Monday, 21 June 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021 - How will you show that you have chosen the narrow gate?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 13:2,5-18; Mt 7:6-12-14

The first verse of today (7:5) introduces a new subject: holiness. The point that seems to be made here is that holy things have their place and should not be profaned. 7,12 has often been termed, as the Golden rule, which the Matthean Jesus states, is a summary of the law and prophets. Here it is stated positively. One must treat others in the same way that one expects to be treated. This also means that one must take the initiative in doing the loving thing that does not wait to respond to the action of another. In the final two verses of this pericope (7,13-14) the point being made is that it is the narrow gate that leads to life and salvation and the broad or wide gate to damnation. One must make a choice for one or another.

We wish that people would be kind and understanding with us but we are seldom kind and understanding towards them. Often the behaviour that we find revolting in others is the behaviour we ourselves are guilt of. When we criticise others for being too harsh, we need to ask whether we have not been so.

The words that you use to complete this sentence will give you a fairly good idea of how you treat others: People are usually ……………………

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021 - Homily


 

Do you know that when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you?

Monday, June 21, 2021 - Do you know that when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 12:1-9; Mt 7:1-5

The absolute prohibition of judgement found in 7,1 is unparalleled in Jewish tradition. When the individual comes to stand before God for judgement, he/she will be judged according to the measure that he/she has used for others. Those who have been merciful will receive mercy. One must be aware that one is not in any superior position, which gives one the right to judge others. If one is aware of one’s own weakness and frailty then one will be careful of pointing out the faults of others.

Judging others comes too easily to some and often we judge only by externals. It is important to realise that it is possible that we might not be aware of all the reasons why a person behaves in a particular manner and so mistaken in our judgement. If we can give the benefit of the doubt to the person concerned and find reasons for his/her behaviour we will have done well.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021 - Homily


 No matter how rough the sea, no matter how high the waves, no matter how much the boat is rocked and, no matter how dangerous the way ahead might seem, those who believe in Christ know that he is in the boat and, with a word, he will calm the storm.

Sunday, June 20, 2021 - Believing even in the storm that Jesus is with us

To read the texts click on the texts: Job 38:1,8-11; 2 Cor5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41

A Sunday school teacher was trying to get her class to dramatize the story of the Stilling of the Storm. She explained to the children how they should dramatize the roles the disciples, the wind, and even the boat itself. Next she asked each child which character they wanted to be in the play. Each child in turn spoke up. One wanted to be Jesus, another wanted to be Peer, and others wanted to be the disciples. The teacher was taken aback when she came to a small stammering girl at the back of the class, who said, “I would like to be the cushion holding up the head of Jesus.”

While at first we might wonder at the choice of this “passive” role, a deeper reflection will enable us to see that there is a profound wisdom in the choice that this girl made. In the story of the calming of the storm, which is the Gospel text of today, the cushion beside Jesus comes out best. The disciples are agitated, the waves are violent, and the boat is being tossed about. It is Jesus and with him, the cushion on which he rests, that is most serene, calm, and at peace. The reason why Jesus is serene and calm is because he has supreme authority over all of creation including the sea.

This supreme authority of God over all of his creation and especially the sea is brought out magnificently in the first reading of today with the series of questions that God asks Job. The answer to the question about who is really in control might seem obvious to us: God alone. However, it is not as obvious to Job. The reason for this is that everything in Job’s life seems to be going awry. It is not easy for him to understand how God is in control when a lot of things in his life are totally beyond control. He cannot make sense of what is happening to him. He can find no rational explanation for it. In such a situation, how is Job expected to believe that God is still in control? In such a situation, how can Job know that it is God “who shut in the sea with doors” and “prescribed bounds for it”? How can Job be expected to believe that God is still the master of the sea with the ability to stop the waves?

These are also the questions in the minds and hearts of the disciples of Jesus who are in their boat on the Sea of Galilee. The storm rages and threatens. The waters lash the boat. Their lives are in danger. Will Jesus be able to save them? Can he stop the waves? Does he have control over the sea? If he does, why is he asleep? Why does he not do something?

When things in our lives go awry, when nothing seems to go the way we plan, when the road ahead is steep and the going is difficult, and when the boats of our lives are being rocked by the waves of uncertainty and insecurity, then it is not easy to continue to believe that God is on our side. It is not easy to trust and to hope. It is not easy to have faith. We, too, continue to ask questions. Sometimes, like the disciples, we even accuse God and Jesus of lack of concern over our plight. We accuse God of not caring enough about us.

Job was able to realize, much later, that God was always in control. Just so, the disciples come to realize that, though Jesus appears to be asleep, apparently doing nothing, he is in fact very active and doing everything. Though he does not seem to them to be concerned over their plight, the truth is that he is very much concerned. The difference, however, is that whereas the disciples given in to agitation, anxiety and fear, Jesus does not.

This concern of the Lord for the whole of humanity was shown in the most perfect of ways on the Cross. This is what Paul speaks about in the second reading of today. Christ’s death is the transformative event for all of life. Nothing is the same after that. The first radical change brought about by the death of Christ is that now those who believe will live no longer for themselves but for others, in and through Christ. However, this is not all. The death of Christ is an event that encompasses and transforms the whole universe.

This is why believers will look at themselves, at others, and at the universe in a new way. The old ways of looking, the doubt, uncertainty, anxiety, insecurity, the lack of faith and, above all, fear, is replaced by the new way. This new way is a way of confidence, surety, faith, and love. No matter how rough the sea, no matter how high the waves, no matter how much the boat is rocked and, no matter how dangerous the way ahead might seem, those who believe in Christ know that he is in the boat and, with a word, he will calm the storm.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Saturday, June 19, 2021 - Homily


 

Tension and anxiety are caused not by the external stimulus, but by how we respond to what happens. When we have choices (the more choices we have the better) about the outcome of anything we will not get tense as easily. This does not mean that I do not strive to get what I want. It means that if after striving, I do not get what I want, I learn to be content with what I get.

Saturday, June 19, 2021 - How often do I try to be in two places at the same time or at two times in the same place?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 12:1-10; Mt 6:24-34

The text of today begins by stating a general rule that undivided attention can be given to one person alone at a time. If there is more than one, then the disciple’s loyalty is certainly split. One must decide whether one will allow oneself to be controlled by wealth and the things of this world, or whether one will realise that they cannot bring true happiness. The prohibition, “Do not worry” dominates the rest of this pericope and is used six times in it. The call to look at nature (the birds of the air and the lilies of the field) is a call to learn how God in his providence provides for them. This does not mean that human beings do not have to work for their living, rather it means that even after working as hard as they can, humans must realise the life is much more than simply work and earning a living. It has also to do with being.

There are indeed many distractions in life, which sometimes can take us away from where we ought to look and focus. While planning is good and desirable, what is undesirable is useless worry or anxiety. When we stir the sugar in our coffee or tea every morning we are already thinking of drinking it. When we are drinking our coffee or tea, we are already thinking of washing the cup. When we are washing our cup, we are already thinking or drying it When we are drying it, we are already thinking of placing it on the rack and when we are placing it on the rack we are already thinking of what we have to do next. We have not stirred the sugar, nor have we have drunk the coffee, nor have we washed it nor placed it on the rack. If one takes one moment of one day at a time and gives of one’s best to that moment, life will be well lived. 

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Friday, June 18, 2021 - Homily


 

The way of the world is to measure success by external possessions. However, we are challenged to check the possessions of our hearts. We need to ask whether we use things or whether things "use" us.

Friday, June 18, 2021 - If you were given the chance to take just ONE THING with you when you die, what would it be?

To read the texts click on the texts:  2 Cor 18:21-30; Mt 6:19-23

The section that begins in 6,19 concerns knowing where one’s priorities lie. Treasure stored on earth is of not much use because it is temporary and passing and gathers rust and also can be stolen. Rather heavenly treasure is permanent and eternal. A person’s attention will be concentrated on where his/her treasure is. Thus instead of concentrating on the temporary it is better to concentrate on the eternal, the impermanent. If one does not perceive correctly, one’s whole orientation will be incorrect and one will live a life of futility, concentrating on what is really not essential.

Sometimes we lose focus in our lives and waste so much time on trifles. We are so concentrated on gathering up for tomorrow and the next day, that the present day passes us by and we find that we have live it unaware. An occasional examination of our priorities is required to bring back our focus on what is really necessary. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021 - Homily


 

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

Thursday, June 17, 2021 - Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 11:1-11; Mt 6:7-15

In the text of today, we read what is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11, 2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". Also the context of the prayer in Matthew and Luke is different. While in Matthew the prayer is told in the context of the Sermon of the Mount, in Luke it is told in response to the disciples’ request to Jesus to teach them how to pray (Lk 11,1). Be that as it may, in both Matthew and Luke the point is clear that the prayer is primarily a prayer of dependence on God who is Father. This dependence is for something as dramatic and magnificent as the Kingdom and also for something as routine and regular as bread. Both prayers have also the theme of forgiveness, which is received from God and given to others.

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

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - Homily


 

When you give alms, is it to show off or quietly? Is my prayer only for my needs or do I think of others? How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts click on the texts:2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

Immediately after the six antitheses (5,21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves.

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

Monday, 14 June 2021

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - Homily


 

Perfection does not mean to be without faults, but to be undivided in love. God loves unconditionally and without measure and we are challenged to love in this manner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?

To read the texts click on the texts:2 Cor 8:1-9; Mt 5:43-48

In the last of the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. . While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

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

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

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Monday, June 14, 2021 - Homily


 

Most of the time we react rather than act or respond. Reaction means that we are not in control. Responding means that we are in control. If I am free in every sense of the word, I will be an actor and not a reactor.

Monday, June 14, 2021 - How often have you gone beyond the call of duty? Will you do so today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 6:1-10; Mt 5:38-42

The text of today contains the fifth antithesis. In it, Jesus not only affirms the thrust of the Law in opposing unlimited revenge, but also calls for a rejection of the principle of retaliatory violence as well. In the five examples that follow (being struck in the face, being sued in court, being requisitioned into short-term compulsory service, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers) the one point being made is to place the needs of others before one’s own needs. The disciple of Jesus is called to go beyond the call of the Law and do more than it requires.

It is so easy for us to be reactors. If someone does something to hurt us, we think that it is “natural” for us to want to do something to hurt him or her in return. In the text of today, Jesus is calling us to be actors and not reactors and to do what we do because we think it is right and just and not as a reaction to someone else’s action.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021 - Homily


 

We first need to sow or scatter the seed for it to take root and germinate. Then we can sleep at night and be awake in the day and the seed will indeed grow.

Sunday, June 13, 2021 - Hope and Confidence

To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 17:22-24; 2 Cor5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

Optimism, hope, confidence and assurance are words that summarise the theme of all three readings of today.

This note of confidence and hope begins in the first reading where Ezekiel emphasizes the power of God’s word. God will plant the branch or twig from the mighty cedar so that it will grow and bear fruit. The tree will be so huge that every bird of the air will be able to nest in its branches. This means in other words that every human from every nation will recognize and acknowledge the saving power of God. This is why the text ends with the words “I the Lord have spoken. I will accomplish it”. The power of God is so strong that nothing will be impossible. God does this to assert that God is not indifferent to creation. On the contrary God is constantly involved in the whole creative process and in creation. The great reverser, who brings low the high tree and exalts the low tree, thereby demonstrates that power that transcends every human expectation.

This power of God is evident in the Gospel text of today through the two parables of the seed. Clearly both are about the kingdom and are so simple to understand that it is possible that one might miss the point precisely because of their simplicity. In the first of the two commonly known as the Parable of the seed growing secretly, the sequence of events is of prime importance. A person scatters the seed on the ground, sleeps at night, rises in the day and the seed grows. The one who sows is not involved in the process of growth. The seed grows of itself. This is clearly an indication that it is the work of God and that God is in control. It is God who makes the seed grow once it has been sown. This also means that while the disciples are called to do their bit, they can do only that and no more. No matter how much they try, they cannot hasten the growth. No matter how much they worry, they cannot make the seed grow quicker. Thus the point is that the disciples have to sow and God will make it grow. The disciples have only to do their best and God will do the rest.

The parable of the mustard that follows, points on the one hand to the contrast between small and big, and on the other hand to the fact that it is not merely great trees like oaks and cedars that demonstrate that the kingdom of God has indeed come. The mustard seed though extremely small grows into a large shrub when sown into the ground. Here too the message to disciples is that they must not be anxious or worry about the outcome. They must have the confidence that after they have sown and done all that is required; from small there will be big; from little there will be much. Despite the fact that their efforts sometimes may seem as insignificant and tiny as a mustard seed, the end product will be enormous, simply because God will do what remains to be done.

This is precisely the reason why Paul can have the confidence that he expresses in the second reading of today. He is aware that the present circumstances, which include suffering and affliction, are not the ideal arrangement or the final picture, the goal. Paul therefore adopts the attitude of “indifference” which is not be interpreted as a “don’t care attitude”, laissez faire or a lax attitude, Rather the indifference is a very positive attitude. It is an attitude where because the person concerned knows that he/she can only do so much, does it and leaves the rest to God.

There are moments in our lives when we put in a lot of effort into something and cannot see the fruit of that effort. There are times in our lives when we think that all of our effort is in vain and there are times when we give up and give in because we are more concerned about the outcome or result than about our action. The readings of today warn against such an attitude. They challenge us to do what we are called to do. They also caution us not to jump the gun, but to follow the logical sequence of events. It is sometimes the case that we do not scatter the seed and consequently remain awake at night with useless worry and sleep in the day when we ought to be awake. We first need to sow or scatter the seed for it to take root and germinate. Then we can sleep at night and be awake in the day and the seed will indeed grow.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Saturday, June 12, 2021 - The Immaculate Heart of Mary - Will you respond like Mary did?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah 61:9-11; Lk 2:41-51

The Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to show the close connection between Mary and her beloved Son.

This means that every year the feast is celebrate on the Saturday before the third Sunday following the fest of Pentecost.

The Immaculate heart of Mary is a symbol used to represent the interior and exterior life of Mary. It is used to represent her joys and sorrows, her trials and strength, her love for her God shown through her determined yes and her love for all humanity shown in and through the love for her Son.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is popularly known as “The Finding in the Temple” and is taken to mean the finding of Jesus. However, a close look will indicate that Jesus was never lost. He always knew where he was and where he was supposed to be. It was Mary and Joseph who were lost without their son.

This text is found only in the Gospel of Luke and gives us an insight into the childhood of Jesus. It also indicates the awareness of Jesus even at this young age of who he was and his relationship with the Father. Even as it does this it also brings out powerfully the relentless search of Mary for her son. He was the centre of her life and she would not rest until she found him. What we are searching for reveals a great deal about who we are.

The Immaculate heart of Mary reminds us of the response of Mary to the privilege that she received to be God’s mother. Her response went beyond a mere “yes” or even co-operation and collaboration with God. Her response let God do in and through her. This may be termed as a passive activity or an active passivity on the part of Mary. She became the instrument through which God was able to reveal his son to the world.

If we like Mary dare to respond like she did, we too can become instruments in the hands of God and reveal Jesus to the world.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Friday, June 1, 2021 - Sacred Heart of Jesus - Homily


The feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us that the love of Jesus is not a private possession for a select few, but is shared with all. Since God loves us and nature, we have a responsibility to love our world. This means that we will use what we use responsibly. We can resolve to use less water and paper and everything else and never, never, never to waste food.


Friday, June 11, 2021 - Homily

One must be faithful in everything that one does. One must also be faithful in the state of life one has chosen. Infidelity in marriage almost always ends in calamity.

 

Friday, June11, 2021 - The Sacred Heart of Jesus - Make my heart like unto thine O Lord.

To read the texts click on the texts: Hos 11:1,3-4,6-9; Eph 3:8-12,14-19; Jn19:31-37

Ever since the seventeenth century when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was granted visions of the Sacred Heart and asked to spread this devotion, the Jesuits represented by her confessor St. Claude de la Colombière, played a fundamental role in spreading this devotion. Colombière, spoke with Margaret Mary a number of times and after much prayer, discernment and reflection became convinced of the validity of her visions.

 In recent times, one of the most loved and admired Generals of the Society of Jesus Fr.  Pedro Arrupe was instrumental in reviving this devotion and placing Jesuits once again at the forefront of spreading this devotion.  This devotion according to Arrupe was “the centre of the Ignatian experience”. It is an “extraordinarily effective means as much for gaining personal perfection as for apostolic success”.  Arrupe was aware of the fact that the devotion had to be spread using newer symbols and made every attempt to do so.

According to one of the visions made to Margaret Mary, Jesus made twelve promises to those who would have devotion to the Sacred Heart. Of these one is of special significance. It reads “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy”. This promise is totally in keeping with the message of Jesus on every page of the New Testament. 

Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, was consistent and constant in his message of the unconditional love of God. His inaugural proclamation as he began his ministry in Galilee was that the kingdom had indeed come, that God’s love and mercy and forgiveness was being given freely to anyone who was willing to open their hearts to such love.

His table fellowship with “tax collectors and sinners” (who were regarded as outcasts and so not to be associated with) was tangible proof of this promise. Jesus even went as far as to say “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’ (Mk 2:17). The parables like those of the Lost Sheep, lost coin and ‘Prodigal Father’ (Lk 15:1-32) are further confirmation of this promise. As a matter of fact a clear connection is made between the murmurings of the ‘scribes and Pharisees’, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2) and Jesus’ telling the parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:3-7). Thus, while “sinners shall find an infinite ocean of mercy” in the Sacred Heart, it is not a new teaching, it is an important reminder to us of how gracious God is, in the heart of Jesus.

What then does the Feast of the Sacred Heart mean for us today? First the heart is a symbol of the whole person and so the Sacred Heart of Jesus represents the whole Christ who is and will always be unconditional and eternal love. This love of Christ is given freely, without reservation and measure to all who open themselves to receive it.

Second, the feast reminds us of the constant care and concern that God has even now for each one of us and the whole Universe. By celebrating the feast we make present the self sacrifice of Jesus for all humankind. Our God is a God ‘with us and for us’. God is Emmanuel.

Third, the feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the intimate connection between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Eucharist was that pivotal event in the life of Jesus when he showed how much he loved the whole world. Just as the bread was broken so would his body be and just as the wine was shared so would his blood be spilled. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist we receive the real, whole and risen Christ, so in the devotion that we profess to the Sacred Heart we relive this encounter.

The feast is thus not only a privilege and grace, but also carries with it a responsibility.

First, the love that we receive from the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a private possession, but one that must be shared with all. Just as the Father makes no distinction and makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good (Mt 5:45), so must we in our sharing of the love of Christ.

Second, the concern that God has for us and our Universe must be a concern which we must show to our world. The wanton destruction of nature, excessive and abusive use of scarce resources like water, indiscriminate cutting of trees for selfish gain, unlawful and criminal killing of wild animals are signs that we are working against God’s concern. If God cares for us so much, must we not care for our world?

Third, the intimate connection of the Sacred Heart and Eucharist reminds us that just as Christ is so easily available to us, we must also be to each other. The Eucharist and the feast of the Sacred Heart ought not to be private and passive devotions, but celebrations that make us ready to reach out in service and availability to anyone who needs us.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Thursday, June 10, 2021 - Homily


 

Anger is often caused because of expectations. The way to tackle this is to have as many expectations as possible. If I expect a person to behave in a particular manner and the person does not, I get angry. However, if I am flexible in my thinking about the person's behaviour, then it is unlikely that I will get angry.

Thursday, June 10, 2021 - How many times did you get angry yesterday? Will you attempt to make it one less time today?

 To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 3:15;4:1,3-6; Mt 5:20-26

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

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

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - Homily


 

If one is convinced of something, one will not need any external stimulus to do what has to be done. One will act without fear of punishment or hope of reward. One does what has to be done. Period.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - When was the last time you performed an action without any expectation of reward? Will you perform one today?

 To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 3:4-11; Mt 5:17-19

These verses contain what are commonly known as the “theme” of the Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, the Matthean Jesus makes explicit that he is a law abiding Jew. His attitude towards the Jewish law is fundamentally positive. However, Jesus also makes explicit here, that he has come not merely to confirm or establish the law, but to fulfil or complete it. This means that he will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action.

While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - Homily


 

The intrinsic quality of salt is saltiness and the intrinsic quality of light is light. It is in this sense that we are called to be salt and light. The intrinsic quality of a Christian is to be like Christ.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - How will you as a disciple of Jesus be salt and light today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mt 5:13-16

The text of today is somewhat of a link text, which joins the beatitudes (5,3-12) to the theme of the Sermon (5,17-20). These verses point out the effect that living the Sermon will have on the liberation of the world. The text makes two assertions about the followers of Jesus. The first is that they are the salt of the earth and the second is that they are the light of the world. Both these symbols seem to point to the indispensable role that the disciples of Jesus are to play in the liberation of the world. It is through the lives of the disciples of Jesus that the world will be moved to glorify God. This is indeed a great privilege, but also a great responsibility.

Salt is an ingredient that adds flavour or taste to that to which it is added. It makes the insipid tasty, edible and enjoyable. Disciples of Jesus are called to add taste and flavour to the lives of others. Light enables one to see correctly and results in removing darkness. This is what the disciples of Jesus must do if they are to be true disciples: remove the darkness from the lives of others.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Monday, June 7, 2021 - Homily


 

The beatitudes state that it is God himself who will bless the disadvantaged. Through this the Matthean Jesus indicates the thrust of his mission, which is primarily a mission to the disadvantaged.

Monday, June 7, 2021 - Do any of the beatitudes apply to you? Will you strive to make at least two applicable to yourself today?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 1:1-7; Mt 5:1-12

Beginning today, the gospel reading will be from the Gospel of Matthew except on feasts or special occasions. The Church begins from Chapter 5 of Matthew. The three chapters beginning from 5,1 and ending at 7,29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.

Since we will be reading this Sermon for almost three whole weeks on weekdays, it is important to have some background of what the Sermon is about.

The first point that we note is that this is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7,28; 11,1; 13,53; 19,1; 26,1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5,1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7,28).

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

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

Today’s text contains what is commonly known as the “Introduction” to the Sermon and contains the Beatitudes, which are the communication of a blessing. The mountain is a “theological topos” in the Gospel of Matthew (Luke’s Sermon is from “a level place cf Lk 6,17) and therefore means much more than simply a geographical location. Matthew does not name the mountain, but by choosing it as the place from where Jesus delivers the Sermon, he probably wants to portray Jesus as the New Moses delivering the New Law from a New Mountain. While Jesus in the Gospel of Luke “stands” and delivers the Sermon (Lk 617), in Matthew, Jesus sits down. This is the posture that the Jewish Rabbis adopted when communicating a teaching of importance or connected with the Law. In Luke the crowd is addressed from the beginning of the Sermon and addressed directly, “Blessed are you poor…” (Lk 6,20), but in Matthew, it is the “disciples” who come to Jesus and whom he begins to teach. The address is indirect, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5,3). While Luke has four beatitudes with four corresponding “Woes”; Matthew has seven plus an additional beatitude, with no corresponding woes. The reason why the “eight” is called an additional beatitude is because the first and the seventh both end with the phrase “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” forming what is known as an inclusion. Beatitude is an expression of congratulations, which recognises an existing state of happiness. While the rewards described in the first and seventh beatitudes are in the present tense, they are in the future tense in the other five beatitudes. The sense is that it is God himself who will do all of this for them. By choosing to bless the disadvantaged, the Matthean Jesus indicates the thrust of his mission, which is primarily a mission to the disadvantaged.

The Gospel of Matthew - An overview

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

Most scholars hold today that the Gospel of Matthew was written after Mark. Matthew’s Gospel was the one that was used most often in the early Church and so it has been placed before Mark in the Bible. It is known as the Ecclesial Gospel or the Gospel of the Church. One reason for this is that Matthew’s thesis seems to be that since Israel for whom Jesus came rejected Jesus as Messiah, the Church has become now the new and true Israel. Also Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who uses the word “Ekklesia” translated “Church” in his Gospel (16,18,;18,17). There is however, throughout the Gospel the tension between Particularism on the one had and Universalism on the other. The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew is sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (15,24; see also 10,6) and the same Jesus can tell Israel “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (21,43).

Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which goes back to Abraham. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary (1,16) since Matthew is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is then narrated, followed by the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. This leads the family to go to Egypt where they remain till Herod’s death and then return to Nazareth. The birth, flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth all fulfil scripture. Matthew then goes on to narrate the Baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ temptations and his overcoming them. Jesus then begins his public ministry in Galilee after calling the first four disciples. Unlike Mark, which is a story, Matthew intersperses his narrative with long discourses. The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount (5,1-7,29). There are four other discourses in the Gospel. These are The Mission Discourse (10,1-11,1), The parable Discourse (13,1-53), The Community Discourse (18,1-19,1) and the Eschatological Discourse (24,1-26,1). Each of these discourses ends in a similar manner with the words, “and when Jesus had finished (7,28; 11,1; 13,53; 19,1; 26,1). This is also Matthew’s way of focussing on the teaching of Jesus and giving it as much if not more importance that the deeds of Jesus. Like in Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, but soon encounters opposition, which grows and leads to his arrest, passion and death. The Gospel ends with accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and what is known as the Great Commission, in which the disciples are commanded to go to all nations and make disciples of them and assured of the presence of the ever present Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (28,16-20).

The characteristics unique to Matthew’s Gospel are as under:

1.  Matthew mentions five women in his genealogy (Luke has no mention of women). While many explanations have been offered to explain this fact the most plausible one is that in the case of all five women there was something irregular in their union with their husbands.

2.  The visit of the wise men from the East (2,1-12) is exclusive to Matthew and probably with the intention to show that though the Jewish leaders “know” the details of the birth of the Messiah, they “do” nothing about it. On the other hand, Gentiles (represented by the Magi) do not “know” the details, but are willing to “obey and do”.

3.  Only in the Gospel of Matthew is the tax collector who is called referred to as Matthew (9,9) and is referred to as "Matthew the tax collector" in the list of the disciples (10,3).

4.  Matthew uses the phrase "the Kingdom of God" only in 12,28; 19,24; 21,31.43. Instead, the term "the Kingdom of Heaven" is preferred (3,2; 4,17; 5,3.10. 19.20; 7,21; 8,11; 10,7; 11,11.12; 13,11.24.31.33.44.45.47.52; 16,19; 18,1.3.4; 19,12.14.23.24; 20,1; 22,2; 23,13; 25,1). In some of these, Matthew has changed his Marcan source. The best explanation of this phenomenon is Matthew prefers to avoid use of the word "God," using the circumlocution "Heavens" instead.

5.  More than the other synoptic gospels, the Gospel of Matthew stresses the fulfilment nature of Jesus' ministry. The author explicitly cites Old Testament messianic prophecies as having been fulfilled in or by Jesus, often with a formula using the verb "to fulfil."  The following are those instances that are unique to the Gospel of Matthew.

6.  Matthew often doubles the numbers found in his Marcan source. Thus one demoniac of Mark 5,1-20 becomes two in Mt 8,28-34; one blind man of Mark 10,46-52 becomes two blind men in Mt 20,29-34. Matthew also has in 22,2 an ass and a colt where Mark 11,2 has only a colt. One reason that has been proposed for this is that Matthew wants to ensure the proper number of witness that were required to certify an act.

7.  Only in Matthew 16, 17-19 is Peter commended by Jesus after his answer that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” and given the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose. This is interpreted here as the authority to determine who is allowed in and for the authority to determine what interpretation of the law is binding. Also Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water (14,28-31) after Jesus has successfully done so and the incident of payment of the Temple tax in which Peter is asked to go to the sea to find a shekel in a fish’s mouth (17,24-27) are exclusive to Matthew. This probably indicates that Peter was an important figure in the Matthean community.

8.  Matthew alone narrates that Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for his willingness to betray Jesus (26,14-16). While some see the connection with Zech 11,12-13 where thirty shekels of silver is mentioned as the wages of the shepherd, others see it as related to Exodus 21,32 which is price that had to be paid by the owner of an ox to the master of a slave who was gored to death by the ox. Judas’ repentance and suicide is also exclusive to Matthew (27,3-10)

9.  Pilate receiving a message from his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus (27,19) and his washing his hands and declaring himself innocent of the death of Jesus (27,24), are incidents that are found only in Matthew. Some see this as Pilate’s obedience to the command of God communicated to him by his wife’s dream and also as Matthew’s attempt to put the onus for the death of Jesus on the shoulders of the Jews. This is also probably why Matthew alone has the people as a whole answer, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (27,25).

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Sunday, June 6, 2021 - Homily


 

If our celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi is to be meaningful, we need to realize that we, as disciples of Jesus, are today his body and blood.

Sunday, June 6, 2021 - Corpus Christi - Becoming Bread for others

To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 24:3-8; Heb9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

My parishioners and I went on a picnic one Sunday. As we reached the picnic spot, some of them said to me: “Father, let’s finish Mass, then we can enjoy”. At first, this request took me by surprise, since I had not regarded the Eucharist as separated from life and enjoyment. I later realized what they meant when they made their request. The Eucharist is seen as something to be “finished” as quickly as possible so that real life can begin. It is also often seen as an obligation to be fulfilled in order to be safe from sin and from God’s wrath and punishment.

Those who see Eucharist as something to be quickly finished or as an obligation have missed the point. This is because if one still uses the language of “obligations” when one is referring to the Eucharist or, if one mistakenly believes that the Eucharist is concluded with the final blessing in the Church, then one has not experienced the power of the Sacrifice of Jesus and has not grasped its significance.

The feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ, has been interpreted to mean the feast of the Eucharist. While this is certainly true, it would be a mistake to restrict the understanding of the feast to the ritual of the Eucharist. The feast goes beyond the ritual to life itself, just as the Eucharist does. Communion with Christ has always been a mark of the follower of Christ. We would make significant gains in our life of discipleship if we would focus on the Eucharist. It is the deepest expression of our communion with Christ.

The theme brought out powerfully in all the readings for today’s feast is Covenant. The first reading from Exodus recounts the ratification of the Covenant between God and his people made on Mount Sinai. His people agreed to do all that the Lord had commanded them. The letter to the Hebrews speaks about the Covenant between God and people made, not with the blood of animals but, with the blood of Jesus himself. This was, therefore, the more perfect and complete covenant. The Covenant that Jesus made with the whole of humanity through his disciples is narrated by Mark in the Gospel text of today. At the Passover meal, Jesus offers his body and his blood as the mark and sign of the new covenant.

The covenant with the people of Israel is consummated when, after building an altar and offering sacrifice on it, Moses sprinkles the blood of the sacrificed animals on the alter and on the people. This sprinkling of blood, which is a symbol of life, is also an indication that the people who accepted the covenant are bound by it and will do everything in their power to live it out.

The letter to the Hebrews affirms that, like with the people of Israel, blood was also used to consummate the new covenant between God and humans. However, this blood is no longer the blood of sacrificial animal but that of Jesus himself. It is the blood that he poured out on the Cross and which he confirms that he will shed for many in the Gospel text of today.

Even as he did that, he invited those who partook of it to keep remembering and renewing this Covenant of unconditional love. By his own words, this broken bread was now his own body that would be broken and then raised to glory. This simple yet profound action signifies that, as we share this sustenance, we are bound to him and to one another. It is significant that Mark has placed, on either side of the breaking of the bread and sharing of the wine, the predictions of the betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter. This is to indicate that, despite betrayal and denial, Jesus will continue to give of himself. He would continue to give and to love unconditionally.

Though at first, the disciples did not respond to the Covenant that Jesus made with them because of their lack of understanding, their cowardice, and their fear, later they accepted it and boldly proclaimed the Kingdom that Jesus had inaugurated.

The Covenant which Jesus made with his disciples, and continues to make with us even today, has to be constantly accepted by us if it is to be a covenant in the true sense of the word. This acceptance is shown when we first partake of the body of Christ at every celebration of the Eucharist and, in doing so, express our willingness to do the same with others. It is shown when we do not regard the Eucharist as merely a ritual to be celebrated only in the church and only in order to fulfill an obligation. It is shown when we let the celebration of the Eucharist continue in our lives and in our willingness, like Jesus, to become bread for others.

If our celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi is to be meaningful, we need to realize that we, as disciples of Jesus, are today his body and blood. When we are willing to give of ourselves to others as Jesus did, without counting the cost and without heeding the pain then we, in a true sense of the word, make him present today. It is in our doing this that his promise to be in the world till the end of time will become a reality here and now.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Saturday, June 5, 2021 - Homily


 

So many of us live our lives based on the opinion of others. We want others to think well of us and will often act in such a way that meets their approval. There are also times when we may not be convinced of something and yet would do it only because we want to show externally that we are “part of the crowd”.

Saturday, June 5, 2021 - How often in a day do you let the opinion of others affect your behaviour? What will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Tob 12:1,5-15,20; Mk 12:38-44

There are two parts to the text of today. The first deals with the condemnation of the scribes (12:38-40) and the second the commendation of a widow (12:41-44).

The charge against the scribes is that they have no concern for anyone except themselves. This lack of concern is shown in the behaviour they exhibited. Their words do not correspond to their actions and they do what they do only for external show.

Since one of the charges against the scribes was that they devour widows’ houses, the second part of the text speaks about a poor widow. The widow unlike the scribes has no concern for self and this is shown in her willingness to give everything to God. She is what she does.

So many of us live our lives based on the opinion of others. We want others to think well of us and will often act in such a way that meets their approval. There are also times when we may not be convinced of something and yet would do it only because we want to show externally that we are “part of the crowd”. When we behave in this manner we are imitating the scribes.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Friday, June 4, 2021 - Homily

 

Jesus cannot be captured by titles or names. He is much bigger than any name that we might use for him. And while we may know many things about him, his life and mission, we need to make every attempt to KNOW him.


Friday, June 4, 2021 - How do you usually address Jesus? Why do you use this title?

To read the texts click on the texts: Tob 11:5-17; Mk 12:35-37

Since Mark ended the previous episode by stating that after the scribes question and Jesus’ response no one dared to ask Jesus any question, he has Jesus himself ask the question about the Messiah as Son of David. In his interpretation of Ps 110,1 attributed to David, the Messiah is called Lord. If this is what David says, then the Messiah cannot be also his son. Mark’s point is that the title son of David is an inadequate title to describe who the Messiah really is.

Jesus cannot be captured by titles or names. He is much bigger than any name that we might use for him. And while we may know many things about him, his life and mission, we need to make every attempt to KNOW him.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Thursday, June 3, 2021 - Homily


 

Love of God cannot really be separated from love of neighbour. The two go together. Our love for God is made manifest and tangible only when we reach out in love to someone else. While Paul gives a beautiful description of what love is and what it is not in 1 Corinthians 13, my own definition of love is that in love there is no “I”.

Thursday, June 3, 2021 - Will your love for God show in your love for at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Tob 6:10-11;7:1,9-14;8:4-9; Mk 12:28-34

While in Matthew 22,35, the lawyer asks Jesus the question about the great commandment in order to test Jesus; in Mark he is not hostile. As a matter of fact Mark mentions at the beginning of the incident that he thought that Jesus had answered the Sadducees well and at the end he commends Jesus for his answer. Jesus responds in the words of the “Shema”, which speaks of love of God (Deut 6,5-6), but adds also the love of neighbour (Lev 19,18). The scribe’s response to this is to acknowledge Jesus’ answer as correct and to add that following these commandments is greater than sacrifices and burnt offerings. Jesus concludes the dialogue by stating that because the scribe has recognised what his priorities are, he is not far from the kingdom of God.

Love of God cannot really be separated from love of neighbour. The two go together. Our love for God is made manifest and tangible only when we reach out in love to someone else. While Paul gives a beautiful description of what love is and what it is not in 1 Corinthians 13, my own definition of love is that in love there is no “I”.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 - Homily


 

Too much of concern with the afterlife or heaven and hell may lead to our not living fully this life on earth. Our heaven at this moment is here on earth and we must strive towards making it as enjoyable as possible not only for ourselves but also for those around us.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 - To believe in the resurrection means to live each day as if were your last. Do you live in this way?

To read the texts click on the texts: Tob 3:1-11; Mk 12:18-27

Though belief in the resurrection had developed around two centuries prior to the birth of Jesus, there were many Jews who did not accept it. The Sadducees, especially, were known to regard belief in the resurrection as not justified by the scriptures or mentioned in them (Acts 23,8). In their question to Jesus to point out the absurdity of the resurrection, they use the custom of Levirate marriage mentioned in Deuteronomy 25,5 which states that the wife of a dead brother shall not be married outside the family to a stranger, but by her husband’s brother (Genesis 38,8). Their question is that if there were seven brothers and all seven had the same woman as wife, whose wife would she be in the resurrection. In his response Jesus first corrects their misunderstanding about what the resurrection means and implies. In the resurrection there will no longer be human institutions like marriage and so the question of being given in and taken in marriage does not arise. Humans in the resurrected life will no longer be constrained by the limits or relationships of their earthly bodies. He then uses scripture to establish that resurrection is indeed mentioned in the scripture and is about God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 3,6-16 as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and if these are mentioned though they are dead, then he must be the God of the living, since they live in him. God is not God of the dead but the living.

Too much of concern with the after life or heaven and hell may lead to our not living fully this life on earth. Our heaven at this moment is here on earth and we must strive towards making it as enjoyable as possible not only for ourselves but also for those around us.