Thursday, 4 March 2021

Fourteenth Day of Lent - Dare to share


 

Friday, March 5, 2021 - Homily


 

All that we possess is given to us in trust. This means that while we may use what we have, we have also to be concerned about those who do not have and be generous with them. Selfishness on our part leads to our thinking that we must use the things we have exclusively without even the thought of sharing them with others.

Friday, March 5, 20211 - Will you give God his due by sharing with at least one person who does not have today? If God were to visit the vineyard of your life and ask for fruit what would your response be?

To read the texts click on the texts:Gen 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46 

This Parable is known variously as the parable of the wicked tenants or the Parable of the Vineyard. While the parable in Mark has been allegorised, it is not clear whether there was a non-allegorical parable going back to Jesus. Those who are of the opinion that there was a non-allegorical parable interpret it to mean that just as the tenants took radical action, so radical action is required in order to gain the kingdom. Others see the parable to mean that the kingdom will be taken away from Israel’s false leadership and given to gentiles and sinners. Still others see the parable to mean that God does not abandon and relentlessly seeks and searches for them and longs for a response from them.

In Matthew, this parable is the center of Jesus’ threefold parabolic response to the chief priests and elders. The first of these is about the two sons (21:28-32) and the third is about the great supper (22:1-14). He also links it to the previous parable of the two sons by means of common words like vineyard, son and the common theme of both which is doing God’s will rather than paying lip service.

In Matthew, the one who gives the vineyard to tenants is a “landowner” and not simply a “man “as he is in Mark. This helps Matthew to use the term “Lord” towards the end of the parable. The vineyard is described much like the one in Isa 5:1-7 which indicates that Matthew intends the vineyard to be read as “Israel” which it is in Isaiah. If in Mark the man who hired out the vineyard wants only his share, here he wants all the fruit. This indicates that God’s claim on the human person and all possessions it total and not partial. There are no half measures with God. It is all or nothing. The two groups of servants which are sent before the Son probably represent in Matthew the former and latter prophets whom God sent to Israel to bring the nation back to him. It is only after the two groups of servants are abused and murdered that the landowner decides to send his Son. In Matthew the son is first taken out of the vineyard and then killed (unlike in Mark where he is first killed and then thrown out of the vineyard) to correspond with what actually happens at the passion and death of Jesus (27:32). In Mark the question about the response of the owner of the vineyard is asked and answered by Jesus, while in Matthew, Jesus asks the questions and the Jewish leaders answer and through the answer pronounce their own condemnation. The tenants had been unfaithful and will have to pay for this unfaithfulness. The quotation of Ps 118:22-23 here results in increasing and intensifying the condemnation of the tenants to whom what was given was given in trust. Since they have been proved untrustworthy and unfaithful, they will be denied further tenancy and others will be given the vineyard to tend.

The Jewish leaders realize that the parable is about them and this only hardens their stance against Jesus and strengthens their resolve to destroy him.

All that we possess is given to us in trust. This means that while we may use what we have, we have also to be concerned about those who do not have and be generous with them. Selfishness on our part leads to our thinking that we must use the things we have exclusively without even the thought of sharing them with others.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Thirteenth Day of Lent - See with the eyes of the heart. Hear with the eyes of the heart


 

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - Homily


 

Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Or do I regard them as persons like myself? Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 17:5-10; Lk16:19-31

The parable of today has often been titled as the parable of “Dives and Lazarus”. It can be seen to be divided into three parts. If in the first part the focus is on rich man’s (who is not named. The term “dives” in Latin means “rich”) opulence and wealth, in the second part it is on his death and burial. In the third part which is the longest there is for the first time in the story, a dialogue. It is between the rich man and Abraham and is the climax of the story.  

The story begins by describing the rich man and his dress and food. The “purple and fine linen” may signify that he was a high ranking official, since the Romans had set standards regarding who could wear purple and how much purple they could wear. In contrast to the rich man there is a poor man who is named Lazarus. He is the only character in Jesus’ parables to be given a name. The name Lazarus means “God helps”. The fact that he is at the gate of the rich man’s house signifies that though the rich man could see Lazarus, he was not aware of his existence. He is so caught up in his world of material things that this results in his inability to see reality right before him. Lazarus would have been content with the bread which was used to wipe the grease from the hand of the one eating and then thrown under the table. However, even this he did not receive. Instead, dogs fed off his sores.

The death of Lazarus is no surprise. However, the detail that is added is that Lazarus is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. This detail brings to mind that God indeed comes to Lazarus’ help.  The death of the rich man is described in a short sentence which brings out strikingly the transient nature of all his opulence and wealth.

In the third part, there is dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. Lazarus does not speak at all. He is in the bosom of Abraham. Being “in the bosom” of Abraham may imply that Lazarus was the honoured guest at the eschatological banquet, feasting while the rich man was in torment.   In the request that the rich man makes of Abraham to let Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue, he calls Lazarus by name which indicates that he knew who Lazarus was and yet refused to look at him on earth as a person. In his response, Abraham reminds the rich man of his and Lazarus’ past and of the chasm that separated them then, but which had been erected by the rich man, and which still separates them now. It is admirable that even in his torment the rich man can think of others (even if they be members of his own immediate family). He makes a second request of Abraham to send Lazarus as a messenger to warn his brothers. Abraham responds that the brothers have already received enough and more instruction and if they have not heeded that they will not heed another. The rich man tries one final time to convince Abraham to send Lazarus as one who has gone back from the dead. Abraham responds by telling the rich man that for those who believe no proof is necessary and for those who do not no proof is sufficient.

The rich man in the story is so caught with the things of the world and with his own self interests that these prevent him from even becoming aware of the needs of another. A number of questions to which there are no easy answers are raised by this parable and we must keep reflecting on them constantly if we are not to lose touch with reality.

Can I be accused of sins of lack of concern, inability to assess the reality of situations, closing my eyes and ears to the injustices around me, being caught up in my own small world? Does my reflection on sin include “sins of omission”?

Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Or do I regard them as persons like myself

Did the brothers get the message?

How would you like to conclude the story? Place yourself in the position of the rich man’s brothers’ and write down what you would do to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as the rich man.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Twelfth Day of Lent - True glory is within


 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - Homily


 

We identify ourselves and others too much by these external titles and do not look at other more important areas of their lives and ours. The text of today calls us to review our need for titles and positions of honour and spend ourselves instead in service.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - When you are being introduced by a friend to a stranger how would you want your friend to introduce you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28

The text begins with what is known as the third and final Passion and Resurrection prediction in Matthew’s Gospel. This is the most detailed of the three and Matthew specifies crucifixion as the manner in which Jesus will be put to death. However, Jesus is not simply a passive victim, his death is in obedience to the will of God and he will let nothing and no one come in the way of this obedience. Even as he speaks of his death, Jesus also predicts his being raised on the third day.

If in Mark, it is the brothers James and John who make of Jesus the request for places of honour (Mk 10:35-37), in Matthew, it is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew does not name the brothers since he wants to spare them this ignominy) who comes with the request on behalf of her sons. The right hand and left hand symbolize places of honour and authority. In his response, Jesus does not address the mother or even James and John, but all the disciples. In contrast to Mark who mentions both the cup and baptism, Matthew focuses exclusively on the cup of suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and violent death. The metaphor “cup” here seems to refer to the death ordained by God which is willingly accepted by the one who is to go to his death. The disciples’ bravado and willingness to drink the cup is only verbal and not one which they can show in their deeds. Though Jesus is aware of this, he looks beyond their failure and invites them to share his cup. However, even martyrdom does not gain one a special place in the kingdom because not even Jesus will be able to assign such places. These are the exclusive prerogative of God.

The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee leads to anger on the part of the other ten. This anger indicates that they too like the mother (and the two brothers) had not really understood Jesus’ way of proceeding. Jesus thus has to teach them yet again the meaning of discipleship, authority and service in the kingdom. The king in the kingdom is not a ruler but one who serves, the Lord does not lord it over others but is their slave. By adding “Just as” before the final verse here, Matthew makes Jesus as the model whom the disciples are called to imitate.

 

The desire to be in charge and dominate others is a very real desire and most of us possess it. Some in large measure others in small, but it is there. We like others to follow our instructions and do what we tell them and feel upset or angry if they do not obey. Too easily we judge people by the titles they have or the positions they occupy in society and this leads to a desire in each of us to want to possess those titles or occupy those positions. We identify ourselves and others too much by these external titles and do not look at other more important areas of their lives and ours. The text of today calls us to review our need for titles and positions of honour and spend ourselves instead in service.