Tuesday 31 May 2011

Making Jesus relevant today

What contemporary symbol describes Jesus for you? How will you share this symbol with at least one other person today? Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Jn 16:12-15

The Paraclete is mentioned for the last time in the Farewell Discourse in these verses. Jesus has taught the disciples all that they are to know and understand about the present time. There is nothing more about the present that he can say to them. What they need to know about the future will be revealed to them at the appropriate time and when the Spirit that is sent comes. This means that, even when they are faced with the future which is uncertain, God’s presence will be with them. They are not alone. The Paraclete is the “spirit of truth” since he comes from Jesus, who is “the truth” and will guide the disciples into the way of truth, into the way of Jesus. Since the Paraclete will be sent by Jesus, he will only explicate and make clearer what Jesus has already said. He will not give a new teaching but will continue what Jesus has begun. As Jesus taught what he heard from God, so the Paraclete will teach what he hears from Jesus.

He will also declare “the things that are to come” which here means the preparation of the disciples for the time after Jesus. This also indicates that the words of Jesus are not time bound, but available anew for every succeeding generation of disciples. The Paraclete always makes the teachings new and relevant for the times. Just as Jesus made God visible through his words and actions, so the Paraclete will make Jesus present through the inspiration and support he provides to the disciples.

The Paraclete thus makes Jesus present even after his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. He is the teacher and witness of all that Jesus has said and done. That is, the Paraclete enables the Christian community, at any time in its life, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” and bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. However, the Paraclete’s role as teacher is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.

The Paraclete that Jesus sent two thousand years ago is the same Paraclete that is available to us today. The presence of the Paraclete will be seen and felt when we make the teachings of Jesus relevant and alive today. The idiom, symbols, and language that we use have to be understood by contemporary hearers. All too often, language about Jesus is too pious and even outdated and so, does not touch the lives of many. If we open ourselves to the working of the Paraclete in our lives, we will be able to make Jesus present even now.


Around 150 years ago the Bombay St. Mary’s Society was established by the Society of Jesus, a premier society in the field of Education, which runs, manages and conducts institutions of excellence such as XLRI, St. Xavier’s College Mumbai, Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College, Loyola College Chennai, St. Xavier’s Kolkatta, St. Joseph’s Trichi and Bangalore.

The Bombay St. Mary’s Society established the St. Mary’s (ICSE) High School at Mazgaon about 148 years ago. This school is affiliated to the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, New Delhi. In the year 1932 the Society established the St. Mary’s High School (SSC), presently affiliated to the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. For the past 78 years St. Mary’s High School is considered as an institution, which imparts quality education. Admission to this school is most sought after. The Jesuits have ensured that alongwith academic education the student is inculcated with value education. The school has achieved cent % results in the SSC Board examination consistently for the past 10 years. Majority of the students have passed in First Class with distinction.

The alumni of St. Mary’s High School (SSC) are today holding high offices in our country as well as abroad. This is only because of the quality of education and values imparted by the institution. The action against the school has been initiated with a pre-conceived mind and at the behest of certain vested interest.

The management of the school is being harassed by vested interest having political connections. The harassment unleashed is with a preconceived and pre-calculated motive. The SSC Section is aided by the State. However, since Academic Year 2004 not a single naya paise has been released by the Education Department towards non-salary grants.

Entire non-salary expenditure has been borne by the management through its own resources. Fr. Baptist, a Jesuit priest and former Principal of St. Xavier’s School, Mumbai (for ten years) was transferred by the Society of Jesus to St. Mary’s High School (SSC). The Education Department refused to grant approval and has kept it pending till today. The Education Department nominated the Senior most teacher as Acting Principal. This was deliberately done with a motive to destablise the school.

The Education Department, without notice to the School, lodged a complaint with the Economic Offence Wing of the Mumbai Police alleging that the School had illegally collected huge amounts and misappropriated it. The Economic Offence Wing, after detailed investigations, has concluded that the Complaint is false and has closed the case. The Dy. Director of Education, however, on the very same charge with some other frivolous and flimsy grounds and without considering a detailed explanation supported by documentary evidence, has by an ex-parte order dated 24th May, 2011 de-recognised the St. Mary’s High School (SSC). The Order has been deliberately passed closed to re-opening to jeopardize a recognized, private and minority educational institution of repute.

The Order is, on the face of it, unsustainable. The management is in the process of preferring an Appeal for recalling the ex-parte order of de-recognition passed by the Dy. Director of Education.

The management hereby appeals to the parents and students in particular not to be perturbed and extend their support to the management at this critical juncture.

If people heard you speak and saw your actions today, would they recognize you as a follower of Jesus? Acts 16:22-34; Jn 16:5-11

These verses continue the farewell Discourse which was begun in 14:1. Since Jesus had been physically present to the disciples, he did not need to give them instructions about the time when he would not be with them. However, since that time has now come, they need to be informed about how they are to handle the future without him. They are dismayed and troubled, even though they know that he is going to the Father. They must realize and accept that it is to their advantage that Jesus goes. If he does not go, the Paraclete cannot come. Jesus’ departure, which means his death, resurrection, and ascension, must precede the Paraclete’s coming. When this happens, Jesus will have completed the work given to him by the Father and the Paraclete will continue the work begun by Jesus.

The Paraclete’s work in the world will be to bring people to trial. This, however, is only one of the many functions that the Paraclete performs. It will bring out into the open the true meaning of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the “world”, which here means those who rejected Jesus, will be held accountable.

The “world’s” sin is exposed because they have not believed in Jesus as the one who was sent from, and by, the Father. This means that the focus is not on one particular act, but on the attitude of rejection. Though the “world” might assume that Jesus’ death is the end, it is mistaken and, in this is righteousness exposed. Jesus’ death is not the end; rather, it is the completion on earth of the work entrusted to him by the Father. It is to be seen in the context of obedience to his Father’s will for him and the world. The final judgment will be that of the “ruler of this world”. By his death, resurrection, and ascension, the devil, the embodiment of all that is opposed to Jesus, will be judged. It will be proved, through this decisive act, that God has triumphed in his Son.

The “world” continues to be opposed to Jesus and to love. However, Jesus continues to be present to the world in his Spirit, made manifest in his disciples. It is the task of the disciples inspired and guided by the Spirit to continue to expose the sin of the world and bring the world to judgment. While this may be done by verbal proclamation, it must also be, like in the case of Jesus, a proclamation that is shown in action.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Will you persevere in love today? When you are repaid with ingratitude for your kindness, will you continue to love? Acts 16:11-15; Jn 15:26-16:4

This is the third promise of the coming of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John. Jesus had made the first promise in 14:16-17, and the second one in 14:26. The Paraclete or Advocate is sent by Jesus and the Father. The Paraclete is sent by Jesus, but is sent from the Father. The Paraclete is sent here to testify or bear witness to Jesus. This means that the teaching of the Paraclete will not be new teaching but a confirmation of what Jesus has already taught and done. Just as the Paraclete bears witness, so must the disciples, since they have seen and heard Jesus from the beginning. The Paraclete will give strength to the disciples in their time of trial so that they will not fall away. The Paraclete will work in and through the disciples. The work of Jesus continues through the Paraclete working in the disciples.

Because of this work of Jesus, the disciples will have to face persecution from those who do not accept them. As a matter of fact, those who engage in such persecution will think they are right and, by so persecuting the disciples, will think they are, in effect, worshipping God. This is because they have not understood the meaning of the incarnation and so, have not been able to recognize God’s unconditional and gratuitous love made manifest in Jesus. Jesus predicts these happenings, to both prepare the disciples in advance for what is to come and also, to warn them about the consequences of following him. Their perseverance and standing firm, even in the midst of persecution, will reveal their love for him and the Father and will be the tangible expression of their faith.

Believing in Jesus is not easy. It is one thing to verbally profess faith in him and another to live out all that he taught and did. It is especially difficult to follow him when things do not go the way we want them to and when things happen contrary to our expectations. When those to whom we are good repay us with goodness, we are not surprised, because we expect them to do just that. However, when those to whom we have reached out in love are ungrateful and sometimes openly hostile to us, we get shocked at their behavior, simply because we did not expect them to react in that way. It is at times like these that we must remember the predictions of Jesus made here. His love for the world, shown in the most tangible manner on the cross, was spurned by most of his contemporaries, yet that same love continues to be made new, even today, two thousand years later. We, too, are called not to fall away but to persevere in love.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Genuine love is unconditional. Acts 8:5-8,14-17; 1 Pet 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21

Someone once said tongue in cheek: "The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home." Whoever said that may have been joking, but only partly. For, though we know that mountain climbers are tied together to keep from getting lost or going over a cliff and even to support and encourage one another, there is another piece of truth here. When things get difficult up on the mountain, when the going gets tough, when the path is too steep, when fear sets in, many a climber is tempted to say, "This is too difficult! It’s crazy! I'm going home." This is understandable and sometimes even prudent.

The life of faith can be like that when doubts set in, despair overwhelms us, and the whole notion of believing in God seems crazy. Jesus was aware that his disciples would have days like that, and so if the focus in the opening verses of this Chapter read last week was on the confidence that the disciples are exhorted to have since Jesus will overcome death and return, here the focus is on two other interconnected aspects.

The first of these is the intimate connection between the love which one has for Jesus and keeping his commandment of love, (a theme which begins and ends this text) and the second is the promise of the Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counsellor or Paraclete that Jesus will ask for the disciples from the Father who will come to their aid to give strength, courage and confidence when the going gets tough and the road is steep.

In the first, Jesus is explicit that the love of the disciple has to be a tangible love that will express itself in action. It is to be an imitation of the love that the first letter of Peter speaks about; the love of Christ who died for the guilty to lead us to God. This kind of love, which is unconditional and does not keep any record of right or wrong, will lead to the disciple sharing in the Father’s love.

It also leads to second and connected aspect: the promise of the gift of the Advocate who will abide not only with the disciples but also in them. The Advocate can mean variously, “the one who comforts”, ‘the one who helps” and “the one who makes appeals on one’s behalf”. This Advocate whom Jesus will ask from the Father will not engage in any new work, but will continue the work of Jesus. The Spirit will ensure that the revelation of God begun in Jesus will not end when Jesus returns to the Father, but will continue forever, since the Spirit will be with the disciples forever. Though the Paraclete will be with the disciples, Jesus himself will also return both after his resurrection from the dead and in the fact that the Paraclete will make the resurrection of Jesus available for all believers beyond their limited moment in time.

While not abandoning traditional beliefs (for instance, in the second coming and judgement), John handles them in a way which relates them directly to the present. He can do this because the chief focus of his spirituality is not a place or a time, but a person and a set of relationships. The focus is not quantity, but quality. The focus is not bigger miracles or stricter commandments, but the expansion of the initiative of love which comes from God and seeks to fill the world. This is why John’s account of Jesus’ last words does not expound the Law. It is also why though John insists on the Spirit, the focus is not ecstasy or miracles, as one might expect, but presence. The focus is not mystical experiences, but on relationship and resultant action, on communities of love which ‘speak for themselves’. The passage is framed by human anxiety about the absence of Jesus and ultimately about the absence of God (14:1; 14:27). It does not deny the anxiety and distress, but offers a promise of presence and sense of meaning embedded in sharing God’s life and participating in God’s action in the world, recognizable by its ‘Jesus-shape’. John composed these parting words of Jesus with more than the immediate disciples in mind.

This is why even after the death of Stephen by stoning and the general persecution of the Christian community, Philip one of the seven chosen deacons being aware of this presence of the Risen Lord was bold to proclaim Christ to them. The Spirit working in and through him enabled him to both preach and act as Jesus himself had done. The result of Philip’s actions through the guidance of the Spirit was that people were made whole. This combination and even synchrony of healing word and action resulted in great rejoicing, and many were drawn to Christ.

This presence, in which the disciples lived, continued to sustain them and make an impact on others. Since this was so, they are exhorted in the second reading of today to be willing to share that hope with whoever asks about it. It is not to be a sharing that smacks of condescension or a sharing which professes to have the whole truth, but a sharing that has to be done in humility, courtesy and reverence for the other. We are given as it were a starting point for inter-religious dialogue.

This kind of sharing is the need of the hour in a world that is characterized by fear and lack of trust. In a world that is already a global village but also where each community is becoming more closed in on itself and parochial, the task of the Christian community is evident. First we have to be convinced that no matter how steep the path might be and no matter how rough the road might get, the Risen Lord continues to accompany us on our journey to eternity in and through his Spirit which abides in each of us and second we must be able to communicate this presence which is manifested in peace, joy, fellowship and justice for all.

St. Mary's S.S.C

The derecognition of St. Mary's S.S.C. (my Alma Mater) has not really surprised many of us. For months now vested interests were working towards this and think that they have succeeded. However, that is not the case. The charges are frivolous and cannot be substantiated. What is surprising that the deputy Director of Education had the gall/foolishness/call it what you will to take such a step. Truth will out and we shall overcome.

How often has your comparison with what others have led you to feel jealous of them? Will you realize that you can be the most contented person if you so decide today? Acts 16;1-10; Jn 15:18-21

These verses of the Discourse on the Vine and the Branches focus not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.

The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.

The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives. Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them. Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.

In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labeled as crazy and out of touch with reality. Possession of things has so possessed us that we do not even realize that, most of the time, it is things that possess us rather than the other way round. We are held by the things we want to possess and they will not let us rest. Often, it begins with a small possession and then goes on to something bigger and soon gets so big that we lose control of ourselves and who we are. Our identity is linked with what we have and what we have achieved. In a situation like this, we need to take stock and decide when enough is enough. We need to ask ourselves whether we will live our lives moving from one possession to the next, often not even having the time or energy to enjoy what we possess.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Have you received Jesus’ gift of unconditional love? Does this show in your sharing of that love? Acts 15:22-31; Jn 15:12-17

The first verse of today’s reading repeats the love commandment of 13:34, which there, was referred to as a new commandment. This love is expressed in the most perfect of ways in the willingness to go to one’s death for the sake of a friend. The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. It is important to note that Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather he is stating what and who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command).
The friendship that the disciples share with Jesus is grounded in love. This means that Jesus keeps back nothing from his disciples and reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father.

It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which, when received, results in one living out the call to discipleship. The living out of the call is not merely a once for all act, but something that is done constantly and with perseverance. This will ensure that the effects of their love are abiding and lasting. The last verse of today, with its reminder to “love one another”, forms an inclusion with the first.

The relationship that we share with God because of Jesus is one of sons and daughters. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even friends. This is because he has given us everything in all its fullness. He held nothing back, not even his own self. The manifestation of this self giving, which began with the incarnation, was completed and continued on the cross, and through his resurrection and ascension. He continues to give, even today. However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is as important if the act of giving is to be completed. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak an enhancing word, perform a loving action, behave a little less selfishly, and a little more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Only Love is real.

How often has fear ruled your actions? Will you dare to act from love today? Acts 15:7-21; Jn 15:9-11

The love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has expressed and shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love without end. It is not merely a verbal expression, or an emotion, but a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. The disciples have to act in the same manner as Jesus in order to make this love visible. There is only one commandment and that is the commandment to love. If the disciples keep this commandment, it will result in their being like Jesus, their master, who before them, revealed God’s love for the world.

Keeping the commandment of Jesus is thus not a chore or burden but done willingly because one has experienced this love first. The outcome of this sharing and manifestation of love is unbounded joy.

The word “love” has been a word that is used so often that it has been abused. We speak of our love for the good things of life, and of our love for the members of our family, and of our love for God in the same breath. “I love mixed vegetables” we might tell our spouse and, in the next breath, say “I love you”. Love is not primarily an emotion; it is not even a feeling, but reality. As a matter of fact, the only reality is love. Fear, which is regarded as the opposite of love, is not real, it is only an illusion. If there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no fear (1 Jn 4:18). While Paul gives a beautiful definition of love in 1 Cor 13:1-9, my own definition of love is simple, but not simplistic. “In love, there is no “I””.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

The Vine and the Branches

Do I consider myself as part of the vine or do I regard myself as an individual branch? How will I show that I am part of the vine? Acts 15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8

John 15:1-17 are the verses for today and the next two days. These verses contain the final “I am” sayings in the Gospel (vv. 1, 5) and introduce the central metaphor of this unit: the vine and its branches. Jesus uses, in the first verse of Chapter 15, a common symbol of the world at that time: Vine. While in 15:1, the relationship with Jesus and the Father is stressed, in 15:5, when the metaphor is used again, Jesus does so in the context of his relationship with his disciples. Thus, the focus of the metaphor is interrelationship. If God is the vine dresser, Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches. All three are required for the production of fruit.

God, as the vine dresser, is the origin or source and, because Jesus comes from the Father, he is the true vine. God acts in his capacity as vine dresser and does what is best for the vine. Those branches that do bear fruit are pruned and those that do not, are cut away. This means that those of the community who express their union with Jesus by acting it out in works of love are pruned, whereas those who do not show their faith in action are cut off. The disciples have been given an insight into how they must remain in the vine, through the words that Jesus has spoken to them and through the loving actions that he performed, symbolized in the washing of the feet. They must learn from these actions and realize that, without abiding or remaining in Jesus, they can do nothing. Their own power or effort will never be sufficient for the works they have to perform. These can only be done if accompanied by the grace that Jesus gives.

“I am the vine, you are the branches” in 15:5 is not a repetition of what was said earlier. Rather it stresses the relationship of the community with Jesus. Without the vine, the branches are nothing. Mutual indwelling will result in bearing fruit. If a branch decides that it wants to live apart from the vine, it is in effect asking for death. Life apart from the vine is not possible for any branch.

Mutual indwelling is not merely with a single branch and the vine but with all the branches in the vine with one another. This unity of the branches among themselves will result in fruit bearing. This unity will also be a witness for the world and the glorification of the vine dresser: God. When people see the works of the disciples, it will lead them to glorify the Father.

All too often Christianity has been understood as a religion that has only the individual dimension. The communitarian dimension has been neglected. This is seen in so many of the Sacraments (which are both individual and communitarian) being treated and regarded as private devotions. The approach of many Christians has often been: My God and I. This approach is to misunderstand Christianity and all that Jesus stood for. The metaphor of today makes explicit that mutual indwelling is at the heart of the preaching of Jesus, and that Christianity, while it surely has an individual dimension, just as surely has a communitarian dimension. I am, as a Christian my brother’s and sister’s keeper. Their joys and sorrow, their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures, have to be as real to me as my own if I am to be a Christian in the true sense of the word. The Christian does make an individual commitment and choice to follow Jesus but he/she makes it in and through a community.

Monday 23 May 2011

Do not be afraid.

When adversity knocks at your door do you open with dread and fear or hope and courage? Acts 14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31

A new promise is given to the disciples. This is first occurrence of “peace” in the Gospel of John. Peace here does not mean simply a wish, but must be seen as a legacy or bequest that Jesus leaves behind for the disciples. This peace that Jesus gives is not merely a sense of security, not merely the end of conflict and strife, but it embraces every aspect of a person’s life. This peace makes the weak strong and the fainthearted brave. It is a wholeness which makes one courageous to face all the trials and tribulations of life without getting overwhelmed. It is a peace which gives them the strength to face every kind of adversity with equanimity and faith.

Even as he offers this gift to them, Jesus reminds them of his departure because this is what God wills and it must come to pass. It is a reality that cannot be avoided and the peace given to them must make them able to accept it. The disciples must accept this reality, not out of resignation but, with an active joy. The reason for this joy is that Jesus goes to the Father after having completed the work given to him. It is the Father who has sent Jesus and given him the work to do - the work of making the Father known to the world - and now, after completing it thoroughly, Jesus goes back to where he has come from.

The foretelling of the events is Jesus’ way of preparing the disciples for what is to come and also to reveal to them that Jesus continues to go to his departure willingly and knowingly. It is not as if some unseen hand or “fate” is responsible for what is to come. Since what will happen fits in with God’s plan for Jesus and the world, Satan is never in control. He cannot have any power over Jesus. Jesus does what he does willingly and in obedience to the will of the Father.

The event of the death of a loved one sometimes shatters our world. We find it difficult to cope with the loss and wonder if the God we believe in really is a God of unconditional love. Does our God really care what happens to us? If he does, then why did he let this misfortune befall us? Where is he when we need him most? Why does he not answer? The answers to these questions are provided by Jesus in the Gospel text of today. He tells his disciples, and us, to rejoice at such happenings because they fit in with God’s plan for us and the world. We may not be able to see this plan at first glance, like the disciples were not able to see it when Jesus spoke it to them, but we also know that Jesus’ words are true because of his resurrection and ascension and because of the transformation in the lives of his disciples because of these events. We have to continue to dare to believe.


Do Jesus and the Father dwell in you? How will you show this through your actions today?

Do Jesus and the Father dwell in you? How will you show this through your actions today? Acts 14:5-18; Jn 14:21-26

To be a true disciple of Jesus, it is not enough to make a verbal proclamation of faith in him. One is also required to keep his commandments. It is important to note here that one does not earn Jesus’ love by keeping his command to love.  It is because one has already experienced that love that one wants to love and obey in return.

Judas (not Iscariot) does not appear in any of the Synoptic Gospels. He is the one who misunderstands here and asks a question about the revelation that Jesus is to make, not realizing that the revelation has been made already. If the disciples want to continue to experience the love that Jesus has made manifest to the world, they must continue to love one another. It is in the love of one another that they will experience the love of God and Jesus. This will result in a mutual indwelling. Just as Jesus dwells in the Father and the Father in him, so Jesus and the Father will live in the disciples and the disciples in them. This abiding presence of God and Jesus within the disciples as a community is both the foundation and the result of love expressed in deeds. Where there is no love shown, Jesus and the Father cannot be made present.

Though Jesus has made explicit what the disciples are to do if they are to make him present, it is possible that they may not have grasped all the implications of the command. The Paraclete or Advocate, only here in John identified with the Holy Spirit, will “remind” them of Jesus’ teachings. This clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit will not give new or different teaching, but only reinforce all that Jesus has already taught. The Spirit will be sent in Jesus’ name and so, like Jesus was the exegesis of the Father, the Spirit will be the exegesis of Jesus.

To keep the words of Jesus means to live them out in action. The ones who do that have already experienced the indwelling of God and Jesus in them. This indwelling will strengthen them and enable them to live out the word more fully each day. This is not a linear but cyclic process. More living out means more indwelling and more indwelling means more living out.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Acts 6: 1-7; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn: 14:1-12 - The Lord goes, but only to return

Though we are in the Easter season, the Gospel reading is from the centre of the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John which Jesus gives before his departure from this life to the next. This is not as strange as it may appear at first glace. One reason for the choice of this reading seems to be to prepare for the Ascension (the departure of Jesus) and Pentecost (his return again through his Spirit) which the Church will celebrate soon. Another reason seems to be the content and meaning of the verses that make up this part of the discourse.
The focus in the opening verses is not so much on the departure but on confidence which the disciples are exhorted to have. The reason for this confidence is that even though it might seem that Jesus is being defeated by death, the reality is that he will overcome death. Not only will he do that, but after having prepared a place for every believer, he will return to take them with him. This will prove (if proof is required) that he is alive and that with him and the Father, all believers will continue to live in a relationship that is governed only by unconditional love and mutual self giving. Thus as disciples of the Lord who was raised from the dead and who ascended into heaven, we are called to that same confidence.
The Way to this life is Jesus himself. However, Jesus is not merely the access route to God but is also the embodiment of this life in his being the Truth and the Life. He is so because in him as never before the Father is revealed. This revelation is made in the words of love that Jesus speaks and also in the loving actions that he performs. This is why to believe in God means also to believe in Jesus.  This kind of faith will lead to the disciples being empowered and their continuing the work begun by Jesus which is to reveal to all the unconditional and magnanimous love of God.

The continuation of this work was not an easy task because of the very high standard set by Jesus. This is evident in the first reading of today in which we read of partiality and with it animosity and tension between two groups both of whom were followers of Christ and so Christians. However, because of what they had learned from the Lord, they did not let this brief hiccup get them down, but worked at it with practical wisdom and were able to overcome it and not only restore unity but also continue to draw others to their number through the word which they manifested in their deeds. They were able to do this because they continued to remember that Christ himself was the corner stone and so the very foundation of their life and also the living stone and so the one would continue to sustain, nourish and nurture them on their journey.

Regarding Christ as their foundation and following in his path by drawing their life and inspiration from him will mean that there will be hardships, trails and tribulations from within and without. Perseverance, however, is the key, and they must continue to persevere because they are a chosen race or generation which signifies that since they are related by blood, they have a common origin and so a common Father. This makes them brothers and sisters, members of one family. They are also a kingdom of priests, which means that they have been set apart from others to be mediators of the new covenant between God and his people. They have been called out of the darkness of their sin to live in the wonderful and marvelous light of God’s magnanimous and generous love and to make that love manifest to others.

Today more that 2000 years later the call is the same and the challenge still remains. It is true that when we look around us at the reality that confronts us, we might be sometimes tempted to throw in the towel. As with the first Christian community, division, partiality and selfishness exist both in the world and in the Church. The lofty description of Church that the reading from 1 Peter states as a fact seems to be only a distant dream. On the contrary we seem to be going the way the Church was going as narrated by the text from Acts in the first reading.

However as Christians, we have been sanctified by the same Spirit that sanctified Jesus and the first Christian community. Since this is so, we have the same obligation or task that had been assigned to them, namely manifesting to all those who do not yet believe, the forgiving love of God who is Father. We must respond to the harsh realities around us with a practical wisdom and confidence in the promise of Jesus as the first Christian community did even in the midst of their own trials and tribulations. This is done not merely by the words that we may speak but more by the loving actions that we perform. We continue that which Jesus began for we are now his body on this earth, making it present throughout the world. When we reach out to heal the sick, care for the poor, love the unlovable, and pour ourselves out for the untouchables of the world, then indeed we are living out our call and mission.

Friday 20 May 2011

Jesus revealed the Father as unconditional love. How will you reveal Jesus today? Acts 13:44-52; Jn 14:7-14

Jesus revealed the Father as unconditional love. How will you reveal Jesus today? Acts 13:44-52; Jn 14:7-14

These verses continue the teachings begun in 14:1. The one who knows Jesus also knows the Father for Jesus reveals the Father as Father. In Jesus, one sees the Father as never before because no one has revealed him like Jesus does. Like Thomas before him, now Philip does not understand what Jesus is saying and in his ignorance, asks a question. He does not realize that in seeing Jesus he has seen the Father because of the revelation that Jesus makes of the Father. In offering himself, Jesus has offered all the revelation that the disciples need to identify the Father.

Jesus can only do what the Father has told him and so his works are those of the Father. Philip and the other disciples must be able to see Jesus as the revelation of the Father, if not in his person, at least through the works that Jesus does. The works flow from his person and are not separate from him but an integral part of who Jesus is. The works, too, are works of revelation. They show that the primary aim of God is not to condemn but to save and so are works that enhance and build up.

Since it is Jesus who sends the disciples, the works that anyone who believes in Jesus will do will be the same as those of Jesus. In fact, these will be able to do even greater works than Jesus. These works will make known the whole story of Jesus as Word made flesh and so, will be greater than those which Jesus does. Since these will be done after the whole Christ event – death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father – they will continue the glorification of Jesus.  They will continue to reveal Jesus to the world, sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus will answer every prayer of the disciples made in his name and he will grant their petitions.

As Jesus made God known to the world through unconditional, magnanimous love, so the disciples are called to do the same. The works that Jesus did have to be continued today if Jesus is to be made present and is to be revealed to a world that does not yet know him. It is the present community of disciples that has the responsibility to continue the mission that Jesus began. Whenever an enhancing word is spoken, whenever an action that heals is done, whenever love is shown in a tangible manner, then the work of Jesus continues and Jesus continues to be made present.

To be sure, the revelation of God that Jesus made can also be recognized in the depths of one’s heart, but this is not the whole story. It is a love that must be shared and revealed to the world if it is to be complete and whole. The incarnation was not a private revelation given to a select few, but an earth shattering event made visible to the whole world. So the revelation of Jesus, today, has to be done visibly and tangibly.