Thursday 31 July 2014

How to solve many of your problems?

Friday, August 1, 2014 - Be careful of saying, “I know”, you may miss the Messiah.

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 26:1-9; Mt 13:54-58

The incident of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown is found also in Mark 6:1-6. Like Mark, Matthew too leaves Jesus’ hometown unnamed. Yet many think that Matthew may have been referring to Nazareth where Jesus grew up (2:23) rather than Capernaum in which Jesus did a lot of his ministry. While the people accepted that Jesus did indeed speak and act with authority, they wondered about the source of this authority. This wonder soon turns to a negative assessment on their part when they take offence at Jesus. Matthew {unlike Mark who identifies Jesus as a carpenter (Mk 6:3)} identifies Jesus as the “carpenter’s son” since he is interested in showing Jesus as Son of Joseph and so Son of David. In response to their negative attitude to him, Jesus speaks of himself as a prophet and identifies himself with the true prophets of Israel. In Matthew {unlike in Mark where the failure on the part of Jesus to work miracles is the result of the unbelief of his townspeople (Mk 6:6)} the initiative rests with Jesus and though able, he does not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

We keep expecting people to behave in a particular manner and sometimes when they do not behave as we expect them to, we tend to get upset. This happens even with parents and children. While it is not a problem to have some reasonable expectations, we must also be open to change and realise that they may not always behave as we expect them to.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - If the sorting were to take place now, would you be kept or thrown away? What will you do to ensure that you are kept?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 18:1-6; Mt 13:47-53

The parable of the Net (13:47-48) its interpretation (13:49-50) and the parable of the householder (13:51-52) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew.

In the parable of the Net, a large net is used to catch fish of every kind. There is no sorting out of the fish at the time of their being caught. It is only after the net is full and drawn ashore that the sorting takes place. The good fish are kept and the bad are thrown away.

The interpretation focuses on the fate of the evil (bad fish), which will be thrown into the furnace of fire. It does not speak about the fate of the righteous except to say that the evil will be separated from them.

In the parable of the householder, both the new and old are affirmed. However, the old, which is valuable, is presented in a new light and therefore seen in a new way. The fact that the order of the words is “new” and “old” is an indication that the new is to be used to interpret the old and not the other way around.



To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 30:15-20; 1 Tim1:12-17; Lk 9:18-26

The readings of today set the tone for the celebration of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. In the first reading of today, Moses makes a strong plea to the Israelites to choose life. Ignatius did precisely that when he was convalescing after the injury he suffered at the battle of Pamplona in 1520. His reflections during this time became the turning point of his life. It was when lying in his sick bed and contemplating the life of Christ that he decided that everything was refuse when compared with the knowledge of Christ.

This deep and intimate knowledge of Christ which was not merely intellectual but knowledge of the heart, led him to love Christ with all his heart and mind and to follow him unconditionally.

It was this intimate knowledge of Christ which sustained him all through his life and especially during the tremendous challenges that he faced. Like Paul, he too believed that he received mercy from the Lord. One important reason for receiving this mercy in such large measure was because he recognised that he was a sinner and in need of God’s grace made available freely in Christ. Like Paul, Ignatius became an example to many. One of these whom he converted through Christ’s grace was the now famous Francis Xavier.

The Gospel text from Luke serves as an apt description of how Ignatius perceived his master and Lord Jesus. Though Luke depends on Mark for this scene of Peter’s confession, he has made some significant changes in order to bring out his meaning of the text. The first is that unlike Mark, Luke does not give the geographical location (Caesarea Philippi), but gives instead the context of the prayer of Jesus. Through this change, Luke makes the confession a spiritual experience. Luke also changes Marks, “one of the prophets” to “one of the old prophets has risen.” Though the difference does not appear to be great, it is for Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, before Jesus everything is old. Jesus makes all things new. Luke has also eliminated Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus as the suffering Messiah and the rebuke of Peter by Jesus. Luke avoids narrating Marcan texts that show Peter and even the disciples in a bad light.

The second question to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” shows on the one hand that the answers given of the crowd’s understanding of Jesus are inadequate, and on the other that Jesus wants to know their understanding of him. In all the Synoptic Gospels it is Peter who answers, but here too Luke adds to Mark’s, “You are the Christ”, the words “of God”. The Greek word “Christos” means in English “the anointed” and this conveys the meaning of royalty. However, by his addition, Luke also brings in the prophetical dimension of Jesus’ person and mission. This prophetical dimension is explicated in the verses, which follow the confession of Peter, in which Jesus explains the kind of Christ/Messiah/Anointed One that he will be. The reason for the rebuke or “stern order” not to tell anyone is because Jesus wanted to avoid any misunderstanding of the term which could be understood only in the glorious sense. Jesus as “the Christ of God” will come in glory, but only after he has gone to the cross, died, been buried and then raised.

Taken together the five sayings on discipleship show clearly that  discipleship to Jesus requires a total commitment of life, taking the cross, giving one’s life in obedience to Jesus’ direction, forsaking the pursuit of wealth, and living out one’s discipleship publicly before others.

This is what Ignatius did and taught others to do. Today more than 450 years after his death, his legacy still remains. The Society of Jesus that he founded remains a Society that has at its core the following of the Crucified Christ.

Tuesday 29 July 2014


Tomorrow, we will celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. For the last eight days, we have been praying that through his intercession we might obtain various graces to live more fully our own lives as individuals and as a community. Today on the last day of the novena, we make our own the prayer of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, himself a former General of the Society of Jesus:  “Lord, meditating on ‘our way of proceeding’, I have discovered that the ideal way of acting is your way of acting.

Give me that sensus Christi that I may feel with your feelings, with the sentiments of your heart, which basically are love for your Father and love for all men and women. Teach me how to be compassionate to the suffering, the poor, the blind, the lame and lepers.  Teach us your way so that it becomes our way today, so that we may come closer to the great idea of St. Ignatius; to be companions of Jesus, collaborators in the work of redemption.”

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to make Jesus’ way of proceeding our way of proceeding, his way of acting our way of acting.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - What would you give in exchange for your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 15:10,16-21; Mt 13:44-46

The parables of the hidden treasure (13:44) and the fine pearls (13:45-46) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. In both the parables the one who finds, goes and sells all he has for the sake of what he has found. 

However, the one who finds the treasure in the field finds it by accident and is not actively looking for it, whereas the merchant is in search of fine pearls. 
This is probably why the one in the field is filled with joy whereas the merchant knowing that he has found what he is looking for is not filled with joy, but is willing to give up everything for the sake of the pearl that he has found. 
Though some may find the action of the man in the field who hides the treasure questionable, it must be noted that the parable does not legitimise the man’s action of hiding, but focuses on his action of selling all that he had. The point of the parables seems to be that the dawning of the kingdom calls for reflection on one’s values and leads to action that brings on a new set of values.

We might become so used to doing things in a particular way that we are unwilling to change even if someone shows us a better way of doing the same thing. These parables are calling us to Newness and to sacrifice what we are for what we can become.

Monday 28 July 2014

St. Martha - July 29, 2014 - Will you like Martha, presume to tell Jesus what he ought to do, or will you like Mary listen to what he would like you to do?

To read the texts click on the texts:1 Jn 4:7-16; Lk 10:38-42

St. Martha whose feast is celebrated today is mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and John. She is the sister of Mary and Lazarus. She comes across in the Gospel of Luke as a doer.  

This text, which speaks of the encounter of Martha and Mary with Jesus, takes the form of a pronouncement story (a story in which a saying of Jesus stands out and is the focus of the story). While the Gospel of Luke explicitly mentions women disciples of Jesus, here Mary is even sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his teaching, something unthinkable at the time of Jesus. By sitting at his feet, Mary is acting like a male, and in doing so neglects her duty of helping to prepare the meal. This action of Mary also results in bringing shame upon her house. Though justified Martha’s protest is put negatively by her. It is clear that her focus is not the Lord, but herself. She is concerned not with her service of the Lord, but the trouble that it is causing her because she is left alone to serve. The response of Jesus to Martha is the main point of the story and the pronouncement. The repetition of her name is a mild rebuke. Her “cares” have prevented her from unhindered devotion and attention to the Lord. Mary has chosen the one thing necessary and that is the Lord. Martha presumes to tell Jesus what he should do; Mary lets Jesus tell her what to do.

There are times when we do things not because we are convinced that they have to be done but because we want the approval of others or we want others to know how hard we are working. These are selfish acts and do not bring grace. The act that does bring grace is when we do what has to be done simply because it has to be done and expect nothing in return.

Novena to St. Ignatius - Day Eight - July 29, 2014 - EVER SEARCHING FOR THE MAGIS

The entire life of St. Ignatius was a pilgrim search for the Magis, the ever-greater glory of God, the ever-fuller service of men and women, the more universal good, the more effective apostolic means. Mediocrity had no place in the life and mission of St. Ignatius, and so he was constantly searching for the newer, the better, the more, and constantly challenging everyone who came in contact with him to do the same. The Magis was not simply one among others in a list of the qualities of St. Ignatius it permeated them all.

Often in our lives, we have been content with the “status quo”, the known, the tried, the already existing. Being men and women of the Magis means that we are constantly driven to discover, re-define and reach out for the newer, the better, the more. The Magis is always on the verge of re-definition, good becomes better, the better becomes better still, and the better still, becomes still better. Frontiers and boundaries ought not to be obstacles for us, but new challenges to be faced, new opportunities to be welcomed. Indeed ours must be a holy boldness, which has its roots in our faith in Jesus.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to strive always for the Magis, the greater, the newer, the more.

Small to big. Little to much

Sunday 27 July 2014

Novena to St. Ignatius - Day Seven - July 28, 2014 - Ignatian Indifference

For Ignatius, indifference was a means to reach the higher goal of the greater good, and so Ignatius would be indifferent to success or failure, riches or poverty, good health or sickness in order to achieve the greater good, which was always the greater glory of God.

Often in our lives we are disappointed when things do not go the way we would like them to go, when things do not happen the way we want them to happen. It is specially at times like these and with the grace of God at all times in our lives, that we need to develop an attitude of Ignatian indifference, which does not mean complacency, but a total acceptance of the outcome of any situation knowing full well that it fits in perfectly with God’s plan for us. 
This attitude must so permeate our being that we are able to say with St. Paul – “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am… I can do all things in him who strengthens me”.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to do our best at every moment of every day and rest in the knowledge that God will do the rest.

Monday, July 28, 2014 - Small beginnings will have great endings. Well begun is half-done.

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 13:1-11; Mt 13:31-35

There are three parts to the text of today. The first is the parable of the mustard seed (13:31-32) then is the parable of the yeast (13:33) and finally the reason why Jesus speaks in parables (13:34-35).

While the parable of the Mustard seed is found also in Mark 4:30-32, Matthew follows the Q version more closely. While in Mark, the mustard seed becomes more correctly a shrub which puts forth large branches (Mk 4:32) and the birds of the air make nests in the shade of the shrub (Mk 4:32), in Matthew, the mustard seed becomes a tree (13:32) and the birds of the air makes nests in its branches (13:32). The tree motif probably has references to the symbol of the imperial tree mentioned in Ezekiel 17:23 and 31:6. The point, however seems to be to contrast the present lowliness of the kingdom with its ultimate greatness.

In the parable of the yeast, we are told about the act of a specific woman in hiding the yeast in three measures of flour, just as the mustard seed had spoken about the act of a specific man in sowing the seed. Yeast, here is used in the positive sense, whereas generally it has negative overtones. The reason for the use of yeast as a symbol for the kingdom is to probably shock the listeners. The quantity of flour into which the yeast is hid is three measures, which would produce enough bread to feed about 150 people, and is indeed a large amount, brings out the aspects abundance and extravagance. The kingdom at present seems small and insignificant, as is the yeast, but it will be revealed in its fullness later.

Though Mt 13:34 parallels the conclusion of Mark’s parable discourse (Mk 4:33-34), which states that Jesus spoke to the crowds only in parables, Matthew has added in 13:35 the eighth of his formula or fulfilment quotations. The quotation is from Ps 78:2 and Matthew probably uses it because of the word “parable” found in it, though the context in the Psalm is not about hiding but about revelation.

We might tend to get discouraged sometimes when we cannot see clearly the results of our actions. We have striven hard and at times all that we have to show for our hard work seems negligible in comparison. The parables of the mustard seed and yeast are calling us to continue to sow and mix or in other words to do what is required of us to the best of our ability.

Saturday 26 July 2014

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - JULY 27, 2014 - Have you found the treasure?

To read the texts click on the texts:1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

The parables of the treasures hidden in a field and the pearl of great price which begin the Gospel reading break the natural flow of ideas from the allegory of the parable of the wheat and weeds, which are continued in the parable of the wheat and weeds, which are continued in the parable of the net. Though the word “treasure” at the beginning of today’s text (13:44) and again at the end of it (13:52) is an indication that all these verses form one unit, this homily will focus on the first two parables of today’s reading. These parables are found only in Gospel of Matthew and the first point that strikes one is the brevity of the parables. They do not give too many details and one must avoids the danger of filling in details which are not in the parables.

Both parables centre on one point, namely that the main character in the parable sells everything that he has for the sake of what he wants. They each act with single-mindedness. However, even as the one working in the field does not seem to be looking for something specific, the merchant is specifically searching for fine pearls. Though questions may be raised about the legality, integrity and honesty of the one working in the field or about the prudence of the merchant, these do not seem to have any connection with the main point.

The parables pronounce no judgement on the ethics or common sense of the characters, but stress that the coming of the kingdom requires radical decisions. An important point that must be noted here is that the decisions of the individuals to do what they did, come after the discovery is made. This means that is the discovery which prompts the decision. In other words, after the discovery they could not but do what they did. The discovery compels their action.

The discovery that wisdom was indeed that treasure led Solomon to forgo all that a “sensible” person might have considered important and even necessary. As a young king he had many legitimate needs. He needed wealth, military might, fame, security, prosperity, long life and happiness and yet he knew that these were not the real treasure, these were not the pearl of great price. In the first reading of today in which he responds to God’s generosity to him by asking for the gift of wisdom or a discerning mind indicates that he too had discovered the treasure and pearl.
Thus it may be said that the kingdom of God is not really a place but a state of being. The treasure and pearl of great price are not things that one possesses, rather it is something that possesses or grasps us. It is what leads us to let go of everything else that we might possess and focus on it alone. It is that good which contains in itself or brings along with it all other good and desirable things, that which completely satisfies the otherwise insatiable desires of the human heart.

The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our society, and in our world. The one who finds the kingdom of God finds everything desirable besides. That is why it is compared to hidden treasure in a field which a man finds, then goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Or a precious pearl which a merchant finds, then goes and sells everything he has and buys this one pearl. In fact, these parables invite us not only to seek first the kingdom of God but to seek only the kingdom because with the kingdom of God comes every other good thing that we desire and long for.

Paul gives us a good picture of the kingdom in today’s second reading. It is the kingdom when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God. This is being done by God himself who will cooperate with them. It is the kingdom when seekers will receive his justification and share his glory. The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. It is the realization that God loves us unconditionally and that nothing that we may do – however despicable – will ever stop that love from flowing into our hearts.

You are a winner, but others do not have to lose

Friday 25 July 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014 - Are there some whom you deliberately exclude from your circle of friends? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 7:1-11; Mt 13:24-30

This is a parable found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not clear whether this parable existed independently as a parable or whether it was conceived as an allegory from the beginning. Those who think that the parable existed independently interpret the parable to mean a statement against building of boundaries and so excluding some. The building of boundaries and forming exclusive communities is not the business of human beings, but is God’s task.

Like the field in the parable there is good seed and there are weeds even in the world in which we live. There is both good and evil. We are called to take only what is good and not focus too much on the evil or bad. This does not mean passivity in the face of evil but a call for a discerning mind and heart. 


Though from an affluent family himself, Ignatius deliberately chose the path of poverty in order to experience first-hand what the poor went through. This enabled him to reach out to them in a practical and tangible manner. Ignatius was aware in his day that poverty was the result of the selfishness of a few, and so constantly encouraged all those who came in contact with him to live lives of selfless service and thus become witnesses to the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Today, nearly five hundred years after the death of St. Ignatius, we are living in a world that has become even more consumerist than it was at his time, and so are in even more urgent need of the awareness that Ignatius had, namely that it is basically our selfishness which is at the root of poverty, and the separation of the “haves” from the “have- nots”.  Through our own lives and reaching out to those most in need we need like Ignatius to make known to others that is more important to “be more” than to “have more”.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to be aware of our selfishness and desire to have more and realise that what is more important is to be more.

Direction or Directionless???

Thursday 24 July 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014 - St. James, Apostle - Will you like St. James drink your cup courageously no matter what the consequences?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt. 20:20-28

St. James is described as one of the first disciples along with his brother John to join Jesus (Mk 1:19-20). He was one of the three whom Jesus took with him when he raised Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk 5:35-43), on the mountain of transfiguration (Mk 9:2-9) and at Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). The Acts of the Apostles 12:1 records that Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast of St. James is from the Gospel of Matthew.  In order to spare the disciples, whom Matthew usually represents as understanding, Matthew replaces the disciples’ own request with one represented by their mother and does not name the “sons of Zebedee” here. The request for seats at the “right hand and left hand” reflects the rule of the Son of Man from his throne. In his reply to the request the Matthean Jesus focuses on the image of the cup which is used as a symbol for suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and even violent death. Though they express confidence that they are able to drink the cup, Jesus knows better. However, even martyrdom will not gain the disciples special places. That is God’s prerogative and grace. Jesus then takes the disciples to another level and perspective of leadership where to be a leader is not to dominate or dictate but to serve. Christina leadership may be defined as service.

James understood this after the death and resurrection of Jesus as was evident in his martyrdom. He followed his Lord and Master to the end and did indeed drink the cup courageously.

Novena to St. Ignatius - Day Four - July 25, 2014 - TOTAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE CHURCH

St. Ignatius regarded the Church as a mother even though during his time there were many abuses in the Church. He never considered himself an outsider, an armchair critic, but actively went about trying to reform the Church from within.

Many of us unfortunately are able to see only the negative, the black spot on the white wall, or the half empty bottle. We find it difficult to focus on the positive, the white wall or the half filled bottle when it comes to our assessment of the Church. We need to understand that we are all part of the Church, and while there will be abuses, we need to go about correcting them through constructive and positive criticism like Ignatius did.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Check your depth

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - Do you consider yourself a disciple or are you an outsider? How does your discipleship show in your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 2:1-3,7-8,11-12; Mt 13:10-17

This text concerns the reason for Jesus’ speaking in parables. While in Mark (4:10-12) a larger group asks about the parables, in Matthew, it is the disciples who ask Jesus why he speaks to “them” in parables. Understanding the parables of Jesus is not simply a matter of using one’s intellect, but a grace given by God himself. It is given to those who acknowledge their dependence on God. Only those who have committed themselves to follow Jesus are given an insight into the mysteries of the kingdom. Since they have Jesus as their teacher, they will be able to understand all there is to know. The closed attitude of those who do not wish to follow is what is responsible for their lack of understanding. Matthew quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 completely here, and regards the lack of understanding as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Since the disciples are open and receptive they are indeed blessed. They are able to see and hear and understand what mere human knowledge can never hope to understand.

Humanity has taken great strides in the areas of science and technology, and yet there are many things that we still do not understand. We can use technology to communicate with someone who is thousands of miles away, but technology cannot explain to us why we cannot communicate with a neighbour who lives by our side. This must lead to the realisation that when all is said and done we will still fall short of understanding all the mysteries there are and have to depend on God.


Though Ignatius was in constant and close touch with the Lord, he never presumed like the Martha of the Gospel of Luke to tell the Lord what to do. Rather, like an attentive student before his Master, he was always listening and discerning what the Lord wanted him to do. His one desire in life was to constantly do God’s will, and in his famous prayer “Take and Receive” which has now become a popular hymn, he prayed only for God’s love and grace for which he was willing to forgo everything else.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to make God’s will coincide with ours rather than try to make our will coincide with God’s.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - Will you keep on keeping on even when your expectations are not fulfilled?

To read the texts click on the texts:  Jer 1:1,4-10; Mt 13:1-9

We begin reading today from Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew. This Chapter is known as “The Parable Discourse” of Matthew, because in it we find seven parables. Two of these parables have been allegorised {The Parable of the Sower (13:18-23) and the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat (13:36-43)}. Some are of the opinion that 13:49-50 is an allegorization of the parable of the Net (13:47-48). The first parable in the Parable Discourse is the one that is known as the parable of the Sower. Though often it is the allegory that has been interpreted instead of the parable where the different types of soil are compared to different types of persons and their reception of the word, this does not seem to be the point of the parable. In the parable, in three types of soil (the path, the rocky ground and among the thorns), the seed is lost, and it is only in one type of soil (good soil) that there is gain. Yet, the gain is enormous. 
The point seems to be that one must not give in to despair even if it seems that most of the good that we do seems to bear no fruit. In God’s time and in God’s own way it will bear even more fruit than we can ever imagine. We need to keep on keeping on.

In the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, when we work, we must work as if everything depends only on us and when we pray, we must pray as if everything depends only on God.


While Ignatius recommends setting aside time for prayer and communion with the Lord, in his personal life, prayer was never separated from action. There was a constant interplay between experience, reflection, decision and action, in line with the ideal of being a contemplative in action like Jesus himself was.

All too often, we tend to separate the sacred from the secular, the soul from the body, word from action, and even the Eucharist from life. Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace to be inspired by our Master Jesus to be able to find God in all things and all things in him.

Monday 21 July 2014


One quality that characterised the life of St. Ignatius above all others was his deep personal life for the person of Jesus Christ. Ignatius was so taken up with Christ that he was willing to do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone as long as he could imitate Christ.

In our world that prizes prestige, power and self-sufficiency, to preach Christ poor and humble, with fidelity and courage is not easy. Yet we have to move forward resolutely out of our desire to resemble and imitate in some manner our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ. This personal love for Jesus must characterise every Christian’s life.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we pray for the grace that we too might have this deep personal love for Jesus Christ, so that through our words and actions we might always reveal him to everyone we come in contact with.

St. Mary Magdalene - July 22, 2014 - Have your “tears” come in the way of your encountering the Lord? Will you stop crying today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Song of Solomon 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-2,11-18 

Except for Mary the mother of Jesus, few women are honoured in the Bible as Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned by all four evangelists as being present at the empty tomb. In the Gospel of John she is the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.

After Peter and the beloved disciple see the empty tomb with the linen cloths, they return home. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (1:38). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground. Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.

Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so. Jesus will not allow this. Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.

Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension. For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.
Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.

Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014 - What sign have you been seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in his presence even in the absence of signs today? How?

To read the texts click on the texts:Mic 6:1-4,6-8; Mt 12:38-42

The text of today is continuation of the earlier text (12:25-37) in which Jesus makes a series of pronouncements regarding the coming judgement. The Pharisees respond to these statements of Jesus by demanding a sign. In Matthew only disciples address Jesus as Lord, and the address “Teacher” here by the Pharisees indicates that they are not disciples. The sign they demand is a proof of Jesus’ identity. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ demand is to make another pronouncement. In this pronouncement he regards them as an “evil and adulterous generation” which means a people who have closed their hearts to the revelation that God is constantly making. The sign of Jonah here refers clearly to the resurrection of Jesus. Further, it is the Gentiles (people of Nineveh) who will rise up and condemn the Jews. It is a clear reversal of roles. Jesus is greater than both Jonah and Solomon.

The manner in which some of us mourn and weep at the death of a loved one seems to indicate that we do not believe in the resurrection. This is the only sign that Jesus continues to give. If we keep looking for other signs of his presence we might find ourselves in the same position as the Pharisees of his time and miss him who makes himself available and visible at every moment of our lives.

Who is God???