Friday, 19 August 2022

Saturday, August 20, 2022 - Will you let people hear what you do rather than what you say? How?

 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.

The point that the Gospel reading of today makes is that there must be a correlation between our words and our actions. It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to preach but difficult to practice. 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 you say but what you do.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Friday, August 19, 2022 - Homily

 Will you show your love for God by loving those around you?

Friday, August 18, 2022 - Will you show your love for God by first loving those around you? How?

 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

Thursday, August 18, 2022 - Homily

Am I wearing the wedding garment?

Thursday, August 18, 2022 - Does my faith show itself in action? How?

 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.

We sometimes attend the Eucharistic banquet without the appropriate garb, which is a faith that shows itself in action. This “dead faith” renders us unworthy, and in danger of being “cast out”. Unless we can show through our deeds that we are Christians, our celebration of the Eucharist will remain at the theoretical and ritualistic level, having no relevance to our lives. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 - Homily

 Are you good because of fear of punishment or hope of reward or are you good because it is good to be good?

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 - Homily

How would you define “kingdom of God”? What/How much are you willing to give to acquire the kingdom?

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

The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and India's Independence day


Monday, August 15, 2022 - The Assumption of Mary into heaven and Independence Day

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.

Sunday, August 14, 2022 - Homily

 How will you as a disciple of Jesus speak God's word?

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 - Homily

 God's gift of himself is free and cannot be earned

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.

As Christians we are blessed in that all that we receive from God is not through any effort on our part but is given gratis. We have only to receive. Even this, however, is difficult because sometimes we mistakenly think that it is our effort that brings us what we have.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

Friday, August 12, 2022 - Homily

 Take the right way not the easy way

Friday, August 12, 2022 - Do you usually take the “easy way” or the “right way”?

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.

No matter what state of life one chooses, one must remain faithful to one’s commitment in that state of life. The grass seems greener on the other side, but only till we go to the other side

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Thursday, August 11, 2022 - Homily

 God does not keep grudges. Why do we?

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.

We expect to be forgiven by other 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, 9 August 2022

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 - Homily

 On a scale of 1 to 10 where would you mark your faith?

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 - Homily

 Before we point fingers at others we need to look into our own hearts

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.

While to be a Christian one has to make an individual commitment, one cannot forget that Christianity is also and even primarily a communitarian religion. This means that each is responsible for the other. I am indeed my brother or sister’s keeper.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Monday, August 8, 2022 - Homily

 Freedom is not an end in itself

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

Sunday, August 7, 2022 - Homily

 Believing is seeing

Sunday, August 7, 2022 - Believing is seeing

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?

Friday, 5 August 2022

Saturday, August 6, 2022 - Homily

 If you were on the mountain with Jesus how would you respond?

Saturday, August 6, 2022 - The Transfiguration - God is always present EVEN when we cannot see.

To read the texts click on the texts: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14; Lk 9:28-36

The feast of the Transfiguration was made a universal feast on 6th August by Pope Callixtus III to commemorate the raising of the Siege of Belgrade in 1456.

The Gospel text for the feast is from the event of the Transfiguration as narrated by the Gospel of Luke

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.

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 discussions that Moses and Elijah have with Jesus. They are discussing his exodus from this world to the next.

Though Peter and his companions, John and James, witness this event, they do not know what to make of it. Peter, however, wants to remain there and so 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. In this event it is confirmed that Jesus is both Son of God and he is Suffering Servant. He will, through his death, bring salvation to all. He is the fulfillment of all the hopes, not only of Israel but, of the whole world.

This time, unlike at the time of the Baptism, the voice from the cloud 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 realize that this is the only way. Thus, they cannot remain on the mountain. 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. Only in the light of the cross and resurrection do we understand the character of God and the significance of Jesus.

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, 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, teaches 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.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Friday, August 5, 2022 - Homily

 “Your money or your life.” “You better take my life; I will need my money for my old age.”

Friday, August 5, 2022 - “Your money or your life.” “You better take my life; I will need my money for my old age.”

To read the texts click on the texts: Nahum 2:1,3; 3:1-3,6-7; Mt 16:24-28

In Matthew, the sayings that form our text for today are addressed exclusively to the disciples unlike in Mark where they are addressed to the crowds. A disciple must be prepared to follow the Master and even to the cross if need be. This is the consequence of confessing Jesus as the Christ. The Son of Man has to suffer, but will also be vindicated by God. The pronouncement “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16,28) has been variously interpreted. Some think it refers to the event of the Transfiguration, others think it refers to the Resurrection and still others that it refers to Pentecost. However, it seems that Matthew’s community expected that the Parousia (the second coming of the Lord) would come soon, indeed before the death of some who belonged to the community, and so there are some who think that this pronouncement refers to the Second coming of the Lord.

Denial of self means to count the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constantly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Thursday, August 4, 2022 - Homily

 Who do you say Jesus is?

Thursday, August 4, 2022 - If Jesus were to ask you the question he asked the disciples, what would your response be?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 31:31-34; Mt 16:13-23

The phrase “from that time Jesus began” is found twice in the Gospel of Matthew once in 4,17 and the second time in 16,21. The latter verse is part of our text for today. Some divide the Gospel into three parts, taking this phrase as the one which points to this division. In this division, the first part is from 1,1 – 4,16, the second from 4,17 – 16,20 and the third from 16,21 – 28,20. Our text for today, however includes an earlier pericope termed usually as “Peter’s Confession” (16,13-20). The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant. After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.

The second part of the text, is the first of the three (some see Mt 26,2 as a fourth passion and resurrection prediction) passion and resurrection predictions. Peter’s response to this is to “rebuke” Jesus. However, in Matthew, Peter’s response is not as harsh as in Mark because of the use of “Lord” by Peter. Jesus’ counter response to Peter is not as harsh as in Mark, because Jesus does not in turn “rebuke” Peter. Instead, in Matthew, Jesus calls Peter to a newer and deeper understanding of the meaning of discipleship. Peter’s understanding is still on the human level, Jesus invites him to go beyond and further.

Many of us would like to see God as someone who can do all things and be always in control of every situation. However, our God as revealed in Jesus is a God who lets go of not only his divinity but also his humanity. He becomes totally selfless and disponable, at the service of the whole of humanity. If we are to imitate such a God and be disciples of his son, we need to do the same

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - “If at first you don’t succeed try again”. Do you often give in to despair? Will you keep on keeping on?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 31:1-7; Mt 15:21-28

The story of the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman is our text for today. This story is found also in Mark 7,24-30, but Mark identifies the woman as a Syrophoenician. Matthew’s mention of “Tyre and Sidon” (Mark has only Tyre) and identifying the woman as a Canaanite results in an emphasis that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. This is also emphasised by the fact that Matthew does not have Jesus enter a house (like Mark does). In Matthew, Jesus does not enter the houses of Gentiles. The woman still addresses him with the title that only believers use in Matthew namely “Lord”. Despite an initial rejection, the woman perseveres in her request and continues to address Jesus as Lord. Jesus’ direct response to the woman is harsh and must be interpreted as a rejection. The analogy is indeed strong. However, the woman seems undeterred, and for the third time addresses Jesus as Lord, and continues to plead her cause. Jesus interprets such perseverance as “great faith”, and immediately heals the woman’s daughter even from a distance.

The woman shows not only perseverance and faith but also the ability not to let words get her down. The harsh words of Jesus spoken not in jest or with a twinkle in his eye (because nothing in the text warrants such an explanation) would have resulted in a lesser person treating it as an affront. The woman does not such thing. She knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She knows that while sticks and stones may break her bones, words can never hurt her.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 - Homily

 If one has faith, there is no room for doubt

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 - If you were in Peter’s place and were about to drown, what would you say to the Lord?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jer30:1-2,12-15,18-22; Mt 14:22-36

The text of today appears immediately after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (14,13-21). For the first time in Matthew, the disciples are sent forth without Jesus. This is also the first time in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus is depicted as praying. Many see the boat in which the disciples are is by as representing the church and here it is battered by the waves. Despite the seeming impossibility of Jesus being able to reach them, he comes to them in the darkest part of the night i.e. between 3.00 and 6.00 a.m. By walking on the water, Matthew is not portraying Jesus as defying the law of gravity, but subduing the chaos of the waters. Jesus does what only God can do (Job 9,8; 38,16; Ps 77,19 etc), and announces himself as “I am” which is reminiscent of the name God used to identify himself in Exodus 3,15. The second part of this pericope in which Peter asks Jesus to allow him to come to him is exclusive to Matthew. Peter addresses Jesus as believers do in Matthew by using the title “Lord”. The point that Matthew seems to be making is not only that Peter took his eyes off Jesus and so began to sink, but also that by leaving the boat, he indicated that he wanted proof of the presence of Jesus. Peter cries out with a prayer, “Lord, save me”, and Jesus reaches out and saves him. The gentle rebuke identifies Peter as a person of “little faith” which in Matthew is a mixture of courage on the one hand and anxiety on the other. It is a faith mixed with doubts. The conclusion to this episode in Matthew is that the disciples worship Jesus as Son of God. Jesus is then portrayed as the one who can make everyone whole.

The boat of our life is often swamped by waves. These can be marital discord, addictions, problems with children and parents, disagreements with neighbours and the like. When this happens, the Lord keeps coming to us, walking on the water, subduing the chaos and confusion of our lives and telling us that he continues to be Emmanu’el. If we continue to stay in the boat, he will lead us safely to the shore. If we decide to leave the boat and go to him, then we need to keep our fixed on him and not let the waves get us down.