Saturday 31 January 2015

Sometimes silence is golden

Sunday, February 1, 2015 - FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Which dog is winning in you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 18:15-20; 1 Cor7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28

An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. “It is like two dogs fighting inside of us,” the chief told them. “There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and right is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight.”

     “Who is going to win in the end?” a young brave asks.
     “The one you feed,” the chief answered.

Since for both kings and priests, authority was based on an inherited status, they often became unresponsive to people’s needs. This is one of the main reasons why prophets were needed. Prophets would not inherit their status but would be appointed by God to bring newness and revolution into the lives of people. They would be charismatic and would preach what God commanded them to preach. To some, it seems that they were self appointed. This is why they had to have a strong local following in order to limit or even nullify any attempt to thwart their message. Moses tells the people that the prophet, whom God will raise, will be like him and from among them. This will ensure that their teachings will accord with the teachings of Moses and will be for the benefit of the people even though, at times, the words they would speak would not be easy to digest.

The Gospel text of today narrates that Moses’ prophesy was fulfilled in the most perfect in Jesus. It is significant that, even before Jesus can begin his public ministry, Mark contrasts his teachings with that of the scribes. Though the content is not explicated, it is clear that the teaching of Jesus is a teaching based, not on learning as that of the scribes was but, on experience, and that he believed that his authority came directly from God, as is evident when he comes into Galilee proclaiming the “good news of God” (1:14).

This “teaching” is then shown, in action, in the exorcism that follows, which is the first miracle that Jesus works in the Gospel of Mark. Through this, the authority of Jesus is demonstrated. The demon also recognizes the authority of Jesus and regards him as superior. The demon knows that Jesus has been divinely ordained and set apart by God. As “prophet” of God, Jesus utters a commanding word and subdues the demon. The demon obeys the command and leaves the man. The crowd’s response indicates how authoritative is Jesus’ teaching. With just a word from Jesus, the demon is subdued. The coming of Jesus, as “prophet” of God, signals the end of all satanic and demonic forces.

The demonic forces that Jesus subdued in his time continue to raise their ugly heads, again and again. They take a variety of forms. The recent financial crisis from which the whole world is still reeling and because of which, many have lost their hard earned money, strikes terror in various parts of the world. The hunger of so many people when the world has enough and more for all and the environmental degradation are striking examples of these demonic forces today. One response that we might be tempted to give is to lay the blame for the present situation in our world at God’s door. Since Jesus could exorcise demons at will, what is preventing him from doing so now? Is not God concerned about the plight of so many of his people? Why does he not act? This, however, is not an adult response.

We have to realize that the demons that are rearing their ugly heads are not willed by God but are a creation of our own selfishness and self-centeredness. If we keep feeding the “bad dog: as we seem to want to do, then it will keep winning. To be sure, the coming of Jesus means that Satan’s rule is at an end, but for this to become a reality today we have to collaborate with Jesus in wanting to exorcise those demons. We can do this, no matter in what state of life we are, if we, like Paul, and have the best interests of others at hear. If we too, like him, want to promote what is good and pleasing to the Lord, then the demons can once again be subdued and God’s power can be seen at work in the world again, like it was in Jesus’ time. Then, the “good dog” will win.

Friday 30 January 2015


Saturday, January 31, 2015 - Have you stopped rowing the boat of life because you are overwhelmed with the storms? Will you start rowing again today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:1-2,8-19; Mk 4:35-41

The Gospel reading of today appears immediately after Jesus has completed the Parable Discourse. It is commonly referred to as the miracle of the calming of the storm. While this miracle appears also in the Gospels in Matthew and Luke, the language of the disciples in Mark is harsh. In Matthew, the disciples address Jesus as Lord, and their cry is a plea for help, much like our “Lord have mercy” at the penitential rite. In Luke, like in Mark, Jesus is addressed as “Master” but no allegation about his uncaring attitude is made. In Mark, the disciples allege that Jesus is unconcerned about them. Mark also brings out the contrast between the agitated disciples and the serene Jesus. Jesus is able with a word to calm the forces of nature, and suddenly, there is a great calm.

The boat has often been seen as a symbol of Christianity. The storm then would be the trials and tribulations that attack Christianity from without. Jesus is present with his people even in the midst of all these trials, even though sometimes it may appear that he is asleep and unconcerned. He is able with a word to clam these forces, and so there is no need for agitation and anxious care. We need to keep rowing and trust that he will see us safely to the shore.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015 - Do you more often than not focus on the present or the future? Do you focus on the now or on the later?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:32-39; Mk 4:26-32

The text of today contains two parables. The first of these (4,26-29) is known as the Parable of the seed growing secretly, and is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The second (4,30-32), known as the Parable of the Mustard seed is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

In the first parable the point that is being made is that the one who scatters the seed only does so and then goes about his routine, not worried about the outcome of his effort. The seed continues to grow, simply because he has first scattered it. He knows that by worrying the seed will not grow faster, and so he lets it be.

In the Parable of the Mustard seed, the point that is made is that from little, there will be much. Small beginnings have great endings. The parable is a call to begin what one has to do without worrying about how small or big the outcome will be. The growth is sure and definite.
When Mark says in 4,33 that Jesus did not speak to the people without a parable, he is in effect saying that there was a parabolic character about all of Jesus’ teaching. This means that all of Jesus’ teaching involved the listener and it was the listener who supplied the lesson to the teaching and not Jesus. This indicates a freedom of choice that every listener was given at the time of Jesus. They were the ones to decide for or against. Jesus would never force them to accept his point of view.

It is sometimes the case that we spend much of our time worrying about the outcome of our actions even before we can do them. This attitude does not allow us to be in the present moment and so the action that we do is not done to the best of our ability. We do not put ourselves fully into the action that we do. At other times, we do not act at all but only worry. While the first of today’s parable is calling us to act and then relax rather than worry, the second is assuring us that our actions will indeed bear fruit.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Less is more

Thursday, January 29, 2015 - How would you define the WORD OF GOD? Have you assimilated this WORD?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:19-25; Mk 4:21-25

The text of today follows immediately after the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower and the seed and contains two similes: that of the lamp and the measure. In Mark they seem to be connected with the response that a person makes to the Word spoken by Jesus. This Word is not an esoteric or secret Word. It is a Word that is to be make known, to be revealed, like a lamp is to be on a lamp stand. If one is open and receptive to this Word (the Measure of one’s openness) one will receive from God not only the ability to understand it but also to assimilate it.

Sometimes our closed attitudes and minds and our reluctance to accept change and newness may result in our missing out on all the revelations of the glory of God taking place around us. If we only open the eyes of our heart to see and the ears of our hearts to hear, we will be able to find God in all things and all things in him.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Unconditional love

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - How often have you given into despair and lost hope? Will you continue to hope today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:11-18; Mk 4:1-20
The text of today is taken from what is known as The Parable Discourse in the Gospel of Mark. The text contains an introduction to the Discourse (4:1-2), the parable of the Sower (4:3-9), a saying on the kingdom and its secret (4:10-12) and the interpretation of the parable (4:13-20). It is important that while it is likely that Jesus uttered the parable, in all probability the interpretation is the work of the early church. This is why; the interpretation of these texts must be done separately.

The parable of the Sower seems to point out that of the four types of soil in which the seed falls, it is LOST in three types and bears fruit in only one type. This indicates that while three quarters of the effort are lost, only a quarter is gain. However, the focus of the parable is not on the loss but on the gain, which even that one-quarter brings. The Parable is pointing out to the fact that this is how life often is. Three quarters of our efforts seem to be wasted and it is possible that when this happens we may give in to despair. However, we are called to focus not on this but on the enormous gain that the one-quarter of our effort will indeed bring.

We may tend to lose heart when we see that most of our efforts do not seem to be bearing fruit. At times like these the Parable of the Sower offers hope that even though much of our effort may seem to be lost, the gain that will arise from it will be enormous. It invites us not to ever lose heart but to keep on doing our part and leave the rest to God. It is calling us to sow and rest confident in the hope that God will make it grow.

Monday 26 January 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - If Jesus were to point to his family today, would you be counted as a member?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:1-10; Mk 3:31-35

The text of today forms the second part of the “sandwich” construction that Mark has used here. He introduced the family of Jesus in 3:20-21, interrupted this with the text on the Beelzebul controversy (3:22-30) and returns to the family of Jesus is today’s text 3:31-35. By using such a structure, Mark indicates that the family of Jesus are also hostile to Jesus. Also, Mark places them “outside” while Jesus is “inside” the house. This too indicates that they are not disciples. Jesus then defines family in terms of those who do the will of God. Some also think that by not mentioning the father of Jesus, Mark wants to assert that for Jesus and his disciples, only God is Father.

We may imagine that because we have been baptised are bear the name Christian we are automatically counted as members of Jesus’ family. However, baptism alone will not make us members of Jesus’ family, but the living out of the baptismal promises in our lives. This means that we must each do what we are called to do, namely our best at every given moment. 


Sunday 25 January 2015

There is a time for everything

Monday, January 26, 2015 - Timothy and Titus - How would you define mission today? Are you engaged in mission?

To read the texts click on the the texts: 2 Tim 1:1-8; Lk 10:1-9

On Jan. 26, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, close companions of the Apostle Paul and bishops of the Catholic Church in its earliest days.

Both men received letters from Paul, which are included in the New Testament.

Timothy was supposed to have come from Lystra which is in present day Turkey and was known to be a student of Sacred Scripture from his youth. He accompanied Paul on his journeys and was later sent to Thessalonica to help the Church during a period of persecution. Like Paul, he too was imprisoned and his release from prison is mentioned in in the letter to the Hebrews (Heb 13:23). Tradition has it that Timothy died a martyr for the faith like Paul before him.

Titus was born into a Non-Christian family, yet would read the Hebrew Scriptures to find ways and means to live a virtuous life. He was both assistant and interpreter of Paul was sent to the Church in Corinth when Paul could not go. He was Bishop of Crete. According to tradition Titus was not martyred, but died of old age.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is from Luke and is about the sending of the seventy-two, which is text that is exclusive to Luke . Matthew and Mark have the sending of the Twelve, as does Luke. This then is regarded as a doublet of the sending of the Twelve in Lk. 9:1-6.
The fact that seventy-two and not just twelve are sent indicates growth and movement. The kingdom of God is preached not just by Jesus or the Twelve, but also by many more.

In some manuscripts, the number is recorded as seventy. This is probably due to the list of nations in Genesis 10, where while the Hebrew text lists seventy nations, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) list seventy-two. This will mean that the commissioning of the seventy-two foreshadows the mission of the church to all nations.
In this sending, they are sent in pairs (not in the earlier sending of the Twelve in Lk. 9:1-6), and ahead of Jesus, in order to prepare the way before him. In this sense, they are called to be pre-cursors, forerunners like John the Baptist. The instructions begin with a prayer to be made to God, because it is his mission that they will be engaged in. At the outset they are warned that they will need to be on their guard at all times. The strategy proposed is detachment from things, persons and events. This detachment will help to proclaim the kingdom more efficaciously. Three interconnected aspects of the mission are stressed. The missionaries are to eat what is set before them in order to show the same table fellowship that Jesus showed, they are to cure the sick and to proclaim the kingdom in order to show that the kingdom is not only spiritual but also very practical and touches every aspect of human life. They are to do and also to say.

It is sometimes mistakenly thought that only religious men and women are called to be missionaries. However, as the feast of today indicates though Timothy and Titus were both Bishops in the early Church they were initially lay men (and Titus was a Non-Christian). Some also think that only those who work in the villages are to be termed missionaries. However, the sending of the seventy-two corrects this misunderstanding. The feast of today asks us to reflect on the fact that every Christian is sent on a mission and called to engage in mission, simply because mission is to be done where one is. The threefold mission task in these verses is a further confirmation of the fact that mission includes every aspect of life and so is not the responsibility of only a few, but every disciple of Jesus.

Saturday 24 January 2015

An open heart mind and an open heart

Sunday, January 25, 2015 - A New Mind and a New heart

To read the texts click on the texts: Jon 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20

The common thread that runs through the first reading and gospel of today is the invitation, or call that is made, and the response to it. If, in the first reading, Jonah calls the people of Nineveh to repentance and they respond, in the Gospel of today, Jesus calls the first disciples to be fishers of men and women, and they respond. A positive note is thus struck. There is an adequate response made to both calls.

Jonah is invited by God, in the first reading of today, with three imperatives. He is called to arise, to go, and to proclaim the message that God himself will give. He responds perfectly. He arose, went, and proclaimed. Though the content of his proclamation is not specified by God, Jonah proclaims a call to repentance, an overturning, a complete reversal of the world. The response of all people, from the greatest to the least, was to listen to the proclamation and to act on it immediately.

That this is the case is made more than amply clear in the preaching of Jesus, when he “came into Galilee”. However, even before Jesus can utter the first words in his Gospel, Mark gives us four pointers or indicators. The reason why he does this is because the message that Jesus will proclaim and the words that he will speak are revolutionary and novel. The words of Jesus will result in waking the listener from his/her sleep and in turning the world of the listener upside down. The first of these four indicators is a time indicator; “After John had been arrested”. The reason for the mention of the arrest of John the Baptist here is to effectively remove John from the scene and to prepare the reader for both the departure of John and the arrival of Jesus. This is because with Jesus, a new time has come, a new message is brought and a new kingdom is inaugurated. The old time of John is now over. The second indicator is a place indicator: “Jesus came into Galilee” which, in Mark, is the place where Jesus is at home. It is a place of acceptance and proclamation and the place where miracles are worked. The third indicator is a form indicator: “Proclaiming” which indicates, as in the case of Jonah, the crying out of an urgent message. The proclamation does not explain or give details, it simply invites, beckons, and challenges the listener to hear and respond. The fourth and final indicator is a content indicator: “The good news of God, and the good news that God has authorized Jesus to proclaim. This proclamation of Jesus may be summed up as: “The kingdom of God is here. Repent”.
The placement of the words is extremely important if one is to understand fully the implications of this radical proclamation. In this proclamation, the indicative is before the imperative or, in other words, because the kingdom has come, people are called to repentance. It does not state that the kingdom will come only if people repent or, that people must repent first for the kingdom to come. God has taken the initiative, the first step, and the humans have only to respond. The kingdom is given gratis, as a gift to anyone who is open to receive it.

What does this mean in practice? On the lips of Jesus, the inauguration of the kingdom would mean that, in him and in his ministry of preaching and healing, God reigns or God rules. God’s forgiveness and mercy had been made visible. In other words it means that God loves unconditionally, he forgives unconditionally. The response of those who are willing to accept this startling revelation is one of acceptance of that love, forgiveness, and acceptance. This is not as easy as it sounds. Jesus calls the people to repentance which does not mean that one must be sorry for one’s sins. It means, rather, that one must get a new mind, a new heart, a new vision, and a new way of looking, like the man who came home one day and told his wife, “Honey, I’ve changed my mind”. “Thank God”, his wife replied, “I hope the new one will function better”.

Since Jesus wanted to reveal this truth to as many as possible, he calls disciples to share in this mission. Simon and Andrew, James and John are called, and they respond immediately, and with generosity. They are willing to join Jesus in his mission of transforming the world.

Stressing the immediacy of this message, Paul invites the Corinthian community, in the second reading of today, to this change of mind, heart, and vision. It is a call to focus on things that matter, like the fact of God’s love, rather than on things which will take one away from this revelation.

This call is being issued to us today. It is a call that we are challenged to issue to others. It is a realization of the unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness of God, made visible and available in Jesus, freely, without charge or condition. It is a love which must, therefore, be shared with others.

Friday 23 January 2015

Selflessness is rewarding

Saturday, January 24, 2015 - Would Jesus point to you as member of his family? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:2-3,11-14; Mk 3:20-21

This text is part of a larger text, which ends at 3,35. It is about the family of Jesus. In 3,20-21 (our text for today) the family of Jesus is introduced in a negative manner. They think that Jesus has gone out of his mind and want to restrain him. One possible reason why his family would have thought that he was “out of his mind” was because he was working miracles and this could have been seen as associated with magic and such persons could either be banned or even executed. His family thus come to take him away by force.

This episode is followed by the Beelzebul controversy (3,22-30) in which Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, by the scribes who come from Jerusalem. Mark then forms a "sandwich construction" by taking up in 3,31-35 a text concerning the family of Jesus. Here, however, Jesus makes clear that his true family are not those related to him by blood only, but by the will of God.

There are times when because we do not understand the actions of another person, we may tend to condemn them or look down on them or sometimes label them. We need to realise that because of our lack of understanding we may need to be open rather than closed and judgemental. 

Thursday 22 January 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015 - If Jesus were to choose a nickname for you, what would that be? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 8:6-13; Mk 3:13-19

Mark narrates here the choice of the twelve disciples. The number twelve makes this group representative of the twelve tribes of Israel and thus Jesus would be seen as the one who has come to restore Israel.

Mark makes three points in his narration of the choice of the twelve. The first is that the primary reason for the choice of the Twelve is “to be with him”. This means that their primary responsibility is to accompany Jesus on his journey to the Father. The second point is that besides “being with him”, they are also sent out to preach and heal, to say and to do, word and action. The Kingdom of God is not merely a spiritual enterprise, but connected intimately with the whole of life. It is a practical enterprise as well. The third point that Mark makes is that some of the Twelve are given nicknames. Simon is named “Peter” (which means “rock”) and James and John are named “Boanerges” (which means “sons of thunder”). These signified their function. Judas Iscariot is not renamed, but Mark gives us an indication already here of what he will do in the future.

Each of us also received a new name at our Baptism: the name “Christian”. The challenge is to hear Jesus call our name and to have the courage to answer that call.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Judge no one.

Thursday, January 22, 2015 - If you were to choose one word to describe your relationship with Jesus what word would you choose?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:25-8:6; Mk 3:7-12

Mark gives in these verses a summary account of the themes that have appeared from the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus' popularity increases and he cannot appear in public without being pressured by great multitudes seeking to he healed. Jesus' reputation has spread even to those towns where he did not go personally. The use of the term multitude here and the mention of the names of places as far as the region around Tyre and Sidon are an indication that Jesus’ authority is much greater than that of John the Baptist to whom in Mark people came from only the Judean countryside and Jerusalem (1,5). These multitudes are not necessarily disciples, and could have come to see Jesus out of curiosity or even to receive healing.

Mark once again has the command to silence, which is where Jesus commands the demons not to make him known. While some interpret this command as belonging to the rite of exorcism, others see it as Mark's desire to reject the testimony of the demons as evidence for Jesus' identity.

It is possible that we relate to God or Jesus as we would relate to the local grocer and go to him only when we need something. The text of today challenges us to review our relationship with Jesus and ask ourselves what he really means to us.

Tuesday 20 January 2015


Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - Is there a synchrony between your words and your actions?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17; Mk 3:1-6

The Gospel text of today concerns a Sabbath controversy. Though Mark does not specify at the beginning of this episode who it was that was watching Jesus for a reason to accuse him, at the end of the episode they are named as Pharisees and Herodians. While Pharisees had no political authority at the time of Jesus, they were influential. Herodians were a group of wealthy people who were partisans of Herod Antipas.

It is important to note that Jesus does nothing to break the Sabbath rest, but his question is the reason for the hostility. The response to Jesus' question is silence which here may be interpreted as an indication of the hostility of his opponents and of their intention to destroy him. Anyone who truly cares about the law will agree with Jesus and rejoice that a man has been made whole again. Though the man in this case is not in any way near death, Jesus adds to the second part of his question the words "to save life or to kill?" This seems to be Mark's way of anticipating the intentions of Jesus' opponents. The point he seems to be making is that they object to someone being made whole on the Sabbath because they are concerned about the law, yet on the same Sabbath, they will not hesitate to plot the destruction of someone else. The contrast between their words and their deeds is strongly brought out.

Often in our lives there is a dichotomy between what we say and what we do. Our actions do not always match our words. There are also times when we say one thing and do another. The call of the text of today is to be as consistent as we possibly can. One way of doing this is to avoid judging others too easily. Another way would be to avoid promising what we know we will not be able to deliver and to think carefully before we speak and commit.

Monday 19 January 2015

Act now

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 6:10-20; Mk 2:23-28

Today’s text is a pronouncement story. In such a story, the saying of Jesus is of central importance. In this story, it appears at the end where after Jesus pronounces that it was the Sabbath (rules and regulations) that was made for the human person and not the other way around, he identifies The Son of Man as Lord even of the Sabbath.

The Gospel of Mark does not explicate what the Pharisees are complaining about. They surely could not be complaining that the disciples of Jesus were stealing because they were plucking ears of corn, since Deut. 23,25 permitted a person to pluck ears of grain when he/she went into a neighbour’s field. Luke 6,1 seems to indicate that the objection of the Pharisees was that the disciples of Jesus were rubbing the heads of grain they had plucked in their hands which could be considered as threshing and therefore work, which was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod 34,21). As he often does in his responses, Jesus takes the objectors beyond the immediate objection to a higher level. Here, he focuses not just on the question of work on the Sabbath or the incident that is questioned, but beyond: to the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is at the service of the human person and not the human person at the service of the Sabbath. In other words, human needs take precedence over any rules and regulations. This must be the primary focus.

There are times in our lives when we treat rules as ends in themselves. One reason why we do this is because we have an image of God as a policeman who will catch and punish us if we do not follow the rules, as we ought to. Another reason could be that we expect that God will be gracious to us and bless us if we are faithful in flowing the rules. It is possible that sometimes we are so focussed on following the rules that we believe God has set for us that we might lose sight of human persons whose needs we must respond to first.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Do not let it control you

Monday, January 19, 2015 - How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 5:1-10; Mk 2:18-22

The text of today is a controversy story, and concerns one of the three important traditions of the Jews: fasting, the other two being alms giving and prayer. 

The question of the people compares the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples with that of John’s disciples and the Pharisees. The latter fast whereas the disciples of Jesus do not. The law required that people fast only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16,1-34; 23,26-32; Num 29,7-11), though there were other reasons why a person might fast including as a personal expression of sorrow or repentance (1 Kgs 21,27; 2 Samuel 3,35). The Pharisees were said to fast twice a week (Luke 18,12). Since the people considered Jesus as a prophet or religious teacher, they would have expected his disciples to fast as other sects did. 

In his response to the people, Jesus clarifies that with his coming the new age has dawned, which is an age of freedom. He does this first by using the analogy of the bridegroom, and states that those who fast at the wedding are seriously insulting the host or bridegroom. However, even though there is the element of celebration in the analogy of the bridegroom, there is also a sombre note, which speaks of the bridegroom being taken away, and seems to refer to the death of Jesus, which will be an appropriate time to fast. The unshrunk cloth and the new wine refer to this new age, whereas the old cloak and the old wine skins refer to the old age. The two are incompatible. An attempt to patch an old garment using a new or unshrunk cloth will result in a worse tear; just as to put new wine into old skins will result in a great loss. The conclusion of the saying of Jesus emphasises that the presence of Jesus brings newness and to understand him one will need to give up the old categories that one has.

If we can talk of a rule or regulation that Jesus gave his disciples, it would only be the rule of love. All the actions of Jesus’ disciples must be motivated by love. This means that one may or may not fast, but that one will always and every time only love.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Love is all that matters

Sunday, January 18, 2015 - Called to be witnesses

To read the texts click on the texts:1 Sam 3:3-10, 19; 1Cor 6:13-15, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord begins what is known as ‘Ordinary Time’ in the Church’s liturgical year. Ordinary, in this context, does not mean mundane or regular or usual or average. It comes from ‘Ordinal’ which means ‘counted time’ or time that is not seasonal. During this time, the Church invites us to reflect on the mystery of Christ in all its wonder and fullness and to be inspired to live out what we celebrate in the life of Christ, in our own lives. 
In many ways, Ordinary time is really extra-ordinary time because we realize, through the scripture readings and reflections, that God in Christ enters our ordinary world and makes it extra-ordinary with his presence. This entry of God into our lives also challenges us to find the extra-ordinary in the ordinariness of life.

The first reading and Gospel of today might seem, at first glance, as ‘Call’ narratives. However, they go much deeper. In the case of Samuel, it is more an inauguration of his mission rather than a call. The inauguration of Samuel’s mission as the mediator of God’s word does not simply happen. A lot of effort is necessary on the part of both God and Samuel. Though Samuel is sleeping near the ark, which is a source of divine presence and illumination, he cannot perceive the presence of God. Eli, who is nearly blind and sleeping away from the divine presence of the ark, perceives that the Lord is speaking to Samuel. Samuel makes the response suggested to him by Eli, but he omits the word “Lord”, possibly because he did not yet “know the Lord”. At this point, the Lord “came and stood” before Samuel, indicating a visionary as well as auditory experience. The word of the Lord is now reliably present in the midst of Israel through Samuel. Samuel’s commission is to tell people that the Lord is going to wake people up from their slumber and do something that will make their ears ring.

The Gospel text of today begins by speaking of the witness of God’s word: John the Baptist. Even as Samuel’s mission is to take people up, the mission of John the Baptist goes even further, namely, to point Jesus out to people. It is interesting that of the four titles that John used to identify Jesus earlier, he chooses here the title “Lamb of God”. While this title may signify the conquering lamb of Yahweh, here it signifies the lamb that is led to the slaughter, the suffering servant of God. John points Jesus out to his disciples as the one who will save  people by giving his life as a ransom for all.

The disciples realize that, in Jesus, they will receive more than John could ever hope to give. The disciples start following Jesus not fully knowing what this will entail. The first words that Jesus asks them, which are the first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John, are in the form of a question, “What do you seek?” This question is at once both courteous and penetrating. It requires the disciples to go into the deepest recesses of their beings to answer it. They respond with a question of their own, “Rabbi, where do you stay (remain)?” They do not seem to be asking for Jesus’ residential address, but want to know where Jesus’ being is. They want to know what motivates Jesus and makes him the kind of person that he is. They want to know the source of his power and authority. Jesus does  not answer with an address, but with an invitation. They must “Come and See”.. If they really want to know who Jesus is, and what he stands for, they must experience him for themselves. They must stay where he stays and they must remain where he remains. They do that and it is the turning point in their lives. John signifies this by stating that “It was the tenth hour”. The tenth period, according to some apocalyptic calculations, was the decisive hour, the hour when one had to decide for or against. The disciples decided for Jesus. This, however, is only one part of the story. What follows is as important or even more important. The disciples, like Samuel and John the Baptist also become mediators or witnesses of God’s word.

Paul like the first disciples continued to witness to God’s word and, in the second reading of today, urges the Christian community to do the same. He does this by reminding them that they are, indeed, temples of the Holy Spirit, who should witness to Christ through their actions.

This call to witness to, and be mediators of, God’s word made flesh in Jesus, is the responsibility of anyone who professes faith in him. We must be able to say like Samuel: “Here I am. You called me”.

Friday 16 January 2015

Hate hate, not people

Saturday, January 17, 2015 - When you look at an egg will you see the eagle? Has your stereotypical way of looking prevented you from seeing people as they are?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 4:12-16; Mk 2:13-17

If in 2,1-12 through the incident of the healing of the paralytic, Mark portrayed jesus as one who had the authority to forgive sin, in the text of today, he shows Jesus as reaching out to tax collectors and sinners. There are two episodes, which are connected. The first is the Call of Levi and the second is the dinner in Levi’s house during which Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.

In Matthew 9,9, the tax collector who is called is named Matthew, but in Mark (and Luke 5,27) he is called Levi. However, the name Levi does not appear in any list of twelve whereas Matthew appears in all the lists. The tax collector at the time of Jesus was a person whose duty it was to collect tax or duty on goods crossing the border. They were accused of charging more than the required amount and so were considered as thieves and seen as dishonest. This is the kind of person called by Jesus to discipleship. The structure of the call of Levi is similar to that of the first four disciples in mark (1,16-20). Here too, it has five parts, Jesus passes by, sees Levi at his work, calls to him, Levi leaves his work and follows Jesus. Immediately after the call and following, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for a meal during which many tax collectors and sinners sit at table with him. This leads to the scribes of the Pharisees complaining probably that Jesus was not observe that higher standard of holiness that would be expected of him. Jesus responds to their objection in two parts. In the first part, he states what many regard is a common proverb of the time (“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”). In the second part of his response (“I have come not to call the righteous but sinners”), Jesus states explicitly the reason for his coming: to call sinners. The force of this mission statement of Jesus will be understood better when we realise that the righteous referred to those who were zealous for the law and tried to live it out as completely as they could, whereas sinners meant those who deliberately flouted/flaunted the law and paid no heed to it. Jesus has come to seek those who everyone considers evil.

Many of us tend to look down on those who may not come up to our expectations or behave the way we want them to. We may also often judge others by what we see and be too quick to do that. The challenge for each of us is to realise that our way of looking may be a stereotypical way of looking and that we may be looking with a prejudiced view.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Intolerance cannot be tolerated

Friday, January 16, 2014 - Is there an area in my life in which I suffer from paralysis? Do I believe that Jesus can heal me?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 4:1-5:11; Mk 2:1-12

The text of today is a pronouncement story, which also contains a miracle. 
A pronouncement story is one in which the saying of Jesus is the central point. Some pronouncement stories contain miracles, whereas others do not (2,23-27). In the story of today, it seems that Mark has converted an original miracle story in which a paralytic is healed into a pronouncement story (by inserting the dialogue between Jesus and the scribes after the words, “said to the paralytic” found in 2,5a, and repeating them in 2,10b), to bring out the point that Jesus has the authority like God to forgive sin. In his challenge to the scribes, Jesus is able to prove that he has this authority to forgive, because he has been able to heal the man completely. Mark might also be indicating that Jesus wanted total healing for the man rather than just physical healing. The response of the crowds is of amazement.

We come across here for the first time a “Son on Man” saying, which is used for the second time in 2,28 and after that only from the Passion and resurrection predictions in Mark (8,31; 9,31; 10,33; 14,62). Characters in the Gospels never use this expression to describe Jesus or refer to him; rather Jesus uses it of himself. While the expression could be used to mean a human being, it seems that the evangelists intend the expression to refer to Jesus’ special status. Here, he has special authority and that to forgive sin.

Our own psychological paralysis is often connected with our lack of forgiveness and keeping feelings of bitterness, anger and the like in our hearts and minds. One of the keys to wholeness and good health is forgiveness. We must forgive because it is good for our health. 

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Watch what you say

Thursday, January 15, 2015 - Who are those whom you treat as lepers? Will you reach out to them with a kind word or touch today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 3:7-14; Mk 1:40-45

The healing of a leper, which is our text for today, is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but both Matthew and Luke omit the emotional reactions of Jesus found in Mark. The term leprosy was used for any kind of skin disease, and those with such kind of diseases were considered as unclean and not allowed to be part of society. They had to live on the outskirts of the city, and had to make their presence known whenever they entered the city, so that others could avoid any kind of contact with them and so not get contaminated.

In this miracle, Jesus not only heals the leper, but also reaches out and touches him. This probably means that Jesus cannot be contaminated or made unclean by anything from outside. It could also indicate Jesus’ wanting to reach out to the leper in a personal manner and treat him as a full human being.

The prayer of the leper is a lesson for each one of us on the meaning of prayer. In his prayer the leper both acknowledges his dependence on Jesus through the words, “If you will” and also has faith in the ability of Jesus to heal through the words, “you can make me clean”. Prayer means to acknowledge our dependence on God and also to have faith that God can do what to us may seem impossible.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

If Plan A does not work try Plan B. If this too does not work try Plan C and on and on and on...

Wednesday, January 14, 2014 - Is the content of your prayer connected with your life or is it removed from it?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 2:14-18; Mk 1:29-39

The text of today is made up of three parts. In the first part (1:29-31), we are told of the healing of Simon’s Mother-in-law. This miracle story follows the pattern of the typical healing stories of the Synoptic Gospels in which three clear parts can be distinguished. These are the narration of the case, the cure (in the larger majority of the healing miracles of Jesus it is merely with a word and/or the act of lifting the person up) and the confirmation that the person has indeed been cured. Here, after her healing she begins to wait on Jesus and his disciples. While on the one hand this detail communicates that she was healed completely and can now serve, on the other hand, Mark may also have intended to communicate to his readers, that healing is for service.

In the second part of today’s text (1:32-34), numerous sick are brought to Jesus, who heals them all. There is also at the end of this section the command to silence, which is connected to the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus does not allow demons to tell other who he is, because he did not want to be misunderstood simply as a wonder working Messiah.

In the third and final part of today’s reading (1:35-39), we are given an insight into a very personal aspect of the life of Jesus; his prayer. In this context, the content of Jesus’ prayer seems to be discernment on whether he must stay or move. While it would have been easier to stay because of the approval he receives here, as is evident from the comment of his disciples that he was being sought after, Jesus opts to move because that is what he sees as his Father’s will, and Mark makes abundantly clear on numerous occasions in his Gospel that nothing and no one can come between Jesus and his Father’s will.

The talents that we have and the gifts that we possess have been given to us in trust. We have therefore to use them to enhance life and continue to be co-creators with God in his work of building the new heaven and new earth.

Monday 12 January 2015

Go for it

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - How often is there a dichotomy between your words and your actions? Will you try to synchronise them today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 2:5-12; Mk 1:21-28

The first miracle in the Gospel of Mark is an exorcism and is the text for today. At the beginning of this pericope we are informed that Jesus taught in the synagogue with authority and the crowds were astounded at his teaching. Mark then immediately narrates the exorcism story to give a practical example of the teaching of Jesus. The demon "knows" who Jesus is and also that with his coming Satan’s reign is ended. Jesus has indeed come to cast Satan out.

The exorcism indicates what it means that the kingdom has indeed drawn near. This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that we come across what is commonly known as “the command to silence”, which is a technique that Mark uses in his Gospel in which Jesus commands sometimes demons (1,25. 34), sometimes those he has healed (1,44) and sometimes the family members of the one healed (5,43) not to make known his identity or that he has been the one who has healed them. While many interpretations have been offered as to why Mark has used this technique, the one which has found wide acceptance is that the Marcan Jesus did not want people to mistake him for merely an exorcist or miracle worker, but wanted them to realise that he was the Christ who would suffer, die on the cross and be raised.

In this case he is able to exorcise the demon by a mere word, which the crowd interpret as a "new teaching".

By associating the teaching of Jesus with the first miracle and having the people regard the exorcism as a “new teaching”., Mark seems to want to indicate that there is no dichotomy between Jesus’ words and actions. They synchronise. Jesus does what he says and says what he does.