Saturday, 21 October 2017

Audio reflections of Sunday, October 22, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Sunday, October 22, 2017 click HERE

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - God and Caesar

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thes 1:1-5b; Mt 22:15-21

There are times when we wish that certain incidents narrated by the evangelists, in which Jesus speaks, would have been omitted. The Gospel text of today is one such incident. This is because, if taken out of context, the saying of Jesus to the Pharisees and Herodians “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”, can be used to justify the clear division that some are wont to make between the sacred and the secular and to divide these into two autonomous realms. Others may interpret the saying as a call to unswerving loyalty and obedience to “secular” authority.

The first reading, however, makes clear that loyalty and obedience are always to the Lord though it may seem, at first glance, that it is a human being who is responsible for the salvation of people. Thus, though it was through the Persian king Cyrus that the Jews in Babylon were given their freedom, he was but an instrument in the hands of the Lord. It was God who guided him to disarm other kings and to open the gates of freedom by “grasping his hand”. The whole world must be made to see that it was the Lord and the Lord alone who brought liberation.

This is why, in his response to the Pharisees, Jesus goes beyond the question asked by the Pharisees and adds that what is God’s must be given to God. This does not mean a separation of religion and politics, but rather that the kingdom of God embraces every aspect of human life. Ultimate loyalty is always to God and the kingdom rather than to narrow and parochial political interests.

The question of the Pharisees is not a general question. That they intended to trap him through his answer is clear when one realizes that the tax referred to was the “census”. This was the Roman head-tax which had been instituted when Judea became a Roman Province. Payment of the tax was a burning issue and the tax could be paid only in Roman coinage. A “Yes” answer on the part of Jesus would alienate the nationalists who were against paying the tax. A “No” answer would probably lead to the arrest of Jesus by the Romans. Ironically the Pharisees, who considered the image and inscription on the coin idolatrous, have a coin and that too in the sacred precincts of the Temple. In principle, that Pharisees resented and rejected the payment of the tax but would not go so far as to physically oppose it. Though Jesus’ answer is an indirect “Yes” .he makes clear by the addition “and to God the things that are God’s” that God always has first place. While material things may be given to the Caesars of this world, the human person belongs only to God. If one rendered to the state its restricted due, all the more was one to render to God his unrestricted due, namely, the totality of one’s being and substance, one’s whole existence, was to be rendered to God. Loyalty to Caesar must always be set in the larger context and thus be relativized by the full submission of the self to God. The bottom line for the disciple of Jesus is to “render to God the things that are God’s” Since the human person bears the image of God he/she cannot be given to Caesar, but only to God.

The Psalmist reiterates this theme in his invitation to all peoples to give glory and honour only to God, since he alone is God. He is the one who made the heavens and is king of all peoples. The Lord alone must be worshipped and no one else. The worship offered to the Lord is one offered in holiness. His governance is a governance of equity.

When we are aware that we are made in God’s image and that everyone we encounter is made in God’s image we may feel less inclined to separate ourselves from each other. Yet it is equally important that we retain our identity as children of God whether we are functioning as members of our household, our workplace, our neighbourhood, or our city or nation.

As committed Christians we are also obliged to look into the faces of our neighbours and see God, especially when we are tempted to see those neighbours as aliens. The Holy Spirit can work with us and through us when we do not separate ourselves from that image, as he did in the life of Paul and the Christians of Thessalonica. We then render to God our very selves in obedience and service, which will in time touch all we have and own.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, October 20, 2017

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Saturday, October 21, 2017 - Will you depend on God today? How will you show this dependence?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 4:13,16-18; Lk 12:8-12

The sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel reading of today does not refer to a particular sin or action. It is not an impulsive, momentary rejection of Jesus, such as Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard, but a persistent, obdurate rejection of God’s saving grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is, in other words dependence only on self and not on God.

Today the sin against the Holy Spirit is to no longer believe that the Holy Spirit can transform me. It is to give up before one can begin. It is to give in to despair and to lose hope. It is not to make a resolution for fear of breaking that resolution. It is not to trust, not to hope and not to believe.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Audio reflections of Friday, October 20, 2017

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Friday, October 20, 2017 - Are you still afraid of a God who is only Love? What will you do about your fear today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 4:1-8; Lk 12:1-7

The text of today begins immediately after Jesus has spoken the woes against the Pharisees and scribes. Though there is a large crowd, which has gathered, Jesus speaks first to his disciples cautioning them against the yeast of the Pharisees.

The yeast of the Pharisees is identified as hypocrisy only in the Gospel of Luke. To be a hypocrite (Greek hupokrisis) originally meant to wear a mask or to play a role. The point that is being made is that at the judgment, everyone’s true character will be revealed. There will be no masks, and everyone will be seen as he or she is. Even the sparrow which is so insignificant when compared to human beings is looked after by God therefore, there is no need to be afraid, because a God who is and will always remain, Father, will judge us.

Though Jesus constantly revealed God as unconditional love, many of us still relate to him from fear. This is the reason why we wear masks before him and consequently before others. We are afraid to be ourselves. If we begin to realise that our God is a God who primarily wants to save, we can improve our relationship with him and with others.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Audio reflections of Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Thursday, October 19, 2017 - Have you through your words or actions been a stumbling block in the way of others? What will you do about it today?

To rad the texts click on the texts: Rom 3:21-30; Lk 11:47-54

The text contains the second (11:47–51) and third (11:52) woe to the lawyers. The second woe deals with the attitude of the lawyers to the prophets whom their ancestors killed and the lawyers approve of that killing by building monuments to the same prophets. In this way they are accomplices to the murders.

The final woe condemns the lawyers because though they possessed knowledge, they did not use it as it was meant to be used, nor did they allow others to use it. They acted as stumbling blocks in others way. 

The woes that Jesus pronounces do not go down too well with the Pharisees, who began to ask many questions in order to catch Jesus on the wrong foot.

We too can become stumbling blocks in other’s way to God by the things that we say and the things that we do. When we point out the negatives in others and in the process forget all the positive qualities they possess we cause them to stumble. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, October 18, 2017 the feast of St. Luke

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - St. Luke - Evangelist - Luke wrote a Gospel to share his experiences of Jesus. What will you do to share your experiences of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Tim 4:10-17; Lk 10:1-9

St. Luke is regarded as the patron of physicians and surgeons. He wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Col 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between C.E. 70 and 85.

Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Tim 4:11).

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is the Mission Discourse to the seventy (seventy-two). These number seventy/seventy-two seems to have their origin the list of nations in Gen 10, where the Hebrew text lists seventy nations and the Septuagint lists seventy-two. It may also recall Moses’ appointment of seventy elders to help him (Exod 24:1; Num 11:16, 24). The more likely interpretation, however, is that the number is related to the biblical number of the nations (Gen 10), so that the commissioning of the seventy/seventy-two foreshadows the mission of the church to the nations (Lk 24:47). In these verses Jesus instructs his disciples how they are to do Mission and conduct themselves in Mission. The key to Mission is detachment. The disciples are to be detached from things, persons and place. They are also to be detached from the outcome of Mission. They must constantly keep in mind that the Mission is the Lord’s and not theirs.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Audio reflections of Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - Will your external actions show that your inner self is pure? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 1:16-25; Lk 11:37-41

The section beginning in Lk 11:37 and ending in 11:54 is set in the context of a meal. The text of today begins with the notice that a Pharisee invited Jesus for a meal. Jesus sits/reclines at table without washing his hands, and this amazes his host. The Pharisees observed strict rules regarding ritual cleanliness, and generally ate only with those who also maintained ritual purity. By not washing, Jesus scandalizes his host. This amazement allows Jesus to give all those present a lesson on internal and external cleanness.

Jesus’ response to his host who is surprised because Jesus did not first wash, is that God is not concerned with the observance of rituals of purity, but with the purity of the heart. A person’s actions should reflect his or her inner purity.

The best way to remove greed and wickedness from one’s heart is to be generous with what one has. The practice of constant giving, leads one to develop an attitude of detachment. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Audio reflections of Monday, October 16, 2017

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Monday, October 16, 2017 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without this sign?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 1:1-7; Lk 11:29-32

Jesus’ debate with the crowd following the exorcism of the demon that made a man mute continues. 

The response of Jesus is not to give in to the demand of some for a sign. While a similar saying is also found in Matthew (12:38-42) which indicates that both Matthew and Luke have taken it from the “Q” source {Mark also has the episode of the demand for a sign and Jesus’ response (Mk 8:11-12), but it is much shorter and does not have the details found in both Matthew and Luke}. 

However, Luke has so formulated the response of Jesus, that it forms an inclusion. It begins and ends with Jonah. Through this, Luke has associated Jonah’s preaching with Solomon’s wisdom. Since Luke makes this association, for him the sign of Jonah was not Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40), but the call to repentance that Jonah preached. As the people of Nineveh repented after the call by Jonah, so Jesus calls the crowd to repentance after his proclamation. He refuses to give the crowds any other sign, because any demand for a sign means that they have not understood what Jesus is about, and what his mission is. Jesus also knows that for those who believe, no sign is necessary, whereas for those who do not, no sign is sufficient.

The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus. If one persists in the old way of looking which is a way of finding God only in miraculous and spectacular events, one will miss him. Now he can be found in all things and all things can be found in him.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Audio reflections of Sunday, October 15, 2017

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 - Are you wearing the wedding garment?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 25:6-10; Phil 4:12-14.19-20;  Mt 22:1-14

The last four verses of today’s Gospel have caused much consternation when heard or read and this is possible one reason why the Church allows these verses to be omitted. 

It seems however, that they are part of the original parable even if seen as an expansion and Matthew’s own composition, but if read bring out the whole meaning of the parable. While at first glance it seems quite unreasonable to expect someone who has been invited from the streets to have a wedding garment, it must also be noted that all others who have also been invited from the streets except this one are wearing theirs. This is an indication that the others accepted the invitation and after doing so did something about it. On the other hand, the one who did not have the wedding garment was there in body but not in spirit. He was at the feast but was not partaking of it. He was present yet absent. He sought the benefits of the feast without the required response to the invitation. Thus he can make no response or claim ignorance when he is questioned by the king. He knows what the appropriate garb is in order to remain; and he knows well that he is not wearing it. The notion of election here works together with, rather than against, the reality of human responsibility.

This is why it is made quite clear that there is no coercion or force on the part of the king, but the issuance of an invitation. Those invited are free to respond in any way they want, but must be prepared to face the consequences of this response. Some of the original invitees make light of the invitation and pretend as if they have not heard it. They ignore the messengers and go off to do their own thing. These are engaged not in sin but in events of life which have taken hold of them to such an extent that they cannot even understand the privilege that they are receiving in being invited. Still others behave irrationally by attacking and killing the messengers who bring the invitation.

Since the invitation is spurned by the original invitees, the king is forced to send new invites to those who will accept them. These are the ones who are considered the scum of society, who are found on the streets or byroads. While these fill the banquet hall and accept the invitation willingly, it is also necessary for them to show in action this acceptance which they have made in freedom. This they do by wearing the required wedding garments which in this context can be interpreted as being present in both body and mind at the wedding feast. Matthew’s Gospel interprets this as doing deeds of righteousness. The consequence of not having a wedding garment or not showing in action that one has accepted the invitation is banishment from the feast. This is not the punishment given by the king but one which the invited guest has brought on him or herself.

An invitation to a feast is also issued in the first reading from Isaiah.  Those who will heed the call are invited to the mountain of the Lord, Zion. Here is the choicest of food and drink which is served in abundance. It is an invitation to feast and rejoice and an assurance that all tears will be wiped away and the people who come will be accepted. All reproach will be removed and God will reveal himself as a God who saves. This salvation will be shown in the most tangible of ways in that death itself will be destroyed.

Paul in the second reading of today tells of how because he has accepted the invitation in both words and deeds, he is completely sated. He does not hunger or thirst for anything but has been fulfilled in every single aspect of his life. The promise of Isaiah finds its meaning in the manner in which Paul lives his life. He lacks nothing. He has everything. In every single situation of life he is content.

The challenge of the readings to each of us who are also called is to also be lived out as those who are chosen. This is not a once for all response, but a constant one since the invitation is constant. In order to be regarded as chosen, the ones called must manifest through their lives in deeds of love and service that the invitation to participate in the feast has been accepted. 

Thus while the good news is of an open invitation to everyone who is willing to listen leaving no one out, the fact remains that the response has to be shown through the actions of ones life. Not all who are invited are receptive to the invitation of the Lord and thus not all will bring forth the deeds of righteousness expected of the invitees. Those invited are expected to wear the wedding garment.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Audio reflections of Saturday, October 14, 2017

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Saturday, October 14, 2017 - How would you define “God’s Word” today? Do you put this “Word” into practice in your life? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Joel 4:12-21; Lk 11:27-28

The words, “While he was saying this” connect what follows to what has gone on before. Jesus has just challenged his listeners to fill their lives with the kingdom of God, and now a woman in the crowd blesses the mother of Jesus, because of the beauty she sees in Jesus. While Jesus does not deny that his mother is indeed blessed, he uses this opportunity to extend the blessing to anyone who like his mother will hear the Word of God and put it into practice in their lives.

If the woman in the crowd was able to bless the womb that bore Jesus, it was because she could see and experience the goodness in Jesus. This goodness was manifested not only in what he said but in what he did and was therefore visible in his person. If we like Jesus hear the word of God and act on it, then others will pronounce the same blessing on us.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, October 13, 2017

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Friday, October 13, 2017 - Which is the demon that has possessed you and does not leave you free? Will you attempt to get rid of that demon today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2; Lk 11:15-26

The onlookers respond to the exorcism of a demon that made a man mute, in different ways. While there are some who are amazed, others attribute Jesus’ power to cast out demons to Beelzebul. This is an indication that no one doubted Jesus’ power to exorcise and heal. They attributed it to different sources. 

In his response to this charge, Jesus says that since exorcisms represented a direct assault on Satan’s power and kingdom, it is clear that he cannot be on Satan’s side. Also, if Jesus’ exorcisms’ were performed by the power of Satan, the same would have to be said of other exorcists belonging to their community. Instead Jesus’ works indicate that the kingdom of God has indeed arrived. Through his exorcisms, Satan’s power is broken. 

In the simile of the strong man and his castle, Jesus explicates that he is the stronger one who overpowers Satan who had guarded his kingdom well till this time. 

Finally Jesus invites his listeners to take a stand for him. The saying here is strong. If one does not positively opt for Jesus, one has opted against him. The time now is for decision and choice.

Once he has answered his critics (11:17-23), Jesus moves on to exhort his listeners to fill their lives with the kingdom of God, because it is possible that despite the exorcism, if a person persists in his old ways, he will be possessed once again and this will be ever worse than before.

While there is no doubt that Jesus did exorcise people who were possessed by demons, we must avoid getting caught up with exorcisms ourselves. Rather, today there are many subtle forms of “possession” which are more dangerous than “external possession”. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, ignorance and a better than thou attitude. We need to ask the Lord to exorcise these demons from our lives.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, October 12, 2017

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Thursday, October 12, 2017 - Do you give up easily when your prayers are not answered? Will you be shameless today? Will you persist today?

To read the texts click on  the texts: Mal 3:13-20; Lk 11:5-13

Luke 11:5-8 is exclusive to Luke and deals with the assurance that God will answer prayer. This point is implicitly made through the parable in these verses. It is a parable from common experience. If the Greek word anaideia is translated as “shameless” (which is it literal meaning), then the parable is stating that it would be unthinkable in the setting of a Galilean village that a neighbour would not get up to give his friend what he wants even if it meant disturbing the entire family at midnight to oblige his friend. The reason why he would do this is to avoid being shamed. However, it can also mean that the one who makes the petition is shameless for going to the friend’s house at midnight to beg for bread.

If the translation of the word anaidea is “persistence” or “boldness”, then the point is that it is the persistence of the one who asks for bread, which will get him what he wants. The friend who gives the bread will be tired out by the persistence of the one who is asking.

In 11:9-13, we have a three-fold admonition, “Ask, search and knock” (11:9-10), followed by two rhetorical questions (11:11-12) both of which elicit the answer “No, there is no one”.

The final verse of this section 11:13 contrasts evil human beings with the heavenly Father. If humans evil as they are will still give their children only what is good, then the heavenly Father will do more than that. He will give the greatest of gifts, the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

To be without shame is also to be without ego. The one who is shameless is also one who can persevere since he/she has nothing to lose. Perseverance is indeed the key to open the door to God’s heart.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - Will you depend on yourself today or will you show your dependence on God? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 4:1-11; Lk 11:1-4

Luke gives more importance to Jesus’ practice of praying than do any of the other Gospels. 

The only prayer that Jesus’ explicitly taught his disciples was the “Our Father”. This prayer appears only in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. While in Matthew, the prayer appears as part of the Sermon on the Mount; Luke explicitly has Jesus praying himself when he is asked by his disciples to teach them to pray. 

The following elements of the Matthean prayer are not found in Luke: “Our … who art in heaven…Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven… but deliver us from evil. This has the effect of making the prayer simple and direct in Luke. 

Both Matthew and Luke understood the prayer as a prayer of the community and have use the first person plural to stress this. While the prayer in Matthew contains seven petitions, the prayer in Luke contains only five. It is agreed by many that the Lukan version is probably closer to the original prayer that Jesus taught. 

By petitioning God for the most basic of our needs like “bread”, the prayer is basically a prayer of dependence. It is an acknowledgement of the fact that we cannot manage even this simple task on our own, and we need God’s goodness to provide it to us. Just as we need bread we also need God’s forgiveness, because if He were to keep a grudge against us for every time we sinned, we would be lost. 

In this context it must be noted that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell us that we must be “sorry” for our sins if we want forgiveness. Rather if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive. Our forgiveness of others opens our hearts to receive the forgiveness that God constantly gives. The prayer is therefore not merely a prayer therefore, but an attitude, a way of life.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - Will you like Martha, presume to tell Jesus what he ought to do, or will you like Mary listen to what he would like you to do?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 3:1-16; Lk 10:38-42

This text, which speaks of the encounter of Martha and Mary with Jesus, takes the form of a pronouncement story (a story in which a saying of Jesus stands out and is the focus of the story). 

While the Gospel of Luke explicitly mentions women disciples of Jesus, here Mary is even sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his teaching, something unthinkable at the time of Jesus. By sitting at his feet, Mary is acting like a male, and in doing so neglects her duty of helping to prepare the meal. This action of Mary also results in bringing shame upon her house. Though justified Martha’s protest is put negatively by her. It is clear that her focus is not the Lord, but herself. She is concerned not with her service of the Lord, but the trouble that it is causing her because she is left alone to serve. 

The response of Jesus to Martha is the main point of the story and the pronouncement. The repetition of her name is a mild rebuke. Her “cares” have prevented her from unhindered devotion and attention to the Lord. Mary has chosen the one thing necessary and that is the Lord. Martha presumes to tell Jesus what he should do; Mary lets Jesus tell her what to do.

There are times when we do things not because we are convinced that they have to be done but because we want the approval of others or we want others to know how hard we are working. These are selfish acts and do not bring grace. The act that does bring grace is when we do what has to be done simply because it has to be done and expect nothing in return.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, October 9, 2017

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Monday, October, 9, 2017 - Is there a person/group that you have a prejudice against or whom you have stereotyped? Will you overcome that prejudice today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jonah 1:1-2:1,11; Lk 10:25-37

Our text for today contains the Parable of The Good Samaritan. This is a parable that is found only in the Gospel of Luke, and the context in Luke is the question that is asked by a lawyer regarding eternal life. 

In Matthew and Luke, the lawyer is hostile (not so in Mark), because the question is asked to “test” Jesus. While in Matthew (22:34-40) and Mark (12:28-31) the question is about the greatest commandment, and Jesus answers the question quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, in Luke, Jesus asks the lawyer a counter question and gets him (the lawyer) to answer. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Love of God) was part of the “Shema” (the prayer to “Hear”), repeated twice each day, but it had not been linked to Leviticus 19:18 (Love of neighbour) as it is here. 

Since it is the lawyer who answers, Jesus responds with a commendation (“You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”) Though the lawyer was forced to answer and cede the upper hand, he does not give up, but asks a question over which there was some controversy – “Who is my neighbour?” In his response to this question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

This parable has often been interpreted as one in which Jesus is telling us that those in need are our neighbours, or that it has an anticlerical edge, in which Jesus is showing up the priestly class by mentioning priest and Levite as not reaching out to the one in need. If these were the meanings, then there would be no need to make the third person that passed by that way, a Samaritan. The third person could have been a lay Jew. The reason why the third person is a Samaritan is because Jesus wanted the lawyer who was a Jew, to go beyond the narrow definition of neighbour, to go beyond his prejudice, his bias, and his stereotyping. 

When Israel was split into kingdoms after the death of Solomon in around 922 BCE, the North (named Israel which had its capital at Samaria) and the South (Judah which had its capital as Jerusalem), it became the target for its neighbours, because its strength was divide. In 722 BCE, the Assyrians captured Israel and its capital Samaria and took as their wives and concubines Israeli women. The children by that union were known as Samaritans and till the time of Jesus were regarded as inferior and outcasts by their former Jewish brothers (and sisters). Jesus is thus asking the Jew (the lawyer) if he can get rid of his negative way of looking at the Samaritan, and regard him also as neighbour. It is interesting that at the end of the parable, Jesus overturns the lawyer’s question. Jesus asks, “Who was neighbour to the one who fell among robbers?” whereas the lawyers question was “Who is my neighbour?” The Samaritan is indeed, neighbour.

We often look at people with tainted glasses or a prejudiced vision. We tend to categorise them and place them in neat compartments based on their backgrounds. This attitude leads to stereotyping people and not being able to see them as they are. Albert Einstein said this about a prejudice, “It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice”.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017 - We are tenants, not owners

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt. 21:33-43

A parishioner once narrated to me his experience. Because he was unmarried and was working abroad and his brother was married and had five children, he had rented his two bedroom apartment to his brother on the condition that his brother would leave the apartment when he was asked to do so. As his brother agreed to this condition, he allowed him to stay in the apartment free of cost, because he did not want to burden his brother by charging him rent. A time came when he found the girl he wanted to marry and since he would need his apartment, gently reminded his brother of their agreement and gave him a year’s time to find alternate accommodation. He even offered to help his brother financially. However, his brother refused to move, claiming that since he had stayed in that apartment for more than five years it belonged to him. The case is now in court.

The history of the human race is a history that alternates between failure and ingratitude on the part of human beings and fidelity and reaching out to them on the part of God. The first reading of today from Isaiah reminds us once again of the manner in which God continues to reach out in love. ‘The vineyard’ has often been used in the scriptures as symbol for the nation of Israel but could also be a symbol for the world. This vineyard God planted and nurtured hoping that it would produce the fruits that it should, instead produced wild grapes. When God ought to have found righteousness, he encountered bloodshed, and when he ought to have found justice, he heard the cries of the poor to whom injustice had been done..This is the work of a selfish few and hence the consequences of their selfish actions would be their own destruction.

These few who are selfish and self-centered are also mentioned in the Gospel reading in what is referred to as the parable of the rented vineyard, the murderous tenants and also the wicked husbandmen or vinedressers.

The parable is directed to the chief priests and elders of the people. The introduction echoes Isaiah 5:2 and uses the same words as there. However, here the vineyard is let out to tenant farmers by the landlord who goes away on a journey. This renting out of the vineyard serves to bring out on the one hand the idea that it is given in trust and not ownership, it is given on rent and not for personal possession and on the other hand to indict those to whom it had been rented out at the end of the parable. The repeated sending of the servants by the owner to collect the produce of the vineyard brings out the patience and perseverance of the owner of the vineyard. Despite his servants being treated shamefully and even killed, the owner does not give up, trying to get the tenants to come to their senses and realize their position with regard to the vineyard and him. The fact that he is serious about reaching out to the tenants is made abundantly clear in the sending of his son. However, greed on the part of the tenants led to their killing even the son.

In Isaiah, the consequences of unfaithfulness are the total destruction of the vineyard. In Matthew the tenants are destroyed and the vineyard is taken away to be given to others who will understand their role and do what they are called to do.

It is possible to understand the parable as addressed to the Jewish leaders of the time of Matthew and be content with that interpretation, but it is also possible to widen the vineyard to include the whole world and the tenants to mean each of us. When seen in this manner the world becomes the responsibility of each one of us and we realize that all that we have is given to us in trust. We are not owners of all that we think we possess, but have it in order to use it for the benefit of others and ourselves. Thus, selfishness and self-centeredness and the desire to accumulate more and more are the totally opposite attitudes of what which is expected of us as tenants.

This also means that since the world is given to us in trust, each one of us is responsible for looking after it. Hence environmental pollution of any kind, waste, destruction of nature, the so-called ‘development at any cost’ are all sins that we as tenants can be guilty of. The growing disparity between the rich and the poor, the destruction of forests, rivers and seas, global warming and the like, show that we, as tenants, have not given to the owner of the vineyard the fruits that we were expected to give. Our desire to own the vineyard as our inheritance has led to this state.

The Lord continues to send messages and messengers to us in the hope that we will come to our senses and behave as we ought to. One such message is found in the second reading of today in which Paul reminds the Philippians and is that we can only find peace and harmony when we acknowledge our dependence on God, and consequently our role as tenants and caretakers of his vineyard, our world. If we build up – and not destroy, if we reach out in love and concern for others – not live for our selves, if we are generous – not miserly, then we will have heeded the voice of the owner of the vineyard and will be able to give him his due when it is demanded of us.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, October 7, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, October 7, 2017 click HERE

Saturday, October 7, 2017 - Have you seen and experienced the Lord? How does this shown in your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Bar 4:4-12; Lk 10:17-24

Since neither Matthew nor Mark narrates the rending of the seventy-two (10:1-12), they do not have these verses (10:17-24), which narrate the return of the seventy-two from Mission. When the disciples who were filled with joy on their return report to Jesus that even the demons submit to his name, the response of Jesus is to see the fall of Satan and of his power, and to thank the Father for his graciousness.

Since the disciples here confirm that the demons are cast out in the name of Jesus, it follows that Satan’s rule is indeed coming to an end with the coming of Jesus and the giving of his authority to his disciples. However, as far as the disciples are concerned what is more important that Satan submitting to them is the fact that their names are now recorded in the book of life.

The thanksgiving to the Father is found also in Matthew 11:25-27 and is because God has favoured not the wise and intelligent but the unlearned and revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom.

The last two verses in which Jesus speaks of the blessedness of the disciples (10:23-24) are found also in Matthew 16:16-17. The disciples are indeed in a privileged position because they have been able to see and experience what prophets and kings have not been privileged to see, namely the mighty works of Jesus, which resulted in the fall of Satan and his kingdom.

The results of our actions ought not to concern us as much as doing the action to the best of our ability. If we are clear that it is God’s kingdom that we are called to work towards and that he is the one who is finally in control, we will be able to focus on what we have to do and not bother about what will happen later.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, October 6, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Friday, October 6, 2017 click HERE

Friday, October 6, 2017 - If you were a resident of Chorazin, Bethsiada or Capernaum, what would you do after hearing these words of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Bar 1:15-22; Lk 10:13-16

Immediately after the Mission Discourse to the seventy-two (10:1-12), Luke has added the sayings on the woes against Chorazin , Bethsaida and Capernaum (10:13-15). 

The reason why the woe is pronounced on them is because they did not repent even after seeing the deeds of power that were wrought in their towns. The people of even Tyre and Sidon, which were condemned in Isaiah 23:1-18, would have repented if the same deeds had been done in their towns. Therefore the judgement on Chorazin and Bethsaida will be all the more severe. 

In Luke, Jesus had done a number of deeds of power in Capernaum (4:23,31-41), and still there was no repentance in the hearts of the people. Capernaum will not be exalted, but will be brought down to Hades. The last verse of this section (10:16) confers on the disciples the authority of Jesus himself. The authority of the disciples who are sent by Jesus is the same as the authority of Jesus himself.

Miracles take place every day if only we open our eyes to see. When a child is born, when a tree comes out in flower, when it rains, when a bird sings, when a person reaches out selflessly with a kind word or deed, miracles happen. We need to stop looking for miracles only in the spectacular and extraordinary and realise that they happen at every moment of every day.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, October 5, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Thursday, October 5, 2017 click HERE

Thursday, October 5, 2017 - How would you define mission today? Are you engaged in mission?

To read the texts click on the texts: Neh 8:1-12; Lk 10:1-12

Luke’s is the only Gospel in which we find the sending of the seventy-two. Matthew and Mark have the sending of the Twelve, as does Luke. This then is regarded as a doublet of the sending of the Twelve in Lk. 9:1-6. The fact that seventy-two and not just twelve are sent indicates growth and movement. The kingdom of God is preached not just by Jesus or the Twelve, but also by many more. In some manuscripts, the number is recorded as seventy. This is probably due to the list of nations in Genesis 10, where while the Hebrew text lists seventy nations, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) list seventy-two. This will mean that the commissioning of the seventy-two foreshadows the mission of the church to all nations. 

In this sending, they are sent in pairs (not in the earlier sending of the Twelve in Lk. 9:1-6), and ahead of Jesus, in order to prepare the way before him. In this sense, they are called to be pre-cursors, forerunners like John the Baptist. The instructions begin with a prayer to be made to God, because it is his mission that they will be engaged in. At the outset they are warned that they will need to be on their guard at all times. The strategy proposed is detachment from things, persons and events. This detachment will help to proclaim the kingdom more efficaciously. 

Three interconnected aspects of the mission are stressed. The missionaries are to eat what is set before them in order to show the same table fellowship that Jesus showed, they are to cure the sick and to proclaim the kingdom in order to show that the kingdom is not only spiritual but also very practical and touches every aspect of human life. They are to do and also to say. 

It is sometimes mistakenly thought that only religious men and women are called to be missionaries. Some also think that only those who work in the villages are to be termed missionaries. However, the sending of the seventy-two corrects this misunderstanding. Every Christian is sent on a mission and called to engage in mission, simply because mission is to be done where one is. The threefold mission task in these verses is a further confirmation of the fact that mission includes every aspect of life and so is not the responsibility of only a few, but every disciple of Jesus.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Wednesday, October 4, 2017 click HERE

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - What is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Neh 2:1-8; Lk 9:57-62

While part of this text is found also in Matthew, the latter part (9:60b-62) is exclusive to Luke. It concerns the would-be followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ warnings about what discipleship will entail.

To the first would-be follower who promises to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus responds by stating clearly that unlike even the foxes that at least have holes, he does not have anywhere he can call his own. If the would-be follower is ready for this insecurity, he may follow.

The second person is called to follow by Jesus, but responds by asking for permission to bury his father. This was a duty that was binding on all devout Jews. Jesus’ response is harsh and demands that the disciple be primarily concerned about the kingdom.

The third would-be follower puts conditions to his following namely that he wants to say farewell to his family. However, here too the response of Jesus is clear. Looking back while ploughing leads to a crooked furrow.

While it is not necessary to give up the state of life one has chosen in order to follow Jesus, what is to be understood is that following will necessarily mean changing one’s style of life. It will mean a move from selfishness to selflessness, from acquiring material possessions to sharing them with others and from anything negative to everything that is positive.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, October 3, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Tuesday, October 3, 2017 click HERE

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It is waste of your time and irritates the pig.

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 8:20-23; Lk 9:51-56

The section of the Gospel of Luke beginning from 9:51 and ending at 19:28 is known as the Travel Narrative or Journey to Jerusalem. Beginning today and on all weekdays till December 2, 2017, (except on feast days) we will be reading from this section of Luke’s Gospel. It is therefore important to have an understanding of what this section means. 

Luke begins this travel narrative by telling us that when the days drew near for Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem in 19:28 marks the end of this section. One important reason for this section where Luke diverts from Mark, is so that Luke can add here material from his own special source and also material from the source known as “Q” which he and Matthew have in common. In this section we will also find many parables, sayings meal scenes, controversies and warnings, through which the Lucan Jesus explicates his way of life.

In the text of today, we will read of the opposition that Jesus encounters already at the beginning of his journey. A Samaritan village refuses to welcome him. This rejection of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry coincides with the rejection at the beginning of his ministry in Nazareth (4:16-30). This foreshadows the rejection that Jesus will face in Jerusalem. In response to the rejection, James and John want to react and destroy the whole village. Jesus’ rebuke of James and John is an indication that he will not use violence in his ministry, but will win people only through love. The last verse of this text where we are told that they went on to another village also makes clear that Jesus will not force his teaching on anyone who does not want to listen to it.

Sometimes we are faced with opposition with regard to an idea that we may put forward or a suggestion that we may offer. When we identify with that idea or suggestion and feel rejected when it is rejected, then we might be tempted like James and John to react. The attitude of Jesus invites us to detach ourselves from all that we propose, so that we can continue to stay calm and collected.