Wednesday, 31 August 2022
Thursday, September 1, 2022 - What do you think Jesus is calling you to today? Will you answer his call?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 3:18-23; Lk 5:1-11
The call of the first disciples in the Gospel of Luke is different from the other Synoptic Gospels. While in Matthew and Mark Jesus calls to them when he was passing by the Sea of Galilee, here he is in Simon’s boat. While there are similarities between this account in Luke and the account of the miraculous catch in John 21, 1-4, there are also differences. The most striking difference is that Luke uses the story here as the setting for Simon’s call to follow Jesus, whereas John uses it to show that Peter was reconciled with the risen Jesus after having denied him. While in John, Jesus is not in the boat but on the shore, here in Luke he is in the boat. In John there is only one boat, that in which the disciples are, here there are many boats. The nets in Luke are beginning to break, but John explicitly mentions that despite the large haul, the nets did not break.
The point that Luke seems to make is that following Jesus on his way will entail a completely different life style, will call for a different set of priorities. Where Simon and the others were focusing on fish (material, temporary, passing things), Jesus calls them to focus on people (spiritual, permanent, things that last).
Tuesday, 30 August 2022
Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - Will you find the time today, “to be”, so that “your doing” will be more efficacious? How?
To read the texts click on the texts:1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Lk 4:38-44
The reading of today allows us to encounter a Jesus who was busy day and night “doing” and yet a Jesus who would manage to find the time “to be”.
The first of the three scenes that form part of this section deals with the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Since in Luke this healing takes place before the call of the first disciples, he does not mention Andrew, James and John as Mark does (Mk 1,29). He also probably uses this healing to prepare for the call of Peter, which he narrates in 5,1-11.
In the second scene, Luke depicts a Jesus who would heal people at all times of the day or night. While the demons use the title “Son of God” to identify Jesus, Luke himself informs the readers that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. Luke seems to have taken the silencing function from Mark because it is not clear in his Gospel as it is in Mark, why Jesus would not allow the demons to speak.
In the third and final scene of this section, Luke portrays a Jesus who would find time to commune with his Father. He portrays a man of action and yet a man of prayer, though he does not explicitly state here that Jesus prayed. Though the crowds want to prevent Jesus from leaving, Jesus is clear that he must go on to other places as well, for the kingdom belongs to all.
Monday, 29 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 2:1-16; Lk 4:31-37
Immediately after leaving the synagogue, Jesus works a miracle. This miracle is the healing of a man possessed by a demon, thus putting into action immediately the manifesto he had spoken about. This exorcism is the first of the four exorcisms in the Gospel of Luke. The unclean spirit refers to Jesus here as Jesus of Nazareth and as the Holy one of God, which is a title Luke has taken from Mark, since it does not appear again in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus exorcises the demon with a command. It is interesting to note that the people who witnessed the miracle refer to it not as an action but as a teaching simply because there was never a separation between the words and deeds of Jesus, there was never a separation between what Jesus said and did.
Sunday, 28 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mk 6:17-29
Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.
While Mark has mentioned Herodians before (3:6), this is the first time in his Gospel that he mentions Herod. Herod, here is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great who is the one referred to in the narrative of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2:1-23), and had been appointed by the Roman as the ruler of Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1). He was never “king” as Mark mentions in his story, and Matthew corrects this by referring to Herod as tetrarch (Mt 14,1). The story of the death of John the Baptist in Mark is sandwiched between the sending of the Twelve on Mission (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34).
Mark mentions three opinions about Jesus said to be circulating at that time. Some believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others believed that Jesus was Elijah, while still others believed that Jesus was one of the prophets of old. Herod, however, is quite clear in Mark that Jesus is John the Baptist raised. This profession of Herod leads Mark to narrate the story of the death of John the Baptist as a flashback. According to Mark, the reason why John was put in prison was because he objected to Herod’s violation of the purity code, which forbade marriage of close relatives and to a brother’s wife while the brother was still alive (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Mark seems to lay the blame for the death of John on Herodias who manipulates Herod into executing John. The daughter of Herodias is not named here or anywhere in the Bible, nor does the Bible give her age. According to Mark a drunken Herod is trapped into fulfilling a rash vow and so has John beheaded.
Though in Mark’s narrative it is Herodias who is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist, Herod cannot disown responsibility. He could have decided if he had the courage not to give in, yet he made the choice to have John beheaded. Each of us is responsible for our own actions though we may sometimes blame others or even circumstances. The sooner we accept responsibility for who we are and what we do, the sooner we will grow up. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.
Saturday, 27 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 3:17-20;28-29; Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk14:1, 7-14
“Humility is a funny thing. Once you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it.” Humility is a major theme of the readings of today. If the first reading from Sirach begins with the advice to perform one’s tasks with humility, in the Gospel text of today, Jesus advises choosing the lowest place as a practical way of performing one’s tasks.
At the cursory level, one might assume that Jesus is giving a lesson on table manners, or providing a strategy by which one can gain honour. This is true, but is only a small part of the story. A deeper reading reveals that there is much more. Since Jesus is not asking his listeners to choose a lower place but instead, the last place, the point he is making is more than just strategy. He is advocating humility.
Humility is possible only when a person realizes that his / her true worth does not come from external recognition but from within. If one is convinced in one’s heart that one is worthy, special, and unique, then one will not need to compare oneself with another or try to be better than another. One is content with one’s self. Like happiness, humility is an inside job.
Humility is without guile. It does not seek to bring others down. Rather, it seeks to raise others higher. This the humble person can do because he / she is secure in him / herself. The humble person expects no compensation, no recompense, and no reward. Such a person is able to follow Jesus’ instructions and invite those who cannot repay. Such a person can invite those who do not have capacity to do anything in return. Such a person can act in a manner that is free and liberating. Such a person acts from the heart.
We live in a world that judges mainly by externals. One reason why cosmetic companies are so successful is because most people lay too much stress on the externals. How one dresses, what clothes one wears, what perfume one uses, are questions of extreme importance for so many. Many want, not only to be recognized but also, to be commended, applauded, and praised. Some will go to any extent to seek and search for this. There is, in most of our relations, a quid pro quo or, ‘something for something.’ We are good to others if they are good to us. We do favours for others in the hope that they will return the favours when we need them. We reach out to others in the hope that we will be noticed and in the hope that they will, in turn, reach out to us. We live artificial, false, empty lives in the hope that we will be given the importance and value we seek. Those of us who live in this manner have already received our reward.
The call and the challenge of the readings of today are to a different way of life. The readings call us first to live from within, to live from our hearts. They call us to rest assured in the fact that each of us, no matter how tall or short, no matter how fair or dark, and no matter how thin or fat, is a unique, special and precious person. We each have our special place in the world and no one can take that place. Thus, we have simply to be ourselves and accept ourselves fully. We do not need to compare ourselves with others or try to usurp the place of someone else. We do not need to do good deeds in the hope of those deeds being returned to us or in the hope of receiving a reward. We must do the good we do because it is good to do good.
This is possible for those of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus since he has shown us how. The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews makes abundantly clear that, in Jesus, we are blessed. In Jesus, we have come, not to a blazing fire that cannot be touched or to darkness or gloom or tempest. Rather, we have come to one who, through his death on the Cross, has shown us the true meaning of humility. We have come, in Jesus, to one who has shown us how we can do good for others without any expectation of reward. We have come, in Jesus, to one who has shown us what it means to take the last place, and to be exalted even in our humility.
Saturday, August 27, 2022 - What are the talents that God has given you personally? How will you use them for his greater glory today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Mt 25:14-30
A talent is a large sum of money, equal to the wages of a day labourer for fifteen years. (In Luke 19 12-28, the figures are much smaller. There are ten servants and each receives a “mina” which was only one sixtieth of a talent, and worth 100 denarii and translated “pound”) In Matthew, however, there are three servants and they receive different amounts. The first receives five, the second two, and the third, one. The first and the second use the money to earn similar amounts in return. The third, buries it in the ground. The point that the parable seems to make here is that we are called not merely to “passive waiting” or strict obedience to clear instructions, but active responsibility that take initiative and risk. Each must decide how to use what he/she has been given.
Often times, our understanding of Christianity has been one in which we are content if we have not done “any wrong”, but rarely ask whether we have done “any right”. We are content like the third servant to give only grudgingly, and not with the freedom that we are meant to have.
Thursday, 25 August 2022
Friday, August 26, 2022 - Is there enough oil in the lamp of your life? If not what will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Cor 1:17-25; Mt 25:1-13
In the parable of today we will hear of the ten bridesmaids, five of whom were prepared and five unprepared, five of whom had oil and five of whom who did not. We are told that five were foolish and five were wise right at the beginning of the parable, because we cannot tell this just be looking at them. All ten have come to the wedding; all ten have their lamps burning; all ten presumably have on their gowns. The readiness is what distinguishes the wise from the foolish.. Five are ready for the delay and five are not. Five have enough oil for the wedding to start whenever the bridegroom arrives; the foolish ones have only enough oil for their own timetable.
It is easy to be good for a day if goodness is seen only as a means to an end. It is easy to be merciful for a day if mercy is seen only as a means to an end. However, if we see goodness and mercy and everything that is positive as an end in itself, then it is possible to be good and merciful and positive always. We are called then to be like the wise ones with our lamps always burning so that we will then be able to welcome the Lord whenever he comes.
Wednesday, 24 August 2022
To read the texts click on the link:1 Cor 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51
Te will hear for the next few days’ readings from Chapters 24 and 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which are known as the Eschatological Discourse. The word Eschatological comes from the Greek word “Eschaton” that means “the last things”, “the things of the afterlife”. In these chapters, Jesus speaks to all the people about how they must behave in the present, if they are to expect to be judged with mercy in the future. In the text of today, the disciples are asked to “stay awake”, because no one knows when the hour of departure will be. The disciples are called to be busy with the assigned mission not with apocalyptic speculation. The wise servant is the one who obeys not calculates.
Tuesday, 23 August 2022
Wednesday, August 24, 2022 - St. Bartholomew, Apostle - Is seeing believing or do we have to believe in order to see?
To read the texts click on the texts: Rev 21:9-14; Jn 1:45-51
Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified as Nathanael (mentioned in the first chapter of John's Gospel). According to the Gospel of John, he was brought to Jesus by Philip. It is Nathanael whom Jesus calls “an Israelite in whom there is no guile”. Though Nathanael is not mentioned in any list of the Twelve, Bartholomew is mentioned by all the Synoptic Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles. One reason why Bartholomew is identified as Nathanael is because in all the lists of the Twelve Bartholomew is named in the company of Philip.
Unlike the first two disciples who followed Jesus (1:35-40), here Jesus invites Philip to discipleship. Even more significant that the call of Philip, is what happens to Philip as a result of his call. He cannot remain silent about it and wants another to know and encounter Jesus. Thus, he finds Nathanael and bears witness about Jesus. This he does in two ways. He first points Jesus out as the fulfilment of all scripture and then he refers to him as “Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” This witness seems to bring out both divine and human origins of Jesus and once again reminds us of the mystery that Jesus is and continues to be. Immediately after Philip’s testimony, there is resistance on the part of Nathanael, yet Philip does not argue but responds in the words that Jesus had used to invite the first two disciples: “Come and see”.
Though having an opinion about where the Messiah would come from, Nathanael remains open to another revelation. Though sceptical, he is willing to be convinced. Jesus addresses Nathanael as an “Israelite” which signifies his faithfulness to the law and is used here in a positive sense. He is without guile because though he has questions and even doubts, he is open and receptive and willing to learn. Jesus’ intimate knowledge of Nathanael and the revelation that he makes to him leads to a transformation in Nathanael and he comes to faith. He responds to Jesus with a confession and though he begins with Rabbi, he moves on to recognizing Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.
However, Jesus responds by pointing out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning of the revelation that Jesus makes. If he continues to remain open he will experience even greater things. By means of a double “Amen”, Jesus points out to Nathanael and to others there that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth. He will be that place and person in whom the earthly and divine encounter each other. He as Son of man will make God known.
Scepticism and cynicism are common among many people. While this is not a problem in itself, what causes the problem is when these lead to a closed attitude. In a world in which we refuse to believe unless we first see, Jesus seems to be saying to us like he said to Nathanael “First believe than you will see”.
Monday, 22 August 2022
Tuesday, August 23, 2022 - If your being is good, then all you do will also be good. How will you ensure that your being is good today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17; Mt 23:23-26
The fourth (23:23-24) and fifth (23:25-26) woes against the Pharisees are about focussing on the insignificant matters and externals while forgetting what is significant and internal. The Pharisees were extremely particular about tithing and to ensure that they did not err in this regard, tithed even small garden vegetables used for seasoning which Matthew mentions here as mint, dill and cumin and probably in order to correspond with justice and mercy and faith. Gnat and Camel, which the Matthean Jesus contrasts in 23,24, were the smallest and largest living things in ordinary experience. While the Matthean Jesus does not state that what the Pharisees are doing is wrong, his critique is that while focussing so much on these insignificant items, they lose sight of the larger picture. Too much focus on the external can also lead to forgetting the internal. What is on the outside is merely a reflection of what is within.
Sunday, 21 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 9:1-6; Lk 1:26-38
Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954. However, Mary’s Queenship also has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her Queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship.
In the fourth century St. Ephrem (June 9) called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.”
This feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption of Mary (celebrated on August 15) and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his 1954 encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII pointed out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.
It is fitting then that the Gospel text chosen for the feast is the Annunciation of the birth of the Lord to his mother. 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.
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 all 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.
Saturday, 20 August 2022
To read the texts: Is 66:18-21; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30
Someone once said, “It is the very people who do not know what to do with this life who are concerned about the next”. Concerns about the next life or what will happen after death are issues that so many are worried and anxious about. In many cases, this leads to not being able to live fully the present life which has so much to offer.
This seems to be the background to the question that Jesus is asked at the beginning of the Gospel text of today; “Lord, will only a few be saved?” In his response to the question, Jesus does not state whether few or many will be saved. Rather, he asks all those who listen to him to live fully in the present. The present will determine the future and so we are not to be concerned with the future but with the here and now. Now is the time when the effort must be made. Now is the time when life must be lived. Now is the time to prepare for what is to come.
What does it mean that one must strive to enter by the narrow door? The text answers this question, though not directly. There are three reasons why many will not succeed in entering. Some will be excluded because they will try to get in when it is too late. Others will be excluded because they will not have acted on the instructions of Jesus. Still others will be excluded because they performed evil and not good actions. Those who did not act will have assumed that words alone would suffice to get them through, but they will be mistaken. These are the ones who will weep and gnash their teeth and for those who have not teeth, a set will be provided.
On the other hand, people will come from all corners of the world and gain entry into the kingdom. These will have gained entry, not on their antecedents or background but because they did strive to enter by the narrow door. They were ready on time, they acted on the instructions of Jesus, and their actions were good. They, who were considered last by many, will indeed be first. This is the group mentioned in the first reading of today who will come from all nations. This is not an exclusive group. Their works and thoughts are known to God and through them, they have declared God’s glory. These are the ones who are invited to the feast in the kingdom of God for they acted wisely and well.
Thus, it is not merely being familiar with the teachings of the Lord that is important or even knowing the Lord by name. What is important is action. To be sure, one’s good action alone is not the determining factor, since the grace of God and God’s choice is also instrumental in the final list that is made. However, even as this is true, one’s action is imperative, even vital, to gain entry into the kingdom. This further indicates that the religion that Jesus urges people to practice is not merely one which is content to recite a set formula of prayers, or to participate passively in rituals, or even to proclaim aloud that Jesus is Lord. No. The religion to which he invites his listeners is one which will show itself in action. It is one in which prayers, rituals, and proclamation will be informed and influenced by the loving actions that one performs and not the other way round. The prayers of praise to God are the result of the actions that show this praise.
This kind of religion is not easy to practice, as the second reading of today points out. There will be numerous trials that have to be endured and often, there will be the temptation to give up. It will seem so much simpler to simply say, rather than do. It will be so much simpler to mouth empty prayers, rather than act on the Lord’s commands. What is called for, however, is a steadfastness, a resoluteness, and a sense of purpose. What is called for is not worry about the future and its outcome but to keep one’s eyes, mind, heart, and whole being, fixed on the present. What is required is to know that the present determines the future.
We, as Christians, are in special danger of not heeding the instructions of Jesus. This is because, all too often, Christianity has been understood as a sterile and theoretical religion. Many of us are content with fulfilling “obligations” and with reciting prayers. We are content to give occasional alms and to separate the practice of our faith from our lives.
Some of us think that, because we have been baptized, we are sure to enter the kingdom. However, the readings of today point out that this is far from true. None of us can take for granted that we will gain entry into the kingdom. It is precisely for this reason why it is important for us, as disciples of Jesus, not to be too concerned about the next life but to concentrate on the present one and to live it fully. If we know how to live fully in this life, we will be able to live fully in the next.
Friday, 19 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel43:1-7; Mt 23:1-12
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. Matthew makes three points. The first is that they say but do not do, the second is that they burden while failing to act themselves and the third is that they act for the wrong reasons: to make an impression on others. “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.
Thursday, 18 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 37:1-4; Mt 22:34-40
Matthew has written Mark’s story (Mk 12, 28-34) and made what was a scholastic dialogue in to a controversy. Unlike in Mark where the scribe is friendly, here the “lawyer” (the only occurrence of “nomikos” = lawyer in Matthew) is hostile, and the question is asked to “test” Jesus (only the devil and the Pharisees are the subject of the verb, “test”). The lawyer addresses Jesus as “Teacher”, which is an indication of insincerity, because in Matthew, believers address Jesus as “Lord”. The rabbis counted 613 commands (248 positive and 365 negative), and some regarded all commandments as equal. The question of the lawyer may have been intended to draw Jesus into a debate and get him to make a statement that could be interpreted as disparaging toward the Law.
In his answer, however, Jesus brings together two Old Testament texts that existed separately and in different books of the Bible. The commandment to love God alone was found in Deut 6, 4-5 and the commandment to love neighbour was found in Lev 19,18. These two, Jesus brings together into one, making them dependent on each other. This combination is distinctive of the Synoptic Jesus.
In his first letter John makes a telling point when he says that the one who says that he/she loves God whom they cannot see but cannot love their brother/sister whom they can see are liars (1 John 4,20).
Wednesday, 17 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts:Ezekiel 36:23-28; Mt 22:1-14
The second part of the parable of the Wedding Feast has often troubled many, because they are not able to understand why the one without the wedding clothes was cast out, when a few verses below the servants are told to go out and invite both good and bad. The question that arises is - How could those unexpectedly herded into the wedding feast from the streets wear the expected clothing, which all but one seem to do? The point is that realism is sacrificed to theological meaning. In early Christianity, the new identity of conversion was often pictured as donning a new set of clothes, the language of changing clothes was used to express the giving up of old ways and adopting the new Christian identity (see Rom 13, 12-14; Gal 3,27; Eph 6,11). The man was thus expected to have the deeds of an authentic Christian, which he does not have.
Tuesday, 16 August 2022
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 - Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward? Or are you good because it is good to be good?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 34:1-11; Mt 20:1-16
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard, who are paid the same wages for unequal work, is exclusive to the Gospel of Matthew. Many are of the opinion that the original parable ended at 20:13 or 20:14a, and what follows from 20:14b –16 or 20:14-16 are Matthean additions. The parable narrates how the landowner himself goes to the market to hire labourers at different hours and even at the eleventh hour. While the first group of workers is told explicitly that they will be paid the day’s wage which was one denarius, while the others are told that they would be paid whatever is right. When the time for payment arrives the focus is on the groups hired first and last, with the last being paid before all the other. They are paid one denarius, which is the day’s wage. The last are also paid what the landowner agreed with them. Since the parable does not speak about the amount work done by each group or say that those who were hired at the eleventh hour did as much work as those who were hired in the morning, it leaves the reader stunned. This ending upsets and challenges conventional values. The point that Jesus seems to make in the parable is that the tax collectors and sinners will be given the same status as those who have obeyed the law.
The additions by Matthew stress the jealousy and envy of those who were hired in the morning. The objection is not to what they have received but about the fact that the others have received as much as they which they regard as unfair. The difference is that they have received what is theirs through their hard work and effort; the others have received what they have because of the landowner’s generosity.
If one can identify with the group who complains, then it is time that one checks one’s motivation whenever one does good, because if one does not, one will continue to get frustrated at what one sees happening around one. Is the work that you do reward in itself? Or do you expect another reward?
Monday, 15 August 2022
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 - How would you define “kingdom of God”? What/How much are you willing to give to acquire the kingdom?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel28:1-10; Mt 19:23-30
Immediately after the rich young man departs, the next words of Jesus are to his disciples. Matthew reformulates it as an “AMEN” saying. The word “Amen” occurs thirty-two times in Matthew. Beginning some of his pronouncements with “Amen” was a unique aspect of Jesus’ own authoritative speech. Amen is not a Greek word, but a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Amen” which is a responsive affirmation to something said previously. In this context, it is used to make the pronouncement of Jesus solemn. The pronouncement is about the impossibility of a rich person entering the kingdom of God. Jesus clearly reached for the most extreme illustration of impossibility, and the disciples got the point.
In response to Peter’s question, which must be seen as a continuation of the preceding dialogue (for taken by itself, Peter’s question seems purely selfish) Jesus affirms the eschatological reward for those who have not depended on their own goodness/talents/abilities/righteousness, but acknowledge their dependence on God’s free grace.The point is not so much that God will prevent the rich from entering the kingdom, but that their riches will be an obstacle in their path.
Sunday, 14 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Rev11:19; 12:1-6,10; 1 Cor15:20-26;Lk1:39-56
Today we celebrate two significant and related events. These are The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and Independence Day. Both are celebrated on the same date: August 15.
The reason why these events are related is because they are both about Freedom. Independence is celebrated as freedom from foreign rule and domination to self-rule and governance and the Assumption may be seen as a freedom from this limited and incomplete life to the bliss of eternal and perpetual life.
The verses which make up the Gospel text of today are commonly known as “The Magnificat” or Mary’s hymn of praise. It seems to have been modelled on the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in 1 Sam 2:1-10 and contains many Old Testament concepts and phrases. It communicates a picture of Mary as someone quite steeped in scripture. It reveals God primarily as a God of the poor. God is the one who will vindicate the poor by removing the rich and mighty from their positions and raising the lowly.
The hymn may be seen to be divided into four parts. The first part consists of praise to God for what he has done in and for Mary; the second part speaks of God’s power, holiness and mercy; the third part shows God acting as a Sovereign in reversing social conditions in favor of the poor and downtrodden; and the fourth and final part recalls God’s mercy and promises to Israel.
The hymn speaks of the effects of the Lord’s coming for all of God’s people. It begins on a note of salvation as Mary acknowledges her dependence on God. It was the grace of God that sustained and brought her to the position in which she finds herself. She has not achieved anything on her own, it is all a gift of God and thus, Mary acknowledges her humble state, referring to herself as God’s servant. She is to be called “blessed’ because God, in his mercy and goodness, had raised her to this level.
God has shown this mercy and goodness to the poor by showing the strength of his arm, by scattering the proud, and deposing the powerful. The poor, on the other hand, have been raised, and the hungry have been filled. God remembers not only those of old but also the present generation. He is a God not only of the past, but also a God of the present, the now.
The stress on God as a God primarily of the poor stands out in Mary’s hymn of praise. In a world where the rich seem to be getting richer and the poor, poorer, one wonders whether the Magnificat is a hymn that can make sense to the poor, to those of low degree. Yet, it is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and so, the poor must, in confidence, sing this song as their song. The confidence with which Mary sings this song runs through the entire hymn. She uses past tense to denote God’s future actions, thus expressing that God will indeed accomplish his will, and the poor will be vindicated. What is important for the poor to realize is that they, like Mary, need to continue to open themselves to all that God wants to do in them. They need to continue to acknowledge their dependence on God by doing all that is required of them and then, leaving the rest in his capable and strong hands.
Even as we do celebrate these events, we need to ask ourselves serious questions both as Indians and Christians. Can we be really free when caste distinctions result in murder and rape? Can we be really free when freedom to speak the truth is met with physical violence and threat to life? Can we be free when the incidence of female foeticide is so high in our country and where in many places the girl child is seen as a liability and burden rather than a blessing? Can we be really free when we are so intent on destroying our natural resources for selfish ends and then have to wonder whether we will have enough rain to see us through the year? Can we call ourselves Christians when we will not do anything about these atrocities and continue with our lives as if it does not concern us?
Are we really free? Are we truly Christian?
Let the celebrations of Independence Day and the Assumption of our Blessed Mother be wake-up calls for us to rouse ourselves from our slumber and do something tangible to right the wrongs.
Saturday, 13 August 2022
Sunday, August 14, 2022 - Twentieth Sunday of the year - How will you as a disciple speak God's word?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer38:4-6,8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53
To stand up for the truth and justice necessarily entails that one must be willing to undergo every kind of trial and tribulation. This is made amply evident in the first reading and gospel text of today.
In the first reading of today, Jeremiah who even if in the initial stages of his prophetic ministry was hesitant and diffident went on to become bold and courageous when speaking on behalf of God. It did not matter if his words for God were words against the king. What mattered was that God’s word was spoken loud and clear and God’s commands were carried out. As a consequence of his fearlessness to speak the truth, Jeremiah found himself in a cistern from which there seemed no escape.
Jesus speaks about a similar fate that he will have to face because he dares to speak God’ word. This word will cause consternation and disquiet in the lives of many who hear it and yet it is word that must be spoken. Though, speaking such a word will lead to conflict and distress even for Jesus, he will not shy away. The word governs his entire life and he cannot rest until he has done what God has commanded him to do. Although the word of God is characterized by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that word is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. God’s word is a word of truth and is not always pleasant to hear especially for those who are on the side of falsehood. It is a word that does not allow one to rest if one is on the side of injustice and wrongdoing. It is a word that demands change and transformation. It is a word that demands action. It calls for a radical change of mind and heart. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.
Jeremiah and Jesus were willing to undergo any kind of trial not only because they were convinced of God’s word of truth, not only because it was a motivation that came from within their hearts, but because they were confident that God who had ordained them to speak the word would be with them every step of the way. This proved true in Jeremiah’s case when he was rescued from the cistern by the slave of the king. However, in the case of Jesus’ God’s fidelity was seen in an even more powerful way through rescue from death on a cross through the resurrection
This is the confidence that the second reading of today calls us to when it asks us to be inspired by the numerous witnesses of faith who have gone before us. However, even as we are inspired by them, we must keep our gaze fixed on Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of faith. It is Jesus who reveals like no other what it means to speak God’s word boldly and to face the consequences of having spoken such a word.
In a world that does not seem to be too different from the worlds of Jeremiah and Jesus as far as injustice and selfishness is concerned, there is the danger that we might be tempted to give up and give in. We might look at the vastness of the challenge and think that it is beyond our reach. We might want to throw in the towel even before we can start the fight. Yet, as disciples of Jesus we are called to be positive and optimistic. We are called by Jesus to speak God’s word. It is a word that demands justice, equality, integrity and also a word that will cause friction and hostility. It is a word that demands change and action when the rights of the poor are being trampled upon. It is a word that demands equality for all sections of society and for men and women alike. It is a word that confronts and challenges the status quo that suits only certain sections of the people and calls for a radical change of heart, mind and vision.
Will we as disciples of Jesus be prepared to speak such a word?
Friday, 12 August 2022
Saturday, August 13, 2022 - Humility is a funny thing. Once you think you’ve got it you’ve lost it. What do you think of this statement?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel18, 1-10.13.30-32; Mt 19,13-15
The text of today is on the one level about Jesus’ attitude to children, but is more importantly and on a deeper level about the kingdom. While in Mark and Luke the children were being brought to Jesus that he might “touch” them (Mk 10,13; Lk 18,15), in Matthew the children are brought that he “might lay his hands on them and pray” (19,13). These two acts are the typical acts of blessing by a revered teacher and Matthew intends to show that Jesus is regarded as such by the people. Jesus goes further than the blessing to make a pronouncement about who will inherit the kingdom, and he identifies not just the children but also “such as these”. This means that anyone no matter of what chronological age will inherit the kingdom if he/she receives it without presumption and self-justification.
Thursday, 11 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63; Mt 19:3-12
The context of today’s reading is immediately after Jesus has finished instructing his disciples (19,1-2) in the “Community Discourse” (18, 1-35). The text is found also in Mark 10, 1-12, but Matthew has made some changes to suit his purpose. In Matthew, Jesus begins his response to the Pharisees question about the legality of divorce by going back to Genesis 1,27 and 2,24 (in Mark the quotations from Genesis come later). In Matthew, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ quotation by citing Deut. 24,1, which allowed divorce, and this prompts Jesus to move to the situational application. The union of husband and wife is the creation of God and must be regarded as such (in Mark, they respond in this manner after a question from Jesus about what Moses commanded them). Matthew omits 10,12 of Mark, which reflects the Gentile provision for a woman’s initiating a divorce, since this is not applicable from his Jewish perspective. Matthew adds an exception clause; “except for unchastity” as he did earlier in 5,32, and in doing so makes the teaching of Jesus, a situational application rather than a legalistic code.
19,10-12 is exclusive to Matthew, and in them Jesus responds to the comment of the disciples that it is better not to marry. Those “who are made eunuchs by men” seems to refer to the pagan practice of literal castration as a religious practice, and this is rejected by Jesus. Those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” seems to refer to those who choose to remain celibate in order to concentrate more fully on the kingdom, rather than get weighed down by family cares.
Wednesday, 10 August 2022
Thursday, August 11, 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: Ezekiel 12:1-12; Mt 18:21 – 19:1
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) and that same servant who would not forgive another servant who owed him a mere hundred denarii (a denarius was the usual day’s wage for a labourer) makes the same point.
Tuesday, 9 August 2022
Wednesday, August 10, 2022- St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr - In becoming like the grain of wheat, Lawrence became like Jesus. Will you?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-10; Jn 12:24-26
The esteem in which the Church holds Lawrence is seen in the fact that today’s celebration ranks as a feast. Lawrence is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.
He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian. The church built over his tomb became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favourite place for Roman pilgrimages.
After the Pope was arrested, Lawrence knew that he would be too. As soon as he could he gave all the money that he possessed to the poor and even sold some of the Church’s treasures and gave the money he received to the poor. Later, when asked to show the Emperor the treasures of the Church, Lawrence gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”
The Emperor was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!”
The Gospel text for the feast of St. Lawrence is from the Gospel of John. Jesus introduces teachings about his death with a brief agricultural parable The seed imagery recalls the parables of sowing found in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 13:3-32; Mk 4:3-20, 26-32; Lk 8:5-15). Jesus uses the imagery here to interpret his own death.
The significance of this parable for understanding Jesus’ death lies in the contrast between remaining solitary and “bearing much fruit”. In John, “fruit” is Jesus’ metaphor for the life of the community of faith. Jesus thus uses the seed parable to show that the salvific power of his death resides in the community that is gathered as a result of it (cf. 10:15-16; 11:51-52).
Jn 12:25 is one of the best-attested sayings of Jesus; in addition to this verse, some form of the saying occurs five times in the synoptic Gospels (Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mt 10:39; Lk 9:24; 17:33). While all of the occurrences share the basic pattern of an antithetical parallelism that highlights contrasting attitudes toward one’s life, there are also significant differences among the sayings. The significant number of variations within the synoptic tradition and between the Synoptic Gospels and John argues against any theory of literary dependence and for multiple attestations of this saying in the oral tradition. It also argues for the authenticity or historicity of the saying. The differences point to the ways each evangelist adapted this Jesus saying to serve his Gospel.
To love one’s life is the opposite of Jesus’ own action; it places one outside of the community shaped by Jesus’ gift of his life (psyche) and leads to the loss of that life To hate one’s life in “this world” is to declare one’s allegiance to Jesus (cf. 15:18-19) and so to receive his gift of eternal life (cf. 3:16; 6:40; 10:28; 17:2).
While the synoptic versions establish a condition for following Jesus (“taking up one’s cross”), the Johannine version contains both condition and promise. Since Jesus’ ultimate service is the gift of his life in love, he calls the disciples to love as he loves and hence to serve as he serves. What it means to be Jesus’ servant will be enacted in the foot washing of 13:1-20.
The prime reason for the choice of the Gospel text is that Lawrence became like the grain of wheat that was unafraid to fall into the ground and die. In doing so, he became like his Lord and master Jesus.
Monday, 8 August 2022
Tuesday, August 9, 2022 - Has your behaviour resulted in anyone being scandalised? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel2:8 – 3:4; Mt 18:1-5,10,12-14
The text of today is taken from what is termed by some as Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18,1-35). It is the fourth of the long discourses in Matthew. Some see the discourse as divided clearly into two parts (18, 1-14 and 18, 15-35), with various indications, which point to such a division. Some of these indications are as follows: Both sections end with a parable (18, 12-13 and 18,23-34), after the parable is a concluding statement of Jesus, which begins with the word “So” (18,14.35), there is also in the sayings, a reference to the heavenly Father and the saying is about the subject of the preceding section (“little ones” and “brother/sister”).
The discourse begins with a question about the disciples regarding greatness. Unlike in Mark 9:33, there is no dispute among the disciples about who is the greatest. In his response, Jesus makes clear that being in the kingdom or coming into it, is not a matter of one’s talents or qualities, but “becoming like a child”. In first-century Judaism, children were often regarded as inferior and were treated as property rather than as persons. The point Jesus makes here is that one must acknowledge dependence on the Father. The reception of a child is an indication that one has accepted the values of the kingdom and one is no longer concerned about being greatest. Since God does not give up on anyone, Christians must also be prepared to accept those who may have strayed. Not only must they be valued, but they must also be sought out like God himself seeks them. The focus in Matthew’s parable is on the sheep that has gone astray. This means that the straying members of the community ought to be the focus also of the community.
Sunday, 7 August 2022
Monday, August 8, 2022 - Is your “freedom” an end in itself? Does it sometimes result in the “bondage” of others?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezekiel1:2-5,24-28; Mt 17:22-27
The text of today contains the second Passion and Resurrection Prediction in the Gospel of Matthew. In this one, however, it is clearer that God will deliver up the Son of Man., but it is human hands into which he will be delivered. God will also vindicate Son of Man. Since Matthew tries to avoid scenes in Mark, which speak of the disciples’ inability to understand, here too, the response of the disciples is to be “greatly distressed”.
The pericope about the “Temple Tax” (17:24-27), which follows, is exclusive to Matthew. The point being made is about freedom and concern for others. Just as the Son of Man gives his life for others and freely, so too the members of his community live lives of freedom but concern for others and not wanting to be a cause for their stumbling will result in a foregoing of that freedom.There are times when we do things more to avoid scandal than because they are important and need to be done.
Saturday, 6 August 2022
To read the texts click on the texts: Wis18:6-9; Heb11:1-2, 8-19; Lk 12:32-48
A man was praying one day and used these words in his prayer: “Lord, let me first see and then I will believe.” He heard the Lord reply to him: “First believe, then you will see.” Faith believes without seeing.
Faith is one of the major themes of the readings of today. The text from the Letter to the Hebrews begins with a definition of faith and then goes on to give the example of Abraham, a pioneer of faith. In this text, two major events in Abraham’s life are cited to show what faith really is.
The first of these events is the promise of land that God made. Though a sojourner and wanderer, Abraham believed that, if God made a promise, that promise would be fulfilled. And, it was. Thus, faith is not simply the belief that God exists, but is a loving trust that God will work only for a person’s good.
The second event is the promise of progeny. Though both he and his wife were old, he believed that, if God promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore, it would be so. And, it was. Faith hopes. Faith looks beyond the present moment to a future that is held in God’s hands. Faith is tenacious and enduring. Faith is able to accept promises deferred in the firm knowledge that God always fulfils the promises made.
This is the faith to which Jesus invites his disciples, in the Gospel text of today, when he asks them to be ready and persevering. Since the future is indeed in God’s hands, the disciples must live in the present in such a manner that they are always ready. The loins of the disciples must be girded which means literally that they must draw up the long outer garment and tuck it into the sash around their waist or hips so as to be prepared for vigorous activity. This readiness is achieved when the disciples do that which they are meant to do. This means that they will not let distractions, fatigue, or delays divert them from their duties. The disciples must make the fulfillment of what their master has asked them to do their highest obligation and their greatest concern. Since they do not know when the master will come, they have to persevere in the firm knowledge that he will, indeed, come. The outcome of such devotion to duty is that, when the master does come, he will become slave for his servants.
Faith is not coerced. The disciples are not forced to do what they do not want to do. As a matter of fact, if they decide to do something, they must do so freely. Abraham was willing to leave behind a life of apostasy and accommodation to the values and mores of the culture within which he lived. The disciples of Jesus must be willing to give up temporary material things for a treasure that lasts forever. Abraham was free to return to the land he left behind with its temporal pleasures just as the disciples are free to return to the material life. The decision is entirely up to them and they are free to decide, one way or another. This is not an easy choice to make since the material world holds many attractions; one is always tempted to return. Also, it is not always easy to see, as clearly as one would like, the advantages of the treasure that lasts forever. It is not always easy to persevere. This, however, remains the challenge of faith.
This challenge is mentioned in the first reading of today which speaks of the deliverance of the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians. God had promised release to the captives and God was faithful to the promise made. It was not always easy for the Israelites to see and they were tempted on numerous occasions to give up and give in. However, the promise was fulfilled and they were set free.
Faith is indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews points out, the assurance of things hoped for and the convictions of things not seen. It is a call and a challenge to believe, even when all evidence is to the contrary and things do not seem to go the way we want. It is a call and a challenge to persevere, even when we are tempted to give up because the road ahead is too steep and the going too difficult. It is a call and a challenge to keep our feet firmly in the present with a confident eye on the future. It is a call and a challenge to believe and to know that the future is in God’s capable hands and that we have nothing to fear. We need only do what we are called to do in the present and to believe.
Just as God was faithful to his promises to the Israelites at the time of their exodus and to Abraham with regard to the land and progeny, and just as Jesus was faithful to his promises to his disciples, so will God be faithful to us. Will we dare to have faith? Will we dare to believe?