Friday 30 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 1, 2017

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Saturday, July 1, 2017 - Does Jesus Christ have faith in you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 18:1-15; Mt 8:5-17

The text of today contains the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. The healing of the Centurion’s servant is also found in Luke (7:1-10) and John but with variations. While in Luke the centurion never makes an appearance personally, in Matthew he addresses Jesus as “Lord”, which is an address only believers use in Matthew. The response of Jesus to the Centurion’s need is seen by some as a question rather than a statement, “I should come and heal him?” This is in keeping with Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus who is sent as Messiah only for the lost sheep of Israel (10:5-6) and not for Gentiles. The Centurion is not deterred by Jesus’ question, and responds with faith. The healing takes place from a distance. The focus, however, is not on the miracle but on the faith of the centurion and through his faith the faith of “unbelievers”. The centurion does not claim to have faith. It is Jesus who testifies to his faith.

We can get deterred and lose our focus when things do not go the way we want them to. At these times we may blame our family, our neighbours and even God. The Centurion’s attitude is a lesson to us never to get deterred from what we have to do and continue to keep our sights fixed on what we want to achieve confident that our perseverance will pay rich dividends.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, June 29, 2017

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Friday, June 30, 2017 - Are there some around you whom you have been treating as lepers? Will you have the courage to reach out and touch them today? In your prayer do you express the confidence that the leper in the story expresses? If No, why not?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 17:1,9-10,15-22; Mt 8:1-4

We begin reading today in the liturgy and will continue for the whole of next week from Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. These Chapters contain what is known as the “Miracle Cycle” of Matthew, because in them we find ten miracles in series of three miracles each. The fact that the Miracle Cycle follows immediately after the Sermon on the Mount and both are framed by a summary statement in 4:23 and 9:35 is an indication that Matthew’s intention is to show through such a placement that Jesus is the Messiah in words (through the Sermon on the Mount) and deeds (through the Miracle Cycle).

The healing of a leper, which is our text for today, is also found in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, but where Mark narrates the emotional reactions of Jesus, Matthew and Luke omit them. 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.

The leper addresses Jesus as Lord, which is a title used only by believers in the Gospel of Matthew. 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.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Audio reflections of Thursday, June 29, 2017 the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

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Thursday, June 29, 2017 - The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 12:1-11; Ps 34:2-9; 2 Tm4:6-8, 17-18; Mt 16:13-19

There is an old story about the death of St. Peter in Rome during the persecution of Nero. Peter heard about Nero's plan to burn the city and blame the Christians. He figured as the one who presided over the church in the city he would be arrested and put to death. So he did the sensible thing - Peter was always a sensible man - he got out of town, and at night. The Appian Way was dark for awhile as Peter snuck down it. However, as the night wore on the sky was illuminated by the flames rising from the city. Peter hurried on and eventually was far enough away from the city that it was dark again. Then he saw someone coming in the opposite direction, someone who even at night seemed familiar. It was the Lord himself. What was he doing out at night and walking towards Rome? “Where are you going, Lord?” Peter asked him. “To Rome”, Jesus replied, “to be crucified again in your place”. Peter turned around and returned to Rome and according to tradition was crucified there.

Though this story does not agree with what is narrated in the first reading of today from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we are told that Peter was imprisoned, it does agree with what the Gospels narrate about Peter’s denials, and brings out an important facet of the meaning of the feast: Jesus did not choose strong, brave and courageous individuals to continue the work that he had begun. He chose weak, frail and cowardly humans. He chose individuals who would falter and fail. This is the Peter who confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and to whom Jesus handed over the “keys” of the Church, knowing full well that there would be times when the lofty confession would turn into a base denial.

Paul’s conversion story is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles and Paul himself speaks of it in some of his letters. His commission as an apostle of Christ began with a divine revelation of the identity of the Lord Jesus. He reports the events surrounding his recognition of Jesus as the Lord of glory and his appointment as apostle to the gentiles. Felled to the ground by a brilliant light from heaven and hearing a reproachful voice addressing him by name his first need was to know who it was who broke into his life with such awe-inspiring power. Just as Jesus told Peter that he would assign to him the charge of leading his Church once Peter recognized his master's true identity, so also Paul's task was given to him only after Jesus revealed himself as the glorified Lord.

The apostles' mission thus grew out of their loving knowledge of the person of Jesus, the Son of the living God. Their work, indeed their whole life, was to follow from this surpassing knowledge of Christ which became the basis of all their dealing with others. They were given to the whole Church to teach us not only what Christ revealed and taught but also how to live as he himself had put into practice the things willed by the Father.

Today we marvel at the transformation of these previously weak human leaders. Peter’s newfound passionate commitment to his Lord and to the fledgling church resulted in his imprisonment. Paul too was jailed. He did not see this as failure, but as the destiny that was his in consequence of his commitment to the Gospel. He had fought the good fight, he had run the race, and he had kept the faith. He faced death, and he knew it. That was the price they had to pay for their commitment and fidelity to the Lord.

Their personalities were very different, their approaches to spreading the Faith were very different, and their relationships with Christ were very different. Although the two were both Apostles, there were moments of disagreement and conflict between them. And yet, they are bound together on this single feast, as they were bound together by the one Faith, confessing the one Lord, shedding their blood for him and his mission of peace, justice and love.

Within the recent past, the church has been tossed to and fro in storms of controversy. Not one storm, but many storms, and not in one country, but in many countries. It has been the target of fierce persecution from without, and it has also allowed evil to corrupt it from within. Whether in circumstances of harassment or scandal, the lives of many have been diminished, their confidence undermined and their faith tested.

Without minimizing the suffering in our current situations, we should remember that dire trials are really not new to the church. From its very beginning it has faced opposition. The first reading for today’s feast describes one such situation.

Despite its trials, however, the church has survived and even flourished. This is not due to the strength and holiness of its members. Though Jesus told Peter that the church would be built upon him, the church’s real foundation was and continues to be Jesus Christ its Lord. He is the one who commissioned Peter; he is the one who assures the church of protection. He is the one who stood by Paul and gave him strength to bring the Gospel to the broader world. The church may have been built on Peter the former denier and spread by Paul the former persecutor, but it is the church of Jesus Christ, and it will endure because of his promise.

Today we celebrate the fidelity of Peter and Paul, sinners like us all. Initially, they were both found wanting. When they eventually repented, they were forgiven by God in Christ. Though they were victims of persecution, their commitment to Christ and to the church made them heroes. Their victory is evidence that the gates of hell shall not prevail. Their victory is evidence that we shall indeed overcome.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Audio reflections of Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - Is your being good? What will you do to make it better?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 15:1-12, 17-18; Mt 7:15-20

The text of today is from the latter part of the Sermon on the Mount. In it Jesus asks his listeners to focus on the internal i.e. the heart from which everything else flows. If the heart is pure then everything that a person does or says will also be pure. The external is only an expression of the internal. A person's actions or words flow from what is in his/her heart.

Our actions do not often coincide with our words, because we do not always mean what we say. Sometimes we say one thing but do another. There is a dichotomy between our words and actions. We are called to synchronise the two.

Monday 26 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - How will you show that you have chosen the narrow gate?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 13:2,5-18; Mt 7:6,12-14

The first verse of today (7:5) introduces a new subject: holiness. The point that seems to be made here is that holy things have their place and should not be profaned. 

Mt 7:12 has often been termed, as the Golden rule, which the Matthean Jesus explains, is a summary of the law and prophets. Here it is stated positively. One must treat others in the same way that one expects to be treated. This also means that one must take the initiative in doing the loving thing that does not wait to respond to the action of another. In the final two verses of this pericope (7:13-14) the point being made is that it is the narrow gate that leads to life and salvation and the broad or wide gate to damnation. One must make a choice for one or another.

We wish that people would be kind and understanding with us but we are seldom kind and understanding towards them. Often the behaviour that we find revolting in others is the behaviour we ourselves are guilty of. When we criticise others for being too harsh, we need to ask whether we have not been so.

The words that you use to complete this sentence will give you a fairly good idea of how you treat others: People are usually ……………………

Sunday 25 June 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017 - Do you know that when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 12:1-9; Mt 7:1-5

The absolute prohibition of judgement found in 7:1 is unparalleled in Jewish tradition. When the individual comes to stand before God for judgement, he/she will be judged according to the measure that he/she has used for others. Those who have been merciful will receive mercy. One must be aware that one is not in any superior position, which gives one the right to judge others. If one is aware of one’s own weakness and frailty then one will be careful of pointing out the faults of others.

Judging others comes too easily to some and often we judge only by externals. It is important to realise that it is possible that we might not be aware of all the reasons why a person behaves in a particular manner and so mistaken in our judgement. If we can give the benefit of the doubt to the person concerned and find reasons for his/her behaviour we will have done well.

Audio reflections of Monday, June 26, 2017

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Saturday 24 June 2017

Audio reflections of Sunday, June 25, 2017

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Sunday, June 25, 2017 - Do not be afraid

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15;Mt 10:26-33

During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?” “Who said that?” roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, “Now you know why.” It is not always easy to stand up and be counted.

The Gospel text of today deals with what it takes to stand up and be counted. It is part of Matthew’s Mission Discourse in which Jesus, after commissioning his disciples, gives them both instruction for and exhortation in Mission. Today’s reading deals with exhortation. The words “Do not be afraid” appear three times. ‘Do not be afraid to be open about faith, do not be afraid of powerful opponents, and do not be afraid about what future holds in store. All three lay in God’s hands.’ The message therefore is this: Confidence in God’s presence and promise even in the midst of persecution. The message is: ‘Do not be afraid to stand up and be counted because God is on the side of those who fight for justice and the truth.’

It is possible that fear might lead to the disciples remaining silent and not communicating the message of Jesus, which is a message of the Kingdom. While the disciples should expect persecution, they should not be paralyzed by fear. They must continue to give bold witness to the message entrusted to them that in Jesus and his words and works, the Kingdom of heaven has indeed come. The disciples will be tempted to give up when things get difficult, but they are called to persevere till the end with the witness that they must give. The ideas expressed in this part of the Gospel are similar to the first reading from Jeremiah.

After castigating the leaders for not obeying God’s word and warning them that therefore they would be conquered by Babylon, Jeremiah is scourged and put in stocks by Passhur, the head of the temple police. The text of today, spoken after his release, includes Jeremiah’s sixth lament, in which he begins by railing at God for “enticing” him into proclaiming God’s message and then allowing him to be mocked and shamed. Though he is tempted to give up his vocation of being a prophet (and so speaking God’s word on behalf of God) because he is aware that people are plotting against him, he perseveres. This perseverance results from his confidence in the fact that God will come to his aid and deliver him from his enemies.

These enemies cannot do real harm, because though physical death is indeed a possibility for a disciple of Jesus, it will only be a transition, says Jesus. God’s power is much more than even death. All that happens to the disciple is known by God. As surely as God knows the comings and goings of even the littlest bird, so he knows everything that happens to the disciple. He is always the one who is in charge. He is “father” to the disciples and so the disciples are related to Jesus as brothers and sisters. This relationship between the Father, Jesus and the disciples must lead to witnessing to Jesus and all that he stands for including justice and truth and to hope for the future.

The best example of this confidence according to the reading from Romans is Jesus himself. He was obedient unlike Adam; he remained sinless and faithful unlike Adam and thus made grace reign freely where there would have been universal condemnation. He dared to stand up and be counted. He was unafraid even in the face of ignominy, persecution and death. Thus through his life, mission, death and resurrection Jesus has given his disciples the example they must follow, the path they must take and the way they must walk.

To walk this way continues to be difficult especially today when fears of all kinds continue to dominate our lives and take control of us, not allowing us to be the kind of persons we are meant to be. There are numerous people who will try their best to stifle the message of justice and peace; simply because it is beneficial to them do so. There are many who will try to shut down the voices of those who protest against discrimination and violence.

By looking to Jesus we see that the trials and sufferings of this life, especially what we face as we try to live out and share our faith, are short-lived. We should, therefore, not give in to fear; knowing that in the end truth will triumph over untruth, justice over injustice, and eternal life over death, as we are able to see already in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Friday 23 June 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017 - The Birth of John the Baptist - Will you speak God’s word to at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66,80

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24 each year. The reason for this is the mention in the Gospel of Luke that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when the Announcement was made to Mary (Lk 1:36) about the birth of Jesus. Thus if Christmas is celebrated on December 25 each year, John the Baptist who was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah had to have been born six months before Jesus.

According to some, John is born when the days are longest (June 24), and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest (December 25), and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3:30).

The Gospel text of today is from the Gospel of Luke. Luke does not give us too many details about the birth of John, and he narrates it with a short sentence. He focuses more on the events that follow the birth and, through them, show that God’s word spoken through the angel, Gabriel, is being fulfilled. Elizabeth does bear a son and the people rejoice at the birth because of the great mercy shown by God.

Circumcision of the child on the eight day was in accord with Gen 17:9-14 where God makes circumcision on the eight day a sign of the covenant with Abraham. It was the father who normally named the child and, in doing so, recognized the child as his own. Sometimes, the child was named after the father, especially if the father was a person who was highly esteemed. Objections were raised to the name “John” (“God had been gracious”), chosen by Elizabeth. That the people made signs to Zechariah to ask him what he wanted to name the child indicates that, besides being dumb, he was also deaf. The moment Zechariah writes the name “John” on a writing tablet, Zechariah regains his speech. Once again, God’s word comes to pass. The fear and amazement with which the people respond to these happenings is an indication that they experienced God’s awesome power. The question that the people ask, about what the child would turn out to be, is answered in summary form by Luke when he ends this narrative by stating that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”

God’s word is a word of power and will come to pass, no matter how many obstacles we may put in its way. It is a word that enhances and builds up, a word that gives life. To be sure, we may not always be able to understand and accept it for what it is, but in the final analysis, it is always a word that is for our good and for his glory.

Audio reflections of Saturday, June 24, 2017 the Birth of John the Baptist

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Thursday 22 June 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017 - The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus - Has pride come in the way of your encountering Jesus? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 7:6-11; 1 Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30

The feast of the Most Sacred Heart is a movable feast, but is always celebrated on the third Friday after Pentecost. Ever since the seventeenth century when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was granted visions of the Sacred Heart and asked to spread this devotion, the Jesuits represented by her confessor St. Claude de la Colombière, played a fundamental role in spreading this devotion. Colombière, spoke with Margaret Mary a number of times and after much prayer, discernment and reflection became convinced of the validity of her visions.

In recent times, one of the most loved and admired Generals of the Society of Jesus Fr. Pedro Arrupe was instrumental in reviving this devotion and placing Jesuits once again at the forefront of spreading this devotion.  This devotion according to Arrupe was “the centre of the Ignatian experience”. It is an “extraordinarily effective means as much for gaining personal perfection as for apostolic success”. 

The feast of the Sacred Heart is to be celebrated as a privilege and grace. However, it is also a responsibility. 

First, the love that we receive from the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a private possession, but one that must be shared with all. Just as the Father makes no distinction and makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good (Mt 5:45), so must we in our sharing of the love of Christ.
Second, the concern that God has for us and our Universe must be a concern which we must show to our world. The wanton destruction of nature, excessive and abusive use of scarce resources like water, indiscriminate cutting of trees for selfish gain, unlawful and criminal killing of wild animals are signs that we are working against God’s concern. If God cares for us so much, must we not care for our world?
Third, the intimate connection of the Sacred Heart and Eucharist reminds us that just as Christ is so easily available to us, we must also be to each other. The Eucharist and the feast of the Sacred Heart ought not to be private and passive devotions, but celebrations that make us ready to reach out in service and availability to anyone who needs us.

The text for the feast is from the Gospel of Matthew. To understand it fully, two points must be kept in mind. The first is that it is placed by Matthew after three “negative” passages which begin at 11:2. These are the response of Jesus to the disciples of John the Baptist to their question whether Jesus was the Messiah, the exasperation with the crowd who do not recognize John nor Jesus, and the denunciation of the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Indeed, this entire section of Matthew’s Gospel seems to lean on a sense of apparent “failure” on the part of Jesus to measure up to the expectations that all around him had in terms of what a “Messiah” would look like or act like.
The second point is that this text is clearly a Matthean composition and is made of three elements. The first two of these are found in Luke but in different contexts and the third is exclusive to Matthew. In Matthew the audience is clearly the crowds and so the words of Jesus here are meant for all. 

The passage appearing as it does in this context seeks to state that despite so much of doubt and negativity, that despite so much of blindness and closed attitudes, this is not the last word. Despite the fact that Jesus’ message has been questioned by John the Baptist, rejected by many and especially the wise and understanding and not paid heed to by the cities, yet the invitation and message will find acceptance among the open and receptive of which there are still some left. There is no arbitrariness in this. Rather, it is simply true that for the most part the wise tend to become proud and self-sufficient in their wisdom and particularly unreceptive regarding the new and the unexpected. This is because they have already made up their minds about what kind of Messiah is to come. 

On the other hand the childlike are most often unself-conscious, open, dependent, and receptive. They are willing to let God work in their lives. They have not decided in advance how God must act and are willing to let God be God. Thus everything comes down finally to the person of Jesus and the nature of the fulfilment he brings. He cannot be understood if he is restricted to preconceived categories; he will not conform to human conceptual frameworks. He must be understood as God knows him, as the one who on behalf of the Father always does his will.

Audio Reflections of Friday, June 23, 2017 the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Wednesday 21 June 2017

Audio reflections of Thursday, June 22, 2017

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Thursday, June 22, 2017 - Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 11:1-11; Mt 6:7-15

In the text of today, we read what is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11:2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". Also the context of the prayer in Matthew and Luke is different. While in Matthew the prayer is told in the context of the Sermon of the Mount, in Luke it is told in response to the disciples’ request to Jesus to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1). 

Be that as it may, in both Matthew and Luke the point is clear that the prayer is primarily a prayer of dependence on God who is Father. This dependence is for something as dramatic and magnificent as the Kingdom and also for something as routine and regular as bread. Both prayers have also the theme of forgiveness, which is received from God and given to others.

The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer; it is also a way of life. The words of the prayer communicate the attitude that one must have toward God and others. While we must acknowledge our dependence on God for everything that we need and regard him always as the primary cause, our attitude to others must be one of acceptance and forgiveness.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - St. Aloysius Gonzaga SJ - When was the last time you performed an action with no expectation of reward? Will you perform such an action today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

Aloysius de Gonzaga was born in Castiglione, Italy in 1568. His father wanted him to join military service, but by the age of nine Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity.

A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, Gonzaga kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in an hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, in 1591, after receiving the anointing from Robert Bellarmine.

He was canonised in 1726 and is regarded as the patron Saint of youth.

The text chosen for today is from part of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. It concerns three pious practices that were prevalent at the time of Jesus: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are used as examples of what true and false righteousness means. In each case, after mention of the pious practice, the Matthean Jesus explicates how it must not be done and why, and then goes on to explain how it must be done and why. In each case there is a contrast between public and secret and between external and internal.

Jesus uses hyperbolic language when he speaks of how almsgiving must not be done and uses similar hyperbole when he states how it must be done. Almsgiving must not be ostentatious but in humility and secret. When speaking of prayer, a distinction is made between prayer which is done for show and prayer which stems from the heart. The former makes itself an end in itself, the latter regards prayer as a mean to reach God. Finally, in the third pious practice, fasting, a distinction is made between fasting that is done to impress others and fasting that is motivated by an inner conviction. If one is convinced from within, then one will want it to be as inconspicuous as possible.

The reason for the choice of this Gospel text is because Aloysius understood completely the words of Jesus. His motivation to do good came from within. His desire to serve the poor and the sick was without expectation of reward. The austerities he practiced were for the sole reason of ‘feeling with others’. His reaching out to the plague ridden of his time was because it was a need and he was willing to do all that he could to cater to that need. Indeed, Aloysius internalised every pious practice, because of which his righteousness was pleasing in the eyes of God.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. 

Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves.

For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love. When there is love then all our actions come from our hearts and spontaneously without counting the cost. Almsgiving becomes generous and spontaneous, prayer becomes union with God and leads to action and fasting is done in order to show our dependence on God and not on earthly things.

Monday 19 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 8:1-9; Mt 5:43-48

In the last of the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

The command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” does not mean to be without faults, but means to be undivided in love as God is undivided in love.

The love we have for others is more often than not a conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love. We are willing to do something for someone and expect that they do the same or something else in return. It is a matter of “give”, but also a matter of “take”. When Jesus asks us to be like the heavenly Father, he is calling us to unconditional love.

Sunday 18 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, June 19, 2017

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Monday, June 19, 2017 - How often have you gone beyond the call of duty? Will you do so today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 6:1-10; Mt 5:38-42

The text of today contains the fifth antithesis. In it, Jesus not only affirms the thrust of the Law in opposing unlimited revenge, but also calls for a rejection of the principle of retaliatory violence as well. In the five examples that follow (being struck in the face, being sued in court, being requisitioned into short-term compulsory service, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers) the one point being made is to place the needs of others before one’s own needs. The disciple of Jesus is called to go beyond the call of the Law and do more than it requires. 

It is so easy for us to be reactors. If someone does something to hurt us, we think that it is “natural” for us to want to do something to hurt him or her in return. In the text of today, Jesus is calling us to be actors and not reactors and to do what we do because we think it is right and just and not as a reaction to someone else’s action.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Sunday, June 18, 2017

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Sunday, June 18, 2017 - Corpus Christi - The Body and Blood of Christ - What is Eucharist for you?

To read the texts click on the texts :Deut 8:2-3, 14-16; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58

A team of Russians and Americans were on a common expedition. Among their cabin foodstuff was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. During a meal an American bit into a piece and snapped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “It is not lousy communist bread, but a shaky capitalist tooth.” Some of us may complain in a similar manner about the Eucharist being useless. However, if we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is not on account of the Eucharist but on account of our shaky faith and lack of understanding of what the Eucharist really means.

The feast of Corpus Christi is usually thought to be the feast of the Eucharist and while this is certainly true, it would be a mistake to restrict the understanding of the feast to the ritual of the Eucharist. The feast goes beyond the ritual to life itself, just as the Eucharist does.

The Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. The Eucharist is a sacrament, an outward sign in and through which we meet Christ who shares his life of grace with us. Through signs of bread and wine he nourishes and strengthens us for our journey through life. We see with human eyes what looks like bread and wine. We see with eyes of faith, not bread and wine, but the risen, living Lord Jesus.

The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the representation or reliving of Christ’s sacrificial death on Good Friday and of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

The scripture readings today stress how God made a covenant with His people, first through Moses and then, finally and forever, through Christ, a covenant sealed and ratified by his blood. This covenant or bond of love between God and us is renewed and deepened through and in every Eucharist or Mass.

The second reading today, from Paul, is the earliest recorded story of anything Jesus did. And that earliest story is about a meal, the Last Supper, which Jesus shared with his disciples. In a very particular way, he made that meal a way to remember him. It brings forward his sacrifice and death and resurrection, his fellowship and unity with us, and everything he taught us. And he did not want his followers to eat it just once that night but to do it again and again, so that we continue to remember.

St Augustine often stressed to his parishioners a unique quality of the Eucharistic food. The ordinary food we eat, he says, becomes part of us. We are what we eat. But partaking of the Eucharist, we become part of Jesus, We become more Christ like, more patient and kind, more forgiving and understanding. We still live our ordinary daily lives, but it is Our Lord who inspires our attitudes and actions.  We begin to see people and events through his eyes, to think as he did. When Jesus was on this earth, he used his own hands to reach out to people, but when he wants to feed the poor today, he uses my hands, your hands to do this.

Surely, we hunger and thirst for something new, when we share in the grief, anger, misery and neglect of the impoverished, the unjustly accused, and victims of violence caused by religious intolerance, ethnic hatred, terrorism and racism. We are hungry indeed for peace and thirsty for reconciliation in this our troubled world. We are hungry and thirsty for a new world, a world where we will look one another in the eye and recognize the kinship of sisters and brothers who are all children of God. The promise of this new world is set forth in the strongest possible terms when Jesus declares, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them…”

This feast, then, of the Body of Christ, sums up three important confessions of our faith. First, and most important, God became physically present in the person of Christ – true God and true Man. Secondly; God continues to be present in His people as they form the Mystical Body of Christ in his Church. And, thirdly, God becomes present in the form of bread and wine on the altar at Mass. Eucharist, then, should not remain simply a “going to” or “taking of” that begins and ends in the sanctuary. It should become the deepest expression of our communion with Christ.

Friday 16 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, June 17, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, June 17, 2017 click HERE

Saturday, June 17, 2017 - When you say, “YES” do you mean YES?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 5:14-21; Mt 5:33-37

The fourth of the six antitheses is completely a Matthean composition. There is no precedence for the absolute prohibition of oaths in Judaism. Rather, an oath invoked God to guarantee the truth of what was being sworn or promised, or to punish the one taking the oath if he was not faithful to his word. 

The Matthean Jesus here, rules out oaths completely. He rejects not only false and unnecessary oaths, but also any attempt to bolster one’s statement claim to truth beyond the bare statement of it. It is a demand for truthfulness in everything that one says.

If we are convinced that we are telling the truth as we see it, there may not be any need for us to either raise our voices when making our point or to swear or even to call others to witness what we have said.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, June 16, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Friday, June 16, 2017 click HERE

Friday, June 16, 2017 - Will you bother less about your “doing” and focus more on your “being”? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt 5:27-32

The text of today contains the second (5:27-30) and third (5:31-32) of the six antitheses (5:21-48), which appear in the Sermon on the Mount immediately after the theme. All six while addressing various aspects of the law move the focus away from the letter to the spirit. Each of the six begins similarly i.e. with a juxtaposition of what was said (by God through Moses) and what is now being said (by Jesus to his disciples).

In this pericope, Jesus reaffirms the prohibition against adultery (Exodus 20:14), but goes beyond i.e. to the intention of the heart.

The third antithesis about divorce is related to the earlier one about adultery in subject matter. Deut 24:1-4 assumes the legitimacy of divorce, and in Jewish tradition divorce was relatively easy to obtain. Jesus, however, prohibits divorce. Matthew alone adds the exception clause, not found in Mark 10:2-9 which here is more original and reflects the position of the historical Jesus.

There is sometimes in our understanding of Christianity too much emphasis on what constitutes and does not constitute sin, and on how far we can go before we commit sin. The real question we must ask is how far we must go in love. 

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Audio reflections of Thursday, June 15, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Thursday, June 15, 2017 click HERE

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - How many times did you get angry yesterday? Will you attempt to make it one less time today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 3:14; 4:1,3-6; Mt 5:20-26

The righteousness of the disciples of Jesus must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. 

In the six antitheses (5,21-48) that follow, Matthew shows what this means in practice. Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. In these verses (5:21-26) Matthew narrates first of the six, which is about the Torah’s prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:18). The supplementary “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement” is not found verbatim anywhere in the Old Testament, and seems to have been added by Matthew to introduce the word “judgement” which he uses in the next verse. After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (5:22). 

The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realise that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (5:23-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward which they are journeying.

If we come to worship God and there are feelings of anger, revenge or hatred in our hearts, then our worship remains incomplete. It is only an external worship and not true worship. God does not need our adoration, but if want to adore him it must also come from within.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Wednesday, June 14, 2017 click HERE

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - When was the last time you performed an action without any expectation of reward? Will you perform one today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 3:4-11; Mt 5:17-19

These verses contain what are commonly known as the “theme” of the Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, the Matthean Jesus makes explicit that he is a law abiding Jew. His attitude towards the Jewish law is fundamentally positive. However, Jesus also makes explicit here, that he has come not merely to confirm or establish the law, but to fulfil or complete it. This means that he will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action.

While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.

Monday 12 June 2017

Audio reflections of Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Tuesday, June 13, 2017 click HERE

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - How will you as a disciple of Jesus be salt and light today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mt 5:13-16

The text of today is somewhat of a link text, which joins the beatitudes (5:3-12) to the theme of the Sermon (5:17-20). These verses point out the effect that living the Sermon will have on the liberation of the world. 

The text makes two assertions about the followers of Jesus. The first is that they are the salt of the earth and the second is that they are the light of the world. Both these symbols seem to point to the indispensable role that the disciples of Jesus are to play in the liberation of the world. It is through the lives of the disciples of Jesus that the world will be moved to glorify God. This is indeed a great privilege, but also a great responsibility.

Salt is an ingredient that adds flavour or taste to that to which it is added. It makes the insipid tasty, edible and enjoyable. Disciples of Jesus are called to add taste and flavour to the lives of others. 

Light enables one to see correctly and results in removing darkness. This is what the disciples of Jesus must do if they are to be true disciples: remove the darkness from the lives of others.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, June 12, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Monday, June 12, 2017 click HERE

Monday, June 12, 2017 - Do any of the beatitudes apply to you? Will you strive to make at least two applicable to yourself today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 1:1-7; Mt 5:1-12

Beginning today, the gospel reading will be from the Gospel of Matthew except on feasts or special occasions. The Church begins from Chapter 5 of Matthew. The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.

Since we will be reading this Sermon for almost three whole weeks on weekdays, it is important to have some background of what the Sermon is about.

The first point that we note is that this is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7:28).

The second point that must be kept in mind is that the Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner.

The third point is the theme, which will determine how one will interpret the Sermon as a whole. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and Prophets, and issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.

Today’s text contains what is commonly known as the “Introduction” to the Sermon and contains the Beatitudes, which are the communication of a blessing. The mountain is a “theological topos” in the Gospel of Matthew (Luke’s Sermon is from “a level place cf Lk 6,17) and therefore means much more than simply a geographical location. Matthew does not name the mountain, but by choosing it as the place from where Jesus delivers the Sermon, he probably wants to portray Jesus as the New Moses delivering the New Law from a New Mountain. While Jesus in the Gospel of Luke “stands” and delivers the Sermon (Lk 6:17), in Matthew, Jesus sits down. This is the posture that the Jewish Rabbis adopted when communicating a teaching of importance or connected with the Law. In Luke the crowd is addressed from the beginning of the Sermon and addressed directly, “Blessed are you poor…” (Lk 6:20), but in Matthew, it is the “disciples” who come to Jesus and whom he begins to teach. The address is indirect, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3). 

While Luke has four beatitudes with four corresponding “Woes”; Matthew has seven plus an additional beatitude, with no corresponding woes. The reason why the “eight” is called an additional beatitude is because the first and the seventh both end with the phrase “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” forming what is known as an inclusion. Beatitude is an expression of congratulations, which recognises an existing state of happiness. While the rewards described in the first and seventh beatitudes are in the present tense, they are in the future tense in the other five beatitudes. The sense is that it is God himself who will do all of this for them. By choosing to bless the disadvantaged, the Matthean Jesus indicates the thrust of his mission, which is primarily a mission to the disadvantaged.