Tuesday, 31 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:4-7,11-15; Mk 6:1-6
Jesus’ visit to his hometown is not a pleasant experience. While in Mark he is designated as a carpenter, in the parallel text in Matthew (Mt 13:53-58), he is designated as “the carpenter’s son”, since Matthew wants to portray Jesus as son of Joseph and so son of David.
Jesus' status as a carpenter would have been lower than that of a member of the educated class, and the villagers would probably have resented the position that Jesus reached and the status he has acquired. By designating Jesus as “son of Mary” rather than “son of Joseph” they may have intended to insult Jesus, and so cut him down to size. Jesus’ response to his townspeople is in the form of a proverbial saying. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among his own people. Mark adds strongly at the end of the episode that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief” which indicates that Jesus was rendered incapable by the lack of faith of his own.
Often we deal with others in a stereotypical way and label people all too easily. This does not allow us to encounter them in their uniqueness and freshness and we may miss a great deal.
Monday, 30 January 2017
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - How easily do you give up when things do not go your way? Will you persevere today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:1-4; Mk 5:21-43
In the text of today, Mark has used what is known as the sandwich construction. This means that he has introduced the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill (5:21-24), interrupted it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood (5:25-34) and continued again and completed the incident of the curing of Jairus’ daughter (5:35-43). The reason for this sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry but hurry if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can indeed raise even the dead.
In these miracles, both of those who are healed are female, and the number twelve appears in both. The woman has been ill for twelve years and the girl is twelve years old. In both, the cure is the result of faith. These incidents indicate that Jesus has power over both life and death. He is indeed Lord of heaven and earth.
We may tend to give up and lose heart especially when our prayers remain unanswered for a period of time. We may sometimes accept defeat and stop praying. We may lose faith. These miracles call us to continue to hope even if there are times in our lives when our prayers do not seem to be answered. If we persevere and have faith like the woman and Jairus, we too can obtain from the Lord what seems impossible.
Sunday, 29 January 2017
Monday, January 30, 2017 - How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:32-40; Mk 5:1-20
The healing miracle of today is known as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. The man is so utterly possessed, that it seems almost impossible that he will be healed. Addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the demon attempts to possess Jesus. However, Jesus will have none of it, and silences him with a word. The name “legion” used by the demoniac may mean on the one hand that he did not want to give his name and so be cast out by Jesus, and on the other hand may also refer to the Roman occupation of
The presence of pigs suggests that it is Gentile territory, because Jews considered pigs as unclean animals, and would not have them near. Some have raised questions about the destruction of nature because of the fact that the herd of pigs is drowned after the demon is sent into them. However, it may also be interpreted as the extent of concern that Jesus had for the man. In other words, the salvation of a human being is worth any price. The healed man becomes an apostle.
Today there are various demons that can possess each one of us. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, addictions and the like, which result in tensions within the family and at times leads to a breakdown of family life. We need first to become aware of them and call them by their names so that with the Lord’s grace they will be exorcised from our hearts and lives.
Saturday, 28 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Cor1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12
There is a tendency even today among some of us to project the solutions to all our problems into the future. This may be termed as “a pie in the sky when you die” kind of theology. While it is true that till the coming of Jesus projection into the future alone made sense, after his coming what must spur us on is not only the future but the present and all that it offers.
This is why it is understandable that Zephaniah, writing probably around 640-609 BCE, promised that God would preserve a remnant, To this humble remnant or anawim belongs the promise of a secure future: “They shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (3:13). This oracle announced the future realization of an ideal.
However, in the case of Matthew, who is writing after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the “secure future” of Zephaniah is first present in the person of Jesus in a unique way, and secondly is also in the future. This means that the beatitudes that Jesus pronounces at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount do not merely describe something that already is, but also bring into being the reality they declare. They are a declaration of who disciples are already and who they must continue to be.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the nine beatitudes. Called “blessed”, are the poor in spirit who have surrendered self-will and self-reliance and every other base of security to welcome the reign of God. Also “blessed” are those who are gentle, mourners and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice. These are basic dispositions of the believer who accepts his needs before God and his openness to receiving his gifts.
The second group of four which speak of the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and those persecuted in the cause of justice seem to reflect the attitude of humans to each other. These identify with Jesus in his person and mission.
In what many consider as the ninth beatitude, Jesus speaks to the disciples directly. These are blessed even in the abuse and persecution that they will encounter because of their association with Jesus.
The key feature of blessedness is that it involves living a deliberately chosen and cultivated sort of life, which does not get involved in the power and violence of the world, and which, because of this fact, makes the ones living it immensely vulnerable to being turned into victims. That is the centre of the ethic as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
If we then turn to the end of the Eschatological Discourse – Jesus’ last discourse (Mt 25:31-46) before his passion, we find something similar at work. In the famous passage of the last judgement, the judgement is defined not in terms of belonging to this or that group, or believing this or that dogma. The judgement is presented in terms of the human relationships towards victims – those who hunger, thirst, the naked, sick, or imprisoned. Those who are rewarded are those – whether or not they know anything of the world which is blind to its victims, and have reached out to help them. It is here, the crucified and risen victim who is the judge of the world, and the world is judged in the light of its relationship to the crucified and risen victim.
For Matthew the arrival of Jesus and his proclamation of God’s kingdom create the conditions by which the world can be changed. The promise to the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for justice, that the kingdom of heaven is “yours,” might better be translated as “on your side” or “for you.” The dispositions and action praised by Jesus provide an alternate vision to contemporary, destructive attitudes and trends.
The beatitudes generate trust in God in difficult circumstances, not simply enable us to endure hard times. None of us can avoid the traumatic experiences that life so frequently presents. In Africa and Asia millions of our fellow human beings suffer disease, poverty and the effects of war and natural disasters that some of us have never experienced or even imagined. The challenge of Christian faith is to accept and live a sustaining relationship with God in the most trying circumstances.
The beatitudes define the way that Jesus himself lived to the point of death as a rejected religious evolutionary and unjustly condemned criminal. The spiritual power to live the life of the blessed comes not through our most noble human efforts, but through the gift of grace that the Spirit gives us. Paul realized this when he said that God those the foolish and weak of this world to shame the wise and the strong, Are Jesus’ praises and Paul’s declarations really too much for us to believe?
Friday, 27 January 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017 - Have you stopped rowing the boat of life because you are overwhelmed with the storms? Will you start rowing again today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:1-2,8-19; Mk 4:35-41
The Gospel reading of today appears immediately after Jesus has completed the Parable Discourse.
It is commonly referred to as the miracle of the calming of the storm. While this miracle appears also in the Gospels in Matthew and Luke, the language of the disciples in Mark is harsh. In Matthew, the disciples address Jesus as Lord, and their cry is a plea for help, much like our “Lord have mercy” at the penitential rite. In Luke, like in Mark, Jesus is addressed as “Master” but no allegation about his uncaring attitude is made. In Mark, the disciples allege that Jesus is unconcerned about them. Mark also brings out the contrast between the agitated disciples and the serene Jesus. Jesus is able with a word to calm the forces of nature, and suddenly, there is a great calm.
The boat has often been seen as a symbol of Christianity. The storm then would be the trials and tribulations that attack Christianity from without. Jesus is present with his people even in the midst of all these trials, even though sometimes it may appear that he is asleep and unconcerned. He is able with a word to clam these forces, and so there is no need for agitation and anxious care. We need to keep rowing and trust that he will see us safely to the shore.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Friday, January 27, 2017 - Do you more often than not focus on the present or the future? Do you focus on the now or on the later?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:32-39; Mk 4:26-34
The text of today contains two parables. The first of these (4:26-29) is known as the Parable of the seed growing secretly, and is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The second (4:30-32), known as the Parable of the Mustard seed is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the first parable the point that is being made is that the one who scatters the seed only does so and then goes about his routine, not worried about the outcome of his effort. The seed continues to grow, simply because he has first scattered it. He knows that by worrying the seed will not grow faster, and so he lets it be.
In the Parable of the Mustard seed, the point that is made is that from little, there will be much. Small beginnings have great endings. The parable is a call to begin what one has to do without worrying about how small or big the outcome will be. The growth is sure and definite.
When Mark says in 4:33 that Jesus did not speak to the people without a parable, he is in effect saying that there was a parabolic character about all of Jesus’ teaching. This means that all of Jesus’ teaching involved the listener and it was the listener who supplied the lesson to the teaching and not Jesus. This indicates a freedom of choice that every listener was given at the time of Jesus. They were the ones to decide for or against. Jesus would never force them to accept his point of view.
It is sometimes the case that we spend much of our time worrying about the outcome of our actions even before we can do them. This attitude does not allow us to be in the present moment and so the action that we do is not done to the best of our ability. We do not put ourselves fully into the action that we do. At other times, we do not act at all but only worry. While the first of today’s parable is calling us to act and then relax rather than worry, the second is assuring us that our actions will indeed bear fruit.
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Thursday, January 26, 2017 - Saints Timothy and Titus - The Mission to preach and heal, to say and do is not for a select few but for all
To read the texts click on the texts: 2Tim 1:1-8; Titus 1:1-5; Lk 10:1-9
On Jan. 26, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, close companions of the Apostle Paul and bishops of the Catholic Church in its earliest days.
Both men received letters from Paul, which are included in the New Testament.
Timothy was supposed to have come from Lystra which is in present day Turkey and was known to be a student of Sacred Scripture from his youth. He accompanied Paul on his journeys and was later sent to Thessalonica to help the Church during a period of persecution. Like Paul, he too was imprisoned and his release from prison is mentioned in in the letter to the Hebrews (Heb 13:23). Tradition has it that Timothy died a martyr for the faith like Paul before him.
Titus was born into a Non-Christian family, yet would read the Hebrew Scriptures to find ways and means to live a virtuous life. He was both assistant and interpreter of Paul was sent to the Church in Corinth when Paul could not go. He was Bishop of Crete. According to tradition Titus was not martyred, but died of old age.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is from Luke and is about the sending of the seventy-two, which is text that is exclusive to Luke . 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. However, as the feast of today indicates though Timothy and Titus were both Bishops in the early Church they were initially lay men (and Titus was a Non-Christian). 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. The feast of today asks us to reflect on the fact that 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, 24 January 2017
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - The Conversion of St. Paul - From the letter of the law to the spirit of the law
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 22:3-16; Mk 16:15-18
Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In that instant he saw what he could become through grace and not law. It was a revelation to him that no matter how low a person may have fallen; God’s grace could always lift him/her up. It was also a revelation of the heights of mysticism one could reach if one opened oneself to God’s unlimited and unconditional grace.
The story of Paul’s conversion is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 9 and 22) and Paul himself makes reference to it in some of his letters (Gal 1:13-14; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 15:3-8)
The conversion of Saul to Paul was the conversion and transformation of a person who lived out the letter of the law, but forgot its spirit. However, once he allowed God’s grace to enter his heart, all that mattered to him was Christ and through Christ divine, gratuitous love. From the moment of his transformation, the focus of his preaching was that salvation was FOR ALL and that no amount of merit could save, because salvation was a free gift of God.
The first reading for the Feast speaks of his conversion and the Gospel text is from the longer ending of Mark and is an apt description of Paul’s power and actions after his transformation. He did indeed proclaim the Gospel to all creation and today invites us to do the same.
His Gospel may be summarised in one sentence, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)
Monday, 23 January 2017
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - If Jesus was to point to his family today, would you be counted as a member?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:1-10; Mk 3:31-35
The text of today forms the second part of the “sandwich” construction that Mark has used here. He introduced the family of Jesus in 3:20-21, interrupted this with the text on the Beelzebul controversy (3:22-30) and returns to the family of Jesus in today’s text 3:31-35. By using such a structure, Mark indicates that the family of Jesus are also hostile to Jesus. Also, Mark places them “outside” while Jesus is “inside” the house. This too indicates that they are not disciples. Jesus then defines family in terms of those who do the will of God. Some also think that by not mentioning the father of Jesus, Mark wants to assert that for Jesus and his disciples, only God is Father.
We may imagine that because we have been baptised are bear the name Christian we are automatically counted as members of Jesus’ family. However, baptism alone will not make us members of Jesus’ family, but the living out of the baptismal promises in our lives. This means that we must each do what we are called to do, namely our best at every given moment.
Sunday, 22 January 2017
Monday, January 23, 2017 - Is your general attitude to life positive or negative? Will you make an attempt to interpret every incident positively today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:15,24-28; Mk 3:22-30
The text of today is known as the Beelzebul controversy. Scribes who come from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus refutes their claim by showing how absurd it would be for Satan to cast himself out. The strong man whom Jesus talks about is Satan and the one who binds up the strong man is Jesus himself. Rather than accuse Jesus, the scribes must be able to see that with the coming of Jesus the reign of Satan is at an end.
The sin, which cannot be forgiven, is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Since there is the danger of looking at this sin as a specific sin, Mark clarifies that the reason why Jesus says this is because they accused him of having an unclean spirit. This means that the sin spoken of here is an attitude rather than a specific sin. It refers to the attitude of being closed to the revelation that God is making of himself in Jesus. It is an attitude of closing one’s eyes and refusing to see.
Today the sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse to believe that the Spirit can transform me. Practically this means to give up even before one can begin. It means to give in or throw in the towel. It means not to give the Spirit a chance to work in our lives. It means a refusal to persevere and keep on keeping on.
Saturday, 21 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah 8:23-9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Mt 4:12-23
Zebulun and Naphtali were the first provinces of the Northern kingdom that were captured when the Assyrians took Israel into exile. This is the humiliation that Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today. However, that is now past. There will now be a reversal brought about by God through his Messianic king, and these will be the first to experience it.
Darkness has turned into light and for Matthew this prophecy of Isaiah is seen as being fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. This ministry in Matthew begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. The choice of location for the beginning of the ministry is Capernaum and in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali mentioned in the first reading and serves as a setting for the fifth formula quotation in the Gospel. The movement from darkness to light that Isaiah prophesied comes about in Matthew through a response to Jesus’ call to repentance. It is important to understand the placement of the words by Matthew. Though Matthew places the imperative (Repent) before the indicative (for the kingdom of heaven has come near), it must be understood that the basis or reason for repentance is that the kingdom has come near. Something has happened or taken place and therefore something needs to be done. The text does not say that the kingdom will come after repentance rather because the kingdom has indeed come and in the person and ministry of Jesus, people should repent.
The word “repentance” has sometimes been translated to mean “be sorry”, but nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ask anyone to be sorry for their sins. Yet, he constantly calls people to repentance. The English word “repent” is a translation of the Greek metanoeô which literally means “change one’s mind” – quite like the man who came home one day and told his wife, “Honey, I’ve changed my mind.” “Thank God,” said his wife, “I hope the new one will function better.” Repentance therefore is taking out that small mind which engages in stereotyping and dwelling on negatives and replacing it with a mind that is open and flexible and filled with the positive of God’s unconditional love. This openness is the result of having realized that the kingdom has indeed come near. The coming of the kingdom means that God’s unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, pardon and acceptance have all been given to us freely in Jesus. This means we can do nothing to earn this love; all we have to do is receive it with gratitude and in humility.
How is this repentance shown in action? Paul gives the answer to this question in the second reading of today when he calls the Corinthians and us to be united. Differences must be made up and disagreements must be ironed out. Each Christian individually and all Christians collectively belong only to Christ and to no one else. To heal the wounds of the divided body of Christ, right words and slogans are certainly necessary but they are by no means sufficient. Primarily we need the right attitudes which spring from a recognition that we all belong to Christ. While unity does not mean uniformity, the legitimate expression of diversity should never lead to division, since Christ is not divided but one. This is the Christ whom Paul preached and wants each of us to continue to preach. His preaching was not in philosophical terms or treatises but in language that conveyed that all that was received was through grace.
It was this grace and free choice of God that led Jesus to call the first four disciples. Jesus takes the initiative here. He comes to the brothers Simon and Andrew, he sees them and he calls them. He does the same with James and John. They respond generously to his call which is both a command and promise. The command is to follow the person of Jesus and not merely a value or an ideal. This indicates that following Jesus demands first of all total dedication to him.
The summary statement which concludes the Gospel reading serves as a summary of all three readings. Like Jesus, the task of the Christian who decides to follow him will be that of making people whole. Through this action every Christian is called to proclaim the Good News that God’s love, mercy, pardon and forgiveness are indeed a reality today. The Kingdom has come.
Friday, 20 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:2-3,11-14; Mk 3:20-21
This text is part of a larger text, which ends at 3,35. It is about the family of Jesus. In 3:20-21 (our text for today) the family of Jesus is introduced in a negative manner. They think that Jesus has gone out of his mind and want to restrain him. One possible reason why his family would have thought that he was “out of his mind” was because he was working miracles and this could have been seen as associated with magic and such persons could either be banned or even executed. His family thus come to take him away by force.
This episode is followed by the Beelzebul controversy (3:22-30) in which Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, by the scribes who come from Jerusalem. Mark then forms a "sandwich construction" by taking up in 3:31-35 a text concerning the family of Jesus. Here, however, Jesus makes clear that his true family are not those related to him by blood only, but by the will of God.
There are times when because we do not understand the actions of another person, we may tend to condemn them or look down on them or sometimes label them. We need to realise that because of our lack of understanding we may need to be open rather than closed and judgemental.
Thursday, 19 January 2017
Friday, January 20, 2017 - If Jesus were to choose a nickname for you, what would that be? Why? How will you show your gratitude for the privilege of your call?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 8:6-13; Mk 3:13-19
Mark narrates here the choice of the twelve disciples. The number twelve makes this group representative of the twelve tribes of
Israel and thus Jesus would be seen as the one
who has come to restore .
Mark makes three points in his narration of the choice of the twelve. The first is that the primary reason for the choice of the Twelve is “to be with him”. This means that their primary responsibility is to accompany Jesus on his journey to the Father. The second point is that besides “being with him”, they are also sent out to preach and heal, to say and to do, word and action. The
is not merely a
spiritual enterprise, but connected intimately with the whole of life. It is a
practical enterprise as well. The third point that Mark makes is that some of
the Twelve are given nicknames. Simon is named “Peter” (which means “rock”) and
James and John are named “Boanerges” (which means “sons of thunder”). These
signified their function. Judas Iscariot is not renamed, but Mark gives us an
indication already here of what he will do in the future. Kingdom
Each of us also received a new name at our Baptism: the name “Christian”. The challenge is to hear Jesus call our name and to have the courage to answer that call.
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Thursday, January 19, 2017 - If you were to choose one word to describe your relationship with Jesus what word would you choose?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:25-8:6; Mk 3:7-12
Mark gives in these verses a summary account of the themes that have appeared from the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus' popularity increases and he cannot appear in public without being pressured by great multitudes seeking to he healed. Jesus' reputation has spread even to those towns where he did not go personally. The use of the term multitude here and the mention of the names of places as far as the region around Tyre and Sidon are an indication that Jesus’ authority is much greater than that of John the Baptist to whom in Mark people came from only the Judean countryside and Jerusalem (1:5). These multitudes are not necessarily disciples, and could have come to see Jesus out of curiosity or even to receive healing.
Mark once again has the command to silence, which is where Jesus commands the demons not to make him known. While some interpret this command as belonging to the rite of exorcism, others see it as Mark's desire to reject the testimony of the demons as evidence for Jesus' identity.
It is possible that we relate to God or Jesus as we would relate to the local grocer and go to him only when we need something. The text of today challenges us to review our relationship with Jesus and ask ourselves what he really means to us.
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Hebrews 7:1-3,15-17; Mk 3:1-6
The Gospel text of today concerns a Sabbath controversy. Though Mark does not specify at the beginning of this episode who it was that was watching Jesus for a reason to accuse him, at the end of the episode they are named as Pharisees and Herodians. While Pharisees had no political authority at the time of Jesus, they were influential. Herodians were a group of wealthy people who were partisans of Herod Antipas.
It is important to note that Jesus does nothing to break the Sabbath rest, but his question is the reason for the hostility. The response to Jesus' question is silence which here may be interpreted as an indication of the hostility of his opponents and of their intention to destroy him. Anyone who truly cares about the law will agree with Jesus and rejoice that a man has been made whole again. Though the man in this case is not in any way near death, Jesus adds to the second part of his question the words "to save life or to kill?" This seems to be Mark's way of anticipating the intentions of Jesus' opponents. The point he seems to be making is that they object to someone being made whole on the Sabbath because they are concerned about the law, yet on the same Sabbath, they will not hesitate to plot the destruction of someone else. The contrast between their words and their deeds is strongly brought out.
Often in our lives there is a dichotomy between what we say and what we do. Our actions do not always match our words. There are also times when we say one thing and do another. The call of the text of today is to be as consistent as we possibly can. One way of doing this is to avoid judging others too easily. Another way would be to avoid promising what we know we will not be able to deliver and to think carefully before we speak and commit.
Monday, 16 January 2017
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 6:10-20; Mk 2:23-28
Today’s text is a pronouncement story. In such a story, the saying of Jesus is of central importance. In this story, it appears at the end where after Jesus pronounces that it was the Sabbath (rules and regulations) that was made for the human person and not the other way around, he identifies The Son of Man as Lord even of the Sabbath.
The Gospel of Mark does not explicate what the Pharisees are complaining about. They surely could not be complaining that the disciples of Jesus were stealing because they were plucking ears of corn, since Deut. 23:25 permitted a person to pluck ears of grain when he/she went into a neighbour’s field. Luke 6:1 seems to indicate that the objection of the Pharisees was that the disciples of Jesus were rubbing the heads of grain they had plucked in their hands which could be considered as threshing and therefore work, which was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod 34:21).
As he often does in his responses, Jesus takes the objectors beyond the immediate objection to a higher level. Here, he focuses not just on the question of work on the Sabbath or the incident that is questioned, but beyond: to the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is at the service of the human person and not the human person at the service of the Sabbath. In other words, human needs take precedence over any rules and regulations. This must be the primary focus.
There are times in our lives when we treat rules as ends in themselves. One reason why we do this is because we have an image of God as a policeman who will catch and punish us if we do not follow the rules, as we ought to. Another reason could be that we expect that God will be gracious to us and bless us if we are faithful in following the rules. It is possible that sometimes we are so focussed on following the rules that we believe God has set for us that we might lose sight of human persons whose needs we must respond to first.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Monday, January 16, 2017 - How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 5:1-10; Mk 2:18-22
The text of today is a controversy story, and concerns one of the three important traditions of the Jews: fasting, the other two being alms giving and prayer.
The question of the people compares the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples with that of John’s disciples and the Pharisees. The latter fast whereas the disciples of Jesus do not. The law required that people fast only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Num 29:7-11), though there were other reasons why a person might fast including as a personal expression of sorrow or repentance (1 Kgs 21:27; 2 Samuel 3:35). The Pharisees were said to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12).
Since the people considered Jesus as a prophet or religious teacher, they would have expected his disciples to fast as other sects did. In his response to the people, Jesus clarifies that with his coming the new age has dawned, which is an age of freedom. He does this first by using the analogy of the bridegroom, and states that those who fast at the wedding are seriously insulting the host or bridegroom. However, even though there is the element of celebration in the analogy of the bridegroom, there is also a sombre note, which speaks of the bridegroom being taken away, and seems to refer to the death of Jesus, which will be an appropriate time to fast. The unshrunk cloth and the new wine refer to this new age, whereas the old cloak and the old wine skins refer to the old age. The two are incompatible. An attempt to patch an old garment using a new or unshrunk cloth will result in a worse tear; just as to put new wine into old skins will result in a great loss. The conclusion of the saying of Jesus emphasises that the presence of Jesus brings newness and to understand him one will need to give up the old categories that one has.
If we can talk of a rule or regulation that Jesus gave his disciples, it would only be the rule of love. All the actions of Jesus’ disciples must be motivated by love. This means that one may or may not fast, but that one will always and every time only love.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:3.5-6; 1 Cor1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
A few years ago, after the Std X results had been declared, I went to visit some friends of mine whose daughter had just appeared for that examination. I knew her to be a girl who has always got good marks all through her academic career, and so was surprised when her mother on opening the door to my knock began to tell me how she felt so let down by her daughter. The manner in which she was moaning her fate led me to conclude that the girl had failed. I responded with what I thought were words of consolation saying that failure was not the end of the world and that her daughter could apply to have her papers reevaluated and that if that did not work, she could appear again and surely pass. She was taken aback when I mentioned failure and informed me that her daughter had passed and has scored 86% marks. This time I was surprised and asked her what she was complaining about. She replied that she was complaining because her neighbour’s daughter had scored 86.50%. After being stunned for a moment, I asked her whether she would have been happy if her daughter had scored 75% (less than the marks she had actually scored) and her neighbour’s daughter had scored 74.50%. She replied with an emphatic “Yes, I would have been very happy.” The moral of this incident is that comparisons are extremely dangerous and will tend to consume the person who engages in them. It is related to the Gospel text of today.
The example of John the Baptist shows us that true personal fulfilment and greatness lies not in how we may compare with others but in how faithful we are to our God-given roles in life. John is a rare example of someone who was clear about what his role in life was and went about fulfilling that role with sincerity and courage. He was able to identify Jesus and witness to him, because he was secure in himself. This security and self acceptance led him to see in and witness to Jesus the Lamb of God, the preexistent one, the vehicle of the Sprit and the Chosen One of God. John was content and satisfied with playing the second fiddle rather than vying with Jesus for the limelight. He did not feel the need to compare himself negatively with Jesus and thus feel bad about himself. He could do this because he knew exactly the reason for him being in the world. He knew why he came into this life: “but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to
he knew the reason for his existence and his place in the world, John could
tell when he had done what was required of him. He could tell when it was time
to hand the baton to another. Israel
In the second reading of today Paul states that the call of each one who is Christian is to be a saint. A saint or someone who has been sanctified literally means someone who has been set apart. This means that no matter how tall or short we are, or how thin or fat we are we are called like the Psalmist of today to keep responding, “Here I am, Lord! I have come to do your will.” If we do not realize this, the chances are that we will spend the whole of our lives chasing after everything and nothing, in a rat-race of envy, jealousy and comparison with those we perceive as better than us. Instead of living and working in harmony and cooperation with others, those who do not know the reason for their being are often driven by rivalry and competition.
Nature offers us a very practical lesson in this regard. A dog does not try to be a cat, nor does a sunflower try to be a rose. Each is what it is. Each has its own beauty and uniqueness and glorifies in it. John the Baptist is before us as a great example in the Ordinary time of the year of what it means to be ordinary and of what it means to know our unique place and role in the world. In Jesus, however, we have a better example than even John. Conscious as he was that he was God’s chosen one, he was also aware that like the prophetic figure whom Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today, he would become so by being servant. In this manner he would complete his role on earth which was to restore the tribes of
and become the light to all
Friday, 13 January 2017
Saturday, January 14, 2017 - When you look at an egg will you see the eagle? Has your stereotypical way of looking prevented you from seeing people as they are?
To read the texts click on the texts:Heb 4:12-16; Mk 2:13-17
If in 2:1-12 through the incident of the healing of the paralytic, Mark portrayed Jesus as one who had the authority to forgive sin, in the text of today, he shows Jesus as reaching out to tax collectors and sinners. There are two episodes, which are connected. The first is the Call of Levi and the second is the dinner in Levi’s house during which Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.
In Matthew 9:9, the tax collector who is called is named Matthew, but in Mark (and Luke 5:27) he is called Levi. However, the name Levi does not appear in any list of twelve whereas Matthew appears in all the lists. The tax collector at the time of Jesus was a person whose duty it was to collect tax or duty on goods crossing the border. They were accused of charging more than the required amount and so were considered as thieves and seen as dishonest. This is the kind of person called by Jesus to discipleship. The structure of the call of Levi is similar to that of the first four disciples in Mark (1:16-20). Here too, it has five parts, Jesus passes by, sees Levi at his work, calls to him, Levi leaves his work and follows Jesus.
Immediately after the call and following, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for a meal during which many tax collectors and sinners sit at table with him. This leads to the scribes of the Pharisees complaining probably that Jesus was not observe that higher standard of holiness that would be expected of him. Jesus responds to their objection in two parts. In the first part, he states what many regard is a common proverb of the time (“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”). In the second part of his response (“I have come not to call the righteous but sinners”), Jesus states explicitly the reason for his coming: to call sinners. The force of this mission statement of Jesus will be understood better when we realise that the righteous referred to those who were zealous for the law and tried to live it out as completely as they could, whereas sinners meant those who deliberately flouted/flaunted the law and paid no heed to it. Jesus has come to seek those who everyone considers evil.
Many of us tend to look down on those who may not come up to our expectations or behave the way we want them to. We may also often judge others by what we see and be too quick to do that. The challenge for each of us is to realise that our way of looking may be a stereotypical way of looking and that we may be looking with a prejudiced view.