Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Audio reflections of Wednesday, August 23, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Wednesday, August 23, 2017 click HERE

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward? Or are you good because it is good to be good?

To read the texts click on the texts: Judges 9:6-15; Mt 20:1-16

The parable of the labourers in the vineyard, who are paid the same wages for unequal work, is exclusive to the Gospel of Matthew. Many are of the opinion that the original parable ended at 20:13 or 20:14a, and what follows from 20:14b–16 or 20:14-16 are Matthean additions. 

The parable narrates how the landowner himself goes to the market to hire labourers at different hours and even at the eleventh hour. While the first group of workers is told explicitly that they will be paid the day’s wage which was one denarius, while the others are told that they would be paid whatever is right. When the time for payment arrives the focus is on the groups hired first and last, with the last being paid before all the other. They are paid one denarius, which is the day’s wage. The last are also paid what the landowner agreed with them. 
Since the parable does not speak about the amount work done by each group or say that those who were hired at the eleventh hour did as much work as those who were hired in the morning, it leaves the reader stunned. This ending upsets and challenges conventional values. The point that Jesus seems to make in the parable is that the tax collectors and sinners will be given the same status as those who have obeyed the law.

The additions by Matthew stress the jealousy and envy of those who were hired in the morning. The objection is not to what they have received but about the fact that the others have received as much as they which they regard as unfair. The difference is that they have received what is theirs through their hard work and effort; the others have received what they have because of the landowner’s generosity. 

If one can identify with the group who complains, then it is time that one checks one’s motivation whenever one does good, because if one does not, one will continue to get frustrated at what one sees happening around one. Is the work that you do reward in itself? Or do you expect another reward?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, August 22, 2017 the Queenship of Mary

To hear the Audio Reflections of Tuesday, August 22, 2017 the Queenship of Mary click HERE

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - The Queenship of Mary

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 9:1-6; Lk 1:26-38

Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954. However, Mary’s Queenship also has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her Queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship.

In the fourth century St. Ephrem (June 9) called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.”

This feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption of Mary (celebrated on August 15) and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his 1954 encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII pointed out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

It is fitting then that the Gospel text chosen for the feast is the Annunciation of the birth of the Lord to his mother. Through his mother and her courageous YES, Jesus became a human being. The point of the Annunciation is to stress that Jesus did not come down from heaven as an “avatar” but rather that in every sense of the word; he was totally and completely human. Another related point is that God “needs” the co-operation of human beings to complete the plans God has for the world. One of the most beautiful examples of co-operating with God is that of Mary and her unconditional Amen.

Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.

In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.

The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.

Today, many assume that those whom God favours will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favoured one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favoured,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to herself.

When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us, that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to all that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Saviour in our hearts.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Monday, August 21, 2017 click HERE

Monday, August 21, 2017 - What is the wealth that has so possessed you; so as to leave you unfree to say a total YES to Jesus? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Judges 2:11-19; Mt 19:16-22

The story found in Matthew has sometimes been called the one of “The Rich young ruler”. However, these words appear nowhere in the New Testament, and is a conglomerate of the figures in Mark (rich), Matthew (who alone adds “young”) and Luke (who alone adds “ruler”). Matthew alone gives us a picture of a youth, twice calling him “a young man”. He would thus be a person in his twenties. He addresses Jesus as “teacher’, which signals that he is an outsider – in Matthew, real disciples address Jesus as “Lord”. In his answer to the young man, Jesus is portrayed as an advocate of the Law rather than its opponent. In response to the second question of the young man, Jesus takes him further to “perfection”, which does not mean “to be blameless”, but rather to be “whole”, “undivided” in love.

However, he was not able to say YES to the call of Jesus not merely because he was a man of great wealth, but rather because instead of possessing wealth, he let wealth possess him. This “being possessed”, did not leave him free, and consequently, he was unable to make a free choice.

We are living in a world in which it is easy to get so taken up with material things that we lose sight of everything and every one else. We can if are not careful make the acquisition of things an end in itself.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Sunday, August 20, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Sunday, August 20, 2017, click HERE

Sunday, August 20, 2017 - Never give up!

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28

It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English. Ironically, many years later he was asked to give the commencement address at the Oxford University. His now famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!” While this theme of perseverance and never giving up is surely one of the themes of the readings of today, another theme that also comes out powerfully is the movement from particularity to the universality of God’s love.

There is no doubt that Jesus appears to be speaking to the Canaanite woman in the Gospel text of today in extremely harsh terms. He disregards the heartfelt and sincere plea for mercy made by the woman, and makes it clear that his mission, at this time, is for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and even likens the woman to a dog. Some have attempted to soften this harshness by suggesting that Jesus’ retort to the woman was said with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips or that Jesus did not mean stray dogs but house pets.  However, nothing in the text warrants such interpretations and when compared with the similar incident in Mark, which allows for a mission to the Gentiles following the mission to the Jews, the retort of Jesus in Matthew is harsher, leaving no apparent scope for a Gentile mission: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

The Jews are the children and the Gentiles are the dogs. The epithet “dogs” for Gentiles had derogatory connotations. Dogs roamed the streets scavenging for food, and the Jews considered them unclean animals. The Gentiles cannot get what belongs to the Jews. Thus Jesus not only flatly refuses the woman’s request; he also seems to insult her.

The woman, however, will neither be excluded nor allow herself to be insulted. She will persevere and will overcome. She will keep on keeping on. She will neither give up nor give in. She meets Jesus’ initial stony silence with more pleading. She drowns out the disciples’ request for Jesus to send her away with her own repeated requests for Jesus to have mercy. She factually negates his exclusive mission to the Jews when she, a Gentile calls him Lord and worships him. Finally, she cleverly turns his own maxim supporting exclusivism into an illustration of inclusivism in salvation. Accepting the designation “dogs” for Gentiles, she turns it to the Gentiles’ advantage. “Yes, Lord,” she counters Jesus, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In her maxim the dogs and the children both eat. And they eat simultaneously. She bests the Matthean Jesus: She denies both exclusivism and sequential priority in salvation based on ethnic identity. The Gentiles can have at least the crumbs of salvation if not the bread, and they can have it now. She challenges Jesus to rise up to a new, ethnically broadened sense of his mission and his Lordship. The woman’s brash courage actually “converts” Jesus. Though Jesus had limited his mission to the sons and daughters of Israel, here he crosses this self-imposed boundary to bring merciful healing to a Gentile. The woman brings him to the full implications of his mission.

This gospel passage thus reveals that Jesus’ understanding of God’s saving work entails both the particular and the universal. He knew that this woman was a Canaanite; he knew that he was a Jew and had been sent to Israel yet this did not exclude the limits of God’s gracious work in and through him. He also knew that God’s redemptive work reached across the boundaries of difference without necessarily obliterating them. God in Christ did not make this woman and her daughter into something other than Canaanites, but in response to the woman’s faith he did bring healing to her daughter.

This is reiterated by Paul in the second reading of today who, writing to the Romans, asserts that he who is, “an Israelite himself, a descendant of Abraham”, expresses hope for Israel because “salvation has come to the Gentiles”. When either Gentiles or Jews, women or men, are saved, they remain Gentiles or Jews, women or men, yet they are saved in the same way i.e. through faith. And, this salvation is the result of God’s grace and mercy which is blind to differences of ethnicity, gender, or nationality.

 The fact that such differences to not constitute a barrier to the love of God do not mean, however, that God’s saving work is meaninglessly indiscriminate. Those whom God welcomes into his “house of prayer for all nations” are those who “bind themselves to the Lord… to be his servants.” They are vessels of God’s justice. As people of faith hey hear the Lord in the depths of their hearts calling them to, “do what is right.” These are people like the Canaanite woman, who persevered in faith in the only hope she had.

The call and challenge to us today is to continue to persevere, even if at times it seems that our prayers are not being answered and that there seems to be no solution in sight. It is also an invitation to realize the inclusive nature of God’s unconditional and magnanimous love.                                                

Friday, 18 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, August 19, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, August 19, 2017 click HERE

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - Humility is a funny thing. Once you think you’ve got it you’ve lost it. What do you think of this statement?

To read the texts click on the texts: Joshua 24:14-29; Mt 19:13-15

The text of today is on the one level about Jesus’ attitude to children, but is more importantly and on a deeper level about the kingdom. While in Mark and Luke the children were being brought to Jesus that he might “touch” them (Mk 10:13; Lk 18:15), in Matthew the children are brought that he “might lay his hands on them and pray” (19:13). These two acts are the typical acts of blessing by a revered teacher and Matthew intends to show that Jesus is regarded as such by the people. 

Jesus goes further than the blessing to make a pronouncement about who will inherit the kingdom, and he identifies not just the children but also “such as these”. This means that anyone no matter of what chronological age will inherit the kingdom if he/she receives it without presumption and self-justification.

As Christians we are blessed in that all that we receive from God is not through any effort on our part but is given gratis. We have only to receive. Even this, however, is difficult because sometimes we mistakenly think that it is our effort that brings us what we have.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Audio reflections of Friday, August 18, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Friday, August 18, 2017 click HERE

Friday, August 18, 2017 - St. Alberto Hurtado SJ - Will your faith like that of Hurtado show itself in action today?

To read the texts click on the texts: James2:14-17; Mt 25:31-40
Alberto Hurtado was born in Chile in 1901. He was only four years old when his father died. He received a scholarship which enabled him to attend the Jesuit school in Santiago. Later he studied law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Hurtado entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1923. After philosophy and theology studies in Spain and Belgium (because the Jesuits were expelled from Spain), he was ordained to the priesthood in 1933.

Hurtado was interested in labour law before entering the Society and long desired to improve the lot of the poor. Upon his return to Chile in 1936, he became a teacher at his alma mater, the Pontifical Catholic University, but also reached out to the poor, especially to the young.

In 1940 he began working for Catholic Action and in the following year became the national director of the youth organization. He also published a book titled, ‘Is Chile a Catholic Country?’ This book challenged some long-held conservative beliefs. It caused considerable controversy and even had some critics labelling him a “communist.”

He established the Trade Union Association of Chile and published three volumes on the labour movement. He also founded a periodical, Mensaje.
In 1952, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and because of this he knew that the end was near. His death was national news.

Alberto Hurtado was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2005. He remains very popular in Chile to this day.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017 - Do you usually take the “easy way” or the “right way”?

To read the texts click on the texts: Joshua 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12

The context of today’s reading is immediately after Jesus has finished instructing his disciples (19:1-2) in the “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). The text is found also in Mark 10:1-12, but Matthew has made some changes to suit his purpose. 

In Matthew, Jesus begins his response to the Pharisees question about the legality of divorce by going back to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (in Mark the quotations from Genesis come later). In Matthew, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ quotation by citing Deut. 24:1, which allowed divorce, and this prompts Jesus to move to the situational application. The union of husband and wife is the creation of God and must be regarded as such (in Mark, they respond in this manner after a question from Jesus about what Moses commanded them). Matthew omits 10:12 of Mark, which reflects the Gentile provision for a woman’s initiating a divorce, since this is not applicable from his Jewish perspective. Matthew adds an exception clause; “except for unchastity” as he did earlier in 5:32, and in doing so makes the teaching of Jesus, a situational application rather than a legalistic code.

19:10-12 is exclusive to Matthew, and in them Jesus responds to the comment of the disciples that it is better not to marry. Those “who are made eunuchs by men” seems to refer to the pagan practice of literal castration as a religious practice, and this is rejected by Jesus. Those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” seems to refer to those who choose to remain celibate in order to concentrate more fully on the kingdom, rather than get weighed down by family cares.

No matter what state of life one chooses, one must remain faithful to one’s commitment in that state of life. The grass seems greener on the other side, but only till we go to the other side. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, August 17, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Thursday, August 17, 2017 click HERE

Thursday, August 17, 2017 - What would be your position if God kept a grudge against you for every sin you committed? Will you give up all your un-forgiveness today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Joshua 3:7-11; 13-17; Mt 18:21:19:1

The text of today is the conclusion to Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). It begins with a question from Peter about the number of times one is expected to forgive. While Peter proposes seven times, Jesus’ response far exceeds that proposal. The number seventy-seven can be understood in this way or even as four hundred ninety (seventy times seven). The point is not so much about numbers but about forgiveness from the heart. If one has to count the number of times one is forgiving, it means that one is not really forgiving at all. 

The story that follows in 18:23-35 about the king who forgave his servant a debt of ten thousand talents (a talent was more than fifteen years wages of a labourer) and that same servant who would not forgive another servant who owed him a mere hundred denarii (a denarius was the usual day’s wage for a labourer) makes the same point.

We expect to be forgiven by other when we do them harm after we have said sorry, and sometimes if they do not forgive us, we get upset with them even more. We need to apply the same yardstick to ourselves when others ask for forgiveness from us.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Wednesday, August 16, 2017 click HERE

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - There is no such thing as “individual sin”. All sin is both individual and communitarian.

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 34:1-12; Mt 18:15-20

Though Matthew means that the one who sins against another is a member of the Church, he also means that that person is a brother or sister. One needs to avoid scandal or embarrassment as far as possible and so the matter must first be sought to be settled between the offended and the offending party with the offended taking the initiative. If this does not work, then two or three must be taken to the offending party to work for the reconciliation. If this too does not work, then the local church will have to intervene to set things right. If the offending party will not listen even to the members of the Church who might be the leaders or some members of the congregation, then the person concerned must be expelled. Though this may sound harsh and does not seem to fit in with Jesus’ command to forgive innumerable times (18:22), the point seems to be that it is possible that at times the best way to make a person see sense is to resort to harsh measures. Also, the good of the entire community is in view.

Jesus himself will ratify the decision of the community and assures them of his presence when they are gathered together in his name. He also gives them an assurance of their prayers being answered when there is a unity of minds and hearts in the community.

There are some people who are incorrigible. Even with these, however, every attempt must be made to win them over and regard them as part of the community. After everything possible has been done and they still refuse, then they can be left to their own designs.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Audio reflections of Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the Assumption of our Blessed Mother

To hear the Audio reflections of Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the Assumption of our Blessed Mother click HERE

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and India's Independence day

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 11:19; 12:1-6,10; 1 Cor15:20-26; Lk 1:39-56

Today we celebrate two significant and related events. These are The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and Independence Day. Both are celebrated on the same date: August 15.

The reason why these events are related is because they are both about Freedom. Independence is celebrated as freedom from foreign rule and domination to self rule and governance and the Assumption may be seen as a freedom from this limited and incomplete life to the bliss of eternal and perpetual life.

The verses which make up the Gospel text of today are commonly known as “The Magnificat” or Mary’s hymn of praise. It seems to have been modeled on the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in 1 Sam 2:1-10 and contains many Old Testament concepts and phrases. It communicates a picture of Mary as someone quite steeped in scripture. It reveals God primarily as a God of the poor. God is the one who will vindicate the poor by removing the rich and mighty from their positions and raising the lowly.

The hymn may be seen to be divided into four parts. The first part consists of praise to God for what he has done in and for Mary; the second part speaks of God’s power, holiness and mercy; the third part shows God acting as a Sovereign in reversing social conditions in favor of the poor and downtrodden; and the fourth and final part recalls God’s mercy and promises to Israel.

The hymn speaks of the effects of the Lord’s coming for all of God’s people. It begins on a note of salvation as Mary acknowledges her dependence on God. It was the grace of God that sustained and brought her to the position in which she finds herself. She has not achieved anything on her own, it is all a gift of God and thus, Mary acknowledges her humble state, referring to herself as God’s servant. She is to be called “blessed’ because God, in his mercy and goodness, had raised her to this level.

God has shown this mercy and goodness to the poor by showing the strength of his arm, by scattering the proud, and deposing the powerful. The poor, on the other hand, have been raised, and the hungry have been filled. God remembers not only those of old but also the present generation. He is a God not only of the past, but also a God of the present, the now.

The stress on God as a God primarily of the poor stands out in Mary’s hymn of praise. In a world where the rich seem to be getting richer and the poor, poorer, one wonders whether the Magnificat is a hymn that can make sense to the poor, to those of low degree. Yet, it is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and so, the poor must, in confidence, sing this song as their song. The confidence with which Mary sings this song runs through the entire hymn. She uses past tense to denote God’s future actions, thus expressing that God will indeed accomplish his will, and the poor will be vindicated. What is important for the poor to realize is that they, like Mary, need to continue to open themselves to all that God wants to do in them. They need to continue to acknowledge their dependence on God by doing all that is required of them and then, leaving the rest in his capable and strong hands.

Even as we do celebrate these events, we need to ask ourselves serious questions both as Indians and Christians. Can we be really free when caste distinctions result in murder and rape? Can we be really free when freedom to speak the truth is met with physical violence and threat to life?  Can we be free when the incidence of female foeticide is so high in our country and where in many places the girl child is seen as a liability and burden rather than a blessing? Can we be really free when we are so intent on destroying our natural resources for selfish ends and then have to wonder whether we will have enough rain to see us through the year? Can we call ourselves Christians when we will not do anything about these atrocities and continue with our lives as if it does not concern us?

Are we really free? Are we truly Christian?

Let the celebrations of Independence Day and the Assumption of our Blessed Mother be wake-up calls for us to rouse ourselves from our slumber and do something tangible to right the wrongs.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, August 14, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Monday, August 14, 2017 click HERE

Monday, August 14, 2017 - Is your “freedom” an end in itself? Does it sometimes result in the “bondage” of others?

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 10:12-22; Mt 17:22-27

The text of today contains the second Passion and Resurrection Prediction in the Gospel of Matthew. In this one, however, it is clearer that God will deliver up the Son of Man., but it is human hands into which he will be delivered. God will also vindicate Son of Man. Since Matthew tries to avoid scenes in Mark, which speak of the disciples’ inability to understand, here too, the response of the disciples is to be “greatly distressed”.

The pericope about the “Temple Tax” (17:24-27), which follows, is exclusive to Matthew. The point being made is about freedom and concern for others. Just as the Son of Man gives his life for others and freely, so too the members of his community live lives of freedom but concern for others and not wanting to be a cause for their stumbling will result in a foregoing of that freedom.

There are times when we do things more to avoid scandal than because they are important and need to be done. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Sunday, August 13, 201

To hear the Audio Reflections of Sunday, August 13, 2017 click HERE

Sunday, August 13, 2017 - Keep your gaze fixed on the Lord.

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Rom 9:1-5; Mt. 14:22-33

Visitors to the Holy Land like to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, the sea on which Jesus walked. A certain tourist wanted such a ride and the boatman told him the fare was one hundred dollars. “One hundred dollars!” exclaimed the tourist, “No wonder Jesus walked!”

As in both Mark and John, the miracle of Jesus walking on the water occurs in Matthew immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. The effect of these successive narratives is powerful. They portray Jesus as the one who can provide for the needs of all peoples and one who has control over the elements of nature and even over all demons and evil itself.

There are some who interpret the walking on the water to mean walking by the water. To do so would be to miss the point that Matthew wants to make. Matthew does not intend to portray Jesus as defying the law of gravity. By showing Jesus walking on the water, he reveals a Jesus who has power over the sea: he walks upon the deep as God alone does, and the sea respects his wishes. If the Israelites regarded the sea as the domain of evil powers then the terrifying experience of a storm at sea in the dead of night becomes even more symbolic of the human experience of evil. The fear of the disciples is like the fear of all who are threatened by insecurity in the face of the unknown. But when Jesus appears to those in extreme need and in the darkest part of the night, it is as one who has sovereign power, not only over the forces of nature but over evil itself. Thus the words of Jesus, “Take heart, I am; do not be afraid.” are not empty or meaningless. Fear is unwarranted where Jesus is present. The very presence of Jesus banishes all fear. In Jesus, the great “I AM” has come to dwell with us and for us, whether we are tossed about on the seas or hungry on the hillside, whether we are in the boat or out of the boat. This blessed presence does not show us that God has supernatural powers so much as it give us calm in the midst of our stormy world to imagine that we too might face the storms of life with God’s help.

In fact, like Peter, when we recognize God present in our world, are commanded to go out into the water, knowing that the storms of this life cannot hurt us, even when we are outside of the safety and comfort of the Church. Peter’s lack of faith is caused by a failure of concentration: he is distracted by the fierce wind. He removes his gaze from Jesus. His mind became more affected by the circumstances than by faith in the power of Jesus, and once again he became filled with fear. This is why he begins to sink and cries out in desperation: “Lord, save me.” Peter realizes that in the moment of most dire human need, there is but one cry, just as there is but one source of salvation.

We too will surely falter. We too will feel that we are drowning in the depths of our world’s darkness. We too will surely feel that the chaotic waters of life are too treacherous for our tentative footsteps. We too will sink. That is real. Only fools pretend otherwise.

Then we will see, with Peter that Jesus’ hand reaches out to us. We discover, at times to our relief and at times to our chagrin, that we are not the heroes of this story. We also discover that our doubts and fears, while the cause for a rebuke from our Lord, do not, and in fact take us outside of his care and concern. This is important. For even when we are back inside the boat of the Church, when the waters about us appear to be calm, we find that we are still in the midst of a storm. We have to cast aside any fear that there might be limits to the abundance of God’s grace, and that with this grace given freely we cannot achieve the impossible, or that we can’t change the world. Who would have thought it possible to walk on water, or to discern the voice of God as Elijah does not in the strong wind or earthquake or raging fire, but in “a sound of sheer silence?” Faith is not merely being able to walk on the water but daring to believe in the face of all the evidence that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by the waves.

The Jesus who multiplied the loaves and fish and who appeared to the disciples walking on the water and who saved Peter from sinking, this same Jesus is the Lord of the church who has brought salvation and who stands similarly prepared to save his people, even when they may doubt, from the evils that beset them. This Jesus who rules over nature and even the realm of evil is rightly worshipped as “truly the Son of God.”

Friday, 11 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, August 12, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, August 12, 2017 click HERE

Saturday, August 12, 2017 - On a scale of 1 to 10 where would you mark your faith? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 6:4-13; Mt 17:14-20

This miracle story of the healing of an epileptic boy is found also in Mark (9:14-29), but Matthew has shortened it considerably by omitting many of the details found in Mark. This also results in a change in the focus of the story. In Matthew, the exorcism proper is narrated so briefly that it is clear that the exorcism is subordinated to the pronouncement on faith. The inability of the disciples to exorcise is because of their little faith. The father of the boy addresses Jesus as “Lord” which is an indication that he is a believer and thus Matthew omits the dialogue between the father and Jesus in Mark 9:21-24, where the father expresses doubt in Jesus’ ability to cure his child.

Each of us has been given the power to heal and make whole. We can do this by a kind word or a loving gesture. However, on the one hand we are not convinced that we possess this power and so are loathe to use it, and on the other hand we think that a miracle is only something extra-ordinary or stupendous, and so we are not capable of it.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, August 11, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Friday, August 11, 2017 click HERE

Friday, August 11, 2017 - “Your money or your life.” “You better take my life, I will need my money for my old age.”

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 4:32-40; Mt 16:24-28

In Matthew, the sayings that form our text for today are addressed exclusively to the disciples unlike in Mark where they are addressed to the crowds. 

A disciple must be prepared to follow the Master and even to the cross if need be. This is the consequence of confessing Jesus as the Christ. The Son of Man has to suffer, but will also be vindicated by God. The pronouncement “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16:28) has been variously interpreted. Some think it refers to the event of the Transfiguration, others think it refers to the Resurrection and still others that it refers to Pentecost. However, it seems that Matthew’s community expected that the Parousia (the second coming of the Lord) would come soon, indeed before the death of some who belonged to the community, and so there are some who think that this pronouncement refers to the Second coming of the Lord.

Denial of self means to count the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constsntly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, August 10, 2017, the feast of St. Lawrence

To hear the Audio Reflections of Thursday, August 10, 2017, the feast of St. Lawrence click HERE

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - Lawrence understood and lived out the invitation of Jesus to the full and invites us to do the same. Are we ready?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-10; Jn 12:24-26

The esteem in which the Church holds Lawrence is seen in the fact that today’s celebration ranks as a feast. We know very little about his life. He is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.

He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian.

A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. The prefect of Rome was under the impression that the Church was rich and commanded Lawrence to bring to him all the Church’s riches. Lawrence asked for three days and in that time gathered the poor, the blind, the lame, the leprous and orphaned and widowed persons and placed them before the prefect. The prefect was enraged and had Lawrence put to death. The prefect prepared a lattice with coals beneath it and had Lawrence’s body placed on it.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is one in which John introduces the first set of teachings about Jesus’ death. The significance of this parable for understanding Jesus’ death lies in the contrast between remaining alone i.e. “just a single grain” and “bearing much fruit” i.e. life in community. This means that the saving power of Jesus’ death dwells in the community that is gathered together as a result of that death. 

To love one’s life is to place oneself outside the community and thus leads to isolation and loss of life. To regard this life as temporary and passing it to declare allegiance to Jesus and so live in community. The call then is to love as Jesus loved and to live as Jesus lived. This will be challenging because it may lead to death. However, even death is temporary, because after it there is eternal life. 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - “If at first you don’t succeed try again”. Do you often give in to despair? Will you keep on keeping on?

To read the texts click on the texts: Num 13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35 Mt 15:21-28

The story of the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman is our text for today. This story is found also in Mark 7:24-30, but Mark identifies the woman as a Syrophoenician. Matthew’s mention of “Tyre and Sidon” (Mark has only Tyre) and identifying the woman as a Canaanite results in an emphasis that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. This is also emphasised by the fact that Matthew does not have Jesus enter a house (like Mark does). In Matthew, Jesus does not enter the houses of Gentiles. 

The woman addresses Jesus with the title that only believers use in Matthew, namely, “Lord”. Despite an initial rejection, the woman perseveres in her request and continues to address Jesus as Lord. Jesus’ direct response to the woman is harsh and must be interpreted as a rejection. The analogy is indeed strong. However, the woman seems undeterred, and for the third time addresses Jesus as Lord, and continues to plead her cause. Jesus interprets such perseverance as “great faith”, and immediately heals the woman’s daughter even from a distance.

The woman shows not only perseverance and faith but also the ability not to let words get her down. The harsh words of Jesus spoken not in jest or with a twinkle in his eye (because nothing in the text warrants such an explanation) would have resulted in a lesser person treating it as an affront. The woman does not such thing. She knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She knows that while sticks and stones may break her bones, words can never hurt her.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - If you were in Peter’s place and were about to drown, what would you say to the Lord?

To read the texts click on the texts: Num 12:1-13; Mt 14:22-36

The text of today appears immediately after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21). For the first time in Matthew, the disciples are sent forth without Jesus. This is also the first time in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus is depicted as praying. 

Many see the boat in which the disciples are as representing the church, and here, it is battered by the waves. Despite the seeming impossibility of Jesus being able to reach them, he comes to them in the darkest part of the night i.e. between 3.00 and 6.00 a.m. By walking on the water, Matthew is not portraying Jesus as defying the law of gravity, but subduing the chaos of the waters. Jesus does what only God can do (Job 9:8; 38:16; Ps 77:19 etc), and announces himself as “I am” which is reminiscent of the name God used to identify himself in Exodus 3:15. 

The second part of this pericope in which Peter asks Jesus to allow him to come to him is exclusive to Matthew. Peter addresses Jesus as believers do in Matthew by using the title “Lord”. The point that Matthew seems to be making is not only that Peter took his eyes off Jesus and so began to sink, but also that by leaving the boat, he indicated that he wanted proof of the presence of Jesus. Peter cries out with a prayer, “Lord, save me”, and Jesus reaches out and saves him. The gentle rebuke identifies Peter as a person of “little faith” which in Matthew is a mixture of courage on the one hand and anxiety on the other. It is a faith mixed with doubts. The conclusion to this episode in Matthew is that the disciples worship Jesus as Son of God. Jesus is then portrayed as the one who can make everyone whole.

The boat of our life is often swamped by waves. These can be marital discord, addictions, problems with children and parents, disagreements with neighbours and the like. When this happens, the Lord keeps coming to us, walking on the water, subduing the chaos and confusion of our lives and telling us that he continues to be Emmanu’el. If we continue to stay in the boat, he will lead us safely to the shore. If we decide to leave the boat and go to him, then we need to keep our fixed on him and not let the waves get us down.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, August 7, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Monday, August 7, 2017 click HERE

Monday. August 7, 2017 - Will you like Jesus become bread for at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Num 11:4-15; Mt 14:13-21

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish in which twelve baskets are gathered is the only miracle that Jesus worked that is found in all the four Gospels (Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-15).

In Matthew, Jesus withdraws after hearing about the death of John the Baptist. However, as he did earlier (12:15), the withdrawal is not out of fear, as is clear here from the fact that even in his withdrawal he is able to reach out to the multitudes and satisfy their hunger. The crowds follow Jesus and when Jesus sees them, he reaches out to make them whole. 

Unlike in Mark where the disciples are shown in a bad light in their sarcastic response to Jesus’ charge to them, “you give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37), in Matthew they are not. In Matthew, it is the disciples’ lack of faith, which is brought to the fore. In Matthew, the words and actions of Jesus here, resemble more closely than in Mark, the words and actions at the scene of the Last supper (26:20-27). The people eat, are satisfied and there is food left over which highlights the abundance and extravagance of the miracle. Matthew adds “besides women and children” (14:21) to Mark’s “five thousand men” (Mk 6,44) in order to expand the numbers and emphasise again the abundance of the miracle.

Many like to see this miracle as one in which selflessness is at the core. Seeing Jesus share his own meal so freely, others were motivated into sharing what they had so that there was more than required. It is in giving that we receive and more than we ever expected. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Audio reflections of Sunday, August 6, 2017, the Transfiguration of the Lord

To hear the audio reflections of Sunday, August 6, 2017, the Transfiguration of the Lord click HERE

Sunday, August 6, 2017 - The Transfiguration of the Lord - If you were on the mountain with Peter, James and John, how would you respond?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dn 7:9-10,13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9
The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event narrated by all three Synoptic Gospels. This scene in Matthew makes three major points. The first is the revelation of who Jesus is; the second is the foreshadowing of his death, resurrection, and exaltation into heaven; the third is the training of the disciples, and each of us, about the meaning of the whole Christ event.

Peter, James and John realized on the mountain that they were dealing with a reality that reached beyond human experience. They were dealing here, not merely with a social reformer or a political visionary; they were dealing with a man who had a unique relationship with God. The intensity of that relation was obvious to all on the mountain.

However, not only were they permitted to experience a new dimension of Jesus, but they also hear a voice from heaven that applies that dimension to them: "This is my chosen Son; listen to Him." The implication is that anyone who forms a relationship with God's Son will one day share in the transfiguration of God's Son. The good news is good news for the whole human race, not reserved for the elite few. So the apostles had to come down from the mountain with Jesus. As much as they may have wanted, they could not stay there.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain confirms that Jesus was in the presence of God. It also serves to clarify that Jesus is, indeed, God’s Son. While Moses and Elijah, who appear with Jesus on the mountain, might represent the Law and the Prophets, they are also mentioned because of the actions they performed. Like Moses, who parted the sea on the command of God, and who fed the multitude in the desert with manna from heaven, Jesus calms the storm and feeds the five thousand with bread. Like Elijah, who multiplied loaves, cleansed a leper, and raised the dead, Jesus does the same, and even more.  Only in Luke are we given the content of the discussion that Moses and Elijah have with Jesus. They are discussing his exodus from this world to the next. They are discussing his departure.

Though Peter and his companions, John and James, witness the event, they do not know what to make of it.  Peter, however, wants to remain there and commemorate the place. He wants to remain in the past. Jesus knows that he cannot remain on the mountain, tempting as that might be.  He knows what he has to do and he will let no one come in the way.  He has to come down and go to the Cross. That Jesus is, indeed, confirmed in this is manifested by the voice from the clouds which, in words similar to those used at the Baptism, affirms Jesus as Son and slave.  Jesus is both at the same time. He is Son of God and he is Suffering Servant.  He will, through his death, bring salvation to all. He is the fulfilment of all the hopes, not only of Israel but, of the whole world. He supersedes both Moses and Elijah. They are no longer needed now that Jesus has come.

This time, unlike at the time of the Baptism, the voice from the clouds adds, “Listen to him”. This command endorses and confirms Jesus’ interpretation of the future course of events that will take place in his life, namely, his death, resurrection, and ascension. God approves of Jesus’ orientation and wants the disciples to realise that this is the only way. Thus, they cannot remain on the mountain.  They cannot freeze the event and stay there. They have to go down with Jesus and let him go to where the Cross awaits him.

The Transfiguration is an event which encapsulates the whole Christ event. It is here that we see his entire life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension unfold. It is a summary of what was, what is, and what will be. Thus, the Transfiguration emphasizes that God has been revealed through Jesus and that the essence of Jesus’ identity and work cannot be understood apart from the cross and resurrection. Only in the light of the cross and resurrection do we understand the character of God and the significance of Jesus.

The Transfiguration also serves to emphasize that, though God will seem hidden at the passion and death of Jesus, and though Jesus might seem defeated, things are not as they seem. Rather, God is as present at the passion and death of Jesus as he was at the Transfiguration. Jesus is as victorious in his passion and death as he was in his Transfiguration.

The readings of today teach us an all important lesson. There are times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan, when all that we plan goes awry, when the road seems steep and the going is difficult, when every step that we take is laboured and arduous, when we cannot see or understand and, when we feel like giving up and giving in. It is at times like these that we, like Peter, wish we had stayed on the mountain. It is at times like these when we might like some tangible proof, some sign. Yet, the Transfiguration of Jesus teaches that God continues to walk ahead of us and, though we may not be able to see him as clearly as we would like, God is there.

We must be able, like Christ, to look beyond and not be weighed down by the trials and tribulations of the world. It means that we must continue to have faith and trust at all times since trials and tribulations are always temporary and passing. What is permanent is God’s unconditional love, manifested in his Son, Jesus Christ. Our confidence is not in our ability to overcome the challenges that come our way, but in God’s grace that we constantly receive in, and through, Jesus Christ.