Thursday, 31 March 2022
Friday, April 1, 2022 - Will you open your eyes, ears and heart and SEE that God is present in our world even today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 2:1,12-22; Jn 7:1-2,10,25-30
The feast of the tabernacles was originally a harvest festival and was linked to the journey of Israel in the desert after the exodus when they stayed in tents or booths. It was a seven day festival that brought great joy and during this festival people lived in booths to remember their sojourn and God’s graciousness to them. The liturgical rites performed during this festival, included water libation and torch-lit processions. These form the background for the discourse of Jesus during this festival.
The crowds are surprised to see Jesus teaching in public despite the death threats and so wonder if he could indeed be the Messiah. They also wonder if the authorities know that Jesus is the Messiah but are denying it for some reason. Soon, “reasonableness” gives way to insight and intuition when the crowds go back to their stereotypes. They “know” where Jesus comes from and since no one will know where the Messiah comes from, Jesus cannot be the Messiah. The fact is that the crowds know only one aspect of Jesus’ antecedents. Jesus informs them that they are not aware that his real origin is in God. One will only be able to recognize and know Jesus when one realizes that he comes from God and has been sent by him. This upsets the listeners and though they try to arrest him, they cannot do so, because the ordained hour set by God has not yet come.
The crucial question here is whether or not one perceives Jesus as having been sent by God. The answer to this question determines whether one is on the right track or engaged in only superficial reflection. One reason why the authorities’ could not recognize Jesus as having been sent by God was because they had made up their minds already. They refused to let God work in the way he wanted. They decided how God must work and how the Messiah would come. They “knew”. This “knowledge” led to their being closed to the revelation that God made, so that even after he came, they continued to look for another.
God continues to come to us in various disguises and forms. He comes in persons, events and situations. If we decide in advance how he must come, then there is the danger that we too might continue to miss him and not be aware of his presence. The way to be able to find him in all things and all things in him is to be open and receptive and let God be God. It is to open our eyes, ears and every fiber of our being to the revelation that he will make and to be prepared for that revelation in the most unexpected persons, places and events.
Wednesday, 30 March 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Exod 32:7-14; Jn5:31-47
The text of today contains the second part of the discourse of Jesus in response to the outrage of the Jewish leaders because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. It can be seen to be divided into two parts. The first part speaks about the witnesses John and the Father who testify to Jesus’ claims and the second part about the rejection of Jesus and the unbelief of the leaders.
The witness that Jesus offers is not his own since no one can legitimately or validly bear witness on his own behalf. The first witness Jesus mentions here is John the Baptist who in the Gospel of John is portrayed more as a witness rather than as a precursor or Baptist as he is in the Synoptic Gospels. In witnessing to the truth John witnessed to Jesus since Jesus is the truth. However, John was a mere lamp and not the light so though his testimony is true there is another witness far greater than John and that is the works that Jesus has accomplished after being sent by the Father. “Works’ here seems to refer not just to the miracles that Jesus worked but to the whole of his ministry. These works are the works of the Father and so bear witness to him and to the relationship that Jesus shares with him as Son. Since Jesus as Son does what God as father commands him to do, Jesus completes the Father’s own works. The third witness is the Father himself. God himself cannot be seen, yet, he has been made visible in Jesus and the Jewish leaders have refused to believe the God made so visible.
The scriptures also testify on behalf of Jesus and though the leaders search and study the scriptures because they seek life, they refuse to believe what they learn there, namely that Jesus is the one who gives life and life in abundance. This is because they are unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. It is not Jesus but Moses himself who will accuse them of unbelief. This is because Moses also testified to Jesus and despite his testimony, they have refused to believe. If one believes what Moses wrote, one has to believe in Jesus, there is no middle ground here.
Tuesday, 29 March 2022
Wednesday, March 30, 2022 - Jesus revealed the Father through all that he said and did. Will you reveal Jesus by what you say and do today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30
These verses contain the first discourse in the Gospel of John. It is made up of many closely related themes. The Jews are outraged that Jesus has healed on the Sabbath and in answer to this outrage Jesus answers them in the following verses. To the charge that Jesus was making himself equal to God, Jesus answers that he as Son can do nothing apart from the Father. He is completely dependent on the Father and merely does the Father’s work. The Father reveals all that he does to his Son including raising the dead and giving them life. Thus the Son shares in the life giving work of the Father. The Son has also been given the power and authority to judge. This implies that everyone is under the Son’s reign and rule, and thus must confer on him the same honour that is conferred on the Father. The one who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father since it is the Father who has sent the Son.
Monday, 28 March 2022
Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - In which areas do I need a new Vision, a new way of looking at Persons/Things/Events? Am I able to see others point of view in different situations?How do I show that I have really been forgiven? What does it means that I can rise, take up my mat and walk?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 47:1-9, 12; Jn5:1-3, 5-16
The miracle of the healing of the paralytic is exclusive to the Gospel of John. The story is set in Jerusalem and the miracle occurs during one of the Jewish festivals though John does not specify which one. Later in the narrative we are told that the day of the festival was also the Sabbath and this adds to the significance of both the festival and the Sabbath and thus the miracle and the controversy that follows. Festivals in John are used as a platform for a deep revelation of the person of Jesus and this festival is no exception.
John gives a detailed description of the place where the miracle was performed as if encouraging the reader to place him/herself in that place. Three kinds of invalids are mentioned: the blind, the lame and the paralyzed. These are at the pool waiting for the stirring of the water. Popular belief was that an angel was responsible for the stirring of the water and thus for the inexplicable bubbling at the surface. Of these one is singled out. He is a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years, which symbolizes that his illness is almost permanent. At this point the text does not tell us what his illness is. Jesus picks out this man and again we are not given a reason. Did he come across to Jesus as the one most in need? Was he the only one who did not have someone to help him? We are only told that Jesus “knew that he had been there a long time”. Jesus initiates the miracle by approaching the man. Yet, he does not force his healing on the man as is evident in the question that he asks him; “Do you want to be made well?” The man does not answer the question but begins his litany of complaints. He has already set limits to what he believes can be done for him. He does not expect the impossible. Jesus responds to the man’s complaints with three imperatives: “stand up, take your mat and walk”. That Jesus’ words are effective and transformative is evident in the fact that the man was made well. He obeys Jesus’ commands to the letter: “He took up his mat and walked”.
Immediately after the miracle, there is an objection on the part of “the Jews” (which here refers to the Jewish authorities who oppose Jesus and not the Jewish people in general) because the man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath and this constituted work which was not allowed on the Sabbath. The man responds that he is simply obeying what Jesus asked him to do. The Jewish leaders prefer to focus not on the fact that he had been made well, but on the one who told him to violate the Sabbath. The man cannot respond to the question of the Jewish leaders about who Jesus is, since he does not know Jesus.
At this point Jesus reenters the story and finds the man in the temple confirming that he has been made well and speaks to him about sin. He invites the man to move from the mere physical healing to spiritual healing. The man on encountering Jesus again, announces to the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. While some see these words of the man as pointing Jesus out to the Jewish leaders, others interpret them as an announcement of the man about who Jesus is. Again the leaders refuse to focus on the positive action of the man being made well and focus instead on the violation of the Sabbath. This is why they decide to persecute him.
Two issues are brought out in this story. The first is that of illness. While we may be able to see with the eyes of our head, it is possible that we too like many of those who were at the pool may be psychologically or spiritually blind. We may not be able to see another person’s point of view and imagine sometimes that ours is the only correct viewpoint. We may also be blind to the sufferings of the numerous people around us and close ourselves in on our own small worlds. We may have the facility and use of both of our legs, but may have given in to lethargy or laziness. We may have lost the desire and drive to do what we have to do. We may be able to use all our limbs and move about freely, but may have given in to fear. We may also be carrying resentments, bitterness, anger, jealousy and even rage in our hearts because of which we are paralyzed and not able to move freely.
The second issue which the story brings out is that of law versus love. Like the Jewish leaders we are also guilty sometimes of focusing too much on the law and not enough on love. Like they were not able to focus on the man’s wholeness but only on the violation of the Sabbath, so we are sometimes prone to focus on the negatives rather than on the positive. We prefer often to give a negative interpretation to a person’s actions and words rather than a positive one.The miracle thus calls each of us to give up the blindness of our heart and the lameness of our mind and the paralysis of our spirit and to focus on the positive of God’s unconditional healing and love made visible in Jesus.
Sunday, 27 March 2022
Monday, March 28, 2022 - Do you believe in God only when things go the way you plan or do you continue to believe in all circumstances? Is your God only a miracle worker or is he a God with you and for you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa65:17-21; Jn 4:43-54
The healing of the royal
official’s son (4:46-54) which is part of our text today begins after the
dialogue with the Samaritan woman (4:1-42). The first two verses of today’s
text (-45) serve as an
interlude between the two stories. John uses the saying of the prophet having
no honour in his own country, to show why Jesus came to
The first verse of the
miracle story that follows is an introduction narrating the case. The son of a
royal official is ill in
The attestation of the miracle is provided by the servants of the official who meet him when he is still on his way to his home. The official on further enquiry realizes that Jesus is the one who has performed the healing and is led to faith. The man now believes in Jesus, not only in Jesus’ word.
At the end of the miracle
John remarks that this was then second sign that Jesus worked after coming to
Sickness and brokenness are very much visible in our world today and most are in need of some form of healing or another. At times doctors are not able to diagnose an illness and at other times when they are and perform a complicated operation, ask the patient and family members to pray and have faith. There is only so much that they can do, the rest is in God’s hands. The official in the story had probably gone to Jesus as a last resort (his son was not merely ill but at the point of death) after having explored and exhausted all other avenues. He is single minded in his purpose and will let nothing deter him. He believes and perseveres. His faith gains for him not only his son’s life but also the gift of faith in Jesus.This means that faith cannot be based on external signs alone and remain at that level. If it is and does, then one will look at Jesus as a mere miracle worker. The focus here would be only on the actions of Jesus and not on his person from which his actions flow. If one is able to go beyond the action to the person of Jesus, then one will also be able to see who God is: God with us, for us and in us.
Saturday, 26 March 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Jos 5:9-12; 2Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
The Parable of the Prodigal son is more aptly named the Parable of the Prodigal father. The real prodigal, profligate, wasteful character in the story is not so much the son as it is the father. It is the father who is wasteful in his love. It is the father who is profligate in his forgiveness. It is the father who is prodigal in his unconditional mercy and compassion. This Parable is unique to the Gospel of Luke and is set in the context of the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes because Jesus eats with “tax collectors and sinners”.
There is no rationale in the demand of the younger son. His demand was such that it would result, not only in breaking family ties, but also in regarding his father as dead. The father, however, holds back nothing. He gives all he can give to his son; he gives his very life. The granting of the demand of the younger son results in his progressive estrangement. He first leaves home and his father and goes to a faraway country. He also mismanages the money given to him. He spends it all on loose living. His descent into poverty and deprivation is swift. He descends so low that he agrees to work for a gentile, in a gentile land, tending swine. Swine were an abomination to Jews, who were prohibited from raising swine. The man who would dare to breed swine was considered cursed. The younger son becomes a total destitute.
However, when he is at the depth of his degradation and in the midst of mire and filth, he comes to his senses. That he is serious about his return is shown in his actions. He prepares his act of contrition, his plea for mercy and then, gets up from the mire and begins the journey to his father. While the son is still a long way off, the father runs to meet him. In the first century, it was considered undignified for grown men to run. The father sets aside respect and dignity. The son begins his speech but is not allowed to complete it. The father interrupts his son even before he can finish, He gives instructions to his servants to bring a robe, a ring, and sandals, all of which indicate that the son is given back his original place as son. The call to kill the fatted calf is a sign that the return of the son is to be regarded as a time of celebration. The dead son has come alive. The lost son has been found. All sin is forgiven, all iniquity is pardoned, and all guilt is erased by the embrace of father and son.
This, however, is only one part of the parable and has to do with the vertical dimension and reconciliation. It has to do with one’s relationship to God.
The second part of the parable, in which the elder son is introduced, has to do with the horizontal dimension and is equally or possibly more important. The elder son neither addressed his father, as father, nor his brother, as brother. His focus is on merit and what he thinks is rightfully his. This also leads him to point to the faults of the younger son, his brother. His father, however, wants him to focus on the joy and delight of welcoming his brother who has come back from darkness to light and from death to new life.
While many of us can resonate with the first and third parts of the parable, namely the demand of the younger son for his share and the unforgiving attitude of the elder son, we find it extremely difficult to believe or even fathom the centre of the parable which concerns the forgiveness of the father. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that our image of God is warped. We concentrate only on the judgement, anger, and wrath of God. We forget God’s unconditional mercy and love as revealed in Jesus. The second reason is that we expect God to behave with us like we behave with others. Since we are often unforgiving, like the elder son, we think that God will be unforgiving with us as well. However, the truth is that we have been loved first. We have been forgiven first and we have been pardoned first. We have been accepted totally and completely by God.
Even the first reading of today speaks of the mercy that God had on the people when God rolled away the disgrace of Egypt for Israel and they were given the privilege of eating of the produce of the land. God erased their sin and accepted them, even with their failings and their faults.
The readings of today throw up a dual challenge. The first is to believe, and know, that God forgives unconditionally no matter how grave our sin might be. It is to accept totally the immeasurable depth of God’s boundless love. It is to realize, in the depths of our hearts, that God is always willing to take us back. The second challenge that follows from the first, and is related to it, is our acceptance and forgiveness of others as God forgives us.
This is the challenge that Paul issues to the Corinthians in the second reading of today when he invites them to be ambassadors for Christ. Anyone who claims to be a disciple and follower of Christ has become a new creation and has been reconciled to God.
Friday, 25 March 2022
Only the merciful can receive mercy, and only those who forgive will be forgiven. The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous, but not enough to be humble. As a result, his religion drove him away from the tax collector rather than toward him.
Saturday, March 26, 2022 - Does the content of your prayer include despising or condemning others? Has pride prevented you from encountering God? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Hosea5:15 – 6:6; Lk 18:9-14
The parable that forms the text today is knows as the Parable of the Pharisee and tax Collector but is not so much about these persons as it is about the disposition for prayer in any person. It is exclusive to Luke. The parable is addressed not to the Pharisees, but to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. This could be a description of any self righteous person.
The two men who went up to the temple to pray are introduced as a Pharisee and a tax collector. Pharisee means “separated one” and the Pharisee in the parable takes this prayer position. He stands apart or by himself. Though he begins his prayer with thanksgiving, it is soon clear that it is not genuine thanks, but self centered. He is aware of the presence of the tax collector in the temple and regards him with contempt even as he prays. The Pharisee makes clear that he follows the law perfectly and obeys even the injunctions to fast and give tithes. He asks nothing of God probably because he thinks he is self sufficient.
By contrast the tax collector will not dare to come near but stands “far off”. This indicates his position before God. He does not consider himself worthy. While the commonly accepted posture of prayer was with hands folded and looking up to God, this tax collector stands with his head bowed and “would not even look up to heaven”. Instead he beats his breast in acknowledgement of the fact that he is unworthy and a sinner. His prayer is God centered. He cedes all power to God. He has nothing to boast about.
The comment at the end of the parable makes clear its intent. The Pharisee returned to his home without having been made righteous, but the tax collector was accepted before God.
Those who trust in their own righteousness will regard others with contempt, and those who regard others with contempt cannot then bring themselves to rely on God’s grace. Therefore, persons who exalt themselves over others and boast of their virtue before God will discover that they have cut themselves off from both, and persons who are aware of their need for grace and forgiveness will not be able to despise other people.
Thursday, 24 March 2022
The response of Mary goes beyond "Yes". Mary's response may be termed as a "passive activity" or an "active passivity". Mary does not merely say that she will co-operate with God. Rather she lets God work in and through her through the words "Let it be done to me (by you)"
Friday, March 25, 2022 - The Annunciation of the Lord - Will you like Mary say "Let it be done to me" and let the Lord do in you.
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa7:10-14;8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38
The Annunciation of the Lord is the beginning of Jesus in his human nature. Through his mother and her courageous YES, Jesus became a human being. The point of the Annunciation is to stress that Jesus did not come down from heaven as an “avatar” but rather that in every sense of the word; he was totally and completely human. Another related point is that God “needs” the co-operation of human beings to complete the plans God has for the world. One of the most beautiful examples of co-operating with God is that of Mary and her unconditional Amen.
The text chosen for the feast is that of the Annunciation as narrated by Luke. It relates the scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given. It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.
Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history. Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.
In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.
The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.
Today, many assume that those whom God favours will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favoured one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favoured,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.
When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to everything that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Saviour in our hearts.
Wednesday, 23 March 2022
Today there are many subtle forms of “possession” which are more dangerous than “external possession”. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, ignorance and a better than thou attitude. We need to ask the Lord to exorcise these demons from our lives.
Thursday, March 24, 2022 - Which is the demon that has possessed you and does not leave you free? Will you attempt to get rid of that demon today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 7:23-28;Lk 11:14-23
The onlookers respond to the exorcism of a
demon that made a man mute, in different ways. While there are some who are
amazed, others attribute Jesus’ power to cast out demons to Beelzebul and still
others ask for a sign from heaven. This is an indication that no one doubted
Jesus’ power to exorcise and heal. They attributed it to different sources. In
his response to this charge and test, Jesus says that since exorcisms
represented a direct assault on Satan’ power and kingdom, it is clear that he
cannot be on Satan’s side. Also, if Jesus’ exorcisms’ were performed by the
power of Satan, the same would have to be said of other exorcists belonging to
their community. Instead Jesus’ works indicate that the
Once he has answered his critics (11:17-23), Jesus moves on to exhort his listeners to fill their lives with the kingdom of God, because it is possible that despite the exorcism, if a person persists in his old ways, he will be possessed once again and this will be ever worse than before.
While there is no doubt that Jesus did exorcise people who were possessed by demons, we must avoid getting caught up with exorcisms ourselves. Rather, today there are many subtle forms of “possession” which are more dangerous than “external possession”. Some of these are consumerism, selfishness, ignorance and a better than thou attitude. We need to ask the Lord to exorcise these demons from our lives.
Tuesday, 22 March 2022
Wednesday, March 23, 2022 - 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: Dt4:1, 5-9; 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 fulfill 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, 21 March 2022
We expect to be forgiven by others when we do them harm after we have said sorry, and sometimes if they do not forgive us, we get upset with them even more. We need to apply the same yardstick to ourselves when others ask for forgiveness from us.
Tuesday, March 22, 2022 - What would be your position if God kept a grudge against you for every sin you committed? Will you give up all your un-forgiveness today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dn3:25, 34-43;Mt 18:21-35
The text of today is the conclusion to Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). It begins with a question from Peter about the number of times one is expected to forgive. While Peter proposes seven times, Jesus’ response far exceeds that proposal. The number seventy-seven can be understood in this way or even as four hundred ninety (seventy times seven). The point is not so much about numbers but about forgiveness from the heart. If one has to count the number of times one is forgiving, it means that one is not really forgiving at all. The story that follows in 18:23-35 about the king who forgave his servant a debt of ten thousand talents (a talent was more than fifteen years wages of a labourer). The combination of “ten thousand” and “talents” is the greatest possible figure and indicates the unimaginable sum of money owed. An indication of how large this sum was can be seen when compared with the annual tax income for all of the territories of Herod the Great which was 900 talents per year. The point is that the debt is unpayable. The servant in his desperation asks for time to pay back the debt. Though the king knows that no matter how much time is given to the servant he will never be able to pay back what he owes, forgives him all the debt in his magnanimity and generosity. The debt of the fellow servant to him pales in comparison with his own debt to the king. Yet, if given time there was a clear possibility that the money could be repaid, because though by itself it was a large sum, it would not be impossible to repay. The servant who had been forgiven by the king will have none of it. He refuses to listen and be convinced. When the matter is reported to the king be the fellow servants, the king takes back his forgiveness because the one who was forgiven could not forgive in turn. This indicates that he had closed himself to the forgiveness of the king and not received it completely. The conclusion is frightening because it will be impossible for the first servant to repay the debt. This means that he will be tortured for eternity.How easy it is to say “I am sorry” when we know we are in the wrong or have done something that deserves punishment. We expect to be forgiven by others when we do them harm after we have said sorry, and sometimes if they do not forgive us, we get upset with them even more. We need to apply the same yardstick to ourselves when others ask for forgiveness from us.
Sunday, 20 March 2022
Monday, March 21, 2022 - Have you set limits on where, when and in whom God can work? Will you leave God free? Will you let God be God?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Kgs 5:1-15a; Lk4:24-30
The text begins with the words “Truly I tell you” which is used six times in the Gospel of Luke and always to introduce a solemn statement. Luke alone uses it here to introduce the proverb that follows. This proverb is found also in Mark (6:4), Matthew (13:57) and John (4:44), but in a different form there. In Luke, the proverb is given in a negative form and “hometown” may also be translated as “home country”. This leads to the interpretation that Jesus will be rejected not only by the people of Nazareth (his hometown) but also by the whole of Israel (his home country).The references to Elijah and Elisha are to reinforce the statement made namely that the blessings of God were not restricted to one particular group or community but were available to all peoples. No one was excluded from the graciousness of God and from his bounty. This statement of Jesus enraged the people who were listening to him and drove Jesus out of their town. Though they were hostile to him, Jesus did not let that deter him, but continued to do what he was meant to do.
This scene suggests that the basis for their hostility toward Jesus was a difference in the way they read the Scriptures. The people of Jesus’ hometown read the Scriptures as promises of God’s exclusive covenant with them, a covenant that involved promises of deliverance from their oppressors. Jesus came announcing deliverance, but it was not a national deliverance but God’s promise of liberation for all the poor and oppressed regardless of nationality, gender, or race. When the radical inclusiveness of Jesus’ announcement became clear to those gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth, their commitment to their own community boundaries took precedence over their joy that God had sent a prophet among them. In the end, because they were not open to the prospect of others’ sharing in the bounty of God’s deliverance, they themselves were unable to receive it.
Saturday, 19 March 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 3:1-8a,13-15;1 Cor 10:1-6,10-12; Lk13:1-9
In the play “Hamlet”, there is a scene in which Hamlet says to his friend, Horatio: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Hamlet could well have been talking about God. No matter how much we think we know about God, he will always remain a mystery. We will know only so much and no more. There will always be more to know. The readings of today highlight this reality.
The first reading of today narrates Moses’ encounter with God. This encounter is one of both revelation and concealment. God was, is, and will be, and yet, this is not all that God is. Moses would never be able to fully understand or fully comprehend who God really is. Even so, the “name” of God reveals power, fidelity, and presence. God is revealed through this “name” as one who is able to make something from nothing, one who can make the impossible, possible. God is revealed as one who will remain faithful, even in the face of infidelity, and one who will be eternally present to people. God will be there when called upon. God will help when asked.
In the Gospel reading of today, Jesus makes a similar point about the mystery of God. Here, the point made is about God’s action. We can never fully understand God’s ways. There is no answer to the question of why the Galileans, whom Pilate had killed, had to die or, why it was that the specific group of eighteen, on whom the Tower of Siloam fell, had to be crushed under it. Our finite minds can never come up with plausible and believable answers to these questions. They will remain mysteries. Yet, in the parable of the fig tree, and even more, through the life and mission of Jesus, God is revealed as one who is willing to give humans a chance to improve. God is revealed as one who will continue to wait for humans to return to him. Since this is so, rather than speculate on the question why, Jesus invites the people to repentance.
The repentance that Jesus calls the people to is a change of mind, heart, and vision. It is a practical rather than speculative response to God and to life. It is an attitude that realizes that we will never have the answers to all the questions that we can ask. We will never be able to answer credibly why one person is stricken with the dreaded disease of cancer while another is healthy. We will never be able to answer plausibly why one mother should deliver a still born baby and another, a baby full of life. We will never be able to answer believably why a young person dies in an accident because of the negligence of someone else and why another, in the same vehicle, survives. In the face of conundrums like these, there is but one response. That response is to accept what happens as God’s will and plan for us. This does not mean that we develop a fatalistic attitude. This does not mean that we must do nothing but accept our fate. It does not mean that we must throw our hands up in despair because there is no use at all. Rather, it means a response of faith and trust in a God who will always do what is best for us.
Paul speaks of this response in the second reading of today when he interprets the Exodus event. At the time it happened, the people who went through it were not able to comprehend it. They complained and grumbled. They thought that God was not on their side. They thought God was unconcerned about them and their plight. Yet, as has been shown, God was on their side, even when they could not feel or see God’s presence as tangibly or as readily as they would have liked. God continued to go ahead of them, lighting their path and guiding their way. God was always present, even when they did not know it. The challenge for the Corinthian community is to learn from this event that God does not abandon people. Even in the face of the severest trials, even in the face of the hardest hardships, even in the face of the sternest challenges, God is there and does provide a way.
This remains the challenge for us, even today. Though science and technology have made much progress, and though we have found answers for many questions which we did not know earlier, it is also true that there remains a great deal that we do not know. There are, indeed, more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies and theologies.
Friday, 18 March 2022
Saturday, March 19, 2022 - St. Joseph, Husband of Mary - When in a dilemma do you usually do the right thing or the loving thing? Would your life have been any different if Jesus had not been born?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:4-5a,12-14a,16; Rm 4:13,16-18,22;Mt1:16,18-24a
Devotion to St. Joseph became popular from the 12th century onward and in the 15th Century the feast of St. Joseph began to be celebrated on March 19 every year. Devotion to St. Joseph as foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary grew tremendously in the 19th Century and continues till this day.
The Gospel text for the feast of today includes one verse of the genealogy, which specifies that Joseph was the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born. The verses that follow narrate the story of his birth. Since Mary and Joseph were engaged, they were legally considered husband and wife. Thus, infidelity in this case would also be considered adultery. Their union could only be dissolved by divorce or death. Though Joseph is righteous or just, he decides not to go by the letter of the law and publicly disgrace Mary, but he chooses a quieter way of divorcing her. God, however, has other plans for both Joseph and Mary and intervenes in a dream. Joseph is addressed by the angel as “Son of David” reiterating, once again after the genealogy, the Davidic origin of Jesus. He is asked to take Mary as his wife and also informed that is the Spirit’s action that is responsible for her pregnancy. He is told that he is to give the child the name “Jesus". Jesus (Iesous) is the Greek form of "Joshua" which, whether in the long form yehosua, ("Yahweh is salvation") or in one of the short forms, yesua, ("Yahweh saves”), identifies the son, in the womb of Mary, as the one who brings God’s promised eschatological salvation. The angel explains what the name means by referring to Ps 130:8. The name “Jesus” was a popular and common name in the first century. By the choice of such a name, Matthew shows that the Saviour receives a common human name, a sign that unites him with the human beings of this world rather than separating him from them.
Matthew then inserts into the text the first of ten formula or fulfillment quotations that are found in his Gospel. This means that Matthew quotes a text from the Old Testament to show that it was fulfilled in the life and mission of Jesus. Here, the text is from Isa 7:14 which, in its original context, referred to the promise that Judah would be delivered from the threat of the Syro-Ephraimitic War before the child of a young woman, who was already pregnant, would reach the age of moral discernment. The child would be given a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence “God is with us” (Emmanu‘el) corresponding to other symbolic names in the Isaiah story. Though this text was directed to Isaiah’s time, Matthew understands it as a text about Jesus, and fulfilled perfectly in him, here in his birth and naming.
This birth narrative of Matthew invites us to reflect on a number of points. Of these, two are significant. First, many of us are often caught in the dilemma of doing the right thing which might not always be the loving thing. If we follow only the letter of the law, we may be doing the right thing but not the most loving thing. However, if we focus every time on the most loving thing, like Joseph, it is surely also the right thing. Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.
Second, the story also shows us who our God is. Our God is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other. This God does not come in power, might, and glory, but as a helpless child. As a child, God is vulnerable. He is fully human and in his humanity, is subject to all the limitations that humanity imposes on us. Yet, he will do even that, if only humans respond to the unconditional love that he shows.
Thursday, 17 March 2022
Friday, March 18, 2022 - Will you give God his due by sharing with at least one person who does not have today? If God were to visit the vineyard of your life and ask for fruit what would your response be?
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 37:3-4, 12-13,17-28; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46
This Parable is known variously as the parable of the wicked tenants or the Parable of the Vineyard. While the parable in Mark has been allegorised, it is not clear whether there was a non-allegorical parable going back to Jesus. Those who are of the opinion that there was a non-allegorical parable interpret it to mean that just as the tenants took radical action, so radical action is required in order to gain the kingdom. Others see the parable to mean that the kingdom will be taken away from Israel’s false leadership and given to gentiles and sinners. Still others see the parable to mean that God does not abandon and relentlessly seeks and searches for them and longs for a response from them.
In Matthew, this parable is the center of Jesus’ threefold parabolic response to the chief priests and elders. The first of these is about the two sons (21:28-32) and the third is about the great supper (22:1-14). He also links it to the previous parable of the two sons by means of common words like vineyard, son and the common theme of both which is doing God’s will rather than paying lip service.
In Matthew, the one who gives the vineyard to tenants is a “landowner” and not simply a “man “as he is in Mark. This helps Matthew to use the term “Lord” towards the end of the parable. The vineyard is described much like the one in Isa 5:1-7 which indicates that Matthew intends the vineyard to be read as “Israel” which it is in Isaiah. If in Mark the man who hired out the vineyard wants only his share, here he wants all the fruit. This indicates that God’s claim on the human person and all possessions it total and not partial. There are no half measures with God. It is all or nothing. The two groups of servants which are sent before the Son probably represent in Matthew the former and latter prophets whom God sent to Israel to bring the nation back to him. It is only after the two groups of servants are abused and murdered that the landowner decides to send his Son. In Matthew the son is first taken out of the vineyard and then killed (unlike in Mark where he is first killed and then thrown out of the vineyard) to correspond with what actually happens at the passion and death of Jesus (27:32). In Mark the question about the response of the owner of the vineyard is asked and answered by Jesus, while in Matthew, Jesus asks the questions and the Jewish leaders answer and through the answer pronounce their own condemnation. The tenants had been unfaithful and will have to pay for this unfaithfulness. The quotation of Ps 118:22-23 here results in increasing and intensifying the condemnation of the tenants to whom what was given was given in trust. Since they have been proved untrustworthy and unfaithful, they will be denied further tenancy and others will be given the vineyard to tend.
The Jewish leaders realize that the parable is about them and this only hardens their stance against Jesus and strengthens their resolve to destroy him.
All that we possess is given to us in trust. This means that while we may use what we have, we have also to be concerned about those who do not have and be generous with them. Selfishness on our part leads to our thinking that we must use the things we have exclusively without even the thought of sharing them with others.
Wednesday, 16 March 2022
Thursday, March 17, 2022 - Can I be accused of sins of lack of concern, inability to assess the reality of situations, closing my eyes and ears to the injustices around me, being caught up in my own small world? Does my reflection on sin include “sins of omission”?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 17:5-10; Lk 16:19-31
The parable of today has often been titled as the parable of “Dives and Lazarus”. It can be seen to be divided into three parts. If in the first part the focus is on rich man’s (who is not named. The term “dives” in Latin means “rich”) opulence and wealth, in the second part it is on his death and burial. In the third part which is the longest there is for the first time in the story, a dialogue. It is between the rich man and Abraham and is the climax of the story.
The story begins by describing the rich man and his dress and food. The “purple and fine linen” may signify that he was a high ranking official, since the Romans had set standards regarding who could wear purple and how much purple they could wear. In contrast to the rich man there is a poor man who is named Lazarus. He is the only character in Jesus’ parables to be given a name. The name Lazarus means “God helps”. The fact that he is at the gate of the rich man’s house signifies that though the rich man could see Lazarus, he was not aware of his existence. He is so caught up in his world of material things that this results in his inability to see reality right before him. Lazarus would have been content with the bread which was used to wipe the grease from the hand of the one eating and then thrown under the table. However, even this he did not receive. Instead, dogs fed off his sores.
The death of Lazarus is no surprise. However, the detail that is added is that Lazarus is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. This detail brings to mind that God indeed comes to Lazarus’ help. The death of the rich man is described in a short sentence which brings out strikingly the transient nature of all his opulence and wealth.
In the third part, there is dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. Lazarus does not speak at all. He is in the bosom of Abraham. Being “in the bosom” of Abraham may imply that Lazarus was the honoured guest at the eschatological banquet, feasting while the rich man was in torment. In the request that the rich man makes of Abraham to let Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue, he calls Lazarus by name which indicates that he knew who Lazarus was and yet refused to look at him on earth as a person. In his response, Abraham reminds the rich man of his and Lazarus’ past and of the chasm that separated them then, but which had been erected by the rich man, and which still separates them now. It is admirable that even in his torment the rich man can think of others (even if they be members of his own immediate family). He makes a second request of Abraham to send Lazarus as a messenger to warn his brothers. Abraham responds that the brothers have already received enough and more instruction and if they have not heeded that they will not heed another. The rich man tries one final time to convince Abraham to send Lazarus as one who has gone back from the dead. Abraham responds by telling the rich man that for those who believe no proof is necessary and for those who do not no proof is sufficient.The rich man in the story is so caught with the things of the world and with his own self interests that these prevent him from even becoming aware of the needs of another. A number of questions to which there are no easy answers are raised by this parable and we must keep reflecting on them constantly if we are not to lose touch with reality.
Tuesday, 15 March 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 - When you are being introduced by a friend to a stranger how would you want your friend to introduce you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28
The text begins with what is known as the third and final Passion and Resurrection prediction in Matthew’s Gospel. This is the most detailed of the three and Matthew specifies crucifixion as the manner in which Jesus will be put to death. However, Jesus is not simply a passive victim, his death is in obedience to the will of God and he will let nothing and no one come in the way of this obedience. Even as he speaks of his death, Jesus also predicts his being raised on the third day.
If in Mark, it is the brothers James and John who make of Jesus the request for places of honour (Mk 10:35-37), in Matthew, it is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew does not name the brothers since he wants to spare them this ignominy) who comes with the request on behalf of her sons. The right hand and left hand symbolize places of honour and authority. In his response, Jesus does not address the mother or even James and John, but all the disciples. In contrast to Mark who mentions both the cup and baptism, Matthew focuses exclusively on the cup of suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and violent death. The metaphor “cup” here seems to refer to the death ordained by God which is willingly accepted by the one who is to go to his death. The disciples’ bravado and willingness to drink the cup is only verbal and not one which they can show in their deeds. Though Jesus is aware of this, he looks beyond their failure and invites them to share his cup. However, even martyrdom does not gain one a special place in the kingdom because not even Jesus will be able to assign such places. These are the exclusive prerogative of God.
The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee leads to anger on the part of the other ten. This anger indicates that they too like the mother (and the two brothers) had not really understood Jesus’ way of proceeding. Jesus thus has to teach them yet again the meaning of discipleship, authority and service in the kingdom. The king in the kingdom is not a ruler but one who serves, the Lord does not lord it over others but is their slave. By adding “Just as” before the final verse here, Matthew makes Jesus as the model whom the disciples are called to imitate.
Monday, 14 March 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12
Jesus here addresses the people and his disciples and speaks of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Scribes were a professional class with formal training. They were schooled in the tradition and its application to current issues. Pharisees were a group within Judaism defined by strictly religious rules, composed mostly of laypersons without formal theological training. Some scribes were also Pharisees, but few Pharisees were scribes. Moses’ seat is a metaphorical expression representing the teaching and administrative authority of the synagogue leadership, scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemns only the practice of the scribes and Pharisees and not their teaching. The Matthean Jesus makes three points about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. The first is that “they say but do not do”, which means that there was no consonance between their words and actions. They did not act on their words. The second is that “they burden while failing to act themselves” which means that they lay law upon law upon the people and make life so much more complicated than it really is, and the third is that “they act for the wrong reasons: to make an impression on others”. This they did by wearing broader phylacteries. “Phylacteries” is the term Matthew uses for the “tephillin”, which were small leather boxes containing portions of the Torah (Exod 13:1-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-32) strapped to the forehead and arm during the recitation of prayers in literal obedience to Deut 6:8. The “tassels” were attached to the prayer shawls, and the most important seats in the synagogue refer to the place of honour at the front facing the congregation, occupied by teachers and respected leaders. The term “Rabbi” was a title of honour. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be noticed, commended and honoured more than to pray.
In contrast the disciples of Jesus ought not to go for external titles and especially those which heighten distinction since they were brothers and sisters and there was to be no greater and smaller among them. They were to be one in God who alone is father. Authority and leadership were to be expressed in selfless service.It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. There must be a correlation between our words and our actions. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what we say but what we do. This doing, if it is to be regarded as a genuine work of love must be done not to earn titles or the approval or commendation but because one is a disciple of Jesus who has shown through his life and actions what true leadership means.
Sunday, 13 March 2022
Monday, March 14, 2022- How often have you done something for someone else without any expectation whatever? Will you do something like this today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 9:4-10; Lk6:36-38
The injunction to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” which begins the text of today adapts the Old Testament command to “be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev 19:2), which in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew has become “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Whereas this injunction stands at the conclusion of the six antitheses in Matthew 5, here it concludes the section on love for one’s enemy by placing the challenge to be merciful in a theological context. Just as God’s love for all is indiscriminate, so must the love of the true disciple be. If love is given only in return for love, it is not love at all. To be called love, it must be unconditional.
The next two verses move to the theme of not judging and not condemning. The reason for this is that the one who does not judge and condemn will not be judged or condemned him/herself. Instead, the disciple of Jesus is called to forgive and let go of hurts and resentments as these block the receipt of pardon and forgiveness that is freely available from God. The section ends with a call to a kind of giving which does not count the cost, but which gives generously and freely. The result of such giving will be God’s unbounded generosity.Mercy, forgiveness and love are in short supply today. Most relationships between people are built on what one can gain from the other and how the relationship will help one. It is rare to see (even in relationships between members of one family) selflessness and generosity. Yet, this is what Jesus calls the disciple to and expects that the disciple will live such a generous life.
Saturday, 12 March 2022
Sunday, March 13, 2022 - The Second Sunday of Lent - If you were on the mount of transfiguration what would you say to Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen15:5-12,17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
The Transfiguration of Jesus, which is the subject of the Gospel text for today, is an event narrated by all three Synoptic Gospels. This scene in Luke makes three major points. The first is the revelation of who Jesus is; the second is the foreshadowing of his death, resurrection, and exaltation into heaven; the third is the training of the disciples, and each of us, about the meaning of the whole Christ event.
It is only in Luke that the Transfiguration occurs in the context of Jesus’ prayer. Just as the voice from heaven, inviting him to be Son and slave, spoke while Jesus was praying after his baptism, so also now, at the Transfiguration, the voice from the cloud speaks in the context of Jesus’ prayer. Through this, Luke draws attention to the fact that prayer has the power to mediate the presence of God.
The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain confirms that Jesus was in the presence of God. It also serves to clarify that Jesus is, indeed, God’s Son. While Moses and Elijah, who appear with Jesus on the mountain, might represent the Law and the Prophets, they are also mentioned because of the actions they performed. Like Moses, who parted the sea on the command of God, and who fed the multitude in the desert with manna from heaven, Jesus calms the storm and feeds the five thousand with bread. Like Elijah, who multiplied loaves, cleansed a leper, and raised the dead, Jesus does the same, and even more. Only in Luke are we given the content of the discussion that Moses and Elijah have with Jesus. They are discussing his exodus from this world to the next. They are discussing his departure.
Though Peter and his companions, John and James, witness the event, they do not know what to make of it. Peter, however, wants to remain there and commemorate the place. He wants to remain in the past. Jesus knows that he cannot remain on the mountain, tempting as that might be. He knows what he has to do and he will let no one come in the way. He has to come down and go to the Cross. That Jesus is, indeed, confirmed in this is manifested by the voice from the clouds which, in words similar to those used at the Baptism, affirms Jesus as Son and slave. Jesus is both at the same time. He is Son of God and he is Suffering Servant. He will, through his death, bring salvation to all. He is the fulfilment of all the hopes, not only of Israel but, of the whole world. He supersedes both Moses and Elijah. They are no longer needed now that Jesus has come.
This time, unlike at the time of the Baptism, the voice from the clouds adds, “Listen to him”. This command endorses and confirms Jesus’ interpretation of the future course of events that will take place in his life, namely, his death, resurrection, and ascension. God approves of Jesus’ orientation and wants the disciples to realise that this is the only way. Thus, they cannot remain on the mountain. They cannot freeze the event and stay there. They have to go down with Jesus and let him go to where the Cross awaits him.
The Transfiguration is an event which encapsulates the whole Christ event. It is here that we see his entire life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension unfold. It is a summary of what was, what is, and what will be. Thus, the Transfiguration emphasizes that God has been revealed through Jesus and that the essence of Jesus’ identity and work cannot be understood apart from the cross and resurrection. Only in the light of the cross and resurrection do we understand the character of God and the significance of Jesus.
The Transfiguration also serves to emphasize that, though God will seem hidden at the passion and death of Jesus, and though Jesus might seem defeated, things are not as they seem. Rather, God is as present at the passion and death of Jesus as he was at the Transfiguration. Jesus is as victorious in his passion and death as he was in his Transfiguration. In the first reading of today, this is precisely the kind of confidence that Abram is challenged to have. He and his wife are old, they do not have even one son and yet, God commands him to believe that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram dared to believe, even when he could not understand, and it was so. He first believed and then, he saw.
The readings of today teach us an all important lesson. There are times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan, when all that we plan goes awry, when the road seems steep and the going is difficult, when every step that we take is laboured and arduous, when we cannot see or understand and, when we feel like giving up and giving in. It is at times like these that we, like Peter, wish we had stayed on the mountain. It is at times like these when we, like Abram, might like some tangible proof, some sign. Yet, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and the attitude of Abram, teach that God continues to walk ahead of us and, though we may not be able to see him as clearly as we would like, God is there.
This is why Paul calls the Christian community at Philippi to join him in imitating Christ. This means that they must be able, like Christ, to look beyond and not be weighed down by the trials and tribulations of the world. It means that they must continue to have faith and trust at all times since trials and tribulations are always temporary and passing. What is permanent is God’s unconditional love, manifested in his Son, Jesus Christ. Our confidence is not in our ability to overcome the challenges that come our way, but in God’s grace that we constantly receive in, and through, Jesus Christ.