Too often, we are conscientious in fulfilling our state duties because we are afraid of being caught, but are lax with God.
Monday, 31 May 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Tob 2:9-14; Mk 12:13-17
The Pharisees theoretically accepted the position of the Zealots who refused to admit the subjection of God’s people to a foreign power but they would not use force. The question of the Pharisees and Herodians is asked to trap Jesus and so the praise of Jesus is ironic and implies that Jesus is being asked to decide the question because his impartiality mirrors that of God. They think they can trap Jesus because if he said yes or No, he was bound to alienate one group or another. If he supported the payment, he would make himself unpopular with the people and if he said No, he would be politically suspect to the Roman authorities. The tax was to be paid in Roman coinage and instead of answering the question, Jesus first calls for the denarius. The denarius would bear a portrait of the emperor Tiberius (14 - 37 C.E.). Jesus forces them to look at the coin which would have been offensive to them, because having the Emperor’s portrait on the coin violated Jewish rules of making images and worshipping idols. As soon as they identify the head on the coin, Jesus points to them what they already say, namely that the coin since it bears Caesar’s head belongs to Caesar.
Jesus rejects the position of the Zealots without accepting that of the Herodians who would be willing to pay the tax.
By adding “and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus turns the pronouncement of paying taxes into a spiritual challenge to meet ones obligations to God as conscientiously as one meets the obligations of the state.
How often we too are so conscientious in fulfilling our state duties because we are afraid of being caught, but are lax with God.
Sunday, 30 May 2021
Monday, May 31, 2021 - The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - With whom and when will you share the good news of God's love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:14-18; Rom 12:9-16; Lk 1:39-56
The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth was begun by St. Bonaventure among the Franciscans in 1263 C.E, and became a universal Feast in 1389 C.E., during the papacy of Urban VI. It celebrates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.
The call of the first reading chosen for the feast of today is a call to rejoice. This rejoicing is for many reasons. The first of these is that judgement has been taken away. The Lord is now in the midst of his people. This being in the midst of his people is confirmed by the Gospel text of today where Jesus is already in the womb of Mary and so among his people. There will be no more reproach or condemnation. Now, there will only be unconditional love.
This unconditional love is confirmed both by the physical act of Mary’s visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth and also the Magnificat which is attributed to Mary. In this hymn, Mary extols God’s greatness because God has indeed redeemed his people. The verbs that are used in the hymn are all in the past tense though signify future actions. This is an indication of the faith and confidence that Mary has in God who she is confident will accomplish all that he has promised.
Though on the surface level the Visitation may appear to be Mary’s concern and love for her cousin, on the deeper level it means that Mary wants to share with Elizabeth what God has done in each of their lives and through the sons to be born of them, what God will do in the world.
Saturday, 29 May 2021
The feast of the Trinity celebrates freedom, love, community, diversity and inclusiveness. The Trinity embraces diversity. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The Trinity is Community.
To read the texts click on the texts: Dt 4:32-34; 39-40; Rom8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20
Trinity Sunday is a special Sunday in the Church year; it has been celebrated since 1334 when Pope John XXII fixed it as the Sunday after Pentecost. It is a Sunday which is not tied to any special event. We do not have to remember any special events or rituals. Instead, it is a day on which we remember God; it is a day to focus our hearts and minds on the mystery, and also on the reality, that is God. It is a bit like a birthday, when all we do is celebrate a particular person and their presence with us.
The French writer, aviator, and novelist, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, once said: “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” The Easter celebrations ended with Pentecost. Through the celebration of Trinity Sunday the Church is inviting us to return to Ordinary Time, by presenting us with the big picture of the “endless immensity of the sea” we call God.
When we are personally caught up in the mystery of the love of God, then we shall find the rationale and the motivation to work on our personal growth in Christian living. It is only when we experience the love of our God, who is a personal God that we can live out fully our Christian calling.
The Trinity is not an explanation of God, though many have tried to explain what the Trinity means. It is a description of what we know about God, albeit contradictory and contrary to logic as we know it. One good way to understand the Trinity, even if inadequately, would be to understand the Father, Son and Spirit as Lover, Beloved, and the Flow of Love between them that has constantly flowed since before time began. Through the Incarnation, the Beloved came to dwell among us. When we stand in the place of the Beloved, when we accept the offer to become the adopted sons and daughters of God, we also become the Beloved of God, and share in this same Flow of Love. However, even this way of understanding falls short and we must be careful not to reduce the mystery to these explanations. The Church teaches us that God is three persons in one nature; that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together are God. Beyond that is nothing more than the speculation of our tiny minds.
The first reading of today insists that, though understanding the mystery of God is beyond human comprehension, our God is a God who has immersed himself in human history. He is a God, who spoke to the people of Israel, and a God who translated that word into action by redeeming them from slavery and bringing them into the freedom of their own land.
However, this immersion was through human intermediaries. Since God wanted to show his love and care for the whole of humanity to the greatest extent possible, he made himself visible when he took on human form, being born as Jesus Christ. This was not all. He went even further when he embraced the Cross willingly and whole heartedly to show that there would never be any limited to his love. His death on the Cross, however, was only the beginning of new life. He was raised and, after his resurrection, gave to his disciples both a commission to continue to do his work on earth and the gift of the Spirit to enable them to do so.
The commission in Matthew is preceded by a revelation and followed by a promise; all three are prefaced by the universalizing “all”. The revelation is that Jesus has been given “all” authority. The commission is that the disciples must make disciples of “all” nations. The promise is that Jesus will be with his disciples “all” the days. He will do this in and through his Spirit.
It is this Spirit, Paul tells us in the second reading of today, which enables us to recognize God as beloved Father or Mother and to realize that, just as the Trinity is united by the bond of love, we, too, are called to that same union. It is the Spirit which gives us the grace to recognize that every human being is a child of God and that, because this is so, we are all brothers and sisters of one human family. It is the Spirit which enables us to accept diversity, knowing deep in our hearts that there is an underlying fundamental and basic unity.
Thus, the feast of the Trinity celebrates freedom, love, community, diversity, and inclusiveness. God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. In other words, God is not a loner or a recluse. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world. It is not a spirituality that runs away from contact with other people and society. Rather, it is an immersion into the world with a view to transforming sorrow to joy, injustice to justice, negatives to positives, darkness to light and, death to life.
There is no one who is outside the kingdom of God. There is no “us” and “them”. There is only “we” And, we are all connected. The Trinity embraces diversity. We are not asked to be clones of Jesus. We are asked to offer our unique gifts for the good of the community. We are not asked to be the same. We are asked to seek unity even in diversity.
Friday, 28 May 2021
Saturday, May 29, 2021 - For those who believe no proof is necessary, for those who do not no proof is sufficient. Which kind of person are you?
To read the texts click on the text: Sir 51:12-20; Mk 11:27-33
Mark links the incident of the Challenge to the authority of Jesus (11,27-33) with the incident of the Cleansing of the Temple (11,15-19). When asked by the Pharisees where his authority comes from, Jesus points back to the baptism of John and so to his own baptism (1,9-11) where he received the invitation to be both slave and son. Since they are not able to answer because whatever answer they give will result in their condemnation, Jesus too refuses to answer their question. The point that Mark seems to be making is that the authorities had closed themselves to the revelation of God in Jesus and so would not be willing to accept Jesus as God’s chosen one. There would not be much use in trying to explain to those who were not open to listen.
We sometimes make up our minds about something and take so rigid a stand about it that we are then unwilling to change our stance or see someone else’s point of view. The danger of this attitude is that we might miss out on learning something new and the revelation that the situation or person makes to us.
Thursday, 27 May 2021
Friday, May 28, 2021 - If the Lord were to come to the tree of your life, would he find fruit or only leaves?
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 44:1,9-13; Mk 11:11-26
In the first part of today’s text Mark uses what is know as a “sandwich construction”. This means that he begins narrating an incident, interrupts it by another incident, which is completed, and then the first incident, which was begun and left incomplete, is completed. There are various reasons for the use of this technique.
Here, Mark begins by narrating what is known as the cursing of the fig tree (11:12-14). Only Mark tells us that ht was not the season for figs and yet, when Jesus did not find any fruit on the tree he cursed the tree. It is the only miracle that occurs within the Jerusalem section of the Gospel and the fact that it destroys nature does not fit the pattern of the other miracles of Jesus, which make people whole. Mark wants his readers; therefore to see the symbolic character of the miracle of the curing of the fig tree and associate its fate with the fate of the Temple, which is also not producing the fruit, at is meant to produce.
Mark keeps in suspense what happens to the fig tree till much later (11:20-21), after he has narrated the incident that he places in the middle of the sandwich. This is what is known as the Cleansing of the Temple (11:15-19). It is an incident that is narrated by all the four Gospels though John narrates it quite differently from the manner in which the Synoptics do and even within the Synoptics there are slight differences. Mark is the only one of the evangelists who tells us that Jesus would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple which indicates that for Mark Jesus has the power to determine what activity is proper to the Temple. The teaching of Jesus is a combination of two Old Testament texts Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. The chief priests and scribes take affront when they hear about this incident and look for a way to kill Jesus.
Mark then continues the first incident (the cursing of the fig tree) and completes it (11:20-21). The fig tree has indeed withered. This is what will happen to the Temple if it continues in the way of the fig tree, namely if it does not produce the fruit required of it.
Peter is amazed that the fig tree has withered and comments on it (11:22). This gives an opportunity for the Marcan Jesus to teach has disciples about prayer (11:23-25). The first saying about the mountain being thrown into the sea (11:23) brings out forcefully through a dramatic metaphor what is possible for one whose faith does not waver. The second saying (11:24) applies to the community the general principle of the previous verse, namely that there must be absolute confidence in prayer. The final saying (11:25) speaks about forgiveness as a condition to receive the forgiveness of God. This is because if there is unforgiveness in one’s heart it is not possible to receive the forgiveness of God. The unforgiveness acts a block to receiving God’s forgiveness.
Most doctors today are convinced that the larger majority of the illnesses we suffer are psychosomatic. This means that because our mind/heart/internal (psyche) is affected, our body/external (soma) will also be affected. Keeping grudges, harbouring feelings of revenge, nurturing anger and not forgiving are sure ways to spoil one’s health. Illnesses like acidity, hyper tension, fistula, piles, stress diabetes, high blood pressure and many others can be controlled and even avoided if one removes all the negative from one’s heart and mind.
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
We often imagine that we can see only with the eyes in our head and so judge people based on what we see physically. We must realise that this is only one way of seeing and sometimes it is more important to see with the eyes of our hearts.
Thursday, May 27, 2021 - It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 42:15-25; Mk 10:46-52
This miracle of the healing of blind Bartimaeus is the final miracle in the ministry of Jesus. On hearing Bartimaeus the crowd attempts to silence him. However, he exhibits great faith and perseverance. The title that he uses to address Jesus: “Son of David” carries messianic overtones. This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that such a title is used for Jesus. When he is called by Jesus, Bartimaeus goes to him throwing off his cloak, which could signify a throwing away of the old order to put on something new. After enquiring what he would like to be done to him and hearing his request for sight, Jesus heals him with a mere word. Jesus attributes the healing to the faith of Bartimaeus. Only in Mark are we told that after he was healed, Bartimaeus followed Jesus “on the way”.
We often imagine that we can see only with the eyes in our head and so judge people based on what we see physically. We must realise that this is only one way of seeing and sometimes it is more important to see with the eyes of our hearts. Though Bartimeaus was physically blind, he could recognise with the eyes of his heart who Jesus really was.
Tuesday, 25 May 2021
To read the texts, click on the texts: Sir 36:1,4-5, 10-17; Mk 10:32-45
In this pericope Jesus predicts for the third and final time that he is to suffer and die and be raised (10,32-34). It is the most detailed of all the three. Here too, like in the case of the two previous Passion and resurrection predictions there is a misunderstanding. This time it is on the part of James and John who want places of honour in the kingdom. In response to Jesus’ question of whether they are able to drink the cup that he must drink and be baptised in the baptism with which he must be baptised, they say that they are able. Jesus promises that they will indeed drink the cup and undergo the baptism, but cannot he cannot determine the position of places in the kingdom. That role is left only to the Father.
The other disciples who become agitated with the request of the brothers are in the same boat as they are, and once again Jesus has to teach them the way of the kingdom. Only those willing to serve others can hope to have a place of honour in the kingdom. The last verse of this section points to the Son of man who has come to show the way to the kingdom through his service.
The attitude of the ten towards James and John may be termed as confrontation. This often happens when one desires what the other person is striving for and so feels jealous and envious of the other. It also leads to backbiting and thinking ill of the other like the ten did in the case of James and John. An alternative to confrontation is the attitude of “care-frontation” which would involve challenging the other person to rise above trifles and that, which is not necessary. It arises out of a genuine concern for the good of the person.
Monday, 24 May 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - What is the thing, which is the person, what is that event which is preventing you from working for the kingdom? Will you give it up today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 35:1-12; Mk 10:28-31
In response to the statement of Jesus that it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, Peter states that they as disciples have left everything to follow Jesus. The response of Jesus is a reassurance that what they have given up will be replaced by the new bond that they will share with each other both in this life and in the life to come. It must also be noted that the Marcan Jesus also mentions persecutions as being part of the lot of the disciples. These are to be expected by anyone who is a true witness of the Gospel. The last verse of this pericope speaks about the reversal of status that will be part of the kingdom indicating that that the values of the world do not apply in the kingdom.
When we sacrifice something for a cause we must realise that our reward must be the sacrifice itself. The reason why we sacrifice is because we believe in the cause, whether it is helping the poor, reaching out to the needy or any other and we must gain our satisfaction from the understanding that someone has lived more fully because of the sacrifice that we have made.
Sunday, 23 May 2021
On the day after Pentecost which is regarded as the Birthdate of the Church, we celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It is fitting that we do so because when Jesus is about to leave the world to go to the Father, he hands over his mother to the Beloved Disciple. This disciple is a historical figure, but also stands for anyone who loves Jesus. Church in John is made up of the Spirit of Jesus given from the Cross, the mother of Jesus and disciples who love Jesus.
Monday, May 24, 2021 - Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church - How will you show that you are part of the Church of God founded by Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 1:12-14; Jn 19:25-27
Pope, St. Paul VI declared Mary as Mother of the Church. In 2018, Pope Francis reinvigorated the title by proclaiming the Monday after Pentecost as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church. Through Scripture and tradition, we clearly see how Mary has been “Mother of the Church.”
The Synoptic Gospels provide an account in the ministry of Jesus, when the mother of Jesus and his brothers and sisters approach the house where Jesus was teaching (Mt 12:46–50, Mk 3:31–35, Lk 8:19–21). When word reaches Jesus that his mother is outside, he says, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Lk 8:21). In Luke more clearly than in the others Synoptic Gospels, Jesus is pointing to Mary no merely as his physical mother or the one who gave birth to him and brought him into the world, but also as one who is mother to him because like him she too does the will of God.
In the first reading chosen for the memorial, we read how Mary is with the eleven before the choice of Matthias and also before Pentecost. The presence of Mary with the disciples whom Jesus left behind is an indication that she was an integral part of the ministry of Jesus and also one of those on whom the Spirit was poured at Pentecost. As mother of Jesus, she is also the mother also of the disciples and all others who believe in Jesus. In the Gospel text from John, it is from the cross that Jesus hands his mother over to the beloved disciple. While the beloved disciple is indeed a historical figure, he/she can also be anyone who loves Jesus. The command of the Lord to such a disciple, who loves him, is that he/she must also take his mother into their home because she is an integral part of the family of Jesus. 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. We remember the words that we recite in 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) where Jesus turned water into sparkling wine.
How will you show that you are part of the Church of God founded by Jesus?
Saturday, 22 May 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn20:19-23
The little boy was taken to the nursery school by his mother. Aware of his anxiety being abandoned, the boy’s mother leaned down, kissed her son, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.” Each day, his mother would bid him farewell with those same words. The boy was too young to recognize the paradox, and embraced his new existence and quickly adjusted to new and frightening surroundings. Day after day, and week after week, his mother bid the same farewell: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”
The boy grew into adulthood, and there came a day when he was confronted with the reality of having to place his mother in a nursing home. She – now elderly and frail, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease – barely recognized him, often forgot to eat, and simply could no longer care for herself. As he departed from her, leaving her in her new and frightening surroundings, he remembered her words. He leaned down, kissed his mother, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving” – words his mother recognized even though she no longer recognized him. A tear appeared in her eye, as she clasped his hand and repeated,”Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”
This is Jesus’ message to his disciples on his departure to the Father: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving”.
Jesus is departing from us, out of our sight. We find ourselves in the new and frightening surroundings of this life, in a place where we are uncomfortable and often feel ill-equipped to carry on. And yet, Jesus continues to assure us of his continued presence through his gift of the Holy Spirit. This is why, though he said good bye, he is not leaving. This is shown in the Gospel text of today when he comes to the frightened disciples after his Resurrection, with a twofold greeting of peace. These disciples, who fled in fear at Jesus’ arrest, are now themselves forgiven and told to continue his mission from the Father. Though they abandoned Jesus, he will not abandon them though they failed him; God’s love will not fail them. Then, reminiscent of God’s action at creation, Jesus breathes on them, and gifts them the gift of the Spirit and with it the gift of new life. They have become a new creation.
Along with the gift of the Spirit is also a commission to forgive or retain sin. “Retaining sin” is not a juridical act. It is not just the eleven but the “disciples” who are gathered in the room. John uses the term ‘disciples’ for a much larger group than the twelve or eleven. This group could also have included women and so the commission has to do with something that is more than juridical. So this means that through the gift of the Spirit, the disciples are given power to take away the sin of the world and unmask and control the power of evil as Jesus himself did. Through their just and loving actions in imitation of the Lord, they are to communicate the unconditional love of the Father.
At Pentecost, as the Acts of the Apostles narrates, the Spirit of God – and through the Spirit, God’s unconditional love – comes down upon the disciples, resting on each of them and thereby bringing them and us together once again. The disciples get a crash course as it were in the language of God. After Pentecost the days of Babel and confusion are over. The great differences among us, in culture and background, wealth and poverty, are scattered in “the rush of a violent wind”. They are burned away by tongues of fire. Their nationality or culture does not really matter. Each one hears the same message in his/her native tongue simply because it is a language of forgiveness and love, and the language of love is one.
The unity which this love brings is summarized by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. The Spirit is at work in each of us, always fresh and always new, waiting to be translated into the language of our own lives, into the language of love.
Our world, however, is still tongue-tied. Babel, the parable of our first clash of cultures and failure to communicate, is more than a mythic explanation of the differences among nations and languages. It is a description of the human condition itself. We often do not understand one another even when we speak the same language. We remain stymied by our fundamental inability to accept the differences among us.
It is only to an extent that we make an effort to accept the other, no matter how different or foreign, that we come to understand the language of God. Only then is Babel turned to Pentecost.
Friday, 21 May 2021
The first two verses of today’s text shift the focus from Peter to the Beloved disciple. Like he does elsewhere, with other characters in his Gospel, John reminds the reader of when the beloved disciple first appeared in his narrative. The question of Jesus to Peter in 21:22: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” has caused consternation. John already provides a correction of the misunderstanding that this disciple would not die and so, this is not what Jesus meant. By using a favorite word of his, “remain”, John points out what he means by Jesus’ seeming enigmatic words. This disciple will indeed remain through the words that he has written in his Gospel. Though he will die a physical death, he will continue to live in the witness that he has given to Jesus in his Gospel. Just as Peter will give witness to Jesus by dying a martyr’s death, the beloved disciple will give witness to Jesus by his Gospel.
The Gospel ends with a hyperbolic statement which also serves as a warning of how the Gospel and all of scripture must be interpreted. The Gospel is only a pointer and must be seen in that light. The person of Jesus is bigger than any writing or Gospel can ever contain and, no matter how much is said of Jesus, in the final analysis, it will always be inadequate. This does not mean that we must not say what we know. Rather, it means that, even as we say what we know, we must realize that there is much more that we do not know and so cannot say.
There is an obsession with so many today with prolonging life. These use all kinds of artificial means to try to look younger. They dye their hair black; get tummy tucks, nose jobs, and even plastic surgery to remove wrinkles. They imagine that they can cheat death and live forever. They hardly realize that what is important is not the length of time one lives, but how one lives in the time given to us. It is quality, not quantity that is important. Jesus’ words about the beloved disciple are not about his living forever, or not dying, they are about the witness that endures even after he dies. This means that each of us, like the beloved disciple, has the ability to leave a legacy even after we are gone from this world. It is up to us to decide what kind of legacy it is going to be.
There is an obsession with so many today with prolonging life. They hardly realize that what is important is not the length of time one lives, but how one lives in the time given to us. It is quality, not quantity that is important.
Thursday, 20 May 2021
Friday, May 21, 2021 - Be careful of saying you are a friend of Jesus, he will call you to live and love for him.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 25:13-21; Jn21:15-19
The first verse of today’s text links this section with the previous one (21:4-14) through the words, “When they had finished breakfast”. It is a continuation of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at Lake Tiberius where, because they obey his instructions, they are able to haul in 153 fish.
The verses of today’s text narrate the conversation that Jesus has with Simon Peter. Some are of the opinion that the reason why Jesus asks Peter three questions is because Peter denied him three times. While this may be so, it is also important to realize that the questions are all different. The first question which Jesus asks is inclusive. It includes the other disciples, the boat, the nets, and the fish. Jesus is asking Peter whether Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples and/or his livelihood. The second question is direct and involves only Jesus and Peter. Everything else recedes into the background. The spotlight shifts only to the two. Does Peter love Jesus? Though the third question seems similar to the second, it is really different because in it, Jesus asks Peter about friendship. It reads: “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” This is a crucial change from the earlier question because, in 15:13, Jesus had explained the true meaning of friendship when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” By affirming that Peter is, indeed, a friend of Jesus, he is affirming his willingness to die for Jesus.
This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that as soon as Peter affirms his friendship, Jesus invites him to lay down his life. This invitation begins with the double Amen in 21:18, and so marks the introduction of a solemn pronouncement. The saying of Jesus that follows explains how, when Peter was young, he fastened his own belt and went wherever he wished to go. This is an indication of the freedom that Peter experienced earlier. However, soon he will have to stretch out his hands and someone else will fasten his belt for him, and take him where he does not wish to go. This is seen as a specific reference to Peter’s death by crucifixion, and is confirmed by the explanation that John gives in parenthesis in 21:19: “(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)”
The text ends with Jesus inviting Peter to follow him. Though this command of Jesus may be seen as a general invitation to discipleship, here it means a specific command to martyrdom and even death.
It is significant that the call to martyrdom to Peter is given only after his threefold confession of his love of Jesus, and he is given charge of the sheep only after he has confessed this love. It is thus clear that there is no coercion on the part of Jesus, but a call that Peter has accepted freely. Peter knows, even as he answers, that trials and difficulties are part and parcel of his commitment. He is aware that following Jesus is not going to be easy and that he will be called to make great sacrifices. He is ready, willing, and able.
The call to follow Jesus today is a call that will continue to be heard as long as there are people who dare to open their hearts to this call. While it will not always be a call to martyrdom by death, like it was in the case of Peter, it will always be a call to be a martyr or witness. This is because the voice of Jesus can only be heard today in his disciples and he can be seen and experienced only when those who profess to follow him reach out in love.
Thursday, May 20, 2021 - Are the troubles and difficulties of your neighbour as real to you as your own? Or do you regard their problems as of no consequence to you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 22:30-23:6-11;Jn 17:20-26
In these last verses of the prayer, Jesus expands the circle of those for whom he prays to include believers of the future. Since Jesus did not come to make a limited revelation, but one that was meant to embrace the whole world, it is only appropriate that he pray also for those who will believe because of the disciples’ word and witness. The primary invocation that Jesus makes here is the all be one. It is a petition for unity. The reason for this petition is that Jesus wants all those who will believe in him to share in the same relationship that he shares with his Father. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, so, he prays, that all believers will also share in this mutual indwelling. When this unity is seen by those who do not yet believe, they, too, will be inspired to know and believe that Jesus was indeed sent by God. Unity of the community, which has as its source the unity of the Son and Father, will be the drawing force that will lead others to Jesus. By the unity that is shown in community, those who believe in Jesus will also be able to complete God’s work in the same way in which Jesus did.
In the last three verses of the prayer (17:24-26), there is a greater intensity. Petition changes to want. This is not to be interpreted as selfishness but rather, as audacity or confidence. Jesus is confident that his Father will give him what he wants and also, that this is his Father’s will for him and all believers. What Jesus wants is that God, he, and the believers, share in a mutual indwelling. What he wants is that all be one. This oneness and unity is expressed in the tangible reality of love.
Christianity was never meant to be, and can never be, a private religion. Everything about Christianity is both individual and communitarian. The seven Sacraments are beautiful examples of the communal dimension of Christianity. This is because Jesus did not come to make a private or esoteric revelation to only a small group of individuals but to make a revelation to the whole world. Thus, the community of believers today is faced with this challenge of showing the communal dimension or unity of the community and so, drawing others to believe. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege because we are called to continue the work of Jesus himself and so share in the mission entrusted to him by his Father. It is a responsibility because, as believers, we cannot be complacent and content with our private devotions or individual faith. We must manifest it to everyone we meet. It is a faith that is to be shown in action, a faith that is to be shown in tangible love.
The call to follow Jesus today is a call that will continue to be heard as long as there are people who dare to open their hearts to this call. While it will not always be a call to martyrdom by death, like it was in the case of Peter, it will always be a call to be a martyr or witness.
Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Christianity was never meant to be, and can never be, a private religion. Everything about Christianity is both individual and communitarian. This is because Jesus did not come to make a private or esoteric revelation to only a small group of individuals but to make a revelation to the whole world.
Tuesday, 18 May 2021
It is so easy to be sucked in by all that the “world” has to offer. The lure of money, riches, and the desire to have more, are tempting and inviting. Success is often measured by how much a person has rather than by how much he/she is. This results in a striving to possess more and more even, if at times, it is at the cost of someone else having less than is their due.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021 - How do I measure my own success? Is my striving to “have more” or to “be more”?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:28-38; Jn17:11-19
The prayer of Jesus continues with a prayer for the disciples. In the first verse today, Jesus prays for God’s protection for the disciples and the oneness that they must share. This unity must be like the unity that the Son, Jesus, shares with God, his Father. While Jesus was on earth, he was able to instruct his disciples on this unity and show it in his own words and actions. Now that he is going to the Father, he entrusts this teaching to God. The “world”, with its own set of values and way of proceeding, will try to draw the disciples away from the teaching of Jesus, much like it drew Judas Iscariot. Yet, he was the one who decided that he wanted to break away from the community and align with the “world” and so, made his choice. The disciples need to be given the same strength that Jesus had and be sanctified in the truth.
It is so easy to be sucked in by all that the “world” has to offer. The lure of money, riches, and the desire to have more, are tempting and inviting. Success is often measured by how much a person has rather than by how much he/she is. This results in a striving to possess more and more even, if at times, it is at the cost of someone else having less than is their due. The prayer of Jesus for his disciples must be read today in this context and we need to constantly ask ourselves if, as his disciples, the prayer that he made is having its desired effect on us.
Monday, 17 May 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:17-27; Jn17:1-11
Chapter 17, from which we will read today, tomorrow, and the day after, is titled “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. However, this may also be seen as a farewell hymn of praise to God. This farewell is not simply the death of Jesus, but is the “departure” from this world, a return to the Father, after completing the work entrusted to him. It is thus a prayer of thanksgiving and confidence. Since is the last prayer before the Passion Narrative, which begins in Chapter 18, it must also be interpreted with this in mind. The intimacy that Jesus shares with the Father shines through every sentence of the prayer. Jesus speaks in this prayer directly to God.
The prayer is divided into three parts. In the first (17:1-5), though it seems that he is praying for himself, what Jesus is really doing is giving thanks to the Father for his graciousness and love. In the second part (17:6-19), Jesus prays for his disciples and, in the final part of the prayer (17:20-26), Jesus prays for those who will believe because of the disciples preaching, i.e. future generations of disciples.
The prayer begins with Jesus adopting a formal posture of prayer, looking up to heaven, and addressing God as “Father”. On the one hand, this shows that Jesus now distances himself from his disciples and, on the other, indicates the intimate relationship that Jesus shares with God. The announcement of the “hour” at the beginning of the prayer points to the fact that the prayer will be directed to God, keeping this in mind. It is the “hour” of glorification because during it, Jesus will obey God completely, and in that obedience, God will be revealed and glorified. Jesus, as Son, has revealed God’s gift of eternal life to all who were willing to receive it. Jesus has completed this work on earth and now, he has to return to the Father in order to complete the work of glorification.
The work of glorification included making the name of God known to all. Jesus has revealed the Father as Father and God as a God of unconditional and bountiful love. The disciples have been able to see God revealed in Jesus and thus, have kept God’s revealed word. Since Jesus is not going to be in the world in the same way in which he was with the disciples, he prays for their protection. This protection is to be manifested in the oneness that the disciples will share to show those who do not yet believe, that Jesus has indeed come from God and is with God.
Prayer is not primarily words, but an attitude. This is what Jesus displays in his prayer. The manner in which one addresses God displays the relationship that one shares with him. “Father” was the most intimate term for Jesus to use and it shows the oneness that he felt with God. Each of us has to find our own intimate term with which to address God. It is important to realize that, after Jesus, God can never be looked at with fear or trepidation, but only with confidence, courage, and hope.
Prayer does not begin with “me” but with God and his glorification. However, the glorification of God is complete when love abounds, because where love is, there God is. The effect of our prayer has to be seen in tangible love, expressed in deeds, like it was in the life of Jesus.
Sunday, 16 May 2021
It takes courage to believe when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties of life. It is at times like these that our faith is tested and tried. It is at times like these when we have to ask ourselves whether we believe that God is still working for our good.
Monday, May 17, 2021 - When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem today will you believe that you, like Jesus, will overcome?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 19:1-8; Jn16:29-33
Though the disciples think that they have understood everything that Jesus has said, and that it is plain to them, they actually misunderstand. While Jesus has used many figures of speech to make his points, the disciples mistakenly think that he has used only one. They also do not realize that Jesus had spoken of a future time when he would speak plainly and when things would be clear, and erroneously think of that time as the present. Where Jesus was appealing to the heart, the disciples used their minds. Their knowledge is an intellectual knowledge and thus, focuses only on the present and not on the future. They forget that the whole story of Jesus can only be completed with the departure to the Father. This is why Jesus has to reorient them and remind them again of the “hour”. The “hour” here is the hour of death which will result in the scattering of the disciples. They will all abandon him at his death. Yet, Jesus will not be alone because he knows that the Father will be with him, even if no one else is. Thus, even when faced with the most difficult situation, namely death, Jesus can have peace and this is the peace that he will gift to the disciples. This peace will enable the disciples to stand up to all the trials and tribulations they will encounter.
The last words of Jesus here are words of confidence and hope: “But take courage; I have conquered the world.” Even as he goes to his death, Jesus knows that victory will be his. He will overcome, through his cross, all the negative powers that try to prevent his love from reaching the ends of the earth.
It takes courage to believe when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties of life. It is at times like these that our faith is tested and tried. It is at times like these when we have to ask ourselves whether we believe that God is still working for our good. To have courage in the face of adversity, to believe in the face of trials, and to trust and have faith when everything seems to be going wrong, is to have the confidence in the Father that Jesus had. This attitude can be ours if we open ourselves to God’s abundant grace and realize the impermanence of all that assails us. It is to know that, like Jesus, we too will overcome the “world”. The movement from present sorrow, pain and trial, to future joy, peace and hope, is possible and even guaranteed because Jesus has overcome.
Saturday, 15 May 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts1:1-11; Eph1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20
The Ascension of Jesus into heaven celebrates the fact that, after completing his work on earth, work that the Father had entrusted to him, Jesus returned to his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, However, this is only one side of the story. The other side is that, before he ascended into heaven, he entrusted a commission to his disciples and to all who believe in his name. This commission was to proclaim to every living creature, till the end of time, God’s unconditional love for them, manifested not only in the sending of his only Son, but also in the Son’s crucifixion, and death. It was a love that was manifested, ultimately, in raising this Son on the third day and granting him his rightful place at the right hand of God.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles sets the tone for the universal mission which the disciples are given. Here, they are commissioned to be witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but to the ends of the earth. However, even as they are commissioned, they are cautioned about two things. The first is patiently waiting for the gift of the Spirit. The second is that it is not for them to know too many details about time, place, and the like.
Their job is only to be witnesses. To use the words of St Francis of Assisi, they are called to “Proclaim the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Their testimony was about him, not just about what happened long ago and far away. They could not be witnesses unless they had met the Risen Christ – unless their lives had been transformed by him.
This idea is reiterated in the Gospel text of today which begins with the commission of the risen Jesus to his disciples of salvation. The Good News was that God had shown his unconditional love for the world by saving all people in Christ, his Son. The signs that would accompany this preaching and its acceptance were practical signs. These would be shown in action and could be summarized as healing and wholeness. The disciples followed the instructions of the Lord and continued the mission that he had inaugurated.
This Lord, whom the disciples obey, is indeed the Lord of the whole Universe. The second reading affirms that he has been given dominion over all persons, things, and situations and sits at the right hand of God. The Church, which he inaugurated, is his body which continues his work even today.
We need to ask ourselves some serious questions on the feast of Ascension. The first of these is whether we, as Church today continue the mission of Jesus or whether we are still looking up at the sky like the disciples did, until they were reminded that the Mission had to be continued on earth. When we keep looking up to heaven for answers to questions that can be found on earth, we are still looking up to the sky. When we respond theoretically rather than practically to the problems of others, we are still looking up to the sky. When we expect God to do everything for us rather than ask him for help when we are faced with insurmountable odds, we are still looking up to the sky. We need to remove our gaze from the sky and bring it down to earth.
We also need to ask whether our focus is so much on the miraculous that we fail to find God in the ordinary events of life. While it is true that Jesus did promise his disciples that extraordinary signs would accompany belief in him, it is also true that he never used his miracles as proof of his divine identity. As a matter of fact, he consistently refused to give signs. He wanted people to find him and to find God in the ordinary, humdrum, mundane, everyday activities of life. If we are not able to find God in all things and find all things in God, it probably means that we are focusing too much on the extraordinary and stupendous and not enough on the fact that God, in Jesus, is all and in all.
We need to ask ourselves whether, in our enthusiasm to spread the Gospel of God, we have been honest to it or whether we have mangled and distorted it so much that it has become our personal and often bigoted and biased interpretation rather than God’s Good News. When we find that we are spreading the Good News by dint of human might and craft and not by listening to God’s Spirit of openness and sincerity and, when we find that our intentions in spreading this news are selfish and self-centred rather than selfless and altruistic, then we are guilty of not being true to God, to his Good News and to ourselves.
The feast of the Ascension reminds us that we, as disciples of Jesus, are today his body, mind, and heart. Jesus was true to himself and true to his Father. We need to be true to Jesus and true to his Father. If we are, then we can celebrate this feast with great joy knowing, that, though the Lord is in heaven, he continues to be present on earth.
Friday, 14 May 2021
Saturday, May 15, 2021 - Do you remember to add at the end of your prayer the words “not my, but your will be done”?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 18:23-28; Jn16:23-28
The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus will be the event that will enable the disciples to pray, not only in Jesus’ name, but like he prayed. Through this event, the disciples will enter into a new relationship with Jesus and with God through him. This relationship will be a relationship of love. As God showed his love for the world in sending Jesus, and Jesus showed his love for the world by accepting the cross, so the disciples have shown love for Jesus and God by accepting and believing that Jesus has come from God.
In the last verse of today’s text the entire mission of Jesus is summarized. Jesus has been sent by God and has come from God. After completing the mission entrusted to him, he is returning to where he has come from: God. The story of Jesus, which began with his coming from the Father ends, but also continues with his ascending to the Father.
Prayer in Jesus’ name and praying like Jesus means to believe, before we receive something, that it will be given to us. It is a confidence that God is on our side. We may not always be able to see at first glance how what we receive is for our good, much like the cross that Jesus carried. However, it means that we continue to trust and believe that all will be well because God is always in control of any and every situation.
Thursday, 13 May 2021
I will offer a Mass to celebrate the first anniversary of my mum's entry into heaven. It will be livestreamed on YouTube on May 14, 2021 at 8 am IST. This is the YouTube link and you are welcome to join me https://youtu.be/kMdxZ8vd_dY
Friday, May 14, 2021 - St. Matthias, Apostle - Jesus revealed the Father as love. How will you reveal Jesus today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts1:15-17,20-26; Jn 15:9-17
There is no mention of a Matthias among the lists of disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels, but according to the first reading chosen for the feast of St. Matthias, he had been with Jesus from his baptism by John until his Ascension. In the days following, Peter proposed that the assembled disciples, who numbered about one hundred and twenty, nominate two men to replace Judas. After they had cast lots, the lot fell to Matthias; so he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Though no further information is available about Matthias in the New Testament, he is identified with Zacchaeus and also with Nathanael.
The Gospel text is from the Gospel of John and is part of the Discourse on the Vine and the Branches and focusses on Jesus’ gift of love given to him by his Father.
This love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has expressed and shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love without end. It is not merely a verbal expression, or an emotion, but a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. The disciples have to act in the same manner as Jesus in order to make this love visible. There is only one commandment and that is the commandment to love. If the disciples keep this commandment, it will result in their being like Jesus, their master, who before them, revealed God’s love for the world.
This love is expressed in the most perfect of ways in the willingness to go to one’s death for the sake of a friend. The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. It is important to note that Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather he is stating what and who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command).
The friendship that the disciples share with Jesus is grounded in love. This means that Jesus keeps back nothing from his disciples and reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father.
It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which, when received, results in one living out the call to discipleship. The living out of the call is not merely a once for all act, but something that is done constantly and with perseverance. This will ensure that the effects of their love are abiding and lasting. The last verse of today, with its reminder to “love one another”, forms an inclusion with the first.
The relationship that we share with God because of Jesus is one of sons and daughters. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even friends. This is because he has given us everything in all its fullness. He held nothing back, not even his own self. The manifestation of this self-giving, which began with the incarnation, was completed and continued on the cross, and through his resurrection and ascension. He continues to give, even today.
However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is as important if the act of giving is to be completed. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak an enhancing word, perform a loving action, behave a little less selfishly, and a little more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.
Keeping the commandment of Jesus is thus not a chore or burden but done willingly because one has experienced this love first. The outcome of this sharing and manifestation of love is unbounded joy.
On May 14, 2020, my mum GRACE left this world to go to heaven. She is now there with God and enjoying eternal life. Along with her all those who have died in the last year are also with God. I will offer a Mass to celebrate the first anniversary of this event which will be livestreamed on YouTube on May 14, 2021 at 8 am IST. This is the YouTube link and you are welcome to join me https://youtu.be/kMdxZ8vd_dY
May God comfort all whose loved ones have left this earth with the firm knowledge that they are with God and enjoying eternal life.
Wednesday, 12 May 2021
The text of today is a call to believe, even in the most difficult circumstances. It is a call to know that there will be joy, even in the midst of pain, and happiness, even in the midst of sorrow. It is a call to have faith and see the risen Jesus, even as he hangs on the cross, and to see in the crosses that we have to carry every day, our own resurrection.
Thursday, May 13, 2021 - Can you be courageous even when it seems that the whole world is conspiring against you?
To read that texts click on the texts: Acts 18:1-8; Jn16:16-20
In the first verse of today’s reading, 16:16, the focus is turned back from the Paraclete to the impending departure of Jesus and the response of the disciples to that departure. The first “little while” in this verse refers to the time before his death, which Jesus sees as fast approaching, whereas the second “little while” refers to the events after his death to his resurrection appearances and even beyond. The disciples are not able to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and keep questioning among themselves what they mean.
Though they have not addressed Jesus with their questions, he is aware of what they are discussing. Yet, he does not answer their question directly, but moves the question to a new direction. A new teaching is introduced by the use of the words, “Amen, amen”. There will be contrasting responses to the death of Jesus. The disciples will weep and mourn, whereas the “world”, which here must be translated as those opposed to the revelation of God in Jesus, will rejoice. However, this will only be a temporary response. The pain and sorrow of the disciples will soon turn to joy.
It is easy to be happy and believe that God is on our side when things go the way we want. However, when we are faced with obstacles and difficulties, when we do not get the due we think we deserve and, when the road is steep and the going is difficult, then we begin to wonder if God is on our side. The text of today is a call to believe, even in the most difficult circumstances. It is a call to know that there will be joy, even in the midst of pain, and happiness, even in the midst of sorrow. It is a call to have faith and see the risen Jesus, even as he hangs on the cross, and to see in the crosses that we have to carry every day, our own resurrection.
Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - What contemporary symbol describes Jesus for you? How will you share this symbol with at least one other person today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Jn 16:12-15
The Paraclete is mentioned for the last time in the Farewell Discourse in these verses. Jesus has taught the disciples all that they are to know and understand about the present time. There is nothing more about the present that he can say to them. What they need to know about the future will be revealed to them at the appropriate time and when the Spirit that is sent comes. This means that, even when they are faced with the future which is uncertain, God’s presence will be with them. They are not alone. The Paraclete is the “spirit of truth” since he comes from Jesus, who is “the truth” and will guide the disciples into the way of truth, into the way of Jesus. Since the Paraclete will be sent by Jesus, he will only explicate and make clearer what Jesus has already said. He will not give a new teaching but will continue what Jesus has begun. As Jesus taught what he heard from God, so the Paraclete will teach what he hears from Jesus.
He will also declare “the things that are to come” which here means the preparation of the disciples for the time after Jesus. This also indicates that the words of Jesus are not time bound, but available anew for every succeeding generation of disciples. The Paraclete always makes the teachings new and relevant for the times. Just as Jesus made God visible through his words and actions, so the Paraclete will make Jesus present through the inspiration and support he provides to the disciples.
The Paraclete thus makes Jesus present even after his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. He is the teacher and witness of all that Jesus has said and done. That is, the Paraclete enables the Christian community, at any time in its life, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” and bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. However, the Paraclete’s role as teacher is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.
The Paraclete that Jesus sent two thousand years ago is the same Paraclete that is available to us today. The presence of the Paraclete will be seen and felt when we make the teachings of Jesus relevant and alive today. The idiom, symbols, and language that we use have to be understood by contemporary hearers. All too often, language about Jesus is too pious and even outdated and so, does not touch the lives of many. If we open ourselves to the working of the Paraclete in our lives, we will be able to make Jesus present even now.
Monday, 10 May 2021
The “world” continues to be opposed to Jesus and to love. However, Jesus continues to be present to the world in his Spirit, made manifest in his disciples. It is the task of the disciples inspired and guided by the Spirit to continue to expose the sin of the world and bring the world to judgment. While this may be done by verbal proclamation, it must also be, like in the case of Jesus, a proclamation that is shown in action.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - If people heard you speak and saw your actions today, would they recognize you as a follower of Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 16:22-34; Jn16:5-11
These verses continue the farewell Discourse which was begun in 14:1. Since Jesus had been physically present to the disciples, he did not need to give them instructions about the time when he would not be with them. However, since that time has now come, they need to be informed about how they are to handle the future without him. They are dismayed and troubled, even though they know that he is going to the Father. They must realize and accept that it is to their advantage that Jesus goes. If he does not go, the Paraclete cannot come. Jesus’ departure, which means his death, resurrection, and ascension, must precede the Paraclete’s coming. When this happens, Jesus will have completed the work given to him by the Father and the Paraclete will continue the work begun by Jesus.
The Paraclete’s work in the world will be to bring people to trial. This, however, is only one of the many functions that the Paraclete performs. It will bring out into the open the true meaning of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the “world”, which here means those who rejected Jesus, will be held accountable.
The “world’s” sin is exposed because they have not believed in Jesus as the one who was sent from, and by, the Father. This means that the focus is not on one particular act, but on the attitude of rejection. Though the “world” might assume that Jesus’ death is the end, it is mistaken and, in this is righteousness exposed. Jesus’ death is not the end; rather, it is the completion on earth of the work entrusted to him by the Father. It is to be seen in the context of obedience to his Father’s will for him and the world. The final judgment will be that of the “ruler of this world”. By his death, resurrection, and ascension, the devil, the embodiment of all that is opposed to Jesus, will be judged. It will be proved, through this decisive act, that God has triumphed in his Son.
The “world” continues to be opposed to Jesus and to love. However, Jesus continues to be present to the world in his Spirit, made manifest in his disciples. It is the task of the disciples inspired and guided by the Spirit to continue to expose the sin of the world and bring the world to judgment. While this may be done by verbal proclamation, it must also be, like in the case of Jesus, a proclamation that is shown in action.