To hear the Audio Reflections of Wednesday, December 13, 2017 click HERE
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - Are you carrying the burden of unforgiveness, guilt, resentment, jealousy, or anger in your heart? Will you lay down that burden on Jesus’ shoulders today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30
The verses that make up the text of today are exclusive to Matthew. They are an invitation from Jesus to all those who are burdened. The burden referred to here is most likely the burden of religious obligation. This often became an obstacle in one’s path to God. While “yoke” generally meant obedience or even servitude, here the yoke is Jesus’ own yoke. Thus, this is not the yoke of the law; rather, it is the yoke that will deliver one from the artificial burdens of human religion.
The “easy yoke” of Jesus is not an invitation to a life of ease but to a life of freedom. This is why it is important to “learn” from Jesus as a disciple learns from his/her teacher. This learning is not imitation but is learning from the revelation of God made visible in Jesus. When one recognizes who God really is, after learning from Jesus, one realizes that God is indeed a God who desires that all men and women be free and serve him only in freedom rather than from any external compulsion.
Jesus invites anyone who wishes to come to him to do so. No one is excluded. What are required are openness and a desire to see a new revelation of God. It is a revelation that only Jesus is competent to make because he alone knows the Father, as father, and reveals him as such. This revelation is of a God who will not burden people with sets of rules and regulations. It is a revelation of a God who is unconditional love and who can be recognized only when love abounds.
Monday, 11 December 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14
The Gospel text of today is taken from the fourth discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, known as “The Community Discourse”. It is addressed primarily to members of Matthew’s community and not to outsiders.
The parable of the lost sheep is found also in the Gospel of Luke. The context in Luke, however, is quite different from that in Matthew. While in Luke, it is told as a response to the murmurings of the Pharisees because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew, it is part of the Community Discourse.
Thus, the concern in these verses in Matthew is clearly for members of the community who stray. The point is pastoral care and sanctification rather than evangelism and justification. The sheep that is lost is not more valuable than others, but has strayed and needs to be brought back. The finding and the return of the lost sheep cause joy. Every individual in the community is important and it is the responsibility of the community to seek out those who stray and bring them back into the fold. Mature disciples are to live their lives with the spiritual welfare of others in view. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. Every Christian is a Christian within community.
In a world in which individualism seems to be the order of the day, and when each is concerned only about him/herself, the parable of the lost sheep comes as a breath of fresh air. It challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and our selfish ways of living and live instead, lives that are other centered. It informs us that we are, each of us, our brother’s and sister’s keepers; each of us must accept responsibility for them. We are not individuals but one community that must be a community of concern for the other and a community showing this concern by reaching out in love.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017 - Can you be described as a person who perseveres? Do you easily give up or give in? Will you have the courage not to give up at all today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26
The healing of the paralytic, which is the text of today, introduces a series of four controversy stories. The religious authorities, the Pharisees and scribes, are introduced for the first time in the Gospel of Luke. The general resistance Jesus met in Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry now becomes much more focused, and a specific charge is considered: blasphemy. The story weaves together, even more closely than earlier scenes, the twin themes of the power of Jesus: the power of his words and his power to heal. For the first time, faith and forgiveness of sins are introduced.
Luke has very likely taken this story from Mark 2:1-12. Yet, he makes significant changes in his own narration which bring out the points that he wants to make. These changes are obvious in his introduction and in his conclusion. Unlike in Mark, where the crowd presses around Jesus, in Luke, it is the Pharisees and teachers of the law who are around Jesus. At this stage, it is not clear whether they are there to investigate Jesus or to listen to his teaching. The faith of the men carrying the paralytic is seen in their determination to not let the crowd be an obstacle to his encountering Jesus. Since Luke has spoken of Jesus’ power to heal, in the introductory verse, it would seem that Jesus would heal the man instantly. However, instead of healing, Jesus pronounces a forgiveness of the man’s sins. This pronouncement leads to an objection on the part of the scribes and Pharisees. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. Jesus rises to the challenge by demonstrating, through the healing of the paralytic, that he did indeed have the authority to forgive sins. In Luke, both the paralytic and the crowds glorify or praise God.
Many significant points are made by this story. The first is that Jesus, who forgives, is also who heals. Faith is shown here not so much as a verbal proclamation or an intellectual assent to a truth, but in action. The action is both confident and determined. It believes and perseveres. Jesus is shown here, not only as the one who frees us from an ailment, but the one who effects a total healing with his word of healing. It is wholeness that is at the root of what Jesus came to do.
There are times in our lives when we give up too easily. We lack perseverance when we do not get what we pray or ask for. Sometimes this lack of perseverance leads to frustration and despair. We lose faith, we stop believing, we become negative and depressed. We are called through this pronouncement story to continue to believe, even in our darkest hour. We are called upon to persevere, even at those times when the road is only uphill. We are called upon to never give up, to never give in.
Saturday, 9 December 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:1-5,9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15; Mk 1:1-8
Our God is coming. He is coming to save and redeem. The time of exile – the long separation of humankind from God, from one another and from nature because of sin – is about to end. This is the good news proclaimed in today’s liturgy.
The second Book of Isaiah begins at Chapter 40 and is known as the Book of Consolation. It was written at a time when Israel was still in exile in Babylon. Isaiah is speaking to a captive people. Israel’s Babylonian captors were conquered themselves by Cyrus and Persia. Cyrus celebrated his victory by releasing the peoples who had been conquered by the Babylonians. So when Isaiah spoke of comfort and the glory of the Lord being revealed, the captives celebrating their release could readily imagine a return to the better days of their history when God had felt closer. God had indeed come not to scatter but to gather, as a shepherd gathers his sheep. Isaiah saw Cyrus as God’s instrument to release his people from captivity and allow them their freedom.
The Psalmist, like Isaiah, celebrates God’s initiative in redeeming his people and proclaiming peace upon them. He is confident that God’s initiative will result in the whole of creation bringing forth plenty.
This, however, was seen by the first Christian community as only one of many acts in a long line of saving acts that would culminate and find its fulfillment in the decisive act of sending his only Son. The Gospel of Mark begins by announcing this fact in the first verse itself. Mark’s Gospel is a Gospel not only about Jesus Christ, the Son of God but also Jesus’ Gospel or good news. This good news is that in him God will save all peoples everywhere. This salvation will be not merely from the physical bondage of being oppressed by foreigners in a foreign land but will touch every aspect of life. It will be a kind of salvation never experienced before.
In order to prepare for this salvation, John the Baptist comes into the wilderness and begins his proclamation like Isaiah had done centuries before. In the Bible the desert or wilderness means a place of encounter with God. It was in the desert that the people of Israel met God and learnt the ways of God. There they became God’s own people and the Lord became their God. Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, spent forty days and nights in the desert or wilderness. It was a time of discovering and deepening his personal relationship with God. By calling the people into the wilderness desert), John was calling them to let go of their false hopes and securities and learn to hope and trust in God alone.
Isaiah and John did their task. They did what they were required to do. They have completed the mission entrusted to them. They prepared the way of the Lord, they made his paths straight.
The disciples of Jesus continued the mission of preparing the way of the Lord, as is evident in the second reading of today in which Peter exhorts his readers to continue to prepare for the coming of the Lord. They must not be discouraged at the delay in the coming of the Lord. This delay is simply to give his people time to repent. As they look forward to the coming of the Lord it must not be a looking forward with fear or anxiety, because creation will be transformed in a ‘new heaven and new earth’, in which all the things that are held dear will be filled with the righteousness, or incomparable goodness, of God’s ways. The Lord is patient and understanding and wants all to be saved.
These images of hope, promise, and renewal remind us that human obedience, walking in the way of the Law, is a proper response to God’s grace. We do not build the highway and then wait for God to come. God has already drawn near to us before we repent. Our repentance is not a condition but a consequence of God’s drawing near to us. The readings make it clear that we are preparing for no less than the coming of God’s son yet again into our world and our lives. During this Advent season, we need to repent that we humans have not responded to God’s offer, as we should. Therefore peace, justice and security remain illusive. Dishonesty, corruption and greed still beset us. This is why we care called to make the kingdom that he inaugurated a reality even today. That is what we prepare for and work for, today, and every day, here, and wherever we are.
Yet God continues to come into such a world much like he came two thousand years ago. He continues to challenge us to remain as positive as we can be. He continues to call us to selflessness, generosity, honesty and love even amidst the negative of this life. He was not recognized by most of the people when he first came, will we recognize him when he comes now?
Friday, 8 December 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017 - Will you speak an enhancing word today? Will you perform a healing action today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35-10: 1, 6-8
The text of today begins with what is known as a Summary statement. It states succinctly the ministry of Jesus which is both word and action. It forms an inclusion with a similar summary in 4:23 and thus brackets what comes between, namely the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7) and the Miracle Cycle (Chapters 8-9). Through this Summary, Jesus is portrayed as Messiah in words and deeds. This Summary statement and Jesus’ observation of the crowd, who appear to him as harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd, serves also as an Introduction to the Mission Discourse in Matthew (10:1-42) which is the second Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. By placing this Introduction at the beginning of the Mission Discourse, Matthew succeeds in conveying that the Mission of the Disciples is at one with, is continuous with, the Mission of Jesus. Like Jesus, they, too, are called to say and do. They, too, are called to word and action. They, too, are called, like Jesus, to make the Kingdom that they proclaim a tangible reality.
The disciples’ mission is not voluntary activity initiated by them; rather, they are chosen, authorized, and sent by God through Christ. It is his authority with which they are sent. They are to speak and act in Jesus’ name. The content of their missionary proclamation is that the kingdom of heaven has indeed come. This is a kingdom that is not theoretical but extremely practical and down-to-earth. This is why the verbal proclamation has to be accompanied by action. The actions they perform are actions of healing, of making whole. Since the kingdom of heaven is given by God freely and gratuitously, their proclamation and actions must also be done freely and without charge. God’s kingdom cannot be purchased and need not be purchased, since it is God’s free gift.
The mission that Jesus inaugurated continues even today. It is, even now, a mission that must consist of both word and action. The word that is spoken must be a word that enhances and builds up. The action that is performed must be an action that heals and makes whole.
Thursday, 7 December 2017
Audio Reflections of Friday, December 8, 2017 the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
To hear the Audio Reflections of Friday, December 8, 2017 the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary click HERE
Friday, December 8, 2017 - The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Will you say YES to all that God wants to do through you today even when you fully cannot understand why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Gn 3:9-15,20; Eph 1:3-6,11-12; Lk 1:26-38
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, was established as a universal feast in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. He did not define the doctrine as a dogma, thus leaving Roman Catholics free to believe in it or not without being accused of heresy; this freedom was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The existence of the feast was a strong indication of the Church's belief in the Immaculate Conception, even before its 19th century definition as a dogma.
The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. The Catholic Church believes that the dogma is supported by Scripture (e.g., Mary's being greeted by the Angel Gabriel as "full of grace") as well as either directly or indirectly by the writings of Church Fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Ambrose of Milan. Catholic theology maintains that since Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, it was fitting that she be completely free of sin for expressing her fiat. In 1904 Pope Saint Pius X also addressed the issue in his Marian encyclical Ad Diem Illum on the Immaculate Conception.
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today relates a scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given. It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.
Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history. 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 self.
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.
Friday, December 8, 2017 - Have you tried seeing with your heart instead of only your eyes? What difference does it make?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa29: 17-24; Mt 9:27-31
Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew are known as the “Miracle Cycle” of Matthew, because in them we find ten miracles in series of three miracles each. The fact that the Miracle Cycle follows immediately after the Sermon on the Mount and that both are framed by a summary statement in 4,23 and 9,35 is an indication that Matthew’s intention is to show, through such placement, that Jesus is the Messiah, in words (through the Sermon on the Mount) and in deeds (through the Miracle Cycle).
Many regard this story as a doublet of the healing of blind Bartimaeus found in Mk 10:46-52. Matthew’s story, however, has the healing of two blind men and does not name them. A similar story of the healing of two blind men is found in Mt 20:29-34, and since, in both cases, the one blind man of Mark has become two blind men in Matthew, he pieces the story together with details and elements from his own sources.
The story begins with the blind men following Jesus. While on the one level, this will mean walking behind Jesus, on the deeper level, it means that they are doing what disciples are called to do. Their address for Jesus: “Son of David” (this is the first time in the Gospel that Jesus is called “Son of David”) and “Lord” indicates that they are believers. They have faith. Though physically blind, they are able to see who Jesus is and see the extent of his power to heal them. This faith is the reason why they receive their sight.
The command of Jesus to the blind men not to tell anyone what he had done is disobeyed by them. While some see the command as retention of Marks’ messianic secret (the Markan Jesus tells some of those whom he heals not to make it known, since he does not want people to mistake the kind of Messiah that he has come to be), others see it as an illustration by Matthew that not everyone who says “Lord” obeys the will of the Father manifested in Jesus. These have faith, they themselves say, but yet they do not do.
Blindness is not only an external ailment or limitation. The fox says to the Little Prince in Antoine Saint De Exupery’s book “The Little Prince”: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” There is, thus, also blindness of the heart. As a matter of fact, in many cases, blindness of the heart is worse than blindness of the eyes. Heart blindness closes itself to another point of view. It is a blindness that refuses to look anew at things, events, and people. It prefers the pessimistic and dark side of life. Heart blindness can only be healed when one turns in faith to God, manifest in his Son, Jesus.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Thursday, December 7, 2017 - Is the home of your life built on rock or sand? How will you show that it has been built on rock today? Is the home of your life able to withstand the storms that threaten it from without? If No, what will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa26: 1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27
The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew, known as “The Sermon on the Mount”. This is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of the five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). The Sermon on the Mount begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi, teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet, addressing the crowds (7:28). The Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are also found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come, not to abolish but to fulfil the Law and Prophets. He issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom. This they will do if they internalize the law rather than if they simply follow it as a set of rules and regulations.
The text of today is from the conclusion of the Sermon. It begins with Jesus stating emphatically that mere words on the part of people, even if one addresses him with lofty titles and fervent pleas, will not gain one entry into the kingdom. Entry into the kingdom is determined by “doing” the Father’s will. Right action is more important than right words.
What it means to do the Father’s will is brought out clearly in the parable of the two builders. The point here, besides action, is one of foresight. The builder who builds his house on sand is doing, at first glance, as well as the one who builds his house on rock. It is only when the rain falls, the storm comes, and the wind blows, that the difference is seen. The house built on rock continues to stand, whereas the one built on sand falls. The wise person represents those who put Jesus' words into practice; they too are building to withstand anything. Those who pretend to have faith, which is a mere intellectual commitment, or who enjoy Jesus in small doses as and when it suits them, are foolish builders. When the storms of life come, their structures fool no one; above all, they do not fool God.
The sermon speaks of grace, but the grace of God is known only in that community committed to doing God’s will, as revealed in Jesus. There can be no calculating “cheap grace.” One must take the Sermon on the Mount seriously as the revealed will of God to be lived. The subject matter of the sermon is not the person of Christ, but the kind of life Christ’s disciples are called to live. One cannot avoid Christology and appeal only to the teaching or great principles of Jesus, for these are inseparable from the claims of his person. But, for Matthew, the converse is also true: “Correct” Christological understanding can never be a substitute for the ethical living to which Jesus calls his disciples. Christology and ethics, like Christology and discipleship, are inseparable for Matthew.
While some regard the Sermon as an ideal to be read and not lived, others see it as being capable of being lived out by only a select few. These kinds of interpretations miss the point. Since the Sermon is addressed to both the disciples and the crowd, there is no doubt that it is meant for all. It is a challenge to be lived out by anyone who professes to be a disciple of Jesus.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - Will someone go hungry today because you have more than you require? Will you dare to share at least a little with one person today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa25: 6-10; Mt 15:29-37
In a similar context, Mark narrates the story of the healing of a deaf man with an impediment in his speech, (Mk 7:31-37) Matthew omits this miracle and instead, introduces the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand. While the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle narrated by all the four Gospels, this miracle is narrated by Mark and Matthew.
It seems clear that Mark wanted to show two separate feedings, the first and more abundant for the Jews (Mk 6:35-44) and the second and less abundant, for the Gentiles (Mk. 8:1-10), this cannot be Matthew’s intention, because in his Gospel, there seems to be no scope for a Gentile mission. This is why Matthew has altered Mark substantially. All of Mark’s references, to show this as a Gentile feeding, have been omitted or altered by Matthew. Thus, Matthew omits Mark’s Gentile location in the Decapolis, as well as the Markan note that some had come from a great distance.
Matthew’s picture is thoroughly Jewish. The “God of Israel” who is praised in Matthew’s conclusion, is not a Gentile acclamation but is in the language of Israel’s own liturgy (Pss 40:14; 71:18; 105:48; Lk 1:68). In addition to preserving it simply because it was in Mark, Matthew seems to welcome another picture, useful in this section that portrays Jesus acting compassionately for Israel while in conflict with the Jewish leadership. In Matthew’s retelling, the two feedings have been assimilated to each other, so that he emphasizes the similarities between the two feedings rather than the differences between them. The Messiah of Israel, typically, almost stereotypically, heals and feeds.
A number of interpretations have been given to explain this miracle. The main ones are:
(1) A miraculous event of feeding hungry people actually happened in the life of Jesus. Jesus was such a charismatic figure that people went away from his presence healed and filled.
(2) A symbolic meal was conducted by Jesus for his followers, foreshadowing the messianic banquet. This was later elaborated into a miracle story in which the numbers were exaggerated.
(3) Jesus gave the people a lesson in altruism or unselfishness by sharing with others the little food that he and his disciples had with them. This action of Jesus motivated others to do the same and there was enough for all.
(4) The story is not fact, but symbol. It summarizes the life of Jesus. His was a life of selflessness and service, a life of giving to everyone who was in need.
However the story may be interpreted, what comes across strongly is the concern and compassion that Jesus has for the crowd. It is a practical concern, one that shows itself in action.
The abundance of the remains, even after such a large number of people have been fed, stresses the generosity of God, revealed in Jesus. Our God is a generous God who gives not only bread to the hungry, but even his very self. He showed this through the Incarnation and the ministry of Jesus. However, this was shown in the most perfect of ways on the Cross. The miracle is thus a call to accept the generosity of God and to show that we have accepted it by the generosity we show to others.
Monday, 4 December 2017
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - What is preventing you from seeing and hearing God’s word today? What will you do about it?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24
The Gospel text of today is found also in the Gospel of Matthew, but here, in Luke, it follows the return of the seventy (seventy-two) from mission and continues the note of celebration that this successful return began.
There are three clusters of sayings. Today’s text contains the second and third of the three. The second cluster is addressed by Jesus to God. In it, he acclaims the Father for hiding revelation from the wise and intelligent and revealing it to infants. This theme is not new, and is also found in other Jewish wisdom literature. However, the next verse, which speaks about the relationship between the Father and the Son, is unique and distinctly Christological. The knowledge that God gives is “handed over” by the Father directly to the Son. This is the source of Jesus’ authority and is also why the Son is competent to reveal the Father as father.
The third cluster of sayings is made by Jesus to the disciples. A blessing is first pronounced on the disciples for what they have seen, followed by an explanation. Even prophets and kings were not privileged to see the Son and hear him, but the disciples are so privileged.
The revelation that Jesus made was never meant to be a secret or restricted to only a few. However, since it was a revelation and was done in freedom and generosity, it had to be accepted in like manner. Any kind of a block, whether pride, a closed attitude, or a preconceived notion, would prevent one from seeing and hearing. Thus, it is not God or Jesus who restricts, but a person’s attitude which prevents the person from seeing and hearing. Openness, receptivity, and humility are required in order to receive the revelation that Jesus continues to make, even today. The ones who receive this revelation are indeed blessed.
Sunday, 3 December 2017
December 3, 2017 - St. Francis Xavier SJ - Will I in imitation of Francis Xavier keep on keeping on or will I give in and give up at the slightest sign of trouble?
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:9-10,14-20; Rm 10:8-17; Mt 28:16-20
Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta (Francis Xavier) was born on April 7, 1506 in Javier (Xavier), Kingdom of Navarre (present day Spain). In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, he went to Paris, where he entered the Collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre (Peter Faber), and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them.
It was at this same college that Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. Ignatius soon won the confidence of both Favre first and later Xavier. They offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, on August 15, 1534.
After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions on November 15, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On June 24, 1537, he was ordained priest along with Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome on March 16, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. He remained there for nine months, and was noted for his apostolic zeal.
On April 7, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa on May 6, 1542. The first five months were spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christianity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time; yet he persevered and never gave up. In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He worked there for the last months of that year, and although he was successful, he was not as successful as he would have liked to be. About January 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other islands in that area. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines.
By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christianity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society of Jesus demanded his presence at Goa, and so he went there taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the people, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in India had been received into the Society.
In 1548 Xavier sent these Jesuits to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies.
He started with Cosme de Torres, a Spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccaand Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them. They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, on August 15, 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the Bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.
After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Cosme de Torres and Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. He then turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and was anxious to spread the Gospel there. In the autumn of 1552, he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a hut had been built to shelter him. In these poor surroundings he breathed his last.
One can only wonder at the apostolic zeal of Francis Xavier who in the short span of ten years traversed so many seas and visited so many countries to preach the Gospel. He is regarded as the Patron of Missions primarily for these reasons. He was beatified in 1619 and canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622.
The Gospel text from Matthew is from the last chapter and verses of the Gospel. They contain an appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee. The disciples are obedient to Jesus’ instructions because at the start of the text they are already at the mountain. The mountain is not named, but is a theological topos in Matthew. The mountain brings to mind the mountain of the temptation of Jesus (4:8) of the Sermon of the Mount (5:1) and of his transfiguration (17:1). In the first of these incidents, Jesus was offered all power and authority by the Devil, but refused to accept it. Now, God has given all power to Jesus. In the second, Jesus taught authoritatively (7:29) from the mountain, here he commands his disciples to teach as he taught. In the third, Jesus gave the three disciples only a glimpse of his future glory, now he reveals himself as totally glorified.
Matthew does not focus on the external appearance of Jesus because he wants the focus to be on Jesus’ words. The words of Jesus may be seen to be divided into three parts. They contain a Christological, an Ecclesiological and an Eschatological statement.
The Christological statement is that Jesus’ power and authority are now unbounded. The same Jesus, who was for a while mistreated by all, crucified on the cross, abandoned by God even at the point of his death, died and was buried, is now the Jesus in whose hands everything rests.
This statement leads to the Mission command to the disciples and explicates what ’Church’ means. The authority of the ‘Church’ has its foundation in the authority of Jesus. The ‘Church’ goes out to all nations with the authority of Jesus. No one or place is excluded. This Church is called to ‘make disciples’ primarily not by baptising people but by teaching them to observe the commands of Jesus. These commands may be summed up in the command to love (22:36-39). When one loves one’s neighbour as one loves oneself, then Church becomes present and visible.
The final verse of the Gospel is a promise of the abiding presence of the Lord with his disciples. Jesus, who fulfilled the “Emmanuel” prophecy in his life time, is the risen Lord who assures the disciples of his constant and ever abiding presence.
The manner in which Xavier lived his life and did Mission was one which shows that he had understood the Mission command of Jesus as it was meant to be understood. Through this person he touched the lives of all he came in contact with and revealed God as a God of love. Through his writings, he reached out far beyond the boundaries of his own country, indeed to the whole world.
Monday, December 4, 2017 - Do you give up when at first your prayers are not answered? Will you persevere in your asking today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11
Weekdays in the season of Advent begin with the miracle of the healing of a Gentile officer’s servant. In Matthew’s narrative of this miracle, the focus of attention is on the sayings of both Jesus and the centurion. The centurion does not explicitly tell Jesus his request, but simply relates the situation of his servant. The fact that he addresses Jesus as “Lord” indicates that he is a believer (in Matthew, only those who believe in Jesus address him as “Lord”). Though the response of Jesus might be read as a statement (“I will come and cure him”) it seems better to read it as a question, “I should come and cure him?” Read as a question, it expresses hesitancy and fits in with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus as the one sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The centurion, however, responds with faith.
He regards Jesus as one who is under no power or authority. If he, though under the authority of his superior officers, can command and expect to be obeyed, then it is a sure fact that Jesus, who is above all and under no one, will surely be able to heal his servant. This is why there is no need for Jesus to even enter his house.
Jesus’ response to the centurion’s faith is to comment on the lack of faith of those to whom he had been sent, Israel. This lack of faith on the part of Israel, and faith on the part of the Gentiles, will lead to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the eschatological banquet.
Faith has often been regarded, by some, as a verbal profession of belief. While this is necessary, what is more important is that faith be shown in action. The centurion did this. The confidence with which he approached Jesus is already an indication that, though he had not recited a creed, he had faith. His response to Jesus’ hesitancy is to respond with a positive word of confidence in Jesus’ ability to make whole. He knew in his heart that Jesus had the power, since Jesus’ authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was, in fact, God’s word.
Saturday, 2 December 2017
To hear the Audio Reflections of Sunday, December 3, 2017 the first Sunday in Advent click HERE
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 63:16-17,19; 64: 2-7;1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37
A man was being chased by a lion and began to run as fast as his legs would carry him, but he realized that the lion was gaining ground. He decided to change course and veered to the right, but as he turned, there was a tiger coming towards him. He was at his wits’ end and did not know what to do and so in his desperation he turned left to escape the tiger and soon found himself nearing the edge of a precipice. He was now perspiring not only from the strain of his effort but also because of fear that had gripped him. Then he woke up.
Are you awake or if you have been asleep have you woken up yet? “Stay awake!” is the rallying call of the Gospel text of today and sets the theme for the whole season of Advent. To stay awake – what does it mean for us today? What does it mean to stay awake when churches and other places of worship are being burned to the ground? What does it mean to wake up when women are being raped and dehumanized? What does it mean to stay awake when human beings are being tortured and killed mercilessly? What does it mean when our words and motives are being misunderstood?
It means very clearly that disciples of Jesus need not concern themselves with apocalyptic speculation or predictions of the future. They must remember that doing God’s will has no relationship to the timing of divine judgments. Neither should the disciples concern themselves with the fate of those who persecute them or who reject the message of unconditional love. The only question the master will ask is whether the servants have been faithful to their call as disciples, whether despite all odds they have been instruments of that love which he showed when he hung from the cross.
Being a disciple of Jesus does not just happen suddenly. It is a commitment that must be made constantly and a decision that must be renewed at every moment of every day. The root supposition of Jesus’ message is: we can aim higher. Holiness is possible. We are not obliged to merely accept the forces of cruelty, selfishness and oppression, within ourselves or in the world around us. We have to keep fighting against them and show them up for what they really are and once we have done all that is required of us; we must turn to God and open ourselves to his transforming grace and love.
This is also the message of the other two readings this Sunday. The prophet Isaiah is under no illusions about the selfishness and malice human nature is capable of. “Our sins blew u away like the wind”, he says. And yet, he goes on, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down”. If only the skies would open up and someone, something would come from outside of our troubled world and focus our attention on something other than ourselves and our narrow parochial interests! Something or someone from beyond ourselves to get our attention, move our gaze from our navels, and challenge us to work together rather than against one another.
In the Psalm, too, we hear the anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His heavenly throne – to save and shepherd His people. The psalmist, like Isaiah, is confident that Israel will indeed experience the protection of God who will come as he has always done in the past.
In this season of Advent, we declare that Isaiah’s cry has been answered. In response to the Psalmist’s plea, God has indeed looked down on his people and saved them in a way that they never imagined possible. This salvation is achieved not through violence or retaliating by throwing rock for thrown rock. The cry is not answered by retaining anger and resentment against those who seem to us to willfully and wantonly destroy places of worship and the homes of the innocent. It is not answered by taking up arms and indulging in the same vile acts that others have engaged in. It is answered as God comes in the flesh to be among us, full of grace and truth. It is answered as the Son of God dies and is raised for the whole of creation.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians by reminding them about God’s answer to the cry of the whole of creation. God’s grace has been given to them in Jesus Christ, and in every way they have been enriched by him. God is faithful.
With real anticipation we are called to live an ongoing life of faith, always open to what God promised to do, always trustful because God is faithful. Anticipation means staying awake, being alert and watchful. Thus Advent is a symbol of the Christian lifestyle. Not just a mood we experience at a certain time of year. We know that while we despair at many happenings today, our world is not forsaken by God. Our Spirits are turned from despair to trust.
The symbolism of Advent is the symbolism of preparing ourselves for the imminent arrival of God: not only his entry into human history, commemorated at Christmas, but also the impact he would have on our lives now, if we made ready to welcome him or indeed, in the case of many of us, reawakened our desire for God which we have managed to buy under a pile of other preoccupations.
As Jesus says in the Gospel text of today, when God comes he must not find us asleep!
Friday, 1 December 2017
Saturday, December 2, 2017 - How would you define prayer? Can it be said of you that your life is prayer?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 7:15-27; Lk 21:34-36
These verses are the conclusion of the Eschatological Discourse, and in them, Luke composes an exhortation that stresses constant watchfulness and prayer as opposed to drunkenness and dissipation. The reason for alertness is because the day can come at any time.
The final verse introduces a positive exhortation. The opposite of sleep and dissipation is vigilance and prayer. The final verse of the discourse calls for constant alertness and prayer, so that one will be able to stand before the Son of Man with dignity and honour. Life itself must be prayer.
Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we wrongly associate with seriousness and a lack of joy. On the contrary, a good person and holy person is primarily a joyful person. Such a person enjoys every moment of every day and lives it fully. Such a person leaves nothing undone and therefore will be ready at all times.
Thursday, 30 November 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 7:2-14; Lk 21:29-33
The parable of the fig tree found in these verses is the last parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel of Luke.
This parable is found also in Mark 13:28-29 and Matthew 24:32-33, but whereas Mark and Matthew speak only of the fig tree, Luke speaks of “the fig tree and all the trees” (21:29). When people can see for themselves that these trees have come out in leaf they know for themselves that summer is near, so when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud (21:27) they will know that the kingdom is near.
Since Luke probably thought that the end would come soon, he has added the last two sayings about what will not pass away until “these things” have taken place. They are “this generation” and the “words” of Jesus. These pronouncements must serve as a reminder of the assurance of redemption for the believer.
Our job as Christians is not to bother about when the end will be but to live fully in the present moment. If we do so then no matter when the end comes we will always be ready.
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
To hear the Audio Reflections for Thursday, November 30, 2017 the feast of St. Andrew click HERE
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22
Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter (Mt 4:18; Mk 1:16; Jn 1:40; 6:8) and along with his brother was a fisherman. According to the Gospel of John, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and was one of the first to follow Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark state that Andrew and his brother were the disciples to be called by Jesus to become “fishers of men”; a phrase which was used to probably link it with their trade.
Though not in the group of the three disciples (Peter, James and John) who seemed to have a special place in the ministry of Jesus, it was Andrew who brought the boy who had five barley loaves to Jesus in the Gospel of John (Jn 6:8) and who along with Philip told Jesus about the gentiles (Greeks) who wished to meet Jesus (Jn 12:22).
Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras. His crucifixion is believed to have been on Cross that was shaped like the alphabet X. This Cross is commonly known as “Saint Andrew’s Cross” today.
The Gospel text for the Feast is the call of the first four disciples as narrated by Matthew. It is Jesus who takes the initiative in this story and come to the brothers, Simon and Andrew. Jesus’ invitation is also a promise. The invitation which is “to follow” him, will result in the brothers becoming ‘fishers of men and women’. It is an invitation to participate in the saving work of Jesus.
The response of the brothers is immediate. They leave everything to follow Jesus. While it was surely a risk to act in such a manner, it is also true that the call of Jesus was so compelling, that they simply could not refuse.
What does it mean to follow Jesus and accept his invitation to follow? It means that one is willing to accept the challenge to see God in all things and all things in God. It therefore means continuing to follow when everything is going the way we want it to and also when our plans go awry and we cannot understand why things happen the way they do. It means trusting at every moment that we have to continue to what is required of us and leave everything else (including the worrying) to God. It means trusting that God will never let us down and that all that happens to us is for God’s glory and our good.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - If someone witnessed your actions all through today, would they conclude that you are a disciple of Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 5:1-6,13-14, 16-17,23-28; Lk 21:12-19
These verses are part of Luke’s Eschatological Discourse. The Greek word “Eschaton” is translated as “the last things”, “the things of the next life”. The main point of these verses is to prepare the disciples for the coming trial by exhorting them to regard trials as an occasion for bearing witness. The text begins by telling the disciples what they (the persecutors) will do namely arrest you, persecute you etc. It then goes on to advise the disciples what they must do in the face of this persecution, namely that they must bear witness but not be obsessed with the anxiety of preparing their defence. The reason for this is because of what Jesus will do, namely, give the disciples wisdom to counter any argument of the opponents. The text ends with an assurance of God’s support and protection on those who endure.
The persecution of the disciples, however, does not exceed what Jesus himself will experience. He, too, will be arrested and brought before Pilate and Herod. It is Jesus himself therefore who will give the disciples the content of what they are to say.
The gospel offers not a way of predicting the end of the world but the spiritual resources to cope with the challenges of life. In times of distress the disciples of Jesus are called not to throw their hands up in despair, but to be unafraid. It is a fact that following Jesus who is The Truth will have repercussions and consequences, some of which may be disastrous. However, it is in these circumstances that perseverance and endurance is called for. This is the test of our faith and courage in the promises of the Lord.
Thus we can opt for one of two ways of proceeding. One is to focus so much on prophesies of the future, that they frighten us into idle speculation and inaction. The other is to dare to commit ourselves and actions to make a difference here and now.