Friday 31 October 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12
“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 on the other hand 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 on the other hand, the great multitude from every nation and tribe and
language. This great multitude is a demonstration that the possibility of being
sealed 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
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 we 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.
Thursday 30 October 2014
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.
To read the texts click on the texts: Phil 1:1-11; Lk 14:1-6
The scene described in the Gospel text is the third scene describing a healing on the Sabbath (6:6-11; 13:10-17). However, in this scene the setting is a meal rather than in the synagogue. The issue, however, is the same namely whether a person’s needs takes precedence over rules and regulations.
The man in the story suffers from dropsy or edema, which is the abnormal accumulation of fluids in the body. It is a symptom of serious physical problems. Unlike in the previous Sabbath healings, here there is no dialogue with the man (as there was with the woman in 13:12) or questioning by the Pharisees (as there was in 6:8; 13:14). Instead Jesus poses the question of whether one is allowed to heal on the Sabbath. The healing is narrated simply, and hence the focus is removed from it and placed on the second question of Jesus, which is connected with the first.
Since there is the mention of “son/child” who has fallen into well, the point seems to be the urgency of the situation and not as in the case of the question asked in 13:15 where the argument is from the lesser to the greater. The silence of Jesus’ opponents to both questions concedes to him the victory.
The point has been made is that human need even if not urgent takes precedence over rules and regulations.
Wednesday 29 October 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 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: Eph 6:10-20; 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 28 October 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 6:1-9; 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 27 October 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 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: Eph 5:21-33; 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, be describes it is 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 the point being made 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 0ne 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 26 October 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014 - Has your adherence to rules and regulations sometime blinded you from love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 4:32-5:8; Lk 13:10-17
In Luke, scenes involving a man are often balanced with scenes involving a woman. The healing of a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years which is our text for today is paralleled with the healing of a man with dropsy (Lk 14:1-6).
Like this healing that one too occurs on the Sabbath, and in both there is a controversy with a leader of the synagogue. In both miracles there is a pronouncement as well as a healing, and in both Jesus invites his opponents to reason what they should do for a fellow human being from what they would do for an ox. This is the last time in Luke that Jesus enters a synagogue, though he will continue to teach even in later chapters. In this incident, the main point that is made is that concern over the suffering of fellow human beings takes precedence over obligations related to keeping the Sabbath. Love takes precedence over rules and regulations. The number eighteen (the number of years for which the woman was sick) does not seem to have any special significance except that it is a long period of time and is probably to link this scene with the previous one in which eighteen persons perished when the tower of Siloam fell (Lk 13:4). Jesus heals the woman by both a pronouncement and a laying on of hands. The latter may also be taken to indicate the conferral of a blessing on the woman.
The leader of the synagogue does not address Jesus directly, but speaks to the crowd and expresses his indignation that a healing took place on the Sabbath. His focus is not on the wholeness of the woman but on the breaking of the law. Jesus too, in his response addresses the crowd and challenges his opponents to reason from the lesser to the greater. Since a bound animal would surely be unbound even if the day were a Sabbath, a human person who had been bound would most definitely be unbound. The result of Jesus’ pronouncement is that all his opponents were put to shame. It seems that while the woman was only physically crippled, the leader of the synagogue was spiritually crippled.
It is possible that because of our myopic vision we might sometimes lose sight of the larger picture. While it is good to have our own point of view, we must also keep in mind that ours is one point of view and there will be others, and therefore ours will not necessarily be the correct one.