Thursday 31 October 2013
O read the texts click on the texts:Rev 7:2-4,9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3;Mt 5:1-12a
“I want to be in that number when the Saints go marching in”. These words from the popular spiritual song “When the Saints Go Marching In” can be regarded as one of the two important reasons why we celebrate the feast of All Saints.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a new chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all saints on November 1, and he fixed the anniversary of this dedication as the date of the feast. In the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration of All Saints for the entire Church and since then, the Church celebrates the feast of all Saints on this date.
While the celebration of this solemnity may be seen on the one hand as a remembrance or memorial of the numerous courageous men and women who lived lives of selfless love, it may also be seen as an event which makes each of us aware that we, too, as those who have gone before, are capable of living such lives. It is a celebration of possibilities, potential and promise. They could, we also can.
This possibility and potential is brought out vividly in the first reading from the Book of Revelation. While on the one hand there are the chosen one hundred and forty four thousand made up of twelve thousand each from the twelve tribes of
is also the great multitude from every nation and tribe and language. This
great multitude is a demonstration that the possibility of being included is a
very real one and that everyone who desires it can receive it. While it is true
that the choice is made by God, we as humans can desire it by being willing to
be washed in the blood of the lamb. This means the willingness to undergo
persecution, trials and tribulations and resisting the pressure to conform to
values of the “world” which include selfishness and self centeredness. Israel
This willingness not to conform is precisely the reason why, in the Gospel text of today, Jesus can declare as “blessed”, those who in the eyes of the world might seem as those who are cursed. This declaration is a confident assertion of the reality that is now and here. The beatitudes are not a “wish list” nor a projection of the future state of what is to come. They are not conditions for discipleship or preliminary requirements for an initiate. Rather, they describe those who belong to the community of the Lord. They describe the Saints.
The nine pronouncements, or declarations, are thus not statements about general human virtues. Rather, they pronounce blessing on authentic disciples in the Christian community. All the beatitudes apply to one group of people. They do not describe nine different kinds of good people who get to go to heaven, but are nine declarations about the blessedness, contrary to all appearances, of the eschatological community living in anticipation of God’s reign.
“Poor in spirit” definitely includes being economically poor, but goes further than literal poverty. It refers also to an absence of arrogance and the presence of dependence. It refers to an absence of ego and a presence of awareness that one’s true identity is found only in God.
The “mourning” of disciples is not because of the loss of something personal or because of the death of a loved one. It is a mourning that is outward in that the mourning is because things are the way they are. The mourning is because God’s will is not being done and represents also a desire to do it. It is mourning because of what is not and also because of what can be.
Meekness in the third beatitude represents not a passive attitude of endurance or as is sometimes understood: gullibility. Rather it is an active disposition that will refuse to use violent means. This refusal does not represent inability, weakness or impotence. It represents instead a deliberate choice of one’s way of proceeding.
This is also what is meant by the desire or hunger for righteousness or justice. It is the courage to do God’s will here and now with the confidence and optimism that the kingdom is indeed now and here.
The disciples are pure in heart or have a single minded devotion to God and will not be swayed by things that are temporary and passing. They will not be divided or serve two masters. They will serve the Lord and the Lord alone.
This single minded service of the Lord will also enable them to work for peace and reconciliation. They will bring together people of different experiences, races, religions, and languages not through any kind of coercion or force, but through the example of consecrated and selfless lives. All this they will do with a deep sense of joy, because they know that this is really the only way to live fully and completely the life that God in his graciousness has bestowed.
It is the same God who calls them his children and to whom he is Father. The disciples know that this is indeed what they are because they live lives that are in keeping with their call.
The elder who invited John to identify those robed in white continues to invite us not only to identify them today, but also to have the confidence that, if we dare to live as Jesus has lived and shown us and as the Saints who have gone before us have lived, then we too can be counted in that number.
Wednesday 30 October 2013
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - St. Alphonsus Rodrigues SJ - Will you persevere like Alphonsus Rodriguez no matter how many challenges you face today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 6:10-18; Lk 14:1,7-11
Alphonsus Rodriguez SJ (1533-1617) was the spiritual director of St. Peter Claver who is known as the slave of slaves. It was the influence of Alphonsus that inspired Peter to give himself so completely to God in his service of slaves.
Alphonsus’s early years in Segovia, Spain, was a story of tragedies. When he was fourteen, his father died and he left school to help his mother run the family business. At twenty-three he married, but his wife died in childbirth three years later. Within a few years his mother and son also died. On top of this, his business was failing, so he sold it. Recognizing a late vocation to religious life, he applied for admission to the Jesuits at Segovia, but was refused because he was not educated. Undaunted, Alphonsus returned to Latin school, humbly bearing the ridicule of his adolescent classmates. Finally, in 1571, the Jesuit provincial accepted him as a lay brother. He was sent to Montesione College on Majorca, where he served as doorkeeper for forty-five years.
Whenever a visitor rang the bell of the College, Alphonsus would go to admit the visitor with the words, “Yes, Lord I am coming”. Legend has it that on one occasion Jesus and his mother Mary did actually appear to him.
His post allowed him to minister to many visitors. And he became spiritual adviser to many students. He exerted wide-reaching influence, most notably in guiding St. Peter Claver into his mission to the slaves.
Alphonsus adhered to a few simple spiritual guidelines that navigated him through his troubles and trials. For example, a method for finding joy in hardship:
“Another exercise is very valuable for the imitation of Christ—for love of him, taking the sweet for the bitter and the bitter for sweet. So, I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord, looking at him full of sorrow, shedding his blood and bearing great bodily hardships for me.
As love is paid for in love, I must imitate him, sharing in spirit all his sufferings. I must consider how much I owe him and what he has done for me. Putting these sufferings between God and my soul, I must say, “What does it matter, my God, that I should endure for your love these small hardships? For you, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.” Amid the hardship and trial itself, I stimulate my heart with this exercise. Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord who is before me, until I make what is bitter sweet. In this way learning from Christ our Lord, I take and convert the sweet into bitter, renouncing myself and all earthly and carnal pleasures, delights and honors of this life, so that my whole heart is centered solely on God”.
In his old age, Alphonsus experienced no relief from his trials. The more he mortified himself, the more he seemed to be subject to spiritual dryness, vigorous temptations, and even diabolical assaults. In 1617 his body was ravaged with disease and he died at midnight, October 30.
The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) summarized the life of Alphonsus in these words:Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is from the Gospel of Luke and is set in the context of a meal. It contains instructions on behaviour to guests who were invited. Meals were important social ceremonies, and very little was left to chance. In his instructions, Jesus advocates what may be termed as practical humility, with words from Proverbs 25:6-7. It must be noticed that when the host asks the guest to move down from the place of honour, no term of address, respect or affection is used, whereas when the host invites the guest to move up, the guest is addressed as “friend”. The future tense that is used in 14:11 (“will be humbled”, “will be exalted”) points beyond the immediate situation to the reversal of values that is characteristic of the economy of God’s kingdom.
When one realises that God accepts one unconditionally, the result is practical humility. This is what Alphonsus realised already in his life and now in his afterlife.
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - When things get difficult in life, do you like Jesus continue to persevere or do you cave in?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 8:31-39; Lk 13:31-35
The text of today begins with the Pharisees informing Jesus of Herod’s plan to kill him. In his response to this information Jesus makes clear that he will not die out of season just as another victim of Herod, but that he will finish the work that has been given to him by God. In his reference to Herod as “that fox’, Jesus indicates that Herod is sly and cunning and seeks only destruction. His demonstration of the fact that the kingdom is present is found in his acts of making people whole. The reference to three days may refer to the death of Jesus in Jerusalem when he completes the work given to him.
The second part of this pericope (13:34-35) has a parallel in Matthew (Mt 23:37-39) and contains Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. He wanted to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her brood. In other words he wanted to offer her his love and protection, but she refused and rejected him. Since this is the case, they are responsible for their own fate, which for those who reject God is destruction.
To be faithful to what we begin and see its completion even in the face of adversity requires perseverance and courage. It also requires openness to the grace of God.
Tuesday 29 October 2013
To read the the texts: Rom 8:26-30; Lk 13:22-30
The first verse of today’s text 13:22, reintroduces the journey motif, which began in 9:51, where we were told that Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem. In response to a question of whether only a few will be saved, Jesus responds not with a direct answer, but by placing the onus of entry into the kingdom on each individual’s shoulders. This is because while the door is open it does not necessarily mean that anyone will enter it.
God will not force a person to enter if he/she does not want to do so. While Jesus does not explicate what striving to enter through the narrow door entails, he states clearly that once the door has been shut, it will not be opened to those who presume that the Lord knows them. This means that the believer is challenged to do what he/she has to do and not presume or take for granted that salvation is assured and especially if one is not willing to receive it. God’s grace is abundant but can only be received by those who want to receive it.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I …. I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost)
Monday 28 October 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - Have you sometimes been tempted to give in to despair when you look at the injustice, corruption and negatives around you? Will these parables help give you hope?
To read the texts click on the texts:Rom 8:18-25; Lk 13:18-21
In the two parables that make up the text of today, we once again find the mention of a man and a woman. While in the first parable of the mustard seed, it is a “man” who sows, in the second parable of the yeast; it is a “woman” who mixes it. The parable of the mustard seed is found also in Mark and Matthew, whereas the parable of the yeast is in Matthew but not in Mark.
The Lukan version of the parable of the mustard seed is the shortest of the three. It lacks the description of the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds (Mt 13:31; Mk 4:31) or the mature plant as “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mt 13:32; Mk 4:32). The point that Luke seems to be making by omitting these details is that rather than compare the kingdom to a mighty cedar, he describes it in terms of an insignificant seed. The emphasis is not on future glory, but on the present sign of its presence, even though it cannot be seen as clearly as some would like to. In Luke, it is a parable of the beginnings of the kingdom and not on its final manifestation. The people expected a spectacular, extra-ordinary cedar, but Jesus preferred to bring the kingdom as insignificantly as a mustard seed.
The point of the parable of the yeast in Luke is not the same as in the parable of the mustard seed. In this parable it is a clearly a case of small beginnings contrasted with great endings. While the quantity of yeast is not specified, the use of the word “hid’, indicates that it is an extremely small quantity. In contrast the three measures of flour that are leavened are the equivalent of fifty pounds of flour, enough to make bread for about one hundred fifty people. The kingdom like the yeast will eventually leaven the whole of humanity.
While the parable of the mustard seed dramatises the presence of the kingdom in its insignificant beginnings, the parable of the yeast reminds us that even small beginnings are powerful and eventually change the character of the whole.
When we realise that with the motley crew that Jesus chose he could achieve so much in the world, then we realise that his words in the parable are indeed true. The kingdom does have insignificant beginnings, but even this insignificant or small beginning has resulted and will continue to result in great endings.
Sunday 27 October 2013
Thanks for your prayers for the Retreat to Priests of the Archdiocese of Goa. The Priests said that they experienced the Spirit working in their lives. We pray that they and all of us may continue to open our hearts and minds to the workings of God's Spirit.
Monday, October 28, 2013 - Saints Simon and Jude - Will you respond to the call of the Lord as Simon and Jude did?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 2:19-22; Lk 6:19-22
Jude is one of the twelve Apostles in the list of Luke (and also Acts of the Apostles). Some think that since Jude is not mentioned by Matthew and Mark but Thaddeus is, that Jude and Thaddeus are the same person. Besides mention in the list of the Twelve, he is not well known.
Simon is mentioned in all four lists of the apostles. In two of them he is called "the Zealot." The title probably indicates that he belonged to a Jewish sect that represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans—the very domination of the Romans—was a blasphemy against God. Nothing in the scriptures speaks of his activities as a Zealot.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of these Saints is The naming of the twelve apostles. By placing the appointment of the Twelve immediately after the controversies with the Pharisees—and the dramatic distinction between old and new that these controversies exposed—Luke presents the appointment of the Twelve as the constitution of a new nucleus for the people of God, perhaps in deliberate succession to the twelve tribes of Israel. The conflicts between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees have already shown that they represent the old and that, therefore, they are no more fit for leadership in the kingdom than old wineskins are fit for new wine. The events at this juncture of the Gospel foreshadow the opposition that will lead to Jesus’ death and the witness of the apostles in Acts.
Luke again signals the introduction of a new scene by means of “Now it came to pass” and a temporal phrase: “Now during those days.” The significance of the coming scene is indicated both by its setting on a mountain and the report that Jesus spent the night in prayer. The only other time Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray in Luke is the occasion of the transfiguration (9:28), just prior to the start of his journey to Jerusalem. Prayer is a regular feature of Luke’s account of the ministry of Jesus and the growth of the church, and references to prayer often occur in connection with significant turning points in this history (Luke 3:21, the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus; 9:18, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah; 9:28, the transfiguration; 11:1, the Lord’s prayer; and 22:40-46, Gethsemane). It is not surprising, therefore, that Luke adds a reference to prayer at this point.
In one verse, Luke refers to “the disciples,” “the Twelve,” and “apostles,” but the terms are not synonymous and do not refer to the same groups. In Luke’s account, in contrast to Mark and Matthew, the Twelve are distinct from the larger group of disciples: “He called his disciples and chose twelve of them.” In the next scene Jesus is still surrounded by “a great crowd of his disciples” (6:17). Luke states that Jesus named the twelve “apostles,” thereby characterizing their role as witnesses. The references to apostles in the early church in Acts and in the rest of the New Testament make it clear that many who were not among the Twelve were still called apostles.
The points being made by this text of the naming of the Twelve in Luke may be summarized as under:
God calls those whom God wants. The individual’s merit or talent is not a necessary condition for the call. God graces those who are called and equips them for Mission. The initiative is always with God, but the response is from the human.
Like God called Israel and then Jesus called the Twelve to continue the Mission that was given to Israel to be that Contrast Community, so God continues to call even today. Consequently, blessing and mission are vital aspects of God’s purpose for the community of faith, whether it be Israel or the church.
Particularly in Luke, the call to follow Jesus is a call to imitate him, and in Acts we see the disciples continuing to do what Jesus began during his ministry. Jesus blessed the poor and the outcast; he ate with the excluded and defended them against the religious authorities. Jesus showed compassion on the weak, the sick, and the small, and in these matters the disciples had a particularly hard time in following Jesus’ example. Nevertheless, if discipleship and Lordship are directly related, then the Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus is vital for the church. We can follow Jesus in the Lukan sense only when we see clearly who he is. Ultimately, of course, the Gospel challenges each reader to respond to the call to discipleship and join the Twelve as followers of Jesus.
Saturday 26 October 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013 - Thirtieth Sunday of the Year - When you pray do you believe that you will receive what you are praying for? Do so today.
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 35:15-17, 20-22; 2 Tim 4:6-8; Lk 18:9-14
Last Sunday’s readings were about perseverance in prayer. This Sunday, the readings are about the attitude that one must adopt when praying. The Parable in today’s Gospel is popularly known as that of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. However, it is not so much about these persons as it is about the disposition for prayer in any person. This parable is exclusive to Luke and is addressed, not to the Pharisees but to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. This could be a description of any self-righteous person. There is a great difference between being righteous and being self-righteous. The righteous person knows that he/she is dependent on God and can do nothing without God’s help. The self- righteous person, on the other hand, is so filled with self importance and pride that he/she cannot see beyond his/her own nose. These self-righteous assume that God is dependent on them.
The defect of the Pharisee in the Parable is not that he gives thanks for what God has done for him. This is laudable. The defect is in his prideful disdain for others. He contrasts himself to a rash of unsavoury people—the greedy, the dishonest, adulterers—but saves the tax collector for the end. His very position of prayer betrays his pride. He steps apart from the crowd, as if God could not notice him wherever he is. The tax collector, however, simply stands at a distance and will not even raise his eyes to heaven. His bodily posture is itself a prayer. His plea to God, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner!” confirms this. He goes home, made just in God’s eyes. The justice of God accepts the unjust and the ungodly. The parable summons us to a prayer of love and trust in God’s mercy. It frees us from the need to tell God who is a sinner and who is not. It summons us to realize that, even when we are righteous, it is because of God’s grace that we can be so.
Only those who can acknowledge their own weaknesses feel the need to turn to God in prayer with sentiments of humility. They know that any goodness they might exhibit is itself a gift from God. But those who stand before God and others with an attitude of “Look what I have made of myself” will hardly realize the need to ask for God’s help in doing good. They presume that they can manage it by themselves. These are the ones who expect reward because they have been good. These are the ones who do not realize that their ability to be good and to do good is itself a reward from God.
The Pharisee in today’s Gospel very likely did live a life devoid of greed, dishonesty, and adultery. He probably did fast and tithe. But he did not realize that it was the goodness of God that lifted him up so that he could act in this righteous manner. He believed instead, that it was his own goodness that raised him up above others. On the other hand, in order to gain a livelihood, the tax collector likely did extort money from taxpayers. He was a sinner, and knew he was a sinner. But, he also knew that only God could lift him up. It was the tax collector’s humble demeanour that earned God’s grace.
The second reading of today shows that, in some ways, Paul resembles both the Pharisee and the tax collector. Like the Pharisee, he boasts of his accomplishments. He has competed well; he has finished the race; he has kept the faith; he has earned a crown of righteousness. Paul never denies the character of his commitment or the extent of his ministerial success. But, like the tax collector, he knows the source of his ability to accomplish these things. He says, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” For Paul, all the glory belongs to God. Paul believes that he will receive "a crown of righteousness." However, his attitude is radically different from that of the Pharisee in the Gospel. Paul knows of, and realizes, his nothingness. All the good that he has been able to do, to "fight the good fight" and to "run the race to the finish," has been made possible by God’s help. Although he seems sure of being rewarded, he recognizes the reward as coming from God, not from himself. His affirmation at the end of the reading summarizes this attitude. It is the Lord, and not his own accomplishments, who will give to him the crown of righteousness.
In Christianity and in the following of Jesus, there is no room for arrogance. We are all limited human beings, with weaknesses that can trip us up if we are not vigilant. We are all poor and lowly, in need of the protection and strength that come to us from God. We are all sinners, dependent on divine mercy. It is indeed foolish and vain to think that we are better than others. It does no good whatsoever to treat others with disrespect or disdain.
The last words of the Gospel reading are a warning to us all. They alert us to God’s tendency to turn human considerations upside down. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. Those who trust in their own righteousness will regard others with contempt. Those who regard others with contempt cannot bring themselves to rely on God’s grace. Therefore, persons who exalt themselves over others and boast of their virtue before God, will discover that they have cut themselves off from both. Persons who are aware of their need for grace and forgiveness will be unable to disrespect or despise other people.
Friday 25 October 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013 - If you were given only one more day to live, what are the things that you would do? What is preventing you from doing these today?
To read the texts click on the texts:Rom 8:1-11; Lk 13:1-9
The warnings and admonitions regarding the coming judgement that began in 12:1, reach their conclusion here with a call to repentance. Jesus uses two sayings to make the same point. The first is about the calamity that occurred when Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and when the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people. Though no other historical reports narrate these incidents, there may be some historical background to the first one, Josephus the Jewish historian does narrate many incidents, which confirm that Pilate shed much blood. In the incidents that Jesus narrates, however, he makes clear that what is required on the part of the human person is not the focus on sin and its consequences but on repentance, which means the acquisition of a new mind, a new heart and a new vision.
Near Eastern wisdom literature contains stories of unfruitful trees and the story of the barren fig tree is similar to the stories found there. While in the story as told by the Lucan Jesus there is mercy, it is still a warning of the urgency of repentance.
Each new day brings with it new hope and a new opportunity to right the wrongs that we may have done, to say the kind word that we ought to have said and to do the good that we ought to have done.
Thursday 24 October 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013 - Where in the scale of “attention to detail” does your devotion to the teachings of the Lord rank?
To read the texts click on the texts:Rom 7:18-25; Lk 12:54-59
The warnings about the coming judgement continue in the Gospel reading of today. The text contains two clusters of sayings addressed to the crowds. They are charged with hypocrisy in the first of the two clusters for not being as observant of the signs of the coming judgement as they are of the weather. If they pay attention to the slightest sign of change in the weather, then they must also pay attention to the present time, which is the time of Jesus and his works and words.
In the second they are warned to make every effort to settle accounts so that they may be blameless when they are brought to court.
While we must keep in touch with what is happening around us so that our responses to different situations can be adequate, it is also important to keep in touch with what is happening in us. This means that while we need to take good care of our physical and material well being, we must not do it at the cost of our spiritual well being.
Compromise is often better than confrontation. When it is not a matter of one’s principles or when one is not called to do something against one’s conscience then it is better to compromise when some conflict arises. This approach saves energy, time and money.
Wednesday 23 October 2013
To read the texts click on the texts:Rom 6:19-23; Lk 12:49-53
The verses of today contain three pronouncements regarding the nature of Jesus’ mission. The first is that he has come to cast fire on the earth. Fire is used as an image of God’s judgement, but ironically when it comes on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:3), it is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the crisis of judgement is never far away.
The second is about his own baptism, which may be an allusion to his death or to the conflict and distress in which he would be immersed. This governs his whole life. Until he completes his mission, he will not be satisfied.
The third is about the division that his mission will cause. Although the kingdom of God is characterised by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that kingdom is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. Though this announcement will indeed cause stress and division, Jesus will not shy away from it because it is the Mission given to him by his Father. Anyone who commits him/herself to Jesus must also then be prepared for the opposition that they will face.
The reason why the announcement of the kingdom brings division is because it calls for a radical change of heart and mind. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.
Tuesday 22 October 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward, or are you good because it is good to be good?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 6:12-18; Lk 12:39-48
The text of today is the one immediately after Jesus has begun to exhort his disciples’ to watchfulness (12:35-38). Based on instructions given in earlier contexts, however, readiness here means trust in God as a heavenly Father, putting away all hypocrisy, handling one’s material possessions faithfully, obeying the ethic of the kingdom, and making life a matter of constant prayer.
Peter’s question regarding whether this “parable” was for the disciples alone or for everyone, does not receive a direct answer from Jesus. However, in his response to the question, Jesus responds with another “parable”, which is about the faithful and unfaithful servant/slave. While there will be a reward for the faithful servant, there will be punishment for the unfaithful servant. God will seek much from those to whom he has given much, because everything has been given in trust.
Each of us has a specific role to play in the world, which is confirmed by the fact that we are unique and that there is not one else exactly like us anywhere. Since this is the case, we have to be faithful to that to which we are called. If we do not do what we have to do, no one else will do it and it will remain undone. Besides this it will also mean that we have been negligent in our duty and not appreciated enough the uniqueness of our creation.
Monday 21 October 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - Do you live one moment of one day at a time or are you living only in the future?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 5:12,15,17-21; Lk 12:35-38
The sayings in these verses are a call to watchfulness and readiness. The call to be dressed for action would mean literally to draw up the longer outer garment and tuck it into the sash around one’s waist so as to be prepared for strenuous activity. If the servants/disciples are so ready, they will be able to be prompt in responding to the master’s knock, and will be blessed. This blessing will take the form of a reversal of roles. The master will become servant/slave. The time of the coming of the master is not known and he may come at any time, but if the servant/disciple is always ready, he/she will be blessed.
It is not difficult for us as Christians to relate to this reversal of roles, simply because our God in Jesus has already become slave. It is now left to us as servants to be ready at all times.
Sunday 20 October 2013
Monday, October 21, 2013 - Do you possess things, or do things possess you? If God were to call you to himself at this moment would you be ready to go?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 4:20-25; Lk 12:13-21
The text begins with someone in the crowd asking Jesus to serve as judge in the division of an inheritance. While Jesus will not accept this role, he points the man and the crowd to a different understanding of the meaning of wealth and life. This different understanding is explicated through a parable, which is found exclusively in Luke. It is about a rich man who had more than he required and soon became possessed by his riches. This possession leads him to focus on making provision to store his great wealth so that he can use it exclusively for himself in future. It is self-centeredness at its worst. The only ones in the parable are the rich man and his wealth. In the midst of all his planning and calculations, God speaks to him addressing him as “fool”. There is a sharp contrast between the rich man’s planning for “many years” and the “this very night” of God. It is clear that first of all when God calls, he will have to go and second that when he goes he can take nothing of what he has stored with him. There is the very real danger of forgetting God if one allows oneself to be possessed by one’s riches.
The manner in which some of us accumulate things seems to indicate on the one hand that we think we are going to live forever and on the other hand that even if we have to die that we can take all of which we have accumulated. The parable of today calls us to realise first that we can be called at any time and hence must live in such a manner that we will have no regrets no matter when that might be and second that whenever we are called we can take nothing of what we have gathered together but will have to leave it all behind. Thus while planning for the future may be necessary, obsession with the future is uncalled for.
Saturday 19 October 2013
I leave for Goa to give a retreat to the Priests of the Archdiocese of Goa. Twenty-four Priests will be making the Retreat. The dates are from October 20 till October 26, 2013.
Kindly keep us all in your prayers.
Kindly keep us all in your prayers.
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8.
We live today in a world which may be termed “instant”. There is instant communication, instant coffee, instant tea, instant food, and an instant weight loss programme. Thus, in every area of our lives, we expect instant results. We are hardly prepared to wait. This leads to inability on the part of many to be patient and, to an even greater degree, a lack of perseverance.
There can be no doubt that perseverance is the key in all the readings of today. It must be noted, however, that here, perseverance is linked to prayer.
This link between prayer and perseverance is seen in the first reading of today. When Moses continues to keep his hands raised in prayer, victory is assured. When Moses begins to grow weary and drop his hands, in a gesture which symbolises that he is on the verge of giving up, Joshua has to struggle. It is difficult for Moses to persevere in prayer and so, it is difficult for Joshua to persevere in battle. However, because Moses will not give up and perseveres, Joshua is finally victorious.
This is also the case with the widow in the Gospel text of today. She pleads and perseveres. She does not give up. Despite the fact that she had so many things going against her, she does not give in. She is a woman living in a patriarchal society where women were considered as second class citizens and worse, she is a widow and thus, had no male advocate. Even more unfortunate for her, the Judge who can decide her case is one who fears neither humans nor God. He can hardly be seen as someone who will be concerned with justice. Yet, the Judge relents, not because he is suddenly converted but, for fear of being worn out by the woman’s persistence and perseverance. Perseverance wins the widow justice.
The exhortation that Paul gives to Timothy, about being persistent, at the end of the Second reading of today is an exhortation that the widow, Joshua, and Moses had already taken to heart. They persevered even when the situation and time were unfavourable. They were patient and able to wait for what God had in store for them. Thus, each was victorious. Timothy is exhorted to do the same. He is asked to remain firm and persevere whether the external situation is good or not so good and whether things are going his way or not. He is to be patient and not give up. He is not to give in.
One of the grave dangers that many of us face today is that of quick fix solutions. We are hardly able to endure obstacles and difficulties without getting weary and tense. We are hardly able to be serene and calm in the face of hindrances that come our way. One reason for this is that we do not believe enough in ourselves. Another reason is that we do not believe enough in God. Confidence in one’s ability to stick with it and confidence in the fact that God will always do what is best for us are crucial to our getting what we are seeking for. A married couple knows that the easiest way to separation is to decide that they will not persevere and not stick together and try to overcome hurdles and obstacles that may come in the way of their married life. A teacher knows that the easiest way to disillusion his or her students is to give up on them. Anyone ought to know that the easiest way to failure is to give up at the slightest sign of an impediment or hindrance. Yet, the one who, despite all odds, perseveres also knows that, though it is not easy, perseverance wins the day.
It is easy to begin with a bang, but often those who do, end with a whimper. The way to do it is to keep on keeping on. Some interpreters of the Gospel parable of today see in the widow God who, like the widow, will not give up on human beings. Until they relent, he will persevere with them. Even if one accepts this interpretation, the point being made is the same. God does not give up on us. Why must we give up on ourselves? Why must we give up on others?
The Gospel text of today ends with a question asked by Jesus: “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” In order to answer affirmatively, we must be ready to profess a faith like that of the persistent widow who demands justice and the pious widow who prays night and day. We need to be like Moses, and Joshua, and not give up or give in even when we imagine that we are fighting a losing battle. We need to take to heart the exhortation of Paul to Timothy, to persevere in the face of all odds.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find such faith among God’s elect? Will he find that we have a widow’s faith? Will he find that we have persevered?
Friday 18 October 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Rom 4:13,16-18; Lk 12:8-12
The sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel reading of today does not refer to a particular sin or action. It is not an impulsive, momentary rejection of Jesus, such as Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard, but a persistent, obdurate rejection of God’s saving grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is, in other words dependence only on self and not on God.
Today the sin against the Holy Spirit is to no longer believe that the Holy Spirit can transform me. It is to give up before one can begin. It is to give in to despair and to lose hope. It is not to make a resolution for fear of breaking that resolution. It is not to trust, not to hope and not to believe.
Saturday, October 19, 2013 - St. Jean de Brebeuf (1593-1649) - What is holding you back from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:1,35-38, 12:1-2; Mt 16:21,24-28
St. Jean de Brebeuf, (1593 – 1649), was a French born Jesuit missionary and martyr of New France who arrived in America in 1625 to evangelise Native Americans. He lived among the Huron for over 15 years under difficult and challenging circumstances. In 1648 the Iroquois launched a war of extermination against the Huron, their traditional enemies. Refusing to flee when their Huron village was attacked, Brebeuf and his assistant, Gabriel Lalemant, were captured the following year and tortured to death by the Iroquois. He did not make a single outcry while he was being tortured and he astounded the Iroquois, who later cut out his heart and ate it in hope of gaining his courage.
Brebeuf was canonised in 1930 with seven other missionaries who are collectively called the North American martyrs.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is form the Gospel of Matthew. The sayings in these verses 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 regard the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constantly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross.
Thursday 17 October 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013 - St. Luke - Luke wrote a Gospel to communicate Jesus. How will you communicate Jesus today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Tim 4:10-17; Lk 10:1-9
St. Luke is regarded as the patron of physicians and surgeons. He wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Col 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between C.E. 70 and 85.
Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Tim 4:11).
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is the Mission Discourse to the seventy (seventy-two). These number seventy/seventy-two seems to have their origin the list of nations in Gen 10, where the Hebrew text lists seventy nations and the Septuagint lists seventy-two. It may also recall Moses’ appointment of seventy elders to help him (Exod 24:1; Num 11:16, 24). The more likely interpretation, however, is that the number is related to the biblical number of the nations (Gen 10), so that the commissioning of the seventy/seventy-two foreshadows the mission of the church to the nations (Lk 24:47).
In these verses Jesus instructs his disciples how they are to do Mission and conduct themselves in Mission. The key to Mission is detachment. The disciples are to be detached from things, persons and place. They are also to be detached from the outcome of Mission. They must constantly keep in mind that the Mission is the Lord’s and not theirs.