Sunday, 18 April 2021

Monday, April 19, 2021 - Will you express your faith in Jesus through one loving action today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:8-15; Jn6:22-29

The first three verses of today’s text, which appear immediately after the miracle of walking on the water, serve as transition verses for the dialogue with the people and the discourse on the bread of life that follow. They also serve to bring the crowd, which had eaten at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, back into the story and so, link Jesus’ words that follow with the feeding miracle and the miracle of walking on the water.

Since the crowd has not been privy to the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, they wonder how he got to the other side. Jesus does not answer their question but draws attention to their reason for seeking him. Though they have seen the sign that Jesus gave at the miraculous feeding, they were not able to perceive it because their attention was directed to the earthly and temporary, not to the heavenly and permanent. Even as they seek him for temporary food, Jesus invites them to a higher seeking. He asks them to seek for the food that only he can give, the food that endures forever. Jesus is competent to give this food because the Father himself has approved and set his seal on Jesus. In response to Jesus’ statement to not work for food that perishes, the crowd interprets the word “work” to mean certain actions that they must perform to acquire this food. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by explaining what is meant by “work”. They must believe in Jesus who has been sent by God.

Believing in Jesus does not only mean a verbal profession of faith. In the Gospel of John, the term believing is, most often, used to describe faith that shows itself in action. This is why believing is akin to work. Jesus does not provide merely physical nourishment, but also nourishment of the mind, heart, and spirit. To know and believe in Jesus is to be sated in every aspect of life. It is to never lack or want anything, because all things are provided in him.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Sunday, April 18, 2021 - Homily


The hands and side that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached.


Sunday, April 18, 2021 - Third Sunday of Easter - Preach and practice forgiveness!

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19;1 Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48

The last verse of today’s Gospel “You are witnesses of these things”, sets not only the theme for the readings of today, but also summarizes both the privilege and responsibility of being witnesses.

The question, however, is to what are the disciples to witness? To whom must they witness? They are called to witness clearly to the person of Christ – specifically to his death and resurrection and also to the fact that in his name forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all.

Jesus shows this to them in two ways. The first is in the manifestation of himself. Even as he stands in their midst, he greets them with the greeting of peace. This greeting coming from the risen Lord is more than merely a greeting. It is a gift, a surety, a tangible thing. It refers to wholeness and embraces every aspect of life. It is a gift that will sustain them in all their endeavors and encourage them in mission. After the gift of peace, Jesus responds to their shock and amazement by convincing them that he is not a spirit, but flesh and blood. He is the same Jesus who died and was buried who is now raised. The second way in which Jesus reveals the content of their witness is in the instructions he gives them concerning mission.

Their Mission is not different from his. It is at one with and continues the Mission that Jesus himself inaugurated. The disciples are called to proclaim not merely Jesus’ death and resurrection but also that precisely because of this Christ-event all people everywhere have been forgiven, accepted and loved. The disciples are called to proclaim that the name Jesus means that God saves from sin.

Peter understood this message clearly as is evident in his address to the people gathered in the Temple. Though Jesus was rejected, despised and killed for no fault of his, yet, the God who raised him forgives all those involved in their heinous act. Because they have received this unconditional forgiveness in Jesus’ name, they are called to a metanoia, a change of mind, heart and vision. The acceptance of God’s forgiveness must result in a transformation.

This idea is reiterated by John in the second reading of today in which he exhorts the community to realize that because Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the response to such a death must be a life well lived. This is shown by obedience to the command that Jesus taught, that all love one another as brothers and sisters. This is how love for God and Jesus is shown.

“You are witnesses of these things”, is a declaration that Jesus continues to make even today. We who have experienced God’s unconditional love in Jesus are called to proclaim – like the first disciples – both the Christ event and that in Jesus’ name, God continues to forgive, accept and love. However, this forgiveness cannot be proclaimed if we have not first experienced it ourselves. It is strange but true that the only way we can experience forgiveness is, if we first forgive. The Lord’s Prayer which is one of the most common and well-known prayers makes the same point. We ask the Lord to forgive us only as we forgive. In other words, we will not be in a position to receive God’s forgiveness if our hearts are filled with unforgiveness. In the creed of the Catholic Church, belief in the forgiveness of sins stands besides belief in the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints which indicates how central this aspect is to being Christian.

Psychologists and doctors today tell us that the larger majority of our illnesses today are psychosomatic. This means that when the “inside” (psuchç) of a person is affected then the “outside” (sōma) will also be affected. One of the main reasons why the “inside” gets affected is because of lack of forgiveness and holding on to hurts and resentments.

The hands and side that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.

“Forgive”, I am fond of saying, “it is good for your health”.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Saturday, April 17, 2021 - Homily


 

Our God is Jesus is not a God was was (a God of the past) or even a God who will be (a God of the future) but a God who is (I am) in the present. When we give up our fear, we can experience this God.

Saturday, April 17, 2021 - When the road is steep and the going is difficult, will you continue to believe that God walks with you or will you give in to despair? When things do not go the way you want them to, do you believe that God comes to your aid?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:1-7; Jn 6:16-21

Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who does not narrate the story of Jesus walking on the water. In Matthew (14:22-32), and Mark (6:45-51), like in John, the miracle is narrated immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. John’s account of the miracle is the shortest of the three.

The story begins by portraying the disciples in a boat moving towards Capernaum. The statement that “it was now dark” indicates, on the surface level, the time of the day, but on the deeper level, the absence of Jesus. It is always “dark” for John when Jesus is absent. The rough sea and the strong wind make rowing difficult. Suddenly, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, coming towards them. In the Old Testament, only God has the power to walk on the waters (Job 9:8; Isa 43:2), and so, this act on the part of Jesus, already reveals him as divine. John does not give us the reason why the disciples were terrified. Matthew (14:26) and Mark (6:49) explain the fear of the disciples by saying that they thought they saw a ghost.

As Jesus comes close to the boat, he identifies himself to the disciples with the divine name, “I Am”. This is the name that God gave to Moses when Moses asked God for the name that he must give to the Israelites when asked (Exod 3:14). In addition to identifying himself with the divine name, Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid”. These are words of comfort and consolation and, here also, function to allay the fears of the disciples who are in awe after witnessing a theophany. Even as the disciples want to take Jesus into the boat, they realize that they have reached their destination. The presence of Jesus assures them a safe passage through all the storms.

Thus, the point of the miracle is not so much to stress the miraculous powers of Jesus, but to reveal Jesus as God. The glory of God is revealed in Jesus and here, God is portrayed as a God who is for the disciples and with them in all their struggles and tribulations. He is a God who comes to the disciples’ aid when they need him and allays all their fears.  He is a God who will provide a safe passage for them even in the midst of all the storms they encounter in life.

Life is composed of ups and downs. It is easy to see God’s hand and his working in our lives when everything goes as we plan. However, when the going gets tough and the road is difficult, God seems, to us, to hide himself. It is at times like these when suddenly, without our knowing how, Jesus comes walking on the water towards us, allaying our fears and telling us that HE IS.  He is God with us and for us, God who walks with us and ahead of us. He is God who will never let the storms of our lives overwhelm us. We have only to open our eyes and see, and get rid of the fear that grips us, because we have a God who himself has gone through the storms of life. We have a God who, even in the most difficult moments of his life, continued to believe that the Father was with him. We have a God who has shown us the meaning of trust, confidence, and courage.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Friday, April 16, 2021 - Homily


 

Many of us are still searching for meaning in life. The hunger that some of us experience is not only a physical hunger, but a hunger of mind and heart. We keep looking to satisfy this hunger and at times, try to do so by using means that can only satisfy temporarily.  No matter what questions we may have, Jesus continues to be the answer.

Friday, April 16, 2021 - Will you like Jesus dare to become bread for at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:34-42; Jn6:1-15

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand ,with five loaves and two fish, after which 12 baskets are gathered, is the only miracle of Jesus that is narrated by all the four Gospels (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17). Yet, there are significant differences in the narrative in the Gospel of John when compared with the Synoptic Gospels. Only in John are we told that the Passover was near at hand and that it was a boy from whom the barley loaves were acquired for the feeding. In John Jesus “gives thanks” over the bread and distributes it to the people himself. This lends a distinctive Eucharistic touch to the miracle. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says the “blessing” and gives the bread to the disciples who distribute it among the people.

When Jesus sees the large crowd, it is he who initiates the miracle by asking Philip the question about the possibility of feeding such a large crowd. This question, however, is asked as a test, which Philip fails. His answer sets limits on what God can do, much like Nicodemus had done. He asserts the impossibility of the situation. Andrew seems not as unbelieving as Philip, yet he, too, thinks that it is impossible to feed so many with the meager ration that is at their disposal.

John does not explain how the miracle occurred, but states succinctly that the crowd was ordered to sit down and, after Jesus had given thanks over the bread, there was enough and more for the five thousand. By stating that Jesus gave the bread to the people himself, John asserts that the gift of food comes from Jesus, who alone is the bread of life.

Jesus’ words in 6:12, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost”, are unique to the Johannine version of the miracle and make an important connection between this story and the manna story of Exodus 16. In Exod 16:19, Moses asked that the people not leave any extra manna around, but the people disobeyed Moses and the leftover manna “bred worms and became foul” (Exod 16:20). Jesus’ words, in 6:12, seem to caution against a repetition of Exodus 16.

The people who are fed respond to the miracle only at a surface level. They are taken up with the sign and base their faith on it. This sign results in their wanting to make Jesus king. However, Jesus will not trust himself to those who base their faith in him only in the signs that he works.

To ask the question - “How did five loaves and two fish suffice to feed five thousand people? - would be to miss the point. The “how” question cannot be answered, because none of the evangelists narrate “how” it happened. The concentration seems to be on Jesus as the bread of life, able to sate the hunger of all who come to him. The question to Philip, Andrew’s intervention, Jesus ordering that the people sit down, his “giving thanks” and distributing the bread to the people himself, are all indications that John focuses on the preparation for the miracle more than on the miracle itself. The fact that all five thousand people are satisfied and twelve baskets can be gathered after they have eaten their fill, points to the abundance of the miracle and Jesus’ free gift of bread and himself. God, in Jesus, will satisfy every kind of hunger of the people. The hungry and thirsty need not look elsewhere for bread. They have it in abundance in Jesus.

Many of us are still searching for meaning in life. The hunger that some of us experience is not only a physical hunger, but a hunger of mind and heart. We keep looking to satisfy this hunger and at times, try to do so by using means that can only satisfy temporarily.  No matter what questions we may have, Jesus continues to be the answer.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Thursday, April 15, 2021 - Homily


 

The lives of both John and Jesus resulted in many being drawn to God. Have others been drawn to God by the witness of your life?

Thursday, April 15, 2021 - Have other been drawn to Jesus by the witness of your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27-33; Jn 3:31-36

These verses contain what some think is John’s final witness to Jesus. Others see them as the words of Jesus or the Evangelist. If the words are regarded as that of John, then the “one from above” refers to Jesus and “the one from the earth”, to John. If they are interpreted as the words of Jesus, then the same refer to Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In either case, it is clear that Jesus is the one from above. The testimony of both John and Jesus was rejected by some to whom it was made. To accept the testimony of John and Jesus is to trust God, since it is God himself who sent both. While John was sent to bear witness to the light, Jesus was the light to whom John bore witness. Jesus, having been sent by the Father, speaks what he has been commanded to by the Father. He has received the gift of the Spirit and so is able to gift the Spirit to others. The relationship between the Father and the Son is one of unconditional love. This love results in the Father handing over all things to the Son. Thus, to believe in the Son means to have life, to reject the Son means to call death on oneself.

 

Whether we regard the words as those of Jesus or of John, what is striking is that each witness to the one he has been called to witness to.  John was called to witness to Jesus, and he does this perfectly. Jesus was called to witness to the Father, and he does this like no one before him could ever do. The lives of both John and Jesus resulted in many being drawn to Jesus and to his Father.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - Homily


 

Though the light has come, and people should normally have opted for it, some preferred the dark. How will you show that you have opted for light over darkness?

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - How will you show that you have opted for light over darkness?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:17-26; Jn3:16-21

The first verse of today’s text is one of the most well known verses in the entire Bible. It speaks of the unconditional love of God which was made visible and tangible in sending his Son into the world. This was a free gift of God which was accepted by some but rejected by others. The sending of the Son was so that all may have eternal life. The primary purpose of sending the Son was not to condemn, but to save. Yet, every person is free to decide whether he/she wants this free gift. Acceptance of the gift of the Son of God results in salvation, rejection means that one condemns oneself.

 

Though the light has come, and people should normally have opted for it, some preferred the dark. The reason why they did is because they did not want either their deeds or their person to be exposed. Fear ruled their hearts. Those who opted for the light opted for freedom and love.

 

It is unthinkable that God would choose the manner of salvation that he did when he sent his Son to save. God could have, like he did in the past, sent yet another messenger or even a message. Yet, he opted for the most extreme of measures when he sent a part of himself. It is even more stunning that this son was sent, not to judge, but to draw people to God through love and forgiveness. The primary task of Jesus, as his name suggests, was to be salvation to all. The all inclusive nature of this salvation, and its availability to the whole human race, is something that is possible only for God.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - Homily


 

Have you been tempted to give up or give in when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you see in the cross you are carrying your own exaltation?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - Have you been tempted to give up or give in when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you see in the cross you are carrying your own exaltation?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:32-37; Jn3:7-15

The text of today repeats the last two verses of yesterday in order to situate the question that Nicodemus asks in the following verse. To Jesus’ statement that it is necessary for a person to be born of water and the spirit, or from above, and that this birth, like the wind/spirit is a mystery that cannot be fully grasped, Nicodemus responds with amazement. His question once again begins with “How”. This indicates the limits that Nicodemus sets even before any revelation can be made to him. This is the last time that Nicodemus will speak. He begins with “How” and ends with “How”. He does not seem to have been able to go to the deeper meaning and mystery to which Jesus was taking him. Though he is a teacher himself, he has refused to learn and so, cannot understand.

 

Through the monologue that follows, Jesus renews the offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension. The “we” of Jesus, in the Gospel context, stands for Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples of John, who followed Jesus and witnessed to him. These witnesses speak from their own experience; what they know, they say. If Nicodemus is not able to understand the simple things, like being born from above and with water and the spirit, how will he able to understand even greater mysteries than this? Jesus alone has the authority to make the revelation of heavenly things since he has come from heaven. He has the power on earth to reveal things of heaven. In 3:14, for the first time, we come across what may be regarded as a passion, resurrection, and ascension prediction in the Gospel of John. Jesus will be lifted up/exalted, just as Moses lifted up/exalted the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The word “hupsoo’ can mean “lift up” or exalt”. Thus, while the word might indicate the physical act of “lifting up” the cross beam at the time of his crucifixion, it can also mean his “exaltation”. Thus, in his crucifixion, Jesus will also be exalted, yet there is no exaltation apart from the crucifixion. The consequence of believing in Jesus lifted up/exalted is eternal life, which here means a life lived in the constant presence of God.

 

It is significant that for the Gospel of John, the very act of the crucifixion is also seen as the act of the resurrection and ascension. Jesus dies, but only to be raised to life and ascend to the Father. This insight is extremely important for our lives as well, because it means that, if we accept it, our lives will never be the same again.

 

It says to us that, even when we are in extremely difficult situations and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, God continues to be there with us. It says to us that, at moments when we think all is lost and we have no hope, we must not give up or give in. It says to us that, even at those times when we cannot fully understand why things happen the way they do and we are tempted to throw in the towel, God continues to offer hope and consolation.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021 - Homily


 

Have you, like Nicodemus, set limits on what God can and cannot do? Will you open yourself to “mystery” today? How will you show through three actions today that you are born from above?

Monday, April 12, 2021 - Have you, like Nicodemus, set limits on what God can and cannot do? Will you open yourself to “mystery” today? How will you show through three actions today that you are born from above?

To read the texts read the texts: Acts 4:23-31; Jn3:1-8

The first twenty one verses of Chapter 3 contain the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus and a discourse of Jesus. The text of today contains the dialogue.

The first verse introduces Nicodemus as a Pharisee and leader of the Jews. While on the one hand, Nicodemus comes to Jesus and indicates a desire to seek and find, on the other hand, he comes at night. Night, in the Gospel of John, is used in opposition to light and represents separation from the presence of God.

Nicodemus begins the dialogue by making a statement about Jesus’ identity. In addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” (Teacher) he acknowledges Jesus right to teach. He goes even further in acknowledging that Jesus is God’s emissary. However, this affirmation is based on the signs that he has witnessed and Jesus does not entrust himself to those whose faith is based on signs. Nicodemus does not realize that what he has says about the origins of Jesus has a much deeper meaning than the one he means. Jesus is not merely an emissary of God, but has his origin in God. The “we’ of Nicodemus is to indicate that he does not speak for himself alone, but for the community that he represents.

Jesus does not respond directly to Nicodemus’s acknowledgement of him, but challenges him with a teaching of depth. Jesus’ used of the Greek word “anothen” is a classic case of double meaning with which the Gospel of John abounds. In this technique, Jesus uses a word which can have two meanings. The listener always picks the base or literal meaning while Jesus means the deeper meaning. “Anothen” can mean “from above” or “again”. By use of this word, Jesus challenges Nicodemus to move from the base or surface meaning to the deeper meaning and understanding. Nicodemus does not make this move and interprets the word at its surface level. Thus, he sets limits on what is and is not possible. He questions the possibility of a person entering his/her mother’s womb since he interprets “to be born anothen” to mean “to be born again”. Jesus, however, speaks of a radical new birth from above.

To explain further what he means, Jesus uses another set of images; “water and the spirit”. This is an indication that, while on the one hand, entry into the kingdom will require physical birth, through water, it will also require more. It will require a spiritual birth, by the spirit. Entry into the kingdom will require being born from above or by water and the spirit. Like the wind/spirit which blows where it wills and can be felt and heard but not seen, so is birth by the spirit a mystery that cannot be comprehended fully by finite minds.

There are two related points that this text invites us to reflect on. The first of these is the attitude of Nicodemus when he comes to Jesus. His opening “We know” is already an indication that he has come with preconceived notions and not with openness. It also indicates that he is of the opinion that he does not need to learn anything. This is a dangerous attitude for one to have. Learning never ends. While books, experiences, and the like teach us a number of things, there are many things that we still do not know. We need to realize this and, with this realization, must come an openness and desire to learn.

The second and related point is the questions that Nicodemus asks. His closed attitude prompts him to set limits on what God can and cannot do and his “we know’ soon takes the form of “How can”. He is unwillingly to let God be God. His categories are all well defined and no amount of explanation will break through them.  Sadly, he starts with “How can’ and ends with the same words.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Sunday, April 11, 2021 - Homily


 

Unbelief is the friend of faith; the enemy of faith is fear. However imperfect our faith, and however many times we remain silent when we should testify to the gospel, we can always return to the Lord.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 - How will your belief in the Living Lord show in action?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:42-47; 1  Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

The verses which make up the Gospel text for today may be seen to be divided into four parts, all of which are interconnected. The first of these is the appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples, and this is followed by his commission to them. The third is the appearance of the Risen Christ to the disciples when Thomas is present.  The final part is the comments made by the evangelist.

The disciples did not believe the word of Mary Magdalene that the Lord had appeared to her and so, they are behind closed doors. However, even closed doors do not pose a hindrance to Jesus. He comes into their midst. His first words to the disciples are his gift of peace. This is not merely a wish, but a gift, since it is with his peace that they will be sent out into the world. This gift enables them to substitute fearlessness for their fear, courage for their cowardice, and joy for their sorrow. The manifestation of his hands and side is to indicate to them that there is continuity. It is not a different Jesus who appears to them, but the same Jesus, who was crucified, died, buried, and raised from the dead. He is now, also, the Risen Christ. This manifestation enables the disciples to see and recognise him. This is the reason for their joy.

However, the manifestation serves another purpose as well, which is to send the disciples on mission. The disciples are sent by Jesus, the Risen Christ, just as Jesus was sent by the Father. In other words, they are to continue the mission that Jesus began.  As he received the gift of the Spirit before his ministry, so too, the disciples receive the gift of the Spirit from Jesus. The breath of Jesus on the disciples makes them a new creation and readies them for their mission that is to forgive and retain sin.

While this has been understood as a basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it seems, from the text, that the mission is much deeper. The Commission is to “the disciples”, which, in the Gospel of John, is a much larger group than the eleven or twelve. It involves the entire faith community. It is the whole community that is called to continue the mission of Jesus. This mission is not merely the forgiveness or retention of sins that individuals commit.  It is more than that.  In the Gospel of John, sin is, more often than not, a theological failing. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus is the manifestation of the Father. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus reveals God as no other does. Thus, when the disciples are commissioned to forgive and retain sin, what they are really commissioned to do is reveal God to the world as Jesus did.  They will reveal God to the world by the love they have for one another, and by the love they show to others. They will make others see that God is, indeed, love. They will, through their actions, invite others to share in this unconditional love. Those to whom this manifestation is made are free to accept or to reject it. It is in this acceptance or rejection that sins are forgiven or retained. Acceptance means forgiveness.  Rejection means that sins are retained.

This interpretation is confirmed when we realise that one reason why Thomas did not believe the disciples when they told him that they had seen the Lord, was because he was not able to see in their words and actions a manifestation of the love of Jesus. They were as they had been before the revelation that Jesus made to them. There did not seem to be any marked change in their behaviour. They were not able to convince him that the Lord had, indeed, appeared to them. However, Jesus will use, for Thomas, that way which will bring him to faith. In this, Thomas is as “doubting” as the disciples and no more so. Thus, in this scene, the focus of attention is not Thomas, but Jesus. The focus is on the generous offer of himself that Jesus makes to Thomas, an offer that Jesus made to so many others, so often in his life time. After his resurrection, Jesus continues to give. Thomas responds with the most powerful, complete and the highest acclamation for Jesus found in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus is, indeed, Lord and God. The words of Jesus to Thomas after the acclamation include future generations of believers. It is not necessary to have external sight to come to faith. It is not necessary to touch and to feel to come to faith. It is not necessary to have tangible evidence to come to faith. We, who believe without having seen, are invited, like Thomas and the other disciples, not merely to believe in the resurrection, but to believe in the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God.  We are invited to believe in his unique relationship with God. We now have life in abundance because Jesus has completed his work on earth and returned to the Father.

He is, as the second reading of today informs us, the one who has been raised by the father. He who was dead is alive forever and it is he who holds the keys of the kingdom. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the first disciples the power to heal and make whole. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to reach out in love.  It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to make him manifest in their every word and action so that others will be brought to believe.

It is the same Lord who gives us this power today. What will we do with it?

Friday, 9 April 2021

Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Homily


 

None of us can get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by God’s healing presence. Jesus continues to use each of us even in our weakness to be his messengers of the good news that, in him, God loves everyone.

Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Will you communicate Jesus’ healing touch to someone like he has communicated it to you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:13-21; Mk16:9-15

Most scholars today regard Mk 16:9-20 as an addition to the original ending of Mark at 16:8. A number of reasons are put forward for this view. The first is that Mary Magdalene is introduced in 16:9 as if she is being mentioned for the first time.  However, Mark has mentioned her before (15:47; 16:1). Second, there is no mention of a Galilean apparition in these verses, though one is explicitly promised in 16:7. Third, these verses are a combination, in summary form, of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus in the other Synoptic Gospels, in John, and in the Acts of the Apostles.

 

The text of today begins by narrating the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene. Her witness is not believed by those to whom she communicates this news. The next to witness the risen Lord are two disciples as they were walking into the country. These, too, were not believed. Jesus then appears to the eleven while they are at table and first, upbraids them for their stubbornness and lack of faith and then, makes them messengers and apostles of the good news to the whole world.

 

Even in the longer ending, one of the main themes is the lack of faith on the part of the disciples. Because of what they witnessed at the crucifixion, they had given up and felt defeated. They had lost all hope and could not get themselves to believe that God could make all things new. Yet, as he did in his life time, Jesus reaches out to them even in their weakness and fear. Since he was able to accomplish all that God wanted him to even when on the cross, he knew that God could continue to accomplish his will even in his weak and frightened disciples. Thus, while they are made aware of their fear, they are also challenged to go beyond it, confident in the knowledge that Jesus himself would be with them.

 

Doubt is the friend of faith; the enemy of faith is fear. However imperfect our faith, and however many times we remain silent when we should testify to the gospel, we can always return to the Lord. None of us can get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by God’s healing presence. Jesus continues to use each of us even in our weakness to be his messengers of the good news that, in him, God loves everyone.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Friday, April 9, 2021 - Homily


 

Exclusivity has no place in any mission that has its roots in Jesus’ mission. All are included and all are welcome. Even more, each retains his/her identity and is still very much a part of the whole. There is no need for uniformity in the family of Jesus, but unity is very much a core value.

Friday, April 9, 2021 - Do you prefer to sit on the fence or do you take a stand on issues? When you are unable to do something and someone offers a suggestion, how do you respond? Do you reject it outright because you think you know it all, or do you try it out? Can you accept the differences of others easily, or do they have to be like you to be accepted?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:1-12; Jn21:1-14

Most scholars today see Jn 21:1-25 as a later addition to the Gospel of John. It is not clear whether this material was added by the Evangelist or added later by another redactor or editor. It is true that the language of Chapter 21 differs from the rest of John’s Gospel but, it is also true that all existing manuscripts of John contain Chapter 21. The difference in language is explained as being conditioned by the content and not because someone other than the Evangelist wrote it. Yet, some are clear that, because of the ecclesial concerns which are at the forefront in Chapter 21, and which are not the focuses of the Gospel until Chapter 20, it was added later. Others see the ecclesial concerns as essential to the ending of the Gospel and so, regard Chapter 21 as an integral part of the Gospel. Be that as it may, Chapter 21 is now part of the Gospel and so must be interpreted within the framework of the whole Gospel of John.

 

There are two parts to this post resurrection story. The first deals with the miraculous catch of fish and the second with the recognition of the risen Lord.

 

The text begins by informing the reader that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples and then goes on to narrate how this revelation took place. The story is thus to be interpreted as an epiphany. Seven disciples are mentioned, of which only three are named. The beloved disciple, who is mentioned later in the narrative, is one of the seven. The activity of fishing on the part of the disciples, even after they had received the commission from the risen Lord in Chapter 20, may be seen as a sign that they had not obeyed the command.  It might be seen as a sign that they had given up and returned to their former way of life or even as an indication of their aimlessness. This means that an appearance of the risen Lord, and even a command from him, is not enough to cause a transformation in one’s outlook to life. One must be willing to take risks and believe.

 

The response of the other six to Peter’s statement that he is going fishing is to go with him. This indicates a sense of community and oneness. Though they may not be able to fully understand the significance of going fishing at this crucial time, they will collaborate with Peter. They will pull together. However, despite all their efforts, they are not able to achieve anything. Jesus appears unobtrusively when it is light, and asks a question about the catch. They respond that they have caught nothing. They obey Jesus’ command to cast the net on the right side and are successful. The quantity of fish is so great that they struggle to haul in the net.

 

The second part of the story narrates the recognition of the risen Lord. The miraculous catch seems to be the reason why the beloved disciple is able to recognize that it is the Lord. Here, too, like at the empty tomb (20:8), he is able to recognize through his intuition. Peter responds to this statement with alacrity, though his desire to be clothed and therefore, respectful, restrains him. The other disciples respond soberly.

 

The enormity of the catch is detailed in the number of fish caught, namely one hundred fifty three. A variety of interpretations have been offered to explain this number. St. Augustine proposed a mathematical way of reading this number which is regarded even today as plausible. His explanation was that the number 153 is obtained when all of the integers from 1 to 17 are added together; this mathematical fact thus suggests the completeness of the number 153. Others regard the number as clearly indicating that the narration of this event is an eyewitness account of what actually happened. This is why the number is not a round number, but 153. Still another interpretation is that 153 was the number of species of fish known to Greek zoologists of that time and thus, it signifies that every kind or species of fish was caught in the net. This symbolizes that no one is excluded. That the net did not break, despite the fact that there were so many fish, is an indication of unity even in diversity. That this seems to be the best explanation is confirmed by the fact that the verb “to haul” used here of Peter’s hauling the net ashore is the same verb used to describe those who come to Jesus from God (6:44).  It is the same verb that is used to describe the salvific effect of Jesus’ death when he will “draw’ (haul) all people to himself (12:32). Thus, the disciples continue the mission of Jesus even when they fish, by drawing all to him.

 

Since the disciples “know’ it is the Lord they do not ask him his identity. Jesus plays the host and invites them to dine with him.

 

At least three significant points are made by this text. The first is that there is no guarantee that, just because a person has “seen” and “heard” Jesus, he/she will obey his commands or continue his mission. It is possible that, even after such an experience, one will continue in the old ways.

 

Second, any mission that is undertaken without the help of the Lord will rarely meet with success as is evident in the disciples’ failure to catch anything, even after all their strenuous efforts. Sometimes, it is the words of a stranger that result in the transformation of a situation. To hear these words, it is important to be as open and receptive as the disciples were though they did not know who that stranger was. If the disciples, instead of listening to what the stranger was saying, had acted arrogantly and with pride, they would never have made the miraculous catch and may never have encountered Jesus.

 

Third, exclusivity has no place in any mission that has its roots in Jesus’ mission. All are included and all are welcome. Even more, each retains his/her identity and is still very much a part of the whole. There is no need for uniformity in the family of Jesus, but unity is very much a core value.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Thursday, April 8, 2021 - Homily


 

The hands and feet that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are to be shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached.

Thursday, April 8, 2021 - Have you received the forgiveness that Jesus proclaimed? How will you preach this forgiveness today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:11-26; Lk 24:35-48 

These verses contain the appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven and their companions.  Luke’s account has parallels with the accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and John.  Here, too, like in the Emmaus story, the disciples are unable to recognize Jesus. When Jesus appears to them and greets them with a wish of peace, they think they are seeing a ghost and so, are frightened and terrified. Jesus’ response to these emotions is to ask why they are frightened and why doubts must arise.  In order to prove to them that it is indeed he, Jesus shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him. This is to prove that he is not a spirit which has no flesh and bones. Despite this invitation, they continue to doubt. Jesus then asks them for something to eat.  He eats what they give him, in front of them. This gesture results in portraying the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Yet, Luke does not explicitly state that the disciples believed, even after seeing Jesus eat.

 

Jesus does something more. He explains to them, like he did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the scriptures and the things concerning him that the scriptures had foretold. Scripture could only be fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. After this, he commissions them to be witnesses of this fact and through it, the gift of forgiveness of sins to all nations, which will begin in Jerusalem.

 

Thus, the text which began with the doubt and confusion of the disciples ends with them being made witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  They are witnesses that his death and resurrection have resulted in salvation and forgiveness of sins for all humankind.

 

The points that Luke seems to want to make here are first, that Jesus has indeed been raised, and bodily, and second, that the disciples who will proclaim this fact were eye witnesses to this event.  It was not simply an event that took place beyond history (though the resurrection, as such, is a meta-historical event) but happened in space and in time, was real, and witnessed by the disciples who saw the risen Lord.

 

The hands and feet that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are to be shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - Homily


 

The risen Lord meets us on this, our road to Emmaus, and assures us of his presence. He invites us not to give up or give in. He tells us that we must continue despite all evidence to the contrary, and that we must keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - What is it that keeps you from recognizing Jesus? Is it your focus on the negative? Are you not able to see God because he does not reveal himself or because you do not open wide your heart?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:1-10; Lk24:13-35

"That very day” – This phrase refers to the immediately preceding scene in which the women who saw the empty tomb return and narrate to the eleven and to all the rest what they had witnessed. The response of those who heard about the empty tomb from the women interpreted it as an “idle tale and they did not believe them” (24:11).

“two of them” – these are not identified, though later we are told that one of them is Cleopas (24:18). Luke could be intending that the reader place him/herself in the position of the ones who are travelling.

“all these things that had happened” – This phrase refers to all that has happened in the passion and death of Jesus.

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” – They are discussing the things that happened to Jesus when Jesus himself approaches them. These verses also make us wonder how and when they will recognize him. While the use of the passive tense “were kept” may indicate that God prevented them from recognizing him, it may also indicate that their closed attitude or their despondency kept them from recognizing Jesus.

“What is this conversation…? And they stood looking sad.” – The question of Jesus takes them by surprise so that they have to stop their walking.

“Cleophas” – now we are given the name of one of the travelers. The fact that Cleopas was not well known in the early Christian community, and is not in any lists of the Twelve, adds credibility to the story.

“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” – the irony is that, whereas the question assumes Jesus is the only one who does not know of these earth-shattering events, he is the only one who does know the meaning of all that has taken place.

“What things?” – Jesus feigns ignorance. This simple question of Jesus leads to a lengthy explanation.

Cleopas summarizes the events of Jesus’ life, leading to his death. The death of Jesus, which was indeed the fulfillment of all hope, is seen by Cleophas as the frustration of their hope. He also narrates the report of the women, and concludes with an emphatic statement, “But him they did not see.”

“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe…” - Jesus brings the irony to an end and reveals himself and the meaning of the resurrection to them. In his explanation, Jesus insists that suffering was a necessary condition for the resurrection.

“He appeared to be going further” – While on the surface, it seems that Jesus did not want to intrude on their plans. On a deeper level, it reinforces the idea that Jesus never forces himself on others. Jesus always leaves the other free. Faith must be a response to God’s constant revelation and grace.

“Stay with us.  So he went in to stay with them” - Jesus accepts the invitation offered by the two disciples.

“took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” – These are the same verbs that are used at the feeding (9:16) and at the last supper (22:19). Jesus the guest becomes the host.

“And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” – At table they saw who the stranger was. Sharing bread with a stranger makes the Lord present.

“and he vanished from their sight” – God cannot be captured only by the external senses. We need to encounter him also in our hearts.

“Did not our hearts burn within us..?” – Any encounter with Jesus cannot leave one untouched.

“And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem...” – The Gospel of Luke begins and ends in Jerusalem, and the journey to Jerusalem dominates the ministry of Jesus. The return journey is narrated very briefly. This could also indicate the urgency of the disciples in wanting to communicate to the others their experience of Jesus. It was an experience that they could not contain in their hearts, but had to share with others.

Only after the two hear of the appearance to Simon do they get a chance to share their own experience. The words “what had happened on the road” signifies the conversation that took place between them and Jesus, in which Jesus opened the scriptures to them.  “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” signifies the meal that Jesus shared with them.

 

This story of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which is found only in the Gospel of Luke, speaks about the failure of two disciples to recognize their fellow traveler. The moment they recognize the Lord, he disappears from their sight. The story is for the sake of those who will believe without seeing. It tells us that the presence of the Lord can be known in experiences that transcend the events of the resurrection appearances. It tells us that, even in the darkest moments of our lives, when we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair, when we are tempted to give up, the Lord is walking by our side. We have only to “open” our eyes to see. Emmaus is not simply a geographical location. It is a place to which we go to escape from the realities of life when we find them too hard or harsh to bear. This may be an external place (a movie theatre, out of the home, somewhere on the road) or a habit (excessive drinking) or even an internal disposition that we may adopt (giving into frustration, despair, despondency, depression, etc). Emmaus may be a feeling that life is not worth living; that everything is in vain, that it is of no use to anyone whatsoever. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die, that even noble and pure ideals like love, fellowship, and freedom, have been twisted by people for selfish ends. The risen Lord meets us on this, our road to Emmaus, and assures us of his presence. He invites us not to give up or give in. He tells us that we must continue despite all evidence to the contrary, and that we must keep on keeping on. The story also warns us that the Lord will not always come in the manner in which we expect him to come and, that he may come when we least expect him.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - Homily


 

Self-pity, uncontrollable grief, and self-absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - Have your “tears” come in the way of your encountering the Lord? Will you stop crying today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:36-41; Jn20:11-18

Mary Magdalene had seen the empty tomb and went and told Peter and the beloved disciple about it. They, too, go to the tomb and find it empty. While Peter and the beloved disciple return home (20:1-10), Mary returns to the tomb. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Monday, April, 5, 2021 - Homily


 

The presence of Jesus is an eternal presence. It is a presence that is always there even when we try to deny it or even when we cannot feel is as tangibly as we would like as at these challenging times.

Monday, April 5, 2021 - Has Jesus risen in your heart? How will you show this today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:14, 22-33; Mt28:8-15

The scene which forms the text for today is found only in Matthew’s Gospel. Immediately after the women leave the empty tomb, to obey the command of the angel to tell Jesus’ disciples about his resurrection, Jesus himself meets them and thus, they are the first to see the risen Christ. Through this appearance of the risen Christ, Matthew stresses a point he made earlier through the Emmanuel prophecy (1:23) in the Mission Discourse (10:40) and in other parts of his Gospel, that Jesus would accompany his disciples on Mission. His presence with them would be a constant presence. The risen Christ, who is simply Jesus, thus stressing the continuity with the crucified Jesus, repeats the command of the angel. However, in Jesus’ command, the disciples become “brothers,” indicating that they now belong to the family of Jesus and that all the past has been forgiven. Thus, the women, besides being communicators of the good news of the resurrection, are also commanded to communicate reconciliation. Though Jesus appears as he would have in his life time, he is, nevertheless, the risen Lord as is evident in the response of the women who take hold of his feet and worship him. The risen Jesus is real but he is also new.

The second part of the text (28:11-15) narrates the bribing of the guards and interrupts the flow of the story. However, it also completes the story begun in 27:62-66 in which the chief priests and Pharisees ask Pilate to make the tomb secure and Pilate responds to their request by asking them to place their own guards, which they do. Though the guards had seen the same events as the women, they do not come to faith. They narrate to the chief priests “everything that had happened.” The height of the irony is that the chief priests and elders become the perpetrators of the very story that they accused the disciples of Jesus of possibly fabricating. The soldiers are instructed to fall in line with the story fabricated by the chief priests and elders and money is used as the lure.

 

The presence of Jesus is an eternal presence. It is a presence that is always there even when we try to deny it like the Pharisees did or even when we cannot feel is as tangibly as we would like. This is not only because of the promise of Jesus to his disciples and us, but also because of the fact that whenever love is made present Jesus is, whenever concern for another is shown, Jesus is and whenever we reach out in love and forgiveness, optimism and hope, Jesus is and continues to be.

THE EASTER SEASON

It is fitting and appropriate that the First Week of Easter should concentrate on the resurrection appearances of Jesus. This it does by drawing our attention to the resurrection appearances of Jesus as narrated by the different Evangelists. The variety of appearances and manner in which Jesus appears indicates that the resurrection is an event that cannot be captured in words. We have to read, reflect, pray and also wonder.

From the beginning of the Second Week till the end of the Seventh Week of Easter, all the readings are taken from the Gospel of John. In the Second Week part of the focus is on the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus and the correction of Nicodemus’ misunderstanding about below and above and the other part focuses on Jesus as satisfying the physical need of people by feeding the five thousand and then revealing himself as Son of God to his disciples by walking on water.

The Third Week is dedicated exclusively to Jesus as the Bread of Life. In these readings Jesus explicates how as Bread, he is not only available to all but is also able to satisfy the hunger of people more fully than any manna from heaven could ever do.

In the Fourth Week, Jesus is revealed as the Good Shepherd and the Sheep Gate. He comes across as one who knows the sheep by name and cares for them. Others who try to enter by other gates are impostors and the sheep will not listen to their voice. They will hear only the voice of the true and Good Shepherd.

The Fifth Week of Easter concentrates on the Vine and the Branches where the invitation is to be part of the vine. If a branch remains on its own, it will only wither and die. If it remains part of the vine then it will bear much fruit, fruit that will last.

The Sixth Week already begins the preparation for the departure of Jesus by focusing our attention on the Advocate whom Jesus gifts as his gift to the disciples and the whole world. The Advocate will not give a new teaching but will only explicate what Jesus has already taught. It will be with the disciples, guiding their way and lighting their path.

In the Seventh and Final week before Pentecost, Jesus prays in thanksgiving to the Father for all that the Father has accomplished in and through him. He also prays for the disciples who will continue to be in the world, that they may have the courage to witness to that love which Jesus manifested on the cross. Finally, he prays for all those who will believe because of the proclamation that the disciples make.

In the last two days before Pentecost, we read about the commission to Peter to be Shepherd of the flock that Jesus leaves behind and that a beloved disciple must remain until Jesus comes again.

Easter Sunday - April 4, 2021 - Eucharistic Celebration


 

“One short sleep past we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Sunday, April 4, 2021 - Homily


 

One short sleep past we wake eternally and death shall be no more. Death thou shalt die!!

Sunday, April 4, 2021 - Easter Sunday - Every Area Starts To Enter Renewal

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts10:34,37-43; Col 3:1-4 John 20:1-9

John Donne the sixteenth century poet ends his poem “Death Be Not Proud” in the following manner: “One short sleep past we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

This is a good summary of the Easter event. Death is no more; death has died because of the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter is primarily a feast of hope. Light has conquered darkness, truth has conquered untruth and eternal life has conquered death. No more will death hold sway, no more will death be a threat, no more will death be something to be feared. Those who believe in the Resurrection can look death in the face and not be afraid. The hope that Easter brings is that no matter how bleak the present might look, no matter how daunting the road ahead might seem, no matter how intimidating the situation at hand might be, one need not give in to despair, one need not give up or give in, one needs only to hope, trust and believe. Jesus went to his death believing his father would raise him on the third day and his Father did.

The Gospel text of today brings out this fact in the narrative of the Empty tomb. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels where Mary Magdalene is accompanied by other women, in the Gospel of John she comes to the tomb alone. John alone mentions that “it was still dark”. John is not stating here a time of the day or narrating the physical situation, he is saying that no matter what time of the day it is, no matter how brightly the sun might be shining, it will continue to be dark, because Jesus is not present. The absence of Jesus is what causes the darkness. Once Jesus appears, it will always be light. This darkness that Mary experiences is the darkness that all of us experience when Jesus is absent from our lives. Ordinary problems of life seem overwhelming, small difficulties seem intimidating and life becomes a burden. However, with the appearance of Jesus, darkness retreats and only light appears.

The fact that the stone is rolled back does not necessarily mean that the Lord is not in the tomb, yet that is how Mary Magdalene interprets it. She goes even further when she interprets the absence of the body of Jesus as his having been taken away and lack of knowledge of where his body has been placed. This is indeed the mystery that all of us encounter. We cannot capture Jesus, we cannot confine him, and we cannot know where he comes from and where he is going. We have only to dare to follow and believe.

Peter and the beloved disciple act on Mary’s information and like her, they too run to the tomb to see for themselves what has been told them. If Mary saw only the stone rolled back, the beloved disciple sees this and also the linen cloths used to wrap the body of Jesus. Peter sees even more. Besides what the beloved disciple sees, Peter sees also the cloth that was used to wrap the head of Jesus. There is thus a progression, a development, an enlargement of the picture and the puzzle is not so much a puzzle now.

The leaving behind of the grave cloths is extremely significant since the empty tomb by itself does not signify or mean that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thus the cloths are an indication of two facts. First, the body of Jesus could not have been stolen by grave robbers since is very unlikely that they would unwrap the body before stealing it and leave the cloths behind. What is more likely is that they would take the cloths and leave the body. Second leaving behind of the grave cloths means that Jesus has left death behind as symbolized by the grave cloths. When Lazarus who was raised by Jesus from the dead came out of the tomb, he did so bringing with him his grave cloths. This was because he would need them when he died again. Jesus, however, will never die again and so will not need the grave cloths. He has risen to a new life; he has risen never to die again. Death has died.

However, as Peter makes explicit in the first reading of today, the conquering of death by Jesus is only one part of the story. There is a second part narrated by Peter and even a third part explicated in the second reading of today.

The second part is that because of Jesus’ resurrection everyone who believes will also partake of the same privilege. For everyone who believes, death will never be the end. For everyone who believes, there is the hope of new life. This is because in Jesus and through his death and resurrection forgiveness of sins has been obtained by all. The colour of the person is inconsequential; the nationality does not matter, the language spoken is unimportant because God shows no partiality. God forgives and welcomes all in Jesus the Risen Christ.

Precisely because God forgives and welcomes, this forgiveness has to be accepted and lived out. The living out of the forgiveness and acceptance follows the forgiveness and the new life. It is not a condition. This is the third part of the resurrection story. The manner in which it is to be lived out is spelled out in the second reading of today which is part of the letter to the Colossians. Those who accept this forgiveness of God in Jesus will be determined to seek only that which enhances and builds up. They will strive only for what is positive and life giving. They will be encouraged and encourage. They will never give in to despair, they will never give up or give in, and they will never lose hope.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Holy Saturday - April 3, 2021 - The Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Mother


 

We remain in silence with our Blessed Mother, but with anticipation and hope. We ask her to give her gift of perseverance, courage and strength so that we too might never give up when the Cross becomes heavy to bear.

Fortieth Day of Lent - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - We wait with Mary


 

Friday, April 2, 2021 - Good Friday - Eucharistic Celebration


 

Let our celebration of the Passion and Death of Jesus transform our lives into lives that resemble his, so that like Jesus, we too in our own ways may be men and women for others. It is only in this context that suffering and pain and death take on a new meaning as they did in the life of Christ.

Holy Saturday, April 3, 2021 - THE SEVEN SORROWS OF MARY -

 THE SEVEN SORROWS OF MARY

Yesterday we celebrated the passion and death of the Lord. The last words of Jesus on the cross were “it is finished, it is accomplished”. Jesus accepted what the father sent him to do. And so he could say “it is finished”. However, it continues because of whom Jesus left behind. And he left behind his mother and his disciples.

During the course of our meditation this morning, when all over the world is Holy Saturday, we will spend this time with Mary by going through the mysteries of her life as mother of Jesus, as mother of God and see what fruit we can draw from the manner in which she responded. There are so many things that one could say about Mary but for our reflection this morning I will take, what is commonly called the 7 sorrows, the 7 dolours of our Blessed Mother.

The first of these is the prophecy of Simeon, Lk 2:34-35 - Jesus is brought by Mary and his foster father to the temple to be presented to God, to be gifted to God, to be handed over to God. And even as he is presented, Simeon who was waiting for the Lord’s kingdom realizes that it has come in this child. And his response on encountering Jesus is to address his mother, He speaks to Mary and tells her in prophecy that Jesus will be a sign that is accepted, and rejected, a sign that will frighten those who are corrupt and dishonest, a sign that will wake people up from their slumber and a sign that will be rejected and killed. And even as he says that, he brings Mary into salvation history when he speaks of a sword piercing Mary’s heart as well. Mary will be a collaborator with her son in achieving salvation history. And through this prophecy of Simeon brings to our attention the fact that just because God has favoured her, just because God has chosen her, just because God has given her the privilege and honour of being the mother of Jesus does not necessarily mean that everything will be smooth sailing. As a matter of fact it means she would have more difficulties than others who were not chosen. So often in our lives we might tend to lose hope, we might tend to think God is not on our side, we might tend to think that God is punishing us and we might ask “where is God in all of this?” If we reflect on the prophecy of Simeon addressed to Mary we will realize God is constantly present. So let the first sorrow of Mary be an inspiration for us that no matter how many trials we may have to undergo, no matter how many swords pierce our own hearts, we will look to Mary for consolation and strength.

The second sorrow is traditionally narrated as the flight into Egypt Mt. 2:13-15. It speaks you might say of displacement, it speaks you might say of uprootedness, it speaks you might say of change and transformation, it speaks you might say of Mary and Joseph’s world being turned upside down; it speaks of instability, it speaks of the fact that they are unable to make their home in one particular place, and have to constantly to be like pilgrims moving from one place to another. Many of us are fortunate to be living in the same place for a number of years, many of us are fortunate to have stable homes, many of us are fortunate to live in countries in which the political situation is stable and there is no threat of a war; and yet I want you to reflect on the instability of your life, of sometimes your own life is turned upside down and upheavals in your heart, when you are having marital discord for example, when your children go astray for example, when your parents don’t understand you for example, when in the community of religious you feel that you are isolated and alone, when as the Superior of the community or as the Parish Priest as in a parish, you feel that the parishioners, the members of your community don’t understand you, then you go through these upheavals, there’s unprootedness I would like you to bring to mind the flight into Egypt, and you will see and reflect on how Mary and Joseph were so obedient to God’s word because they knew that God’s plan for them was better than the plan they would have for themselves. The flight into Egypt is a sign that God is in charge. So no matter how many upheavals there may be in your life, no matter how many times you might be uprooted in your hear, keep in mind that at these times the Lord is with you.

The third sorrow is commonly called the finding in the temple Lk 2:41-52 and even though it seems that it was Mary who found Jesus, my own interpretation is Jesus was never lost. It was Mary who was lost without Jesus, because the answer, the response of Jesus to his mother “Why did you look for me, you ought to know where I can be found. I can be found doing my Father’s business,” Mary was, at least in the beginning, looking in the wrong place and then she realized that Jesus is found when we do God’s will. And that is why in the gospel of Luke; Mary is portrayed right from the time of the Annunciation in Lk 1:26-38, till the end of the gospel, as a woman who constantly does God’s will. She learnt, you might say, from that incident of finding in the temple that if she had to be a disciple of her son, she to constantly do God’s will. And so I ask you where are you looking for Jesus? If you are looking for him only in the tabernacle, if you are looking for him only in the church, if you are looking for him only in holy places, you are looking for a very, very, limited places because the Lord in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, the Cosmic Christ, the Lord is now the Risen Christ, the Lord must now be found in all things, in all persons, in all situations. And primarily, as the Lord tells us in Mt 7:21-28, the Lord can be found when you do God’s will.

The fourth sorrow of Our Lady which is not really narrated by the scriptures is Mary encounters Jesus carrying his cross. Even though none of the scriptures speak about Jesus meeting his mother on the way to Calvary or Golgotha, tradition is clear about this encounter because the Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem on his way to Jerusalem. So surely he would have met his mother. What kind of an encounter do you think it would have been?  Do you think that Mary would have been feeling sorry for herself; do you think she would have been feeling sorry for er son, do you think she would want to reach out to Jesus and wipe his battered face? Do you think that she would want to help Jesus carry the cross? What kind of an encounter would this have been? I invite you to spend a few moments reliving this scene, seeing in your mind’s eye the Mother and Son. I would like to think that they would each be consoling the other. I would like to think that they would each be strengthening the other; I would like to think that they would each be reaching out to the other rather than being concerned about their sorrow. And so this encounter might be summarized in one word ‘selflessness’. It might be termed as a reaching out. When you reach out even when you’re sad and you feel the whole world is conspiring against you, when you reach out in sympathy and empathy to someone else, when you avoid making yourself the focus and saying ‘Oh, look at me, how I’m suffering for my sins and for the sins of the others”. When you avoid doing that and look outside of yourself then you are being like Mary focusing on Jesus, and focusing on others.

The fifth sorrow is Jesus dies on the cross Jn19:25-27 narrates this scene where Mary and the beloved disciple are standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross. And Jesus, before his last breath in the Gospel of John hands over his mother to the beloved disciple and hands over the disciple to his mother. Who then is the beloved disciple? The beloved disciple is anyone who loves Jesus. So if you love Jesus you cannot but take Mary into your home, if you love Jesus you cannot but honour his mother and ours. If you love Jesus, you cannot but make Mary an integral part of your life. As a matter of fact in the Gospel of John this is how Church is described. The Spirit of Jesus (which he breathes before his death), the beloved disciple (anyone who loves Jesus) and the mother of Jesus. These three elements make up church. These three are what church is all about in the Gospel of John. So today let us realize that we cannot really have a full church, the church of the Lord unless his mother is in that church as well. I am fond of saying that if Mary had to say NO we would never have had Jesus, and you would not even be listening to this talk of mine. So the fact that you are listening to the talk has its origin in Mary. And once again I repeat the beautiful words of the Memorare “It was never know that anyone who fled to her protection was left unaided.” And proof of that is again in the scriptures where the mind of Jesus has changed because of the intervention of Mary at Cana, Jn 2:1-12.

The sixth sorrow is Jesus is handed over to his mother, the pieta of Michael Angelo. And if you can google this, put down ‘pieta’, you will get a number of images of this beautiful scene, you will a number of images of this beautiful scene portrayed. So beautifully by Michael Angelo and so many artists after and before him of Jesus lying dead in the lap of his mother. And Mary is not a woman who’s going to shed tears for herself; Mary is not a woman who’s going to shed tears for her son, Mary is a woman who’s going to continue the mission because she knows that her son has done all that was required of him and that she is to do all that is required of her. And that brings me once again to how so many of us unfortunately cry at the death of a loved one as if the person is never going to rise again, how many of us cry at the death of loved one for years after the person has gone simply because we do not believe in the Resurrection. If you are one of those who is crying for a dead parent, or a dead relative, or a dead friend, then I need your you to understand that our God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living. And so today is not a day when you shed tears. Today is a day when you give thanks that God did through your parent, through your friend, through your relative who is now living with God all the beautiful things. And now you have to let go, now we have to leave it in the hands of God, now you have to believe that the person is in a much, much better place and situation than ever before.

And the last sorrow is when Jesus is laid in the tomb, Even as we stand watching them lay Jesus in the tomb, let us stand with Mary and us stand with confidence, let stand with courage, let us stand with trust and faith and hope.

 

 

Let us remain quiet and as we see the stone being rolled to close the tomb, let us together recite the Hail and Holy Mary. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen