Monday 31 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, August 1, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Tuesday, August 1, 2017 click HERE

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - Are you too quick to condemn others merely by what you notice externally? Will you reserve your judgement today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 33:7-11; 34:5-9,28; Mt 13:36-43

These verses contain the interpretation or allegory of the parable of the weeds and are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. Since Jesus speaks to the crowds only in parables, Matthew has Jesus go into the house after leaving the crowds and explain privately the meaning of the parable to his disciples. 

In the interpretation, the attention is on the weeds and so on the final judgement. The Son of Man has indeed sowed good seed in the field, which is the world and not merely the church, but the devil who is responsible for the second sowing has sown weeds. Though this is the case, it is not the believers who represent the good seed who will pass judgement on the unbelievers who represent the weeds Judgement will be passed by God through the Son of Man.

We sometimes wonder why “evil” people seem to be thriving. When we do this we are already making a judgement about a person or about something, which we might not fully know. If we avoid comparing ourselves with others and stop labelling them especially when we are not fully aware of the facts, we can concentrate better on what we are called to do and be.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Today (July 31) is the Feast of the Founder of the Society I belong to,(The Society of Jesus), St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). He was a giant of his times and continues to be as relevant today as he was over 460 years ago.

Audio Reflections of Monday, July 31, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Monday, July 31, 2017 click HERE

Monday, July 31, 2017 - St. Ignatius of Loyola - The Founder of the Society of Jesus

To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 30:15-20; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Lk 9:18-26

The readings of today set the tone for the celebration of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. In the first reading of today, Moses makes a strong plea to the Israelites to choose life. Ignatius did precisely that when he was convalescing after the injury he suffered at the battle of Pamplona in 1520. His reflections during this time became the turning point of his life. It was when lying in his sick bed and contemplating the life of Christ that he decided that everything was refuse when compared with the knowledge of Christ.

This deep and intimate knowledge of Christ which was not merely intellectual but knowledge of the heart, led him to love Christ with all his heart and mind and to follow him unconditionally.

It was this intimate knowledge of Christ which sustained him all through his life and especially during the tremendous challenges that he faced. Like Paul, he too believed that he received mercy from the Lord. One important reason for receiving this mercy in such large measure was because he recognised that he was a sinner and in need of God’s grace made available freely in Christ. Like Paul, Ignatius became an example to many. One of these whom he converted through Christ’s grace was the now famous Francis Xavier.

The Gospel text from Luke serves as an apt description of how Ignatius perceived his master and Lord Jesus. Though Luke depends on Mark for this scene of Peter’s confession, he has made some significant changes in order to bring out his meaning of the text. The first is that unlike Mark, Luke does not give the geographical location (Caesarea Philippi), but gives instead the context of the prayer of Jesus. Through this change, Luke makes the confession a spiritual experience. Luke also changes Marks, “one of the prophets” to “one of the old prophets has risen.” Though the difference does not appear to be great, it is for Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, before Jesus everything is old. Jesus makes all things new. Luke has also eliminated Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus as the suffering Messiah and the rebuke of Peter by Jesus. Luke avoids narrating Marcan texts that show Peter and even the disciples in a bad light.

The second question to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” shows on the one hand that the answers given of the crowd’s understanding of Jesus are inadequate, and on the other that Jesus wants to know their understanding of him. In all the Synoptic Gospels it is Peter who answers, but here too Luke adds to Mark’s, “You are the Christ”, the words “of God”. The Greek word “Christos” means in English “the anointed” and this conveys the meaning of royalty. However, by his addition, Luke also brings in the prophetical dimension of Jesus’ person and mission. This prophetical dimension is explicated in the verses, which follow the confession of Peter, in which Jesus explains the kind of Christ/Messiah/Anointed One that he will be. The reason for the rebuke or “stern order” not to tell anyone is because Jesus wanted to avoid any misunderstanding of the term which could be understood only in the glorious sense. Jesus as “the Christ of God” will come in glory, but only after he has gone to the cross, died, been buried and then raised.

Taken together the five sayings on discipleship show clearly that  discipleship to Jesus requires a total commitment of life, taking the cross, giving one’s life in obedience to Jesus’ direction, forsaking the pursuit of wealth, and living out one’s discipleship publicly before others.

This is what Ignatius did and taught others to do. Today more than 450 years after his death, his legacy still remains. The Society of Jesus that he founded remains a Society that has at its core the following of the Crucified Christ.

Monday, July 31, 2017 - Small beginnings will have great endings. Well begun is half-done.

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 32:15-24,30-34; Mt 13:31-35

There are three parts to the text of today. The first is the parable of the mustard seed (13:31-32) then is the parable of the yeast (13:33) and finally the reason why Jesus speaks in parables (13:34-35). 

While the parable of the Mustard seed is found also in Mark 4:30-32, Matthew follows the Q version more closely. While in Mark, the mustard seed becomes more correctly a shrub which puts forth large branches (Mk 4:32) and the birds of the air make nests in the shade of the shrub (Mk 4:32), in Matthew, the mustard seed becomes a tree (13:32) and the birds of the air makes nests in its branches (13:32). The tree motif probably has references to the symbol of the imperial tree mentioned in Ezekiel 17:23 and 31:6. The point, however seems to be to contrast the present lowliness of the kingdom with its ultimate greatness.

In the parable of the yeast, we are told about the act of a specific woman in hiding the yeast in three measures of flour, just as the mustard seed had spoken about the act of a specific man in sowing the seed. Yeast, here is used in the positive sense, whereas generally it has negative overtones. The reason for the use of yeast as a symbol for the kingdom is to probably shock the listeners. The quantity of flour into which the yeast is hid is three measures, which would produce enough bread to feed about 150 people, and is indeed a large amount, brings out the aspects abundance and extravagance. The kingdom at present seems small and insignificant, as is the yeast, but it will be revealed in its fullness later.

Though Mt 13:34 parallels the conclusion of Mark’s parable discourse (Mk 4:33-34), which states that Jesus spoke to the crowds only in parables, Matthew has added in 13:35 the eight of his formula or fulfilment quotations. The quotation is from Ps 78:2 and Matthew probably uses it because of the word “parable” found in it, though the context in the Psalm is not about hiding but about revelation. 

We might tend to get discouraged sometimes when we cannot see clearly the results of our actions. We have striven hard and at times all that we have to show for our hard work seems negligible in comparison. The parables of the mustard seed and yeast are calling us to continue to sow and mix or in other words to do what is required of us to the best of our ability.

Monday, July 31, 2017 - St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) the founder of the Society of Jesus possessed innumerable qualities which made him a giant of his time. He remains a giant of our times as well. I will attempt to enumerate some of them below in the hope that with God’s grace we can assimilate at least some of them in our following of the Lord.

One quality that characterised the life of St. Ignatius above all others was his deep personal love for the person of Jesus Christ. Ignatius was so taken up with Jesus that he was willing to do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone as long as he could imitate him. This was precisely why, when he founded the Society or Company which he hoped would do great things for the Lord, he named it after Jesus. His intention in naming the Society after Jesus was both because he did not seek personal glory and also because he wanted that his companions and those who decided to join this least Society would be ‘Jesuita’ (like Jesus Christ). For Ignatius, like for Paul, all he wanted was to know Christ (Phil 3:7).

This personal love for the person of Jesus was also his reason for being a Contemplative in Action. While Ignatius always set aside time for prayer and communion with the Lord, in his personal life, prayer was never separated from action. He developed the ability to find God in all things and all things in God.There was a constant interplay between experience, reflection, decision and action, in line with the ideal of being a contemplative in action like Jesus himself was. His prayer gave him the necessary strength that he required in his work and his work made him aware of his need for prayer.

It was because of this close communion with the Lord whether when at work or in solitude and silence that Ignatius was always listening to and waiting for the Lord. Though Ignatius was in constant and close touch with the Lord, he never presumed to tell the Lord what to do. Rather, like an attentive student before his Master, he was always listening and discerning what the Lord wanted him to do. This is why when he wrote the Spiritual Exercises he devoted a whole section to Discernment. In this section he provided twenty rules for discernment mainly because his one desire was to do what God wanted him to do. This was in imitation of his master Jesus whose food and drink was to do the will of his Father (Jn 4:34).

His desire to do God’s will, no matter what the consequences led him to keep searching for the Magis or the greater, the more. The entire life of St. Ignatius was a pilgrim search for the Magis, the ever-greater glory of God, the ever-fuller service of men and women, the more universal good, the more effective apostolic means. The Magis was not simply one among others in a list of the qualities of St. Ignatius - it permeated them all. There was no complacency or self-satisfaction. There was to be no giving in to mediocrity in his way of proceeding. God had to be given not only all but more than all. He always strove to make the good, better; the better, better still and the better still, still better. This is why he chose as the motto of the Society of Jesus Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (A.M.D.G.) which means in English, The Greater Glory of God. 

It was precisely this striving for the Magis that led him to the invaluable quality of Indifference which is part of the last Annonation in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius understood Indifference as deep concern for the ‘things of the Lord’. It was precisely because of this concern that one could be detached from the outcome. Ignatian Indifference means doing all that has to be done to the best of one’s ability and then leaving the rest in God’s capable hands. It was because one is convinced that the Lord is in control, that one can rest assured that everything will work out as the Lord wants it to. In the same context therefore one is detached from riches and also poverty, from the possession of things and also from their absence. This quality of Indifference helped Ignatius never to give in to despair or lose hope. There were many times in his life when things did not go as planned and even times when his plans were turned upside down. However, like Paul he too learned to be content in any and all circumstances (Phil 4:11-13). He was able to be at equanimity at all times. 

His ‘indifference’ which meant that for him God was in control in all circumstances led him to formulate ‘Rules for thinking with the Church’. Unlike some contemporaries of his time who broke away from the Church when they disagreed with the hierarchy, Ignatius was loyal to the Church right through. To be sure, like some of his contemporaries he was aware that the Church was in need of healing. He regarded the Church as a mother. He never considered himself an outsider, an armchair critic, but actively went about trying to reform the Church from within. Since the Church was the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-31), Ignatius regarded himself and the Society as an integral part of this body. 

This ‘Body of Christ’ was in the world and had to serve the world. Of those to be served, Ignatius preferred to be in solidarity with those most in need. He deliberately chose the path of poverty in order to experience first-hand what the poor went through. This enabled him to reach out to them in a practical and tangible manner. In the Constitutions he asks Jesuits to regard poverty as a mother and if any change was to be made in this vow, it was only to be allowed if poverty was to be made stricter. This concern for others was evident in his choice of the ministries in which Jesuits would engage. The numerous schools, colleges, universities, other institutions of learning and social institutions which express solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged are testimony to this concern.

The feast of Ignatius is for each of us an opportunity to ask whether we can try to assimilate some of these qualities. Of these, it seems to me that if we make every attempt to deepen our relationship with the Lord, all others will naturally follow. In order to do this we must be ready to live each moment fully, do what we have to do in that moment and after we have done that, leave everything that remains undone in God’s hands through prayer.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Sunday, July 30, 2017

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Sunday, July 30, 2017 - Have you found the treasure?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 3:5,7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

The parables of the treasures hidden in a field and the pearl of great price which begin the Gospel reading break the natural flow of ideas from the allegory of the parable of the wheat and weeds,  which are continued in the parable of the net. Though the word “treasure” at the beginning of today’s text (13:44) and again at the end of it (13:52) is an indication that all these verses form one unit, this homily will focus on the first two parables of today’s reading. These parables are found only in Gospel of Matthew and the first point that strikes one is the brevity of the parables. They do not give too many details and one must avoids the danger of filling in details which are not in the parables.

Both parables centre on one point, namely that the main character in the parable sells everything that he has for the sake of what he wants. They each act with single-mindedness. However, even as the one working in the field does not seem to be looking for something specific, the merchant is specifically searching for fine pearls. Though questions may be raised about the legality, integrity and honesty of the one working in the field or about the prudence of the merchant, these do not seem to have any connection with the main point.

The parables pronounce no judgement on the ethics or commonsense of the characters, but stress that the coming of the kingdom requires radical decisions. An important point that must be noted here is that the decisions of the individuals to do what they did, come after the discovery is made. This means that is the discovery which prompts the decision. In other words, after the discovery they could not but do what they did. The discovery compels their action.

The discovery that wisdom was indeed that treasure led Solomon to forgo all that a “sensible” person might have considered important and even necessary. As a young king he had many legitimate needs. He needed wealth, military might, fame, security, prosperity, long life and happiness and yet he knew that these were not the real treasure, these were not the pearl of great price. In the first reading of today in which he responds to God’s generosity to him by asking for the gift of wisdom or a discerning mind indicates that he too had discovered the treasure and pearl.

Thus it may be said that the kingdom of God is not really a place but a state of being. The treasure and pearl of great price are not things that one possesses, rather it is something that possesses or grasps us. It is what leads us to let go of everything else that we might possess and focus on it alone. It is that good which contains in itself or brings along with it all other good and desirable things, that which completely satisfies the otherwise insatiable desires of the human heart.

The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our society, and in our world. The one who finds the kingdom of God finds everything desirable besides. That is why it is compared to hidden treasure in a field which a man finds, then goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Or a precious pearl which a merchant finds, then goes and sells everything he has and buys this one pearl. In fact, these parables invite us not only to seek first the kingdom of God but to seek only the kingdom because with the kingdom of God comes every other good thing that we desire and long for.

Paul gives us a good picture of the kingdom in today’s second reading. It is the kingdom when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God. This is being done by God himself who will cooperate with them. It is the kingdom when seekers will receive his justification and share his glory. The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. It is the realization that God loves us unconditionally and that nothing that we may do – however despicable – will ever stop that love from flowing into our hearts.

Friday 28 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 29, 2017

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Saturday, July 29, 2017 - Are you too quick to judge? Will you refrain from judging today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 24:3-8; Mt 13:24-30

This is a parable found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not clear whether this parable existed independently as a parable or whether it was conceived as an allegory from the beginning. Those who think that the parable existed independently interpret the parable to mean a statement against building of boundaries and so excluding some. The building of boundaries and forming exclusive communities is not the business of human beings, but is God’s task.

Like the field in the parable there is good seed and there are weeds even in the world in which we live. There is both good and evil. We are called to take only what is good and not focus too much on the evil or bad. This does not mean passivity in the face of evil but a call for a discerning mind and heart. 

Thursday 27 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Friday, July 28, 2017

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Friday, July 28, 2017 - What prevents you from listening to what God is calling you to do? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 20:1-17; Mt 13:18-23

These verses contain what is known as the allegory of the parable of 13:10-17. Unlike Mark who does not give it a name, Matthew names it the Parable of the Sower (13:18), and in doing so concentrates attention on the Sower. While in the Marcan interpretation there is confusion as to whether the seed is the word (as in Mark 4:14) or the hearers (as in Mark 4:16,18,20), 

Matthew rewrites Mark to avoid this confusion but does not succeed fully in this endeavour. Matthew also specifies that the word that is sown is the word of the kingdom. While in Mark collective nouns are used focussing on a group of people, Matthew emphasises individual responsibility by changing the nouns to the singular. Despite these changes, Matthew essentially adopts the interpretation of the Parable as in Mark 4:13-20 where it is understood as the Church’s reflection on its bearing witness to the Gospel that Christ inaugurated.

Christianity is both an individual and communitarian religion. Each sacrament has both the individual and communitarian dimensions. This means that while on the one hand we are each responsible for the other, we are also responsible for ourselves and need to make our commitment individually. We cannot disown this responsibility or thrust it on the community.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, July 27, 2017

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Thursday, July 27, 2017 - Do you consider yourself a disciple or are you an outsider? How does your discipleship show in your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 19:1-2,9-11,16-20; Mt 13:10-17  

This text concerns the reason for Jesus’ speaking in parables. While in Mark (4:10-12) a larger group asks about the parables, in Matthew, it is the disciples who ask Jesus why he speaks to “them” in parables. 

Understanding the parables of Jesus is not simply a matter of using one’s intellect, but a grace given by God himself. It is given to those who acknowledge their dependence on God. Only those who have committed themselves to follow Jesus are given an insight into the mysteries of the kingdom. Since they have Jesus as their teacher, they will be able to understand all there is to know. The closed attitude of those who do not wish to follow is what is responsible for their lack of understanding. Matthew quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 completely here, and regards the lack of understanding as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Since the disciples are open and receptive they are indeed blessed. They are able to see and hear and understand what mere human knowledge can never hope to understand.

Humanity has taken great strides in the areas of science and technology, and yet there are many things that we still do not understand. We can use technology to communicate with someone who is thousands of miles away, but technology cannot explain to us why we cannot communicate with a neighbour who lives by our side. This must lead to the realisation that when all is said and done we will still fall short of understanding all the mysteries there are and have to depend on God.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - St. James, Apostle - James was willing to live and die for his Lord. Are you willing to live for Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt. 20:20-28

St. James is described as one of the first disciples along with his brother John to join Jesus (Mk 1:19-20). He was one of the three whom Jesus took with him when he raised Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk 5:35-43), on the mountain of transfiguration (Mk 9:2-9) and at Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). The Acts of the Apostles 12:1 records that Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast of St. James is from the Gospel of Matthew.  In order to spare the disciples, whom Matthew usually represents as understanding, Matthew replaces the disciples’ own request with one represented by their mother and does not name the “sons of Zebedee” here. 

The request for seats at the “right hand and left hand” reflects the rule of the Son of Man from his throne. In his reply to the request the Matthean Jesus focuses on the image of the cup which is used as a symbol for suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and even violent death. Though they express confidence that they are able to drink the cup, Jesus knows better. However, even martyrdom will not gain the disciples special places. That is God’s prerogative and grace. Jesus then takes the disciples to another level and perspective of leadership where to be a leader is not to dominate or dictate but to serve. Christina leadership may be defined as service.

James understood this after then death and resurrection of Jesus as was evident in his martyrdom. He followed his Lord and Master to the end and did indeed drink the cup courageously.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - Will you keep on keeping on even when your expectations are not fulfilled?

To read the texts click on the texts:Ex 16:1-5,9-15; Mt 13:1-9

We begin reading today from Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew. This Chapter is known as “The Parable Discourse” of Matthew, because in it we find seven parables. Two of these parables have been allegorised {The Parable of the Sower (13:18-23) and the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat (13:36-43)}. Some are of the opinion that 13:49-50 is an allegorization of the parable of the Net (13:47-48). 

The first parable in the Parable Discourse is the one that is known as the parable of the Sower. Though often it is the allegory that has been interpreted instead of the parable where the different types of soil are compared to different types of persons and their reception of the word, this does not seem to be the point of the parable. In the parable, in three types of soil (the path, the rocky ground and among the thorns), the seed is lost, and it is only in one type of soil (good soil) that there is gain. Yet, the gain is enormous. The point seems to be that one must not give in to despair even if it seems that most of the good that we do seems to bear no fruit. In God’s time and in God’s own way it will bear even more fruit than we can ever imagine. We need to keep on keeping on.

In the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, when we work, we must work as if everything depends only on us and when we pray, we must pray as if everything depends only on God.

Monday 24 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - Is Jesus pointing to you as his brother/sister? If yes, Why? If no, why not?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 14:21-15:1; Mt 12:46-50

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

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

Sunday 23 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Monday, July 24, 2017

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Monday, July 24, 2017 - What sign have you been seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in his presence even in the absence of signs today? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 14:5-18; Mt 12:38-42

The text of today is continuation of the earlier text (12:25-37) in which Jesus makes a series of pronouncements regarding the coming judgement. The Pharisees respond to these statements of Jesus by demanding a sign. In Matthew only disciples address Jesus as Lord, and the address “Teacher” here by the Pharisees indicates that they are not disciples. The sign they demand is a proof of Jesus’ identity. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ demand is to make another pronouncement. In this pronouncement he regards them as an “evil and adulterous generation” which means a people who have closed their hearts to the revelation that God is constantly making. 

The sign of Jonah here refers clearly to the resurrection of Jesus. Further, it is the Gentiles (people of Nineveh) who will rise up and condemn the Jews. It is a clear reversal of roles. Jesus is greater than both Jonah and Solomon.

The manner in which some of us mourn and weep at the death of a loved one seems to indicate that we do not believe in the resurrection. This is the only sign that Jesus continues to give. If we keep looking for other signs of his presence we might find ourselves in the same position as the Pharisees of his time and miss him who makes himself available and visible at every moment of our lives.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Audio reflections of Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Sunday, July 23, 2017 - Will you continue to be wheat even in a field that is made up largely of weeds?

To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 12:13,16-19, Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43

The first parable of the Gospel text of today, found only in the Gospel of Matthew, is known variously as the parable of the wheat and weeds or the parable of the wheat and darnel or tares. It is one of the only two parables which have been allegorized, the other being the parable of the sower. Though the text for today includes the parables of the mustard seed (13:31-32), and the yeast or leaven (13:33), let us focus on the parable of the wheat and weeds (13:24-30).

The story is told of a man who went from church to church, hoping to find and then join a “perfect church.” In the midst of his search someone was bold enough to say to him, “I feel sorry for that church if you ever find it, for in the moment you join it, it will not be perfect any more!” The parable seems to speak precisely of this: were there to be a perfect church, it would be less than perfect once any human joined it, simply because all are sinners. It also warns us against relying on our human capacity to know full the mind of God. It suggests that what might appear to be bad and corrupt or good and pure to us might not necessarily be any of these. The master’s instructions to the servants are therefore clearly that they are not to get involved with separating the wheat from the weeds. The master goes so far as to say that if they ever try to do it, they could end up damaging the wheat.

This is reiterated by both the first and third readings. The reading from Wisdom speaks of God’s leniency, though he has all the power. He gives sinners time for repentance because though he is just, he is also merciful. Through this patience God teaches humans how they must behave towards their fellow humans. The virtuous must be understanding towards others and slow to condemn.

The text from Romans makes clear that no one can penetrate the mystery and depth and any attempt to do so is futile. God is indeed a mystery and we will never be able to know him fully. One can only accept this fact humbly and realize its truth.

However, the fact is that in every generation, in every century in every epoch of time, there have been and are people who attempt to be more religious than God himself and some who attempt to be more Catholic than the Pope. Such people try to make others feel irreligious, guilty and not very good inside, like weeds in a field of wheat. As humans we are often quick to judge. We want to remove the obstacles in our way, get rid of, or avoid people who disagree with us. We want to make life as simple, as easy, and as straightforward as possible. And unfortunately, many people throughout history have taken it upon themselves to choose who belongs in the field and who should be weeded out.

But we are called today to recognize that it is not for us place to judge others. Our task is not to judge how others should live their lives, for that is between them and God. Our task is to think and judge for ourselves how we should live our own lives. By weighing what we see, feel, and discern, in the context of community, we are given the chance to choose whether we will let what is good grow in us or what is evil. We are called to be wheat as far as possible.

Nothing can stop God’s work in Christ. His kingdom is forever. Even when it is difficult to discern signs of the kingdom, because the field might seem to us to be full of weeds, we must continue to remember that the wheat will continue to grow.

In the meantime we have to accept the fact that we live in a world that has both wheat and weeds. But who can identify weeds? Can we pull up every plant that looks vaguely suspicious?

The truth is that none of us is completely free of evil. As someone once said, “there is more bad in the best of us, and more good in the worst of us, than any of us, in this life, will ever know.” This is all the more reason to leave the sorting of good and evil to God who is patient, merciful and wise. We need to spend our time trying to be wheat in the world rather than pull up weeds. At the harvest, that is what will matter most.

Friday 21 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 22, 2017 the feast of Mary Magdalene

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Saturday, July 22, 2017 - St. Mary Magdalene - Will you like Mary Magdalene be an Apostle of the Ascension of Jesus? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Canticles (Song of Solomon) 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-2,11-18

Except for Mary, few women are honoured in the Bible as Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned by all four evangelists as being present at the empty tomb. In the Gospel of John she is the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.

After Peter and the beloved disciple see the empty tomb with the linen cloths, they return home. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (1:38). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground. Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.

Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so. Jesus will not allow this. Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.

Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension. For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.

Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.

Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Audio reflections of Friday, July 21, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Friday, July 21, 2017 click HERE

Friday, July 21, 2017 - How often do rules rule you? Will you try to rule rules today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 11:10-12:14; Mt 12:1-8

The story, which forms the text of today, may be termed as a Sabbath controversy. Matthew refers here to Sabbath for the first time in his gospel. The point of contention is not very clear in Matthew, because the law permitted a person passing through a neighbour’s grain field to pluck heads of corn and eat them (Deut 23:23-25). 

The point here seems to be whether such an act could be done on the Sabbath. While in Mark the Pharisees ask a question, in Matthew, they are clearly hostile and make a charge. In his response to the Pharisees, Jesus quotes refers to the story of David in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where David went beyond the rule to the need of his men. If David could do such a thing, then Jesus who is greater than David can do so even more. The Matthean Jesus also refers to the text from Numbers 28:9-10 where the priests in the Temple sacrifice there on the Sabbath, indicating that sacrifice is greater than the Sabbath. Since mercy is greater than sacrifice, it is surely greater than the Sabbath.

Reaching out in love to anyone in need takes precedence over every rule, law and regulation. It is the human who must always come first. The rule, law and regulation follows. 

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Thursday, July 20, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections  of Thursday, July 20, 2017 click HERE

Thursday, July 20, 2017 - What is it that is tiring you? Will you lay it at the feet of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 3:13-20;  Mt 11:28-30

Jesus invites all those who are burdened to come to him for rest. The burden in this context seems to be that of the law and its obligations. When Jesus invites the burdened to take his yoke, which is easy, he is not inviting them to a life of ease, but to a deliverance from any kind of artificiality or the blind following of rules and regulations. The disciple must learn from Jesus who is in Matthew “the great teacher”. The rest that Jesus offers is the rest of salvation.

We can get so caught up today with wanting to have more that we might lose sight of the meaning of life itself. The desire to acquire more and more and be regarded as successful based on what we possess sometimes leads to missing out on so much that life has to offer.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Audio reflections of Wednesday, July 19, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Wednesday, July 19, 2017 click HERE

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - Is your pride preventing you from encountering Jesus? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 3:1-6,9-12; Mt 11:25-27

This text is addressed to all those who accept the message of Jesus unlike those in Chorazin and Bethsaida. Jesus begins his prayer here by giving thanks to the Father. It is openness to the revelation of God that Jesus makes which is responsible for the receipt of this enormous privilege. 

Acknowledging Jesus is not a matter of one’s superior knowledge or insight, but given as a gift to those who open themselves to this revelation. Jesus himself is an example of such openness, which allowed him to receive everything directly from God. It is his intimacy with the Father and not his religious genius, which is responsible for this grace. 

Monday 17 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Tuesday, July 18, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Tuesday, July 18, 2017 click HERE

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - If you were a resident of Chorazin or Bethsaida how would you respond to the woes?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 2:1-15; Mt 11:20-24

The woes pronounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida are because of the refusal of the people in them to repent. The people of these towns did believe in the miracles, but this belief did not translate into a change of mind, which was the primary purpose of the miracles that Jesus worked. Also, the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon that were regarded as biblical symbols of evil would fare better on the day of judgement that Chorazin and Bethsaida.

The miraculous and extra-ordinary cannot always sustain faith, which is a gift from God to anyone who wants to receive it and is willing to open the heart and mind. More often than not a kind word or a gentle touch can lead people to repentance.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Audio reflections of Monday, July 17, 2017

To hear the Audio reflections of Monday, July 17, 2017 click HERE

Monday, July 17, 2017 - How will you reveal Jesus to at least one person who does not know him?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 1:8-14,22; Mt 10:34-11:1

These verses make up the conclusion of Matthew’s Mission Discourse. The choice is a difficult one to make and sometimes it may be between even family and one’s conscience. Loyalty to Jesus has priority over loyalty to anyone else or anything, indeed even over life itself. If one is willing to share the cross of Jesus, one will also be given the privilege of his authority. The discourse ends with the affirmation that the disciple is always a representative or ambassador of Jesus and any good done to the disciple will be considered as good done to Jesus himself.

We must keep in mind that the only Jesus that people today can see and touch is the Jesus that we make known through our words and actions. He has allowed us to share in his mission. This is also an enormous privilege, but entails a tremendous responsibility. 

Saturday 15 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Sunday, July 16, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Sunday, July 16, 2017 click HERE

Sunday, July 16, 2017 - Do what you have to do and do not worry about the result

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23;Mt 13:1-23

The Gospel readings for this Sunday and the next two Sundays are from what is known as the Parable Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. It is thus necessary to understand the meaning of the word ‘parable’ in order to appreciate the text. The word ‘parable’ (in Hebrew mashal; in Greek parabole) signifies in general a comparison, or a parallel, a casting side by side, by which one thing is used to illustrate another. It is a likeness taken from the sphere of real, or sensible, or earthly incidents, in order to convey an ideal, or spiritual, or heavenly meaning. This meaning is not given by the one telling the parable but by the listener.

A visit to an artist friend of mine brought out powerfully the meaning of a parable. As I viewed all his paintings, I was struck by one and was anxious to know what it meant. I asked him for the meaning, but he was elusive. I began to judge him as selfish and proud and, in my irritation; I kept insisting that he tell me the meaning, alleging that perhaps even he did not know it. “Tell me what it means”. I demanded. He looked at me as only a friend will look and said, “If I tell you, that is all you will ever see there”. Jesus too, by using parables, allowed the listener to supply the lesson.

Aware of the image from Isaiah of the word of God as rain and snow that nurture a fruitful seed and do not return until their purpose is accomplished, Matthew wrestles with the ‘failure’ of the words of Jesus to produce the desired effect in the disciples. The fates of the seeds (three fourths of which are apparently lost) are an index of ways in which followers of Jesus seem to fail and thus be tempted to give up and give in. But there is also the assurance from Isaiah that the soil will produce astonishing results.

In the initial parable we are in touch not only with a Jesus who offers images of hope, but one who expresses his own hope as opposition mounts. As for Jesus and Paul (as he says in his letter to the Romans), creation becomes a text that leads us deeper into the mysteries of God, Even human failures will not overwhelm the power of God’s word to take root in rich soil. Like all parables, this too poses a question: As we look around our world, where can we find images and messages of hope amid repeated losses and ever-recurring human failure?

We should remember that, these days, this parable is about us. That is, we are the sowers, we are the ones called to “go out to sow,” to try to live as our faith calls us to live, to try to share our faith in word and deed with those whom God puts in our path; the share the love of God so abundantly given to us and to do so optimistically and with the sure hope that growth will take place even if at first glance it seems to us that much is being lost.

This sharing has to involve action. It has to involve reaching out to people, serving and caring, and risking. However, soon we are going to wonder whether it’s worth it; we are going to wonder whether anything of value or meaning is going to come from all of our efforts. We will wonder, because we will notice that a whole lot of what we do is wasted. Nothing much seems to come of it. This is why this prediction must have really shocked the people who heard this parable and shocks us even today. This is about the yield, the harvest. Seven or eight fold was hoped for. Ten fold was phenomenal, and anything above that was simply unheard of. To promise this sort of result (thirty, sixty and a hundred fold) was more than optimistic; it was to live in a whole different order of creation; it was to operate out of a whole different vision.

To sow with this sort of hope and vision is to have the perspective of the Kingdom of God. With this vision we will not mind the birds or the rocks or the thorns or whatever else may get in the way. All of that just does not matter. It is swallowed up in the promise of the whole enterprise.

This perspective – the promise of a vast harvest – is at the heart of this parable. This message of hope and confidence is the gift of the parable. We are to love and to serve in broadcast fashion, knowing full well that most of what we do will not seem to amount to anything, that failure and loss might stare us in the face, but trusting, nonetheless, in the incomprehensible abundance of the harvest. Certainly, much will be wasted, at least as we see it. Maybe even our very favorite seed, our best, most self-sacrificing good deed our smartest remark, our greatest insight, will end up on the path, or even fall among thorns, But that is not ours to control; it is not ours to worry about.

We do not focus on the result of our action. We focus solely on the action that we must perform and leave the worrying and the harvest to the Lord of the harvest. We plunge into the din of battle but leave our hearts at the feet of the Lord. What God will make of our efforts is more than we can imagine.

Friday 14 July 2017

Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 15, 2017

To hear the Audio Reflections of Saturday, July 15, 2017 click HERE

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - Do you give up or give in when difficulties come your way? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Will you continue to persevere and trust today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 49:29-33; 50:15-26; Mt 10:24-33

In the verses of today, a parallel is drawn between the disciples who are sent by Jesus and Jesus himself. The disciples will share the same fate as their master. His response to negative assessment of his mission was equanimity and this must be the response of the disciples’ as well. They must not retaliate, but continue to persevere in the firm hope that they will eventually succeed. 

They are asked to be fearless in mission. The command “not to be afraid” is repeated twice in these verses. The reason for their fearlessness is that the Father is in control even if all evidence is to the contrary. If they remain faithful they will show themselves to be true disciples.

We often begin things with a bang and then end them with a whimper. This is because sometimes our enthusiasm runs away with us. What is required is perseverance and this is more likely if we start slowly and steadily (as Jesus himself did) and then let things build up gradually than if we start with much fanfare, which soon fizzles out.