To hear the Audio Reflections of Thursday, November 1, 2018 All Saints Day click HERE
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
To read the texts click on the texts:Rev 7:2-4,9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3;Mt5:1-12
“I want to be in that number when the Saints go marching in”. These words from the popular spiritual song “When the Saints Go Marching In” can be regarded as one of the two important reasons why we celebrate the feast of All Saints.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a new chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all saints on November 1, and he fixed the anniversary of this dedication as the date of the feast. In the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration of All Saints for the entire Church and since then, the Church celebrates the feast of all Saints on this date.
While the celebration of this solemnity may be seen on the one hand as a remembrance or memorial of the numerous courageous men and women who lived lives of selfless love, it may also be seen as an event which makes each of us aware that we, too, as those who have gone before, are capable of living such lives. It is a celebration of possibilities, potential and promise. They could, we also can.
This possibility and potential is brought out vividly in the first reading from the Book of Revelation. While on the one hand there are the chosen one hundred and forty four thousand made up of twelve thousand each from the twelve tribes of Israel, there is also the great multitude from every nation and tribe and language. This great multitude is a demonstration that the possibility of being included is a very real one and that everyone who desires it can receive it. While it is true that the choice is made by God, we as humans can desire it by being willing to be washed in the blood of the lamb. This means the willingness to undergo persecution, trials and tribulations and resisting the pressure to conform to values of the “world” which include selfishness and self centeredness.
This willingness not to conform is precisely the reason why, in the Gospel text of today, Jesus can declare as “blessed”, those who in the eyes of the world might seem as those who are cursed. This declaration is a confident assertion of the reality that is now and here. The beatitudes are not a “wish list” nor a projection of the future state of what is to come. They are not conditions for discipleship or preliminary requirements for an initiate. Rather, they describe those who belong to the community of the Lord. They describe the Saints.
The nine pronouncements, or declarations, are thus not statements about general human virtues. Rather, they pronounce blessing on authentic disciples in the Christian community. All the beatitudes apply to one group of people. They do not describe nine different kinds of good people who get to go to heaven, but are nine declarations about the blessedness, contrary to all appearances, of the eschatological community living in anticipation of God’s reign.
“Poor in spirit” definitely includes being economically poor, but goes further than literal poverty. It refers also to an absence of arrogance and the presence of dependence. It refers to an absence of ego and a presence of awareness that one’s true identity is found only in God.
The “mourning” of disciples is not because of the loss of something personal or because of the death of a loved one. It is a mourning that is outward in that the mourning is because things are the way they are. The mourning is because God’s will is not being done and represents also a desire to do it. It is mourning because of what is not and also because of what can be.
Meekness in the third beatitude represents not a passive attitude of endurance or as is sometimes understood: gullibility. Rather it is an active disposition that will refuse to use violent means. This refusal does not represent inability, weakness or impotence. It represents instead a deliberate choice of one’s way of proceeding.
This is also what is meant by the desire or hunger for righteousness or justice. It is the courage to do God’s will here and now with the confidence and optimism that the kingdom is indeed now and here.
The disciples are pure in heart or have a single minded devotion to God and will not be swayed by things that are temporary and passing. They will not be divided or serve two masters. They will serve the Lord and the Lord alone.
This single minded service of the Lord will also enable them to work for peace and reconciliation. They will bring together people of different experiences, races, religions, and languages not through any kind of coercion or force, but through the example of consecrated and selfless lives. All this they will do with a deep sense of joy, because they know that this is really the only way to live fully and completely the life that God in his graciousness has bestowed.
It is the same God who calls them his children and to whom he is Father. The disciples know that this is indeed what they are because they live lives that are in keeping with their call.
The elder who invited John to identify those robed in white continues to invite us not only to identify them today, but also to have the confidence that, if we dare to live as Jesus has lived and shown us and as the Saints who have gone before us have lived, then we too can be counted in that number.
Thursday, November 1, 2018 - All saints day - Rev 7:2-4,9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3;Mt 5:1-12
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 6:1-9; Lk 13:22-30
The first verse of today’s text 13:22, reintroduces the journey motif, which began in 9:51, where we were told that Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem.
In response to a question of whether only a few will be saved, Jesus responds not with a direct answer, but by placing the onus of entry into the kingdom on each individual’s shoulders. This is because while the door is open, it does not necessarily mean that anyone will enter it. God will not force a person to enter if he/she does not want to do so.
While Jesus does not explicate what striving to enter through the narrow door entails, he states clearly that once the door has been shut, it will not be opened to those who presume that the Lord knows them. This means that the believer is challenged to do what he/she has to do and not presume or take for granted that salvation is assured and especially if one is not willing to receive it. God’s grace is abundant but can only be received by those who want to receive it.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I …. I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost)
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - Eph 6:1-9; Lk 13:22-30
Monday, 29 October 2018
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 - Have you sometimes been tempted to give in to despair when you look at the injustice, corruption and negatives around you? Will these parables help give you hope?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 5:21-33; Lk 13:18-21
In the two parables that make up the text of today, we once again find the mention of a man and a woman. While in the first parable of the mustard seed, it is a “man” who sows, in the second parable of the yeast; it is a “woman” who mixes it.
The parable of the mustard seed is found also in Mark and Matthew, whereas the parable of the yeast is in Matthew but not in Mark.
The Lukan version of the parable of the mustard seed is the shortest of the three. It lacks the description of the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds (Mt 13:31; Mk 4:31) or the mature plant as “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mt 13:32; Mk 4:32). The point that Luke seems to be making by omitting these details is that rather than compare the kingdom to a mighty cedar, he describes it is terms of an insignificant seed. The emphasis, therefore, is not on future glory, but on the present sign of its presence. Though like the mustard seed the Kingdom seems small, it is still present, even though it cannot be seen as clearly as some would like to. In Luke, it is a parable of the beginnings of the kingdom and not on its final manifestation. The people expected a spectacular, extra-ordinary cedar, but Jesus preferred to bring the kingdom as insignificantly as a mustard seed.
The point of the parable of the yeast in Luke is not the same as the point being made in the parable of the mustard seed. In this parable it is a clearly a case of small beginnings contrasted with great endings. While the quantity of yeast is not specified, the use of the word “hid’, indicates that it is an extremely small quantity. In contrast the three measures of flour that are leavened are the equivalent of fifty pounds of flour, enough to make bread for about One hundred fifty people. The kingdom like the yeast will eventually leaven the whole of humanity.
While the parable of the mustard seed dramatises the presence of the kingdom in its insignificant beginnings, the parable of the yeast reminds us that even small beginnings are powerful and eventually change the character of the whole.
When we realise that with the motley crew that Jesus chose he could achieve so much in the world, then we realise that his words in the parable are indeed true. The kingdom does have insignificant beginnings, but even this insignificant or small beginning has resulted and will continue to result in great endings.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 - Eph 5:21-33; Lk 13:18-21
Sunday, 28 October 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018 - Has your adherence to rules and regulations sometime blinded you from love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 4:32- 5:8; Lk 13:10-17
In Luke, scenes involving a man are often balanced with scenes involving a woman.
The healing of a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years which is our text for today is paralleled with the healing of a man with dropsy (Lk 14:1-6). Like this healing that one too occurs on the Sabbath, and in both there is a controversy with a leader of the synagogue. In both miracles there is a pronouncement as well as a healing, and in both Jesus invites his opponents to reason what they should do for a fellow human being from what they would do for an ox.
This is the last time in Luke that Jesus enters a synagogue, though he will continue to teach even in later chapters.
In this incident, the main point that is made is that concern over the suffering of fellow human beings takes precedence over obligations related to keeping the Sabbath.
Love takes precedence over rules and regulations. The number eighteen (the number of years for which the woman was sick) does not seem to have any special significance except that it is a long period of time and is probably to link this scene with the previous one in which eighteen persons perished when the tower of Siloam fell (Lk13:4). Jesus heals the woman by both a pronouncement and a laying on of hands. The latter may also be taken to indicate the conferral of a blessing on the woman.
The leader of the synagogue does not address Jesus directly, but speaks to the crowd and expresses his indignation that a healing took place on the Sabbath. His focus is not on the wholeness of the woman but on the breaking of the law. Jesus too, in his response addresses the crowd and challenges his opponents to reason from the lesser to the greater. Since a bound animal would surely be unbound even if the day were a Sabbath, a human person who had been bound would most definitely be unbound. The result of Jesus’ pronouncement is that all his opponents were put to shame. It seems that while the woman was only physically crippled, the leader of the synagogue was spiritually crippled.
It is possible that because of our myopic vision we might sometimes lose sight of the larger picture. While it is good to have our own point of view, we must also keep in mind that ours is one point of view and there will be others, and therefore ours will not necessarily be the correct one.
Monday, October 29, 2018 - Eph 4:32- 5:8; Lk 13:10-17
Saturday, 27 October 2018
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
The promise of a return to the Promised Land is one of many instances in The Old Testament in which God’s deliverance is seen as belonging to the real and material world of human existence. It is a promise in time and space and is not limited only to a spiritual realm. While this is seen clearly in the First reading of today, it is even clearer in the Gospel text in which Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus. If, in the words of Jeremiah, God is shepherd and keeper of his people, for Mark, God is one who restores wholeness.
The tone of the reading from Jeremiah is one of sheer joy, hope, and confidence. It is not the strong whom God will gather but the helpless and the weak. The ones gathered are those who are unable to take care of themselves and those who depend on the Lord for their salvation. These will be led by a smooth path and they will not stumble because it is the Lord himself who will go ahead of them.
The privilege of being led by God is a blessing, not only for the covenant people, but through them, for all the earth. Something in the very heart of God is moved by suffering, and hurt, and pain, by the plight of the mocked and the ridiculed, the lonely and the desolate, the besieged and the afflicted. The Lord will not let the uncared for remain that way. He will not let the taunts of the mockers go untended. This is what we know to be at the very center of the revelation of the love of God—in both the story of Israel and particularly, in the story of Jesus Christ. The grace of God always triumphs over the judgment of God.
This fact is made absolutely clear in the Gospel text of today when we read how blind Bartimaeus is healed. This is the last miracle before Jesus can enter Jerusalem to suffer and to die and thus, is significant. Though the crowd tries to silence him, Bartimaeus will not be silenced. His faith in the power of Jesus to make him whole prompts him to keep pleading. Bartimaeus’ faith is rewarded by Jesus and Bartimaues is able to see again. It is significant to note that, though physically blind, Bartimaeus is able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This is evident in the title that he uses to address Jesus – “Son of David”. However, Jesus is not merely Son of David; he is also Son of God. The plea of Bartimaeus – “have mercy on me” is an indication of the fact that the mercy of God is given generously and freely to those who ask. God wants to give. What is lacking is not his desire to give, but our perseverance in asking.
This God, who wants to give, was made manifest in Jesus. Jesus, a God who knows completely the sufferings and trials of the human race. As a matter of fact, Jesus becoming human enables him to understand every aspect of human life, its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its good times and bad times. This is why he is able to deal gently with those who go astray and with those who are in need of healing and wholeness.
The God revealed in Jesus goes even further than God went with the people of old. The God revealed in Jesus promises not merely a return to a promised land but a return to new life itself. This he does through the very tangible action of giving himself over to death on a Cross. He died so that we might live and live fully.
To be sure, blindness, deafness, lameness, paralysis, and other illnesses, continue to plague humanity. We are still a long way off from the wholeness that Jesus proclaimed and brought to those around him. Yet the fact remains that this is what we, as disciples of Jesus, are called to continue to proclaim and to bring. Do we lack the power to bring healing and wholeness to others today? No. Does God not want to make people whole? No. We are unable to bring healing and wholeness to others because we lack the will to ask and the determination to believe. We give up even before we can try. We do not persevere. The negatives around us have taken such a hold of us that they dominate our lives and do not allow us to be optimistic and positive. The problems that we encounter sometimes overwhelm us and do not allow us the courage to hope.
The remnants who are brought back to the Promised Land and Blind Bartimaeus offer us a lesson in hope, faith, and perseverance. Their hope, faith, and perseverance helped them to receive the blessing that God wanted to grant them. It helped them to return to the Promised Land and to be restored to wholeness. Our hope, faith, and perseverance can help us to achieve healing and wholeness as well.
Sunday, October 28, 2018 - Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
Friday, 26 October 2018
Saturday, October 27, 2018 - If you were given only one more day to live, what are the things that you would do? What is preventing you from doing these today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 4:7-16; Lk 13:1-9
The warnings and admonitions regarding the coming judgement that began in 12:1, reach their conclusion here with a call to repentance.
Jesus uses two sayings to make the same point. The first is about the calamity that occurred when Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and when the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people. Though no other historical reports narrate these incidents, there may be some historical background to the first one. Josephus the Jewish historian does narrate many incidents, which confirm that Pilate shed much blood.
In the incidents that Jesus narrates, however, he makes clear that what is required on the part of the human person is not the focus on sin and its consequences but on repentance, which means the acquisition of a new mind, a new heart and a new vision.
Near Eastern wisdom literature contains stories of unfruitful trees and the story of the barren fig tree is similar to the stories found there. While in the story as told by the Lucan Jesus there is mercy, it is still a warning of the urgency of repentance.
Each new day brings with it new hope and a new opportunity to right the wrongs that we may have done, to say the kind word that we ought to have said and to do the good that we ought to have done.
Saturday, October 27, 2018 - Eph 4:7-16; Lk 13:1-9
Thursday, 25 October 2018
Friday, October 26, 2018 - Where in the scale of “attention to detail” does your devotion to the teachings of the Lord rank?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 4:1-6; Lk 12:54-59
The warnings about the coming judgement continue in the Gospel reading of today.
The text contains two clusters of sayings addressed to the crowds. They are charged with hypocrisy in the first of the two clusters for not being as observant of the signs of the coming judgement as they are of the weather. If they pay attention to the slightest sign of change in the weather, then they must also pay attention to the present time, which is the time of Jesus and his works and words.
In the second they are warned to make every effort to settle accounts so that they may be blameless when they are brought to court.
While we must keep in touch with what is happening around us so that our responses to different situations can be adequate, it is also important to keep in touch with what is happening in us. This means that while we need to take good care of our physical and material well being, we must not do it at the cost of our spiritual well being.
Compromise is often better than confrontation. When it is not a matter of one’s principles or when one is not called to do something against one’s conscience then it is better to compromise when some conflict arises. This approach saves energy, time and money.
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 3:14-21; Lk 12:49-53
The verses of today contain three pronouncements regarding the nature of Jesus’ mission. The first is that he has come to cast fire on the earth. Fire is used as an image of God’s judgement, but ironically when it comes on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts, 2:3), it is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the crisis of judgement is never far away.
The second is about his own baptism, which may be an allusion to his death or to the conflict and distress in which he would be immersed. This governs his whole life. Until he completes his mission, he will not be satisfied.
The third is about the division that his mission will cause. Although the kingdom of God is characterised by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that kingdom is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. Though this announcement will indeed cause stress and division, Jesus will not shy away from it because it is the Mission given to him by his Father. Anyone who commits him/herself to Jesus must also then be prepared for the opposition that they will face.
The reason why the announcement of the kingdom brings division is because it calls for a radical change of heart and mind. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.
Thursday, October 25, 2018 - Eph 3:14-21; Lk 12:49-53
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward, or are you good because it is good to be good?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 3:2-12; Lk 12:39-48
The text of today is the one immediately after Jesus has begun to exhort his disciples’ to watchfulness (12:35-38).
Based on instructions given in earlier contexts, however, readiness here means trust in God as a heavenly Father, putting away all hypocrisy, handling one’s material possessions faithfully, obeying the ethic of the kingdom, and making life a matter of constant prayer.
Peter’s question regarding whether this “parable” was for the disciples alone or for everyone, does not receive a direct answer from Jesus. However, in his response to the question, Jesus responds with another “parable”, which is about the faithful and unfaithful servant/slave. While there will be a reward for the faithful servant, there will be punishment for the unfaithful servant. God will seek much from those to whom he has given much, because everything has been given in trust.
Each of us has a specific role to play in the world, which is confirmed by the fact that we are unique and that there is not one else exactly like us anywhere. Since this is the case, we have to be faithful to that to which we are called. If we do not do what we have to do, no one else will do it and it will remain undone. Besides this it will also mean that we have been negligent in our duty and not appreciated enough the uniqueness of our creation.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - Eph 3:2-12; Lk 12:39-48
Monday, 22 October 2018
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - Do you live one moment of one day at a time or are you living only in the future?
to read the texts click on the texts: Eph 2:12-22; Lk 12:35-38
The sayings in these verses are a call to watchfulness and readiness.
The call to be dressed for action would mean literally to draw up the longer outer garment and tuck it into the sash around one’s waist so as to be prepared for strenuous activity. If the servants/disciples are so ready, they will be able to be prompt in responding to the master’s knock, and will be blessed. This blessing will take the form of a reversal of roles. The master will become servant/slave.
The time of the coming of the master is not known and he may come at any time, but if the servant/disciple is always ready, he/she will be blessed.
It is not difficult for us as Christians to relate to this reversal of roles, simply because our God in Jesus has already become slave. It is now left to us as servants to be ready at all times.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - Eph 2:12-22; Lk 12:35-38
Sunday, 21 October 2018
Monday, October 22, 2018 - Do you possess things, or do things possess you? If God were to call you to himself at this moment would you be ready to go?
To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 2:1-10; Lk 12:13-21
The text begins with someone in the crowd asking Jesus to serve as judge in the division of an inheritance. While Jesus will not accept this role, he points the man and the crowd to a different understanding of the meaning of wealth and life.
This different understanding is explicated through a parable, which is found exclusively in Luke. It is about a rich man who had more than he required and soon became possessed by his riches. This possession leads him to focus on making provision to store his great wealth so that he can use it exclusively for himself in future. It is self-centeredness at its worst. The only ones in the parable are the rich man and his wealth.
In the midst of all his planning and calculations, God speaks to him addressing him as “fool”. There is a sharp contrast between the rich man’s planning for “many years” and the “this very night” of God. It is clear that first of all when God calls, he will have to go and second that when he goes he can take nothing of what he has stored with him. There is the very real danger of forgetting God if one allows oneself to be possessed by one’s riches.
The manner in which some of us accumulate things seems to indicate on the one hand that we think we are going to live forever and on the other hand that even if we have to die that we can take all of which we have accumulated. The parable of today calls us to realise first that we can be called at any time and hence must live in such a manner that we will have no regrets no matter when that might be and second that whenever we are called we can take nothing of what we have gathered together but will have to leave it all behind. Thus while planning for the future may be necessary, obsession with the future is uncalled for.