Maundy comes from the Latin Mandatum and in English means Command. It refers to the command that Jesus gave to love unconditionally and to serve without expecting anything in return. He showed this through the symbol of washing the feet of his disciples. Join me to celebrate the Lord's Supper and Command on Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 6 pm Indian Standard Time on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEfzsSqQrH4
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Thursday, April 1, 2021 - Maundy Thursday - Homily
Am I one of those persons who say one thing but does another? Or am I a person who does not do what he says?
Thursday, April 1, 2021 - Maundy Thursday - To love as Jesus loved, to live as Jesus lived.
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex12:1-8,11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15
The English word Maundy comes from the Latin Mandatum which means command. And the reason why Maundy Thursday is so called is because the church celebrates this as the day in which Jesus gave his love command. What Jesus was in effect doing was summarizing his entire life. In bending down to wash the feet of the disciples in Jn 13:1-13, Jesus brings together all that he was, all that he is, all that he does. With Jesus there was no dichotomy, there was no separation between his being and his doing. Jesus did who he was. Jesus said what he did.
And so, on this Maundy Thursday we are called through this event of the washing of the feet, to ask ourselves some serious questions, and the first of these is “Is there a separation between my being and my doing?
Am I one of those persons who say one thing but does another? Or am I a person who does not do what he says?
Am I a person who cannot be trusted to fulfil an obligation?
Am I a person who is known for not keeping his word? Another area that we can look at, is the area of our conditional, of determined love?
Is my love barter exchange? Do I expect something in return for my love? Is my relationship with people a matter of “you give me, I give you”? Is it a matter of how much can I get out of this person rather than how much can I give?
Another theme that we can look upon during this reflection is the prophetic gesture that Jesus performs when he washes the feet of the disciples. Many interpret this gesture as an action of a slave. However, John is very clear that the washing was not before the meal as slaves would do but when they were in the midst of the meal. And even though Jesus knows that Judas is going to betray him, even though Jesus knows that Peter is going to deny him, he washes their feet. And this is what is prophetic about the gesture. First, that it was done after the meal had begun, something totally unexpected, and second, that he could wash the feet of the betrayer, of a denier and of the others who ran away. So there was nothing within the disciples that would have prompted anyone to wash their feet; there was nothing within the disciples that would have made anyone reach out to them. It was what was in Jesus that made him even to look at the disciples with the eyes, the heart, the mind, of love. And even as he washed the feet of Judas and Peter, he was loving, forgiving and accepting them. This is the true meaning of forgiveness; it is the true meaning of love, it is the true meaning of Maundy Thursday.
So, If Jesus was able to bring together his being and his doing, his word and his action, I need to ask myself whether I can do that myself. If Jesus was able to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, I need to ask myself whether I’m capable of such love. If Jesus was able to love, forgive, and accept and pardon even those who he knew would reject him, deny him, betray him, am I capable of such forgiveness and acceptance? This is the theme of the life of Jesus, of the ministry of Jesus and of what Jesus is calling us to do before we enter, to reflect on his passion. And we need to ask ourselves what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I do for Christ?
During this time and before we can enter the passion proper, our hearts, our minds, our whole being must get ready for this challenge. In the gospel of Lk 9:57-62, we read about the would be disciples of Jesus, those who had the intention, may be even the desire of following, but those who had excuses ready why they could not follow. Am I like those would be disciples, am I like those who are ready with an excuse why I cannot love or cannot forgive, am I like those who are ready in fact that being and doing do not coincide and so can find an excuse. Or am I going to rise up to that challenge of Jesus who invites me today to take up your cross and follow him. And even as I spoke about love and forgiveness, I want to speak about your own love and forgiveness; I want to speak about your own love for your husband or your wife, for your children or parents, for your neighbour or your colleague, and I would like to ask you whether your love is unconditional or whether it can be termed barter exchange. A very good way to find that out is to ask yourself this question – Do I love this person? Is it because of an obligation, is it because of a duty, is it because many years ago I made a commitment in the church, and so now I have to stick to that commitment? If that is the case, then it is very likely that your love is a barter exchange. But, if your love is without any kind of wanting from the other person then it can be like the love of Jesus.
And even as you are unable to forgive, I would like to direct your attention to this beautiful scene, and picture in your mind’s eye of Jesus washing the feet of Judas, looking at him possibly, looking at his eyes and seeing in there the betrayal, and yet having the ability to wash his feet and forgive. If you can think, reflect, pray and know in your heart that you are capable of such love, then you can enter with the Lord into his passion.
Thursday, April 1, 2021 - Maundy Thursday - Reflections
Today is Maundy Thursday. The English word Maundy comes from the Latin 'Mandatum' which means command. And the reason why Maundy Thursday is so called is because the church celebrates this as the day in which Jesus gave his love command. What Jesus was in effect doing was summarizing his entire life. In bending down to wash the feet of the disciples in Jn 13:1-13, Jesus brings together all that he was, all that he is, all that he does.
With Jesus there was no dichotomy, there was no separation between his being and his doing. Jesus did who he was. Jesus said what he did. And so, on this Maundy Thursday we are called through this event of the washing of the feet, to ask ourselves some serious questions, and the first of these is “Is there a separation between my being and my doing?
Am I one of those persons who say one thing but does another? Or am I a person who does not do what he says?
Am I a person who cannot be trusted to fulfil an obligation?
Am I a person who is known for not keeping his word? Another area that we can look at, is the area of our conditional, of determined love?
Is my love barter exchange? Do I expect something in return for my love?
Is my relationship with people a matter of “you give me, I give you”? Is it a matter of how much can I get out of this person rather than how much can I give?
A third theme that we can look upon during this reflection is the prophetic gesture that Jesus performs when he washes the feet of the disciples. Many interpret this gesture as an action of a slave. However, John is very clear that the washing was not before the meal as slaves would do but when they were in the midst of the meal. And even though Jesus knows that Judas is going to betray him, even though Jesus knows that Peter is going to deny him, he washes their feet. And this is what is prophetic about the gesture. First, that it was done after the meal had begun, something totally unexpected, and second, that he could wash the feet of the betrayer, of a denier and of the others who ran away. So there was nothing within the disciples that would have prompted anyone to wash their feet; there was nothing within the disciples that would have made anyone reach out to them. It was what was in Jesus that made him even to look at the disciples with the eyes, the heart, the mind, of love. And even as he washed the feet of Judas and Peter, he was loving, forgiving and accepting them. This is the true meaning of forgiveness; it is the true meaning of love, it is the true meaning of Maundy Thursday.
So, If Jesus was able to bring together his being and his doing, his word and his action, I need to ask myself whether I can do that myself. If Jesus was able to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, I need to ask myself whether I am capable of such love. If Jesus was able to love, forgive, and accept and pardon even those who he knew would reject him, deny him, betray him, am I capable of such forgiveness and acceptance? This is the theme of the life of Jesus, of the ministry of Jesus and of what Jesus is calling us to do before we enter, to reflect on his passion. And we need to ask ourselves what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I do for Christ?
During this time and before we can enter the passion proper, our hearts, our minds, our whole being must get ready for this challenge. In the gospel of Lk 9:57-62, we read about the would be disciples of Jesus, those who had the intention, may be even the desire of following, but those who had excuses ready why they could not follow. Am I like those would be disciples, am I like those who are ready with an excuse why I cannot love or cannot forgive, am I like those who are ready in fact that being and doing do not coincide and so can find an excuse. Or am I going to rise up to that challenge of Jesus who invites me today to take up your cross and follow him. And even as I spoke about love and forgiveness, I want to speak about your own love and forgiveness; I want to speak about your own love for your husband or your wife, for your children or parents, for your neighbour or your colleague, and I would like to ask you whether your love is unconditional or whether it can be termed barter exchange. A very good way to find that out is to ask yourself this question – Do I love this person? Is it because of an obligation, is it because of a duty, is it because many years ago I made a commitment in the church, and so now I have to stick to that commitment? If that is the case, then it is very likely that your love is a barter exchange. But, if your love is without any kind of wanting from the other person then it can be like the love of Jesus. And even as you are unable to forgive, I would like to direct your attention to this beautiful scene, and picture in your mind’s eye of Jesus washing the feet of Judas, looking at him possibly, looking at his eyes and seeing in there the betrayal, and yet having the ability to wash his feet and forgive. If you can think, reflect, pray and know in your heart that you are capable of such love, then you can enter with the Lord into his passion.
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - Homily
There are some, who because they find it easier, prefer to lay the blame at God’s door for their “misfortune”. While it is true that God remains sovereign, it is also true that we as humans have total freedom and thus must accept responsibility for our actions. We are always free to act as we see fit, but we must also realize that our every action has consequences which we must be willing to accept.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - Do you often blame God and others when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you grow up and accept responsibility for your actions today? Do you often play “the blame game”? Do you not realize that when you point one finger at someone there are three pointing back at you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 50:4-9; Mt26:14-25
The text on the day before Maundy Thursday invites us to reflect on the initiative taken by Judas in going to the chief priests and agreeing to betray Jesus, the preparation for the Passover and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal.
Matthew’s reason for the betrayal by Judas is greed. Judas wants something if he agrees to betray Jesus and agrees to the thirty pieces of silver offered to him, a detail mentioned only by Matthew. Unlike in Mark where the money is promised, in Matthew Judas is paid on the spot. Some see the reference to the thirty silver pieces as taken by Matthew from Zech 11:12-13 in which there is an obscure reference to the wages of a shepherd, who puts money back into the treasury. In Exod 21:32 thirty silver pieces is the price of an injured slave.
According to Exod 12:1-20, the Passover lambs were to be killed on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and the festival itself began with the ritual meal on the evening that began the 15th of Nisan. The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th and continued for seven days, during which no leaven should be found in the house. By the first century, the two festivals had merged and their names were used interchangeably. In addition, the pious practice of removing leaven one day early, the 14th, had become common.
Preparation for the Passover involved (1) locating an appropriate place within the city walls of Jerusalem, the only legitimate location for eating the Passover meal; (2) searching the room for leaven and removing any items that might contain yeast (bread crumbs, etc.); (3) obtaining a lamb and having it ritually slaughtered by the priests in the Temple; (4) roasting the lamb and preparing it with the other necessary items for the meal in the place previously arranged. While it is important to Matthew for theological reasons that the last supper was a Passover, he narrates none of the details associated with the Passover meal and ritual, concentrating his interest on the meal of the new covenant to be celebrated.
While Judas’ question to the chief priests focuses on himself and what he can gain, the disciples question to Jesus focuses on Jesus and what he wants them to do.
After Jesus takes his place at the table, he announces the fact of his betrayal by one of the Twelve. This announcement leads to distress on the part of the disciples. Each asks in turn whether he is the one. Jesus responds by indicating that one of those who eat with him will betray him, but does not explicitly identify Judas. Judas’ question is left till after Jesus’ response.
The dialectic of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the passion is brought out strongly in Jesus’ comment that it would be better for the betrayer if he had not been born. Jesus is fully aware of who it is that will betray him. God is not taken by surprise in the betrayal that leads to crucifixion; it goes according to the divine plan expressed in Scripture. But this does not relieve the burden of human responsibility. God is fully sovereign, humanity is fully responsible.
Judas who is in the process of betraying Jesus asks if he is the one. Unlike the other disciples who address Jesus as Lord, Judas addresses him as Rabbi indicating that he is not an insider but an outsider. Jesus’ response “You said it” is a clear affirmation that Judas is indeed the one.
There are some, who because they find it easier, prefer to lay the blame at God’s door for their “misfortune”. These are people who have not yet grown up. If children blame others for the mistakes they make or refuse to accept responsibility it can be understood, but when adults do that it is a sign of not having grown up. While it is true that God remains sovereign, it is also true that we as humans have total freedom and thus must accept responsibility for our actions. We are always free to act as we see fit, but we must also realize that our every action has consequences which we must be willing to accept.
Monday, 29 March 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - Homily
There are numerous times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan. It is as times like these that we tempted to throw in the towel. However, the challenge is that even at times like these to continue to trust and believe that even though we may not fully understand why things happen the way they do, that God is still in control and will never let anything happen to is that is not for our good and for his glory.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - When things do not go the way you plan do you throw in the towel too quickly? Has your arrogance sometimes led to your downfall?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
The text of today begins after the action of the washing of the feet of his disciples by Jesus and the words that he speaks explaining the meaning of the event. Thus this text must be read with that background in view.
It begins by an announcement of the betrayal in the context of Jesus’ emotional distress. This announcement is greeted with confusion on the part of the disciples. This confusion is an indication that betrayal can lie in the heart of any disciple and that no one is really exempt or can take for granted his/ her fidelity. This confusion leads to questioning on the part of the disciples. Each wants to know who Jesus meant. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is introduced for the first time in the Gospel and plays a prominent role from now on. The fact that the disciple is not named points to the fact that it is not so much the person, but his relationship to Jesus that defines and determines who he is. Like the Son who is in the bosom of the Father (1:18) so this disciple reclines in the bosom of Jesus. Prompted by Simon Peter’s nod, the beloved disciple asks Jesus who the betrayer is. Through the gesture of giving the morsel to Judas and his words, the contrast between the intimacy of the meal on the one hand and the betrayal by Judas on the other is brought into sharp relief. Even as he is offered a sign of friendship, intimacy and fidelity, Judas chooses distance, betrayal and infidelity. Though Jesus “knows” who will betray him, he still reaches out in love and friendship.
The mention of Satan entering Jesus indicates that the real battle is not between Jesus and Judas but between Jesus and the powers’ of evil, between light and darkness, and between falsehood and truth. Jesus is willing to face head on and immediately the powers’ of evil and so instructs Judas to act quickly. Jesus alone understands the significance of the hour. The disciples remain ignorant and even misunderstand. That Judas leaves immediately is an indication that his commands are followed even as he is going to be betrayed. Jesus remains in control of all the events of his “hour”. The phrase “and it was night” can mean on the surface level a chronological notation. However, it has a much deeper meaning in John. On the deeper level it means that Judas has cut himself off from Jesus who alone is the light and also that he has sided with the darkness which tries to overcome the light.
The verses which follow and complete the reading of today can either be seen as a conclusion to the previous episodes of the washing of the feet and the prediction of the betrayal or as an introduction to the Farewell Discourse. They speak of the glorification of Jesus as Son of Man and also of the glorification of the Father. While it is true that the mutual glorification began when the father was manifested through the Son at the incarnation and continued in the words and works of Jesus, it will be completed and reach its fulfillment in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the Father. This final departure from the world and return to the Father is here seen as a seal of the disciples’ new relationship with God, with him and with one another. Jesus responds to Simon Peter’s question about his final destination by predicting Peter’s denial of him. Though Peter protests by offering his life to Jesus in keeping with the command to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, he speaks more from a misplaced enthusiasm than from the reality of the situation. When confronted with reality, Peter will in fact deny Jesus three times.
There are numerous times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan. It is as times like these that we tempted to throw in the towel like Judas and Peter did. However, the challenge is that even at times like these to continue to trust and believe that even though we may not fully understand why things happen the way they do, that God is still in control and will never let anything happen to is that is not for our good and for his glory.
Remaining with Jesus, following his commands and living the life that he demands is thus not an easy task. The numerous laws, rules and regulations of the Jews have been summarized into one command which is to love God by loving neighbour. This reduction of the numerous into one does not mean that the one is easier; it means that the focus has changed from external observance to internal disposition and from personal achievement to grace. That grace is at the heart of the command is made evident in the cases of Judas and Peter who both fail in keeping it. While Judas’ betrayal may be seen as a dramatic and extreme case of refusing to remain with Jesus and follow his commands, the denials by Peter indicate that every disciple is at risk of failure if he/ she depends on his/her own strength and not enough on the Lord.
Sunday, 28 March 2021
Monday, March 29, 2021 - Homily
The love command was not only spoken of by Jesus but lived out by him throughout his life. The best manner in which that love command was manifested was not only in the washing of the feet of his disciples, but in the spreading out of his arms in total surrender and unconditional love.
Monday, March 29, 2021 - How will you make the unconditional love of Jesus tangible for at least one person today? Will you respond to the unconditional love of God like Mary or like Judas?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 42:1-7; Jn12:1-11
The story of the anointing of Jesus is found in all four Gospels. Yet, the manner of the anointing, the reason for the anointing and the anointing on the head as mentioned by Mark and Matthew and the feet as mentioned by Luke and John indicate that each evangelist interprets the anointing differently. While in Mark and Matthew the anointing is as a preparation for the burial of Jesus’ body and is thus just before the Passion, in Luke the anointing of the feet of Jesus by a sinful woman is an explication of her love and respect for Jesus and his love for her shown in the forgiveness of her sins. The woman is named only in the Gospel of John and is not Mary Magdalene. In John, she is Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Though it is not the head but the feet of Jesus which Mary anoints, the focus of the anointing here is the “hour” of Jesus. The dinner that Jesus is attending here is an anticipation of the last dinner that he will have with his disciples soon.
The story begins with the dinner given for Jesus by Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. The anointing by Mary is narrated immediately after this. Though Mark also points to the quality of the ointment, only John mentions the quantity. By wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, Mary anticipates the wiping of the disciples’ feet by Jesus at the last supper. The anointing here therefore points to the washing and wiping of the feet of the disciples by Jesus. The protest about the extravagance of the gesture is voiced in John by Judas alone. This is already an anticipation of the betrayer’s role that Judas will play later in the garden. The protest of Judas is not genuine, because his concern stems from his own desire to steal. Jesus’ response to Judas is to point to the revelatory significance of Mary’s act. It is an anticipation of the final anointing after the death of Jesus and thus confirms that it will take place. Jesus also reminds his disciples of the limited time before his “hour” and invites them to recognize it like Mary did. They need to respond like her.
Since many of the Jews were going to Jesus and began to believe in him, the chief priests make plans to kill Jesus. They also plan to kill Lazarus so as not to leave any trace of the miraculous powers of Jesus and also to stop people from believing in him.
The contrast between the insight of Mary and the blindness of Judas is brought out powerfully in this story. She recognizes who Jesus is and the fate that awaits him and so acts accordingly. Judas on the other hand has closed himself to the revelation of God in Jesus and thus can only act to suit his selfish interests. The anointing of the feet by Mary and the wiping them with her hair is also an indication of the action of a true disciple of Jesus. She anticipates what her master and Lord will do and does it. She does not need to be taught it like the other disciples at the last supper. She has learnt it by observing the actions of the Lord. Judas on the other has shown that he is not a true disciple because he is able to see only the negative in the loving action of service and reaching out. His only response is therefore to protest.
The love command was not only spoken of by Jesus but lived out by him throughout his life. The best manner in which that love command was manifested was not only in the washing of the feet of his disciples, but in the spreading out of his arms in total surrender and unconditional love. This is the love to which we as disciples are challenged today. We can decide to respond like Mary because we are convinced and have experienced the unconditional love of God ourselves, or we can be like Judas who focus on our own selfish interests and so miss out on the beauty and reality of unconditional love.
Saturday, 27 March 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021 - Passion and Palm Sunday - Homily
In the Passion and death of Jesus there is no room for triumphalism. There is no room for a victory that does not first know the “fellowship of His sufferings” on behalf of others. He clung to nothing; he let go of everything. Do we have the courage to do likewise?
Sunday, March 28, 2021 - Passion and Palm Sunday - Son and Slave, Servant and king
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 50:4-7; Phil2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47
In the past, the fifth Sunday of Lent (the Sunday before Palm Sunday) was known as Passion Sunday, However, following Vatican II, the sixth Sunday of Lent was officially re-named Passion Sunday. This Sunday is also called Palm Sunday, since palm branches are still distributed, but the focus is on the betrayal arrest, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus rather than on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem just before his death. Passion / Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in which the Church commemorates the Last Supper and the first Eucharist on Holy Thursday and Christ’s death on Good Friday.
What Jesus experiences for us is a manifestation of God’s overwhelming love for each one of us. Further, by our identifying ourselves with the ‘mystery’ of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection we ourselves experience a great liberation, a joy and freedom. This is because Christ came for precisely this purpose, to save in and through his death.
This idea is brought out powerfully by Mark in his Passion Narrative, which, though the shortest of all the four, is unique in many ways. While some think that the Passion narrative proper begins with the last supper, others see it as beginning with the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane after the supper. The fact that the reading of today begins at 1:1 is an indication that the Church wants us to see the Passion Narrative beginning with the plot to arrest and kill Jesus. Be that as it may, it seems to me that the Passion Narrative actually begins after the Baptism of Jesus, when Jesus accepts the invitation of the Father to be both beloved son and slave, but more importantly the invitation to become beloved son and king, by being slave and servant.
Following the last supper and beginning with the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, the narrative may be seen to be divided into six parts. The first of these is the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, followed by the scene of his arrest. There is then the trial before the Sanhedrin or the Jewish trial followed by the Roman trial. This is followed by the way of the cross, crucifixion, and the events after the death of Jesus and concluded in the sixth scene by the burial of Jesus.
The prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane (14:32-42) is a lesson in prayer. There are two aspects to this prayer. The first aspect is that this is the only time in the Gospel that Mark gives us the content of the prayer of Jesus. In the first part of the prayer, Jesus states his petition, but adds in the second part that he wants this to accord with God’s will. The second aspect of the prayer is that though Jesus does not hear the Father’s voice like he heard at his Baptism and Transfiguration, he gets up fortified after his prayer. The fact that he was fortified is seen clearly in Jesus’ response to those who come to arrest him (14:43-52). If God wanted it this way, Jesus was willing. The disciples all run away. Not even one remains.
The trial before the Sanhedrin (14:53-72) ends with the whole Sanhedrin condemning him, not one voice is raised in protest. The trial before Pilate (15:1-15), deals with a political question which is whether Jesus is king of the Jews. Jesus’ response is enigmatic. He neither denies nor confirms. Pilate representing the Roman authorities condemns Jesus to death.
On the way to the place of crucifixion, Jesus is hailed as King of the Jews albeit in mockery. Those who mock him do not realize that this is indeed the kind of king he has come to be. When on the cross, the passersby deride him and the chief priests mock him. Even the one crucified with him taunts him. Jesus has no support from anyone. He is alone. Not even his Father will come to his aid. But the centurion recognizes the crucified Jesus, the Jesus who dies on the Cross as Son of God.
The final scene in the Passion narrative which is the scene of Jesus’ burial (15:42-47) also reinforces the idea of a servant king. Joseph of Arimathea who was a respected member of the Sanhedrin that condemned him as deserving death now realizes that Jesus is indeed Son of God. This is what prompts him to take courage and ask Pilate for Jesus’ body, so that he could bury it. This is exactly how Jesus won victory. In his suffering and ignominy, God vindicates him. He becomes Son of God when he hangs on the Cross.
This vindication and exaltation forms the last part of the kenosis hymn of Paul. The hymn summarises the whole of salvation history succinctly. It begins with the pre-existence of Christ, moves on to the incarnation and mission and then narrates his passion and death on the cross before speaking of his resurrection and exaltation.
However, there is no room for any kind of triumphalism here! There is no room for a victory that does not first know the “fellowship of His sufferings” on behalf of others. He clung to nothing; he let go of everything. Do we have the courage to do likewise?
Friday, 26 March 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021 - Homily
God’s ways are not our ways. We are reminded as we reflect on today’s readings that there will be numerous times when we will knowingly or unknowingly try to upset the plans of God because they do not fit in with what we think is good for us.
Saturday, March 27, 2021 - Impatience is trying to go faster than the Holy Spirit. Are you by nature impatient?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 37:21-28; Jn11:45-56
The first two verses of today can be seen as the conclusion of the miracle story of the raising of Lazarus. While some of those who witnessed the miracle respond positively, others do not. However, the number of those who believe is more than that of those who do not as is evident in the use of “many” for those who believed and “some” for those who did not. The chief priests and Pharisees respond to the information they receive about the miracle by calling a meeting during which they discuss the fate of Jesus. Their main concern seems to be their own loss of power. They do not seem really interested in the destruction of the temple or even Jerusalem but with the effect that Jesus’ popularity will have on their own selfish interests.
Caiaphas who was high priest speaks on behalf of all of them. Even as he wants Jesus to die so that greater trouble can be avoided, he is in fact unknowingly prophesying about the true meaning of the death of Jesus. Though his sole aim is political expediency, he is collaborating in God’s plan of salvation for the whole of the human race. He uses his power to suppress God’s word but in effect witnesses to him. In his death Jesus would gather together all the scattered people of God to bring them to a union and unity never witnessed before.
Jesus retreats to Ephraim after the Sanhedrin’s decision. This retreat, however, is not to escape death but to control its time. Jesus will not go to his death until his hour arrives. It is God who decides that hour and no amount of human plotting or planning can hasten its arrival.
Even as the Passover draws near, questions remain about whether Jesus will come to the feast or not. It is not clear whether those who are looking for him have a positive or malicious intent. The question, however, reinforces the idea that Jesus acts not according to the will of human beings but of God and if God so ordains then no matter what the threat or consequence, Jesus will do what is required.
God’s ways are not our ways. As high as the heavens are from the earth so are God’s ways different from ours. It is not always possible to accept this simple truth and there are times when we try to go faster than the Holy Spirit because of our impatience. We are reminded as we reflect on today’s readings that there will be numerous times when we will knowingly or unknowingly try to upset the plans of God because they do not fit in with what we think is good for us. At times like these we too behave like the adversaries of Jesus. We have to realize that no matter how much we try we will never be able to upset God’s will for the world though it might seem sometimes that we have and can. When we witness evil overpowering good, selfishness dominating selflessness or fear overtaking love, then it might seem that we have done so. However, these “victories’ are only temporary as was the victory of the ones who crucified Jesus on the cross. In the final race it is always God who wins, it is always selflessness that come first and it is always love that will overcome.
Thursday, 25 March 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021 - Homily
Jesus’ offer of recognizing him in the world is an offer that is relevant and available even today. The “good works” he inaugurated are on view whenever one goes beyond oneself and reaches out in love and compassion.
Friday, March 26, 2021 - How will you make Jesus visible today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 20:10-13; Jn10:31-42
The text of today begins with the Jews picking up stones to stone Jesus. While the immediate context is the last words of Jesus in his response to who he is, namely “The Father and I are one”, this reaction must also be seen in the larger context of the revelations that Jesus has been making. Jesus’ question to the Jews immediately after their attempt to stone him is indicative of this. He asks them for which of his good works they want to stone him. In response they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Though it is true that Jesus is equal to God, they do not realize that it is not he who makes such a claim on his own accord. It is God who confirms him. Jesus uses “their” law to prove his claims and disprove theirs. He begins by citing the first half of Ps 82:6 in which human beings are regarded as “gods” because they receive the Word of God and then goes on to prove from the lesser to the greater, that thus it cannot be blasphemy if Jesus speaks of himself as God’s Son. It is the Father who sanctified and thus set apart Jesus and sent him into the world and thus he always does what the Father commands him to do.
Jesus goes on to appeal to his works as a proof of the fact that he has indeed been sent by God. His works, which are in keeping with God’s plan for the world, are clear indication that he and the Father are one. He is in the Father and the Father is in him. To be able to recognize this is to come to faith. These words do not go down well with the listeners who try to arrest him. Again as in the past Jesus escapes because his hour had not yet come.
The last three verses of the text look back to 1:28 and to John’s witness of Jesus at Bethany. John’s witness and then truth of that witness manifested in Jesus leads people to believe in Jesus.
In these verses, Jesus does not claim to be another God or to replace God or even make himself equal to God. He claims to make God known as never before. He reveals God as loving Father and as one whose only will for the world is its salvation. This is evident in the works that he performs, which are works of unconditional and redeeming love.
Jesus’ offer of recognizing him in the world is an offer that is relevant and available even today. The “good works” he inaugurated are on view whenever one goes beyond oneself and reaches out in love and compassion. They are continued when one speaks an enhancing word or performs a loving action. There are visible in selfless service and forgiveness. They are visible when love is made real.
Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021 - The Annunciation - Homily
The response of Mary goes beyond "Yes". Mary's response may be termed as a "passive activity" or an "active passivity". Mary does not merely say that she will co-operate with God. Rather she lets God work in and through her through the words "Let it be done to me (by you)"
Thursday, March 25, 2021 - The Annunciation of the Lord - Will you like Mary say "Let it be done to me" and let the Lord do in you.
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa7:10-14;8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38
The Annunciation of the Lord is the beginning of Jesus in his human nature. 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.
The text chosen for the feast is that of the Annunciation as narrated by Luke. It relates the scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given. It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.
Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history. 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 everything 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.
Tuesday, 23 March 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - Homily
Since freedom is a gift, it cannot be earned or acquired through one’s antecedents. It is made visible in the actions that one performs.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - What is the falsehood that is binding you? Will you let go of it and allow the truth to set you free?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 3:14-20, 24-25,28; Jn 8:31-40
The verses which form the text for today contain what may be seen as the fundamental lines of debate and disagreement between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In these verses the succeeding verse builds up on the preceding one and thus intensifies the debate. The sayings are addressed to the Jews who “believed in him”. Though these do, their faith seems inadequate as is seen in their response to Jesus to come to the truth. The truth that Jesus refers to here is not an abstract principle but the presence of God in Jesus. The recognition of this truth results in a person’s being set free. The words “will make you free’ result in upsetting the listeners who protest that since they are Abraham’s descendants they are naturally free. However, they do not realize that in rejecting Jesus they are also rejecting Abraham and so are not really his descendants and consequently not free. Since freedom is a gift, it cannot be earned or acquired through one’s antecedents. It is made visible in the actions that one performs. If one performs sinful actions, then one is a slave and so not free. Though the Jews claim to be descendents of Abraham, their actions do not correspond to their claim. They are guilty of the sinful action of trying to kill Jesus. Freedom is possible only through the Son who alone can make free because he is the Truth. In order to receive this freedom one must be able to recognize the truth of who Jesus is. This they cannot do.
Monday, 22 March 2021
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - Homily
Jesus’ coming into the world was not primarily to die but to save. Yet, if this salvation could only be achieved through his death on a cross, then so be it. Even as he is crucified, the very ones who crucify him realize that what they have done is nailed love incarnate to the cross. This love accepts, forgives and continues to love even from the cross.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - Are you able to experience like Jesus joy even in the midst of your pain?
To read the texts click on the texts: Num 21:4-9; Jn8:21-30
The words which begin today’s text continue the theme of Jesus’ departure begun in 8:14. Here, it is his death, resurrection and ascension which will be the focus. Though God has revealed himself in Jesus, the Jewish leaders have refused to recognize him. This is the sin in which they will die. When Jesus speaks of his departure, he is misunderstood. The Jewish leaders think of suicide, but Jesus speaks of laying down his life of his own accord for the salvation of all. The reason why they misunderstand is because they and Jesus stand on opposite sides. They are from below and of this world, Jesus is from above and not of this world. If they want to change their position, they can only do so by recognizing in Jesus, God. The leaders are not able to do this and show that they have completely misunderstood Jesus in the question they ask. Jesus affirms that he has told them from the beginning who he is. He is the one sent by God and it is God who affirms and confirms him.
When they “lift up” Jesus on the Cross (which can also be translated as “exalt” and so mean resurrection and ascension) then they will recognize him. This statement of being “lifted up” or “exalted’ is the second of the three such statements in the Gospel of John. The first appears in 3:14 and the third in 12:32-34. In these two cases because of the use of the passive voice, the suggestion is that God will do the exalting. It is only here that the responsibility for the “lifting up” is thrust on the people. Thus, even as they crucify him, they will also exalt him and in this act recognize him as the one who is. Even when on the cross Jesus will not be alone because the Father will be with him.
Jesus’ words touch the hearts of many who hear him and they come to believe.
Jesus’ coming into the world was not primarily to die but to save. Yet, if this salvation could only be achieved through his death on a cross, then so be it. Jesus was willing for it if this was to be the only way. He was also aware that because of his faith, trust and confidence in the Father that his crucifixion or being lifted up on the cross would also be his resurrection and ascension, his being exalted. Even as he is crucified, the very ones who crucify him realize that what they have done is nailed love incarnate to the cross. This love accepts, forgives and continues to love even from the cross.
Sunday, 21 March 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021 - Homily
Monday, March 22, 2021 - Do you “feel” forgiven by God? If No, why not?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 13:1-9, 15-17,19-30, 33-62; Jn 8:1-11
Most scholars today are of the opinion that this text did nor originally belong to the Gospel of John and was added later. Numerous reasons are put forward to support this view. One is that the term “scribes” used here is the only time in the Gospel that it is used. John does not use “scribes” anywhere else in his Gospel. Another reason is that while in the rest of the Gospel of John the debates with the Jewish leaders are long, here it is brief. This fits in better with the controversy stories of the Synoptic Gospels. Also the Mount of Olives is mentioned only here in the Gospel of John, though in the Synoptic Gospels it is frequently mentioned. Jesus is addressed as “teacher” only here in John. Be that as it may, the text is now part of John’s Gospel and we have to interpret it within the Gospel.
This event takes place in the Temple. Though the law commanded that both the man and woman who engaged in adultery would be put to death (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22), the scribes and Pharisees accuse the woman alone and do not provide the necessary witnesses who had “caught” the woman in the very act of committing adultery. The intention of the scribes seems clear: it is to trap Jesus. Initially, Jesus does not want to engage the question and so bends down and writes with his finger on the ground. The point here is not what Jesus was writing but the distancing gesture that he performs. Since the scribes persist in the question, Jesus straightens up and addresses the scribes directly. The statement that he makes takes them beyond the question that they ask to a self examination and introspection. Once he has raised the issue, Jesus bends down again and writes with his finger. This time, the intention of writing is to show that he has said all that he has to say and wants them to decide what they have to do. They do not answer in words, but through their action of leaving the place. That all of them leave beginning with the elders is an indication that no one is without sin. When Jesus straightens up the second time he addresses the woman who is alone with him since all others have gone away. The woman who is addressed directly for the first time confirms that no one is left to condemn her. Jesus responds by not condemning her, but also challenging her to receive the new life that forgiveness brings.
The attitude of Jesus to people, whether those who engaged in condemnation or the condemned seems to be the focus of the story. The questions of Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees and the woman allows them equal opportunity to part with old ways after having received forgiveness. Jesus condemns no one, not even those who condemn. However, while the woman accepts the gift of new life, the scribes and Pharisees show their non-acceptance through their actions of going away. It is thus a story of grace and mercy freely given by God in Jesus which when received results in a radical transformation of a person and the challenge of a new life.
While it is true that this story may be seen as a moral lesson informing us that we are not to judge rashly or point fingers at others since when we do, there will be three fingers pointing back at us, it is also a story that goes beyond this moral lesson to the core of the revelation that God makes in Jesus. The God revealed in Jesus is a God who does not condemn, a God who accepts each of us as we are and a God who even when we find it difficult to forgive ourselves, keeps forgiving and accepting us.
Saturday, 20 March 2021
Sunday, March 21, 2021 - Homily
The newness that God brings in Jesus is a newness that needs our active co-operation and collaboration. It needs us to keep saying “Yes”.
Sunday, March 21, 2021 - Will you hold on to the old, or grasp the new?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer31:31-34; Heb5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33
‘Anticipation’ is the word that best describes what the readings of today convey. The first reading, from Jeremiah, begins with the words, “The days are surely coming”, and in the Gospel passage, Jesus responds to the arrival of the Greeks with the words “the hour has come”. What are these days? What is that hour? What must we anticipate? What must we expect?
Jeremiah explains that the expectation is of a “new covenant”. This covenant is new, not because it will be made again or made anew with the people but primarily because it is a covenant unlike the earlier ones. It is a covenant that will be written, not on stone tablets but on the hearts of all.
The effects of this covenant will be unlike the earlier ones. This covenant will be kept by the people and not broken. The reason for this is that people will be convinced of it and know that it is a covenant for their good and for God’s glory. They will know that it is in their best interest to keep it. Instead of being like children, who only keep their parent’s rules because of the promise of reward or the threat of punishment, the people will keep God’s law and live God’s commandments because their own consciences direct them to. They will be convinced of the law in their hearts. Instead of a purely external conformity, God’s law would now be internalized and people would pursue the right path because it would be part of their basic character and identity. This is what Jeremiah means when he talks about God’s Law being planted deep within his people and written on their hearts. God takes the initiative in making this new covenant and shows this in his action of forgiving all sin. He is a gracious God, a God who wants all to be saved.
This new covenant was made in the most perfect of ways when God made it in Jesus. In Jesus, sin was forgiven and love took centre stage. This is confirmed directly at the end of the Gospel reading, in what is termed as the final passion, resurrection, and ascension prediction in the Gospel of John. In that reading – he will draw all people to himself. The effect of the “lifting up” of Jesus will be – not condemnation – but acceptance of people. Even when on the cross, Jesus will continue to save and to redeem.
That Jesus could draw all to himself, only in and through the cross, is affirmed in his words about the whet grain. Speaking of himself and his impending passion, he directs attention to a grain of wheat which can only give life when it dies to itself. If the grain of wheat will not die, it remains what it is and will be unable give new life.
The letter to the Hebrews picks up this theme and narrates the incident of the prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane. On one level, Jesus would have preferred to save without the cross, and this was the content of the first part of his prayer when he asked the Father to take the cup away. However, on the deeper level, he knew that the cross was not just one way, but the only way, and that is why he adds “not my will but yours be done”. Hebrews thus confirms that Jesus willingly chose to become like the grain of wheat which would fall, and die, in order to give life and save. This was Jesus’ ‘hour’, the hour when he would go to his death, but also, without doubt, the hour when he would be glorified, the hour in which all would be drawn to him. It was the hour when self-centeredness was driven out by self-sacrifice. It was the hour when new life conquered death, and eternal, unconditional love conquered sin.
This is, therefore, a cause for great joy and optimism. Though we know how often wed have failed to live up to the promises we have made in the past, God continues to say to us at every moment: “See, I am making a new covenant”. Though we keep choosing sin over love, and self-centeredness over selflessness, God keeps inviting us to the ‘hour’ of his son. This is the hour in which he will make all things new.
This newness, however, can never come about unless we, like Jesus, make a conscious decision to collaborate and co-operate with God. We have to dare, like Jesus, to become like that grain of wheat which will fall to the ground and die. We have to understand, like Jesus, that unless we die to our selfish ambitions and our selfish desires to have more, that unless we die to our petty dreams of personal advancement at the expense of the majority, God cannot make all things new. The newness that God brings in Jesus is a newness that needs our active co-operation and collaboration. It needs us to keep saying “Yes”.
Friday, 19 March 2021
Saturday, March 20, 2021 - Homily
Jesus will always remain bigger than anything that we can ever imagine. Our most intimate encounters with him must make us realize this.
Saturday, March 20, 2021 - Will you understand that God will reveal himself to you in ways you never even considered? Will you find him in everything that happens today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 11:18-20; Jn 7:40-52
The invitation of Jesus to
the thirsty to come and drink from the living water that he will give leads to
the discussion among the people which begins the text for today. While those
who come on hearing this invitation regard Jesus as “the” prophet, others
explicitly call him the Messiah. Still others question whether Jesus could
really be the Messiah because of the popular belief that the Messiah would come
When the police return to inform their masters that they could not arrest Jesus because they had never heard anyone speak like him, they are accused of having also been deceived by Jesus and taken in by his sophistry.
Nicodemus who is also one of
the Jewish authorities speaks on behalf of Jesus and reminds his companions of
the law and a hearing that was required before judgement. His question is
ironic and seems intended to bring out that his companions knowledge of the law
is a matter of doubt. They respond to Nicodemus in the same way in which they
respond to the temple police. They deride him and assert their seemingly
superior knowledge of scripture. Though they are emphatic that no prophet is to
Jesus will always remain bigger than anything that we can ever imagine. Our most intimate encounters with him must make us realize this. He cannot be captured by the concepts, words or images that we use and while these help us to get to know his better, they will always be inadequate. Yet, this does not mean that we cannot know him as intimately as we want to. He reveals himself to each of us according to the level of openness we possess.
Thursday, 18 March 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021 - St. Joseph, husband of Mary - Homily
Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.
Our God in Jesus is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other.
Friday, March 19, 2021 - St. Joseph, Husband of Mary - When in a dilemma do you usually do the right thing or the loving thing? Would your life have been any different if Jesus had not been born?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:4-5a,12-14a,16; Rm 4:13,16-18,22;Mt1:16,18-24a
Devotion to St. Joseph became popular from the 12th century onward and in the 15th Century the feast of St. Joseph began to be celebrated on March 19 every year. Devotion to St. Joseph as foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary grew tremendously in the 19th Century and continues till this day.
The Gospel text for the feast of today includes one verse of the genealogy, which specifies that Joseph was the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born. The verses that follow narrate the story of his birth. Since Mary and Joseph were engaged, they were legally considered husband and wife. Thus, infidelity in this case would also be considered adultery. Their union could only be dissolved by divorce or death. Though Joseph is righteous or just, he decides not to go by the letter of the law and publicly disgrace Mary, but he chooses a quieter way of divorcing her. God, however, has other plans for both Joseph and Mary and intervenes in a dream. Joseph is addressed by the angel as “Son of David” reiterating, once again after the genealogy, the Davidic origin of Jesus. He is asked to take Mary as his wife and also informed that is the Spirit’s action that is responsible for her pregnancy. He is told that he is to give the child the name “Jesus". Jesus (Iesous) is the Greek form of "Joshua" which, whether in the long form yehosua, ("Yahweh is salvation") or in one of the short forms, yesua, ("Yahweh saves”), identifies the son, in the womb of Mary, as the one who brings God’s promised eschatological salvation. The angel explains what the name means by referring to Ps 130:8. The name “Jesus” was a popular and common name in the first century. By the choice of such a name, Matthew shows that the Saviour receives a common human name, a sign that unites him with the human beings of this world rather than separating him from them.
Matthew then inserts into the text the first of ten formula or fulfillment quotations that are found in his Gospel. This means that Matthew quotes a text from the Old Testament to show that it was fulfilled in the life and mission of Jesus. Here, the text is from Isa 7:14 which, in its original context, referred to the promise that Judah would be delivered from the threat of the Syro-Ephraimitic War before the child of a young woman, who was already pregnant, would reach the age of moral discernment. The child would be given a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence “God is with us” (Emmanu‘el) corresponding to other symbolic names in the Isaiah story. Though this text was directed to Isaiah’s time, Matthew understands it as a text about Jesus, and fulfilled perfectly in him, here in his birth and naming.
This birth narrative of Matthew invites us to reflect on a number of points. Of these, two are significant. First, many of us are often caught in the dilemma of doing the right thing which might not always be the loving thing. If we follow only the letter of the law, we may be doing the right thing but not the most loving thing. However, if we focus every time on the most loving thing, like Joseph, it is surely also the right thing. Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.
Second, the story also shows us who our God is. Our God is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other. This God does not come in power, might, and glory, but as a helpless child. As a child, God is vulnerable. He is fully human and in his humanity, is subject to all the limitations that humanity imposes on us. Yet, he will do even that, if only humans respond to the unconditional love that he shows.
St. Joseph - Model of faith, hope and love
St. Joseph, model of faith, hope and love
I. Introduction: St. Joseph is one of the very few Saints who has two feast days to honour him. The scriptures do not say much about this silent saint. As a matter of fact, St. Joseph does not speak in the scriptures. His voice is not heard. This is to be expected because St. Joseph was a man of action more than words.
II. Inspiration from St. Joseph: As we celebrate a year dedicated to St. Joseph we can draw inspiration from him in many areas of our own lives.
1) Attentive listening: Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who places Joseph on the centre stage in his Infancy Narrative. The angel appears to Joseph in a dream on four separate occasions. (Mt 1:20-21; 2:13; 2:19-21; 2:22).
Before (Mt 1:18-19) the first of these dreams (1:20-21) Joseph had already made up his mind to follow the law because he was righteous. He became aware of the pregnancy of Mary - to whom he was engaged or betrothed - and possibly suspected her of adultery. The only logical explanation of the pregnancy was that Mary was guilty of adultery. Joseph had the choice to pursue a legal trial for adultery (Deut 22:23-27) or draw up a bill of divorce. Joseph chose the latter option because he did not want to publicly shame Mary and it would attract less attention.
Hearing with the ears of our head and seeing with the eyes of our head is only one way of hearing and seeing. True hearing and seeing require that we hear and see also with the ears and eyes of our hearts.
2) Trusting God’s word: The angel explains that the child conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20) and Joseph must take his pregnant betrothed as his wife. Not only is he to do that, he will also not have the privilege as the foster father to name this child. This name has already been chosen by God as communicated by the angel (1:21). His trust in God’s word shows in his action.
When things go the way we want, it is easy to believe and trust God’s word. However, when God’s word calls us to act the opposite of the way want, it is not easy to accept and follow.
3) Action more than words: Joseph’s trust in God’s word does not end with his acceptance of Mary and Jesus as his wife and son respectively. In the three dreams that follow the first (2:13; 2:19-20 and 2:22), he is asked to perform actions which are extremely difficult. However, since it is God’s plan and God’s hand is at work, Joseph acts in obedience.
In the first of these dreams, Joseph is asked to go to Egypt hastily. He obeys. In the second, when the family is in Egypt, he is asked to go to Israel (2:19-20). Once again, he obeys. The choice of Nazareth and not Judea in Israel as the place of residence of the family is also attributed to Joseph’s obedience (2:22-23).
We sometimes look for God only in miracles or extraordinary events. Yet, God keeps revealing God’s power, might and love in the ordinary events of our lives. Like Joseph we must open our hearts wide to see.
4) Acting without expectation: In most of our relationships with others including members of our families, we act with some or other expectation. Sometimes, we expect those to whom we have been generous and kind to also be generous and kind to us in return. At others times, we expect a word of gratitude and even praise for reaching out. At still other times, we expect that those to whom we have reached out will not be ungrateful. With Joseph, there were no expectations whatsoever. He did what had to done.
Each of us is also called by God in our own way to be God’s instrument of love and peace. God does not expect that we do extraordinary things to reveal this love. If like Joseph we can reach out to another even in a small way, we will have done well.
5) Model for workers and the sanctity of work: The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a carpenter (13:55). He does not state whether Jesus followed his foster father in this trade. In his Gospel, he refers to Jesus as “the carpenter’s son” (13:55). The Gospel of Mark, however, informs us that Jesus did follow Joseph in this trade. When Jesus goes back to his hometown, the townsfolk identity him as “the carpenter” (Mk 6:3).
The celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, the worker on the first day of May each year – when Workers Day or Labour Day is celebrated in many countries of the world - is a celebration of the saint and his work ethic, but also a celebration of the participation of humans in God’s work of creation. In this Joseph becomes an inspiration and model to workers of the meaning of hard work and earning one’s living through the sweat of one’s brow.
6) Model of discernment and faith: Obedience to God’s word required a lot of discernment and faith from Joseph. He was aware that he would not have been able to recognise immediately whether he was indeed doing God’s will. The dreams could have been the result of his own imagination. It required discernment to know that they were not. All decisions that he had to take - the hastening to Egypt, remaining in Egypt when the threat to the child was still alive, and the return to Nazareth - were life changing decisions. They would affect not only his life, but also the life of his wife Mary and Jesus. This is why he had to be convinced of that which he could not see and hope that his actions were in accord with what God wanted him to do.
One important rule of a good discernment is that we do not make decisions when we are upset or even elated. This is because these decisions will be based only on emotion and not discernment. We have to be at equanimity before we make important decisions and in this regard, Joseph is a model to be imitated.
7) Protector of the family and of the world: In his role as foster father of Jesus, Joseph was protector of his family. The safety of his family was of prime importance to Joseph and he placed their needs and safety above his own.
This quality of Joseph can be extended to include his protection of the whole world. As he kept the interests of his family uppermost, so he keeps the interests of the world uppermost in his intercession for the world.
When we are tempted to live self-centered and selfish lives, Joseph’s selflessness comes as a breath of fresh air inviting us to be other-centered and to make a difference to the lives of others.
III. Conclusion: In the play Hamlet, there is a scene in which Hamlet says to his friend Horatio “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet 1.5). One understanding of this is that while there are many things that the human person does know, there are possibly more things that we do not yet know.
One such happening is the Covid-19 pandemic. While theories abound about the origin of the virus and how best to respond to it, the fact is that we are still groping in the dark. This is why like St. Joseph we are called to listen attentively.
We live in times where many of us would prefer to see before we believe. If we are of this mind, then there is no need for faith. St. Joseph teaches us to believe even without seeing. He also teaches us to believe even when we cannot see. This is because like him, we too must realise that God’s will for the world will always be better than what we want for ourselves. We must learn from St. Joseph how to make our will subservient to God’s.
Our actions in most cases, even the seemingly altruistic ones are often with our eye on the reward. St Joseph teaches us that we must learn to find the reward in the doing of the action.