Sunday, 31 January 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016 - How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 15:13-14,30; Mk 5:1-20
The healing miracle of today is known as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. The man is so utterly possessed, that it seems almost impossible that he will be healed. Addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the demon attempts to possess Jesus. However, Jesus will have none of it, and silences him with a word. The name “legion” used by the demoniac may mean on the one hand that he did not want to give his name and so be cast out by Jesus, and on the other hand may also refer to the Roman occupation of Palestine. The presence of pigs suggests that it is Gentile territory, because Jews considered pigs as unclean animals, and would not have them near. Some have raised questions about the destruction of nature because of the fact that the herd of pigs is drowned after the demon is sent into them. However, it may also be interpreted as the extent of concern that Jesus had for the man. In other words, the salvation of a human being is worth any price. The healed man becomes an apostle.
Today there are various demons that can possess each one of us. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, addictions and the like, which result in tensions within the family and at times leads to a breakdown of family life. We need first to become aware of them and call them by their names so that with the Lord’s grace they will be exorcised from our hearts and lives.
Saturday, 30 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1Cor 12:31 -13:13; LK 4:21-30
The concluding verse in the Gospel reading of today contains the response of Jesus to the rejection that he faced in his home town. “But he (Jesus) passed through the midst of them and went on his way”, summarises the meaning of the entire episode of Jesus in the synagogue.
The first public act of Jesus, in the Gospel f Luke, takes place after his baptism and after overcoming temptation. This first public act is his reading the text from Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, his home town. The initial response of those who listen to him is positive. “They spoke well of him”, and they marvelled at his graciousness. However, this positive response soon became, not merely negative but, antagonistic, so much so that they wanted to throw Jesus down the cliff. What were the possible reasons for this change?
The answer to this question is found, not only in the Gospel text itself, but also, in the first reading of today. The people of Jesus’ hometown had set their minds about what they wanted to hear. As long as the content of Jesus’ proclamation coincided with their way of thinking, everything was bright and sunny, and they thought him gracious but, from the moment it differed, the antagonism began. This was because what Jesus was saying was something that was radically new and people generally do not like to hear new things. They prefer the old, the tried, the tested, the familiar, and that with which they are comfortable. They had convinced themselves that they were, indeed, the chosen people and that God’s concern, care, and mercy, were restricted to them, and for them, exclusively. However, Jesus revealed that, while he had come to comfort the afflicted, he had also come to afflict the comfortable. This meant that, no matter how strongly they opposed the idea, God’s graciousness, mercy, forgiveness, and love, could never be restricted to any one particular group. Those gifts were available to anyone and everyone who was open to receive them. There would be no “chosen people” because everyone was now chosen. The grace that flowed, which was unmerited, was also unrestricted.
This interpretation of Jesus was not made up by him, but was the outcome of his own experience at his baptism and after. He was so convinced of this truth that he did not mind becoming unpopular and disliked because he spoke what God commanded him to speak. He spoke on behalf of God as the prophet is wont to do. He would brook no compromise.
This command to speak God’s word came also to the prophet Jeremiah, as the first reading of today tells us and, like Jeremiah, too, was chosen by god to speak a specific word, Jeremiah would have to speak that word, no matter the consequences, because it was a word that was true. God also gave Jeremiah encouragement. The encouragement was that God would sustain him, even in the most difficult moments of his life. Though initially reluctant, Jeremiah obeyed the command of the Lord and spoke God’s word to all.
Thus, the work of a prophet is not a private matter. It has to do with the world at large. It is not confined to a particular community. More importantly, it is not theoretical but a very practical and tangible word. It is about what is going on in the world and about what God is going to do about it. It is, thus, a word that threatens the wrong doers and yet, a word that comforts the oppressed and the down trodden. Since the wrong doers are threatened by the word, the life of the prophet is always in danger. It is very likely that those to whom the word applies might not want to hear it. This is because it calls for a radical transformation on their part and this, very few are willing to do. Even as this is so, the prophet knows that he/she cannot but speak the word. The prophet’s compulsion comes from within when the call is genuine, and no threat, intimidation, bullying, or pressure, can put an end to the word that must be spoken. This was the case with Jeremiah and, even more clearly, the case with Jesus. The last verse of today’s Gospel makes this explicit. Even at the risk of danger to his life, Jesus would not be deterred from his mission and task. He knew that he stood under a higher calling and the assurance and confidence that he received from God was sufficient to sustain him.
This basis of the confidence that Jesus had, and the assurance that he received, is given by Paul in the second reading of today where he explains the meaning of love. Jesus was aware that he was loved unconditionally by the Father which, for him, means that nothing that was detrimental would ever happen to him. His experience of being loved by the Father was so powerful that he could only respond by being obedient to the Father’s command to speak words of unconditional and eternal love.
The challenge that the readings pose to each one of us who are disciples of Jesus is to continue to speak that prophetic word which the world \needs so much to hear today. It is a word which must make the poor aware of their rights and privileges. It is a word which must make those who still engage in oppression and domination of the poor realize the folly of their ways. It is a word that must be spoken unflinchingly and fearlessly. It is a word that must be spoken because it is the word that comes, even today, from God.
Friday, 29 January 2016
Saturday, January 30, 2016 - 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: 2 Sam 12:1-7,10-17; 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, 28 January 2016
Friday, January 29, 2016 - 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: 2 Sam 11:1-10,13-17; Mk 4:26-34
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, 27 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:18-19,24-29; 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, 26 January 2016
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - How often have you given into despair and lost hope? Will you continue to hope today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:4-17; 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, 25 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Tim 1:1-8; Tit 1:1-5; Lk 10:1-9
We celebrate today 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.
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Tim 2:1-6; Jn 8:33-36
January 26, 1950, is one of the most important days in Indian history as it was on this day the constitution of India came into force and India became a truly sovereign state. On this day India became a totally republican unit.
It was at the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress at midnight of December 31, 1929 - January 1, 1930, that the Tri-Colour Flag was unfurled by the nationalists and a pledge taken that every year on January 26, the "Republic Day" would be celebrated and that the people would unceasingly strive for the establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic of India. The professed pledge came to fruition on January 26, 1950, when the Constitution of India framed by the Constituent Assembly of India came into force, although the Independence from the British rule was achieved on August 15, 1947.
In the first reading chosen for today, the primary emphasis seems to be to stress the breadth of concern for each other that Christians must aspire to express which is a reflection of God’s concern is. Prayer must be communitarian in that it must be made for all. Those in authority need prayers and so Christians must prayer for them.
The Gospel text of today is about Jesus’ interpretation of freedom. Freedom, according to Jesus, is primarily freedom from sin. Sin in this context may be seen as the refusal to acknowledge Jesus as sent by God to set people free. Consequently, freedom is to know and follow the truth. THE TRUTH in all its fullness is manifested in Jesus.
On the 66th Anniversary of our Republic day we need to ask ourselves if we are indeed free.
Sunday, 24 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; Mk 16:15-18
Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In that instant he saw what he could become through grace and not law. It was a revelation to him that no matter how low a person may have fallen; God’s grace could always lift him/her up. It was also a revelation of the heights of mysticism one could reach if one opened oneself to God’s unlimited and unconditional grace.
The story of Paul’s conversion is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 9 and 22) and Paul himself makes reference to it in some of his letters (Gal 1:13-14; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 15:3-8)
The conversion of Saul to Paul was the conversion and transformation of a person who lived out the letter of the law, but forgot its spirit. However, once he allowed God’s grace to enter his heart, all that mattered to him was Christ and through Christ divine, gratuitous love. From the moment of his transformation, the focus of his preaching was that salvation was FOR ALL and that no amount of merit could save, because salvation was a free gift of God.
The first reading for the Feast speaks of his conversion and the Gospel text is from the longer ending of Mark and is an apt description of Paul’s power and actions after his transformation. He did indeed proclaim the Gospel to all creation and today invites us to do the same.
His Gospel may be summarised in one sentence, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)
Saturday, 23 January 2016
To read the texts click on texts: Neh 8:2-4, 5-6,8-10; 1 Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4, 4:14-21
The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is unique because Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who states the purpose of his writing. It seems, from what he states, that his intention is to supply an orderly account, a doctrinal truth, and an assurance about the meaning of the whole Christ-event, to Theophilus – for whom he is writing. Thus, his intention is not merely historical. He will also narrate the things “that have been fulfilled” so that Theophilus may know the “truth”.
A summary of the Christ-event is given in the inaugural act of Jesus when he comes to the synagogue at Nazareth and reads from the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus, in all probability, chose the passage that he would read. Even as he read from this chosen text, he made subtle changes in his reading. The chosen passage, and the changes he made, brings out what his intentions are for all those whose lives he will touch. In his reading, the Lucan Jesus omits the phrase from Isaiah “to bind up the broken hearted” and adds instead, from Isa 58:6, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”. Also, he omits, from Isa 61:2, “and the day of vengeance of our God” and ends, instead, by proclaiming the “favourable year of the Lord”.
What could be the possible reasons for the choice of this reading in his inaugural discourse? Why would he make the changes he made? One important reason for the choice seems to be the mention of the Spirit. The Spirit plays an important role in the Gospel of Luke and, right at the beginning, Luke shows that Jesus’ ministry, which he will soon begin, is empowered by the Spirit by whom Jesus was anointed at his baptism. Second, the poor are given special prominence in the Gospel of Luke, and so, the Lucan Jesus begins with an option for the poor. While the rich are not excluded, it is very clearly the poor who will have preference. “Poor” in Luke primarily means the economically poor, but also includes here, captives, the blind, and the oppressed. In a word, Jesus has come primarily for the marginalized, the scum of society, and those who are on its fringes.
What has Jesus come to proclaim to these? What are the implications of his proclamation for us today? Jesus has come to proclaim a year of God’s favour. He has come to show, through his word and deeds, that the God he will reveal is a God whose intention is to liberate the impoverished and the oppressed and, in that respect, fulfil the ideal and social concern of the Jubilee year. Jesus has come to announce God’s promise of liberation for all the poor and oppressed, regardless of nationality, gender, or race. The radical inclusiveness of his message was not easy for all to accept. Many preferred to be exclusive. They wanted a Messiah who would fit in with the categories they had set. Thus, not only was the message of Jesus scandalous, he was himself a scandal. Since they closed their minds and hearts to his inclusive message of God’s unconditional love, they were unable to receive it.
The implications of the proclamation of Jesus for us today are, first; the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, and that we must continue to proclaim, must be a kingdom that has the poor at its very centre. The rich are not excluded because the kingdom is all inclusive. Yet, there can be no doubt that the preference must always be for the poor, the marginalized, the impoverished, and those of no consequence. Even as we work for the kingdom, we must keep in mind that others, too, are called to the same task and responsibility. Thus, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, we must remember always that we are one body made up of many parts. We must be able to accept, not only unity in diversity but unity, even in diversity. This means that the work being done by those of other religions, other faiths, and other orientations, as long as it results in furthering God’s kingdom, is good and to be commended. We must learn to work, not only for others, but with others, as well. God’s word is a word that cannot be restricted to any particular group or community. It is a word that is freely given to all who are willing to understand and to accept it. In the first reading of today, Ezra, the priest, exposes the word of God to the people and tells them to not be sad and to not weep. We, too, need to understand that the word is not a word that causes sorrow or brings tears. It is not a word that causes division or strife. Rather, it is a word that builds up because the Lord is, indeed, our strength and our hope.
Because this is the case, and even though we realize that, despite our very best efforts, the kingdom will always remain beyond our grasp, we keep striving, never giving up, never giving in. We keep as our model and inspiration the mission and person of Jesus who, even on the Cross, continued to say “Amen, Amen”.
Friday, 22 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 1:1-4,11-12,17,19,23-27; 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, 21 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 24:3-12; Mk 3:13-16
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 .
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
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. Kingdom
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, 20 January 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 18:6-9,19; 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, 19 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51;Mark 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, 18 January 2016
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 16:1-13; 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, 17 January 2016
Monday, January 18, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 15:16-23; 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 (1Kgs 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, 16 January 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Is 62:1-5; 1 Cor12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11
While Year A is known as the year of Matthew, since the Gospel readings during this year are taken mainly from the Gospel of Matthew, Year B is known as the Gospel of Mark, for the same reason. Year C, in which we are now, is the year of Luke. However, in all three years, the second Sunday in Ordinary time takes the reading from the Gospel of John. In year A, the text deals with the identification of Jesus by John. In year B, the text discusses the first disciples who follow Jesus and remain with him and, in this year, the text concerns the wedding feast at Cana and the turning of water into wine.
John’s placement of the story of the miracle at Cana, at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, gives it an added significance. This is so because it is the first public act Jesus performs in John’s Gospel. Thus, it serves as the inaugural event of the ministry of Jesus. It also serves as a forerunner of things to come. Numerous themes are highlighted in this miracle, like Jesus’ hour, his glory, the sign pointing to a deeper reality, and the faith of his disciples in him. All these serve to indicate how the miracle must be interpreted.
Some have interpreted the miracle as Jesus’ rejection of the waters of purification and hence, a symbol of Jesus’ rejection of Judaism. Others have interpreted it as the replacement of the old with the new. However, neither of these interpretations seems to fit the context. They seem to read into the text what is not actually there. The jars standing there are empty and so, there can be no question of rejection or replacement. They are filled with water on the instruction of Jesus and, filled “to the brim”. It is in these details that the interpretation must be sought. Therefore, two points are being made. The first is that the old vessels are filled with a wondrous new gift. The second is that this gift is not given in measure but given abundantly. With the coming of Jesus, gifts, like that of new wine, will be given in abundance.
That this is the better interpretation is confirmed by the scene of the intervention of Jesus’ mother and his response to her, in which he makes mention of his “hour”. Jesus’ response to Mary, while seemingly harsh, is not really so, It must be seen more as a form of disengagement. Jesus’ hours, the hour set by the Father, has not yet arrived. Thus, even his mother does not have claim over him and what he is to accomplish. This is determined by his Father, and by his Father alone. No human, no matter how close he/she might be to Jesus, can hasten it. Mary understands this and this is why her instruction to the stewards is “Do whatever he tells you”. Mary will leave Jesus free to act. Accordingly, Jesus acts freely at this “hour” and through this act, gives a glimpse of what he will accomplish when the hour set by the Father actually arrives. Here, he merely converts water into wine, which John refers to as a sign. It is a sign because it points to greater things that are to come. It points to a time when he will convert his body and blood into a living sacrifice of praise. He has come to bring abundance to his people; he has come to vindicate then; he has come to save them.
This is also the theme of the first reading of today in which Isaiah speaks of the people’s vindication and salvation because of the coming of the Lord. This vindication will be public and will be seen and witnessed by all, much like the miracle at Cana. Forsakenness and desolation are things of the past. Now, the new and the novel have come and will remain. No longer will the negative hold and sway over the people. This is because God brings, with his coming, all which is positive.
This vindication and salvation will remain at the theoretical level if it is not translated into action. Paul, in the second reading of today, shows how this must be. Two ways are indicated. The first is the recognition of the individual’s gifts, of which there is a wide variety. Each is blessed with a special talent and gift and, each of these is unique. There is no greater or lesser; there is no good or better. They are different and so, need not be compared. The second is that the gifts of the individual are not for him/her alone. The gifts of the individual are for the sake of the community since they have as their source and origin, one Lord. If the gifts are used for one’s own glorification and praise, they are of no consequence whatsoever. However, if they are used in humility, and for the sake of the community, then they become gifts of the one Spirit and of the one Lord.
Friday, 15 January 2016
Saturday, January 16, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 9:1-4,17-19; 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, 14 January 2016
Friday, January 15, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 8:4-7,10-22; 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 of 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, 13 January 2016
Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 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: 1 Sam 4:1-11; 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.