in effect witnesses to him. In his death Jesus would gather together all the scattered people of God to bring them to a union and unity never witnessed before.
Jesus retreats to Ephraim after the Sanhedrin’s decision. This retreat, however, is not to escape death but to control its time. Jesus will not go to his death until his hour arrives. It is God who decides that hour and no amount of human plotting or planning can hasten its arrival.
Even as the Passover draws near, questions remain about whether Jesus will come to the feast or not. It is not clear whether those who are looking for him have a positive or malicious intent. The question, however, reinforces the idea that Jesus acts not according to the will of human beings but of God and if God so ordains then no matter what the threat or consequence, Jesus will do what is required.
God’s ways are not our ways. As high as the heavens are from the earth so are God’s ways different from ours. It is not always possible to accept this simple truth and there are times when we try to go faster than the Holy Spirit because of our impatience. We are reminded as we reflect on today’s readings that there will be numerous times when we will knowingly or unknowingly try to upset the plans of God because they do not fit in with what we think is good for us. At times like these we too behave like the adversaries of Jesus. We have to realize that no matter how much we try we will never be able to upset God’s will for the world though it might seem sometimes that we have and can. When we witness evil overpowering good, selfishness dominating selflessness or fear overtaking love, then it might seem that we have done so. However, these “victories’ are only temporary as was the victory of the ones who crucified Jesus on the cross. In the final race it is always God who wins, it is always selflessness that come first and it is always love that will overcome.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42
The text of today begins with the Jews picking up stones to stone Jesus. While the immediate context is the last words of Jesus in his response to who he is, namely “The Father and I are one”, this reaction must also be seen in the larger context of the revelations that Jesus has been making. Jesus’ question to the Jews immediately after their attempt to stone him is indicative of this. He asks them for which of his good works they want to stone him. In response they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Though it is true that Jesus is equal to God, they do not realize that it is not he who makes such a claim on his own accord. It is God who confirms him. Jesus uses “their” law to prove his claims and disprove theirs. He begins by citing the first half of Ps 82:6 in which human beings are regarded as “gods” because they receive the Word of God and then goes on to prove from the lesser to the greater, that thus it cannot be blasphemy if Jesus speaks of himself as God’s Son. It is the Father who sanctified and thus set apart Jesus and sent him into the world and thus he always does what the Father commands him to do.
Jesus goes on to appeal to his works as a proof of the fact that he has indeed been sent by God. His works, which are in keeping with God’s plan for the world, are clear indication that he and the Father are one. He is in the Father and the Father is in him. To be able to recognize this is to come to faith. These words do not go down well with the listeners who try to arrest him. Again as in the past Jesus escapes because his hour had not yet come.
The last three verses of the text look back to and to John’s witness of Jesus at
John’s witness and then truth of that witness manifested in Jesus leads people
to believe in Jesus. Bethany
In these verses, Jesus does not claim to be another God or to replace God or even make himself equal to God. He claims to make God known as never before. He reveals God as loving Father and as one whose only will for the world is its salvation. This is evident in the works that he performs, which are works of unconditional and redeeming love.
Jesus’ offer of recognizing him in the world is an offer that is relevant and available even today. The “good works” he inaugurated are on view whenever one goes beyond oneself and reaches out in love and compassion. They are continued when one speaks an enhancing word or performs a loving action. There are visible in selfless service and forgiveness. They are visible when love is made real.