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Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Thursday, June 1, 2017 - Are the troubles and difficulties of your neighbour as real to you as your own? Or do you regard their problems as of no consequence to you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 22:30-23:6-11; Jn 17:20-26
In these last verses of the prayer, Jesus expands the circle of those for whom he prays to include believers of the future. Since Jesus did not come to make a limited revelation, but one that was meant to embrace the whole world, it is only appropriate that he pray also for those who will believe because of the disciples’ word and witness. The primary invocation that Jesus makes here is the all be one. It is a petition for unity. The reason for this petition is that Jesus wants all those who will believe in him to share in the same relationship that he shares with his Father. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, so, he prays, that all believers will also share in this mutual indwelling. When this unity is seen by those who do not yet believe, they, too, will be inspired to know and believe that Jesus was indeed sent by God. Unity of the community, which has as its source the unity of the Son and Father, will be the drawing force that will lead others to Jesus. By the unity that is shown in community, those who believe in Jesus will also be able to complete God’s work in the same way in which Jesus did.
In the last three verses of the prayer (-26), there is a greater intensity. Petition changes to want. This is not to be interpreted as selfishness but rather, as audacity or confidence. Jesus is confident that his Father will give him what he wants and also, that this is his Father’s will for him and all believers. What Jesus wants is that God, he, and the believers, share in a mutual indwelling. What he wants is that all be one. This oneness and unity is expressed in the tangible reality of love.
Christianity was never meant to be, and can never be, a private religion. Everything about Christianity is both individual and communitarian. The seven Sacraments are beautiful examples of the communal dimension of Christianity. This is because Jesus did not come to make a private or esoteric revelation to only a small group of individuals but to make a revelation to the whole world. Thus, the community of believers today is faced with this challenge of showing the communal dimension or unity of the community and so, drawing others to believe. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege because we are called to continue the work of Jesus himself and so share in the mission entrusted to him by his Father. It is a responsibility because, as believers, we cannot be complacent and content with our private devotions or individual faith. We must manifest it to everyone we meet. It is a faith that is to be shown in action, a faith that is to be shown in tangible love.
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Wednesday, May 31, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:14-18; Lk 1:39-56
The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth was begun by St. Bonaventure among the Franciscans in 1263 C.E, and became a universal Feast in 1389 C.E., during the papacy of Urban VI. It celebrates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.
The call of the first reading chosen for the feast of today is a call to rejoice. This rejoicing is for many reasons. The first of these is that judgement has been taken away. The Lord is now in the midst of his people. This being in the midst of his people is confirmed by the Gospel text of today where Jesus is already in the womb of Mary and so among his people. There will be no more reproach or condemnation. Now, there will only be unconditional love.
This unconditional love is confirmed both by the physical act of Mary’s visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth and also the Magnificat which is attributed to Mary. In this hymn, Mary extols God’s greatness because God has indeed redeemed his people. The verbs that are used in the hymn are all in the past tense though signify future actions. This is an indication of the faith and confidence that Mary has in God who she is confident will accomplish all that he has promised.
Though on the surface level the Visitation may appear to be Mary’s concern and love for her cousin, on the deeper level it means that Mary wants to share with Elizabeth what God has done in each of their lives and through the sons to be born of them, what God will do in the world.
Monday, 29 May 2017
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Audio Reflections of Tuesday, May 30, 2017
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - Does my prayer show in action? How?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:17-27; Jn 17:1-11
Chapter 17, from which we will read today, tomorrow, and the day after, is titled “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. However, this may also be seen as a farewell hymn of praise to God. This farewell is not simply the death of Jesus, but is the “departure” from this world, a return to the Father, after completing the work entrusted to him. It is thus a prayer of thanksgiving and confidence. Since is the last prayer before the Passion Narrative, which begins in Chapter 18, it must also be interpreted with this in mind. The intimacy that Jesus shares with the Father shines through every sentence of the prayer. Jesus speaks in this prayer directly to God.
The prayer is divided into three parts. In the first (17:1-5), though it seems that he is praying for himself, what Jesus is really doing is giving thanks to the Father for his graciousness and love. In the second part (17:6-19), Jesus prays for his disciples and, in the final part of the prayer (17:20-26), Jesus prays for those who will believe because of the disciples preaching, i.e. future generations of disciples.
The prayer begins with Jesus adopting a formal posture of prayer, looking up to heaven, and addressing God as “Father”. On the one hand, this shows that Jesus now distances himself from his disciples and, on the other, indicates the intimate relationship that Jesus shares with God. The announcement of the “hour” at the beginning of the prayer points to the fact that the prayer will be directed to God, keeping this in mind. It is the “hour” of glorification because during it, Jesus will obey God completely, and in that obedience, God will be revealed and glorified. Jesus, as Son, has revealed God’s gift of eternal life to all who were willing to receive it. Jesus has completed this work on earth and now, he has to return to the Father in order to complete the work of glorification.
The work of glorification included making the name of God known to all. Jesus has revealed the Father as Father and God as a God of unconditional and bountiful love. The disciples have been able to see God revealed in Jesus and thus, have kept God’s revealed word. Since Jesus is not going to be in the world in the same way in which he was with the disciples, he prays for their protection. This protection is to be manifested in the oneness that the disciples will share to show those who do not yet believe, that Jesus has indeed come from God and is with God.
Prayer is not primarily words, but an attitude. This is what Jesus displays in his prayer. The manner in which one addresses God displays the relationship that one shares with him. “Father” was the most intimate term for Jesus to use and it shows the oneness that he felt with God. Each of us has to find our own intimate term with which to address God. It is important to realize that, after Jesus, God can never be looked at with fear or trepidation, but only with confidence, courage, and hope.
Prayer does not begin with “me” but with God and his glorification. However, the glorification of God is complete when love abounds, because where love is, there God is. The effect of our prayer has to be seen in tangible love, expressed in deeds, like it was in the life of Jesus.
Sunday, 28 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Monday, May 29, 2017
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Monday, May 29, 2017 - When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem today will you believe that you, like Jesus, will overcome?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 19:1-8; Jn 16:29-33
Though the disciples think that they have understood everything that Jesus has said, and that it is plain to them, they actually misunderstand. While Jesus has used many figures of speech to make his points, the disciples mistakenly think that he has used only one. They also do not realize that Jesus had spoken of a future time when he would speak plainly and when things would be clear, and erroneously think of that time as the present. Where Jesus was appealing to the heart, the disciples used their minds. Their knowledge is an intellectual knowledge and thus, focuses only on the present and not on the future. They forget that the whole story of Jesus can only be completed with the departure to the Father. This is why Jesus has to reorient them and remind them again of the “hour”. The “hour” here is the hour of death which will result in the scattering of the disciples. They will all abandon him at his death. Yet, Jesus will not be alone because he knows that the Father will be with him, even if no one else is. Thus, even when faced with the most difficult situation, namely death, Jesus can have peace and this is the peace that he will gift to the disciples. This peace will enable the disciples to stand up to all the trials and tribulations they will encounter.
The last words of Jesus here are words of confidence and hope: “But take courage; I have conquered the world.” Even as he goes to his death, Jesus knows that victory will be his. He will overcome, through his cross, all the negative powers that try to prevent his love from reaching the ends of the earth.
It takes courage to believe when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties of life. It is at times like these that our faith is tested and tried. It is at times like these when we have to ask ourselves whether we believe that God is still working for our good. To have courage in the face of adversity, to believe in the face of trials, and to trust and have faith when everything seems to be going wrong, is to have the confidence in the Father that Jesus had. This attitude can be ours if we open ourselves to God’s abundant grace and realize the impermanence of all that assails us. It is to know that, like Jesus, we too will overcome the “world”. The movement from present sorrow, pain and trial, to future joy, peace and hope, is possible and even guaranteed because Jesus has overcome.
Saturday, 27 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Sunday, May 28, 2017 the feast of the Ascension
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Sunday, May 28, 2017 - The Ascension of the Lord - Will you proclaim the WORD in ACTION?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28: 16-20
Though the First and Second readings and the Responsorial Psalm are common for all three years A, B and C, the Gospel readings differ on Ascension Sunday. In year A the Church reads from Matthew, in year B from the longer and canonical ending of Mark (Mk -20) and in year C from the last chapter and verses of Luke (Lk 24:46-53). While Mark and Luke clearly mention the detail of Jesus ascending into heaven, Matthew does not. Yet, the scene in Matthew conveys a depth of meaning that the other Synoptic Gospels find difficult to match.
Matthew’s text is made up of two parts. The first of these is the encounter of the disciples with the Risen Lord on the mountain in
Galilee and the second is the commission which the Risen
Lord gives to his disciples. The encounter with the disciples is described as a
matter of fact, as an event which takes place ordinarily. The response of the
disciples to the appearance of Jesus is worship mixed with doubt. This is to
indicate that the Risen Jesus comes to a Church that while it worships also
wavers, while it believes also hesitates, while it has faith also doubts. This
is the Church to which the commission is given and by sacrificing
sensationalism, the text focuses on the words of the Risen Jesus. The
universalizing “All” before the revelation which Jesus makes about his
authority, before the commission that he gives the disciples, and before
assuring them of his abiding presence, makes the whole scene universal in
scope. The local Mission of Jesus has become now universal.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles already sets the tone for the Universal Mission which the disciples are given. Here they are commissioned to be witnesses not only in
but to the ends of the earth.
However, even as they are commissioned they are cautioned about two things. The
first is patience. They must wait for the gift of the Spirit with openness and
receptivity. The second is that it not for them to know too many details about
time, place and the like. Their job is only to be witnesses. To use the words
of St. Francis of Jerusalem ,
they are called to “Proclaim the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use
words.” They were meant to be those who could give evidence for what they have
seen and heard. They could not be witnesses unless they had met the Risen
Christ—unless their lives have been transformed by him. Their testimony was
about him, not just about what happened long ago and far away. They were to
give evidence about what they themselves have heard, seen, experienced. Assisi
The evidence that they were to give and the message that they were to proclaim, was good news. The message was hope and light and love. It was a message which Jesus himself had taught them and this is what they were to teach. This was why even before Jesus sent them out, he made explicit that the authority was his and not theirs. Their job was not to usurp this authority, but simply to welcome all peoples to make the same discovery that they had made in their faith journey, the discovery of the God of light and of goodness, of mercy and of compassion, of justice and of reconciliation -- and not impose their own cultural values or their own cultural traditions in the process. It was allowing others to make that discovery freely and joyfully. Authority has been given to Christ.
This was remembered by Christians in the first century as is evident in the community living which resulted as a result of the witness to the words and deeds of Jesus. They also realized that the Church was but the body of the Risen Christ and so had to continue to be an extension of him who was raised.
The missionary movement of the Church stemming from the
Mission command of Jesus continued and
does so even today. There are moments in the Church’s history in which we see
truly gracious, noble, altruistic and selfless acts of dedication and service.
A lot of good has been done in every continent and corner of the earth because
the Church continued to take seriously the command of Jesus.
However, it is also true that sometimes we as Church seemed to have forgotten the real message and concentrated on getting converts to the faith at any cost. This has left in some places a memory of hurt, pain, loss and even suffering. We have sometimes missed the point. The mistake that we sometimes make is to forget that the authority rests with Jesus and not with us. Our role continues to be only that of proclaimers who will “disciple” peoples everywhere by teaching them through our lives what Jesus has commanded us and done in us.
Friday, 26 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Saturday, May 27, 2017
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Saturday, May 27, 2017 - Do you remember to add at the end of your prayer the words “not my, but your will be done”?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts18:23-28; Jn 16:23-28
The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus will be the event that will enable the disciples to pray, not only in Jesus’ name, but like he prayed. Through this event, the disciples will enter into a new relationship with Jesus and with God through him. This relationship will be a relationship of love. As God showed his love for the world in sending Jesus, and Jesus showed his love for the world by accepting the cross, so the disciples have shown love for Jesus and God by accepting and believing that Jesus has come from God.
In the last verse of today’s text the entire mission of Jesus is summarized. Jesus has been sent by God and has come from God. After completing the mission entrusted to him, he is returning to where he has come from: God. The story of Jesus, which began with his coming from the Father ends, but also continues with his ascending to the Father.
Thursday, 25 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Friday, May 26, 2017
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Friday, May 26, 2017 - What causes sorrow in you? Can you be described as primarily a “happy” person? If No, why not?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts18:9-18; Jn 16:20-23
Jesus explains in these verses how the disciple’s sorrow will turn to joy. The metaphor of child birth is used to explain the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. Just as the birth of a child turns the pain of the mother into joy, so the in-breaking of God’s kingdom will turn the disciples’ sorrow into joy. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his death will be the cause of their sorrow turning to joy. This joy will not be temporary, but permanent, and no one or event will be able to take it away. This is because the whole of life’s perspective will change and the disciples will become a new people, a new creation. On that day, all the questions of the disciples will cease because nothing will need to be explained. It will be as clear as it needs to be.
Sorrow and joy are common everyday experiences of all humans. Sorrow is caused when things do not go the way we expect them to or when people do not respond in the way we want them to. When our expectations are not met, we feel sad and upset. However, after the resurrection of Jesus and his presence among us in his Spirit, sorrow can never be an enduring experience for a believer. It is always temporary. Joy is permanent. This joy is not caused by the happening or not happening of events, it is not caused by our expectations being fulfilled, but by a realization that, in Jesus, God always wants what is best for us and will never do anything that is not for our good and for his glory. It is a realization that, in Jesus, we are loved unconditionally by a God who is Father and who always wants what is best for his sons and daughters.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Thursday, May 25, 2017
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Thursday, May 25, 2017 - Can you be courageous even when it seems that the whole world is conspiring against you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts18:1-8; Jn 16:16-20
In the first verse of today’s reading, , the focus is turned back from the Paraclete to the impending departure of Jesus and the response of the disciples to that departure. The first “little while” in this verse refers to the time before his death, which Jesus sees as fast approaching, whereas the second “little while” refers to the events after his death to his resurrection appearances and even beyond. The disciples are not able to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and keep questioning among themselves what they mean.
Though they have not addressed Jesus with their questions, he is aware of what they are discussing. Yet, he does not answer their question directly, but moves the question to a new direction. A new teaching is introduced by the use of the words, “Amen, amen”. There will be contrasting responses to the death of Jesus. The disciples will weep and mourn, whereas the “world”, which here must be translated as those opposed to the revelation of God in Jesus, will rejoice. However, this will only be a temporary response. The pain and sorrow of the disciples will soon turn to joy.
It is easy to be happy and believe that God is on our side when things go the way we want. However, when we are faced with obstacles and difficulties, when we do not get the due we think we deserve and, when the road is steep and the going is difficult, then we begin to wonder if God is on our side. The text of today is a call to believe, even in the most difficult circumstances. It is a call to know that there will be joy, even in the midst of pain, and happiness, even in the midst of sorrow. It is a call to have faith and see the risen Jesus, even as he hangs on the cross, and to see in the crosses that we have to carry every day, our own resurrection.
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Audio reflections of Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - Will you like Mary, let it done ‘in and through you’ by God?
To read the texts click on the texts: Prov 4:10-18; Lk 2:15-19
In 1537 St. Ignatius hired a small house near a small church on a narrow street in Rome. The Church was named as Our Lady of the Way, because of a picture of Our Lady in the church and its proximity to the narrow street. Here St. Ignatius celebrated Mass and prayed with his companions.
For many years ‘La Strada’ (the wayside) was the ‘heart of the Society’. It witnessed the long hours of prayer of St. Ignatius, his discussions, meditations, and reflections with his companions. The Constitutions were written here. The first novices were trained by St. Ignatius here. Hundreds of letters went from here to St. Ignatius’ companions round the world. Fr. Cordacio, a wealthy and influential diocesan priest who became a Jesuit used all his money and influence to buy the rented house and secure the Church through Pope Paul III for the Society. In course of years the ‘Gesu’ Church and other buildings came up. All this through the powerful intercession of Mary, Queen and Mother of the Society whose same picture is venerated in a special chapel in the ‘Gesu’ and who is honoured with today’s feast, granted to the Society of Jesus by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.
The Gospel text chosen for the memorial of the feast concerns the response of the Shepherds to the revelation that they have received. It also concerns the response of Mary. While all are amazed at the Shepherds report of the things that have taken place, Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (2:19). Mary is unable to make logical sense of all the events that have taken place in her life. The annunciation, the pregnancy of Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of her son are all mysteries to her. Her response to these mysterious events is to ‘wonder’. She tries to make as much sense as she can of these events. Even as she does so, she remains the servant of the Lord, his handmaid, who let it be done in and through her.
There are times in our lives when we cannot understand the meaning of events that take place. At times like these we respond in a variety of ways. If the event that occurs is not what we expected, we might lose faith in God, respond with anger or simply give up and give in. The Response of Mary is a challenge to us of how we also can respond. We might not always receive logical answers to the questions that we ask, but if remain God’s servants and let it be done in and through us, we will find that peace which only the Lord can give.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - What contemporary symbol describes Jesus for you? How will you share this symbol with at least one other person today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts17:15,22-18:1; Jn 16:12-15
The Paraclete is mentioned for the last time in the Farewell Discourse in these verses. Jesus has taught the disciples all that they are to know and understand about the present time. There is nothing more about the present that he can say to them. What they need to know about the future will be revealed to them at the appropriate time and when the Spirit that is sent comes. This means that, even when they are faced with the future which is uncertain, God’s presence will be with them. They are not alone. The Paraclete is the “spirit of truth” since he comes from Jesus, who is “the truth” and will guide the disciples into the way of truth, into the way of Jesus. Since the Paraclete will be sent by Jesus, he will only explicate and make clearer what Jesus has already said. He will not give a new teaching but will continue what Jesus has begun. As Jesus taught what he heard from God, so the Paraclete will teach what he hears from Jesus.
He will also declare “the things that are to come” which here means the preparation of the disciples for the time after Jesus. This also indicates that the words of Jesus are not time bound, but available anew for every succeeding generation of disciples. The Paraclete always makes the teachings new and relevant for the times. Just as Jesus made God visible through his words and actions, so the Paraclete will make Jesus present through the inspiration and support he provides to the disciples.
The Paraclete thus makes Jesus present even after his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. He is the teacher and witness of all that Jesus has said and done. That is, the Paraclete enables the Christian community, at any time in its life, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” and bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. However, the Paraclete’s role as teacher is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - If people heard you speak and saw your actions today, would they recognize you as a follower of Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts16:22-34; Jn 16:5-11
These verses continue the farewell Discourse which was begun in 14:1. Since Jesus had been physically present to the disciples, he did not need to give them instructions about the time when he would not be with them. However, since that time has now come, they need to be informed about how they are to handle the future without him. They are dismayed and troubled, even though they know that he is going to the Father. They must realize and accept that it is to their advantage that Jesus goes. If he does not go, the Paraclete cannot come. Jesus’ departure, which means his death, resurrection, and ascension, must precede the Paraclete’s coming. When this happens, Jesus will have completed the work given to him by the Father and the Paraclete will continue the work begun by Jesus.
The Paraclete’s work in the world will be to bring people to trial. This, however, is only one of the many functions that the Paraclete performs. It will bring out into the open the true meaning of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the “world”, which here means those who rejected Jesus, will be held accountable.
The “world’s” sin is exposed because they have not believed in Jesus as the one who was sent from, and by, the Father. This means that the focus is not on one particular act, but on the attitude of rejection. Though the “world” might assume that Jesus’ death is the end, it is mistaken and, in this is righteousness exposed. Jesus’ death is not the end; rather, it is the completion on earth of the work entrusted to him by the Father. It is to be seen in the context of obedience to his Father’s will for him and the world. The final judgment will be that of the “ruler of this world”. By his death, resurrection, and ascension, the devil, the embodiment of all that is opposed to Jesus, will be judged. It will be proved, through this decisive act that God has triumphed in his Son.
The “world” continues to be opposed to Jesus and to love. However, Jesus continues to be present to the world in his Spirit, made manifest in his disciples. It is the task of the disciples inspired and guided by the Spirit to continue to expose the sin of the world and bring the world to judgment. While this may be done by verbal proclamation, it must also be, like in the case of Jesus, a proclamation that is shown in action.
Sunday, 21 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Monday, May 22, 2017
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Monday, May 22, 2017 - Will you persevere in love today? When you are repaid with ingratitude for your kindness, will you continue to love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts16:11-15; Jn 15:26-16:4
This is the third promise of the coming of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John. Jesus had made the first promise in -17, and the second one in . The Paraclete or Advocate is sent by Jesus and the Father. The Paraclete is sent by Jesus, but is sent from the Father. The Paraclete is sent here to testify or bear witness to Jesus. This means that the teaching of the Paraclete will not be new teaching but a confirmation of what Jesus has already taught and done. Just as the Paraclete bears witness, so must the disciples, since they have seen and heard Jesus from the beginning. The Paraclete will give strength to the disciples in their time of trial so that they will not fall away. The Paraclete will work in and through the disciples. The work of Jesus continues through the Paraclete working in the disciples.
Because of this work of Jesus, the disciples will have to face persecution from those who do not accept them. As a matter of fact, those who engage in such persecution will think they are right and, by so persecuting the disciples, will think they are, in effect, worshipping God. This is because they have not understood the meaning of the incarnation and so, have not been able to recognize God’s unconditional and gratuitous love made manifest in Jesus. Jesus predicts these happenings, to both prepare the disciples in advance for what is to come and also, to warn them about the consequences of following him. Their perseverance and standing firm, even in the midst of persecution, will reveal their love for him and the Father and will be the tangible expression of their faith.
Believing in Jesus is not easy. It is one thing to verbally profess faith in him and another to live out all that he taught and did. It is especially difficult to follow him when things do not go the way we want them to and when things happen contrary to our expectations. When those to whom we are good repay us with goodness, we are not surprised, because we expect them to do just that. However, when those to whom we have reached out in love are ungrateful and sometimes openly hostile to us, we get shocked at their behavior, simply because we did not expect them to react in that way. It is at times like these that we must remember the predictions of Jesus made here. His love for the world, shown in the most tangible manner on the cross, was spurned by most of his contemporaries, yet that same love continues to be made new, even today, two thousand years later. We, too, are called not to fall away but to persevere in love.
Saturday, 20 May 2017
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Audio Reflections of Sunday, May 21, 2017
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Sunday, May 21, 2017 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Always with us: Jesus and his Spirit
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:5-8,14-17; 1 Pet 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
Someone once said tongue in cheek: “The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home.” Whoever said that may have been joking, but only partly. For, though we know that mountain climbers are tied together to keep from getting lost or going over a cliff and even to support and encourage one another, there is another piece of truth here. When things get difficult up on the mountain, when the going gets tough, when the path is too steep, when fear sets in, many a climber is tempted to say, “This is too difficult! It’s crazy! I’m going home.” This is understandable and sometimes even prudent.
The life of faith can be like that. When doubts set in and despair overwhelms us, the whole notion of believing in God seems crazy. Jesus was aware that his disciples would have days like that, and so the focus in the opening verses of this chapter (Jn 14) read last week was on the confidence that the disciples are exhorted to have, since Jesus will overcome death and return.
Here the focus is on two interconnected aspects. The first of these is the intimate connection between the love which one has for Jesus and keeping his commandment of love – a theme which begins and ends this text – and the second is the promise of the Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counsellor or Paraclete that Jesus will ask for the disciples from the Father who will come to their aid and to give strength and courage when the going gets tough and the road is steep.
In the first, Jesus is explicit that the love of the disciple has to be a tangible love that will express itself in action. It is to be an imitation of the love that the first letter of Peter speaks about; the love of Christ who died for the guilty to lead us to God. This kind of unconditional love will lead to the disciple sharing in the Father’s love.
It also leads to the second and connected aspect: the promise of the gift of the Advocate who will abide not only with the disciples but also in them. The Advocate can mean variously, “the one who comforts”, “the one who helps” and “the one who makes appeals on one’s behalf”. This Advocate will not engage in any new work, but will continue the work of Jesus. The Spirit will ensure that the revelation of God begun in Jesus will continue forever. Though the Paraclete will be with the disciples, Jesus himself will also return to accompany the disciples.
While not abandoning traditional beliefs – for instance, in the second coming and judgement – John handles them in a way which relates them directly to the present. The chief focus of his spirituality is not bigger miracles or stricter commandments, but the expansion of the initiative of love which comes from God and seeks to fill the world. This is why John’s account of Jesus’ last words insists on the Spirit, relationship and resultant action on communities of love which ‘speak for themselves’. The passage is framed by human anxiety about the absence of Jesus and ultimately about the absence of God (14:1; 14:27). It does not deny the anxiety and distress, but offers a promise of presence and sense of meaning embedded in sharing God’s life and participating in God’s action in the world, recognizable by its ‘Jesus-shape’. These parting words of Jesus are not merely for his immediate disciples but disciples of all times.
This is why even after the death of Stephen by stoning and the general persecution of the Christian community, Philip, one of the seven chosen deacons, is aware of this presence of the Risen Lord and is bold to proclaim Christ. The Spirit working in and through him enabled him to both preach and act as Jesus himself had done. The result of Philip’s actions through the guidance of the Spirit was that people were made whole. This combination of healing word and action resulted in great rejoicing, and many were drawn to Christ.
This presence, in which the disciples loved, continued to sustain them and make an impact on others. Since this was so, they are exhorted in the second reading of today to be willing to share that hope. It is not to be a sharing that smacks of condescension or a sharing which professes to have the whole truth, but a sharing that has to be done in humility, courtesy and reverence for the other. We are given as it were a starting point for inter-religious dialogue.
This kind of sharing is the need of the hour in today’s world. In a world that is already a global village but also where each community is becoming more closed in on itself and parochial, the task of the Christian community is evident. Convinced that the Risen Lord continues to accompany us on our journey in and through his Spirit which abides in each of us, we must be able to communicate this presence which is manifested in peace, joy, fellowship and justice for all.
Friday, 19 May 2017
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Audio reflections of Saturday, May 20, 2017
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Saturday, May 20, 2017 - How often has your comparison with what others have led you to feel jealous of them? Will you realize that you can be the most contented person if you so decide today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 16:1-10; Jn 15:18-21
These verses of the Discourse on the Vine and the Branches focus not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.
The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.
The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives. Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them. Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.
In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labelled as crazy and out of touch with reality. Possession of things has so possessed us that we do not even realize that, most of the time; it is things that possess us rather than the other way round. We are held by the things we want to possess and they will not let us rest. Often, it begins with a small possession and then goes on to something bigger and soon gets so big that we lose control of ourselves and who we are. Our identity is linked with what we have and what we have achieved. In a situation like this, we need to take stock and decide when enough is enough. We need to ask ourselves whether we will live our lives moving from one possession to the next, often not even having the time or energy to enjoy what we possess.
Thursday, 18 May 2017
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Audio Reflections of Friday, May 19, 2017
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Friday, May 19, 2017 - Have you received Jesus’ gift of unconditional love? Does this show in your sharing of that love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 15:22-31; Jn 15:12-17
The first verse of today’s reading repeats the love commandment of 13:34, which there, was referred to as a new commandment. This love is expressed in the most perfect of ways in the willingness to go to one’s death for the sake of a friend. The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. It is important to note that Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather he is stating what and who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command).
The friendship that the disciples share with Jesus is grounded in love. This means that Jesus keeps back nothing from his disciples and reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father.
It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which, when received, results in one living out the call to discipleship. The living out of the call is not merely a once for all act, but something that is done constantly and with perseverance. This will ensure that the effects of their love are abiding and lasting. The last verse of today, with its reminder to “love one another”, forms an inclusion with the first.
The relationship that we share with God because of Jesus is one of sons and daughters. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even friends. This is because he has given us everything in all its fullness. He held nothing back, not even his own self. The manifestation of this self giving, which began with the incarnation, was completed and continued on the cross, and through his resurrection and ascension. He continues to give, even today. However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is as important if the act of giving is to be completed. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak an enhancing word, perform a loving action, behave a little less selfishly, and a little more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Audio reflections of Thursday, May 18, 2017
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Thursday, May 18, 2017 - How often has fear ruled your actions? Will you dare to act from love today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 15:7-21; Jn 15:9-11
The love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has expressed and shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love without end. It is not merely a verbal expression, or an emotion, but a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. The disciples have to act in the same manner as Jesus in order to make this love visible. There is only one commandment and that is the commandment to love. If the disciples keep this commandment, it will result in their being like Jesus, their master, who before them, revealed God’s love for the world.
Keeping the commandment of Jesus is thus not a chore or burden but done willingly because one has experienced this love first. The outcome of this sharing and manifestation of love is unbounded joy.
The word “love” has been a word that is used so often that it has been abused. We speak of our love for the good things of life, and of our love for the members of our family, and of our love for God in the same breath. “I love mixed vegetables” we might tell our spouse and, in the next breath, say “I love you”. Love is not primarily an emotion; it is not even a feeling, but reality. As a matter of fact, the only reality is love. Fear, which is regarded as the opposite of love, is not real, it is only an illusion. If there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no fear (1 Jn ). While Paul gives a beautiful definition of love in 1 Cor 13:1-9, my own definition of love is simple, but not simplistic. “In love, there is no “I””.
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
Audio reflections of Wednesday, May 17, 2017
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Posted by Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ at 07:09 No comments:
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - Do I consider myself as part of the vine or do I regard myself as an individual branch? How will I show that I am part of the vine?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8
John 15:1-17 are the verses for today and the next two days. These verses contain the final “I am” sayings in the Gospel (vv. 1, 5) and introduce the central metaphor of this unit: the vine and its branches. Jesus uses, in the first verse of Chapter 15, a common symbol of the world at that time: Vine. While in 15:1, the relationship with Jesus and the Father is stressed, in 15:5, when the metaphor is used again, Jesus does so in the context of his relationship with his disciples. Thus, the focus of the metaphor is interrelationship. If God is the vine dresser, Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches. All three are required for the production of fruit.
God, as the vine dresser, is the origin or source and, because Jesus comes from the Father, he is the true vine. God acts in his capacity as vine dresser and does what is best for the vine. Those branches that do bear fruit are pruned and those that do not, are cut away. This means that those of the community who express their union with Jesus by acting it out in works of love are pruned, whereas those who do not show their faith in action are cut off. The disciples have been given an insight into how they must remain in the vine, through the words that Jesus has spoken to them and through the loving actions that he performed, symbolized in the washing of the feet. They must learn from these actions and realize that, without abiding or remaining in Jesus, they can do nothing. Their own power or effort will never be sufficient for the works they have to perform. These can only be done if accompanied by the grace that Jesus gives.
“I am the vine, you are the branches” in 15:5 is not a repetition of what was said earlier. Rather it stresses the relationship of the community with Jesus. Without the vine, the branches are nothing. Mutual indwelling will result in bearing fruit. If a branch decides that it wants to live apart from the vine, it is in effect asking for death. Life apart from the vine is not possible for any branch.
Mutual indwelling is not merely with a single branch and the vine but with all the branches in the vine with one another. This unity of the branches among themselves will result in fruit bearing. This unity will also be a witness for the world and the glorification of the vine dresser: God. When people see the works of the disciples, it will lead them to glorify the Father.
All too often Christianity has been understood as a religion that has only the individual dimension. The communitarian dimension has been neglected. This is seen in so many of the Sacraments (which are both individual and communitarian) being treated and regarded as private devotions. The approach of many Christians has often been: My God and I. This approach is to misunderstand Christianity and all that Jesus stood for. The metaphor of today makes explicit that mutual indwelling is at the heart of the preaching of Jesus, and that Christianity, while it surely has an individual dimension, just as surely has a communitarian dimension. I am, as a Christian my brother’s and sister’s keeper. Their joys and sorrow, their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures, have to be as real to me as my own if I am to be a Christian in the true sense of the word. The Christian does make an individual commitment and choice to follow Jesus but he/she makes it in and through a community.
Monday, 15 May 2017
Audio reflections of Tuesday, May 16, 2017
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - When adversity knocks at your door do you open with dread and fear or hope and courage?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31
A new promise is given to the disciples. This is first occurrence of “peace” in the Gospel of John. Peace here does not mean simply a wish, but must be seen as a legacy or bequest that Jesus leaves behind for the disciples. This peace that Jesus gives is not merely a sense of security, not merely the end of conflict and strife, but it embraces every aspect of a person’s life. This peace makes the weak strong and the fainthearted brave. It is a wholeness which makes one courageous to face all the trials and tribulations of life without getting overwhelmed. It is a peace which gives them the strength to face every kind of adversity with equanimity and faith.
Even as he offers this gift to them, Jesus reminds them of his departure because this is what God wills and it must come to pass. It is a reality that cannot be avoided and the peace given to them must make them able to accept it. The disciples must accept this reality, not out of resignation but, with an active joy. The reason for this joy is that Jesus goes to the Father after having completed the work given to him. It is the Father who has sent Jesus and given him the work to do - the work of making the Father known to the world - and now, after completing it thoroughly, Jesus goes back to where he has come from.
The foretelling of the events is Jesus’ way of preparing the disciples for what is to come and also to reveal to them that Jesus continues to go to his departure willingly and knowingly. It is not as if some unseen hand or “fate” is responsible for what is to come. Since what will happen fits in with God’s plan for Jesus and the world, Satan is never in control. He cannot have any power over Jesus. Jesus does what he does willingly and in obedience to the will of the Father..
The event of the death of a loved one sometimes shatters our world. We find it difficult to cope with the loss and wonder if the God we believe in really is a God of unconditional love. Does our God really care what happens to us? If he does, then why did he let this misfortune befall us? Where is he when we need him most? Why does he not answer? The answers to these questions are provided by Jesus in the Gospel text of today. He tells his disciples, and us, to rejoice at such happenings because they fit in with God’s plan for us and the world. We may not be able to see this plan at first glance, like the disciples were not able to see it when Jesus spoke it to them, but we also know that Jesus’ words are true because of his resurrection and ascension and because of the transformation in the lives of his disciples because of these events. We have to continue to dare to believe.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
Audio Reflections of Sunday, May 15, 2017
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Posted by Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ at 07:41 No comments:
Monday, May 15, 2017 - Do Jesus and the Father dwell in you? How will you show this through your actions today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 14:5-18; Jn14:21-26
To be a true disciple of Jesus, it is not enough to make a verbal proclamation of faith in him. One is also required to keep his commandments. It is important to note here that one does not earn Jesus’ love by keeping his command to love. It is because one has already experienced that love that one wants to love and obey in return.
Judas (not Iscariot) does not appear in any of the Synoptic Gospels. He is the one who misunderstands here and asks a question about the revelation that Jesus is to make, not realizing that the revelation has been made already. If the disciples want to continue to experience the love that Jesus has made manifest to the world, they must continue to love one another. It is in the love of one another that they will experience the love of God and Jesus. This will result in a mutual indwelling. Just as Jesus dwells in the Father and the Father in him, so Jesus and the Father will live in the disciples and the disciples in them. This abiding presence of God and Jesus within the disciples as a community is both the foundation and the result of love expressed in deeds. Where there is no love shown, Jesus and the Father cannot be made present.
Though Jesus has made explicit what the disciples are to do if they are to make him present, it is possible that they may not have grasped all the implications of the command. The Paraclete or Advocate, only here in John identified with the Holy Spirit, will “remind” them of Jesus’ teachings. This clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit will not give new or different teaching, but only reinforce all that Jesus has already taught. The Spirit will be sent in Jesus’ name and so, like Jesus was the exegesis of the Father, the Spirit will be the exegesis of Jesus.
To keep the words of Jesus means to live them out in action. The ones who do that have already experienced the indwelling of God and Jesus in them. This indwelling will strengthen them and enable them to live out the word more fully each day. This is not a linear but cyclic process. More living out means more indwelling and more indwelling means more living out.
Saturday, 13 May 2017
Audio reflections of Sunday, May 14, 2017
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Posted by Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ at 07:48 No comments:
Sunday, May 14, 2017 - To continue his work on earth
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pet 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12
Though we are in the Easter season, the Gospel reading is from the centre of the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John which Jesus gives before his departure from this life to the next. This is not as strange as it may appear at first glance. One reason for the choice of this reading seems to be to prepare for the Ascension (the departure of Jesus) and Pentecost (his return again through his Spirit) which the Church will celebrate soon. Another reason seems to be the content and meaning of the verses that make up this part of the discourse.
The focus in the opening verses is not so much on the departure but on confidence which the disciples are exhorted to have. The reason for this confidence is that even though it might seem that Jesus is being defeated by death, the reality is that he will overcome death. Not only will he do that, but after having prepared a place for every believer, he will return to take them with him. This will prove (if proof is required) that he is alive and that with him and the Father, all believers will continue to live in a relationship that is governed only by unconditional love and mutual self-giving. Thus as disciples of the Lord who was raised from the dead and who ascended into heaven, we are called to that same confidence.
The Way to this life is Jesus himself. However, Jesus is not merely the access route to God but is also the embodiment of this life in his being the Truth and the Life. He is so because in him as never before the Father is revealed. This revelation is made in the words of love that Jesus speaks and also in the loving actions that he performs. This is why to believe in God means also to believe in Jesus. This kind of faith will lead to the disciples being empowered and their continuing the work begun by Jesus which is to reveal to all the unconditional and magnanimous love of God.
The continuation of this work was not an easy task because of the very high standard set by Jesus. This is evident in the first reading of today in which we read of partiality, animosity and tension between two groups, both of whom were followers of Christ and so Christians. However, because of what they had learned from the Lord, they did not let this brief hiccup get them down, but worked at it with practical wisdom and were able to overcome it and not only restore unity but also continue to draw others to their fold. They were able to do this because they continued to remember that Christ himself was the corner stone and so the very foundation of their life and so the one who would continue to sustain, nourish and nurture them on their journey.
Accepting Christ as their foundation and following in his path by drawing inspiration from him will mean that there will be hardships, trials and tribulations from within and without. Perseverance, however, is the key, and they must continue to persevere because they are a chosen race. They are related by blood, they have a common origin and so a common Father. This makes them brothers and sisters, members of one family. They have been called out of the darkness of their sin to live in the wonderful and marvellous light of God’s magnanimous and generous love and to make that love manifest to others.
Today more than 2000 years later the call is the same and the challenge still remains. It is true that when we look around us at the reality that confronts us, we might be sometimes tempted to throw in the towel. As with the first Christian community, division, partiality and selfishness exist both in the world and in the Church. The lofty description of Church that the reading from 1 Peter states as a fact seems to be only a distant dream. On the contrary we seem to be going the way the Church was going as narrated by the text from Acts in the first reading.
However as Christians, we have been sanctified by the same Spirit that sanctified Jesus and the first Christian community. Since this is so, we have the same obligation or task that had been assigned to them, namely manifesting to all those who do not yet believe, the forgiving love of God who is Father. We must respond to the harsh realities around us with a practical wisdom and confidence in the promise of Jesus as the first Christian community did even in the midst of trails. This is done not merely by the words that we may speak but more by the loving actions that we perform. We continue that which Jesus began for we are now his body on this earth, making him present throughout the world.
When we reach out to heal the sick, care for the poor, love the unlovable, and pour ourselves out for the oppressed of the world, then indeed we are living out our call and mission.
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