Sunday 21 July 2024

Monday, July 22, 2024 - Homily


Monday, July 22, 2024 - St. Mary Magdalene - Will you like Mary Magdalene be an Apostle of the Ascension of Jesus? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Song of Solomon 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-2,11-18

Except for Mary, the mother of Jesus, few women are honoured in the Bible as Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned by all four evangelists as being present at the empty tomb. In the Gospel of John she is the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.

After Peter and the beloved disciple see the empty tomb with the linen cloths, they return home. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (1:38). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground. Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.

Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so. Jesus will not allow this. Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.

Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension. For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.

Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.

Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.

Saturday 20 July 2024

Sunday, July 21, 2024 - Homily


Sunday, July 21, 2024 - God never gives up on us

If you wish to read the texts click here: Jer 23:1-6;  Eph 2:13-18;  Mk 6:30-34

The contrast between the Shepherds spoken about in the first reading of today and Jesus who is portrayed as Good Shepherd in the Gospel text of today could not have been clearer.

The kings, who were meant to be shepherds, have failed miserably in their responsibility. They were meant to watch over the flock, protect them from danger, keep them united and care for those who were hurt in any way. However, instead they have destroyed and scattered the flock. Where there was meant to be justice and economic stability for all, there is instead injustice and economic oppression of the poor by the rich. The incapable and incompetent kings are responsible for this state of affairs. Despite this, however, the Lord has not given up on the flock. They remain his people and his flock and he will not abandon them. He will gather them together and bring the stray sheep back to the fold. This he will do through a descendant of David. The primary characteristic of the reign of this king shepherd will be righteousness, and this is why he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness”. This righteousness will manifest itself in the manner in which the king will deal with God and his people. Though some think that because of the reference to righteousness King Zedekiah was meant, it is clear that even he could not fulfill the promises made by God in the manner that was expected of him. It was only in Jesus that these expectations were fulfilled in the most perfect way.

While this is shown in numerous instances in the Gospels, it is brought out strongly in the Gospel text of today. Even as the disciples narrate the success of the mission on which they were sent, Jesus’ response is not one of excitement and elation. Rather it is concern for the disciples and their physical needs, much like a good shepherd would care for his sheep. However, neither the disciples nor Jesus could get the food and rest they require, because the crowd continued to follow them and would not let them be. Yet, despite the fact that Jesus and the disciples did not have time to be by themselves and even to eat, his concern for the crowd is so great that he regards them as sheep without a shepherd and assuming the role of the Good Shepherd, he begins to teach them many things and so satisfies their need for spiritual nourishment. A few verses later we are told of how Jesus also satisfies their physical hunger with more than they can eat.

Whereas the earlier kings who were meant to be shepherds did not attend to the flock because they were concerned about themselves, Jesus cares not for himself but for his sheep. Whereas the flock under the earlier Shepherds was frightened and dismayed because of this lack of care, the flock of Jesus is confident because they know they have a Shepherd whose primary concern is their welfare.

This concern the second reading of today tells us was shown by Jesus in an emphatic way on the cross. While through his death on the cross he showed on the one hand that he was the obedient shepherd, he also succeeded on the other hand to reconcile all peoples everywhere. Division between people has been transformed into unity, dividing walls have been broken and war and strife have given way to peace and reconciliation. This is what God promised and this is what God was able to accomplish in Jesus.

The injustice, oppression and selfishness that God accused the kings of in the first reading of today continue even in our day and time. Two thousand years after Jesus the Good and True Shepherd showed us the way; we have not yet learnt what selflessness and reconciliation mean. So many even today prefer to live selfish and self-centered lives with no concern for the needs of others. So many today continue to have as their prime purpose in life the accumulation of wealth for themselves and often even through dishonest and corrupt means.  So many today have made “having more” as their life’s aim rather than “being more”.

The readings of today and especially the attitude of Jesus is a call and challenge to anyone who is willing to listen and learn what it means to live a selfless life. It is a call to place the needs of others above my own. It is a call to realize that giving is more beneficial than receiving, that giving others their rightful due is the only way to live and that a life which places the concerns and needs of others above one’s own, is a life truly well lived.

Friday 19 July 2024

Saturday, July 20, 2024 - Homily


Saturday, July 20, 2024 - How do you usually react to stressful situations? Will you learn from Jesus’ response today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Micah 2:1-5; Mt 12:14-21

The reason why the Pharisees conspire against Jesus, how to destroy him is because he healed a man with a withered arm on the Sabbath, and though at first glance it might seem that this is an overreaction on the part of the Pharisees, when looked at in the broader context of the Kingdom of heaven which Jesus represents and the Kingdom of Satan which is represented by the Jewish leaders and which continues to oppose the Kingdom of heaven, then it is easier to understand the reaction of the Pharisees. The response of Jesus to this conspiracy is to withdraw from that place. However, it is to be noted that Jesus does not withdraw to run away or from fear, but to continue the work of healing and making whole. In this withdrawal is strength and not weakness and it explicates the response of God (Jesus) to human violence and plotting of destruction. Even in his making people whole, Jesus does not want to be known or acclaimed and so commands those whom he has healed to remain silent about their healing and not to make him known. This attitude of Jesus leads to the quotation from Isaiah 42,1-4 which is the longest scriptural quotation in the Gospel of Matthew. It is about the suffering servant of Yahweh whose primary mission is to accept those who have been rejected by others as is shown in his not breaking the bruised reed or quenching the smouldering wick. Also, he does this without much fanfare, and yet his ultimate goal is to bring justice to those who place their hope in him. He will ultimately triumph.

Our response to challenging situations or to situations that threaten us is sometimes to run away from fear, and sometimes to use defence mechanisms. Neither of these ways is advocated by Jesus whose way would be to face the challenges head on.

Thursday 18 July 2024

Friday, July 19, 2024 - Homily


Friday, July 19, 2024 - How often do rules rule you? Will you try to rule rules today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8; Mt 12:1-8

The story, which forms the text of today, may be termed as a Sabbath controversy. Matthew refers here to Sabbath for the first time in his gospel. The point of contention is not very clear in Matthew, because the law permitted a person passing through a neighbour’s grain field to pluck heads of corn and eat them (Deut 23,23-25). The point here seems to be whether such an act could be done on the Sabbath. While in Mark the Pharisees ask a question, in Matthew, they are clearly hostile and make a charge. In his response to the Pharisees, Jesus quotes refers to the story of David in 1 Samuel 21,1-6, where David went beyond the rule to the need of his men. If David could do such a thing, then Jesus who is greater than David can do so even more. The Matthean Jesus also refers to the text from Numbers 28,9-10 where the priests in the Temple sacrifice there on the Sabbath, indicating that sacrifice is greater than the Sabbath. Since mercy is greater than sacrifice, it is surely greater than the Sabbath.

Reaching out in love to anyone in need takes precedence over every rule, law and regulation. It is the human who must always come first. The rule, law and regulation follows.

Wednesday 17 July 2024

Thursday, July 18, 2024 - Homily


Thursday, July 18, 2024 - We were made for God and we can find rest only in God

To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah 26:7-9,12,16-19; Mt 11:28-30

Jesus invites all those who are burdened to come to him for rest. The burden in this context seems to be that of the law and its obligations. When Jesus invites the burdened to take his yoke, which is easy, he is not inviting them to a life of ease, but to a deliverance from any kind of artificiality or the blind following of rules and regulations. The disciple must learn from Jesus who is in Matthew “the great teacher”. The rest that Jesus offers is the rest of salvation.

We can get so caught up today with wanting to have more that we might lose sight of the meaning of life itself. The desire to acquire more and more and be regarded as successful based on what we possess sometimes leads to missing out on so much that life has to offer.