Sunday 30 November 2014

Give up the grudge today

Monday, December 1, 2014 - Do you give up when at first your prayers are not answered? Will you persevere in your asking today?

To read the texts click on the texts; Isa 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11

Weekdays in the season of Advent begin with the miracle of the healing of a Gentile officer’s servant. In Matthew’s narrative of this miracle, the focus of attention is on the sayings of both Jesus and the centurion. The centurion does not explicitly tell Jesus his request, but simply relates the situation of his servant. The fact that he addresses Jesus as “Lord” indicates that he is a believer (in Matthew, only those who believe in Jesus address him as “Lord”). Though the response of Jesus might be read as a statement (“I will come and cure him”) it seems better to read it as a question, “I should come and cure him?” Read as a question, it expresses hesitancy and fits in with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus as the one sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The centurion, however, responds with faith.

He regards Jesus as one who is under no power or authority. If he, though under the authority of his superior officers, can command and expect to be obeyed, then it is a sure fact that Jesus, who is above all and under no one, will surely be able to heal his servant. This is why there is no need for Jesus to even enter his house.

Jesus’ response to the centurion’s faith is to comment on the lack of faith of those to whom he had been sent, Israel. This lack of faith on the part of Israel, and faith on the part of the Gentiles, will lead to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the eschatological banquet.

 Faith has often been regarded, by some, as a verbal profession of belief. While this is necessary, what is more important is that faith be shown in action. The centurion did this. The confidence with which he approached Jesus is already an indication that, though he had not recited a creed, he had faith. His response to Jesus’ hesitancy is to respond with a positive word of confidence in Jesus’ ability to make whole. He knew in his heart that Jesus had the power, since Jesus’ authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was, in fact, God’s word. 

Saturday 29 November 2014

What do you seek?

Sunday, November 30, 2014 - FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT - STAY AWAKE

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

A man was being chased by a lion and began to run as fast as his legs would carry him, but he realized that the lion was gaining ground. He decided to change course and veered to the right, but as he turned, there was a tiger coming towards him. He was at his wits’ end and did not know what to do and so in his desperation he turned left to escape the tiger and soon found himself nearing the edge of the precipice. He was now perspiring not only from the strain of his effort but also because of fear that had gripped him. Then he woke up.

Are you awake or if you have been asleep have you woken up yet? “Stay awake!” is the rallying call of the Gospel text of today and sets the theme for the whole season of Advent. To stay awake – what does it mean for us today? What does it mean to stay awake when churches and other places of worship are being burned to the ground? What does it mean to wake up when women are being raped and dehumanized? What does it mean to stay awake when human beings are being tortured and killed mercilessly? What does it mean when our words and motives are being misunderstood?

It means very clearly that disciples of Jesus need not concern themselves with apocalyptic speculation or predictions of the future. They must remember that doing God’s will has no relationship to the timing of divine judgement. Neither should the disciples concern themselves with the fate of those who persecute them or who reject the message of unconditional love. The only question the master will ask is whether the servants have been faithful to their call as disciples, whether despite all odds they have been instruments of that love which he showed when he hung from the cross.

Being a disciple of Jesus does not just happen suddenly. It is a commitment that must be made constantly and a decision that must be renewed at every moment of every day. The root supposition of Jesus’ message is: we can aim higher. Holiness is possible. We are not obliged to merely accept the forces of cruelty, selfishness and oppression, within ourselves or in the world around us. We have to keep fighting against them and show them up for what they really are and once we have done all that is required of us, we must turn to God and open ourselves to his transforming grace and love.

This is also the message of the other two readings this Sunday. The prophet Isaiah is under no illusions about the selfishness and malice human nature is capable of. “Our sins blew us away like the wind”, he says. And yet, he goes on, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down”. If only the skies could open up and someone, something would come from outside of our troubled world and focus our attention on something other than ourselves and our narrow parochial interests! Something or someone from beyond ourselves to get our attention, move our gaze from our navels, and challenge us to work together rather than against one another.

In the Psalm, too, we hear the anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His heavenly throne – to save and shepherd his people. The psalmist, like Isaiah, is confident that Israel will indeed experience the protection of God who will come as he has always done in the past.

In this season of Advent, we declare that Isaiah’s cry has been answered. In response to the Psalmist’s plea, God has indeed looked down on his people and saved them in a way that they never imagine possible. This salvation is achieved not through violence o retaliating by throwing rock for thrown rock. The cry is not answered by retaining anger and resentment against those who seem to us to wilfully and wantonly destroy places of worship and the homes of the innocent. It is not answered by taking up arms and indulging in the same vile acts that others have engaged in. It is answered as God comes in the flesh to be among us, full of grace and truth. It is answered as the Son of God dies and is raised for the whole of creation.

Paul encourages the Corinthians by reminding them about God’s answer to the cry of the whole of creation. God’s grace has been given to them in Jesus Christ, and in every way they have been enriched by him. God is faithful.

With real anticipation we are called to live an ongoing life of faith, always open to what God promised to do, always trustful because God is faithful. Anticipation means staying awake, being alert and watchful. Thus Advent is a symbol of the Christian lifestyle, not just a mood we experience at a certain time of year. We know that while we despair at many happenings today, our world is not forsaken by God. Our Spirits are turned from despair to trust.

The symbolism of Advent is the symbolism of preparing ourselves for the imminent arrival of God: not only his entry into human history, commemorated at Christmas, but also the impact he would have on our lives now, if we made ready to welcome him or indeed, in the case of many of us, reawakened our desire for God which we have managed to bury under a pile of other preoccupations.

As Jesus says in the Gospel text of today, when God comes he must not find us asleep!

Friday 28 November 2014

Give without counting or expectation

Saturday, November 29, 2014 - How would you define prayer? Can it be said of you that your life is prayer?

to read the texts click on the texts:Rev 22:1-7; Lk 21:34-36 

Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we wrongly associate with seriousness and a lack of joy. On the contrary, a good person and holy person is primarily a joyful person. Such a person enjoys every moment of every day and lives it fully. Such a person leaves nothing undone and therefore will be ready at all times.

These verses are the conclusion of the Eschatological Discourse, and in them, Luke composes an exhortation that stresses constant watchfulness and prayer as opposed to drunkenness and dissipation. The reason for alertness is because the day can come at any time. 

The final verse introduces a positive exhortation. The opposite of sleep and dissipation is vigilance and prayer. The final verse of the discourse calls for constant alertness and prayer, so that one will be able to stand before the Son of Man with dignity and honour. Life itself must be prayer.

Some of us regard being good as a burden. This is because we wrongly associate with seriousness and a lack of joy. On the contrary, a good person and holy person is primarily a joyful person. Such a person enjoys every moment of every day and lives it fully. Such a person leaves nothing undone and therefore will be ready at all times.

Thursday 27 November 2014

God writes as God wants

Friday, November 28, 2014 - Will you live today as if it were your last day on earth?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 20:1-4,11 – 21:2; Lk 21:29-33

The parable of the fig tree found in these verses is the last parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel of Luke. This parable is found also in Mark 13:28-29 and Matthew 24:32-33, but whereas Mark and Matthew speak only of the fig tree, Luke speaks of “the fig tree and all the trees” (21:29). 
When people can see for themselves that these trees have come out in leaf they know for themselves that summer is near, so when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud (21:27) they will know that the kingdom is near. 
Since Luke probably thought that the end would come soon, he has added the last two sayings about what will not pass away until “these things” have taken place. They are “this generation” and the “words” of Jesus. These pronouncements must serve as a reminder of the assurance of redemption for the believer.

Our job as Christians is not to bother about when the end will be but to live fully in the present moment. If we do so then no matter when the end comes we will always be ready.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Quality of life is not determined by length of days

Thursday, November 27, 2014 - If the end were to come today would you be able to hold your head high fearlessly? If No, what will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3,9; Lk 21:20-28

The text of today, continues the Eschatological Discourse, but speaks now of the destruction of Jerusalem and other cosmological signs which announce the coming of the Son of Man. 

Josephus the Jewish historian recorded the horrors of the Jewish war, which lasted from April until August of the year 70 C.E. It was terrible for all the inhabitants and many were killed during it. The Romans razed the whole city to the ground. Though these things will happen and violence will seem to have won the day, the disciples must continue to do what they are doing and without fear. The Son of Man will come with great power and glory. His coming will result in salvation for all who believe.

The disciples are challenged to hold their heads high and to stand up straight because God's representative is their Saviour.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - St. John Berchman's SJ - It is not the length of days that matter, but HOW you live each day

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 4:1-8; Lk 9:57-62

John Berchmans SJ Born in Brabant (Netherlands/Belgium) on 13th  March, 1599. He joined the Society of Jesus on 24th September 1616 when he was 17 years of age. After his first vows he was sent to Antwerp and a little later to Rome to study Philosophy. He was in his third year of Philosophy, when he was seized with a violent fever and died on 13th August, 1621.

Though he was a Jesuit for only a short period of time and was not ordained a priest, he was known even as a young Jesuit for his piety, devotion and focus. He learned the secret of living in the present moment. He was known to do even the most ordinary and mundane tasks as if it was to be the last task of his life. It was said of him that he did ordinary things extraordinarily well. Because of his devotion to the Eucharist and his regular service at the Altar he is the Patron of Altar Servers.

He was declared Blessed in 1865, and was canonized in 1888. His statues represent him with hands clasped, holding his crucifix, his book of rules, and his rosary.

The Gospel text for the feast is from the Gospel of Luke and is about the would-be followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ warnings about what discipleship will entail.

To the first would-be follower who promises to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus responds by stating clearly that unlike even the foxes that at least have holes, he does not have anywhere he can call his own. If the would-be follower is ready for this insecurity, he may follow.

The second person is called to follow by Jesus, but responds by asking for permission to bury his father. This was a duty that was binding on all devout Jews. Jesus’ response is harsh and demands that the disciple be primarily concerned about the kingdom.

The third would-be follower puts conditions to his following namely that he wants to say farewell to his family. However, here too the response of Jesus is clear. Looking back while ploughing leads to a crooked furrow.

In total contrast to the three examples of persons mentioned in the text, John Berchmans was one who was ready to follow his Lord in total poverty, and did not once look back once he put his hand to the plough. He was focussed on the kingdom and kept that focus till the very end.

While it is not necessary to give up the state of life one has chosen in order to follow Jesus, what is to be understood is that following will necessarily mean changing one’s style of life. It will mean a move from selfishness to selflessness, from acquiring material possessions to sharing them with others and from anything negative to everything that is positive.

We reap what others sow. Others will reap what we sow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - If someone witnessed your actions all through today, would they conclude that you are a disciple of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 15:1-4; Lk 21:12-19

These verses are part of Luke’s Eschatological Discourse. The Greek word “Eschaton” is translated as “the last things”, “the things of the next life”. The main point of these verses is to prepare the disciples for the coming trial by exhorting them to regard trials as an occasion for bearing witness. The text begins by telling the disciples what they (the persecutors) will do namely arrest you, persecute you etc. It then goes on to advise the disciples what they must do in the face of this persecution, namely that they must bear witness but not be obsessed with the anxiety of preparing their defence. The reason for this is because of what Jesus will do, namely, give the disciples wisdom to counter any argument of the opponents. The text ends with an assurance of God’s support and protection on those who endure.

The persecution of the disciples, however, does not exceed what Jesus himself will experience. He, too, will be arrested and brought before Pilate and Herod. It is Jesus himself therefore who will give the disciples the content of what they are to say.

The gospel offers not a way of predicting the end of the world but the spiritual resources to cope with the challenges of life. In times of distress the disciples of Jesus are called not to throw their hands up in despair, but to be unafraid. It is a fact that following Jesus who is The Truth will have repercussions and consequences, some of which may be disastrous. However, it is in these circumstances that perseverance and endurance is called for. This is the test of our faith and courage in the promises of the Lord.

Thus we can opt for one of two ways of proceeding. One is to focus so much on prophesies of the future, that they frighten us into idle speculation and inaction. The other is to dare to commit ourselves and actions to make a difference here and now.

Monday 24 November 2014

Do not let your WANTS become your Needs

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - Are you so concerned about the next life that you are not living fully this life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 14:14-19; Lk 21:5-11

Luke follows Mark 13:1-8 quite closely in these verses, though he also makes some changes. While in Mark 13:1 Jesus comes out of the Temple and predicts its destruction when his disciples point to it magnificence, in Luke, Jesus is within the Temple when he predicts its destruction when some (not the disciples) speak of its magnificence (21:5-6). This is why unlike in Mark 13:3 he is not on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, but within its precincts when he is asked about when this will take place (21:7). Mark 13:3 has Peter, James, John and Andrew who ask this question; Luke has the people pose the question. Jesus responds by stating not the hour when this will take place, but by issuing a set of three warnings. 

The first warning is not to allow oneself to be led astray and be led into believing that the ones’ who come in his name are the Messiah. The meaning of this warning is broad and encompasses being led to sin, being taught false teachings, and being deceived regarding apocalyptic events.

The second warning follows the first: the disciples of Jesus must not go after these false Messiahs.

The third warning is not to be terrified when they hear of wars and insurrections, because they are part of God’s plan in bringing about the kingdom and must out of necessity happen before the final coming.

In times of great danger, stress, and hardship it is natural for persons and communities of faith to turn to God and to the future for hope, for the promise of deliverance. However, idle preoccupation and speculation of what will happen at the end times is not called for. It is a distortion of the Gospel message of Jesus who asks that we concern ourselves not with gossip and guesswork, but in how we must do what we have to do in the present.  

Sunday 23 November 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014 - Will you forego one meal this week and give what you save to someone less fortunate than you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 14:1-5; Lk 21:1-4

Jesus’ comment on the widow’s offering follows immediately after his condemnation of the scribes, who “devour widow’s houses”. Luke omits most of Mark’s introduction to the widow’s offering (see Mk 12:41). In the new scene, which Luke brings about by his comment that “He (Jesus) looked up and saw”, Luke introduces two sets of characters: the rich contributors and a poor widow. The action of both is the same. However, the size or amount of the gifts of the rich contributors is not mentioned, but it is explicitly stated that the widow put in two lepta, the smallest copper coins then in use. It would have taken 128 lepta to make one denarius, which was a day’s wage. Two lepta would therefore have been worthless. 

In a twist reminiscent of many of Jesus’ parables, Jesus states that the widow who put in what seems like a worthless amount has put in more than any of the rich contributors. The following statement clarifies how this could be. They contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty. They contributed gifts she contributed herself.

Saturday 22 November 2014

A friend is a friend is a friend

Sunday, November 23, 2014 - CHRIST THE ETERNAL KING - What does our King demand?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 34:11-12,15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46

Quas Primas (Latin for “In the first”) was an encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on December 11, 1925. It introduced the Feast of Christ the King. World War I (1914-1918) had ended, and had not brought real peace, but more hatred, anger and violence. Coming as it did after the end of the War, the encyclical sought to give the world, as a whole, a new idea of kingship by asking it to look at Christ the Universal King, and how he lived out his kingship. Christ is a King who totally identifies with his subjects, particularly the marginalized – the poorest of the poor.

This identification is made explicit not only in the Gospel text for the feast but also in the first reading of today.

In the first reading, Ezekiel talks about God as the shepherd of Israel. The kings of Israel were regarded as God’s visible representatives and were given the divine title of shepherd. But many of them did not live up to this responsibility. Their leadership style differed from that of God’s. God’s style was that of giving priority of attention to the needs of the disadvantaged, especially their need for justice and empowerment. First God raised up prophets, like Ezekiel, to warn the kings. When they failed to listen, God decided to get rid of the ungodly kings and their beneficiaries, and promised that he would shepherd the flock himself. The defeat of Israel by her enemies, in which the big people, the royalty and the nobility, were banished into exile, was seen as God’s way of getting rid of the bad leadership.

The Gospel text which continues the theme of the first reading is not so much about the kingship of Jesus. Rather, it is a passage about the “kingdom” of God, about all those who kin to God, and, therefore, who are kin to each other. We are all kin to one another. We are all indeed one. The deepest expression of this truth, on this side of life, is a spirituality  in which there is no split between our devotion and our deed; no split between mystery and commandment,; no split between piety and ethics and no split between being and doing. Like mystery and commandment, interwoven as they are, Jesus is one with the hungry and the thirsty, is one with the stranger and the prisoner, and is one with the naked and the sick. To care for these is to care for Jesus. To care for them is to reach back into the very essence of life and to touch the God who is in and with the hungry, the thirsty…” And then the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The text, thus, is not so much God’s condemnation of some people, as it is about the universal vision of the love of God, about the very scope of God’s love in Jesus for the whole world. Jesus remains the model of unconditional and eternal love. This was shown in the most powerful of ways by Jesus himself, when in total obedience to the Father, he dared to spread his arms on the Cross in total surrender of self. Therefore, God raised him.

This understanding is important to avoid any kind of misinterpretation that might arise due to a person thinking that it is his/her deeds that earn merit and reward. The righteous who reached out to the least of their brothers and sisters, did so because they understood it was necessity to help, love, serve, visit and feed. They dared to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and responded to these promptings. They did not do what they did for reward. They did not earn the kingdom but inherited it. Inheritance is determined by the giver not the receiver. The kingdom remains a free gift of God.

Though the unrighteous also addresses Jesus as Lord, it is not enough. Their address remains at the theoretical level and is not translated into action. They did not act because they did not believe that God could hide himself in the poorest of the poor. They did not realize that our God had been made visible in Jesus, who taught all who were willing to listen, that God was primarily a God of the poor, and that though he was king, he came only to serve.

The sufferings borne by the last of our brothers and sisters continue to summon and challenge us as Church today. They continue to ask us to dare to be credible and authentic witnesses of the Gospel. However, what we need is not merely more action, more doing for the sake of doing. No! What our King demands is a universal unity of love and togetherness. It is a togetherness that transcends all of our frontiers, the frontiers of our mind and of our heart, the frontiers of our creeds and doctrines – all of those externals that keep us apart, that keep us apart that keep us separated and split.

The challenge for us today is to forget our own needs and reach out in love to make someone else, who may be in greater need, happy. For whatever we do to the least needy children of God, these brothers and sisters of Jesus, we do to him.

Friday 21 November 2014

Two Ears and One Tongue

Saturday, November 22, 2014 - If you were told that your life after death would be determined by the life you live now, what changes would you make in this life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 11:4-12; Lk 20:27-40

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who did not believe in the resurrection. The question they ask Jesus assumes the practice of levirate marriage, where according to Deut 25:5, the brother of a deceased man was to take his brother’s widow as his wife. The Sadducees extend the situation to the point of ridicule by speaking of seven brothers who marry the same woman. The question is whose wife she would be in the resurrection. While in Mark, Jesus first rebukes the Sadducees, in Luke he begins to teach them immediately. Jesus’ response is that life in the resurrection will not simply be a continuation of the life, as we know it now. 
In the second part of his response, Jesus calls the attention of the Sadducees to the familiar story of the burning bush, in which the point is that God is not God of the dead but of the living.

Jesus’ words can thus be approached from a positive side. The God who created human life, including the institution of marriage, has also provided for life after death for those who have cultivated the capacity to respond to God’s love. The biblical teaching is that life comes from God. 

There is nothing in or of the human being that is naturally or inherently immortal. If there is life beyond death, it is God’s gift to those who have accepted God’s love and entered into relationship with God in this life: They “are children of God, being children of the resurrection”

Thursday 20 November 2014

Think before you speak

Friday, November 21, 2014 - The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Is Jesus pointing to you as his brother/sister? If yes, Why? If no, why not?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zech 2:14-17; Mt 12:46-50

The feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is associated with an event recounted not in the New Testament, but in the apocryphal Infancy Narrative of James. According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, who had been childless, received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, they brought her, when still a child, to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. Mary remained in the Temple until puberty, at which point she was assigned to Joseph as guardian. Later versions of the story (such as the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary) tell us that Mary was taken to the Temple at around the age of three in fulfilment of a vow. Tradition held that she was to remain there to be educated in preparation for her role as Mother of God.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today contains a pointer as to who make up the true family of Jesus. Unlike in Mark, where the “crowd” is pointed out to as the true family of Jesus, in Matthew, it is the community of disciples who make up the true family. The point being made in this text is not so much about the mother or brothers and sisters of Jesus, but about who will be regarded as true members of Jesus’ family. The action of stretching out his hand has been used earlier to portray Jesus as compassionate (8:3) and also an act, which will be used later to show him as the great deliverer who comes to the aid of his disciples (14:31). In the concluding statement, the Matthean Jesus makes clear that discipleship and being a member of his family is not merely a matter of verbal profession even proclamation, but doing the will of God. This aspect makes anyone a brother or sister of Jesus.

We may imagine that because we have been baptised into the faith we can take for granted that we are members of Jesus’ family. This need not be so, since we need to keep renewing our commitment to Jesus and his cause every day. While verbal proclamation does have its place, it alone is not enough. We must show through our deeds whom we believe in.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Choose to be selfless

Thursday, November 20, 2014 - What keeps you from recognising the Messiah who will come to you today in varied forms and ways?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 5:1-10; Lk 19:41-44

The text of today dwells on the theme of Jesus’ rejection by the religious elders. The city Jerusalem, whose name contains the word peace, does not recognise the King of Peace, Jesus Christ. 

Jesus’ tears for Jerusalem are because Jerusalem did not recognise that if she accepted him as Messiah, true peace would indeed reign. 

The numerous attempts of Jesus to win over the people were met with stiff resistance. They had closed their minds and hearts to anything that he had to say because it did not fit in with what they had already set their minds to believe.

When we are faced with a new idea or something contrary to what we are used to, we too might find it difficult yo accept it. Our responses may be of varied types.Some respond aggressively, others by ignoring and still others by rejecting the idea and also the person who brings that idea. 

The text of today calls for openness and discernment.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

God's creation must lead us to God, not take us away from God.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - How will I show through my life that I have opted for Jesus the king?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 4:1-11; Lk 19:11-18

The parable in the text of today is from the common source of Matthew and Luke known as “Q”. However, Matthew (Mt 25:14-30) presents it differently. 
While in Matthew there are three servants who are given five talents (a talent was equivalent to 20 years wages for a common labourer), two and one talent respectively, in Luke there are ten servants who are given one mina each (a mina was about three months wages for a common labourer). The amounts in Luke are much smaller than in Matthew. Though there are ten servants, we are told only about three. The first of the three has earned ten minas with the one he was given, the second has earned five and so these are given charge of ten and five cities respectively. The third returns the mina to the king because he was afraid of him and knew him to be a harsh man. After berating the man for not putting the mina into the bank, which would have earned interest, the king commands that his mina be given to the one who already has ten.

The point, which Luke seems to make in this parable, is that responses to Jesus the king have a decisive role in human destiny, for responses to him determine life and death. There is no “safe” position. The only road to success is to take risks as taken by the first two servants.

Monday 17 November 2014

You and I are limited. Not God.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - What one action will you perform to show that you have repented TODAY?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 3:1-6,14-22 ; Lk 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke and is the last encounter of Jesus with outcasts before he enters Jerusalem. It takes place when Jesus is passing through Jericho and on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is the name of the tax collector who Luke informs us is “rich” (19:2). 
He desires to see Jesus, but there are obstacles to his desire. The first is the crowd and the second is his own short stature. These are interconnected. If there were no crowd, his short stature would not have mattered and if he were tall the crowd would not have mattered. Zacchaeus does not allow thses to hinder him and does what no grown man at his time would do: he runs. Worse: he climbs a tree. Through this Luke indicates that Zacchaeus was willing to face ridicule and being mocked by the crowd in order to do what he had set about to do. He gives up his self-importance and dignity, because all that matters to him is to see and encounter Jesus. 
When Jesus comes to the place where Zacchaeus he asks him to hurry and come down. Zacchaeus obeys instantly. The reaction of the crowd is to grumble that Jesus would go to the house of a sinner. Zacchaeus on the other hand responds with generosity and uses the visit of Jesus to redeem himself. Jesus responds by confirming Zacchaeus’ status as a “son of Abraham”, not because he was born one, but because of his repentance. 
In the last verse of the story, Jesus pronounces salvation on the house of Zacchaeus and reaffirms his own mission as Son of man: to seek and save the lost.

The desire of Zacchaeus to see Jesus is a genuine one. He shows it is genuine by his willingness to overcome any obstacles that come in the way of his seeing. He is willing to persevere and do all that is required of him. His perseverance is rewarded by his meeting Jesus and being transformed by him.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Be Critical, but avoid Criticising

Monday, November 17, 2014 - What is it that prevents me from seeing good in others? Do I want to receive back my sight?

To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5;Lk 18:35-43

The text of today is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, but whereas in Matthew there are two blind men and in Mark the name of the blind man is Bartimaeus, in Luke there is one blind man who is not named. However, what is common to all three Gospels is that the blind man/men cries out to Jesus with a messianic title, “Son of David”, and perseveres in his plea despite being told by the people to quiet down. Though the question that Jesus asks the blind man seems redundant, it is necessary for Jesus to ask the question to indicate his respect for the freedom of the man. 
While on the physical level the man is blind, on the spiritual level he has insight because despite his physical blindness, he is able to recognise that Jesus of Nazareth is also the Messiah, which those who have physical sight are not able to do. Jesus attributes the recovery of his sight to his faith.

We might tend sometimes to close our eyes to the good that there is in others, and we might also prefer to close our eyes to the injustice that we see around us. We might close our eyes to the suffering of people around us and we might prefer to close our eyes to the needs of others. Having eyes we might prefer not to see.