Tuesday, 31 January 2023
Wednesday, February 1, 2023 - Homily
Wednesday, February 1, 2023 - Be careful of saying “I Know”, you may miss the Messiah.
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:4-7,11,15; Mk 6:1-6
Jesus’ visit to his hometown is not a pleasant experience. While in Mark he is designated as a carpenter, in the parallel text in Matthew (Mt 13,53-58), he is designated as “the carpenter’s son”, since Matthew wants to portray Jesus as son of Joseph and so son of David. His status as a carpenter would have been lower than that of a member of the educated class, and the villagers would probably have resented the position that Jesus reached and the status he has acquired. By designating Jesus as “son of Mary” rather than “son of Joseph” they may have intended to insult Jesus, and so cut him down to size. Jesus’ response to his townspeople is in the form of a proverbial saying. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among his own people. Mark adds strongly at the end of the episode that Jesus “could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief” which indicates that Jesus was rendered incapable by the lack of faith of his own.
Monday, 30 January 2023
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - Homily
Do not give up, but keep on keeping on..
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - How easily do you give up when this do not go your way? Will you persevere today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 12:1-4; Mk 5:21-43
In the text of today, Mark has used what is known as the sandwich construction. This means that he has introduced the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill (5,21-24), interrupted it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood (5,25-34) and continued again and completed the incident of the curing of Jairus’ daughter (5,35-43). The reason for this sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry but hurry if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can indeed raise even the dead.
In these miracles, both of those who are healed are female, and the number twelve appears in both. The woman has been ill for twelve years and the girl is twelve years old. In both, the cure is the result of faith. These incidents indicate that Jesus has power over both life and death. He is indeed Lord of heaven and earth.
Sunday, 29 January 2023
Monday, January 30, 2023 - Homily
Monday, January 30, 2023 - How often has another person’s need been more important to you than your own?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:32-40; Mk 5:1-20
The healing miracle of today is known as the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. The man is so utterly possessed, that it seems almost impossible that he will be healed. Addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the demon attempts to possess Jesus. However, Jesus will have none of it, and silences him with a word. The name “legion” used by the demoniac may mean on the one hand that he did not want to give his name and so be cast out by Jesus, and on the other hand may also refer to the Roman occupation of Palestine. The presence of pigs suggests that it is Gentile territory, because Jews considered pigs as unclean animals, and would not have them near. Some have raised questions about the destruction of nature because of the fact that the herd of pigs is drowned after the demon is sent into them. However, it may also be interpreted as the extent of concern that Jesus had for the man. In other words, the salvation of a human being is worth any price. The healed man becomes an apostle.
Saturday, 28 January 2023
Sunday, January 29, 2023 - Homily
Sunday, January 29, 2023 - How do you deal with the victims?
To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Cor1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12
There is a tendency even today among some of us to project the solutions to all our problems into the future. This may be termed as “a pie in the sky when you die” kind of theology. While it is true that till the coming of Jesus projection into the future alone made sense, after his coming what must spur us on is not only the future but the present and all that it offers.
This is why it is understandable that Zephaniah, writing probably around 640-609 BCE, promised that God would preserve a remnant, To this humble remnant or anawim belongs the promise of a secure future: “They shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (3:13). This oracle announced the future realization of an ideal.
However, in the case of Matthew, who is writing after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the “secure future” of Zephaniah is first present in the person of Jesus in a unique way, and secondly is also in the future. This means that the beatitudes that Jesus pronounces at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount do not merely describe something that already is, but also bring into being the reality they declare. They are a declaration of who disciples are already and who they must continue to be.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the nine beatitudes. Called “blessed”, are the poor in spirit who have surrendered self-will and self-reliance and every other base of security to welcome the reign of God. Also “blessed” are those who are gentle, mourners and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice. These are basic dispositions of the believer who accepts his needs before God and his openness to receiving his gifts.
The second group of four which speak of the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and those persecuted in the cause of justice seem to reflect the attitude of humans to each other. These identify with Jesus in his person and mission.
In what many consider as the ninth beatitude, Jesus speaks to the disciples directly. These are blessed even in the abuse and persecution that they will encounter because of their association with Jesus.
The key feature of blessedness is that it involves living a deliberately chosen and cultivated sort of life, which does not get involved in the power and violence of the world, and which, because of this fact, makes the ones living it immensely vulnerable to being turned into victims. That is the centre of the ethic as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
If we then turn to the end of the Eschatological Discourse – Jesus’ last discourse (Mt 25:31-46) before his passion, we find something similar at work. In the famous passage of the last judgement, the judgement is defined not in terms of belonging to this or that group, or believing this or that dogma. The judgement is presented in terms of the human relationships towards victims – those who hunger, thirst, the naked, sick, or imprisoned. Those who are rewarded are those – whether or not they know anything of the world which is blind to its victims, and have reached out to help them. It is here, the crucified and risen victim who is the judge of the world, and the world is judged in the light of its relationship to the crucified and risen victim.
For Matthew the arrival of Jesus and his proclamation of God’s kingdom create the conditions by which the world can be changed. The promise to the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for justice, that the kingdom of heaven is “yours,” might better be translated as “on your side” or “for you.” The dispositions and action praised by Jesus provide an alternate vision to contemporary, destructive attitudes and trends.
The beatitudes generate trust in God in difficult circumstances, not simply enable us to endure hard times. None of us can avoid the traumatic experiences that life so frequently presents. In Africa and Asia millions of our fellow human beings suffer disease, poverty and the effects of war and natural disasters that some of us have never experienced or even imagined. The challenge of Christian faith is to accept and live a sustaining relationship with God in the most trying circumstances.
The beatitudes define the way that Jesus himself lived to the point of death as a rejected religious evolutionary and unjustly condemned criminal. The spiritual power to live the life of the blessed comes not through our most noble human efforts, but through the gift of grace that the Spirit gives us. Paul realized this when he said that God those the foolish and weak of this world to shame the wise and the strong, Are Jesus’ praises and Paul’s declarations really too much for us to believe?
Friday, 27 January 2023
Saturday, January 28, 2023 - Homily
Saturday, February 28, 2023 - Have you stopped rowing the boat of life because you are overwhelmed with the storms? Will you start rowing again today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:1-2; 8-19; Mk 4:35-41
The Gospel reading of today appears immediately after Jesus has completed the Parable Discourse. It is commonly referred to as the miracle of the calming of the storm. While this miracle appears also in the Gospels in Matthew and Luke, the language of the disciples in Mark is harsh. In Matthew, the disciples address Jesus as Lord, and their cry is a plea for help, much like our “Lord have mercy” at the penitential rite. In Luke, like in Mark, Jesus is addressed as “Master” but no allegation about his uncaring attitude is made. In Mark, the disciples allege that Jesus is unconcerned about them. Mark also brings out the contrast between the agitated disciples and the serene Jesus. Jesus is able with a word to calm the forces of nature, and suddenly, there is a great calm.
Thursday, 26 January 2023
Friday, January 27, 2023 - Homily
Friday, January 27, 2023 - Do you more often than not focus on the present or the future? Do you focus on the now or on the later?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:32-39; Mk 4:26-34
The text of today contains two parables. The first of these (4:26-29) is known as the Parable of the seed growing secretly, and is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The second (4:30-32), known as the Parable of the Mustard seed is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the first parable the point that is being made is that the one who scatters the seed only does so and then goes about his routine, not worried about the outcome of his effort. The seed continues to grow, simply because he has first scattered it. He knows that by worrying the seed will not grow faster, and so he lets it be.
In the Parable of the Mustard seed, the point that is made is that from little, there will be much. Small beginnings have great endings. The parable is a call to begin what one has to do without worrying about how small or big the outcome will be. The growth is sure and definite.
When Mark says in 4,33 that Jesus did not speak to the people without a parable, he is in effect saying that there was a parabolic character about all of Jesus’ teaching. This means that all of Jesus’ teaching involved the listener and it was the listener who supplied the lesson to the teaching and not Jesus. This indicates a freedom of choice that every listener was given at the time of Jesus. They were the ones to decide for or against. Jesus would never force them to accept his point of view.
It is sometimes the case that we spend much of our time worrying about the outcome of our actions even before we can do them. This attitude does not allow us to be in the present moment and so the action that we do is not done to the best of our ability. We do not put ourselves fully into the action that we do. At other times, we do not act at all but only worry. While the first of today’s parable is calling us to act and then relax rather than worry, the second is assuring us that our actions will indeed bear fruit.
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Thursday, January 26, 2023 - Homily
Thursday, January 26, 2023 - How would you define the WORD OF GOD? Have you assimilated this WORD?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:19-25; Mk 4:21-25
The text of today follows immediately after the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower and the seed and contains two similes: that of the lamp and the measure. In Mark they seem to be connected with the response that a person makes to the Word spoken by Jesus. This Word is not an esoteric or secret Word. It is a Word that is to be make known, to be revealed, like a lamp is to be on a lamp stand. If one is open and receptive to this Word (the Measure of one’s openness) one will receive from God not only the ability to understand it but also to assimilate it.
Sometimes our closed attitudes and minds and our reluctance to accept change and newness may result in our missing out on all the revelations of the glory of God taking place around us. If we only open the eyes of our heart to see and the ears of our hearts to hear, we will be able to find God in all things and all things in him.
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - The Conversion of St. Paul - Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion. What will you do as a result of having met Jesus Christ?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts22:3-16; Mk 16:15-18
Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In that instant he saw what he could become through grace and not law. It was a revelation to him that no matter how low a person may have fallen; God’s grace could always lift him/her up. It was also a revelation of the heights of mysticism one could reach if one opened oneself to God’s unlimited and unconditional grace.
The story of Paul’s conversion is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 9 and 22) and Paul himself makes reference to it in some of his letters (Gal 1:13-14; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 15:3-8).
The conversion of Saul to Paul was the conversion and transformation of a person who lived out the letter of the law, but forgot its spirit. However, once he allowed God’s grace to enter his heart, all that mattered to him was Christ and through Christ divine, gratuitous love. From the moment of his transformation, the focus of his preaching was that salvation was FOR ALL and that no amount of merit could save, because salvation was a free gift of God.
The first reading for the Feast speaks of his conversion and the Gospel text is from the longer ending of Mark and is an apt description of Paul’s power and actions after his transformation. He did indeed proclaim the Gospel to all creation and today invites us to do the same.
His Gospel may be summarised in one sentence, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)
Tuesday, 24 January 2023
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - Homily
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - How often have you given into despair and lost hope? Will you continue to hope today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:11-18; Mk 4:1-20
The text of today is taken from what is known as The Parable Discourse in the Gospel of Mark. The text contains an introduction to the Discourse (4:1-2), the parable of the Sower (4:3-9), a saying on the kingdom and its secret (4:10-12) and the interpretation of the parable (4:13-20). It is important that while it is likely that Jesus uttered the parable, in all probability the interpretation is the work of the early church. This is why; the interpretation of these texts must be done separately.
The parable of the Sower seems to point out that of the four types of soil in which the seed falls, it is LOST in three types and bears fruit in only one type. This indicates that while three quarters of the effort are lost, only a quarter is gain. However, the focus of the parable is not on the loss but on the gain, which even that one-quarter brings. The Parable is pointing out to the fact that this is how life often is. Three quarters of our efforts seem to be wasted and it is possible that when this happens we may give in to despair. However, we are called to focus not on this but on the enormous gain that the one-quarter of our effort will indeed bring.
We may tend to lose heart when we see that most of our efforts do not seem to be bearing fruit. At times like these the Parable of the Sower offers hope that even though much of our effort may seem to be lost, the gain that will arise from it will be enormous. It invites us not to ever lose heart but to keep on doing our part and leave the rest to God. It is calling us to sow and rest confident in the hope that God will make it grow.
Monday, 23 January 2023
Tuesday, January 24, 2023 - Homily
Tuesday, January 24, 2023 - If Jesus were to point to his family today, would you be counted as a member?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:1-10; Mk 3:31-35
The text of today forms the second part of the “sandwich” construction that Mark has used here. He introduced the family of Jesus in 3,20-21, interrupted this with the text on the Beelzebul controversy (3,22-30) and returns to the family of Jesus is today’s text 3,31-35. By using such a structure, Mark indicates that the family of Jesus are also hostile to Jesus. Also, Mark places them “outside” while Jesus is “inside” the house. This too indicates that they are not disciples. Jesus then defines family in terms of those who do the will of God. Some also think that by not mentioning the father of Jesus, Mark wants to assert that for Jesus and his disciples, only God is Father.
We may imagine that because we have been baptised are bear the name Christian we are automatically counted as members of Jesus’ family. However, baptism alone will not make us members of Jesus’ family, but the living out of the baptismal promises in our lives. This means that we must each do what we are called to do, namely our best at every given moment.
Sunday, 22 January 2023
Monday, January 23, 2023 - Homily
Monday, January 23, 2023 - Is your general attitude to life positive or negative? Will you make an attempt to interpret every incident positively today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:15,24-28; Mk 3:22-30
The text of today is known as the Beelzebul controversy. Scribes who come from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus refutes their claim by showing how absurd it would be for Satan to cast himself out. The strong man whom Jesus talks about is Satan and the one who binds up the strong man is Jesus himself. Rather than accuse Jesus, the scribes must be able to see that with the coming of Jesus the reign of Satan is at an end.
The sin, which cannot be forgiven, is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Since there is the danger of looking at this sin as a specific sin, Mark clarifies that the reason why Jesus says this is because they accused him of having an unclean spirit. This means that the sin spoken of here is an attitude rather than a specific sin. It refers to the attitude of being closed to the revelation that God is making of himself in Jesus. It is an attitude of closing one’s eyes and refusing to see.
Today the sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse to believe that the Spirit can transform me. Practically this means to give up even before one can begin. It means to give in or throw in the towel. It means not to give the Spirit a chance to work in our lives. It means a refusal to persevere and keep on keeping on.
Saturday, 21 January 2023
Sunday, January 22 , 2023 - Homily
Sunday, January 22, 2023 - The Kingdom has come in Jesus
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 8:23-9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13,17; Mt 4:12-23
Zebulun and Naphtali were the first provinces of the Northern kingdom that were captured when the Assyrians took Israel into exile. This is the humiliation that Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today. However, that is now past. There will now be a reversal brought about by God through his Messianic king, and these will be the first to experience it.
Darkness has turned into light and for Matthew this prophecy of Isaiah is seen as being fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. This ministry in Matthew begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. The choice of location for the beginning of the ministry is Capernaum and in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali mentioned in the first reading and serves as a setting for the fifth formula quotation in the Gospel. The movement from darkness to light that Isaiah prophesied comes about in Matthew through a response to Jesus’ call to repentance. It is important to understand the placement of the words by Matthew. Though Matthew places the imperative (Repent) before the indicative (for the kingdom of heaven has come near), it must be understood that the basis or reason for repentance is that the kingdom has come near. Something has happened or taken place and therefore something needs to be done. The text does not say that the kingdom will come after repentance rather because the kingdom has indeed come and in the person and ministry of Jesus, people should repent.
The word “repentance” has sometimes been translated to mean “be sorry”, but nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ask anyone to be sorry for their sins. Yet, he constantly calls people to repentance. The English word “repent” is a translation of the Greek metanoeô which literally means “change one’s mind” – quite like the man who came home one day and told his wife, “Honey, I’ve changed my mind.” “Thank God,” said his wife, “I hope the new one will function better.” Repentance therefore is taking out that small mind which engages in stereotyping and dwelling on negatives and replacing it with a mind that is open and flexible and filled with the positive of God’s unconditional love. This openness is the result of having realized that the kingdom has indeed come near. The coming of the kingdom means that God’s unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, pardon and acceptance have all been given to us freely in Jesus. This means we can do nothing to earn this love; all we have to do is receive it with gratitude and in humility.
How is this repentance shown in action? Paul gives the answer to this question in the second reading of today when he calls the Corinthians and us to be united. Differences must be made up and disagreements must be ironed out. Each Christian individually and all Christians collectively belong only to Christ and to no one else. To heal the wounds of the divided body of Christ, right words and slogans are certainly necessary but they are by no means sufficient. Primarily we need the right attitudes which spring from a recognition that we all belong to Christ.
While unity does not mean uniformity, the legitimate expression of diversity should never lead to division, since Christ is not divided but one. This is the Christ whom Paul preached and wants each of us to continue to preach. His preaching was not in philosophical terms or treatises but in language that conveyed that all that was received was through grace.
It was this grace and free choice of God that led Jesus to call the first four disciples. Jesus takes the initiative here. He comes to the brothers Simon and Andrew, he sees them and he calls them. He does the same with James and John. They respond generously to his call which is both a command and promise. The command is to follow the person of Jesus and not merely a value or an ideal. This indicates that following Jesus demands first of all total dedication to him.
The summary statement which concludes the Gospel reading serves as a summary of all three readings. Like Jesus, the task of the Christian who decides to follow him will be that of making people whole. Through this action every Christian is called to proclaim the Good News that God’s love, mercy, pardon and forgiveness are indeed a reality today. The Kingdom has come.
Friday, 20 January 2023
Saturday, January 21, 2023 - Homily
Saturday, January 21, 2023 - Would Jesus point to you as member of his family? Why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:2-3,11-14; Mk 3:20-21
This text is part of a larger text, which ends at 3,35. It is about the family of Jesus. In 3,20-21 (our text for today) the family of Jesus is introduced in a negative manner. They think that Jesus has gone out of his mind and want to restrain him. One possible reason why his family would have thought that he was “out of his mind” was because he was working miracles and this could have been seen as associated with magic and such persons could either be banned or even executed. His family thus come to take him away by force.
This episode is followed by the Beelzebul controversy (3,22-30) in which Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, by the scribes who come from Jerusalem. Mark then forms a "sandwich construction" by taking up in 3,31-35 a text concerning the family of Jesus. Here, however, Jesus makes clear that his true family are not those related to him by blood only, but by the will of God.
There are times when because we do not understand the actions of another person, we may tend to condemn them or look down on them or sometimes label them. We need to realise that because of our lack of understanding we may need to be open rather than closed and judgemental.
Thursday, 19 January 2023
Friday, January 20, 2023 - Homily
Friday, January 20, 2023 - If Jesus were to choose a nickname for you, what would that be? Why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 8:6-13; Mk 3:13-19
Mark narrates here the choice of the twelve disciples. The number twelve makes this group representative of the twelve tribes of Israel and thus Jesus would be seen as the one who has come to restore Israel.
Mark makes three points in his narration of the choice of the twelve. The first is that the primary reason for the choice of the Twelve is “to be with him”. This means that their primary responsibility is to accompany Jesus on his journey to the Father. The second point is that besides “being with him”, they are also sent out to preach and heal, to say and to do, word and action. The Kingdom of God is not merely a spiritual enterprise, but connected intimately with the whole of life. It is a practical enterprise as well. The third point that Mark makes is that some of the Twelve are given nicknames. Simon is named “Peter” (which means “rock”) and James and John are named “Boanerges” (which means “sons of thunder”). These signified their function. Judas Iscariot is not renamed, but Mark gives us an indication already here of what he will do in the future.
Each of us also received a new name at our Baptism: the name “Christian”. The challenge is to hear Jesus call our name and to have the courage to answer that call.
Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Thursday, January 19, 2023 - Homily
Thursday, January 19, 2023 - If you were to choose one word to describe your relationship with Jesus what word would you choose?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:25-8:6; Mk 3:7-12
Mark gives in these verses a summary account of the themes that have appeared from the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus' popularity increases and he cannot appear in public without being pressured by great multitudes seeking to he healed. Jesus' reputation has spread even to those towns where he did not go personally. The use of the term multitude here and the mention of the names of places as far as the region around Tyre and Sidon are an indication that Jesus’ authority is much greater than that of John the Baptist to whom in Mark people came from only the Judean countryside and Jerusalem (1,5). These multitudes are not necessarily disciples, and could have come to see Jesus out of curiosity or even to receive healing.
Mark once again has the command to silence, which is where Jesus commands the demons not to make him known. While some interpret this command as belonging to the rite of exorcism, others see it as Mark's desire to reject the testimony of the demons as evidence for Jesus' identity.
Tuesday, 17 January 2023
Wednesday, January 18, 2023 - Homily
Wednesday, January 18, 2023 - Is there a synchrony between your words and your actions?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:1-3,15-17; Mk 3:1-6
The Gospel text of today concerns a Sabbath controversy. Though Mark does not specify at the beginning of this episode who it was that was watching Jesus for a reason to accuse him, at the end of the episode they are named as Pharisees and Herodians. While Pharisees had no political authority at the time of Jesus, they were influential. Herodians were a group of wealthy people who were partisans of Herod Antipas.
It is important to note that Jesus does nothing to break the Sabbath rest, but his question is the reason for the hostility. The response to Jesus' question is silence which here may be interpreted as an indication of the hostility of his opponents and of their intention to destroy him. Anyone who truly cares about the law will agree with Jesus and rejoice that a man has been made whole again. Though the man in this case is not in any way near death, Jesus adds to the second part of his question the words "to save life or to kill?" This seems to be Mark's way of anticipating the intentions of Jesus' opponents. The point he seems to be making is that they object to someone being made whole on the Sabbath because they are concerned about the law, yet on the same Sabbath, they will not hesitate to plot the destruction of someone else. The contrast between their words and their deeds is strongly brought out.
Monday, 16 January 2023
Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - Homily
Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 6:10-20; Mk 2:23-28
Today’s text is a pronouncement story. In such a story, the saying of Jesus is of central importance. In this story, it appears at the end where after Jesus pronounces that it was the Sabbath (rules and regulations) that was made for the human person and not the other way around, he identifies The Son of Man as Lord even of the Sabbath.
The Gospel of Mark does not explicate what the Pharisees are complaining about. They surely could not be complaining that the disciples of Jesus were stealing because they were plucking ears of corn, since Deut. 23,25 permitted a person to pluck ears of grain when he/she went into a neighbour’s field. Luke 6,1 seems to indicate that the objection of the Pharisees was that the disciples of Jesus were rubbing the heads of grain they had plucked in their hands which could be considered as threshing and therefore work, which was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod 34,21). As he often does in his responses, Jesus takes the objectors beyond the immediate objection to a higher level. Here, he focuses not just on the question of work on the Sabbath or the incident that is questioned, but beyond: to the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is at the service of the human person and not the human person at the service of the Sabbath. In other words, human needs take precedence over any rules and regulations. This must be the primary focus.
Sunday, 15 January 2023
Monday, January 16, 2023 - Homily
Monday, January 16, 2023 - How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 5:1-10; Mk 2:18-22
The text of today is a controversy story, and concerns one of the three important traditions of the Jews: fasting, the other two being alms giving and prayer. The question of the people compares the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples with that of John’s disciples and the Pharisees. The latter fast whereas the disciples of Jesus do not. The law required that people fast only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16,1-34; 23,26-32; Num 29,7-11), though there were other reasons why a person might fast including as a personal expression of sorrow or repentance (1 Kgs 21,27; 2 Samuel 3,35). The Pharisees were said to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12). Since the people considered Jesus as a prophet or religious teacher, they would have expected his disciples to fast as other sects did. In his response to the people, Jesus clarifies that with his coming the new age has dawned, which is an age of freedom. He does this first by using the analogy of the bridegroom, and states that those who fast at the wedding are seriously insulting the host or bridegroom. However, even though there is the element of celebration in the analogy of the bridegroom, there is also a sombre note, which speaks of the bridegroom being taken away, and seems to refer to the death of Jesus, which will be an appropriate time to fast. The unshrunk cloth and the new wine refer to this new age, whereas the old cloak and the old wine skins refer to the old age. The two are incompatible. An attempt to patch an old garment using a new or unshrunk cloth will result in a worse tear; just as to put new wine into old skins will result in a great loss. The conclusion of the saying of Jesus emphasises that the presence of Jesus brings newness and to understand him one will need to give up the old categories that one has.
If we can talk of a rule or regulation that Jesus gave his disciples, it would only be the rule of love. All the actions of Jesus’ disciples must be motivated by love. This means that one may or may not fast, but that one will always and every time only love.
Saturday, 14 January 2023
Sunday, January 15, 2023 - Homily
Sunday, January 15, 2023 - You are you and that is all you need to be
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:3,5-6; 1 Cor.1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
A few years ago, after the Std X results had been declared, I went to visit some friends of mine whose daughter had just appeared for that examination. I knew her to be a girl who has always got good marks all through her academic career, and so was surprised when her mother on opening the door to my knock began to tell me how she felt so let down by her daughter. The manner in which she was moaning her fate led me to conclude that the girl had failed. I responded with what I thought were words of consolation saying that failure was not the end of the world and that her daughter could apply to have her papers reevaluated and that if that did not work, she could appear again and surely pass. She was taken aback when I mentioned failure and informed me that her daughter had passed and has scored 86% marks. This time I was surprised and asked her what she was complaining about. She replied that she was complaining because her neighbour’s daughter had scored 86.50%. After being stunned for a moment, I asked her whether she would have been happy if her daughter had scored 75% (less than the marks she had actually scored) and her neighbour’s daughter had scored 74.50%. She replied with an emphatic “Yes, I would have been very happy.” The moral of this incident is that comparisons are extremely dangerous and will tend to consume the person who engages in them. It is related to the Gospel text of today.
The example of John the Baptist shows us that true personal fulfilment and greatness lies not in how we may compare with others but in how faithful we are to our God-given roles in life. John is a rare example of someone who was clear about what his role in life was and went about fulfilling that role with sincerity and courage. He was able to identify Jesus and witness to him, because he was secure in himself. This security and self-acceptance led him to see in and witness to Jesus the Lamb of God, the pre-existent one, the vehicle of the Sprit and the Chosen One of God. John was content and satisfied with playing the second fiddle rather than vying with Jesus for the limelight. He did not feel the need to compare himself negatively with Jesus and thus feel bad about himself. He could do this because he knew exactly the reason for him being in the world. He knew why he came into this life: “but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel”. Since he knew the reason for his existence and his place in the world, John could tell when he had done what was required of him. He could tell when it was time to hand the baton to another.
In the second reading of today Paul states that the call of each one who is Christian is to be a saint. A saint or someone who has been sanctified literally means someone who has been set apart. This means that no matter how tall or short we are, or how thin or fat we are we are called like the Psalmist of today to keep responding, “Here I am, Lord! I have come to do your will.” If we do not realize this, the chances are that we will spend the whole of our lives chasing after everything and nothing, in a rat-race of envy, jealousy and comparison with those we perceive as better than us. Instead of living and working in harmony and cooperation with others, those who do not know the reason for their being are often driven by rivalry and competition.
Nature offers us a very practical lesson in this regard. A dog does not try to be a cat, nor does a sunflower try to be a rose. Each is what it is. Each has its own beauty and uniqueness and glorifies in it. John the Baptist is before us as a great example in the Ordinary time of the year of what it means to be ordinary and of what it means to know our unique place and role in the world. In Jesus, however, we have a better example than even John. Conscious as he was that he was God’s chosen one, he was also aware that like the prophetic figure whom Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today, he would become so by being servant. In this manner he would complete his role on earth which was to restore the tribes of Israel and become the light to all nations.
Friday, 13 January 2023
Saturday, January 14, 203 - Homily
Saturday, January 14, 2023 - When you look at an egg will you see the eagle? Has your stereotypical way of looking prevented you from seeing people as they are?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 4:12-16; Mk 2:13-17
If in 2,1-12 through the incident of the healing of the paralytic, Mark portrayed Jesus as one who had the authority to forgive sin, in the text of today, he shows Jesus as reaching out to tax collectors and sinners. There are two episodes, which are connected. The first is the Call of Levi and the second is the dinner in Levi’s house during which Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.
In Matthew 9,9, the tax collector who is called is named Matthew, but in Mark (and Luke 5,27) he is called Levi. However, the name Levi does not appear in any list of twelve whereas Matthew appears in all the lists. The tax collector at the time of Jesus was a person whose duty it was to collect tax or duty on goods crossing the border. They were accused of charging more than the required amount and so were considered as thieves and seen as dishonest. This is the kind of person called by Jesus to discipleship. The structure of the call of Levi is similar to that of the first four disciples in mark (1,16-20). Here too, it has five parts, Jesus passes by, sees Levi at his work, calls to him, Levi leaves his work and follows Jesus. Immediately after the call and following, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for a meal during which many tax collectors and sinners sit at table with him. This leads to the scribes of the Pharisees complaining probably that Jesus was not observe that higher standard of holiness that would be expected of him. Jesus responds to their objection in two parts. In the first part, he states what many regard is a common proverb of the time (“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”). In the second part of his response (“I have come not to call the righteous but sinners”), Jesus states explicitly the reason for his coming: to call sinners. The force of this mission statement of Jesus will be understood better when we realise that the righteous referred to those who were zealous for the law and tried to live it out as completely as they could, whereas sinners meant those who deliberately flouted/flaunted the law and paid no heed to it. Jesus has come to seek those who everyone considers evil.
Many of us tend to look down on those who may not come up to our expectations or behave the way we want them to. We may also often judge others by what we see and be too quick to do that. The challenge for each of us is to realise that our way of looking may be a stereotypical way of looking and that we may be looking with a prejudiced view.
Thursday, 12 January 2023
Friday, January 13, 2023 - Homily
Friday, January 13, 2023 - Is there an area in my life in which I suffer from paralysis? Do I believe that Jesus can heal me?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 4:1-5:11; Mk 2:1-12
The text of today is a pronouncement story, which also contains a miracle. A pronouncement story is one in which the saying of Jesus is the central point. Some pronouncement stories contain miracles, whereas others do not (2,23-27). In the story of today, it seems that Mark has converted an original miracle story in which a paralytic is healed into a pronouncement story (by inserting the dialogue between Jesus and the scribes after the words, “said to the paralytic” found in 2, 5a, and repeating them in 2,10b), to bring out the point that Jesus has the authority like God to forgive sin. In his challenge to the scribes, Jesus is able to prove that he has this authority to forgive, because he has been able to heal the man completely. Mark might also be indicating that Jesus wanted total healing for the man rather than just physical healing. The response of the crowds is of amazement.
We come across here for the first time a “Son on Man” saying, which is used for the second time in 2,28 and after that only from the Passion and resurrection predictions in Mark (8,31; 9,31; 10,33; 14,62). Characters in the Gospels never use this expression to describe Jesus or refer to him; rather Jesus uses it of himself. While the expression could be used to mean a human being, it seems that the evangelists intend the expression to refer to Jesus’ special status. Here, he has special authority and that to forgive sin.
Our own psychological paralysis is often connected with our lack of forgiveness and keeping feelings of bitterness, anger and the like in our hearts and minds. One of the keys to wholeness and good health is forgiveness. We must forgive because it is good for our health.
Wednesday, 11 January 2023
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Thursday, January 12, 2023 - Will your prayer be "If it is your will?"
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 3:7-14; Mk 1:40-45
The healing of a leper, which is our text for today, is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but both Matthew and Luke omit the emotional reactions of Jesus found in Mark. The term leprosy was used for any kind of skin disease, and those with such kind of diseases were considered as unclean and not allowed to be part of society. They had to live on the outskirts of the city, and had to make their presence known whenever they entered the city, so that others could avoid any kind of contact with them and so not get contaminated.
In this miracle, Jesus not only heals the leper, but also reaches out and touches him. This probably means that Jesus cannot be contaminated or made unclean by anything from outside. It could also indicate Jesus’ wanting to reach out to the leper in a personal manner and treat him as a full human being.
Tuesday, 10 January 2023
Wednesday, January 11, 2023 - Homily
Monday, 9 January 2023
Tuesday, January 10, 2023 - Homily
Wednesday, January 10, 2023 - Is the content of your prayer connected with your life or is it removed from it?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 2:14-18; Mk 1:29-39
The text of today is made up of three parts. In the first part (1:29-31), we are told of the healing of Simon’s Mother-in-law. This miracle story follows the pattern of the typical healing stories of the Synoptic Gospels in which three clear parts can be distinguished. These are the narration of the case, the cure (in the larger majority of the healing miracles of Jesus it is merely with a word and/or the act of lifting the person up) and the confirmation that the person has indeed been cured. Here, after her healing she begins to wait on Jesus and his disciples. While on the one hand this detail communicates that she was healed completely and can now serve, on the other hand, Mark may also have intended to communicate to his readers, that healing is for service.
In the second part of today’s text (1:32-34), numerous sick are brought to Jesus, who heals them all. There is also at the end of this section the command to silence, which is connected to the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus does not allow demons to tell other who he is, because he did not want to be misunderstood simply as a wonder working Messiah.
In the third and final part of today’s reading (1:35-39), we are given an insight into a very personal aspect of the life of Jesus; his prayer. In this context, the content of Jesus’ prayer seems to be discernment on whether he must stay or move. While it would have been easier to stay because of the approval he receives here, as is evident from the comment of his disciples that he was being sought after, Jesus opts to move because that is what he sees as his Father’s will, and Mark makes abundantly clear on numerous occasions in his Gospel that nothing and no one can come between Jesus and his Father’s will.
The talents that we have and the gifts that we possess have been given to us in trust. We have therefore to use them to enhance life and continue to be co-creators with God in his work of building the new heaven and new earth.
Tuesday, January 10, 2023 - How often is there a dichotomy between your words and your actions? Will you try to synchronise them today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 2:5-12; Mk 1:21-28
The first miracle in the Gospel of Mark is an exorcism and is the text for today. At the beginning of this pericope we are informed that Jesus taught in the synagogue with authority and the crowds were astounded at his teaching. Mark then immediately narrates the exorcism story to give a practical example of the teaching of Jesus. The demon "knows" who Jesus is and also that with his coming Satan’s reign is ended. Jesus has indeed come to cast Satan out.
The exorcism indicates what it means that the kingdom has indeed drawn near. This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark that we come across what is commonly known as “the command to silence”, which is a technique that Mark uses in his Gospel in which Jesus commands sometimes demons (1:25, 34), sometimes those he has healed (1:44) and sometimes the family members of the one healed (5:43) not to make known his identity or that he has been the one who has healed them. While many interpretations have been offered as to why Mark has used this technique, the one which has found wide acceptance is that the Marcan Jesus did not want people to mistake him for merely an exorcist or miracle worker, but wanted them to realise that he was the Christ who would suffer, die on the cross and be raised.
In this case he is able to exorcise the demon by a mere word, which the crowd interpret as a "new teaching".
By associating the teaching of Jesus with the first miracle and having the people regard the exorcism as a “new teaching”. Mark seems to want to indicate that there is no dichotomy between Jesus’ words and actions. They synchronise. Jesus does what he says and says what he does.
Sunday, 8 January 2023
Monday, January 9, 2023 - Homily
Monday, January 9, 2023 - The Baptism of the Lord - Jesus is Servant King
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 42:1-4,6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings to an end the Christmas season. That the Baptism of Jesus was historical is doubted by almost no one today. The reasons for this are not merely because it is an event that is narrated by all the Synoptic Gospels, but mainly because despite the fact that Matthew and Luke are struggling to narrate the event of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, they do narrate it in their Gospels. While Mark states quite unambiguously that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mk. 1:9); Luke will have John the Baptist in prison (Lk.3:19) before the baptism of Jesus (Lk.3:21) and does not state explicitly who baptized Jesus. Matthew is careful not to have John the Baptist preach a baptism for the “forgiveness of sins” and alone adds a dialogue between Jesus and John to stress both Jesus’ superiority and that John baptized Jesus only after Jesus allowed him to do so and in order “to fulfill all righteousness”.
The three events that occurred at the baptism of Jesus are mentioned by all three Synoptic Gospels but with some differences. In Matthew “the heavens were opened”, which could be an indication that communication between God and humans is being reestablished in a new way. Others see it as referring to the prayer of Isaiah for God to “rend the heavens and come down” (Is 64:1). The splitting of the heavens enables the Spirit of God to come down, and descend on Jesus like a dove. This could mean either an approval of the event by God through his Spirit or even that in Jesus the whole people of God as represented by the Spirit are being anointed. The third event is the climax and gives the meaning to the other two and to the baptism itself. Unlike in Mark and Luke where the voice addresses Jesus, in Matthew, the voice speaks in the third person and so reveals to the listeners that Jesus is both beloved Son and servant. This revelation brings out the paradox of the event. On the one hand Jesus is manifested as the beloved Son and king through the quotation of Ps 2:7 (This is my beloved Son)while on the other hand he is also manifested as servant and slave in the same event through the quotation from Is. 42:1 (with whom I am well pleased). As a matter of fact, it is through his being slave and servant, through his passion and death on the cross and through his coming up out of the waters of death that he becomes king and beloved son.
This paradoxical manifestation then is the focus of the readings and of the Baptism. The mysterious prophetic figure that Isaiah speaks about in the first reading of today in the first of the four servant songs is clearly in Matthew, Jesus himself. He will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah in every single aspect. He will bring forth God’s justice to all and in an unobtrusive quiet way. He will make the broken whole. His manner will be gentle, and he will be respectful of others especially the weak and will not give in to discouragement or despair. He will accomplish his mission.
This manner of Jesus is what Peter highlights in his speech to Cornelius and his household in which he summarizes Jesus’ life and mission. Jesus, God’s anointed, “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed”.
This is also the paradox that we who are baptized are faced with. On the one hand we are privileged through baptism to be called God’s chosen people, a people set apart and sealed with his Holy Spirit, but on the one hand we are also called to show forth this fact in our lives through our imitation of Christ. We are given through our baptism a mission by God himself, just as Jesus received. Seen in this manner, our baptism is not merely an event that occurred years ago and once for all but is a daily dying and rising to new life. It is a call to respond daily with life to the numerous deaths that take place around us. It is a call to respond with courage and hope to the fear and despair that is around us. It is a doing something every day as a sign of what we have already received.
Yet it is also true that for many of us the sacrament of baptism that we received is just another theoretical expression of our faith. We do not live this out in our lives. This is possibly why after the Baptism of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you.”
John F Kennedy’s famous saying can be amended to read, “Ask not what your Church can do for you; rather, ask what you must do for your Church.”
Saturday, 7 January 2023
Sunday, January 8, 2022 - Homily
Sunday, January 8, 2023 - The Epiphany - How BIG is your CHRIST?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Mt 2:1-12
Epiphany (Greek “Epiphaneia” “appearance or manifestation”) has been defined as the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The feast is also sometimes called the twelfth day as it is celebrated on the twelfth day after Christmas.
A story is told of three individuals who professed different religions who were discussing which religions was the right one. They could not come to any agreement and the discussion was turning into an argument. They decided to ask an old man who was sitting near for his opinion. He replied in these words, “Well, you know there are three ways to get from here to the flour mill. You can go right over the hill. That is shorter but it is a steep climb. You can go around the hill on the right side. That is not too far, but the road is rough and full of potholes. Or you can go around the hill on the left side. That is the longest way, but it is also the easiest.” He paused and then added, “But you know when you get there, the mill man doesn’t ask you how you came. All he asks is, ‘Man, how good is your wheat?’”
The choice of the Gospel text of today for the feast of the Epiphany underscores the truth that Jesus is God’s revelation not to a select few, but to the whole world. The magi or wise men or astrologers in Matthew are guided not only by pagan astrology but also by the scriptures. Revelation outside Scripture motivates them to obey the one God; yet, they do not find their way to Jesus without Scripture. This means that God, not the social or political structures of the day, is the source of our light. It teaches that openness and humility are necessary if we wish to read correctly the “signs of the times.” It insists that when we discover the “promised one,” we must be willing to offer him all that we have. The light has come, and we are invited to live in it. In contrast to the Jewish leaders, the magi act rather than merely hear. The gifts they offer; gold, frankincense and myrrh have taken to be symbolic of the royalty, divinity and the sacrificial death of Jesus, though Matthew does not give such an explanation. Also though Matthew does not mention the number who came to worship Jesus, they have been identified as three because of the three gifts.
What is more important for Matthew, however, is that the magi are Gentiles in the extreme, characters that could not be more remote from the Jews in heritage and worldview. Thus even at the very beginning of Jesus’ life, then, we see the dividing walls between races and cultures breaking down. Even here, at the beginning of the Gospel, the mission to all nations is anticipated.
Paul understood this mission perfectly as is evident in the second reading of today when he announces that the Gentiles are no longer outsiders but "fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." This is the Gospel that he preaches because he received it directly from God and this is the Gospel of which he is a minister. And that is the paradox that resides deep within Epiphany: we are made, through Christ, to be both those who bring our gifts to offer him and those who receive the gift of God's grace to be ministers and stewards of the Gospel ourselves. As Paul himself notes, this grace was given to him, the "very least of all the saints," so that he might share the "unsearchable riches of Christ" and help all people to know that it is God who creates all things -- not we ourselves.
This universal idea of mission is also spoken of in the first reading of today in which the prophet Isaiah promises a light full of hope. Jerusalem went through destruction and forced migration and is now in desperate need of rebuilding. He proclaims to the exiles that the darkness of despair has been lifted, and a new day of restoration has dawned. At last, the light has come! According to Isaiah, the glory of God will shine through Israel onto the other nations. The whole world will come to join in the new liturgy of the new Temple. The psalm echoes this idea when it speaks of justice flourishing and peace on all humankind. The poor, the needy and the weak will be heard and saved.
Epiphany seeks to remind us that we cannot and must not restrict or put our God in a pigeon hole. He is bigger than we can ever imagine and his mercy and forgiveness are not restricted to only a few but is available to all. Even as it does this the feast also challenges us to be today the star which guided the magi to the Christ child. It invites us to so shine that others who have not yet encountered God in Christ will be motivated to come and encounter him who in his love continues to sustain the world.
Friday, 6 January 2023
Saturday, January 7, 2023 - Homily
Saturday, January 7, 2023 - When your prayers are unanswered, how do you respond? Have you set limits on what God can and cannot do?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 5:14-21; Jn 2:1-11
The Cana Miracle or the miracle of turning water into wine is found only in the Gospel of John and is the first of seven miracles in that Gospel. John calls the miracles “signs’. Though at first glance it might seem like a standard miracle story with a setting for the miracle, the preparation, the miracle proper and a confirmation of the miracle, there is much more than this here. The mention of terms like “hour” and “glory” indicate that one must look beyond the miracle to draw out its true meaning much like the servants drew wine from jars that had been filled with water.
In order to do this we must first become aware of the fact that by placing this miracle at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and as the first “sign” that Jesus gives, John wants to communicate the abundance that is available in Jesus. Jesus wants to give freely and give to all. The setting of this miracle in the context of a marriage feast also increases the note of celebration and abundance. The mother of Jesus (Mary is never referred to by name in the Gospel of John and Jesus addresses her twice in the Gospel and both times as “Woman”) draws Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine. She makes no explicit request of him; however, the manner in which Jesus responds to her indicates that her words may have carried the connotation of asking him to intervene.
Though many have tried to lessen the harsh impact of the response of Jesus to his mother, it is clear that while Jesus is not being rude or hostile, he is certainly distancing himself from the request as both the address “Woman” and his words “what to me and to you” signify. The reason why he does not want his mother to interfere is because his “hour” had not yet arrived. The term “hour” is used here to signify the hour of Jesus’ glorification which includes not only his death and resurrection but also his ascension. All that Jesus does is done keeping this broader perspective in mind. His mother must realize this. That she does is made explicit in her instructions to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. This also signifies that this is the correct response to any request made of Jesus. His mother does not sulk or upset herself with Jesus’ response. She rises to the occasion.
While the “how’ of the miracle is not described, John describes in detail the preparation for the miracle. The stone jars were used instead of earthen jars because they were considered free of impurity and the water in them was probably used for the washing of hands before the meal. The quantity of water that the six stone jars hold is enormous and so what seems to be at the heart of the miracle is abundance and generosity. While the steward comments on the quality of the wine, John goes even further when he remarks about the manifestation of the glory of Jesus and calls the miracle a “sign” signifying therefore that one must look beyond it to draw out its full meaning. Thus the miracle points to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, because that would be when his “hour” would indeed come.
In our modern age of the advancement of science and technology when we attempt to find rational explanations for most things, this miracle raises more questions than it answers. However, John is not concerned with these. His intention is to move the reader from fact to meaning. He does this by the numerous pointers or symbols that he gives in the story. These are the narration of the first miracle in the context of a wedding feast, the reference to Jesus’ “hour”, the manifestation of Jesus’ glory and the use of the word “sign”. If one reads these in the context of the whole Gospel, then one realizes that our well defined categories are shattered. The limits that we set on what God can and cannot do need revision, because the miracle speaks of the revelation of God and of the super abundance of gifts that his presence brings.
The reaction of Mary in this miracle is also significant and must be commented on. Though Jesus distances himself from her “request”, she does not react negatively. As a matter of fact, she allows Jesus his space and does not impose but leaves him free to act as he sees fit. She respects his authority and will not interfere when asked not to. This is evident in her comment to the servants, a comment which she continues to make even today: “Do whatever he tells you”. She knows her place in the scheme of God’s plan and will stick to that place. She will not exceed her authority. She knows where it ends. Significantly, though Jesus’ “hour” has not come he still works his first miracle at the behest of his mother. He knows that she will support him on his way to that “hour’.