Monday, 28 February 2022
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 - 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:1Peter 1:10-16; 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, 27 February 2022
Monday, February 28, 2022 - Do I possess riches or do riches possess me? Do I use things or do things use me?
To read the texts click on the texts:1Peter 1:3-9; Mk 10:17-27
This text is made up of two parts. The first is the story of the rich man who is unable to accept Jesus’ invitation to discipleship (10:17-22) and the second part contains the sayings of Jesus on the danger of riches (10:23-27).
The rich man addresses Jesus as “Good teacher” and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus shifts the focus from himself and makes God the focus. In Mark, Jesus cites six of the commandments of the Decalogue (Ex 20:12-17; Deut 5:16-21). The response of the rich man is to affirm that he has followed all of these. Only in Mark does Jesus look at the man and love him. This love results in the issuance of an invitation: the invitation to follow Jesus. The invitation is to forego even the privilege of alms giving for the sake of sharing Jesus’ life style by depending on god while at the same time proclaiming his kingdom. The rich man is devoted to God’s word, but cannot bring himself to accept the invitation. His riches become an obstacle to his following.
After his departure, Jesus turns to the disciples to instruct them on the danger of riches. Jesus uses a metaphor of a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. Even this impossible as it might be to imagine is possible and easier than for a rich person to enter the kingdom. The amazement of the disciples while understandable also brings out powerfully the obstacle that riches can pose to seeing rightly.We are living in a world, which keeps calling us to possess more and more. We are bombarded from every side with advertisements inviting us to be owners of land, property, houses, and electronic and other goods. While we must use things and plan properly for own future and the future of our children, we need to be careful that we do not become so obsessed with the future that we forget to live in the present.
Saturday, 26 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 27:4-7; 1 Cor 15:54-58; Luke6:39:45
I once visited a friend of mine who had a ten year old son named Vishal. While I was chatting with my friend, his son walked into the room. After asking him about his School and other activities, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He responded, “I want to be like my father”. His father is a businessman, a dealer in spare parts for automobiles, and so I presumed he wanted to join his father in his business. I said, “Vishal, do you want to be a businessman like your father, a dealer in spare parts for automobiles?” He replied, “No, I want to be kind like my father.” His father’s kindness of heart showed in everything his father said and did. His father manifested the kindness that was within with every action and word done without.
It was St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”. It seems that Francis was influenced to make this statement by what Jesus says in the Gospel text of today. It is so often true that actions speak louder than words and a person is known by the actions that he/she performs. However, it must be remembered that a person’s actions flow from a person’s heart and thus the primary focus must be on the heart. As the German mystic Meister Eckhart says, “You should bother less about what you ought to do and think more about what you ought to be because if your being were good then your works will shine forth brightly”. This is an apt summary of the readings of today.
Addressing his disciples through a proverb and parables, Jesus explicates what it means to be a true disciple. The proverb about the blind leading the blind is a challenge to the disciples to be better qualified than those they seek to serve. This qualification has nothing to with degrees or diplomas, but everything to do with trying to be like Jesus. In so doing they will not look for faults in others, but will focus on the positives in them and at the same time constantly strive to become aware of their own shortcomings. This awareness of one’s own weakness will make one humble and also more accepting of others. Then truly will there be a synchrony between what one is and what one does, the being and action, the saying and doing. The former will inevitably be exposed by the latter. Discipleship, therefore, requires not just good deeds. It requires integrity and a purity of heart such as one sees in Jesus himself.
A similar point is made in the first reading of today when Sirach points out that a person is known through the fruit he/she produces. The fruit produced is a result of what lies within. This is because what is seen about a person externally is what that person is within. The speech and actions of a person convey what lies in his/her heart and mind.
There is a tendency among so many of us today to focus so much on the action and on doing that we forget about being. If we were to count the number of miracles that Jesus worked as narrated by the Synoptic Gospels, the number totals around thirty. In a three year ministry of Jesus, this works out to an average of ten miracles a year or just about one miracle every month, which is not very much. Be that as it may, Jesus is not worshipped and adored today because of his miracles, important as they may have been to his whole ministry. Jesus is worshipped today because he dared to be good. When Peter, who formed the inner group of three disciples, summarized the life of Jesus for Cornelius and his family at Caesarea, he did so in a few words namely “he went about doing good…” In other words, Peter focussed like Vishal not on the external deeds of Jesus but on what Jesus was from within. Because Jesus was ‘good’ all that he said and did was also good.
In the second reading Paul gives an eschatological reason for focusing on being rather than doing. The present body that we have is perishable and mortal. We can put on imperishability and immortality by being resolute and immovable and through this excel in the work of the Lord. The example of Jesus whose whole being was good must be our constant motivation. If we follow the example of Jesus, then people will say of us his disciples, “see how they go about doing good”.
Friday, 25 February 2022
Saturday, February 26, 2022 - Has your narrow mindedness led you to pigeonhole God and place him in a small compartment? Will you realise that God is much bigger than you can ever imagine him to be?
To read the texts click on the texts: James5:13-20; Mk 10:13-16
The text is really about the kingdom of God and what kind of people can expect to be a part of it. When people bring children to Jesus, the disciples try to stop them from doing so showing once again that they have not been able to understand what Jesus and the kingdom are all about. The kingdom is for everyone and is inclusive not exclusive. Jesus is emphatic in his response to their action that the kingdom does indeed belong to children and that anyone who does not become like a child can never hope to enter it. The point is not so much that one will be excluded but that one will exclude oneself. The kingdom is a gift and must be received as a gift. No human power can create or force it. The kingdom of God will come when we behave like little children.A childlike attitude means not only that one will be humble and spontaneous as children are, but also that one will acknowledge like a child has to do, his/her dependence. Many of us like to be independent and for some asking a favour of someone else is extremely difficult because they do not want to acknowledge their dependence on that person and so be indebted. We must realise that we are all interconnected and while we are dependent on each other in some way or other, we are primarily dependent on God.
Thursday, 24 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: James5:9-12; Mk 10:1-12
The school of Hillel (60 BCE – 20 CE), permitted divorce literally for any cause – even if the wife spoiled a dish or if her husband found another fairer than his wife. However the school of Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE) permitted it only for adultery.
In Deut 24,1-4 the institution of divorce is taken for granted, & concerns only the procedure to be followed and that after the woman has married a second time, the first husband cannot remarry her. The Law of divorce was a concession not a commandment.
The question of the Pharisees is asked by them in order to test Jesus. This attitude becomes clear when in their response to Jesus’ question about what the law says on divorce, they seem to know it quite clearly. In his response to them, Jesus quotes Gen 1,27 and 2,24 as arguments for a permanent state of unity created by marriage. Jesus goes beyond the Law to Creation. Divorce according to the law of creation would be like trying to divide one person into two. Mark’s formula is a near total prohibition of divorce. Mt 19,9 contains the exception contained in 5,32 – unchastity (Porneia, Hebrew-Zenût = prostitution) understood in the sense of an incestuous union due to marriage in their forbidden degrees of kinship (Lev 18,6-18). Such a union would not be true marriage at all and would not require a divorce but annulment.Many families today are breaking up and there are various reasons why this is happening. However, it seems that one of the important reasons why marriages and families break up is because of selfishness. Due to this there is unwillingness on the part of the members to adjust with each other or the inability to understand. Each wants to go his/her own way and do his/her own thing. Concern for the others needs and feelings seem to be on the wane. Psychologists today are quite convinced that a healthy family background is an absolute requirement for the healthy growth of a child and a happy child is the result of a happy family.
Wednesday, 23 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: James5:1-6; Mk 9:41-50
This pericope contains a series of sayings against those who cause scandal and other to sin. Anyone who scandalises or causes someone else to stumble is a danger to those who believe. Jesus’ language here seems harsh, but he is not asking individuals to maim parts of their body. Rather he is using these striking metaphors to drive home powerfully the point he wants to make, namely: that no one and nothing must be allowed to compromise the kingdom. The metaphors reflect how important striving for the kingdom is. A disciple of Jesus must be prepared to forego anything for the sake of the kingdom.Our behaviour in public sometimes results in leading others away from God and Jesus. Those who see our behaviour and know that we are disciples of Jesus are not inspired to follow him. Christ today is made visible and tangible through the words and actions of those of us who believe in him and so we have an enormous responsibility to make him known and draw others to him. People must be able to see him in us.
Tuesday, 22 February 2022
Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - Do I feel threatened by people whom I think are more talented than I am? Will I rest secure in my selfhood? Will I glory in my selfhood?
To read the texts click on the texts: James 4:13-17; Mk 9:38-40
John comes to Jesus hoping to be commended for stopping an exorcist who was using the name of Jesus to exorcise. In his response Jesus advocates openness and allows anyone who wants to exorcise in his name to be free to do so. Since the man is suing Jesus name, it is clear that he is not against Jesus and so will not speak ill of Jesus. Since he is not against, he is for Jesus.One of the many qualities of Jesus that stood out in his life and mission was the quality of openness. He was willing to accommodate and believe even in those whom others had given up on. This is shown in his call of Levi/Matthew the tax collector, and his reaching out to sinners and outcasts. In our understanding of Jesus we sometimes do him a disservice when we become too parochial and narrow-minded and imagine that he is the exclusive property of those of us who are baptised. We communicate this attitude to others when we reject their symbols of God and worse treat them as idol worshippers. We are being called through the attitude of Jesus in the text of today to make him available to all with our openness and acceptance of others and of their way of relating to God.
Monday, 21 February 2022
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - The Chair of St. Peter - If Jesus were to ask you the question he asked the disciples, what would your response be?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Mt 16:13-19
The Chair of St. Peter is a feast which celebrates the Lord’s choice of Peter to be the servant-leader of the Church. The choice of Peter is indicative of what the Church is. On the one hand Peter was over zealous, brash, impulsive, spontaneous and ready to die for the Lord, while on the other he would deny the Lord and run away when trouble arose. The Church as a whole has been like Peter. Yet, this is whom the Lord chooses and continues to choose, broken men and women called to heal a broken world.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is popularly known as “Peter’s Confession”. The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant.
After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.
The feast of today invites us to reflect on two aspects in the Church. The first of these is that authority in the Church does not mean domination but always service. The model of this service is Jesus and it is him that we must imitate. The second is that even as we are broken ourselves and sinners, we are called to heal the world. This is because like in Peter’s case so in ours, it was not his merit that made him the leader of the Church, it was the grace of God which worked in him despite his sin.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - The world seems to be saying, “If you are not No. 1, you are NO ONE. Jesus. However, is clear in what he says: If you want to be No. 1, be NO ONE.
To read the texts click on the texts: James4:1-10; Mk 9:30-37
The text of today contains the second Passion, death and resurrection prediction that Jesus makes on the way to Jerusalem and Jesus’ explanation of his way of life to his disciples after they misunderstand what his kingdom is all about. In this second passion and resurrection prediction, there is a change in the verb from the first where the verb was the passive “be killed” (8,31) to the active “they will kill him” (9,31)
If after the first passion and resurrection prediction it is Peter who misunderstands, here, it is the disciples as a whole that misunderstand because "on the way" they are discussing who the greatest among them is, when Jesus is speaking about service and being the least. Before his teaching on what discipleship means, Jesus sits down thereby assuming the formal position of a teacher. He speaks first of a reversal of positions and status in the kingdom, and then places before them the example of a child. In the oriental world of Jesus' time, the child was a non-person, and so by this example, Jesus derives home the point that they will have to lose their identity, become non-persons if they want to gain entry into the kingdom.Authority as understood in Christianity can never be for domination but is always for service. Management experts today are advocating more and more the advantages of using authority for service and leading by example. In this manner the leader can get more out of the ones he lead than if he/she tries to dominate.
Sunday, 20 February 2022
Monday, February 21, 2022 - Is there something that you have been struggling to achieve but have not? Will you pray about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: James3:13-18; Mk 9:14-29
The text of today deals with an exorcism after Jesus has come down from the mountain of transfiguration. It is the only exorcism story in the second half of Mark’s Gospel. The disciples are engaged in attempting to cast out a demon, but are unable to cure the boy and the father of the boy pleads with Jesus for the cure. However, the father's request expresses doubt and lack of faith. Jesus responds to the father's request by first chiding him for his lack of faith. The father responds in what may be words that each of us can connect with, "I believe, help my unbelief." The father of the boy includes himself in the unbelieving generation whom Jesus has chided, but insists that even in his unbelief, he believes. Even this inadequate faith is enough for Jesus to work the miracle. The cure takes place in two stages. After the command to leave the boy and never enter him again, the demon does come out but leaves the boy “like a corpse” (9,26). Jesus then takes the boy by the hand and lifts him up, which seems to be an indirect allusion to the resurrection.
When asked by his disciples why they were not able to cure the boy, Jesus points out to prayer as the instrument that must be used when we need something from God. Prayer is to acknowledge one’s dependence on God.We sometimes think that we are acting independently and all that we have accomplished is the result of our own efforts, forgetting that God is always in the background guiding our way and lighting our path. If we ask for God’s assistance before we start a task or even become aware of his presence in the midst of our “doing”, what we do will become more efficacious and even effective.
Saturday, 19 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23;1 Cor 15:45-49;Lk 6:27-38
The readings of today place before us two ways of proceeding. The one which calls for achieving what one wants through violence, and the other which calls for a peaceful way of getting what one is entitled to.
These ways are narrated in the first reading of today and in the persons of Abishai and David. Abishai knows no other way but the way of violence to achieve his goal. Though David is aware of this way, he prefers to choose instead the way of peace and concord. Abishai’s way would have polarized David’s kingdom. It would have resulted in destroying the very thing that David hoped to gain. Aware of this David chooses the other way namely the way which seeks to acquire through peace, friendship and forgiveness.
This is also the way that Jesus proposes in the Gospel text of today, when he invites those who are willing to listen to him to love their enemies and to respond to violence with non violence. As a matter of fact, Jesus goes even further when he challenges his listeners to bless and pray for the very ones who are violent towards them.
This challenge is what Paul too places before the Corinthian community and us in the Second reading of today, when he makes a comparison between the first Adam and the new Adam. If the first Adam was limited, the new Adam Jesus Christ is beyond limit. If the first Adam was of the earth, Jesus Christ is from heaven and if the first Adam was physical and made from dust, Jesus is spiritual and from above. The challenge then is to be imitators of the new Adam Jesus Christ.
All too often non violence is seen as cowardice and weakness, and aggression and violence as courage and strength. However, this is far from the truth. It is in reality the aggressive and violent who are weak. To seize by force or violence the objects or goals we desire is often to destroy the very thing we expect to gain. This is true on the macro canvas of international disputes and also on the micro canvas of family dynamics. It is sad, however, that on both these levels the way of Abishai has prevailed and the majority seems to go that way. One does not need to look further than the nearest newspaper or Television channel relaying news to see how true this is. So many try to force their way through various degrees of physical, political, and emotional violence. We find it difficult to resist the temptation to force our will on others, to retaliate and even the score. However, as the readings today point out, there is an alternative way. This is the way of restraint that David practices. It is the way of forgiveness and non violence advocated by Jesus.
However, this alternative requires imaginative discernment of God at work in the midst of our own actions. Qualities of compassion, righteousness, faithfulness, and trust will appear only when we give up our own attempts to force the future and instead choose partnership with God, who constantly gives us our future as a gift and bids us receive it rather than grasp it.
In our own modern experience, the tendency is to separate human and divine agency in dealing with the issues of violence and power. There are those of us, on the one hand, who expect God to make moral decisions for us or to take the crucial moral actions. We pray for righteousness, peace, and justice but do nothing to enable it. We treat the Bible as a prescriptive rule book through which we hope God will direct us. On the other hand, there are those of us who imagine that human resources and social action alone are adequate to build the future. We trust only those possibilities that emerge out of empirical data or rational analysis. We do not trust that God is also at work.
Thus the challenge before us is to take to heart the way of peace that David took rather than the way of violence advocated by Abishai. It is to take the way advocated by Jesus who has shown in and through the Cross that the way of non-violence and forgiveness is indeed not only the higher way, but the more practical way. In doing so, we will follow the new Adam who even in the face of seeming defeat and death has the ability to give victory and life.
Friday, 18 February 2022
Saturday, February 19, 2022 - If you were on the mountain with Jesus, what would your response to the Transfiguration be? Why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 3:1-10; Mk 9:2-13
The transfiguration is an event, which appears in all the Synoptic Gospels, but each narrates it differently. In Mark, it follows after the instructions that Jesus gives to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi and after six days. The event is a confirmation by God of the fact that Jesus is indeed Messiah, beloved Son. Most think that the reason for the choice of Elijah and Moses is that the Jews considered them as being alive in the presence of God. Jesus is superior even to these figures.
In Mk the order is Elijah and Moses. In Matthew, the order is Moses and Elijah (so Luke) to emphasize the two personalities of the OT who received revelation on Mount Sinai (Ex 19,33-34; 1Kgs 19,9-13) and personify the Law and the prophets. While in Mt Jesus is the New Moses and Luke emphasizes the approaching passion, Mark sees in the transfiguration the glorious manifestation of the hidden Messiah. Briefly the disciples experience the heavenly quality of Jesus. Jesus is no less Messiah when his Messianic glory is hidden in the passion, than he is at the Transfiguration.
Elijah was regarded as the prophet who would come before the Lord (Malachi 3,24-25; 4,5) as his messenger. Jesus’ reply in John suggests that Elijah has indeed come in John the Baptist is an indication that he is the Lord.
There are times in our lives when everything goes according to plan and at those times it is easy to see that God is on our side. However, when we are faced with trials and when things do not work out, as we want them to, then the transfiguration is a reminder to us that even when carrying our cross we are still beloved by God.
Thursday, 17 February 2022
Friday, February 18, 2022 - Is there a person, a thing, or an event that is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about them today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 2:14-24,26; Mk 8:34-9:1
The sayings that make up the text of today are addressed not merely to the twelve but to the crowds. The denial of self that Jesus calls the crowd to is an absolute requirement if one desires to follow him. The reason for this is that as long as the self remains, following will be half-hearted and incomplete. It will always come in the way of following. This denial thus, is not limited to situations of persecution alone but also to those situations in which personal likes and dislikes will get in the way of the proclamation of the Gospel. The sayings are difficult to put into practice but Jesus never said that following him in Mission would be easy. The final saying in this section in 9,1 speaks about some who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God has come with power. While this reiterates that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated (Mark 1,14-15) is indeed a fact and is indeed near, the referent for the saying has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some see the referent as the event of the Transfiguration Mark 9,2-8), that is the recognition by Peter, James and John that Jesus has received the Father’s approval and all power. Others see it as the Passion especially the event of the tearing of the veil of the temple and Jesus acknowledged as Son of God by the centurion (15,38-39). Still others see it as the Resurrection of Jesus.
Our ego often comes in the way of our discipleship. Too much importance to the self leaves one unable to follow, as one ought to.
Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Thursday, February 17, 2022 - When troubles come your way, do you ask God to remove them or do you pray for the strength to face them squarely?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 2:1-9; Mk 8:27-33
The story that forms part of our text for today (8,27-30) is titled by many as “Peter’s Confession”. The place where Jesus asks his disciples questions about his identity is termed by Mark as “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” which Matthew corrects to “the region of Caesarea Philippi” (Mt 16,13). The first question of Jesus concerns the opinion of people or the common opinion. The views expressed are already in 6,14-16, namely: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. This obviously is an inadequate description of who Jesus really is, and this is why the disciples as a group are asked about Jesus’ identity. Peter replies on behalf of the group that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. In Mark, we come across yet again the command to silence after this confession, and concerns not making known that Jesus is the Messiah. The reason for this seems to be that since the confession is made before the passion, it will not have taken into account that aspect of the life of Jesus. This is why immediately after the command to silence Mark has the first of three passion and resurrection predictions (8,31). For the first time Mark informs us that Jesus “said all this quite openly” (8,32). On hearing Jesus speak about his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter who had earlier confessed that Jesus was Messiah begins to rebuke Jesus. The meaning is that Peter thinks that Jesus is insane and needs to be exorcised of the demon that has possessed him. Jesus in turn calls Peter, Satan. This is because in his confession, Peter had not included the suffering and death of the Messiah. Jesus will remain obedient to God even if it means laying down his life in total surrender and no one can come in the way of that obedience.
It is not easy for us to accept that suffering is a part of life itself and that there will be times when we are tested and tried. However, as Christians we must also note that suffering can never be the end and that since God wants only what is good for us we are loved unconditionally even in our suffering.
Tuesday, 15 February 2022
Wednesday, February 16, 2022 - Have you seen and met the Risen Lord? If no, what is preventing you from doing so?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas 1:19-27; Mk 8:22-26
The miracle story that is our text for today is the second of the two miracle stories in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The first was in 7,31-37 in which Jesus cures a deaf man with an impediment in his speech. By placing this miracle immediately after Jesus poignant question to his disciples about their lack of understanding (8,21) and just before Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (8,27-30), Mark probably intends to hint to the reader that the disciples too wall understand. Their blindness will also be healed. The healing takes place in two stages to probably correspond with the two answers to the questions of Jesus (8,27-30) about his identity. The first is the response of the people who say that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets (8,28) and this seems to correspond to the first stage in which the blind man can see people but who like trees walking (8,24). The second is the response of Peter on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ (8,30) which seems to correspond to the stage where the blind man can see everything clearly (8,25). At the end of this episode, Mark leaves his readers with the question of whether the disciples like the blind man will also be able see.
Some of us have a tendency to pigeon hole God and put him in a compartment. This leads to seeing him merely as one who fixes things for us or one to whom we go only in need. We might fail to see that he is always there and is much bigger than anything we can ever imagine.
Monday, 14 February 2022
Tuesday, February 15, 2022 - What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jas1:12-18; Mk 8:14-21
The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4,1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4,35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6,45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6,51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8,21).
The disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ need. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.
Sunday, 13 February 2022
Monday, February 14, 2022 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you continue to believe even without this sign?
To read the texts click on the texts: James1:1-11; Mk 8:11-13
The text of today appears immediately after the second feeding miracle in the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus has fed 4000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. The Pharisees demand a sign. The sign they demand is some form of divine authentication. Jesus’ response is to sigh deeply in his spirit, which could be akin to throwing one’s hands up in despair. He refuses to perform a sign. This refusal on the part of Jesus could be interpreted as a sign of Jesus’ rejection of “this generation”. Mark portrays Jesus here as a prophet announcing God’s judgement against this generation.
Saturday, 12 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12,16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26
Is it logically possible to regard the poor as Blessed? Will common sense allow us to do so? Is our experience not rather that it is the poor who are despised and the rich who are blessed? How can we make sense of the beatitudes that Jesus spoke 2000 years ago, today? Were they true at the time of Jesus? Are they true today? Will we try to sidestep the issue by interpreting “poor” and “poverty” spiritually? These are some of the questions that come to mind when we read the beatitudes of Jesus as narrated by the Gospel of Luke.
The first and foremost point that must be noted even as we begin to read the beatitudes is that they make no ethical demands. They do not give exhortation. They simply and emphatically pronounce a blessing. This is what the beatitudes really are: A blessing on those to whom they are pronounced. Luke speaks in the second person and not the third person like Matthew does in his beatitudes. This has the effect of making the pronouncements more direct, more personal.
The first beatitude is addressed to the poor (not “the poor in spirit” Mt 5:3). This is indeed a scandalous statement because it overturns all conventional expectations and pronounces a blessing on those who are marginalized. They are promised the kingdom of God by being released from their marginalisation and oppression. It brings to light that God is making an option for the poor. The poor are blessed not because they are holier than others, nor even because they are better than others, but simply because they are poor. The presence of so many poor in a world in which only a few are rich does not fit in with God’s plan for creation. It is against the nature of God and against all that God envisions for the world. The pronouncement of this beatitude is an unambiguous narration of how God wants things to be. The next two beatitudes concern hunger and mourning and could be addressed to the same group. The poor because they are poor are also hungry and weep. They are promised an end of their hunger in the promise that they will be filled and an end to their weeping and mourning in the promise that they will laugh. This end is not merely eschatological or to be hoped for in the next life alone. It is something that is being done here and now. The fourth and final beatitude in Luke speaks about the disciple who will be hated, excluded, reviled and defamed. This will be because that disciple will stand for the truth, justice and integrity. They will be unafraid of the consequences. They will be hated because they will tell the world how things must really be and challenge the rich to change. They will be excluded because it is better not to hear what they have to say and maintain the status quo. They will be reviled and defamed in the hope that their words will not be taken seriously. Their credibility will be maligned in the hope that when they speak the word of truth, their words will not have an effect and sound hollow to those who hear them. These are called to rejoice in their being reviled and promised a reward in heaven. They are also given as consolation the example of those who went through similar trails before them.
The heaven that is promised to them is not a pie in the sky when they die; rather it is a situation in which God will ensure that the word spoken will take effect in the here and now. The best proof of the fact that Jesus’ words were true and are still relevant today is the person of Jesus. His birth in unusual and poor circumstances, his life lived without a place to lay his head, his ministry directed for the most part to the poor and marginalised, his death at the hands of those who regarded him as threat and so maligned his name and his resurrection from the dead are proof if proof is indeed required. The challenge is to believe them and continue to speak those words.
This is indeed the proof that Paul speaks about in the second reading of today when he challenges the community at Corinth to believe these words. Christ not only preached them but lived them out in every detail in his life. He dared his contemporaries to live such a life even if it meant that it was not always possible to see the results immediately and in the manner in which one would have liked to. Thus even when he hung on the Cross and it seemed that truth, justice and selflessness were defeated they were in fact victorious.
A vibrant Christian community which proclaims the same message and uses the same challenging idiom, witness to the truth of the beatitudes. Even as it does this, it does not forget that contrasting each of the four beatitudes, there are four woes. The first woe is addressed to the rich who have received their consolation already and so can expect nothing more. Those who have had their fill now are told that they will go hungry and those who laugh now will weep. Those of whom people speak well are compared to the false prophets. These are people who because they are satisfied with the superficial and temporary will be like the tree that Jeremiah speaks about in the first reading of today. They are like a piece of dry shrub in the desert which bears no fruit. They do not have any source of nourishment or depth and soon dry up. The shallow life of materialism that they lead and their desire to accumulate binds them to such a degree that they keep looking for happiness and the kingdom and it always eludes them. One cannot be this kind of person and continue to be a disciple of Jesus. Rather, a disciple of Jesus is like the tree planted beside a stream. It sinks its roots deeply and becomes richly fertile and productive. It has depth and so is unafraid of the assaults of the elements. It is always fresh, even in the most difficult and trying times and lives without fear and anxiety.
Thus the readings of today issue a call to each of us not only to hear the words but to live them out as courageously and with the same trust and confidence that Jesus did.
Friday, 11 February 2022
Saturday, February 12, 2022 - Has my abundance motivated me to “give” at least a little to someone else? Or do I prefer to keep it all to myself?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kings 12:26-32; 13:33-34;Mk 8:1-10
Today’s reading contains the second of the two feeding miracles that are found in Matthew and Mark. It has largely been regarded as a Gentile feeding as opposed to the first feeding miracle (6,35-44), which is considered as a Jewish feeding. One reason for this is that the setting of the previous miracle of the healing of the deaf man with an impediment in his speech was possibly in Gentile territory and it is presumed that the setting for this miracle too is the same. Another reason is that this feeding is the less abundant of the two. While in the first feeding miracle fewer loaves (5) and fish (2) are required to feed more people (5000) and more baskets are gathered after the feeding (12), here more loaves (7) and fish (few) are needed to feed fewer people (400) and lesser baskets are gathered (7). Here too, however, like in the first feeding miracle, the crowds eat and are satisfied. This indicates the abundance of the messianic age and what the coming of Jesus represents.
Thursday, 10 February 2022
Friday, February 11, 2022 - Our Lady of Lourdes - Will you listen to Mary's instructions and do whatever "HE" tells you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 66:10-14; Jn 2:1-11
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.”
After the appearance of Mary to Bernadette, people began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.
The text chosen for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is the Miracle at Cana, which is found only in the Gospel of John and is the first of seven miracles in that Gospel. John calls the miracles “signs’. Though at first glance it might seem like a standard miracle story with a setting for the miracle, the preparation, the miracle proper and a confirmation of the miracle, there is much more than this here. The mention of terms like “hour” and “glory” indicate that one must look beyond the miracle to draw out its true meaning much like the servants drew wine from jars that had been filled with water.
In order to do this we must first become aware of the fact that by placing this miracle at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and as the first “sign” that Jesus gives, John wants to communicate the abundance that is available in Jesus. Jesus wants to give freely and give to all. The setting of this miracle in the context of a marriage feast also increases the note of celebration and abundance. The mother of Jesus (Mary is never referred to by name in the Gospel of John and Jesus addresses her twice in the Gospel and both times as “Woman”) draws Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine. She makes no explicit request of him; however, the manner in which Jesus responds to her indicates that her words may have carried the connotation of asking him to intervene.
Though many have tried to lessen the harsh impact of the response of Jesus to his mother, it is clear that while Jesus is not being rude or hostile, he is certainly distancing himself from the request as both the address “Woman” and his words “what to me and to you” signify. The reason why he does not want his mother to interfere is because his “hour” had not yet arrived. The term “hour” is used here to signify the hour of Jesus’ glorification which includes not only his death and resurrection but also his ascension. All that Jesus does is done keeping this broader perspective in mind. His mother must realize this. That she does is made explicit in her instructions to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. This also signifies that this is the correct response to any request made of Jesus. His mother does not sulk or upset herself with Jesus’ response. She rises to the occasion.
While the “how’ of the miracle is not described, John describes in detail the preparation for the miracle. The stone jars were used instead of earthen jars because they were considered free of impurity and the water in them was probably used for the washing of hands before the meal. The quantity of water that the six stone jars hold is enormous and so what seems to be at the heart of the miracle is abundance and generosity. While the steward comments on the quality of the wine, John goes even further when he remarks about the manifestation of the glory of Jesus and calls the miracle a “sign” signifying therefore that one must look beyond it to draw out its full meaning. Thus the miracle points to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, because that would be when his “hour” would indeed come.
In our modern age of the advancement of science and technology when we attempt to find rational explanations for most things, this miracle raises more questions than it answers. However, John is not concerned with these. His intention is to move the reader from fact to meaning. He does this by the numerous pointers or symbols that he gives in the story. These are the narration of the first miracle in the context of a wedding feast, the reference to Jesus’ “hour”, the manifestation of Jesus’ glory and the use of the word “sign”. If one reads these in the context of the whole Gospel, then one realizes that our well defined categories are shattered. The limits that we set on what God can and cannot do need revision, because the miracle speaks of the revelation of God and of the super abundance of gifts that his presence brings.
The reaction of Mary in this miracle is also significant and must be commented on. Though Jesus distances himself from her “request”, she does not react negatively. As a matter of fact, she allows Jesus his space and does not impose but leaves him free to act as he sees fit. She respects his authority and will not interfere when asked not to. This is evident in her comment to the servants, a comment which she continues to make even today: “Do whatever he tells you”. She knows her place in the scheme of God’s plan and will stick to that place. She will not exceed her authority. She knows where it ends. Significantly, though Jesus’ “hour” has not come he still works his first miracle at the behest of his mother. He knows that she will support him on his way to that “hour’.
Friday, February 11, 2022 - How often have you used your tongue to demean people? Will you attempt to speak only words that enhance today?
To read the texts click on the texts:1Kings 11:29-32; 12:19; Mk 7:31-37
The text of today is a miracle that is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The friends of the man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech bring him to Jesus. This is the first of two miracles in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The other is in Mark 8,22-26. The healing occurs immediately and the confirmation of the healing is shown in the man’s beginning to speak. Jesus gives the crowd a command to silence, but it is disobeyed and his reputation keeps spreading. The comment of the crowd indicates that they are becoming aware that with Jesus the messianic age has dawned, since according to Isaiah 35,5-6, healings of the blind, deaf and persons who were disabled were signs that the messianic age had indeed dawned.We can use our faculties of hearing and speaking to hear selectively and to speak unkind and demeaning words, or we can use them to listen attentively to the world around us and to speak words that are kind and result in building up others.
Wednesday, 9 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:1Kings 11:4-13; Mk 7:24-30
At the beginning of today’s reading we are told that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. His reputation seems to have preceded him because though he did not want anyone to know that he was there, his presence cannot be kept secret. When the mother of a girl who is possessed by an evil spirit makes a request for healing, Jesus responds that the Jews (children) must first have their fill (Jesus’ reaching out to make whole) and only then can the dogs (Gentiles) be fed. While in Mark the response of Jesus accepts the possibility of a Gentile mission even if after the mission to the Jews. In the parallel text in Matthew (15:24-26), it is clear that Jesus’ mission is exclusively for the Jews and not Gentiles. The woman is not deterred and responds in a manner that bests Jesus’ response. In Mark, the concluding saying of Jesus makes explicit that the daughter of the woman is healed because she has won the argument. She has turned the metaphor to her advantage.
No one has the power to hurt or insult you unless you decide to give the person that power. When someone says something, I need to decide whether I will sulk because I find it insulting or whether I will use what he or she has said to learn something about myself and so use it to my advantage.
Tuesday, 8 February 2022
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - Have you focussed more on your “doing” than on your “being”? Is your “being” good?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Kgs 10:1-10; Mk 7:14-23
The text of today continues the discussion of the earlier text, which was read yesterday (7,1-13). If the earlier part was a response to Jewish teachers, this part is addressed to the crowds. Jesus asserts that nothing from outside has the power to make one unclean. Instead of being concerned with externals, Jesus challenges those who listen to him to focus on the internal, since uncleanness comes from within. Mark presents this teaching of Jesus as a parable and so there is a need to explain it. In his explanation to the disciples, Jesus makes clear that what goes into a person from outside enters the stomach and not the heart and so cannot defile. It is what comes from within, that is from the heart that defiles and makes unclean.
Sin comes from within. While external circumstances do have an effect on us and influence us, we cannot put the blame for our actions on these. The actions that we perform are ours and we must accept responsibility for them.
Monday, 7 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:1Kings 8:22-23,27-30; Mk 7:1-13
In the text of today, the Pharisees and the Scribes see that the disciples of Jesus eat with unwashed hands, and so ask Jesus a question concerning what they consider as defilement. In his response to them, Jesus takes the discussion to a higher plane, by focussing not merely on what defiles or does not defile a person, but on true worship, which stems from the heart. The quotation from Isaiah 29,13 is an apt description of the sham worship offered, when God wanted heart worship. To illustrate his point, Jesus gives the example of Corban, in which the Pharisees’ would dedicate, something to God, and so not allow anyone else including their parents to use it, but would use it themselves. In case others wanted to use it, their answer would be that they could not allow them to do so since it was “Corban” (dedicated to God) and so belonged to God alone.There are times when we find way and means to get out of fulfilling our obligations to others. We come up with flimsy excuses when we cannot keep a commitment, and try to absolve ourselves of our responsibility. At these times we too can be accused of lip service.
Sunday, 6 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:1Kings 8:1-7,9-13; Mk 6:53-56
The text of today is a summary statement of the activities of Jesus, but deals only with his healing activity. Numerous people sensing that Jesus was able to make them whole came to him from every part of village, city or country. All of them were healed. Through this Mark brings out both the need of the people for healing and the willingness and ability of Jesus to make people whole.A kind word or an enhancing action on our part is enough to boost the spirit of people. Sometimes a short visit to someone who is sick or in pain, a positive word of encouragement to someone who has experienced failure or a word of praise to someone who has done well and succeeded will do wonders in helping these to become whole and glory in their selfhood.
Saturday, 5 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Is 6:1-2a,3-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk :5:1-11
The theme that shines through all three readings today is what God can accomplish in sinful, weak, mortal human beings because of his graciousness and might. Isaiah, though sinful and weak, became one of the greatest of Old Testament prophets after being touched by God. Saul, who was a persecutor of Christians and so, of Christ, became Paul, and after Jesus, one of the most influential figures in Christianity. Peter, who even after being chosen by Jesus and regarded in Jesus’ lifetime as the leader of the group of disciples, denied him when it mattered most. Yet, he became one of the founding pillars of the Church.
What also shines forth in the three individuals who figure in the readings of today is their awareness of their unworthiness, and thus, their dependence on God and on his grace. In the first reading, Isaiah is afraid that, because he is a sinner and lives among sinners, there is no hope for him. Yet, with a simple and single touch, all his sins are wiped clean and he becomes the one whom God will send to his people. He will send Isaiah to tell the people about God’s unconditional mercy and love. This is also the experience of Paul who speaks, in his letter to the Corinthians, of the revelation made to him. On the one hand, Paul considers himself as most unworthy to have received any kind of revelation from the Lord simply because he had closed himself to grace. On the other hand, however, he was the one to whom God revealed a great deal because Paul realised his own inadequacy and weakness. The revelation of the risen Lord made Paul aware of what God could do, in and through him, and he allowed God to work in his life.
The realisation of unworthiness and the conferring of God’s grace find a classic description in the Gospel text of today. Peter had done nothing to merit the call of Jesus or to have him sit and teach from his boat. As in the case of Isaiah and Paul, it had to do with divine choice. God’s call and God’s choice are unpredictable. Secondly, the call to discipleship, in the case of Peter, did not come in a holy place like a temple nor did it come with great fanfare. The call came when Peter was engaged in his daily life. The point is significant, not because God does not call people in a holy place but, because it is a further sign of the work of God’s kingdom reaching into the arena of human life. Luke, by stating that although they had fished all night, they had caught nothing, is probably indicating the consequences of any kind of enterprise that does not have the Lord at its centre. This allows an opportunity for Luke to show both the success of the activity, which is done on Jesus’ word, and to narrate the commission to Peter and the mission in which he will henceforth be engaged. Peter’s protest of his sinfulness and unworthiness is negated by Jesus’ ability to fill him with all that he needs to become a fisher of men and women for the kingdom.
God’s grace, conferred on Isaiah, Paul, and Peter, is effective. It brings forth what it promises. In the case of Isaiah, it results in blotting out his sin and making him an effective instrument of God’s word. In the case of Paul, grace is responsible for the conversion of Saul into Paul and for the unimaginable breadth of Paul’s’ ministry. In the case of Peter, it results in both a realisation of the consequences of his denial and a renewed commitment to the Lord who first invited him.
The voice of God that echoed in the heavenly court at the time of Isaiah, the bolt of lightning that struck Paul from his horse, and the voice of Jesus that called Peter, continues to ask “Whom shall I send?” This is because, though God is all powerful and omnipotent, he does not work alone but continues to work in and through collaboration with human beings. We can respond to this voice in a variety of ways. One way is to ignore it completely and pretend that we have not heard it. This response allows us to continue doing what we are comfortable doing. Another response is to give in to a false sense of humility and think that it could never be calling us because we are incapable, or not talented enough, or not holy enough. A third response is to realise that the voice is calling to us, but to pay no heed to it because the task ahead is too daunting and we do not trust God enough. However, there is also the way of Isaiah, Paul, and Peter. It is to hear the voice, realise our own unworthiness and, even as we acknowledge this, to know that we will engage in mission, not on our own, but with Him who goes ahead of us, guiding our path and lighting our way. It is to know that, though we are of unclean lips, a touch of the Lord can make us clean and whole. It is to know that the grace of God is with us at all times. It is to know that, with the Lord by our side, we, too, can become fishers of men and women.
Friday, 4 February 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Kings 3:4-13; Mk 6:30-34
The text of today is about the successful return of the disciples from the mission to which they were sent by Jesus, and forms a sandwich construction with their sending (6:7-13). The verses that come in between are about the death of John the Baptist. Through this structure, Mark wants to indicate that the fate of John the Baptist will also be the fate of Jesus and of his disciples. Nevertheless, the disciples are to continue to engage in mission, confident in the knowledge that their Lord and Master will see them through.Success and failure is often measured in terms of results. However, what is even more important is the amount of effort that each one of us puts into what we do. If at any given moment we can say that we have done our best and all that is required of us, then we do not need to be too bothered about the outcome.