Monday, 31 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Cor 2:1-16; Lk 4:31-37
Immediately after leaving the synagogue, Jesus works a miracle. This miracle is the healing of a man possessed by a demon, thus putting into action immediately the manifesto he had spoken about.
This exorcism is the first of the four exorcisms in the Gospel of Luke. The unclean spirit refers to Jesus here as Jesus of Nazareth and as the Holy one of God, which is a title Luke has taken from Mark, since it does not appear again in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus exorcises the demon with a command.
It is interesting to note that the people who witnessed the miracle refer to it not as an action but as a teaching simply because there was never a separation between the words and deeds of Jesus, there was never a separation between what Jesus said and did.
Sunday, 30 August 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020 - Do you agree with the manifesto of Jesus? How will you help him put it into action today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 2:1-5; Lk 4:16-30
“Nazareth’ has figured prominently in the Infancy Narratives of Luke, but Luke reminds us that it was where Jesus had been brought up. Jesus is faithful to the tradition he received from his fore fathers, and does not flout rules for the sake of flouting them. He is not an armchair critic. Standing to read was customary. While he taught, he would sit. There were many parts to the worship in a Jewish synagogue, and various people might have been asked to lead in reading or praying. Luke’s description of Jesus finding the place where the verses quoted from Isaiah occur probably means that Jesus himself chose this passage. The scriptures would be read in Hebrew and then interpreted in Aramaic. Jesus could have chosen a text which spoke about the glory of the Prophet, or about God’s Chosen One (see for example Isaiah 63), yet, he chooses a text where he will as Prophet and Chosen One spend himself in service.
The reading is from Isa 61,1-2a and 58,6. Luke, however, omits “to bind up the broken hearted of Isa 61,1 and adds from Isa 58,6, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. The threefold repetition of the pronoun “me” is an indication that this passage describes the ministry of Jesus rather than Isaiah. It is also important to note that Jesus in Luke does not go on to read the second part of Isaiah 61,2 “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
1. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. The “poor” figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (see Lk 14,13.21; 16,20.22; 18,22; 21,3).
2. Jesus released persons from various forms of bondage and oppression: economic (the poor), physical (the lame, the crippled); political the condemned) and demonic.
3. The restoration of sight to the blind was closely associated with the prophetic vision of fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. When Jesus restores sight to the blind (Lk 7,21-22; 18,35) he is dramatically fulfilling the role of the one who would be “ a light for the nations” (Lk 2,32).
4. “the acceptable year of the Lord” In Isaiah, this term refers to the Jubilee year legislation in Lev. 25. Following a series of seven sevens (forty nine), the fiftieth year was to be a time of liberty (Lev 25,10). The coming of Jesus means that the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come.
Jesus followed the usual practice of rolling the scroll and giving it back to the attendant. The posture of sitting was the usual posture when teaching. (See how in Mt 5,1-2 when Jesus goes up to the mountain, he sits down before beginning to teach). Through his first words to the people in the synagogue, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”, Jesus conveys that the centuries of waiting on God’s blessing and promises have ended.
There is initial enthusiasm for Jesus’ announcement. This is a positive response to what he has said. They are happy because what they hear suits them. It fits in with their way of thinking. The question, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” need not be hostile, especially because earlier Luke reports that all spoke well of him. It might be paraphrased in this manner; who would have thought that someone who grew up in our village could reach so far?
Jesus interprets the crowd to say that he must begin in his own hometown what he has been doing in so many other places. They are ready to receive God’s blessing.
While this proverb, “Truly (Amen) I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” is also found in Matthew (13,57), Mark (6,4) and John (4,44), the form varies. Luke is the only one of the four who introduces the proverb with “Amen”. In Luke like in John, there is no exception clause (which is found in Matthew and Mark –“except in his own country and in his own (house”). Luke changes the word “honour” found in the other three forms and substitutes it with “accepted”. The word “hometown” can also mean “home country”, and anticipates the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth and also in the whole of Israel. The examples of Elijah and Elisha serve as a reminder that God’s blessings are not restricted to only a few but are available for all. Also the blessings will not be forced on anyone, but must be accepted with an open heart as gift. The passive verbs imply God’s direction: God closed the heavens (4,25), God sent Elijah (4,26) and God cleansed Naaman (4,27 see also 2 Kings 5,1-14).
At first Jesus had seemed to be promising them the blessings. He was saying what they wanted to hear. But now, he had said something different. He had woken them from their stupor. He had challenged them to get out of their complacency. He had taken them beyond boundaries and stereotypes, and had spoken about the graciousness and magnanimity of God’s unmerited blessing.“went on his way” may be translated “he was going on”. Through this Luke makes clear that he does not want anyone to read that Jesus had a miraculous deliverance, but that Jesus would remain steadfast and resolute no matter what the consequences. Human power and objections could not come in the way of his mission to proclaim God’s justice and unconditional love.
Saturday, 29 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt. 16:21-27
It was the season of Lent and a teacher was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her Sunday school class. They got to the fourth Station where Jesus on the road to Calvary meets his mother. The teacher explained that even though this incident was not narrated by any of the four evangelists, it was very much part of the tradition of the Church and though they may not have talked to each other, mother and son would surely have spoken just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the children in her class. There were different answers. One boy suggested that Mary said, “This is unfair.” Another girl suggested that she said, “Why me?” Finally a sickly little girl raised her thin hand, got up and said: “Teacher, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to him, ‘My son, Keep on keeping on!’”
Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion to keep on keeping on? The mother of Jesus would understand that if Jesus did not go to his cross, he would not be fulfilling the will of his Father, and if he did not do that, his life would have no meaning whatever. The mother of Jesus would know that only in his cross would he find his meaning and only in death would he find new life. This is why she would encourage her son never to give up or give in, but to persevere all the way even to ignominy, self-denial, the cross and yes, death itself.
Today’s readings begin with an example of what is called in scriptural writings a lament. The prophet Jeremiah laments about unbearable pain, anger, and misery at unspeakable horrors and uncontrollable events that surround him in his life as a prophet of God’s Word. He is hostile towards God whom he believes has “seduced” or “duped” him, and he is convinced that he will no more mention God or speak in God’s name. Yet, even as he says this, he realizes that he cannot abandon his prophetic mission which is a fire burning in his heart, imprisoned in his bones. He is compelled from within to proclaim God’s word. The Word of God that comes to him, in response to his outburst of rage, is disquieting. He becomes aware that the misery is not going to stop or go away. There will be no respite from his torments and horrors. God simply assures Jeremiah of his presence, to strengthen him to withstand more misery. Jeremiah must continue to believe even in his unbelief, he must continue to have faith even in his lack of faith. He must keep on keeping on.
Peter’s objection to Jesus’ words of his passion, death and resurrection in the Gospel text of today sound like the first part of Jeremiah’s lament: Why must God’s son go to a Cross? Why must God’s son suffer? It would be nothing short of blasphemy for this to happen, and Peter states emphatically that this can never be. Surely there is another way. However, in his response to Peter, Jesus realizes like Jeremiah that it has to be this way. This is why Peter is called “Satan” which here is to be understood as one who intends to take Jesus away from his mission and so the will of his Father. Peter is a stumbling block, and Jesus will let nothing and no one stand between him and his Father’s will. He realizes that God’s word and will for him is so compelling that he cannot but fulfill it. It burns in his heart too like a fire that cannot be quenched. Difficult though it is to go to the Cross and though common sense and reason would rally against it, to the Cross he must and will indeed go.
Inspired by this example of Jesus, Paul in writing to the Romans urges them to imitate the Lord who did not conform to this world but dared to offer his body as a living and holy sacrifice to God.
Often in our lives like Jeremiah and Peter, each of us comes across something that is for all intents and purposes unbearable. Millions of people all over the world do not have enough to eat and are malnourished while others have more than they will ever need. Numerous people have no roof over their heads while others build mansions and palatial homes. A baby dies at birth, another is born deformed. Sooner or later, bearing the unbearable, we realize how little control we have over so much that damages our society and ourselves. Grief, rage, anger, and fear flash to the surface of consciousness and we wonder then about the kind of God that we believe in. Can this be the God of love? Can this be the God who demands justice? Can this be the God who makes no distinction between persons? Can this be the God of the poor and downtrodden? Why must the world we live in be filled with so much misery and pain?
When we are bearing the unbearable and are not able to fully understand it, we need a God who has suffered the depths of weakness, hopelessness, helplessness and even despair as we ourselves do. No other God can be trusted or hope to understand, and this is the Good News of God in Christ. Whatever the unbearable suffering, whatever the uncontrollable events that afflict and grieve us to the core of our being, God has seen it, known it, experienced it and taken it into his own life in Jesus who was crucified, who died and who was raised on the third day. This is why we cannot and must not take suffering out of the Jesus story since it says to us not that God has obliterated or removed everything that is unbearable in human misery, not that God has taken away all cause for pain and anger in human life, not even that God controls all things, but that God is the one who bears the misery, pain and helplessness with us and for us. By bearing the unbearable, God overcomes it and faithfully keeps the conversation open for life.
Friday, 28 August 2020
Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.
Avoid making important decisions when too upset or too excited
Saturday, August 29, 2020 - The Beheading of John the Baptist - Does it make sense to lose your head?
To read the texts click on the texts:Jer1:17-19; Mk 6:17-29
Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.
While Mark has mentioned Herodians before (3:6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2:1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14,1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34).
Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. The daughter of Herodias is not named here or anywhere in the Bible, nor does the Bible give her age. According to Mark a drunken Herod is trapped into fulfilling a rash vow and so has John beheaded.
Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.
Thursday, 27 August 2020
Friday, August 28, 2020 - Is there enough oil in the lamp of your life? If not what will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Cor 1:17-25; Mt 25:1-13
In the parable of today we will hear of the ten bridesmaids, five of whom were prepared and five unprepared, five of whom had oil and five of whom who did not. We are told that five were foolish and five were wise right at the beginning of the parable, because we cannot tell this just be looking at them. All ten have come to the wedding; all ten have their lamps burning; all ten presumably have on their gowns. The readiness is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish.. Five are ready for the delay and five are not. Five have enough oil for the wedding to start whenever the bridegroom arrives; the foolish ones have only enough oil for their own timetable.It is easy to be good for a day if goodness is seen only as a means to an end. It is easy to be merciful for a day if mercy is seen only as a means to an end. However, if we see goodness and mercy and everything that is positive as an end in itself, then it is possible to be good and merciful and positive always. We are called then to be like the wise ones with our lamps always burning so that we will then be able to welcome the Lord whenever he comes.
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Cor 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51
We will hear for the next few days’ readings from Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which are known as the Eschatological Discourse. The word Eschatological comes from the Greek word “Eschaton” that means “the last things”, “the things of the afterlife”. In these chapters, Jesus speaks to all the people about how they must behave in the present, if they are to expect to be judged with mercy in the future. In the text of today, the disciples are asked to “stay awake”, because no one knows when the hour of departure will be. The disciples are called to be busy with the assigned mission not with apocalyptic speculation. The wise servant is the one who obeys not calculates.
Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - How will you ensure that your being is good today so that your works too might be good? Your clothes may be in the right place, your hair might be in the right place, but is your heart in the right place?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Thess 3:6-10,16-18; Mt 23:27-32
The text of today contains the sixth (23:27-28) and seventh (23:29–36) woes begun in 23:13. The sixth Woe concerns “whitewashed tombs”. As a public service, tombs were whitewashed to make them more obvious, since contact with the dead and with graves, even if unintentional, transmitted ritual impurity (Num 19:11-22). This was especially important to pilgrims at Passover time, who would not know the places they visited. The point that Matthew makes is “ostentatious exterior, corrupt interior”. The seventh and final Woe extends the tomb image and modulates into the concluding theme: The rejection of the prophets God has sent.
The challenge then to each one of us is to bother less about what we ought to do and think more about what we ought to be, because if our being were good then our works would shine forth brightly.
Monday, 24 August 2020
Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - If your being is good, then all you do will also be good. How will you ensure that your being is good today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Thess 2:1-3,14-17; Mt 23:23-26
The fourth (23:23-24) and fifth (23:25-26) woes against the Pharisees are about focussing on the insignificant matters and externals while forgetting what is significant and internal.
The Pharisees were extremely particular about tithing and to ensure that they did not err in this regard, tithed even small garden vegetables used for seasoning which Matthew mentions here as mint, dill and cumin and probably in order to correspond with justice and mercy and faith.
Gnat and Camel, which the Matthean Jesus contrasts in 23:24, were the smallest and largest living things in ordinary experience.
While the Matthean Jesus does not state that what the Pharisees are doing is wrong, his critique is that while focussing so much on these insignificant items, they lose sight of the larger picture. Too much focus on the external can also lead to forgetting the internal. What is on the outside is merely a reflection of what is within.
Sunday, 23 August 2020
Scepticism and cynicism are common among many people. While this is not a problem in itself, what causes the problem is when these lead to a closed attitude. In a world in which we refuse to believe unless we first see, Jesus seems to be saying to us like he said to Nathanael “First believe than you will see”.
Monday, August 24, 2020 - St. Bartholomew, Apostle - Is seeing believing or do we have to believe in order to see?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 21:9-14; Jn 1:45-51
Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified as Nathanael (mentioned in the first chapter of John's Gospel). According to the Gospel of John, he was brought to Jesus by Philip. It is Nathanael whom Jesus calls “an Israelite in whom there is no guile”. Though Nathanael is not mentioned in any list of the Twelve, Bartholomew is mentioned by all the Synoptic Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles. One reason why Bartholomew is identified as Nathanael is because in all the lists of the Twelve Bartholomew is named in the company of Philip.
Unlike the first two disciples who followed Jesus (1:35-40), here Jesus invites Philip to discipleship. Even more significant that the call of Philip, is what happens to Philip as a result of his call. He cannot remain silent about it and wants another to know and encounter Jesus. Thus, he finds Nathanael and bears witness about Jesus. This he does in two ways. He first points Jesus out as the fulfilment of all scripture and then he refers to him as “Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” This witness seems to bring out both divine and human origins of Jesus and once again reminds us of the mystery that Jesus is and continues to be. Immediately after Philip’s testimony, there is resistance on the part of Nathanael, yet Philip does not argue but responds in the words that Jesus had used to invite the first two disciples: “Come and see”.
Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though sceptical, he is willing to be convinced. Jesus addresses Nathanael as an “Israelite” which signifies his faithfulness to the law and is used here in a positive sense. He is without guile because though he has questions and even doubts, he is open and receptive and willing to learn. Jesus’ intimate knowledge of Nathanael and the revelation that he makes to him leads to a transformation in Nathanael and he comes to faith. He responds to Jesus with a confession and though he begins with Rabbi, he moves on to recognizing Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.
However, Jesus responds by pointing out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning of the revelation that Jesus makes. If he continues to remain open he will experience even greater things. By means of a double “Amen”, Jesus points out to Nathanael and to others there that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth. He will be that place and person in whom the earthly and divine encounter each other. He as Son of man will make God known.
Scepticism and cynicism are common among many people. While this is not a problem in itself, what causes the problem is when these lead to a closed attitude. In a world in which we refuse to believe unless we first see, Jesus seems to be saying to us like he said to Nathanael “First believe than you will see”.
Saturday, 22 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts: Is 22:19-23; Rom 11:33-36;Mt 16:13-20
A story is told of John XXIII who was Pope during the turbulent 1960s when it seemed that everything in the Church was falling apart. There was a crisis in the priesthood, in religious life, in married life, in faith, indeed in the Church. The Pope worked long and hard hours trying to address these problems. One evening, after an exhausting day in the office, he went to his private chapel to do his daily Holy Hour before retiring but he was too exhausted and too stressed out to focus or pray. After a few minutes of futile effort, he got up and said, “Lord, the Church belongs to you. I am going to bed.” Yes, the Church did and continues to belong to Christ. Peter and every one of us are the rocks on which the Church is built, but he is the builder.
There is a striking parallel between the first reading from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel text of today. The prophet denounces the master of the palace, Shebna, and says that the Lord will place another, the more worthy servant, Eliakim, in his place. Eliakim will have binding authority over David’s house, and the Lord will make him secure.
The text from Matthew portrays a similar investiture of power and authority. Jesus renames Simon as Peter, which means ‘Rock’ – the foundation on which he will build his Church. Though there is still some debate about who the rock is – Peter or Jesus, if one remembers that it is Jesus who builds, then one will not have too much difficulty with accepting Peter as the rock. Peter will also receive the keys of the kingdom and be given the power to bind and to loose, which will be ratified in heaven. The foundation for which authority and confidence is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Somewhat paradoxically, having altered Mark to enhance the role of Peter and make him the recipient of divine revelation and foundation of the Church, Matthew leaves virtually intact the subsequent misunderstanding of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection by Peter whom Jesus rebukes as “Satan” who “is not thinking as God does, but as humans do. This is an indication of how weak the foundation can be. The same Peter who was declared “blessed” a few verses earlier is now regarded as being against Jesus and all that he stands for. The whole story portrays blessedness on the one hand and brokenness on the other. It portrays insight on the one hand and lack of insight on the other. So the dangers are enormous. The Church has always been in danger of becoming one of the powers that it has been called to confront. That reality is lived out in history – on a grand scale, but also in each of us. Power, pomp and glory are very seductive.
Thus this incident which, in Mark, celebrates a turning point in recognizing who Jesus is, because in Matthew a celebration of what the Church is. Peter is representative, but it is significant that it is precisely Peter who represents. He is chosen as a leader, but he and the others are to be the Church, the community, who will be called to feed the multitudes and bring them God’s compassion.
They will also be the community who will often fail, and fall short of what it means to be Ekklesia or “those who are called out”. They will sometimes side with the powerful against the weak and with the “haves” against the ‘have-nots’. They will sometimes sink because of the fear that overwhelms them and because of their lack of faith, but they continue nevertheless to be called to be that “contrast community” who will show by their words and actions that the community of Jesus continues to be alive and that negative forces or evil can never overcome it. The Church, the historical and spiritual reality that Jesus is creating, is his and his alone. No one can create another Church. Christ’s Church can be built on no other foundation. We constantly relive this Gospel story, When we, like Simon, say to Jesus, “you are the Christ,” he says to each of us, “You, too, are Peter; you too are a rock, and with you I am building my Church.” What happened to Peter continues to happen to us.
Paul is clearly aware of this and so in his hymn to Divine Wisdom he affirms that it is only because of the active wisdom of God working in the world that the Church can continue to be faithful to the promises of Christ. The depth of God’s wisdom and purpose are a marvel.
This idea is reiterated by the Psalmist who acknowledges God’s unfailing love and faithfulness and his immediate answer to the prayer of a humble heart. God, in Jesus, is a God who constantly stretches out his hand to save the lowly.
Thus the idea that comes through powerfully from the readings is that it is indeed God who builds even if on weak human structures. Without his sustenance nothing can really stand.
Friday, 21 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 9:1-6; Lk 1:26-38
Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954. However, Mary’s Queenship also has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her Queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship.
In the fourth century St. Ephrem (June 9) called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.”
This feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption of Mary (celebrated on August 15) and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his 1954 encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII pointed out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.
It is fitting then that the Gospel text chosen for the feast is the Annunciation of the birth of the Lord to his mother. Through his mother and her courageous YES, Jesus became a human being. The point of the Annunciation is to stress that Jesus did not come down from heaven as an “avatar” but rather that in every sense of the word; he was totally and completely human. Another related point is that God “needs” the co-operation of human beings to complete the plans god has for the world. One of the most beautiful examples of co-operating with God is that of Mary and her unconditional Amen.
Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.
In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.
The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.
Today, many assume that those whom God favours will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favoured one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favoured,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.
When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us, that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to all that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Saviour in our hearts.
Thursday, 20 August 2020
Wednesday, 19 August 2020
Tuesday, 18 August 2020
Monday, 17 August 2020
Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - How would you define “kingdom of God”? What/How much are you willing to give to acquire the kingdom?
To read the texts click on the texts:Ezekiel 28:1-10; Mt 19:23-30
Immediately after the rich young man departs, the next words of Jesus are to his disciples. Matthew reformulates it as an “AMEN” saying. The word “Amen” occurs thirty-two times in Matthew. Beginning some of his pronouncements with “Amen” was a unique aspect of Jesus’ own authoritative speech. Amen is not a Greek word, but a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Amen” which is a responsive affirmation to something said previously. In this context, it is used to make the pronouncement of Jesus solemn. The pronouncement is about the impossibility of a rich person entering the kingdom of God. Jesus clearly reached for the most extreme illustration of impossibility, and the disciples got the point.
In response to Peter’s question, which must be seen as a continuation of the preceding dialogue (for taken by itself, Peter’s question seems purely selfish) Jesus affirms the eschatological reward for those who have not depended on their own goodness/talents/abilities/righteousness, but acknowledge their dependence on God’s free grace.
The point is not so much that God will prevent the rich from entering the kingdom, but that their riches will be an obstacle in their path.
Sunday, 16 August 2020
Monday, August 17, 2020 - What is the wealth that has so possessed you; so as to leave you unfree to say a total YES to Jesus? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts:Ezekiel 24:15-24; Mt 19:16-22
The story found in Matthew has sometimes been called the one of “The Rich young ruler”. However, these words appear nowhere in the New Testament, and is a conglomerate of the figures in Mark (rich), Matthew (who alone adds “young”) and Luke (who alone adds “ruler”). Matthew alone gives us a picture of a youth, twice calling him “a young man”. He would thus be a person in his twenties. He addresses Jesus as “teacher’, which signals that he is an outsider – in Matthew, real disciples address Jesus as “Lord”. In his answer to the young man, Jesus is portrayed as an advocate of the Law rather than its opponent. In response to the second question of the young man, Jesus takes him further to “perfection”, which does not mean “to be blameless”, but rather to be “whole”, “undivided” in love.
However, he was not able to say YES to the call of Jesus not merely because he was a man of great wealth, but rather because instead of possessing wealth, he let wealth possess him. This “being possessed”, did not leave him free, and consequently, he was unable to make a free choice.
We are living in a world in which it is easy to get so taken up with material things that we lose sight of everything and everyone else. We can if are not careful make the acquisition of things an end in itself.
Saturday, 15 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28
It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English. Ironically, many years later he was asked to give the commencement address at the Oxford University. His now famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!” While this theme of perseverance and never giving up is surely one of the themes of the readings of today, another theme that also comes out powerfully is the movement from particularity to the universality of God’s love.
There is no doubt that Jesus appears to be speaking to the Canaanite woman in the Gospel text of today in extremely harsh terms. He disregards the heartfelt and sincere plea for mercy made by the woman, and makes it clear that his mission, at this time, is for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and even likens the woman to a dog. Some have attempted to soften this harshness by suggesting that Jesus’ retort to the woman was said with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips or that Jesus did not mean stray dogs but house pets. However, nothing in the text warrants such interpretations and when compared with the similar incident in Mark, which allows for a mission to the Gentiles following the mission to the Jews, the retort of Jesus in Matthew is harsher, leaving no apparent scope for a Gentile mission: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
The Jews are the children and the Gentiles are the dogs. The epithet “dogs” for Gentiles had derogatory connotations. Dogs roamed the streets scavenging for food, and the Jews considered them unclean animals. The Gentiles cannot get what belongs to the Jews. Thus Jesus not only flatly refuses the woman’s request; he also seems to insult her.
The woman, however, will neither be excluded nor allow herself to be insulted. She will persevere and will overcome. She will keep on keeping on. She will neither give up nor give in. She meets Jesus’ initial stony silence with more pleading. She drowns out the disciples’ request for Jesus to send her away with her own repeated requests for Jesus to have mercy. She factually negates his exclusive mission to the Jews when she, a Gentile calls him Lord and worships him. Finally, she cleverly turns his own maxim supporting exclusivism into an illustration of inclusivism in salvation. Accepting the designation “dogs” for Gentiles, she turns it to the Gentiles’ advantage. “Yes, Lord,” she counters Jesus, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In her maxim the dogs and the children both eat. And they eat simultaneously. She bests the Matthean Jesus: She denies both exclusivism and sequential priority in salvation based on ethnic identity. The Gentiles can have at least the crumbs of salvation if not the bread, and they can have it now. She challenges Jesus to rise up to a new, ethnically broadened sense of his mission and his Lordship. The woman’s brash courage actually “converts” Jesus. Though Jesus had limited his mission to the sons and daughters of Israel, here he crosses this self-imposed boundary to bring merciful healing to a Gentile. The woman brings him to the full implications of his mission.
This gospel passage thus reveals that Jesus’ understanding of God’s saving work entails both the particular and the universal. He knew that this woman was a Canaanite; he knew that he was a Jew and had been sent to Israel yet this did not exclude the limits of God’s gracious work in and through him. He also knew that God’s redemptive work reached across the boundaries of difference without necessarily obliterating them. God in Christ did not make this woman and her daughter into something other than Canaanites, but in response to the woman’s faith he did bring healing to her daughter.
This is reiterated by Paul in the second reading of today who, writing to the Romans, asserts that he who is, “an Israelite himself, a descendant of Abraham”, expresses hope for Israel because “salvation has come to the Gentiles”. When either Gentiles or Jews, women or men, are saved, they remain Gentiles or Jews, women or men, yet they are saved in the same way i.e. through faith. And, this salvation is the result of God’s grace and mercy which is blind to differences of ethnicity, gender, or nationality.
The fact that such differences to not constitute a barrier to the love of God do not mean, however, that God’s saving work is meaninglessly indiscriminate. Those whom God welcomes into his “house of prayer for all nations” are those who “bind themselves to the Lord… to be his servants.” They are vessels of God’s justice. As people of faith hey hear the Lord in the depths of their hearts calling them to, “do what is right.” These are people like the Canaanite woman, who persevered in faith in the only hope she had.
The call and challenge to us today is to continue to persevere, even if at times it seems that our prayers are not being answered and that there seems to be no solution in sight. It is also an invitation to realize the inclusive nature of God’s unconditional and magnanimous love.
Friday, 14 August 2020
Saturday, August 15, 2020 - Homily for today - Independence day and the Assumption of our Blessed Mother
Can we be really free when caste distinctions result in murder and rape? Can we be really free when freedom to speak the truth is met with physical violence and threat to life? Can we be free when the incidence of female foeticide is so high in our country and where in many places the girl child is seen as a liability and burden rather than a blessing? Can we be really free when we are so intent on destroying our natural resources for selfish ends and then have to wonder whether we will have enough rain to see us through the year? Can we call ourselves Christians when we will not do anything about these atrocities and continue with our lives as if it does not concern us?
Thursday, 13 August 2020
To read the texts click on the texts:Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63; Mt 19:3-1
The context of today’s reading is immediately after Jesus has finished instructing his disciples (19,1-2) in the “Community Discourse” (18, 1-35). The text is found also in Mark 10, 1-12, but Matthew has made some changes to suit his purpose. In Matthew, Jesus begins his response to the Pharisees question about the legality of divorce by going back to Genesis 1,27 and 2,24 (in Mark the quotations from Genesis come later). In Matthew, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ quotation by citing Deut. 24,1, which allowed divorce, and this prompts Jesus to move to the situational application. The union of husband and wife is the creation of God and must be regarded as such (in Mark, they respond in this manner after a question from Jesus about what Moses commanded them). Matthew omits 10,12 of Mark, which reflects the Gentile provision for a woman’s initiating a divorce, since this is not applicable from his Jewish perspective. Matthew adds an exception clause; “except for unchastity” as he did earlier in 5,32, and in doing so makes the teaching of Jesus, a situational application rather than a legalistic code.
19,10-12 is exclusive to Matthew, and in them Jesus responds to the comment of the disciples that it is better not to marry. Those “who are made eunuchs by men” seems to refer to the pagan practice of literal castration as a religious practice, and this is rejected by Jesus. Those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” seems to refer to those who choose to remain celibate in order to concentrate more fully on the kingdom, rather than get weighed down by family cares.
No matter what state of life one chooses, one must remain faithful to one’s commitment in that state of life. The grass seems greener on the other side, but only till we go to the other side. 2