Friday 31 August 2012

What are the talents that God has given you personally? How will you use them for his greater glory today?

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31;  Mt 25:14-30

A talent is a large sum of money, equal to the wages of a day labourer for fifteen years. (In Luke 19 12-28, the figures are much smaller. There are ten servants and each receives a “mina” which was only one sixtieth of a talent, and worth 100 denarii and translated “pound”) In Matthew, however, there are three servants and they receive different amounts. The first receives five, the second two, and the third, one. The first and the second use the money to earn similar amounts in return. The third, buries it in the ground. The point that the parable seems to make here is that we are called not merely to “passive waiting” or strict obedience to clear instructions, but active responsibility that take initiative and risk. Each must decide how to use what he/she has been given.
Often times, our understanding of Christianity has been one in which we are content if we have not done “any wrong”, but rarely ask whether we have done “any right”. We are content like the third servant to give only grudgingly, and not with the freedom that we are meant to have. 

Thursday 30 August 2012

Is there enough oil in the lamp of your life? If not what will you do about it today?

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; Mt 25:1-13

In the parable of today we will hear of the ten bridesmaids, five of whom were prepared and five unprepared, five of whom had oil and five of whom who did not. We are told that five were foolish and five were wise right at the beginning of the parable, because we cannot tell this just be looking at them. All ten have come to the wedding; all ten have their lamps burning; all ten presumably have on their gowns. The readiness is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish.. Five are ready for the delay and five are not. Five have enough oil for the wedding to start whenever the bridegroom arrives; the foolish ones have only enough oil for their own timetable.
It is easy to be good for a day if goodness is seen only as a means to an end. It is easy to be merciful for a day if mercy is seen only as a means to an end. However, if we see goodness and mercy and everything that is positive as an end in itself, then it is possible to be good and merciful and positive always. We are called then to be like the wise ones with our lamps always burning so that we will then be able to welcome the Lord whenever he comes.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

If Jesus were to call you to himself now, would he find you ready? Why?

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51

We will hear for the next few days’ readings from Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which are known as the Eschatological Discourse. The word Eschatological comes from the Greek word “Eschaton” that means “the last things”, “the things of the afterlife”. In these chapters, Jesus speaks to all the people about how they must behave in the present, if they are to expect to be judged with mercy in the future. In the text of today, the disciples are asked to “stay awake”, because no one knows when the hour of departure will be. The disciples are called to be busy with the assigned mission not with apocalyptic speculation. The wise servant is the one who obeys not calculates.
Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we may associate goodness with being serious and sombre and not enjoying every single moment of life. On the contrary, goodness means exactly the opposite. It means that one is in the present moment and so living it as fully as possible. It also means that for a person who does this there is no need to worry about the day or hour when he/she will be called simply because such a person is always ready.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

THE BEHEADING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST - Do you often make promises that you cannot fulfil? Will you do what you promise today?

If you wish to read the texts click here:  Jer 1:17-19; Mk 6:17-29

Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.
While Mark has mentioned Herodians before (3:6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2:1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14,1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34).
Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. The daughter of Herodias is not named here or anywhere in the Bible, nor does the Bible give her age. According to Mark a drunken Herod is trapped into fulfilling a rash vow and so has John beheaded.
Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.

Monday 27 August 2012

If your being is good, then all you do will also be good. How will you ensure that your being is good today?

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3.14-17; Mt 23:23-26

The fourth (23:23-24) and fifth (23:25-26) woes against the Pharisees are about focussing on the insignificant matters and externals while forgetting what is significant and internal. The Pharisees were extremely particular about tithing and to ensure that they did not err in this regard, tithed even small garden vegetables used for seasoning which Matthew mentions here as mint, dill and cumin and probably in order to correspond with justice and mercy and faith. Gnat and Camel, which the Matthean Jesus contrasts in 23:24, were the smallest and largest living things in ordinary experience. While the Matthean Jesus does not state that what the Pharisees are doing is wrong, his critique is that while focussing so much on these insignificant items, they lose sight of the larger picture. Too much focus on the external can also lead to forgetting the internal. What is on the outside is merely a reflection of what is within.

Sunday 26 August 2012

How often has the impression of others over your own values, determined the way you behave?

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.11-12; Mt 23:13-22

The text of today contains the first three of the seven Woes that Jesus pronounces against the Pharisees of his time, because they gave more importance to human laws, rules and regulations than to the law of God, which was the Law of Love. The polemic is against placing too much value on the way one appears to others, which can be a form of idolatry. So understood, hypocrisy is not merely a transgression, but represents a lack of trust in God, a turning away from God toward what others think as the point of orientation of one’s life. This was the reason for their single-minded focus on the law and it blinded them to all else that really mattered. Consequently, the human person was relegated to the far extreme. Jesus seeks to correct their understanding and ours, by asking them and us to focus not so much on law but on love, not so much on self but on God.
The first of the three woes (23:13) is also found in Luke 11:52, but whereas the Lucan Jesus pronounces the owe because the Pharisees “take away the key of knowledge”, The Matthean Jesus pronounces the woe because they “shut the kingdom of heaven against men”. They do not enter themselves, nor do they allow others to enter.
The second woe (23:15) is exclusive to Matthew, and continues the imagery of the first woe. Here the Pharisees are accused of converting others to their beliefs, but this results in the converted being worse than they were before.
The third woe (23:16-22) accuses the Pharisees of trying to find loopholes in the law in order to suit themselves. They interpret the law to suit their convenience.

Saturday 25 August 2012

TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME -Will you go away or will you stay?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Jos24:1-2,15-18;  Eph 5:21-32;  Jn 6:60-69

“The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost ends with these words:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Today, like last Sunday, the theme of the first and third readings centers on that of making a choice. The choice here is whether to take the road not taken or the road less travelled, confident that it will indeed make a difference.
In the first reading, Joshua invites the people to choose which God they will serve. Will they choose to serve numerous gods, or will they choose to serve the one true God? Joshua clearly opts for the one true God. He decides to take the road less travelled. The people, remembering the great acts that God had done for their forefathers, prudently decide that they too, like Joshua, will follow the one true God. To be sure, their decision was prompted by their experience that, in the past, God had come to their rescue and revealed himself as a gracious and redeeming God. He had revealed himself as a caring and compassionate God. Yet, it was a decision and a choice that they made for the one true God.
This, however, cannot be said of the people to whom Jesus addresses a similar question in the Gospel text of today. These people find the following of the true God too difficult and so, opt out. These people were not able to make any sense of what Jesus was offering them.  They could not understand how he could give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. Since they could not understand with their minds, they decided not to continue going after Jesus. They preferred to stay in their ignorance. However, Peter, who serves as the spokesperson for the twelve, makes the choice for Jesus and so, for the true God. He, too, like the people, does not understand completely what Jesus is offering. He, too, like the people, is not able to make total sense of how Jesus could offer himself as food and drink. However, he knows that, in following Jesus, he is following the truth. He knows that, in following Jesus, he is following life. He knows that taking this road and making the choice for Jesus will make all the difference.
The problem of choice that the people and the disciples faced is a problem that we face even today. We are, at every moment, called to make a choice. Just because we are baptized does not necessarily mean that we have opted for Jesus. Just because we go to Church regularly does not mean that we have made a choice for the one true God. The choice that we make for the one true God is a choice that has to be shown in action.
This action is what the Christians of Ephesus are called to in the Second reading of today. It is action that has to be lived out first in family relationships. Wives and husbands and all other members of a family, and members of the larger family of the Church, have to live lives of submission and love with one another. Jesus Christ continues to be the model for such lives and relationships. Just as Jesus did not consider his own comforts as more important than those of others, so must members of the family put the interests of others over and above their own. Since all who believe in Jesus are members of his body, they must live their lives centered on Christ.
The living of a Christ centered life is a constant challenge and calling.  We can never assume that we have made the choice for Christ once for all. This is because it is a decision that has to be renewed every day. Even as we are faced with this challenge, Jesus does not offer proofs or miracles to make our choice easier. He does not promise a life of ease or comfort. He does not suggest that following him will mean that all our problems will be solved or all our questions will be answered. On the contrary, he makes it clear that following him will mean hardships and difficulties and sometimes, we may have more questions than answers. He makes it clear that following him will mean that the road ahead may not always be even or the going smooth. He, however, constantly invites us, beckons us, and challenges us to follow.  He constantly asks: “Will you also go away?”  Peter’s answer was; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?” What will my answer be?

Friday 24 August 2012

Will you let people hear what you do rather than what you say? How?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Ezekiel 43:1-7; Mt 23:1-12

Moses’ seat is a metaphorical expression representing the teaching and administrative authority of the synagogue leadership, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemns only the practice of the scribes and Pharisees and not their teaching. Matthew makes three points. The first is that they say but do not do, the second is that they burden while failing to act themselves and the third is that they act for the wrong reasons: to make an impression on others. “Phylacteries” is the term Matthew uses for the tephillin, which were small leather boxes containing portions of the Torah (Exod 13,1-16; Deut 6,4-9; 11,13-32) strapped to the forehead and arm during the recitation of prayers in literal obedience to Deut 6,8. The “tassels” were attached to the prayer shawls, and the most important seats in the synagogue refer to the place of honour at the front facing the congregation, occupied by teachers and respected leaders. The term “Rabbi” was a title of honour.
The point that the Gospel reading of today makes is that there must be a correlation between our words and our actions. It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what you say but what you do.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Will you have the courage to first believe so that you may see? Are your skepticism and cynicism coming in the way of your seeing? St. Bartholomew

If you wish to read the texts click here: Rev 21:9-14; Jn 1:45-51

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified as Nathaniel (mentioned in the first chapter of John's Gospel). According to the Gospel of John, he was brought to Jesus by Philip. It is Nathaniel whom Jesus calls “an Israelite in whom there is no guile”. Though Nathaniel is not mentioned in any list of the Twelve, Bartholomew is mentioned by all the Synoptic Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles. One reason why Bartholomew is identified as Nathaniel is because is all the lists of the Twelve Bartholomew is named in the company of Philip.

Unlike the first two disciples who followed Jesus (1:35-40), here Jesus invites Philip to discipleship. Even more significant that the call of Philip, is what happens to Philip as a result of his call. He cannot remain silent about it and wants another to know and encounter Jesus. Thus, he finds Nathanael and bears witness about Jesus. This he does in two ways. He first points Jesus out as the fulfillment of all scripture and then he refers to him as “Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” This witness seems to bring out both divine and human origins of Jesus and once again reminds us of the mystery that Jesus is and continues to be. Immediately after Philip’s testimony, there is resistance on the part of Nathanael, yet Philip does not argue but responds in the words that Jesus had used to invite the first two disciples: “Come and see”.
Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though skeptical, he is willing to be convinced. Jesus addresses Nathanael as an “Israelite” which signifies his faithfulness to the law and is used here in a positive sense. He is without guile because though he has questions and even doubts, he is open and receptive and willing to learn. Jesus’ intimate knowledge of Nathanael and the revelation that he makes to him leads to a transformation in Nathanael and he comes to faith. He responds to Jesus with a confession and though he begins with Rabbi, he moves on to recognizing Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.
However, Jesus responds by pointing out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning of the revelation that Jesus makes. If he continues to remain open he will experience even greater things. By means of a double “Amen”, Jesus points out to Nathanael and to others there that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth. He will be that place and person in whom the earthly and divine encounter each other. He as Son of man will make God known.

Skepticism and cynicism are common among many people. While this is not a problem in itself, what causes the problem is when these lead to a closed attitude. In a world in which we refuse to believe unless we first see, Jesus seems to be saying to us like he said to Nathanael “First believe than you will see”.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Does my faith show itself in action? How?

If you wish to read the text click here: Ezekiel 36:23-28; Mt 22:1-14

The second part of the parable of the Wedding Feast has often troubled many, because they are not able to understand why the one without the wedding clothes was cast out, when a few verses below the servants are told to go out and invite both good and bad. The question that arises is - How could those unexpectedly herded into the wedding feast from the streets wear the expected clothing, which all but one seem to do? The point is that realism is sacrificed to theological meaning. In early Christianity, the new identity of conversion was often pictured as donning a new set of clothes, the language of changing clothes was used to express the giving up of old ways and adopting the new Christian identity (see Rom 13:12-14; Gal 3:27; Eph 6:11). The man was thus expected to have the deeds of an authentic Christian, which he does not have.
We sometimes attend the Eucharistic banquet without the appropriate garb, which is a faith that shows itself in action. This “dead faith” renders us unworthy, and in danger of being “cast out”. Unless we can show through our deeds that we are Christians, our celebration of the Eucharist will remain at the theoretical and ritualistic level, having no relevance to our lives.

Monday 20 August 2012

How would you define “kingdom of God”? What/How much are you willing to give to acquire the kingdom?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Ezekiel 28:1-10; Mt 19:23-30

Immediately after the rich young man departs, the next words of Jesus are to his disciples. Matthew reformulates it as an “AMEN” saying. The word “Amen” occurs thirty-two times in Matthew. Beginning some of his pronouncements with “Amen” was a unique aspect of Jesus’ own authoritative speech. Amen is not a Greek word, but a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Amen” which is a responsive affirmation to something said previously. In this context, it is used to make the pronouncement of Jesus solemn. The pronouncement is about the impossibility of a rich person entering the kingdom of God. Jesus clearly reached for the most extreme illustration of impossibility, and the disciples got the point.
In response to Peter’s question, which must be seen as a continuation of the preceding dialogue (for taken by itself, Peter’s question seems purely selfish) Jesus affirms the eschatological reward for those who have not depended on their own goodness/talents/abilities/righteousness, but acknowledge their dependence on God’s free grace.
The point is not so much that God will prevent the rich from entering the kingdom, but that their riches will be an obstacle in their path.

Sunday 19 August 2012

What is the wealth that has so possessed you; so as to leave you unfree to say a total YES to Jesus? What will you do about it today?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Ezekiel 24:15-24; Mt 19:16-22

The story found in Matthew has sometimes been called the one of “The Rich young ruler”. However, these words appear nowhere in the New Testament, and is a conglomerate of the figures in Mark (rich), Matthew (who alone adds “young”) and Luke (who alone adds “ruler”). Matthew alone gives us a picture of a youth, twice calling him “a young man”. He would thus be a person in his twenties. He addresses Jesus as “teacher’, which signals that he is an outsider – in Matthew, real disciples address Jesus as “Lord”. In his answer to the young man, Jesus is portrayed as an advocate of the Law rather than its opponent. In response to the second question of the young man, Jesus takes him further to “perfection”, which does not mean “to be blameless”, but rather to be “whole”, “undivided” in love.
However, he was not able to say YES to the call of Jesus not merely because he was a man of great wealth, but rather because instead of possessing wealth, he let wealth possess him. This “being possessed”, did not leave him free, and consequently, he was unable to make a free choice.
We are living in a world in which it is easy to get so taken up with material things that we lose sight of everything and every one else. We can if are not careful make the acquisition of things an end in itself.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Will you make a choice FOR the Lord?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Prov9:1-6;   Eph 5:15-20;   Jn 6:51-58

In a debate class, the teacher presented hypothetical situations to encourage his students to talk and argue for their position. One case was: “If you were in a sinking boat with your mother and your sister, whom would you save?” In another case, the situation was modified such that a man had his wife and daughter with him.  Whom would he save? The condition was that only one could be saved. One had to make a choice.
The word “choice” summarizes all three readings of today. In the first reading of today, wisdom invites all who are listening, and especially the unlearned, to choose the meat and wine that she has to offer in order that they have life of both body and spirit. This is in contrast to what folly offers namely, stolen water and pilfered bread which lead to death. It might seem obvious to make the choice for wisdom and life rather than for folly and death. However, the invitations issued by wisdom and folly are identical.  One needs the gift of discernment in order to make the correct choice.
This gift of discernment is what the author of the letter to the Ephesians invites them to have. It will help them to choose wise conduct over foolish conduct and to choose to do the will of God rather than continue in ignorance. Accordingly, the presence of true wisdom should be obvious in the life of the believer who, by virtue of that wisdom, will not fritter away his/her energies in careless, thoughtless living. Rather, the grace-filled disciple of Jesus lives each day empowered by a full and thoroughgoing faith. The process of integrating faith with life is one which begins in prayer and finds its fullest expression in prayer, particularly in Eucharistic, liturgical prayer.
In the Gospel text of today, Jesus invited those who had their fill of the physical bread that he provided them, to realize that there was much more to life than merely satisfying physical hunger.  Jesus invited them to choose to partake of the bread that he alone could give: the true bread that indeed comes from heaven. This they would do if they made the deliberate choice to eat his body and drink his blood. This scandalized and shocked his listeners.  They could not accept that Jesus himself could be the sacrifice and so offer them his flesh and blood. They questioned, they quarreled, and they refused to make the choice for him.
Though on the rational level it seems clear that any person will choose wisdom over folly, meat and wine over stolen water and pilfered bread, and life over death, this does not always happen. Often, the choice we make is for untruth over truth, for darkness over light, and for death over life. This is because, at first glance, untruth, darkness, and death seem so much more desirable and easy to choose. It is because we think that the choice of truth, light, and life will mean that we have to make changes in our life styles that we are not prepared to make. It is because we mistakenly think that the stolen water and pilfered bread can bring us the happiness that we seek, which seems so elusive.
Even as we struggle with the choice that we have to make, Jesus invites us, beckons us, even challenges us to make the choice for him and for his kingdom. This is because to eat his flesh and to drink his blood is to become totally identified with his very person, with his deepest thoughts, with his vision of life, with his values, and with his mission to build the Kingdom of God. The flesh and blood of Jesus is, above all, that part of him which he totally surrendered in his suffering and death. He is inviting us to be with him, sharing totally and unconditionally his mission and destiny. To opt for Jesus means to make a choice for all that is positive and enhancing, for all that leads to life in all its fullness. It is to make a choice for selflessness over selfishness, for sharing rather than hoarding, for giving rather than receiving, for light rather than darkness, and for life rather than death. It is to opt for a life that is not closed in on itself but is lived in the full knowledge that, since one is loved unconditionally, one can only love in return.
To eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood means being filled with his spirit. This is a spirit of generosity, a spirit of freedom, and a spirit that will give thanks to the Father always, and for everything, in the name of Jesus Christ

Friday 17 August 2012

Humility is a funny thing. Once you think you’ve got it you’ve lost it. What do you think of this statement?

 If you wish to read the text click here: Ezekiel 18:1-10.13.30-32; Mt 19:13-15

The text of today is on the one level about Jesus’ attitude to children, but is more importantly and on a deeper level about the kingdom. While in Mark and Luke the children were being brought to Jesus that he might “touch” them (Mk 10:13; Lk 18:15), in Matthew the children are brought that he “might lay his hands on them and pray” (19:13). These two acts are the typical acts of blessing by a revered teacher and Matthew intends to show that Jesus is regarded as such by the people. Jesus goes further than the blessing to make a pronouncement about who will inherit the kingdom, and he identifies not just the children but also “such as these”. This means that anyone no matter of what chronological age will inherit the kingdom if he/she receives it without presumption and self-justification.
As Christians we are blessed in that all that we receive from God is not through any effort on our part but is given gratis or free. We have only to receive. Even this, however, is difficult because sometimes we mistakenly think that it is our effort that brings us what we have.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Do you usually take the “easy way” or the “right way”?

IF YOU WISH TO READ THE TEXTS CLICK HERE:Ezekiel 16:1-15.60.63; Mt 19:3-12

The context of today’s reading is immediately after Jesus has finished instructing his disciples (19:1-2) in the “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). The text is found also in Mark 10:1-12, but Matthew has made some changes to suit his purpose. In Matthew, Jesus begins his response to the Pharisees question about the legality of divorce by going back to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (in Mark the quotations from Genesis come later). In Matthew, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ quotation by citing Deut. 24:1, which allowed divorce, and this prompts Jesus to move to the situational application. The union of husband and wife is the creation of God and must be regarded as such (in Mark, they respond in this manner after a question from Jesus about what Moses commanded them). Matthew omits 10:12 of Mark, which reflects the Gentile provision for a woman’s initiating a divorce, since this is not applicable from his Jewish perspective. Matthew adds an exception clause; “except for unchastity” as he did earlier in 5:32, and in doing so makes the teaching of Jesus, a situational application rather than a legalistic code.
19:10-12 is exclusive to Matthew, and in them Jesus responds to the comment of the disciples that it is better not to marry. Those “who are made eunuchs by men” seems to refer to the pagan practice of literal castration as a religious practice, and this is rejected by Jesus. Those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” seems to refer to those who choose to remain celibate in order to concentrate more fully on the kingdom, rather than get weighed down by family cares.
No matter what state of life one chooses, one must remain faithful to one’s commitment in that state of life. The grass seems greener on the other side, but only till we go to the other side. 

Wednesday 15 August 2012

What would be your position if God kept a grudge against you for every sin you committed? Will you give up all your un-forgiveness today?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Ezekiel 12:1-12; Mt 18:21 – 19:1

The text of today is the conclusion to Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). It begins with a question from Peter about the number of times one is expected to forgive. While Peter proposes seven times, Jesus’ response far exceeds that proposal. The number seventy-seven can be understood in this way or even as four hundred ninety (seventy times seven). The point is not so much about numbers but about forgiveness from the heart. If one has to count the number of times one is forgiving, it means that one is not really forgiving at all. The story that follows in 18:23-35 about the king who forgave his servant a debt of ten thousand talents (a talent was more than fifteen years wages of a labourer) and that same servant who would not forgive another servant who owed him a mere hundred denarii (a denarius was the usual day’s wage for a labourer) makes the same point.
We expect to be forgiven by other when we do them harm after we have said sorry, and sometimes if they do not forgive us, we get upset with them even more. We need to apply the same yardstick to ourselves when others ask for forgiveness from us.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Independence Day/The Assumption of Our Blessed Mother

Today we celebrate two significant and related events. These are The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and Independence Day. Both are celebrated on the same date: August 15.
The reason why these events are related is because they are both about Freedom. Independence is celebrated as freedom from foreign rule and domination to self rule and governance and the Assumption may be seen as a freedom from this limited and incomplete life to the bliss of eternal and perpetual life.

The verses which make up the Gospel text of today are commonly known as “The Magnificat” or Mary’s hymn of praise. It seems to have been modeled on the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in 1 Sam 2:1-10 and contains many Old Testament concepts and phrases. It communicates a picture of Mary as someone quite steeped in scripture. It reveals God primarily as a God of the poor. God is the one who will vindicate the poor by removing the rich and mighty from their positions and raising the lowly.

The hymn may be seen to be divided into four parts. The first part consists of praise to God for what he has done in and for Mary; the second part speaks of God’s power, holiness and mercy; the third part shows God acting as a Sovereign in reversing social conditions in favor of the poor and downtrodden; and the fourth and final part recalls God’s mercy and promises to Israel.

The hymn speaks of the effects of the Lord’s coming for all of God’s people. It begins on a note of salvation as Mary acknowledges her dependence on God. It was the grace of God that sustained and brought her to the position in which she finds herself. She has not achieved anything on her own, it is all a gift of God and thus, Mary acknowledges her humble state, referring to herself as God’s servant. She is to be called “blessed’ because God, in his mercy and goodness, had raised her to this level.

God has shown this mercy and goodness to the poor by showing the strength of his arm, by scattering the proud, and deposing the powerful. The poor, on the other hand, have been raised, and the hungry have been filled. God remembers not only those of old but also the present generation. He is a God not only of the past, but also a God of the present, the now.

The stress on God as a God primarily of the poor stands out in Mary’s hymn of praise. In a world where the rich seem to be getting richer and the poor, poorer, one wonders whether the Magnificat is a hymn that can make sense to the poor, to those of low degree. Yet, it is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and so, the poor must, in confidence, sing this song as their song. The confidence with which Mary sings this song runs through the entire hymn. She uses past tense to denote God’s future actions, thus expressing that God will indeed accomplish his will, and the poor will be vindicated. What is important for the poor to realize is that they, like Mary, need to continue to open themselves to all that God wants to do in them. They need to continue to acknowledge their dependence on God by doing all that is required of them and then, leaving the rest in his capable and strong hands.

Even as we do celebrate these events, we need to ask ourselves serious questions both as Indians and Christians. Can we be really free when in Assam a woman is raped and dehumanized in full public view? Can we be really free when officials stand by and watch and even participate in these dastardly acts? Can we be free when female foeticide is so high in our country and where in many places the girl child is seen as a liability and burden rather than a blessing? Can we be really free when we are so intent on destroying our natural resources for selfish ends and then have to wonder whether we will have enough rain to see us through the year? Can we call ourselves Christians when we will not do anything about these atrocities and continue with our lives as if it does not concern us?
Are we really free? Are we truly Christian?

Let the celebrations of Independence Day and the Assumption of our Blessed Mother be wake-up calls for us to rouse ourselves from our slumber and do something tangible to right the wrongs.

Monday 13 August 2012

Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was born Raymund Kolbe on 8 January 1894 in Zduńska Wola, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. He adopted the name Maximilian after his final vows in Rome and added the name Maria to show his devotion to Mary. In a childhood vision that he had of the Blessed Mother, he saw her holding two crowns, one white and the other red and asked him to accept either of them. He interpreted the white crown as symbolizing purity and the red one as symbolizing martyrdom and responded that he would accept both.
He joined religious life when he was only 16 years of age. He was ordained a priest when he was 24 years of age (1918) and by the time he was 25 had earned Doctoral degrees in both Philosophy and Theology. His strong devotion to Mary led him to to form the Militia Immaculate or Army of Mary and through this organization to publish catechetical and devotional leaflets for distribution to tens of thousands of people.
He was unafraid to speak against injustice and oppression and especially against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. During the Second World War, he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanów.
On 17 February 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of one of the selected men Franciszek Gajowniczek because he was married and had children as well. In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners.
He led the other condemned men in song and prayer and encouraged them by telling them they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection.  His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
The life and death of Maximilian Kolbe is a reminder to each of us that a life lived in the service of others is indeed a life worth living. For such a person, death holds no threat or fear, because in losing his/her life such a person gains eternal life as Maximilian Kolbe did.
Can we dare to be a little him today?

Has your behaviour resulted in anyone being scandalised? What will you do about it today?

If you wish to read the text click here: Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Mt 18:1-14

The text of today is taken from what is termed by some as Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). It is the fourth of the long discourses in Matthew. Some see the discourse as divided clearly into two parts (18:1-14 and 18:15-35), with various indications, which point to such a division. Some of these indications are as follows: Both sections end with a parable (18:12-13 and 18:23-34), after the parable is a concluding statement of Jesus, which begins with the word “So” (18:14.35), there is also in the sayings, a reference to the heavenly Father and the saying is about the subject of the preceding section (“little ones” and “brother/sister”).
The discourse begins with a question about the disciples regarding greatness. Unlike in Mark 9:33, there is no dispute among the disciples about who is the greatest. In his response, Jesus makes clear that being in the kingdom or coming into it, is not a matter of one’s talents or qualities, but “becoming like a child”. In first-century Judaism, children were often regarded as inferior and were treated as property rather than as persons. The point Jesus makes here is that one must acknowledge dependence on the Father. The reception of a child is an indication that one has accepted the values of the kingdom and one is no longer concerned about being greatest. Since God does not give up on anyone, Christians must also be prepared to accept those who may have strayed. Not only must they be valued, but they must also be sought out like God himself seeks them. The focus in Matthew’s parable is on the sheep that has gone astray. This means that the straying members of the community ought to be the focus also of the community.
While to be a Christian one has to make an individual commitment, one cannot forget that Christianity is also and even primarily a communitarian religion. This means that each is responsible for the other. I am indeed my brother or sister’s keeper.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Is your “freedom” an end in itself? Does it sometimes result in the “bondage” of others?

If you wish to read the texts click here: Ezekiel 1:2-5.24-28; Mt 17:22-27

The text of today contains the second Passion and Resurrection Prediction in the Gospel of Matthew. In this one, however, it is clearer that God will deliver up the Son of Man., but it is human hands into which he will be delivered. God will also vindicate Son of Man. Since Matthew tries to avoid scenes in Mark, which speak of the disciples’ inability to understand, here too, the response of the disciples is to be “greatly distressed”.
The pericope about the “Temple Tax” (17:24-27), which follows, is exclusive to Matthew. The point being made is about freedom and concern for others. Just as the Son of Man gives his life for others and freely, so too the members of his community live lives of freedom but concern for others and not wanting to be a cause for their stumbling will result in a foregoing of that freedom.
There are times when we do things more to avoid scandal than because they are important and need to be done. 

Saturday 11 August 2012

Look for him not in the spectacular or extraordinary but in the mundane or routine.

If you wish to read the texts click here: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51

The behaviour of many of us is not very different from that of Elijah, in the first reading of today, or of the people who encounter Jesus in the Gospel text of today. Like Elijah, many of us are wont to give in too easily to despondency, discouragement, and despair. We give up, we give in, and we accept defeat when the road ahead gets tough and the going steep. When trials come our way, we prefer to regard them as hindrances and obstacles rather than as opportunities. One of the reasons why this happens is because we do not trust ourselves and God enough. We set limits on what God can and cannot do. We decide in advance the form that his manifestation will take and, when this does not happen, we conclude that he is not present.
In the first reading, Elijah, who has had difficulty with Queen Jezebel, flees from her presence and goes to Beersheba, the southernmost town in the land that was under Judah’s control. Thus, he was well beyond the reach of Jezebel. Though the Lord had shown his power and might when Elijah challenged the priests of Baal and prevailed over them, Elijah still loses hope. He has had enough. Now, he wants to give up, he wants to cave in, he wants to die. Even in Elijah’s consternation and hopelessness, God does not give up on him.  God believes in Elijah and invites him to believe in himself. The bread that Elijah is given by the angel sustains him and enables him to continue on his way along the path that he has chosen.  Elijah is assured that it is this bread that will give him the strength that he requires to persevere in what God wants him to do. Elijah accepts the bread and is able to go on.
This bread, however, pales in comparison to the bread that Jesus gives to anyone who is willing to believe. However, the people in the Gospel text of today were not willing to do so. They had made up their minds that God could not come to them in the ordinary and mundane form of bread. They had decided that God would only come in glory, power, and might and, that when he came, he would rule and not serve. They were confident that God could come only in the spectacular, the extra-ordinary, and the miraculous. This is why they simply cannot believe that Jesus could be the Messiah. Since they thought they “knew” where Jesus came from, they thought they “knew” that he could not be the Messiah. They began to grumble and resist his claims. They, too, like Elijah, set limits on what God could do. However, unlike Elijah, who later listened to the angel of the Lord and partook of the bread, the crowd who listened to Jesus did not relent and so remained in their unbelief.  They were unable to eat the bread that would indeed give life.
This is what the author of the letter to the Ephesians means when he exhorts his readers, in the second reading of today, not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The sin against the Holy Spirit is not to believe that Jesus has been sent by God for the salvation of the world. It is to disbelieve and refuse to accept the fact that Jesus has been offered up to God, that he even offered himself up, so that others might have life in all its fullness. Since believers have been transformed into Christ, they must live that new life. At the same time, they must be actively engaged in strengthening what they already are. Conversion, baptism, putting off the old and putting on the new, being sealed with the Spirit and freed from sin, are not merely past events. Rather, these events have introduced them into a new reality, the body of Christ, which is still in the process of growing. Like the body, the development of the whole depends upon, and contributes to, the well-being of individual members.
These individual members today are each one of us who continue to believe in Jesus and live out his message of unconditional love. It is a message which will keep echoing when we do not set limits on the magnanimity and graciousness of God. It is a message which will resound when we realize that our God makes himself as easily available to us as bread. Though he could have chosen a different symbol by which he could have been available to the world, he chose the symbol of bread because he wanted to be available to all people everywhere and at every moment. He wanted to live in them and have them live in him. This is why when we, like Elijah, are tempted to say “Enough” because we have had more than our share of trials and tribulations and when we, like the crowd who encountered Jesus, are tempted to disbelieve because we cannot see as we think we must, he keeps reminding us that he is there and will be our bread for the journey. He keeps reminding us that, with him in us, we need never fear, we need never give up and, we need never despair. It is a message that will keep resonating in our hearts when we partake of the bread that he gives.  It is a message that will resonate in out hearts when we dare, in our own way, to become bread for others.

Friday 10 August 2012

On a scale of 1 to 10 where would you mark your faith? Why?

If you wish to read the text click here: Hab:1:12-2:4; Mt 17:14-20

This miracle story of the healing of an epileptic boy is found also in Mark (9,14-29), but Matthew has shortened it considerably by omitting many of the details found in Mark. This also results in a change in the focus of the story. In Matthew, the exorcism proper is narrated so briefly that it is clear that the exorcism is subordinated to the pronouncement on faith. The inability of the disciples to exorcise is because of their little faith. The father of the boy addresses Jesus as “Lord” which is an indication that he is a believer and thus Matthew omits the dialogue between the father and Jesus in Mark 9,21-24, where the father expresses doubt in Jesus’ ability to cure his child.
Each of us has been given the power to heal and make whole. We can do this by a kind word or a loving gesture. However, on the one hand we are not convinced that we possess this power and so are loathe to use it, and on the other hand we think that a miracle is only something extra-ordinary or stupendous, and so we are not capable of it.

Thursday 9 August 2012

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

If you wish to receive this text: Nahum 2:1.3; 3:1-3.6-7; Mt 16:24-28

In Matthew, the sayings that form our text for today 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 constsntly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross. 

Wednesday 8 August 2012

If Jesus were to ask you the question he asked the disciples, what would your response be?

If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Mt 16:13-23

The phrase “from that time Jesus began” is found twice in the Gospel of Matthew once in 4,17 and the second time in 16,21. The latter verse is part of our text for today. Some divide the Gospel into three parts, taking this phrase as the one which points to this division. In this division, the first part is from 1,1 – 4,16, the second from 4,17 – 16,20 and the third from 16,21 – 28,20. Our text for today, however includes an earlier pericope termed usually as “Peter’s Confession” (16,13-20). The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant. After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.
The second part of the text, is the first of the three (some see Mt 26,2 as a fourth passion and resurrection prediction) passion and resurrection predictions. Peter’s response to this is to “rebuke” Jesus. However, in Matthew, Peter’s response is not as harsh as in Mark because of the use of “Lord” by Peter. Jesus’ counter response to Peter is not as harsh as in Mark, because Jesus does not in turn “rebuke” Peter. Instead, in Matthew, Jesus calls Peter to a newer and deeper understanding of the meaning of discipleship. Peter’s understanding is still on the human level, Jesus invites him to go beyond and further.
Many of us would like to see God as someone who can do all things and be always in control of every situation. However, our God as revealed in Jesus is a God who lets go of not only his divinity but also his humanity. He becomes totally selfless and disponable, at the service of the whole of humanity. If we are to imitate such a God and be disciples of his son, we need to do the same. 

Tuesday 7 August 2012

“If at first you don’t succeed try again”. Do you often give in to despair? Will you keep on keeping on?

If you wish to read the text click here: Jeremiah 31:1-7; Mt 15:21-28

The story of the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman is our text for today. This story is found also in Mark 7,24-30, but Mark identifies the woman as a Syrophoenician. Matthew’s mention of “Tyre and Sidon” (Mark has only Tyre) and identifying the woman as a Canaanite results in an emphasis that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. This is also emphasised by the fact that Matthew does not have Jesus enter a house (like Mark does). In Matthew, Jesus does not enter the houses of Gentiles. The woman still addresses him with the title that only believers use in Matthew namely “Lord”. Despite an initial rejection, the woman perseveres in her request and continues to address Jesus as Lord. Jesus’ direct response to the woman is harsh and must be interpreted as a rejection. The analogy is indeed strong. However, the woman seems undeterred, and for the third time addresses Jesus as Lord, and continues to plead her cause. Jesus interprets such perseverance as “great faith”, and immediately heals the woman’s daughter even from a distance.
The woman shows not only perseverance and faith but also the ability not to let words get her down. The harsh words of Jesus spoken not in jest or with a twinkle in his eye (because nothing in the text warrants such an explanation) would have resulted in a lesser person treating it as an affront. The woman does not such thing. She knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She knows that while sticks and stones may break her bones, words can never hurt her.