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Friday 28 February 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014 - Has your narrow mindedness led you to pigeonhole God and place him in a small compartment? Will you realise that God is much bigger than you can ever imagine him to be?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 5:13-20; Mk 10:13-16
The text is really about the
and what kind of people can expect to be a part of it. When people bring
children to Jesus, the disciples try to stop them from doing so showing once
again that they have not been able to understand what Jesus and the kingdom are
all about. The kingdom is for everyone and is inclusive not exclusive. Jesus is
emphatic in his response to their action that the kingdom does indeed belong to
children and that anyone who does not become like a child can never hope to
enter it. The point is not so much that one will be excluded but that one
will exclude oneself. The kingdom is a gift and must be received as a gift. No
human power can create or force it. The kingdom of God
will come when we behave like little children. kingdom of God
A childlike attitude means not only that one will be humble and spontaneous as children are, but also that one will acknowledge like a child has to do, his/her dependence. Many of us like to be independent and for some asking a favour of someone else is extremely difficult because they do not want to acknowledge their dependence on that person and so be indebted. We must realise that we are all interconnected and while we are dependent on each other in some way or other, we are primarily dependent on God.
Thursday 27 February 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 5:9-12; Mk 10:1-12
(60 BCE – 20
CE), permitted divorce literally for any cause – even if the wife
spoiled a dish or if her husband found another fairer than his wife. However
of Hillel (50 BCE – 30 CE) permitted
it only for adultery. school of Shammai
In Deut 24:1-4 the institution of divorce is taken for granted, & concerns only the procedure to be followed and that after the woman has married a second time, the first husband cannot remarry her. The Law of divorce was a concession not a commandment.
The question of the Pharisees is asked by them in order to test Jesus. This attitude becomes clear when in their response to Jesus’ question about what the law says on divorce, they seem to know it quite clearly. In his response to them, Jesus quotes Gen 1:27 and 2:24 as arguments for a permanent state of unity created by marriage. Jesus goes beyond the Law to Creation. Divorce according to the law of creation would be like trying to divide one person into two. Mark’s formula is a near total prohibition of divorce. Mt 19:9 contains the exception contained in 5:32 – unchastity (Porneia, Hebrew-Zenût = prostitution) understood in the sense of an incestuous union due to marriage in their forbidden degrees of kinship (Lev 18:6-18). Such a union would not be true marriage at all and would not require a divorce but annulment.
Many families today are breaking up and there are various reasons why this is happening. However, it seems that one of the important reasons why marriages and families break up is because of selfishness. Due to this there is unwillingness on the part of the members to adjust with each other or the inability to understand. Each wants to go his/her own way and do his/her own thing. Concern for the others needs and feelings seem to be on the wane. Psychologists today are quite convinced that a healthy family background is an absolute requirement for the healthy growth of a child and a happy child is the result of a happy family.
Wednesday 26 February 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:41-50
This pericope contains a series of sayings against those who cause scandal and other to sin. Anyone who scandalises or causes someone else to stumble is a danger to those who believe. Jesus’ language here seems harsh, but he is not asking individuals to maim parts of their body. Rather he is using these striking metaphors to drive home powerfully the point he wants to make, namely: that no one and nothing must be allowed to compromise the kingdom. The metaphors reflect how important striving for the kingdom is. A disciple of Jesus must be prepared to forego anything for the sake of the kingdom.
Our behaviour in public sometimes results in leading others away from God and Jesus. Those who see our behaviour and know that we are disciples of Jesus are not inspired to follow him. Christ today is made visible and tangible through the words and actions of those of us who believe in him and so we have an enormous responsibility to make him known and draw others to him. People must be able to see him in us.
Tuesday 25 February 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - Do I feel threatened by people whom I think are more talented than I am? Will I rest secure in my selfhood? Will I glory in my selfhood?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 4:13-17; Mk 9:38-40
John comes to Jesus hoping to be commended for stopping an exorcist who was using the name of Jesus to exorcise. In his response Jesus advocates openness and allows anyone who wants to exorcise in his name to be free to do so. Since the man is suing Jesus name, it is clear that he is not against Jesus and so will not speak ill of Jesus. Since he is not against, he is for Jesus.
One of the many qualities of Jesus that stood out in his life and mission was the quality of openness. He was willing to accommodate and believe even in those whom others had given up on. This is shown in his call of Levi/Matthew the tax collector, and his reaching out to sinners and outcasts. In our understanding of Jesus we sometimes do him a disservice when we become too parochial and narrow-minded and imagine that he is the exclusive property of those of us who are baptised. We communicate this attitude to others when we reject their symbols of God and worse treat them as idol worshippers. We are being called through the attitude of Jesus in the text of today to make him available to all with our openness and acceptance of others and of their way of relating to God.
Monday 24 February 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - The world seems to be saying, “If you are not No. 1, you are NO ONE. Jesus, however, is clear in what he says: If you want to be No. 1, be NO ONE.
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 4:1-10; Mk 9:30-37
The text of today contains the second Passion, death and resurrection prediction that Jesus makes on the way to Jerusalem and Jesus’ explanation of his way of life to his disciples after they misunderstand what his kingdom is all about. In this second passion and resurrection prediction, there is a change in the verb from the first where the verb was the passive “be killed” (8:31) to the active “they will kill him” (9:31)
If after the first passion and resurrection prediction it is Peter who misunderstands, here, it is the disciples as a whole that misunderstand because "on the way" they are discussing who the greatest among them is, when Jesus is speaking about service and being the least. Before his teaching on what discipleship means, Jesus sits down thereby assuming the formal position of a teacher. He speaks first of a reversal of positions and status in the kingdom, and then places before them the example of a child. In the oriental world of Jesus' time, the child was a non-person, and so by this example, Jesus derives home the point that they will have to lose their identity, become non-persons if they want to gain entry into the kingdom.
Authority as understood in Christianity can never be for domination but is always for service. Management experts today are advocating more and more the advantages of using authority for service and leading by example. In this manner the leader can get more out of the ones he lead than if he/she tries to dominate.
Sunday 23 February 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014 - Is there something that you have been struggling to achieve but have not? Will you pray about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 3:13-18; Mk 9:14-29
The text of today deals with an exorcism after Jesus has come down from the mountain of transfiguration. It is the only exorcism story in the second half of Mark’s Gospel. The disciples are engaged in attempting to cast out a demon, but are unable to cure the boy and the father of the boy pleads with Jesus for the cure. However, the father's request expresses doubt and lack of faith. Jesus responds to the father's request by first chiding him for his lack of faith. The father responds in what may be words that each of us can connect with, "I believe, help my unbelief." The father of the boy includes himself in the unbelieving generation whom Jesus has chided, but insists that even in his unbelief, he believes. Even this inadequate faith is enough for Jesus to work the miracle. The cure takes place in two stages. After the command to leave the boy and never enter him again, the demon does come out but leaves the boy “like a corpse” (9:26). Jesus then takes the boy by the hand and lifts him up, which seems to be an indirect allusion to the resurrection.
When asked by his disciples why they were not able to cure the boy, Jesus points out to prayer as the instrument that must be used when we need something from God. Prayer is to acknowledge one’s dependence on God.
We sometimes think that we are acting independently and all that we have accomplished is the result of our own efforts, forgetting that God is always in the background guiding our way and lighting our path. If we ask for God’s assistance before we start a task or even become aware of his presence in the midst of our “doing”, what we do will become more efficacious and even effective.
Saturday 22 February 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Lev 19:1-2,17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48
The readings of today can be seen to make four points. The first of these is the injunctions at the beginning of the First reading and at the end of the Gospel text of today. The command in the first reading is to be holy as the Lord is holy and at the end of the Gospel the disciples are called to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. On hearing these words, some might say this is impossible and beyond our reach and so must not be taken literally. However, if one realises that these words mean that we as disciples of Jesus are called to be undivided and unconditional in our love as God in Jesus is undivided in his love, then we know that not only is it possible to be like this but will also mean that we are true disciples.
Newton’s third law of motion states “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. However often this is not true when it comes to retaliation. Our reaction to the ill-will of others is often more than equal and opposite. If someone slaps us once, we slap them twice or more times in return. Jesus was a physicist quite different from Newton because he calls us not to be reactors but actors. In other words, he asks us not to retaliate, but to be so strong in our non-violence that the other will be brought to realisation, understanding and consciousness. To be sure this is an opposite reaction but of a different kind. Thus we are called to act rather than react.
Thirdly, the texts speak of love which must be unconditional. All too often, the love that we express is a love that is best termed barter exchange. We love only if others love in return, we give only to expect in return. The challenge is to love not only without expectation, but also in the face of ingratitude. We keep loving till we can love no more and then we love some more.
Fourthly, Paul in writing to the Corinthians and us by extension calls them and us ‘temples’ of the Holy Spirit. This means that Christians are persons in whom God must be seen to dwell and be worshipped. This is not a wish as far as Paul is concerned but a fact. It is God who graces us with his presence and thus being temples is a consequence of this grace and not a condition. Our response is to live out our calling. This calling may also be interpreted as being a contrast community which stands out by its manner of being and doing.
Then, we remain perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect and holy as God is holy.
To read the texts click on the texts: Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48
Leviticus 19 is considered one of the grand chapters of the Book of Leviticus. A summary of the whole chapter is contained in the injunction in 19:2 which states, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” In order to explicate this standard, an example is given from almost every aspect. The examples are so wide ranging that they may be considered as a summary of the law.
The last of the five injunctions is on holiness in neighbourliness. It goes right to the core of the matter and states that relationship with neighbour determines one’s relationship with God. Even in case of disagree
The Matthean Jesus takes up this theme in the Sermon on the Mount. In the fifth of the sixth antitheses, Jesus not only affirms the thrust of the Law in opposing unlimited revenge, but also calls for a rejection of the principle of retaliatory violence as well. In the five examples that follow (being struck in the face, being sued in court, being requisitioned into short-term compulsory service, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers) the one point being made is to place the needs of others before one’s own needs. The disciple of Jesus is called to go beyond the call of the Law and do more than it requires.
It is so easy for us to be reactors. If someone does something to hurt us, we think that it is “natural” for us to want to do something to hurt him or her in return. In the text of today, Jesus is calling us to be actors and not reactors and to do what we do because we think it is right and just and not as a reaction to someone else’s action. In the last of the six antitheses Jesus speaks of non-retaliation and love of enemies. While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. This is the behaviour expected of a true disciple of Jesus. They cannot merely love those who love them, since one does not require to be a disciple to do this. Everyone, even the vilest of people can do this. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.
The command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is similar to the injunction in Leviticus “to be holy” because the Lord id holy. It does not mean to be without faults, but to be undivided in love as God is undivided in love.
The love we have for others is more often than not a conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love. We are willing to do something for someone and expect that they do the same or something else in return. It is a matter of “give”, but also a matter of “take”. When Jesus asks us to be like the heavenly Father, he is calling us to unconditional love. However, he too summarises the Sermon in the final words of today’s Gospel when he asks his hearers to ‘be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect”.
This is why Paul exhorts the Corinthian community to treat their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit dwells in each of us, then it is not possible that we will ignore, be indifferent or hate anyone. Our discipleship and following of Christ has to show itself in the manner in which we treat ourselves and others. When there is unconditional love and acceptance, then it is a sure sign that God dwells in us and is present in our communities.
Friday 21 February 2014
THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - If Jesus were to ask you the question he asked the disciples, what would your response be?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Pet 5:1-4; Mt 16:13-19
The Chair of St. Peter is a feast which celebrates the Lord’s choice of Peter to be the servant-leader of the Church. The choice of Peter is indicative of what the Church is. On the one hand Peter was over zealous, brash, impulsive, spontaneous and ready to die for the Lord, while on the other he would deny the Lord and run away when trouble arose. The Church as a whole has been like Peter. Yet, this is whom the Lord chooses and continues to choose, broken men and women called to heal a broken world.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is popularly known as “Peter’s Confession”. 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 feast of today invites us to reflect on two aspects in the Church. The first of these is that authority in the Church does not mean domination but always service. The model of this service is Jesus and it is him that we must imitate. The second is that even as we are broken ourselves and sinners, we are called to heal the world. This is because like in Peter’s case so in ours, it was not his merit that made him the leader of the Church, it was the grace of God which worked in him despite his sin.
Saturday, February 22, 2014 - If you were on the mountain with Jesus, what would your response to the Transfiguration be? Why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 3:1-10; Mk 9:2-13
The transfiguration is an event, which appears in all the Synoptic Gospels, but each narrates it differently. In Mark, it follows after the instructions that Jesus gives to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi and after six days. The event is a confirmation by God of the fact that Jesus is indeed Messiah, beloved Son. Most think that the reason for the choice of Elijah and Moses is that the Jews considered them as being alive in the presence of God. Jesus is superior even to these figures.
In Mk the order is Elijah and Moses. In Matthew, the order is Moses and Elijah (so Luke) to emphasize the two personalities of the Old Testament who received revelation on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:33-34; 1Kgs 19:9-13) and personify the Law and the prophets. While in Mt Jesus is the New Moses and Luke emphasizes the approaching passion, Mark sees in the transfiguration the glorious manifestation of the hidden Messiah. Briefly the disciples experience the heavenly quality of Jesus. Jesus is no less Messiah when his Messianic glory is hidden in the passion, than he is at the Transfiguration.
Elijah was regarded as the prophet who would come before the Lord (Mal 3:24-25; 4:5) as his messenger. Jesus’ reply in John suggests that Elijah has indeed come in John the Baptist is an indication that he is the Lord.
There are times in our lives when everything goes according to plan and at those times it is easy to see that God is on our side. However, when we are faced with trials and when things do not work out, as we want them to, then the transfiguration is a reminder to us that even when carrying our cross we are still beloved by God.
Thursday 20 February 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014 - Is there a person, a thing, or an event that is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about them today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 2:14-24,26; Mk 8:34-9:1
The sayings that make up the text of today are addressed not merely to the twelve but to the crowds. The denial of self that Jesus calls the crowd to is an absolute requirement if one desires to follow him. The reason for this is that as long as the self remains, following will be half-hearted and incomplete. It will always come in the way of following. This denial thus, is not limited to situations of persecution alone but also to those situations in which personal likes and dislikes will get in the way of the proclamation of the Gospel.
The sayings are difficult to put into practice but Jesus never said that following him in Mission would be easy. The final saying in this section in 9:1 speaks about some who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God has come with power. While this reiterates that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated (Mk1:14-15) is indeed a fact and is indeed near, the referent for the saying has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some see the referent as the event of the Transfiguration Mark 9:2-8), that is the recognition by Peter, James and John that Jesus has received the Father’s approval and all power. Others see it as the Passion especially the event of the tearing of the veil of the temple and Jesus acknowledged as Son of God by the centurion (15:38-39). Still others see it as the Resurrection of Jesus.
Our ego often comes in the way of our discipleship. Too much importance to the self leaves one unable to follow, as one ought to.
Tuesday 18 February 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - When troubles come your way, do you ask God to remove them or do you pray for the strength to face them squarely?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 2:1-9; Mk 8:27-33
The story that forms part of our text for today (8:27-30) is titled by many as “Peter’s Confession”. The place where Jesus asks his disciples questions about his identity is termed by Mark as “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” which Matthew corrects to “the region of Caesarea Philippi” (Mt 16:13).
The first question of Jesus concerns the opinion of people or the common opinion. The views expressed are already in 6:14-16, namely: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. This obviously is an inadequate description of who Jesus really is, and this is why the disciples as a group are asked about Jesus’ identity. Peter replies on behalf of the group that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. In Mark, we come across yet again the command to silence after this confession, and concerns not making known that Jesus is the Messiah. The reason for this seems to be that since the confession is made before the passion, it will not have taken into account that aspect of the life of Jesus. This is why immediately after the command to silence Mark has the first of three passion and resurrection predictions (8:31).
For the first time Mark informs us that Jesus “said all this quite openly” (8:32). On hearing Jesus speak about his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter who had earlier confessed that Jesus was Messiah begins to rebuke Jesus. The meaning is that Peter thinks that Jesus is insane and needs to be exorcised of the demon that has possessed him. Jesus in turn calls Peter, Satan. This is because in his confession, Peter had not included the suffering and death of the Messiah. Jesus will remain obedient to God even if it means laying down his life in total surrender and no one can come in the way of that obedience.
It is not easy for us to accept that suffering is a part of life itself and that there will be times when we are tested and tried. However, as Christians we must also note that suffering can never be the end and that since God wants only what is good for us we are loved unconditionally even in our suffering.
Tuesday, February 19, 2014 - Have you seen and met the Risen Lord? If no, what is preventing you from doing so?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 1:19-27; Mk 8:22-26
The miracle story that is our text for today is the second of the two miracle stories in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The first was in 7:31-37 in which Jesus cures a deaf man with an impediment in his speech. By placing this miracle immediately after Jesus poignant question to his disciples about their lack of understanding (8:21) and just before Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (8:27-30), Mark probably intends to hint to the reader that the disciples too wall understand. Their blindness will also be healed. The healing takes place in two stages to probably correspond with the two answers to the questions of Jesus (8:27-30) about his identity. The first is the response of the people who say that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets (8:28) and this seems to correspond to the first stage in which the blind man can see people but who like trees walking (8,24). The second is the response of Peter on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ (8:30) which seems to correspond to the stage where the blind man can see everything clearly (8:25). At the end of this episode, Mark leaves his readers with the question of whether the disciples like the blind man will also be able see.
Some of us have a tendency to pigeon hole God and put him in a compartment. This leads to seeing him merely as one who fixes things for us or one to whom we go only in need. We might fail to see that he is always there and is much bigger than anything we can ever imagine.
Monday 17 February 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 1:12-18; Mk 8:14-21
The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4:1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6:45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8:21).
The disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ need. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.
Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.
Sunday 16 February 2014
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Monday, February 17, 2014 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you continue to believe even without this sign?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 1:1-11; Mk 8:11-13
The text of today appears immediately after the second feeding miracle in the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus has fed 4000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. The Pharisees demand a sign. The sign they demand is some form of divine authentication. Jesus’ response is to sigh deeply in his spirit, which could be akin to throwing one’s hands up in despair. He refuses to perform a sign. This refusal on the part of Jesus could be interpreted as a sign of Jesus’ rejection of “this generation”. Mark portrays Jesus here as a prophet announcing God’s judgement against this generation.
There are times in our lives when everything seems to go awry. Nothing seems to be going right. At times like these we might keep asking God to give us some sign that he is on our side and cares for us and we might not receive it. It is possible that this might lead us to lose faith and to stop believing. We need to have the courage to believe even without any signs. This is what true faith means.
Saturday 15 February 2014
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014 - SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Will you interiorise all that you do today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach15:15-20; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37
While the commandments in the Old Testament are ten in number, these are summarised by Jesus into two which actually is one. This commandment is to love neighbour and in neighbour, one loves God. When Jesus speaks in the Gospel text of today as having come to fulfil the law, he means that he has come to take the law to a higher level which is the level of interiorization. This is to state that one follows the law not out of compulsion or fear, but from the heart. This means that Jesus will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action.
Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. The first of the six (5:21-26) is about the Law’s prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:18). After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (5:22). The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realise that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (5:23-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward.
In the second (5:27-30) Jesus reaffirms the prohibition against adultery (Exodus 20:14), but goes beyond i.e. to the intention of the heart. In the third (5:31-32) which is related to divorce, Jesus simply prohibits it.
The fourth of the six antitheses is completely a Matthean composition. There is no precedence for the absolute prohibition of oaths in Judaism. Rather, an oath invoked God to guarantee the truth of what was being sworn or promised, or to punish the one taking the oath if he was not faithful to his word. The Matthean Jesus here rules out oaths completely. He rejects not only false and unnecessary oaths, but also any attempt to bolster one’s statement claim to truth beyond the bare statement of it. It is a demand for truthfulness in everything that one says.
Thus Jesus reiterates and states even more emphatically what Ben Sirach had written centuries before namely that one chooses to obey the commandments of God as a matter of one’s own free choice. To choose obedience is to choose life. God will respect the free choice of every individual.
In order to do this we require wisdom, which is a gift from God. It is God’s Spirit which is given freely which helps us choose always what is right and good.
While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.
There is sometimes in our understanding of Christianity too much emphasis on what constitutes and does not constitute sin, and on how far we can go before we commit sin. The real question we must ask is how far we must go in love.
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph3:8-9,14-19; Mt 11:25-30
CLAUDE LA COLOMBIÈRE, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d'Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.
It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he "had a terrible aversion for the life embraced". This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.
At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.
In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV's Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.
His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.
Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners, serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.
The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.
He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St. Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.
On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors' knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfil his promise and send her "my faithful servant and perfect friend" to help her realize the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.
After Father Colombière's arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude's spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary's confessor, Claude's fidelity to the directives of St. Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of his love.
After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York - a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.
In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: "I could write a book about the mercy of God I've seen Him exercise since I arrived here!"
The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.
Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates "papist plot". After two days he was transferred to the severe King's Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude's health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.
During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe haemorrhage which ended his life.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is addressed to all those who accept the message of Jesus unlike those in Chorazin and Bethsaida. Jesus begins his prayer here by giving thanks to the Father. It is openness to the revelation of God that Jesus makes which is responsible for the receipt of this enormous privilege. Acknowledging Jesus is not a matter of one’s superior knowledge or insight, but given as a gift to those who open themselves to this revelation. Jesus himself is an example of such openness, which allowed him to receive everything directly from God. It is his intimacy with the Father and not his religious genius, which is responsible for this grace
Friday 14 February 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014 - Has my abundance motivated me to “give” at least a little to someone else? Or do I prefer to keep it all to myself?
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Kgs 12:26-32; 13:33-34; Mk 8:1-10
Today’s reading contains the second of the two feeding miracles that are found in Matthew and Mark. It has largely been regarded as a Gentile feeding as opposed to the first feeding miracle (6:35-44), which is considered as a Jewish feeding. One reason for this is that the setting of the previous miracle of the healing of the deaf man with an impediment in his speech was possibly in Gentile territory and it is presumed that the setting for this miracle too is the same. Another reason is that this feeding is the less abundant of the two. While in the first feeding miracle fewer loaves (5) and fish (2) are required to feed more people (5000) and more baskets are gathered after the feeding (12), here more loaves (7) and fish (few) are needed to feed fewer people (400) and lesser baskets are gathered (7). Here too, however, like in the first feeding miracle, the crowds eat and are satisfied. This indicates the abundance of the messianic age and what the coming of Jesus represents.
All that we have is given to us in trust by God and is to be used not selfishly but for the good of others. We can decide to hoard and store for future generations of our nuclear families, or we can decide to share at least a little of what we have with the less fortunate.
Thursday 13 February 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014 - How often have you used your tongue to demean people? Will you attempt to speak only words that enhance today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 11:29-32; 12:19; Mk 7:31-37
The text of today is a miracle that is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The friends of the man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech bring him to Jesus. This is the first of two miracles in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The other is in Mark 8:22-26. The healing occurs immediately and the confirmation of the healing is shown in the man’s beginning to speak. Jesus gives the crowd a command to silence, but it is disobeyed and his reputation keeps spreading. The comment of the crowd indicates that they are becoming aware that with Jesus the messianic age has dawned, since according to Isaiah 35:5-6, healing of the blind, deaf and persons who were disabled were signs that the messianic age had indeed dawned.
We can use our faculties of hearing and speaking to hear selectively and to speak unkind and demeaning words, or we can use them to listen attentively to the world around us and to speak words that are kind and result in building up others.
Wednesday 12 February 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 11:4-13; Mk 7:24-30
At the beginning of today’s reading we are told that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. His reputation seems to have preceded him because though he did not want anyone to know that he was there, his presence cannot be kept secret. When the mother of a girl who is possessed by an evil spirit makes a request for healing, Jesus responds that the Jews (children) must first have their fill (Jesus’ reaching out to make whole) and only then can the dogs (Gentiles) be fed. While in Mark the response of Jesus accepts the possibility of a Gentile mission even if after the mission to the Jews. In the parallel text in Matthew (15:24-26), it is clear that Jesus’ mission is exclusively for the Jews and not Gentiles. The woman is not deterred and responds in a manner that bests Jesus’ response. In Mark, the concluding saying of Jesus makes explicit that the daughter of the woman is healed because she has won the argument. She has turned the metaphor to her advantage.
No one has the power to hurt or insult you unless you decide to give the person that power. When someone says something, I need to decide whether I will sulk because I find it insulting or whether I will use what he or she has said to learn something about myself and so use it to my advantage.