Monday 31 January 2011

How easily do you give up when this do not go your way? Will you persevere today?

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.

How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own?

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 Palestine. 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 29 January 2011

Have you stopped rowing the boat of life because you are overwhelmed with the storms? Will you start rowing again today?

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.

Do you more often than not focus on the present or the future? Do you focus on the now or on the later?

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.

How would you define the WORD OF GOD? Have you assimilated this WORD?

The text of today follows immediately after the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower and the seed and contains two similes: that of the lamp and the measure. In Mark they seem to be connected with the response that a person makes to the Word spoken by Jesus. This Word is not an esoteric or secret Word. It is a Word that is to be make known, to be revealed, like a lamp is to be on a lamp stand. If one is open and receptive to this Word (the Measure of one’s openness) one will receive from God not only the ability to understand it but also to assimilate it.
Sometimes our closed attitudes and minds and our reluctance to accept change and newness may result in our missing out on all the revelations of the glory of God taking place around us. If we only open the eyes of our heart to see and the ears of our hearts to hear, we will be able to find God in all things and all things in him.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

How often have you given into despair and lost hope? Will you continue to hope today?

The text of today is taken from what is known as The Parable Discourse in the Gospel of Mark. The text contains an introduction to the Discourse (4,1-2), the parable of the Sower (4,3-9), a saying on the kingdom and its secret (4,10-12) and the interpretation of the parable (4,13-20). It is important that while it is likely that Jesus uttered the parable, in all probability the interpretation is the work of the early church. This is why; the interpretation of these texts must be done separately.
The parable of the Sower seems to point out that of the four types of soil in which the seed falls, it is LOST in three types and bears fruit in only one type. This indicates that while three quarters of the effort are lost, only a quarter is gain. However, the focus of the parable is not on the loss but on the gain, which even that one-quarter brings. The Parable is pointing out to the fact that this is how life often is. Three quarters of our efforts seem to be wasted and it is possible that when this happens we may give in to despair. However, we are called to focus not on this but on the enormous gain that the one-quarter of our effort will indeed bring.
We may tend to lose heart when we see that most of our efforts do not seem to be bearing fruit. At times like these the Parable of the Sower offers hope that even though much of our effort may seem to be lost, the gain that will arise from it will be enormous. It invites us not to ever lose heart but to keep on doing our part and leave the rest to God. It is calling us to sow and rest confident in the hope that God will make it grow.

If Jesus were to point to his family today, would you be counted as a member?

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 is 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.  

Is your general attitude to life positive or negative? Will you make an attempt to interpret every incident positively today?

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 22 January 2011

The old is past. The new is now.

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 Caprenaum 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 about 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 metanoeĊ 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 literally 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 accepted that the kingdom as manifested in Jesus has indeed come near. The coming of the kingdom means that God’s unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, pardon and acceptance have all been given freely in Jesus. Since this is so, 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 through them us as well 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. Over and above the right statements of faith, 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 to 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 to 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 namely that like Jesus, the task of the Christian who decides to follow him will also be that of making people whole and through this action to proclaim the Good news that God’s love, mercy, pardon and forgiveness is indeed a reality today. The Kingdom has come.

Friday 21 January 2011

Would Jesus point to you as member of his family? Why

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. 

If Jesus were to choose a nickname for you, what would that be? Why?

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 Israel.
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 Kingdom of God 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.
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 19 January 2011

If you were to choose one word to describe your relationship with Jesus what word would you choose?

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.

“Your money or your life.” “You better take my life; I will need my money for my old age.”

James Sales was also known as Jacques Sales was born in France in the year in which Saint Ignatius died namely 1556. He was the son of a servant of the Bishop of Clermont. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of seventeen i.e. in 1573. His companion William Saultemouche was born also in 1556 and joined the Society as a lay brother a few years after James.
James was ordained when he was 29 years old i.e. in 1585 and desired to be sent to the Indies since he wanted to die a martyr. However, Fr. General Claudio Acquaviva preferred that he stay in France and work there.  At this time religious fanaticism had reached its peak in central France. The Mayor of Aubeanas wanted the Jesuits to send someone who would be able to debate with the fundamentalists and to preach Advent sermons. James was appointed to go along with Saultemouche. Before departing on this mission James was aware that it was going to be dangerous. He tied around his neck a relic of Edmund Campion who had been martyred in England a few years before i.e. in 1581.  When he left the Jesuit house he said to the porter “Pray for us, dear brother, we are going to face death." After he had finished his Advent homilies and preaching the mayor begged him to stay on until Easter. His preaching was very effective and this angered those who were against him. The Huguenots considered Fr. James their principal enemy because of the effect he was having on the people and the numerous lives he was instrumental in transforming. They caught him and had a mock trial. They commanded him to deny the articles of his faith which he refused to do. Though he had asked his companion Br. Saultemouche to escape, he refused to do so and stayed with Fr. James till the end. The Huguenots brought Fr. James into the courtyard and shot him pointblank on February 6, 1593 when he was barely 37 years of age. Br. Saultemouche threw his arms around his fellow Jesuit to protect him, but they pulled him away and assaulted him with every possible weapon they could find. He was finally killed with eighteen thrusts of a dagger.
In 1926 Pope Pius XI declared Fr. James Sales and Br. William Saultemouche as martyrs for the faith.
The reading for the feats of today is from the Gospel of Matthew and contains the Passion and resurrection prediction and the challenges to discipleship. In Matthew, the sayings are addressed exclusively to the disciples unlike in Mark where they are addressed to the crowds. A disciple must be prepared to follow the Master and even to the cross if need be. This is the consequence of confessing Jesus as the Christ. The Son of Man has to suffer, but will also be vindicated by God. The pronouncement “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16:28) has been variously interpreted. Some think it refers to the event of the Transfiguration, others think it refers to the Resurrection and still others that it refers to Pentecost. However, it seems that Matthew’s community expected that the Parousia (the second coming of the Lord) would come soon, indeed before the death of some who belonged to the community, and so there are some who think that this pronouncement refers to the Second coming of the Lord.
Denial of self means to count the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constantly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross.  James Sales and William Saultemouch followed his example. Will you?

Monday 17 January 2011

How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?

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 flowing 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.

How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?

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 15 January 2011

You are you and that is all you need to be.

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 Israel”. Since 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.
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 Israel and become the light to all nations.

Friday 14 January 2011

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?

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.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Is there an area in my life in which I suffer from paralysis? Do I believe that Jesus can heal me?

The text of today is a pronouncement story, which also contains a miracle. A pronouncement story is one in which the saying of Jesus is the central point. Some pronouncement stories contain miracles, whereas others do not (2,23-27). In the story of today, it seems that Mark has converted an original miracle story in which a paralytic is healed into a pronouncement story (by inserting the dialogue between Jesus and the scribes after the words, “said to the paralytic” found in 2, 5a, and repeating them in 2,10b), to bring out the point that Jesus has the authority like God to forgive sin. In his challenge to the scribes, Jesus is able to prove that he has this authority to forgive, because he has been able to heal the man completely. Mark might also be indicating that Jesus wanted total healing for the man rather than just physical healing. The response of the crowds is of amazement.
We come across here for the first time a “Son on Man” saying, which is used for the second time in 2,28 and after that only from the Passion and resurrection predictions in Mark (8,31; 9,31; 10,33; 14,62). Characters in the Gospels never use this expression to describe Jesus or refer to him; rather Jesus uses it of himself. While the expression could be used to mean a human being, it seems that the evangelists intend the expression to refer to Jesus’ special status. Here, he has special authority and that to forgive sin.
Our own psychological paralysis is often connected with our lack of forgiveness and keeping feelings of bitterness, anger and the like in our hearts and minds. One of the keys to wholeness and good health is forgiveness. We must forgive because it is good for our health. 

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Who are those whom you treat as lepers? Will you reach out to them with a kind word or touch today?

The healing of a leper, which is our text for today, is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but both Matthew and Luke omit the emotional reactions of Jesus found in Mark. The term leprosy was used for any kind of skin disease, and those with such kind of diseases were considered as unclean and not allowed to be part of society. They had to live on the outskirts of the city, and had to make their presence known whenever they entered the city, so that others could avoid any kind of contact with them and so not get contaminated.
In this miracle, Jesus not only heals the leper, but also reaches out and touches him. This probably means that Jesus cannot be contaminated or made unclean by anything from outside. It could also indicate Jesus’ wanting to reach out to the leper in a personal manner and treat him as a full human being.
The prayer of the leper is a lesson for each one of us on the meaning of prayer. In his prayer the leper both acknowledges his dependence on Jesus through the words, “If you will” and also has faith in the ability of Jesus to heal through the words, “you can make me clean”. Prayer means to acknowledge our dependence on God and also to have faith that God can do what to us may seem impossible.

Do you use the talents God have gifted you for service, or do you keep them to yourself? Do you appreciate good health, or do you more often than not complain that things are not as good, as you would like them to be?

The text of today is made up of three parts. In the fist part (1,29-31), we are told of the healing of Simon’s Mother-in-law. This miracle story follows the pattern of the typical healing stories of the Synoptic Gospels in which three clear parts can be distinguished. These are the narration of the case, the cure (in the larger majority of the healing miracles of Jesus it is merely with a word and/or the act of lifting the person up) and the confirmation that the person has indeed been cured. Here, after her healing she begins to wait on Jesus and his disciples. While on the one hand this detail communicates that she was healed completely and can now serve, on the other hand, Mark may also have intended to communicate to his readers, that healing is for service.
In the second part of today’s text (1,32-34), numerous sick are brought to Jesus, who heals them all. There is also at the end of this section the command to silence, which is connected to the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus does not allow demons to tell other who he is, because he did not want to be misunderstood simply as a wonder working Messiah.
In the third and final part of today’s reading (1,35-39), we are given an insight into a very personal aspect of the life of Jesus; his prayer. In this context, the content of Jesus’ prayer seems to be discernment on whether he must stay or move. While it would have been easier to stay because of the approval he receives here, as is evident from the comment of his disciples that he was being sought after, Jesus opts to move because that is what he sees as his Father’s will, and Mark makes abundantly clear on numerous occasions in his Gospel that nothing and no one can come between Jesus and his Father’s will.
The talents that we have and the gifts that we possess have been given to us in trust. We have therefore to use them to enhance life and continue to be co-creators with God in his work of building the new heaven and new earth.

Monday 10 January 2011

How often is there a dichotomy between your words and your actions? Will you try to synchronise them today?

The first miracle in the Gospel of Mark is an exorcism and is the text for today. At the beginning of this pericope we are informed that Jesus taught in the synagogue with authority and the crowds were astounded at his teaching. Mark then immediately narrates the exorcism story to give a practical example of the teaching of Jesus. The demon "knows" who Jesus is and also that with his coming Satan’s reign is ended. Jesus has indeed come to cast Satan out.
The exorcism indicates what it means that the kingdom has indeed drawn near. This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that we come across what is commonly known as “the command to silence”, which is a technique that Mark uses in his Gospel in which Jesus commands sometimes demons (1,25. 34), sometimes those he has healed (1,44) and sometimes the family members of the one healed (5,43) not to make known his identity or that he has been the one who has healed them. While many interpretations have been offered as to why Mark has used this technique, the one which has found wide acceptance is that the Marcan Jesus did not want people to mistake him for merely an exorcist or miracle worker, but wanted them to realise that he was the Christ who would suffer, die on the cross and be raised.
In this case he is able to exorcise the demon by a mere word, which the crowd interpret as a "new teaching".
By associating the teaching of Jesus with the first miracle and having the people regard the exorcism as a “new teaching”., Mark seems to want to indicate that there is no dichotomy between Jesus’ words and actions. They synchronise. Jesus does what he says and says what he does.

Sunday 9 January 2011

How will you as a disciple of Jesus make known his love to at least one person today?

The first Chapter of the Gospel of Mark is about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, which occurs near the Sea of Galilee and in Capernaum. A number of themes that will figure prominently in the Gospel appear already in the first Chapter. These are: Jesus reaching out to heal and make whole those who come to him for healing (1,29-34. 40-45), his exorcising those possessed by demons and commanding them to be silent about his identity (1,23-28), his being led in all things by the Spirit (1,, the misunderstanding on the part of his disciples and people about who Jesus really is which plays a big part in the Gospel already finds some mention here (1,35-39).
It is also in the first Chapter that Jesus receives the invitation from God (through the voice from heaven 1,11) to be both beloved Son and slave. Jesus accepts this invitation as is evident in the angels attending to him though he is tempted by Satan (1,13) and in his proclamation of the good news of God, which is that the Kingdom of God has indeed, arrived (1,14-15).
The public ministry of Jesus begins after his baptism and his being led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Jesus comes to Galilee “after John was arrested” (1,14). This could be Mark’s way of removing John the Baptist from the scene who until this verse had held centre stage. It could also be a reminder that the fate of John the Baptist will also be the fate of Jesus. He too like John the Baptist will be “handed over” (9,31; 10,33; 14,21.41). Jesus comes “proclaiming the good news of God” which is an indication that he is on the side of God and has accepted the invitation issued to him at his Baptism. The content of this proclamation is that the arrival of Jesus and his ministry is bringing about the salvation promised by the prophets. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated by the coming of Jesus. All that humans have to do now is to open their hearts to receive it in all its fullness.
The call of the first four disciples in the Gospel of Mark (1,16-20) follows immediately after the first public proclamation of Jesus (1,14-15). Two pairs of brothers are called, Peter and Andrew and James and John. These call stories have five parts. Jesus passes by (1,16.19), sees the brothers at their work (1,16.19), he calls to them (1,17.20), they leave their work (1,18. 20), and they follow Jesus (1,18.20). Though their lives would have been disrupted, they dare to follow and this is an indication that they recognise that the summons comes from God himself. Some interpret the “casting of a net” to identify the Evangelical aspect and “mending their nets” to identify the reconciling aspect of the ministry of the disciples.
The first public proclamation of Jesus is about God’s unconditional and magnanimous love for anyone who is open to receive this love. This love is given freely and without charge. In order to receive one does not have to “do” anything, but simply possess an open and generous heart. The call of the disciples seems to indicate that Jesus is aware that he will need humans to cooperate with him in this seemingly daunting task and thus chooses his first disciples. The good news includes disciples. It is not just about Jesus. It includes in the broadest sense the Church. The Church performs about as well as the disciples in Mark, but it is still part of the breaking in of God’s reign, or, can be. That is why Mark tells his story the way he does. This mission of Jesus continues even today and we are those who are called to be those disciples who will continue it and who are being called at every moment to make known top everyone we meet the unconditional and gratuitous love and mercy of God.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Watered to water!!!

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings to an end the Christmas season. That the Baptism of Jesus was historical is doubted by almost no one today. The reasons for this are not merely because it is an event that is narrated by all the Synoptic Gospels, but mainly because despite the fact that Matthew and Luke are struggling to narrate the event of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, they do narrate it in their Gospels. While Mark states quite unambiguously that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mk. 1:9); Luke will have John the Baptist in prison (Lk.3:19) before the baptism of Jesus (Lk.3:21) and does not state explicitly who baptized Jesus. Matthew is careful not to have John the Baptist preach a baptism for the “forgiveness of sins” and alone adds a dialogue between Jesus and John to stress both Jesus’ superiority and that John baptized Jesus only after Jesus allowed him to do so and in order “to fulfill all righteousness”.
The three events that occurred at the baptism of Jesus are mentioned by all three Synoptic Gospels but with some differences. In Matthew “the heavens were opened”, which could be an indication that communication between God and humans is being reestablished in a new way. Others see it as referring to the prayer of Isaiah for God to “rend the heavens and come down” (Is 64:1). The splitting of the heavens enables the Spirit of God to come down, and descend on Jesus like a dove. This  could mean either an approval of the event by God through his Spirit or even that in Jesus the whole people of God as represented by the Spirit are being anointed. The third event is the climax and gives the meaning to the other two and to the baptism itself. Unlike in Mark and Luke where the voice addresses Jesus, in Matthew, the voice speaks in the third person and so reveals to the listeners that Jesus is both beloved Son and servant. This revelation brings out the paradox of the event. On the one hand Jesus is manifested as the beloved Son and king through the quotation of Ps 2:7 (This is my beloved Son)while on the other hand he is also manifested as servant and slave in the same event through the quotation from Is. 42:1 (with whom I am well pleased). As a matter of fact, it is through his being slave and servant, through his passion and death on the cross and through his coming up out of the waters of death that he becomes king and beloved son.
This paradoxical manifestation then is the focus of the readings and of the Baptism. The mysterious prophetic figure that Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today in the first of the four servant songs is clearly in Matthew, Jesus himself. He will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah in every single aspect. He will bring forth God’s justice to all and in an unobtrusive quiet way. He will make the broken whole. His manner will be gentle, and he will be respectful of others especially the weak and will not give in to discouragement or despair. He will accomplish his mission.
This manner of Jesus is what Peter highlights in his speech to Cornelius and his household in which he summarizes Jesus’ life and mission. Jesus, God’s anointed, “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed”.
This is also the paradox that we who are baptized are faced with. On the one hand we are privileged through baptism to be called God’s chosen people, a people set apart and sealed with his Holy Spirit, but on the one hand we are also called to show forth this fact in our lives through our imitation of Christ. We are given through our baptism a mission by God himself, just as Jesus received. Seen in this manner, our baptism is not merely an event that occurred years ago and once for all but is a daily dying and rising to new life. It is a call to respond daily with life to the numerous deaths that take place around us. It is a call to respond with courage and hope to the fear and despair that is around us. It is a doing something everyday as a sign of what we have already received.
Yet it is also true that for many of us the sacrament of baptism that we received is just another theoretical expression of our faith. We do not live this out in our lives. This is possibly why after the Baptism of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you.”
John F Kennedy’s famous saying can be amended to read, “Ask not what your Church can do for you; rather, ask what you must do for your Church.”

How will you point to Jesus through your words and actions today?

The Gospel text of today contains John’s final appearance in the Gospel of John. In these verses he gives his final witness to Jesus. The reason for the witness is the report of his disciples that Jesus to whom John bore witness was also baptizing and that “everyone” was now going to him. This witness begins with John stating what at first glance might seem like a logical statement, but in its deeper sense means that Jesus has what he has from God. It is a gift from God to Jesus and given to him directly. This is why in his earlier testimony, John had made clear that while he was not the Christ, and he was the one sent ahead of him to prepare the way. Since he was clear about his role in God’s plan of salvation, he had no difficulty with accepting it and living it out. He is but the friend of the bridegroom, who when the bridegroom appears will take his secondary and less important place. The bridegroom is the one who is at the centre of the marriage feast. When it begins the friend must recede into the background.

The choice of this text on the last day of the Christmas Season is apt because it defines the roles of each of us who like John are friends of the bridegroom, Jesus. Like John, our role is to prepare the way for him and to point out to him through our words and actions. If we understand this role and if at every moment we realize where our authority ends, we can fulfill this role as we ought to.

Friday 7 January 2011

Thursday 6 January 2011

Will you say that kind word; give that loving touch or that uninhibited hug that can result in someone being healed today?

In the NT, “leprosy” seems not to be limited to Hansen’s disease but denotes various skin diseases that could produce scales, inflammation, or lesions. The priestly legislation regarding the detection and treatment of leprosy is reported in detail in Leviticus 13–14. The Levitical law required that the afflicted person be examined by a priest. If the priest determined that the person had leprosy, he or she was to be quarantined for seven days. At the end of the week, the priest might extend the quarantine a second week or pronounce the person clean or leprous. The law required that a leprous person wear torn clothing, leave his hair disheveled and live alone or with other lepers. When approached by another person, the leper was to cover his or her upper lip and call out, “Unclean, unclean” (Lev 13:45-46). Leviticus 14 prescribes a detailed ritual for the cleansing of a leper who has been healed from the disease. The leper must be examined by a priest, a ritual involving two birds was performed, and then the cleansed leper would bathe, shave, and wash his or her clothes before returning to the community.

This story of the healing of a leper in Luke is found also in Mark 1:40-45. Luke, however, states that the man was “covered with leprosy” and so heightens the man’s condition. The leper makes a fervent plea to Jesus as is evident when he falls “on his face” and asserts that Jesus can cure him and make him clean. Jesus reaches out and touches the leper which here could be Luke’s way of showing that Jesus could not be defiled by external laws, rules and regulations. It could also mean that while others would shun an unclean person like a leper and run as far away as possible from him, Jesus draws close and even touches the man. The leper is healed instantly. In Luke, the reason for the man to remain silent and to tell no one seems to be in order to get the certification from the priest that he was clean. Unlike Mark who ends the story by saying that the leper did not obey the command to silence but proclaimed it freely and began to spread the word, Luke does not say anything further about the leper. The text ends with the growing popularity of Jesus and the crowds’ attraction to him. Jesus, however, would always seek solitude and silence and the opportunity to be alone with his father.

Though the scriptures explicate on many occasions that there is no connection between sin and illness, many today attribute diseases, illness and misfortune to sin. Sometimes it is not the individual’s sins but the sins of his/her forefathers which they think are being brought on them. Nothing is further from the truth than this warped way of thinking. Most of the sicknesses today are psychosomatic and those which are not are often the result of an unhealthy life style or in the case of the poor malnutrition. Our response to our own illnesses and to those of others has to be the response of Jesus. The first step towards healing is having a positive attitude as both the leper and Jesus show. The leper approaches Jesus with confidence and a positive attitude and Jesus responds with compassion and love. Jesus makes no judgement on the cause of the leper’s illness but does what he has to do to reach out and heal and this is what we are called to do when we see someone in need of healing. Often it is not external medicine but a kind word, a loving touch or an uninhibited hug that can result in healing. This remains the challenge for us today.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

How would you define your life’s mission in one sentence?

This text contains the first public appearance of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. This occurs in a synagogue in which Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of God and all that it entails by reading from the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit plays an important role in the Gospel of Luke and so at the beginning of his public ministry Jesus is led by the Spirit and begins teaching in the synagogues and wins the approval of all people.

In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus chooses the text from Isa 61:1 and 58:6. He would have read standing up and taught sitting down. While the reading would have been from the Hebrew text, the interpretation/teaching would have been in Aramaic. The Lucan Jesus omits the reference in Isaiah “to bind the brokenhearted” and adds instead from Isa 58:6 “to let the oppressed go free”. He also omits and significantly “and the day of vengeance of our God” found in Isa 61:2. The result of these omissions and addition is that the mission and vision of Jesus becomes a very practical and tangible one and not one that is merely psychological or spiritual. It is an all inclusive mission which has its priority the poor. Jesus’ ministry signaled that the time for the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come, and in that respect at least his work would fulfill the ideal and the social concern of the Jubilee year.

Jesus’ first words after the reading are electric. He announces that the centuries of waiting on God’s blessing have ended: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The words from Isaiah spoke of an anointing by the Spirit, the work of a prophet, and dramatic signs of God’s redemption. The townspeople had heard reports of Jesus’ teaching elsewhere and might reasonably have expected that if he was a prophet endowed by the Spirit of God he would favor his hometown with his mightiest works. Thus they would share in the fame of the prophet from Nazareth so that no longer would anyone be able to say (however wrongly) that there were no prophets from Galilee (John 7:52). In short, they heard Jesus’ declaration of fulfillment as a promise of special favor for his own people and his “hometown”

As confirmation of the crowd’s initial enthusiasm for Jesus’ announcement, Luke reports that they bore witness to him and marveled at the “gracious words” he spoke. Luke is depicting a positive response to Jesus based on the content of Jesus’ proclamation. If the people find him eloquent it is because they are pleased by what he has said.

By placing this text at the beginning of his Gospel Luke makes clear what the Mission of Jesus will be about not only throughout the Gospel, but even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The summary of the Mission statement of Jesus is that the “good news” of God’s graciousness is preached primarily to the poor. This news is not merely a verbal proclamation but one that includes actions of healing and making whole. Every kind of limitation that a person experiences, whether economic, physical, psychological, or spiritual is addressed by Jesus. Indeed, Jesus addresses not just one aspect of a person’s life but the whole person and the whole life.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

When was the last time you gave without counting the cost? Will you dare to give like this today?

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle that Jesus worked that is found in all four Gospels (Mt 14:13-21; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-15). While details differ, what is common are the numbers: With five loaves and two fish, five thousand (“besides women and children” in Matthew) are fed and twelve baskets are gathered.

The story in Mark begins by Jesus having compassion on the crowds when he sees them because they seem as sheep without a shepherd. The images of sheep and shepherd evoke many Old Testament references where kings are condemned by prophets for not being shepherds to their people and to the pleas of prophets to God to shepherd his people. Here, Jesus takes on the role of shepherd of the people. Though he begins this role by teaching the people, he does not stop there. Theory is translated into action, words are shown in deeds.

In Mark the disciples are shown in a bad light. Their response to Jesus’ charge to them, “you give them something to eat”, is sarcastic. They stress the impossibility of what Jesus charges them to do and even ridicule that charge. Jesus responds by asking them to do what they are told and when they find out that there are only five loaves and two fish, they are ordered to ask the crowd to sit down in groups. Miraculously these are enough to feed five thousand and also to gather what is left over which signify the abundance of the miracle. Not only do people have enough, they have more than enough.

The primary function of the feeding miracle in this section of the Gospel is to demonstrate that the people now have a true shepherd in Jesus. They need not be hungry anymore. God’s word and bread will be available in abundance because of the presence of Jesus.

While some see the miracle clearly as miraculous and which cannot be explained rationally, others see it as one in which selflessness is at the core. Seeing Jesus share his own meal so freely, others were motivated into sharing what they had so that there was more than required. It is in giving that we receive and more than we ever expected.

Monday 3 January 2011

Is your goodness the result of your being loved or will you be good only to earn rewards?

The arrest of John the Baptist is the occasion for Jesus to withdraw. However, the withdrawal of Jesus is not one from fear or cowardice, but in keeping with his view of a non-violent kingship. Jesus will not retaliate or react. He remains always the actor, not the reactor.

The reason why Matthew has Jesus settle in Galilee is because of its association with Gentiles as is evident in the fifth formula or fulfillment quotation in Matthew’s Gospel which here is from Isaiah. In Isaiah the context is the reversal which will occur in the latter days, when the spiritual darkness of Galilee will be dispelled by the dawn of the new age when the ideal king appears. In Matthew, the text functions as a fulfillment of that new age. In Jesus all darkness has been removed because the light has come.

While in Mark the first words that Jesus speaks consist of his proclamation, this is not the case in Matthew. Jesus speaks first with John the Baptist and during the temptations responds to Satan. However, the first public words that Jesus speaks in Matthew are found here. They consist of an imperative based on an indicative. The imperative is the call to “Repent”. The reason for this repentance is that the kingdom of haven is here or has already arrived. The text therefore explicates that no one can do anything or need do anything to bring about the kingdom. No amount of effort on the part of human beings can result in the coming of the kingdom. The reason for this is that it has already come and is given as a free gift to all of humankind. The proper response to the arrival of the kingdom is receiving it with all humility and simplicity and openness and receptivity. A change of mind, heart and vision is what is required to receive the kingdom as a free gift from God. Since the kingdom that Jesus brings is one that has never been experienced before, a narrow mind with a stereotypical way of looking at God and the world will not be able to comprehend it, thus the new mind.

Many of us still think that it is our good deeds which are responsible for our salvation and that if we continue to do good and be good, we will have earned eternal life. This is a warped way of understanding God, Jesus and his message. Our God in Jesus is not a God who is a grocer or one who deals with us as in barter exchange. Salvation can never be earned or bought by our goodness. Rather, our goodness is a consequence of our salvation.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Has your preconceived notion prevented you from encountering Jesus? How will you like John reveal Jesus today?

The Gospel text of today is one which appears immediately after the prologue in the Gospel of John and narrates the witness of John. John is the first witness to Jesus, who is the one who is to come. His preaching attracted such large crowds that the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. The priests represented the theological authorities of the nation; the Levites were concerned with the ritual and service of the temple. John did not seem to fit into any ecclesiastical category familiar to the Jewish authorities, and his unusual success demanded an explanation. In his response those who enquire of him who he is John clarifies that he is not the light, but the one who points to the light. Though he is not asked whether he is the Christ, John emphatically states that he is not. Neither is John Elijah or the prophet. Both Elijah and the prophet were figures upon whom some of the messianic expectations of Judaism came to rest. While Elijah was expected to return as the herald of the messianic age, the prophet was a figure like Moses who was expected to lead them in a new Exodus and overcome their enemies. John is neither. He is but a voice crying in the wilderness, the voice that witnesses to and prepares the way for the one who is to come. This is the one who will reveal the glory of God in all its fullness.

In order to recognize this God who is to come, it is necessary to get rid of all stereotypes and preconceived notions that we may have of how he is going to come as these might prevent us from recognizing him when he does come. The reason many of the people of Jesus’ time could not recognize him as the Messiah, is that they had definite ideas on how the Messiah was going to come. The Messiah, they thought, would suddenly descend from heaven in his divine power and majesty and establish his reign by destroying the enemies of Israel. No one would know where he came from, humanly speaking, because he would come from God. So, when Jesus came, born of a woman like every other person, they could not recognize him. He was too ordinary, too unimpressive. He did not fit into their expected categories. He was not the triumphant, conquering, aggressive Messiah that many would have liked him to be. His presence did not instill fear in people or fill their hearts with guilt and remorse. Rather, he was incarnate love and mercy, and came to transform the world through his message of unconditional and eternal love.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Jesus fulfilled the prophecy about saving people from their sins. Will you fulfil the prophecy of the name “Christian” that you bear? How?

January 1 is celebrated every year as the Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus. It is a day which celebrates giving of the name of Jesus as the Gospel text of today narrates and also honours Mary as Mother of God. Since the Society of Jesus bears the name of Jesus, it regards this day as of special importance.

The Gospel text of today moves the spotlight from the angels to the Shepherds. They move to Bethlehem to see for themselves what the angels had announced. The sign they had been given was of a child in the manger. This sign so amazed them that they had to share it with those whom they met. Everyone who heard what the shepherds reported was amazed. Mary on the other hand continued to reflect on the meaning of these events.

The circumcision of Jesus takes place after eight days had passed according to the law laid down in the Books of Genesis and Leviticus. While the circumcision of a male child marked his acceptance into the covenant community, the naming gave the child an identity. The name also signified the function of the child, what the child would become. In the last verse of today’s Gospel text, the focus is not so much on the circumcision as it is on the naming. The name “Jesus” was chosen not be the parents of Jesus but by the angel of the Lord. Jesus was and would be Saviour of all peoples.