Thursday, 4 March 2021

Fourteenth Day of Lent - Dare to share


 

Friday, March 5, 2021 - Homily


 

All that we possess is given to us in trust. This means that while we may use what we have, we have also to be concerned about those who do not have and be generous with them. Selfishness on our part leads to our thinking that we must use the things we have exclusively without even the thought of sharing them with others.

Friday, March 5, 20211 - Will you give God his due by sharing with at least one person who does not have today? If God were to visit the vineyard of your life and ask for fruit what would your response be?

To read the texts click on the texts:Gen 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46 

This Parable is known variously as the parable of the wicked tenants or the Parable of the Vineyard. While the parable in Mark has been allegorised, it is not clear whether there was a non-allegorical parable going back to Jesus. Those who are of the opinion that there was a non-allegorical parable interpret it to mean that just as the tenants took radical action, so radical action is required in order to gain the kingdom. Others see the parable to mean that the kingdom will be taken away from Israel’s false leadership and given to gentiles and sinners. Still others see the parable to mean that God does not abandon and relentlessly seeks and searches for them and longs for a response from them.

In Matthew, this parable is the center of Jesus’ threefold parabolic response to the chief priests and elders. The first of these is about the two sons (21:28-32) and the third is about the great supper (22:1-14). He also links it to the previous parable of the two sons by means of common words like vineyard, son and the common theme of both which is doing God’s will rather than paying lip service.

In Matthew, the one who gives the vineyard to tenants is a “landowner” and not simply a “man “as he is in Mark. This helps Matthew to use the term “Lord” towards the end of the parable. The vineyard is described much like the one in Isa 5:1-7 which indicates that Matthew intends the vineyard to be read as “Israel” which it is in Isaiah. If in Mark the man who hired out the vineyard wants only his share, here he wants all the fruit. This indicates that God’s claim on the human person and all possessions it total and not partial. There are no half measures with God. It is all or nothing. The two groups of servants which are sent before the Son probably represent in Matthew the former and latter prophets whom God sent to Israel to bring the nation back to him. It is only after the two groups of servants are abused and murdered that the landowner decides to send his Son. In Matthew the son is first taken out of the vineyard and then killed (unlike in Mark where he is first killed and then thrown out of the vineyard) to correspond with what actually happens at the passion and death of Jesus (27:32). In Mark the question about the response of the owner of the vineyard is asked and answered by Jesus, while in Matthew, Jesus asks the questions and the Jewish leaders answer and through the answer pronounce their own condemnation. The tenants had been unfaithful and will have to pay for this unfaithfulness. The quotation of Ps 118:22-23 here results in increasing and intensifying the condemnation of the tenants to whom what was given was given in trust. Since they have been proved untrustworthy and unfaithful, they will be denied further tenancy and others will be given the vineyard to tend.

The Jewish leaders realize that the parable is about them and this only hardens their stance against Jesus and strengthens their resolve to destroy him.

All that we possess is given to us in trust. This means that while we may use what we have, we have also to be concerned about those who do not have and be generous with them. Selfishness on our part leads to our thinking that we must use the things we have exclusively without even the thought of sharing them with others.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Thirteenth Day of Lent - See with the eyes of the heart. Hear with the eyes of the heart


 

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - Homily


 

Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Or do I regard them as persons like myself? Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 17:5-10; Lk16:19-31

The parable of today has often been titled as the parable of “Dives and Lazarus”. It can be seen to be divided into three parts. If in the first part the focus is on rich man’s (who is not named. The term “dives” in Latin means “rich”) opulence and wealth, in the second part it is on his death and burial. In the third part which is the longest there is for the first time in the story, a dialogue. It is between the rich man and Abraham and is the climax of the story.  

The story begins by describing the rich man and his dress and food. The “purple and fine linen” may signify that he was a high ranking official, since the Romans had set standards regarding who could wear purple and how much purple they could wear. In contrast to the rich man there is a poor man who is named Lazarus. He is the only character in Jesus’ parables to be given a name. The name Lazarus means “God helps”. The fact that he is at the gate of the rich man’s house signifies that though the rich man could see Lazarus, he was not aware of his existence. He is so caught up in his world of material things that this results in his inability to see reality right before him. Lazarus would have been content with the bread which was used to wipe the grease from the hand of the one eating and then thrown under the table. However, even this he did not receive. Instead, dogs fed off his sores.

The death of Lazarus is no surprise. However, the detail that is added is that Lazarus is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. This detail brings to mind that God indeed comes to Lazarus’ help.  The death of the rich man is described in a short sentence which brings out strikingly the transient nature of all his opulence and wealth.

In the third part, there is dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. Lazarus does not speak at all. He is in the bosom of Abraham. Being “in the bosom” of Abraham may imply that Lazarus was the honoured guest at the eschatological banquet, feasting while the rich man was in torment.   In the request that the rich man makes of Abraham to let Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue, he calls Lazarus by name which indicates that he knew who Lazarus was and yet refused to look at him on earth as a person. In his response, Abraham reminds the rich man of his and Lazarus’ past and of the chasm that separated them then, but which had been erected by the rich man, and which still separates them now. It is admirable that even in his torment the rich man can think of others (even if they be members of his own immediate family). He makes a second request of Abraham to send Lazarus as a messenger to warn his brothers. Abraham responds that the brothers have already received enough and more instruction and if they have not heeded that they will not heed another. The rich man tries one final time to convince Abraham to send Lazarus as one who has gone back from the dead. Abraham responds by telling the rich man that for those who believe no proof is necessary and for those who do not no proof is sufficient.

The rich man in the story is so caught with the things of the world and with his own self interests that these prevent him from even becoming aware of the needs of another. A number of questions to which there are no easy answers are raised by this parable and we must keep reflecting on them constantly if we are not to lose touch with reality.

Can I be accused of sins of lack of concern, inability to assess the reality of situations, closing my eyes and ears to the injustices around me, being caught up in my own small world? Does my reflection on sin include “sins of omission”?

Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Or do I regard them as persons like myself

Did the brothers get the message?

How would you like to conclude the story? Place yourself in the position of the rich man’s brothers’ and write down what you would do to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as the rich man.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Twelfth Day of Lent - True glory is within


 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - Homily


 

We identify ourselves and others too much by these external titles and do not look at other more important areas of their lives and ours. The text of today calls us to review our need for titles and positions of honour and spend ourselves instead in service.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - When you are being introduced by a friend to a stranger how would you want your friend to introduce you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28

The text begins with what is known as the third and final Passion and Resurrection prediction in Matthew’s Gospel. This is the most detailed of the three and Matthew specifies crucifixion as the manner in which Jesus will be put to death. However, Jesus is not simply a passive victim, his death is in obedience to the will of God and he will let nothing and no one come in the way of this obedience. Even as he speaks of his death, Jesus also predicts his being raised on the third day.

If in Mark, it is the brothers James and John who make of Jesus the request for places of honour (Mk 10:35-37), in Matthew, it is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew does not name the brothers since he wants to spare them this ignominy) who comes with the request on behalf of her sons. The right hand and left hand symbolize places of honour and authority. In his response, Jesus does not address the mother or even James and John, but all the disciples. In contrast to Mark who mentions both the cup and baptism, Matthew focuses exclusively on the cup of suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and violent death. The metaphor “cup” here seems to refer to the death ordained by God which is willingly accepted by the one who is to go to his death. The disciples’ bravado and willingness to drink the cup is only verbal and not one which they can show in their deeds. Though Jesus is aware of this, he looks beyond their failure and invites them to share his cup. However, even martyrdom does not gain one a special place in the kingdom because not even Jesus will be able to assign such places. These are the exclusive prerogative of God.

The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee leads to anger on the part of the other ten. This anger indicates that they too like the mother (and the two brothers) had not really understood Jesus’ way of proceeding. Jesus thus has to teach them yet again the meaning of discipleship, authority and service in the kingdom. The king in the kingdom is not a ruler but one who serves, the Lord does not lord it over others but is their slave. By adding “Just as” before the final verse here, Matthew makes Jesus as the model whom the disciples are called to imitate.

 

The desire to be in charge and dominate others is a very real desire and most of us possess it. Some in large measure others in small, but it is there. We like others to follow our instructions and do what we tell them and feel upset or angry if they do not obey. Too easily we judge people by the titles they have or the positions they occupy in society and this leads to a desire in each of us to want to possess those titles or occupy those positions. We identify ourselves and others too much by these external titles and do not look at other more important areas of their lives and ours. The text of today calls us to review our need for titles and positions of honour and spend ourselves instead in service.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Eleventh day of Lent - Saying and Doing


 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - Homily


 

It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. There must be a correlation between our words and our actions. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what we say but what we do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - Will you let people hear what you do rather than what you say? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 1:10, 16-20; Mt23:1-12

Jesus here addresses the people and his disciples and speaks of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Scribes were a professional class with formal training. They were schooled in the tradition and its application to current issues. Pharisees were a group within Judaism defined by strictly religious rules, composed mostly of laypersons without formal theological training. Some scribes were also Pharisees, but few Pharisees were scribes.  Moses’ seat is a metaphorical expression representing the teaching and administrative authority of the synagogue leadership, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemns only the practice of the scribes and Pharisees and not their teaching. The Matthean Jesus makes three points about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. The first is that “they say but do not do”, which means that there was no consonance between their words and actions. They did not act on their words.  The second is that “they burden while failing to act themselves” which means that they lay law upon law upon the people and make life so much more complicated than it really is, and the third is that “they act for the wrong reasons: to make an impression on others”. This they did by wearing broader phylacteries. “Phylacteries” is the term Matthew uses for the “tephillin”, which were small leather boxes containing portions of the Torah (Exod 13:1-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-32) strapped to the forehead and arm during the recitation of prayers in literal obedience to Deut 6:8. The “tassels” were attached to the prayer shawls, and the most important seats in the synagogue refer to the place of honour at the front facing the congregation, occupied by teachers and respected leaders. The term “Rabbi” was a title of honour. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be noticed, commended and honoured more than to pray.

In contrast the disciples of Jesus ought not to go for external titles and especially those which heighten distinction since they were brothers and sisters and there was to be no greater and smaller among them. They were to be one in God who alone is father. Authority and leadership were to be expressed in selfless service.

It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. There must be a correlation between our words and our actions. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what we say but what we do. This doing, if it is to be regarded as a genuine work of love must be done not to earn titles or the approval or commendation but because one is a disciple of Jesus who has shown through his life and actions what true leadership means.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Monday, March 1, 2021 - Tenth day of Lent - No judging


 

Monday, March 1, 2021 - Homily


 

Mercy, forgiveness and love are in short supply today. Most relationships between people are built on what one can gain from the other and how the relationship will help one. It is rare to see (even in relationships between members of one family) selflessness and generosity. Yet, this is what Jesus calls the disciple to and expects that the disciple will live such a generous life.

Monday, March 1, 2021 - How often have you done something for someone else without any expectation whatever? Will you do something like this today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 9:4-10; Lk6:36-38

The injunction to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” which begins the text of today adapts the Old Testament command to “be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev 19:2), which in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew has become “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Whereas this injunction stands at the conclusion of the six antitheses in Matthew 5, here it concludes the section on love for one’s enemy by placing the challenge to be merciful in a theological context. Just as God’s love for all is indiscriminate, so must the love of the true disciple be. If love is given only in return for love, it is not love at all. To be called love, it must be unconditional.

The next two verses move to the theme of not judging and not condemning. The reason for this is that the one who does not judge and condemn will not be judged or condemned him/herself. Instead, the disciple of Jesus is called to forgive and let go of hurts and resentments as these block the receipt of pardon and forgiveness that is freely available from God. The section ends with a call to a kind of giving which does not count the cost, but which gives generously and freely. The result of such giving will be God’s unbounded generosity.

 

Mercy, forgiveness and love are in short supply today. Most relationships between people are built on what one can gain from the other and how the relationship will help one. It is rare to see (even in relationships between members of one family) selflessness and generosity. Yet, this is what Jesus calls the disciple to and expects that the disciple will live such a generous life.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Sunday, February 28, 2021 - Second Sunday in Lent - Faith and Seeing


 

Sunday, February 28, 2021 - Homily


 

Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to look at his Son.

Second Sunday in Lent - February 28, 2021 - Look at the Son

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 22: 1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

I still remember that night, eight years ago, when I received a call at 11.45 p.m. I knew immediately that it would be from someone with a very great need or someone in great despair. It was. The father of a young man was calling to tell me that his 23 year old son had just died. He was his only son. The boy was coming home from work when a drunk driver knocked him down and fled the scene. He was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival. At the funeral Mass the next day, there was not one person in the church who was not moved by tears by the sight of that young man in his coffin. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “How could God…” and “Why”

I do believe that the answer to our every “How could God…” and “Why” is provided for us in God sending his only son.

The first reading also speaks to us about a father and his only son. Abraham was asked to give up his only son, and this, after being promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. How could God, who had made such a promise, expect it to be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed? This kind of sacrifice would result in cutting Abraham off from his future. Abraham did not know that God was actually testing him. He heard the command from God as something that he was being called to do. However, he did know that God would provide and find a way. He believed that God could do even what was impossible. This is why his constant response to God was “Here I am”. This willingness and faith of Abraham resulted in God being able to work in and through him. It resulted in the promises of God being fulfilled in the life of Abraham. He did, indeed, become a great nation and his descendants were as numerous as grains of sand on the seashore.

The willingness and faith that Abraham showed was exemplary. However, it pales in comparison with the willingness and faith that Jesus showed when he took up his cross. This is what God commanded Jesus to do and this is what he did. While in Abraham’s case, he was stopped before he could complete the act of offering his son, in the case of Jesus, he had to go the full way to show his obedience to God’s will and fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.

We are given a foretaste of this obedience in the scene of the Transfiguration. The figures that appear with Jesus on the mountain are Elijah and Moses. These were prophets who were considered (along with Enoch) as alive in the presence of God. The voice from heaven, after addressing Jesus as beloved son, asks the three disciples who were with Jesus on the mountain to listen to him.  Despite being God’s beloved son, Jesus would have to go to his suffering and death and, only then, enter his glory. There was no other way. Jesus did not simply obey God; he obeyed God because he trusted. He knew that God was in charge and, even in what seemed like defeat and death, there would be victory and new life.

We sometimes tend to think that Jesus is most clearly Son of God only in glory, not in suffering. The transfiguration challenges us to revise our understanding of how God’s presence comes to the world. Even as he stands transfigured, Jesus is aware that the cross is a certainty in his life. He is aware that, though he is beloved son, he will have to suffer and die.  The command to silence, given by Jesus to the disciples, reminds us that glory and suffering cannot be separated.

Yes, Jesus was able to go to the cross in the full knowledge that God would always do what was best for him. He was aware that the God who delivered Elijah and Moses would also deliver him. He was able to go through the cross because he knew that, in and through the cross, he would save the world. That Jesus continues to live today is proof that his faith and confidence in the goodness of God was affirmed and confirmed. It was a proof that Paul experienced when he told the community in Rome that “neither death nor life…. nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

The message then, on this second Sunday of Lent, to every one of us, is that God continues to be in charge. He continues to want what is best for each of us at every moment of our life. Even at those times when we cannot see his hand as clearly as we would like, or cannot feel his presence as tangibly as we would want, he is still working for our good. This was confirmed in the life of Abraham, but fulfilled in the most perfect way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to look at his Son.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Ninth Day of Lent - Love without conditions


 

Saturday, February 27, 2021 - Homily


 

The love we have for others is more often than not a conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 - How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 26:16-19; Mt5:43-48

In the last of the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. . While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. This is the behaviour expected of a true disciple of Jesus. They cannot merely love those who love them, since one does not require to be a disciple to do this. Everyone, even the vilest of people can do this. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

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

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

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Eighth Day of Lent - True worship is from within


 

Friday, February 26, 2021 - Homily


 

God does not need our adoration, but if want to adore him it must also come from within.

Friday, February 26, 2021 - How many times did you get angry yesterday? Will you attempt to make it one less time today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 18, 21-28; Mt 5:20-26

The righteousness of the disciples of Jesus must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees whose standard of religious piety and practice was high. These of course did what they did only to be seen by people and to show off their piety. The disciples are called not merely to avoid being hypocritical.

In the six antitheses (5:21-48) that follow, Matthew shows what it means in practice for the righteousness of the disciples to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. In these verses (5:21-26) Matthew narrates first of the six, which is about the Torah’s prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:18). The supplementary “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement” is not found verbatim anywhere in the Old Testament, and seems to have been added by Matthew to introduce the word “judgement” which he uses in the next verse. After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (5:22). The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realize that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (5:23-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward which they are journeying.

 

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

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Seventh Day of Lent - Ask, Seek and Knock


 

Thursday, February 25, 2021 - Homily


 The reason why humans must ask, seek and knock is in order to acknowledge their dependence on God. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021 - How will you live out the Golden Rule today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Est 4:1, 3-5, 12-14;Mt 7:7-12

The text of today consists of three imperatives: Ask, Seek and Knock. These imperatives are based on three unconditional promises: you will receive, you will find and it will be opened. While the point made here is of perseverance in prayer and not giving up it is not the focal point. The reason for this perseverance is God’s goodness and gratuitousness. Thus, it is not human asking, seeking and knocking that is the focal point, but God, who remains the actor. The reason why humans must ask, seek and knock is in order to acknowledge their dependence on God. Ultimately it is always God who is in control. That this is the point that Matthew makes is clear in the explanation that follows. If human fathers who are weak, frail and selfish themselves would never give their children anything that would be to their detriment, how much more will God give what is good to those who acknowledge their dependence on him by asking?

The last verse of today is what is known as “The Golden Rule’ and serves as the conclusion not just to this section but to the whole Sermon. The addition here of the clause “for this is the law and prophets” results in this verse forming an inclusion with the similar clause in 5:17 which began the theme of the Sermon. Also by adding the words “In everything” before the rule, Matthew makes it all inclusive. There are numerous parallels to the Golden rule but most of them are stated in the negative form. Here it is positive; “do to others as you have them do to you”. This is initiatory and not retaliatory or reciprocal. It means in other words that the disciple is the one who takes the initiative in doing always the most loving thing to others.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - Homily


 The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without this sign?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jon 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32

Jesus’ debate with the crowd following the exorcism of the demon that made a man mute (11:14-16) continues. One of the challenges posed by some in the crowd was to demand from Jesus a sign from heaven. The response of Jesus is not to give in to their demand for a sign. A similar saying is also found in Matthew (12:38-42) which indicates that both Matthew and Luke have taken it from the “Q” source {Mark also has the episode of the demand for a sign and Jesus’ response (Mk 8:11-12), but it is much shorter and does not have the details found in both Matthew and Luke}. However, Luke has so formulated the response of Jesus, that it forms an inclusion. It begins and ends with Jonah. Through this, Luke has associated Jonah’s preaching with Solomon’s wisdom. Since Luke makes this association, for him the sign of Jonah was not Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40), but the call to repentance that Jonah preached. As the people of Nineveh repented after the call by Jonah, so Jesus calls the crowd to repentance after his proclamation. The Queen of Sheba, or the Queen of the South, journeyed from her kingdom in southwest Arabia to test the reports she had heard of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kgs 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12). When she had tested Solomon with “hard questions” (1 Kgs 10:1), she was convinced of the wisdom God had given to him and blessed the Lord who had set Solomon on the throne of Israel (1 Kgs 10:9). At the judgment, therefore, she also would rise to condemn that wicked generation because they had one who was greater than Solomon, and they did not hear him.

Jesus thus refuses to give the crowds any other sign, because any demand for a sign meant that they have not understood what Jesus was about, and what his mission was. Jesus also knew that for those who believe, no sign is necessary, whereas for those who do not, no sign is sufficient.

The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus. If one persists in the old way of looking which is a way of finding God only in miraculous and spectacular events, one will miss him. Now he can be found in all things and all things can be found in him.

Sixth Day of Lent - No Condemnation


 

Monday, 22 February 2021

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - Homily


The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer; it is also a way of life. The words of the prayer communicate the attitude that one must have toward God and others.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - How will you acknowledge your dependence on God today? Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 55:10-11; Mt6:7-15

The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.

It is important to have a brief background of the Sermon in order to appreciate fully each separate text within it. The first point that we note about the Sermon on the Mount is that it is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7:28).

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

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

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

 

The section on Prayer begins in 6:5 and Jesus contrasts the prayer of his disciples with the prayer of hypocrites who like to be seen by all and also Gentile prayer which heaps words upon words and may also mean a prayer made to many “gods” to placate them. This kind of prayer is only for self gratification or to receive favours. The prayer of the disciple is to God who is Father and who knows what they need even before they can ask. Thus, prayer is not simply to place the petition before God who is all knowing but primarily to acknowledge dependence on God for everything.

 

What follows this contrast is the prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples and which is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11:2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". In Matthew this prayer is at the very centre of the Sermon and must be read with that fact in mind. It begins with an address and then goes on to make two sets of three petitions. The address of God as “Father” brings out the intimacy of the relationship that disciples and God share. The pronoun “Our” here indicates that God is not merely the father of individual believers but of the community as a whole and therefore all in the believing community are brothers and sisters.

The opening petitions indicate that prayer does not begin with one’s needs, but with the glory and honour due to God. God’s name is and will be honoured by all men and women, since God as revealed by Jesus is primarily a God of mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. The kingdom of God has come in Jesus and is also in the future when God will be all and in all. This is a situation in which God will show himself to be king as he has done in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus constantly did God’s will, so it will continue to be done both in heaven and on earth. It is only when God’s will is done rather than one’s own that there can be true and lasting peace and harmony.

Despite petitioning God for something as stupendous as the kingdom, the disciple also acknowledges dependence on God for something as regular and ordinary as bread. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and without any merit on the part of the disciples. However, in order to receive this forgiveness which God gives graciously and gratuitously, the disciple will have to remove from his/her heart any unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness or anger that might be present there. The prayer ends with a final petition that God, who always leads the people, will not bring them into a time of testing, when the pressure might be so great as to overcome faith itself, but that he will save them from the ultimate power of evil.

 

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

Fourth day of Lent - Actions speak louder than words


 

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021 - Chair of St. Peter - Homily


 

Like Peter we are called to heal the broken world even though we are broken ourselves.

Monday, February 22, 2021 - The Chair of St. Peter - If Jesus were to ask you the question he asked the disciples, what would your response be?

To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Mt 16:13-19

The Chair of St. Peter is a feast which celebrates the Lord’s choice of Peter to be the servant-leader of the Church. The choice of Peter is indicative of what the Church is. On the one hand Peter was over zealous, brash, impulsive, spontaneous and ready to die for the Lord, while on the other he would deny the Lord and run away when trouble arose. The Church as a whole has been like Peter. Yet, this is whom the Lord chooses and continues to choose, broken men and women called to heal a broken world.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is popularly known as “Peter’s Confession”. The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant.

After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.

The feast of today invites us to reflect on two aspects in the Church. The first of these is that authority in the Church does not mean domination but always service. The model of this service is Jesus and it is him that we must imitate. The second is that even as we are broken ourselves and sinners, we are called to heal the world. This is because like in Peter’s case so in ours, it was not his merit that made him the leader of the Church, it was the grace of God which worked in him despite his sin.

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT - Return to God's love


 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Sunday, February 21, 2021 - Homily


 As humans, we have only to respond to God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance. This response is done through repentance which means a change of heart, mind, and vision.

Sunday, February 21, 2021 - Love Encourages New Thoughts

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 9:8-15;1 Pet 3:18-22;Mk 1:12-15

Lent is a forty-day period of fast and abstinence before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday when we go into Easter. Sundays are not counted, since they commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord. While Lent is actually a translation of the Latin term, quadragesima, which means ‘forty days’ or literally the ‘fortieth day’, it also refers to the spring season. The forty-day period is symbolic of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, a detail mentioned by all the synoptic gospels. This is why, in all three years, the Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent is about the temptations of Jesus in the desert.

While Matthew and Luke narrate the three temptations in the desert and Jesus’ responses, Mark does not do so. His focus is different. Mark’s narrative of the temptations compares Jesus, who is faithful, with unfaithful Israel. Jesus overcame the temptations when tested for forty days, but Israel succumbed to temptations during their forty year period of testing in the desert. The overcoming of the temptations by Jesus leads to the wilderness being transformed into paradise, the desert being transformed into an oasis and humans being no longer subject to Satan or his rule. However, the overcoming of temptation, with angels ministering to Jesus, is only one part of the story.

The second part – the positive overcoming of temptation – is integral to the story and completes it. Soon after overcoming temptation, Jesus comes into Galilee to proclaim his experience of who God really is. Mark prepares for this revolutionary and radical proclamation through four pointers or indicators. The first of these is a time indicator (proclaiming), and a content indicator (the Good News of God). These serve to clarify the proclamation.

The arrest of John serves to remove him from the story, so that he can make way for Jesus, with whom a new time has begun. Galilee is home for Jesus, a place of acceptance, a place of the proclamation of the kingdom. That Jesus comes “proclaiming” instead of “teaching” indicates that this is the message to be heard by all. The good news that Jesus proclaims is not made up by him, but is the good news of God. It is God who has mandated Jesus to speak these words. This indicator is crucial because it speaks of who God is and how he regards humans who are created in his image and likeness.

A glimpse of this good news of God is given to us in the first reading in the covenant or promise that makes to Noah. It is a promise that is made after the destruction of the whole world by the flood. God’s promise here is significant, because it is the first promise in the Bible that is to be fulfilled, not only in the lives of the Israelites but, in the lives of all people. The whole of humanity will never again be threatened with destruction. This covenant marked the start of a whole new world and a whole new way of looking at, and dealing with, God. It was completed when God sent his son, not merely to make a new covenant but also, to be the Covenant or Promise for all times and all ages.

This then is the good news that Jesus proclaims from God that, in him, as never before, all people everywhere have been saved. If in the promise made to Noah, the focus was on non-destruction of the human race, in the proclamation of Jesus, the focus is on salvation through love. The core of the proclamation of Jesus is that God has taken the initiative. He has loved first, he has forgiven first, and he has accepted first. The kingdom has come, not because we are worthy or have done something commendable. It has come because, in Jesus, God loves unconditionally. Peter echoes this idea in the second reading of today, when he explicates that this Covenant or Promise made by God was made even when men and women were sinners.

As humans, we have only to respond to that love, forgiveness, and acceptance. This response is done through repentance which never means being sorry. Rather, it means a change of heart, mind, and vision. It is a call to realize that God’s love is given freely, unconditionally and without measure.

Thus, on the first Sunday of Lent, the call is to leave every negative thing. It means a refusal to walk in the path of frustration, anxiety, or despair and to take instead the road of happiness, peace, and joy. It means that, though the road might get steep and the going difficult, we will continue to carry on walking the path, confident in the knowledge that, in Jesus, we are saved, and that sin is overcome by love. The old has gone, the new has indeed come.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Third Day of Lent - You will call and the Lord will answer


 

Saturday, February 20, 2021 - Homily


 No one is excluded from the Mission of Jesus. Everyone has a place, all are called. Like Levi it is important to give up the former way of life and then to get up and follow. This requires God’s grace surely, but also human response.

Saturday, February 20, 2021 - How will you celebrate today your call to be a disciple of Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32

The call of Levi the toll collector and his response to that call is the text for today. Toll collectors like Levi was were those individuals who paid the Roman authorities in advance for the right to collect tolls. Since they decided the value of the goods being brought in, they could abuse the system and many did. Due to this also because they were seen as colluding with the Romans, they were despised by the people and made targets of scorn and ridicule. The calling of Levi is a revolutionary act on the part of Jesus. When almost everyone else would have seen Levi as a thief and corrupt individual, Jesus was able to see him as a potential disciple. This is an indication not only of the deep insight into  people that Jesus had but also of God’s grace which is given without any merit on the part of the individual. It is a gift and not earned but gifted.

Levi on his part accepts this call. He leaves “everything” for the privilege of following Jesus. Luke’s Gospel alone mentions the word “everything” to stress the total sacrifice that Levi was called to and made. It is an indication that he left his old way of life behind to take on a new kind of life that Jesus was calling him to. He then arose and followed Jesus. The sequence of the actions of Levi is interesting. He gets up and follows, only after giving up.

Levi then gives a feast in his own house to celebrate his call. The scribes and Pharisees complain about the scandal of sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners. By doing so those who sat at table with them were making themselves unclean, but they were also showing social acceptance of a group that was considered as outcasts. Jesus’ response is in and through a proverb and a statement. It is obvious that the services of a physician are required by those who are sick not be those who are well. The mission of Jesus is very clearly directly to those who need him: the sinners. Repentance is not the condition for following Jesus; it is his purpose for coming into the world. He has come in order that sinners might be transformed.

 

The call which Jesus made to his disciples and here to Levi is startling brief: “Follow me”. This is because his call was a call to a personal commitment to him. It was not a call to a set of values or principles. It was not a call to any kind of philosophy or theology. It was not a call to a particular political programme. It was a call that had as its base and origin Jesus himself. The only reward that one could expect from such a following was that others would be drawn to Jesus because of one’s own commitment and perseverance.

The call is made here to Levi, who was considered as an outcast and one who was beyond the bounds of God’s mercy. This indicates that no one is excluded from the Mission of Jesus. Everyone has a place, all are called. Like Levi it is important to give up the former way of life and then to get up and follow. This requires God’s grace surely, but also human response.

Second day of Lent - Fasting from and fasting for


 

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021 - Homily


If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.

Friday, February 19, 2021 - Do you often do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:1-9;Mt 9:14-15

The question of fasting is raised by the disciples of John the Baptist. They want to know why they and the Pharisees follow the rule of fasting, but the disciples of Jesus do not. Jesus’ first response is that the guests at a wedding do not fast at the wedding. It would be absurd to do so. Since the coming of the kingdom has often been portrayed as a messianic banquet, Matthew seems to want to insist that Jesus is the messianic bridegroom and with his coming the wedding feast has begun. There will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away and that will be the time to fast. The “taking away” of the bridegroom refers to the death of Jesus.

The book of Ecclesiastes points out wisely that “there is a time for everything”. There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. But here is the rub: To know which time is for which. Even as we discern about the times for suitable actions, we must keep in mind that rules and regulations can never be ends in themselves. They are only means to an end. All rules are at the service of humans no matter how good or noble they may be. If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.

First day of Lent - Choose Life


 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - Homily


 

We strive for things that do not last and in the process of our striving, are not able to see the beauty that life has to offer. We exist without really having lived. The challenge is to seek for that which brings real fulfillment and not illusory happiness.

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - At the end of today will you consider your life as having been one that has been worthily lived?

To read the texts click on the text: Deut 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25

On the day following Ash Wednesday, the church makes explicit through the choice of the readings what the overarching theme of the season will be. It has to do with suffering, the cross and death, which here, is not primarily physical death, but death to self and the ego.

This is seen clearly in the first passion and resurrection prediction in the Gospel of Luke which is part of the text for today. Like in the other two synoptic gospels, the prediction in Luke appears immediately after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Immediately following Peter’s confession Jesus sternly commands the disciples not to tell anyone of this. This is because he does not want to be misunderstood as a glorious and triumphant Messiah or as one who will come conquering, but as a Messiah who will suffer and die. This is because God has ordained it and Jesus will always be obedient to God’s commands.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must be of the same mind. The first saying on discipleship which follows emphasizes not so much the readiness to die for Jesus as much as the courage to persevere in following him. This is why Luke adds the word “daily” after the call to take up the cross. It is in spending oneself for the good of others rather than pursuing one’s own selfish ambitions that true joy, peace and fulfillment can be found. Paradoxically, spending one’s life for others results in gaining one’s life. The final saying of the Gospel of today cuts the ground from under our preoccupation with material and temporary wealth. What will we have gained, even if we acquire all the possessions in the world, but lose ourselves in the process? This saying reminds us that there are dimensions of life vital to fulfillment and happiness that are not satisfied by financial security or material wealth.

 

The impulse to succeed in a given profession, to acquire material possessions, and to prosper is powerful. In a materialistic culture we are easily seduced by the assumption that security and fulfillment are achieved by means of financial prosperity. We strive for things that do not last and in the process of our striving, are not able to see the beauty that life has to offer. We exist without really having lived. The challenge is to seek for that which brings real fulfillment and not illusory happiness.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - Homily


 

For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love.

Ash Wednesday - February 17, 2021


 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - Ash Wednesday - How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jl 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is derived by counting back 40 days {not including Sundays} from Easter day. Ash Wednesday is so called because of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, which serve as a reminder of the call to repentance and to believe in the good news. The period of Lent is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before taking up the mission he received from his Father at his baptism.

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves. The focus thus is on the motivation with which one does what one does. If the motivation for doing good is to win the admiration of human beings, then that action is selfish and self-motivated and so does no good at all. If the action is done out of a sense of duty or obligation, it cannot be called pure and is instead diluted. However if one does the action and accepts that the reward is in the performing of the action itself, such an action can be salvific. This is the challenge not only of Ash Wednesday, but of the whole season of Lent, “to give and not to count the cost, to labour and to look for no reward.”

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

Monday, 15 February 2021

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - Homily


 

Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 6:5-8;7:1-5,10; Mk 8:14-21

The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4,1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4,35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6,45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6,51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8,21).

The disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ need. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.

Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021 - Homily


 

There are times in our lives when everything seems to go awry. Nothing seems to be going right. At times like these we might keep asking God to give us some sign that he is on our side and cares for us and we might not receive it. It is possible that this might lead us to lose faith and to stop believing. We need to have the courage to believe even without any signs. This is what true faith means.

Monday, February 15, 2021 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you continue to believe even without this sign?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 4:1-15;25; Mk 8:11-13

The text of today appears immediately after the second feeding miracle in the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus has fed 4000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. The Pharisees demand a sign. The sign they demand is some form of divine authentication. Jesus’ response is to sigh deeply in his spirit, which could be akin to throwing one’s hands up in despair. He refuses to perform a sign. This refusal on the part of Jesus could be interpreted as a sign of Jesus’ rejection of “this generation”. Mark portrays Jesus here as a prophet announcing God’s judgement against this generation.

There are times in our lives when everything seems to go awry. Nothing seems to be going right. At times like these we might keep asking God to give us some sign that he is on our side and cares for us and we might not receive it. It is possible that this might lead us to lose faith and to stop believing. We need to have the courage to believe even without any signs. This is what true faith means.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021 - Homily


 

Even as Jesus draws those who are discriminated against, he also draws the discriminators, to make them see the folly of their ways and to realize that, when they make distinctions, they are losing out on the beauty of life itself and are living isolated lives.

Sunday, February 14, 2021 - Marginal people

To read the texts click on the texts: Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk1:40-45

Satan stood at the foot of the cross and asked Jesus, "What happens now to the work you began?"

And Jesus whispered, "I do not need to worry, I have my disciples to carry it on!"

"Well, what happens if they fail you, Son of Man?" Satan sneered.

"I have no other plan," Jesus sighed, and then he died.

The first reading of today states, in very clear terms, why leprosy was considered such a dreadful disease. The term “leprosy” was used loosely for many kinds of skin ailments. A person with such an ailment was to be brought to the priest, who alone could declare the person clean. The leper was to wear torn clothes, have disheveled hair and cover the lower part of the face. These actions were also signs of mourning for the dead. This state of uncleanness was so serious that it was considered similar to the state of death. The cry of “Unclean, unclean” was, on the one hand, to warn others not to come near and, on the other hand, a lament about one’s condition because it was considered as divine punishment for serious sin. Living outside the camp was considered to be living in the place most removed from the presence of God, a place to which the sinner and the impure were banished.

It is in this context that the Gospel text of today must be read. The leper approaches Jesus as a suppliant and knows that Jesus can heal him. Jesus has only to will it and it will be done. The anger of Jesus means, on the one hand, that Jesus was angry about the fact that evil forces had taken such a hold of the man and so, the anger was directed against these forces. It also means anger against the establishment that ostracized persons and treated them as outcasts. The reaching out to touch the leper means that Jesus cannot be defiled or made unclean by touching someone considered unclean.  The reaching out also confirms that the anger of Jesus was primarily against those who would treat humans worse than animals. After the leper is healed, he is told to show himself to the priest, who would declare him clean and so, ready to resume his rightful place in society as a full human being. This indicates that Jesus was concerned with complying with the law. That the man is to do this, as “evidence against them”, seems to be polemical and directed against the unbelieving as incriminating evidence of their unbelief.

The world today is plagued by different kinds of discriminations. We discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, colour, language, social or economic status, and the like. It is to those of us who engage in such discrimination that the texts of today seem to be addressed. The ones who are discriminated against, and often, for no fault of their own, are those who, like the leper, are oppressed and outcasts. They are kept on the margins of society while the rest of us continue to live as if they do not exist. While sometimes there is an active shunning of these, at other times, it is done subtly, through indifference. We pretend as if they do not exist. By his reaching out and touching the leper, Jesus gives a strong message to all of us that no one is to be excluded from the love and mercy of God. No one is to be excluded from the grace of God that flows equally on everyone. No one is to be excluded, or discriminated against, simply because they speak a different language, or call God by another name, or are of a different colour, or social and economic status. Each and every person is a child of God and has the same rights and privileges as other sons and daughters of God.

This is exactly what Paul means when he challenges the Corinthian community to realize that they must do what they do for the glory of God, which, in its barest essence, means that they must not give offence to anyone.  In its profound sense, it means that they will never seek their own advantage but always the advantage of others. In this, they are to imitate Christ.

Jesus has no plan other than the one in which he challenges his disciples to carry on his mission of reconciliation, and reaching out, by imitating him.  He would want all who are willing to come, to be drawn to his Father, and would want to draw all, without distinction.  He would want all, without distinction, to be made whole. He would want all, without distinction, to share in the riches of God’s power and glory and unconditional love. Even as he draws those who are discriminated against, he also draws the discriminators, to make them see the folly of their ways and to realize that, when they make distinctions, they are losing out on the beauty of life itself and are living isolated lives, lives without meaning. These, too, are invited to open themselves to the magnanimity of God’s abundant grace.