Tuesday 28 February 2023

Wednesday, March 1, 2023 - Homily

 What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without that sign?

Wednesday, March 1, 2023 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you believe in His love even without this sign?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jon 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32

Jesus’ debate with the crowd following the exorcism of the demon that made a man mute (11:14-16) continues. One of the challenges posed by some in the crowd was to demand from Jesus a sign from heaven. The response of Jesus is not to give in to their demand for a sign. A similar saying is also found in Matthew (12:38-42) which indicates that both Matthew and Luke have taken it from the “Q” source {Mark also has the episode of the demand for a sign and Jesus’ response (Mk 8:11-12), but it is much shorter and does not have the details found in both Matthew and Luke}. However, Luke has so formulated the response of Jesus, that it forms an inclusion. It begins and ends with Jonah. Through this, Luke has associated Jonah’s preaching with Solomon’s wisdom. Since Luke makes this association, for him the sign of Jonah was not Jonah’s being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40), but the call to repentance that Jonah preached. As the people of Nineveh repented after the call by Jonah, so Jesus calls the crowd to repentance after his proclamation. The Queen of Sheba, or the Queen of the South, journeyed from her kingdom in southwest Arabia to test the reports she had heard of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kgs 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12). When she had tested Solomon with “hard questions” (1 Kgs 10:1), she was convinced of the wisdom God had given to him and blessed the Lord who had set Solomon on the throne of Israel (1 Kgs 10:9). At the judgment, therefore, she also would rise to condemn that wicked generation because they had one who was greater than Solomon, and they did not hear him.

Jesus thus refuses to give the crowds any other sign, because any demand for a sign meant that they have not understood what Jesus was about, and what his mission was. Jesus also knew that for those who believe, no sign is necessary, whereas for those who do not, no sign is sufficient.

The call to repentance is a call to look at everything in a new light. The old is past, the new has come with the coming of Jesus. If one persists in the old way of looking which is a way of finding God only in miraculous and spectacular events, one will miss him. Now he can be found in all things and all things can be found in him.

Monday 27 February 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 - Homily

 How will you show dependence on God today?

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 - How will you acknowledge your dependence on God today? Is there someone who you think has hurt you whom you have not yet forgiven? Will you forgive that person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 55:10-11; Mt6:7-15 

The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.

It is important to have a brief background of the Sermon in order to appreciate fully each separate text within it. The first point that we note about the Sermon on the Mount is that it is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7:28).

The second point that must be kept in mind is that the Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner.

The third point is the theme, which will determine how one will interpret the Sermon as a whole. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and Prophets, and issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.

The mountain is a “theological topos” in the Gospel of Matthew (Luke’s Sermon is from “a level place” see Lk 6:17) and therefore means much more than simply a geographical location. Matthew does not name the mountain, but by choosing it as the place from where Jesus delivers the Sermon, he probably wants to portray Jesus as the New Moses delivering the New Law from a New Mountain. While Jesus in the Gospel of Luke “stands” and delivers the Sermon (Lk 6:17), in Matthew, Jesus sits down. This is the posture that the Jewish Rabbis adopted when communicating a teaching of importance or connected with the Law. In Luke the crowd is addressed from the beginning of the Sermon and addressed directly, “Blessed are you poor…” (Lk 6:20), but in Matthew, it is the “disciples” who come to Jesus and whom he begins to teach.

The section on Prayer begins in 6:5 and Jesus contrasts the prayer of his disciples with the prayer of hypocrites who like to be seen by all and also Gentile prayer which heaps words upon words and may also mean a prayer made to many “gods” to placate them. This kind of prayer is only for self gratification or to receive favours. The prayer of the disciple is to God who is Father and who knows what they need even before they can ask. Thus, prayer is not simply to place the petition before God who is all knowing but primarily to acknowledge dependence on God for everything.

What follows this contrast is the prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples and which is commonly known as the "Our Father". However, a better term for this would be "The Lord's Prayer". The reason for this is because there are two versions of the same prayer. The other is found in Lk. 11:2-4. There, the pronoun "Our" is missing and the prayer begins simply with "Father". In Matthew this prayer is at the very centre of the Sermon and must be read with that fact in mind. It begins with an address and then goes on to make two sets of three petitions. The address of God as “Father” brings out the intimacy of the relationship that disciples and God share. The pronoun “Our” here indicates that God is not merely the father of individual believers but of the community as a whole and therefore all in the believing community are brothers and sisters.

The opening petitions indicate that prayer does not begin with one’s needs, but with the glory and honour due to God. God’s name is and will be honoured by all men and women, since God as revealed by Jesus is primarily a God of mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. The kingdom of God has come in Jesus and is also in the future when God will be all and in all. This is a situation in which God will show himself to be king as he has done in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus constantly did God’s will, so it will continue to be done both in heaven and on earth. It is only when God’s will is done rather than one’s own that there can be true and lasting peace and harmony.

Despite petitioning God for something as stupendous as the kingdom, the disciple also acknowledges dependence on God for something as regular and ordinary as bread. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and without any merit on the part of the disciples. However, in order to receive this forgiveness which God gives graciously and gratuitously, the disciple will have to remove from his/her heart any unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness or anger that might be present there. The prayer ends with a final petition that God, who always leads the people, will not bring them into a time of testing, when the pressure might be so great as to overcome faith itself, but that he will save them from the ultimate power of evil.

The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer; it is also a way of life. The words of the prayer communicate the attitude that one must have toward God and others. While we must acknowledge our dependence on God for everything that we need and regard him always as the primary cause, our attitude to others must be one of acceptance and forgiveness.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Monday, February 27, 2023 - Homily

 Will the life of one person be better today because of you?

Monday, February 27, 2023 - Will the life of one person be better today because of you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Lev 19:1-2,11-18; Mt25:31-46

The Gospel text of today is a passage about the "kingdom" of God, about all those who are kin to God, and, therefore, who are kin to each other. We are each of us kin to one another. We are all indeed one. The deepest expression of this truth, on this side of life, is a spirituality in which there is no split between our devotion and our deed; no split between mystery and commandment; no split between piety and ethics and no split between being and doing. Like mystery and commandment, interwoven as they are, Jesus is one with the hungry and the thirsty, is one with the stranger and the prisoner, and is one with the naked and the sick. To care for these, is to care for Jesus. To care for them is to reach back into the very essence of life and to touch the God who takes shape in the hungry, in the thirsty, in the naked, in the sick, in the stranger, in the prisoner. "And then the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.'" The text, thus, is not so much about the condemnation of God, as it is really about the universal vision of the love of God, about the very scope of God's love in Jesus for the whole world. Jesus remains the model of unconditional and eternal love. This was shown in the most powerful of ways by Jesus himself, when in total obedience to the Father, he dared to spread his arms on the Cross in total surrender of self. Therefore, God raised him.

This understanding is important to avoid any kind of misinterpretation that might arise due to a person thinking that it is his/her deeds that earn merit and reward. The righteous who reached out to the least of their brothers and sisters, did so because of the necessity to help, love, serve, visit and feed. They dared to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and responded to these promptings. They did not do what they did for reward. It was not the condition of their good deeds, but its consequences. They did not earn the kingdom but inherited it. Inheritance is determined by the giver not the receiver. The kingdom remains a free gift of God.


Though the unrighteousness also address Jesus as Lord – a title used in Matthew’s Gospel only by those who at least have some faith - it is not enough. Their address remains at the theoretical level and is not translated into action. They did not act because they did not believe that God could hide himself in the poorest of the poor. They did not believe that God could be present in the scum of society and in those who live on the margins. They believed that God could be present only in a beautiful sunset or in the stimulating fragrance of a rose or in the silence of one’s heart. They did not realize that our God had been made visible in Jesus, who taught all who were willing to listen, that God was primarily a God of the poor, and that though he was king, he came only to serve.

The sufferings borne by the least of our brothers and sisters continue to summon and challenge us as Church today. They continue to ask us to dare to be credible and authentic witnesses of the Gospel. They invite us not merely to preach acts of loving kindness but to do them. However, what we need is not merely more action, more doing for the sake of doing. No! What we need is a universal unity of love and togetherness. It is a togetherness that transcends all of our frontiers, the frontiers of our mind and of our heart, the frontiers of our creeds and doctrines, the frontiers of our ideas and concepts. This is a radical call to transcend all of those externals that keep us apart, that keep us separated and split.

The challenge for us today is to forget our own needs for love and happiness and to reach out in love to make someone else happy who may be in greater need. For whatever we do to the least of these needy children of God, these brothers and sisters of Jesus, we do to Jesus Himself.

Saturday 25 February 2023

Sunday, February26, 2023 - Homily

 Do you usually take the easy way out or the right way out?

Sunday, February 26, 2023 – First Sunday in Lent – Do you usually take the easy way out or the right way out?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 2:7-9;3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11

Lent is a forty-day period of fast and abstinence before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday when we go into Easter. Sundays are not counted as part of these forty days, since Sundays commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord.

While Lent means the spring season, it translates the Latin term “quadragesima” which means “forty days” or literally the “fortieth day”. The forty day period is symbolic of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, a detail mentioned by all the synoptic gospels. “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC 540).

In all three of the synoptic gospels the scene of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, follows immediately after the baptism and thus must be seen in connection with it. In Matthew, at the baptism of Jesus, the voice from heaven speaks in the third person and so reveals Jesus as Servant King to the people. The temptation scene which follows is therefore about whether Jesus will be faithful to this mission entrusted to him or whether he will cave in and give up. It is a lesson on how this revealed Messiah conquers every kind of temptation that comes in the way of being who he is, and so conquers Satan as well. The disobedience of the first human beings is set right through the obedience of Jesus. The temptation of Jesus is fundamentally the same as the temptation of Adam and Eve: to become one’s own god. By overcoming the same temptation that the first human beings had, Jesus brought to the fore both the field and the focus of his mission: liberation from sin and its destructive and enslaving effects.

Of the three Synoptic gospels, Mark does not narrate the “three temptations”, only Matthew and Luke do. However, the order of the second and third temptations is different in these Gospels. It seems that Luke has changed the order to have as the third temptation the challenge to Jesus to jump down from the pinnacle of the Temple. This allows Luke to have the climactic scene to occur at the Temple where his Gospel begins and ends.

The temptations in Matthew begin after the forty day period of fasting, and while the presence of the Spirit with him during these days will have strengthened him, the physical fast will have made Jesus hungry.

The first temptation is addressed directly to this aspect, but has deeper overtones. It is about the means that Jesus will use to fulfill his mission. By asking Jesus to turn “stones” (not “this stone” as in Luke) into bread, the temptation is not merely about alleviating Jesus’ hunger, but also about conforming to the popular expectations of the Messiah as one who would provide for the material needs of the people. While Matthew does narrate two feeding miracles (14:15-21; 15:32-38), the response of Jesus here is that true nourishment comes not merely from physical bread that is eaten but from obedience to God’s word.


The second temptation seems to concern sensationalism and probably even a desire to “test” God’s providence. Jesus responds by quoting Deut 6:16 that he will refuse to test divine providence. He will trust completely and needs no proof of God’s providence. He does not need God to give him a sign.


The third temptation is the offer to Jesus of “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”. This is a challenge to accept the ways of the world namely: to use domination rather than service, to accept selfishness rather than selflessness and to be crowned with gold rather than thorns. Jesus’ response is to reaffirm the mission he received at his baptism and to refuse to follow anything else except the will of his father. Here, however, before Jesus can quote the scripture to disprove Satan, he adds his own words, “Begone, Satan!” (not in Luke) through which Matthew indicates that Satan has indeed been defeated and though Jesus and his disciples will continue to be tempted, Satan will not have the same power.


Someone once said to me tongue in cheek, “The best way to overcome temptation is to give in.” While we might smile at the humour we also realize that while this was what our first parents did, it was not the way of Jesus. The overcoming of the temptations by Jesus stands in stark contrast to the first human beings capitulating to the guile's of Satan as narrated by the first reading. This is the theme of Paul’s hymn to God’s unconditional love and grace. Through his overcoming sin and therefore death, Jesus has attained for all humans for all time the grace of God. He is the one who justifies us. No one will now condemn.


Unlike the first human beings who disobeyed God and in their pride tried to define for themselves what was good and evil, Jesus continued to remain obedient and because he was confident of his intimate relationship with the Father did not need any miraculous signs of that presence. Nor did Jesus have to prove his own status by being a wonder working, spectacular and dominating King. His kingdom will come through service, selflessness, helplessness and through the cross.

Friday 24 February 2023

Saturday, February 25, 2023 - Homily

 How do you respond when God calls?

Saturday, February 25, 2023 - How will you celebrate today your call to be a disciple of Jesus?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:9-14; Lk5:27-32

The call of Levi the toll collector and his response to that call is the text for today. Toll collectors like Levi was were those individuals who paid the Roman authorities in advance for the right to collect tolls. Since they decided the value of the goods being brought in, they could abuse the system and many did. Due to this also because they were seen as colluding with the Romans, they were despised by the people and made targets of scorn and ridicule. The calling of Levi is a revolutionary act on the part of Jesus. When almost everyone else would have seen Levi as a thief and corrupt individual, Jesus was able to see him as a potential disciple. This is an indication not only of the deep insight into  people that Jesus had but also of God’s grace which is given without any merit on the part of the individual. It is a gift and not earned but gifted.

Levi on his part accepts this call. He leaves “everything” for the privilege of following Jesus. Luke’s Gospel alone mentions the word “everything” to stress the total sacrifice that Levi was called to and made. It is an indication that he left his old way of life behind to take on a new kind of life that Jesus was calling him to. He then arose and followed Jesus. The sequence of the actions of Levi is interesting. He gets up and follows, only after giving up.

Levi then gives a feast in his own house to celebrate his call. The scribes and Pharisees complain about the scandal of sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners. By doing so those who sat at table with them were making themselves unclean, but they were also showing social acceptance of a group that was considered as outcasts. Jesus’ response is in and through a proverb and a statement. It is obvious that the services of a physician are required by those who are sick not be those who are well. The mission of Jesus is very clearly directly to those who need him: the sinners. Repentance is not the condition for following Jesus; it is his purpose for coming into the world. He has come in order that sinners might be transformed.

The call which Jesus made to his disciples and here to Levi is startling brief: “Follow me”. This is because his call was a call to a personal commitment to him. It was not a call to a set of values or principles. It was not a call to any kind of philosophy or theology. It was not a call to a particular political programme. It was a call that had as its base and origin Jesus himself. The only reward that one could expect from such a following was that others would be drawn to Jesus because of one’s own commitment and perseverance.

The call is made here to Levi, who was considered as an outcast and one who was beyond the bounds of God’s mercy. This indicates that no one is excluded from the Mission of Jesus. Everyone has a place, all are called. Like Levi it is important to give up the former way of life and then to get up and follow. This requires God’s grace surely, but also human response.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Friday, February 24, 2023 - Homily

 Do you often do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time?

Friday, February 24, 2023 - Do you often do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:1-9;Mt 9:14-15

The question of fasting is raised by the disciples of John the Baptist. They want to know why they and the Pharisees follow the rule of fasting, but the disciples of Jesus do not. Jesus’ first response is that the guests at a wedding do not fast at the wedding. It would be absurd to do so. Since the coming of the kingdom has often been portrayed as a messianic banquet, Matthew seems to want to insist that Jesus is the messianic bridegroom and with his coming the wedding feast has begun. There will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away and that will be the time to fast. The “taking away” of the bridegroom refers to the death of Jesus.

The book of Ecclesiastes points out wisely that “there is a time for everything”. There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. But here is the rub: To know which time is for which. Even as we discern about the times for suitable actions, we must keep in mind that rules and regulations can never be ends in themselves. They are only means to an end. All rules are at the service of humans no matter how good or noble they may be. If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Thursday, February 23, 2023 - Homily

 At the end of today will you consider your life as having been one that has been worthily lived?

Thursday, February 23, 2023 - At the end of today will you consider your life as having been one that has been worthily lived?

To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25

On the day following Ash Wednesday, the church makes explicit through the choice of the readings what the overarching theme of the season will be. It has to do with suffering, the cross and death, which here, is not primarily physical death, but death to self and the ego.

This is seen clearly in the first passion and resurrection prediction in the Gospel of Luke which is part of the text for today. Like in the other two synoptic gospels, the prediction in Luke appears immediately after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Immediately following Peter’s confession Jesus sternly commands the disciples not to tell anyone of this. This is because he does not want to be misunderstood as a glorious and triumphant Messiah or as one who will come conquering, but as a Messiah who will suffer and die. This is because God has ordained it and Jesus will always be obedient to God’s commands.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must be of the same mind. The first saying on discipleship which follows emphasizes not so much the readiness to die for Jesus as much as the courage to persevere in following him. This is why Luke adds the word “daily” after the call to take up the cross. It is in spending oneself for the good of others rather than pursuing one’s own selfish ambitions that true joy, peace and fulfillment can be found. Paradoxically, spending one’s life for others results in gaining one’s life. The final saying of the Gospel of today cuts the ground from under our preoccupation with material and temporary wealth. What will we have gained, even if we acquire all the possessions in the world, but lose ourselves in the process? This saying reminds us that there are dimensions of life vital to fulfillment and happiness that are not satisfied by financial security or material wealth.


The impulse to succeed in a given profession, to acquire material possessions, and to prosper is powerful. In a materialistic culture we are easily seduced by the assumption that security and fulfillment are achieved by means of financial prosperity. We strive for things that do not last and in the process of our striving, are not able to see the beauty that life has to offer. We exist without really having lived. The challenge is to seek for that which brings real fulfillment and not illusory happiness.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 - Homily

 How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?


Lent is a period of repentance. Repentance does not mean being sorry for one’s sins. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell people they must be sorry for their sins, but he keeps calling people to repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, heart and vision. It is a call to look at everything anew. It is a call to leave the negative behind and take on the positive of God’s newness.

The Monday in the First Week of Lent with the call to act rightly because that is how each of us will be judged sets the tone for the meaning of repentance. The week continues with Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray and also the meaning of prayer and perseverance. He exhorts them to interiorize the law rather than merely observe external observances. This means that the action that one performs must always be an action motivated by love. It also means that even if the action is a holy one namely the offering of sacrifice but is not accompanied by love, then it is not a worthy action. Love must always motivate all actions of the Christian.

The Second Week of Lent begins with the invitation to imitate God who is compassionate. God’s compassion is shown in his reaching out to those in need especially the lowly. This is why the disciples cannot strive for places of honour but must only strive to serve. The greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves. This service is to be shown in action in the care and concern that one expresses towards those who live on the margins of society. Indifference to and ignorance of the needs of others is also rejection of them and will lead to condemnation, just as selfishness shown in wanting to keep all t6eh fruits of the vineyard and not give God and others their due. Yet, God who is Prodigal Father keeps making every attempt to get the wayward to come back to him.

In the Third Week of Lent the teachings of Jesus focus on forgiveness not seven times but as often as is needed. This is how Jesus fulfills the law and invites his disciples to do the same. There is only one commandment, namely the commandment to love God by loving neighbour. If love motivates the actions of a person then prayer will be answered.

In the Fourth and Fifth Weeks, the Gospel readings are all from John and bring out various aspects of the personality of Jesus. Jesus is the one who heals and makes whole, he is one who reaches out to Samaritans and outcasts, who condemns no one including those who condemn others. He is from above and though cannot be fully known will keep revealing himself to those who wish to see and encounter him.

In Holy Week leading to Maundy Thursday, we read about the anointing of Jesus is preparation for his death and burial and also the predictions of his betrayal and denial by his own. Though Jesus knows all that is going to happen to him, he goes to his death willingly so that all of humanity might be saved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2022 - Ash Wednesday - How often have you made “means” ends in themselves?

To read the texts click on the texts: Jl 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is derived by counting back 40 days {not including Sundays} from Easter day. Ash Wednesday is so called because of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, which serve as a reminder of the call to repentance and to believe in the good news. The period of Lent is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before taking up the mission he received from his Father at his baptism.

Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves. The focus thus is on the motivation with which one does what one does. If the motivation for doing good is to win the admiration of human beings, then that action is selfish and self-motivated and so does no good at all. If the action is done out of a sense of duty or obligation, it cannot be called pure and is instead diluted. However if one does the action and accepts that the reward is in the performing of the action itself, such an action can be salvific. This is the challenge not only of Ash Wednesday, but of the whole season of Lent, “to give and not to count the cost, to labour and to look for no reward.”

For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love. When there is love then all our actions come from our hearts and spontaneously without counting the cost. Almsgiving becomes generous and spontaneous, prayer becomes union with God and leads to action and fasting is done in order to show our dependence on God and not on earthly things.

Monday 20 February 2023

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - Homily

If you are No one, the you are No. 1

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - The world seems to be saying, “If you are not No. 1, you are NO ONE. Jesus. However, is clear in what he says: If you want to be No. 1, be NO ONE.

 To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 2:1-11; Mk 9:30-37

The text of today contains the second Passion, death and resurrection prediction that Jesus makes on the way to Jerusalem and Jesus’ explanation of his way of life to his disciples after they misunderstand what his kingdom is all about. In this second passion and resurrection prediction, there is a change in the verb from the first where the verb was the passive “be killed” (8,31) to the active “they will kill him” (9,31)

If after the first passion and resurrection prediction it is Peter who misunderstands, here, it is the disciples as a whole that misunderstand because "on the way" they are discussing who the greatest among them is, when Jesus is speaking about service and being the least. Before his teaching on what discipleship means, Jesus sits down thereby assuming the formal position of a teacher. He speaks first of a reversal of positions and status in the kingdom, and then places before them the example of a child. In the oriental world of Jesus' time, the child was a non-person, and so by this example, Jesus derives home the point that they will have to lose their identity, become non-persons if they want to gain entry into the kingdom.

Authority as understood in Christianity can never be for domination but is always for service. Management experts today are advocating more and more the advantages of using authority for service and leading by example. In this manner the leader can get more out of the ones he lead than if he/she tries to dominate.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Monday, February 20, 2023 - Homily

 Is there something that you have been struggling to achieve but have not? Will you pray about it today? 

Monday, February 20, 2023 - Is there something that you have been struggling to achieve but have not? Will you pray about it today?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 1:1-10; Mk 9:14-29

The text of today deals with an exorcism after Jesus has come down from the mountain of transfiguration. It is the only exorcism story in the second half of Mark’s Gospel. The disciples are engaged in attempting to cast out a demon, but are unable to cure the boy and the father of the boy pleads with Jesus for the cure. However, the father's request expresses doubt and lack of faith. Jesus responds to the father's request by first chiding him for his lack of faith. The father responds in what may be words that each of us can connect with, "I believe, help my unbelief." The father of the boy includes himself in the unbelieving generation whom Jesus has chided, but insists that even in his unbelief, he believes. Even this inadequate faith is enough for Jesus to work the miracle. The cure takes place in two stages. After the command to leave the boy and never enter him again, the demon does come out but leaves the boy “like a corpse” (9,26). Jesus then takes the boy by the hand and lifts him up, which seems to be an indirect allusion to the resurrection.

When asked by his disciples why they were not able to cure the boy, Jesus points out to prayer as the instrument that must be used when we need something from God. Prayer is to acknowledge one’s dependence on God.

We sometimes think that we are acting independently and all that we have accomplished is the result of our own efforts, forgetting that God is always in the background guiding our way and lighting our path. If we ask for God’s assistance before we start a task or even become aware of his presence in the midst of our “doing”, what we do will become more efficacious and even effective.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Sunday, February 19, 2023 - Homily


Be an actor not  reactor

Sunday, February 19, 2023 - Will you be an "Actor" and not a Reactor" today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Lev 19:1-2,17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48

Leviticus 19 is considered one of the grand chapters of the Book of Leviticus. A summary of the whole chapter is contained in the injunction in 19:2 which states, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” In order to explicate this standard, an example is given from almost every aspect. The examples are so wide ranging that they may be considered as a summary of the law.

The last of the five injunctions is on holiness in neighbourliness. It goes right to the core of the matter and states that relationship with neighbour determines one’s relationship with God. Even in case of disagreement there must be ‘carefrontation’ rather than hate. This ‘carefrontation’ can even be open and frank. This is because the unity of the whole community is of prime importance.

The Matthean Jesus takes up this theme in the Sermon on the Mount. In the fifth of the six antitheses, Jesus not only affirms the thrust of the Law in opposing unlimited revenge, but also calls for a rejection of the principle of retaliatory violence as well. In the five examples that follow (being struck in the face, being sued in court, being requisitioned into short-term compulsory service, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers) the one point being made is to place the needs of others before one’s own needs. The disciple of Jesus is called to go beyond the call of the Law and do more than it requires.

It is so easy for us to be reactors. If someone does something to hurt us, we think that it is “natural” for us to want to do something to hurt him or her in return. In the text of today, Jesus is calling us to be actors and not reactors and to do what we do because we think it is right and just and not as a reaction to someone else’s action. In the last of the six antitheses Jesus speaks of non-retaliation and love of enemies. While there is no command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. This is the behaviour expected of a true disciple of Jesus. They cannot merely love those who love them, since one does not require to be a disciple to do this. Everyone, even the vilest of people can do this. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of God”.

The command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is similar to the injunction in Leviticus “to be holy” because the Lord id holy. It does not mean to be without faults, but to be undivided in love as God is undivided in love.

The love we have for others is more often than not a conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love. We are willing to do something for someone and expect that they do the same or something else in return. It is a matter of “give”, but also a matter of “take”. When Jesus asks us to be like the heavenly Father, he is calling us to unconditional love. However, he too summarises the Sermon in the final words of today’s Gospel when he asks his hearers to ‘be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect”.

This is why Paul exhorts the Corinthian community to treat their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit dwells in each of us, then it is not possible that we will ignore, be indifferent or hate anyone. Our discipleship and following of Christ has to show itself in the manner in which we treat ourselves and others. When there is unconditional love and acceptance, then it is a sure sign that God dwells in us and is present in our communities.

Friday 17 February 2023

Saturday, February 18, 2023 - Homily

 God always reveals himself as love and mercy

Saturday, February 18, 2023 - If you were on the mountain with Jesus, what would your response to the Transfiguration be? Why?

To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 11:1-7; Mk 9:2-13

The transfiguration is an event, which appears in all the Synoptic Gospels, but each narrates it differently. In Mark, it follows after the instructions that Jesus gives to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi and after six days. The event is a confirmation by God of the fact that Jesus is indeed Messiah, beloved Son. Most think that the reason for the choice of Elijah and Moses is that the Jews considered them as being alive in the presence of God. Jesus is superior even to these figures.

In Mk the order is Elijah and Moses. In Matthew, the order is Moses and Elijah (so Luke) to emphasize the two personalities of the OT who received revelation on Mount Sinai (Ex 19,33-34; 1Kgs 19,9-13) and personify the Law and the prophets. While in Mt Jesus is the New Moses and Luke emphasizes the approaching passion, Mark sees in the transfiguration the glorious manifestation of the hidden Messiah. Briefly the disciples experience the heavenly quality of Jesus. Jesus is no less Messiah when his Messianic glory is hidden in the passion, than he is at the Transfiguration.

Elijah was regarded as the prophet who would come before the Lord (Malachi 3,24-25; 4,5) as his messenger. Jesus’ reply in John suggests that Elijah has indeed come in John the Baptist is an indication that he is the Lord.

There are times in our lives when everything goes according to plan and at those times it is easy to see that God is on our side. However, when we are faced with trials and when things do not work out, as we want them to, then the transfiguration is a reminder to us that even when carrying our cross we are still beloved by God.

Thursday 16 February 2023

Friday, February 17, 2023 - Homily

 Is there a person, a thing, or an event that is preventing you from following your heart unconditionally? What will you do about them today?

Friday, February 17, 2023 - Is there a person, a thing, or an event that is preventing you from following Jesus unconditionally? What will you do about them today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 11:1-9; Mk 8:34-9:1

The sayings that make up the text of today are addressed not merely to the twelve but to the crowds. The denial of self that Jesus calls the crowd to is an absolute requirement if one desires to follow him. The reason for this is that as long as the self remains, following will be half-hearted and incomplete. It will always come in the way of following. This denial thus, is not limited to situations of persecution alone but also to those situations in which personal likes and dislikes will get in the way of the proclamation of the Gospel. The sayings are difficult to put into practice but Jesus never said that following him in Mission would be easy. The final saying in this section in 9,1 speaks about some who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God has come with power. While this reiterates that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated (Mark 1,14-15) is indeed a fact and is indeed near, the referent for the saying has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some see the referent as the event of the Transfiguration Mark 9,2-8), that is the recognition by Peter, James and John that Jesus has received the Father’s approval and all power. Others see it as the Passion especially the event of the tearing of the veil of the temple and Jesus acknowledged as Son of God by the centurion (15,38-39). Still others see it as the Resurrection of Jesus.

Our ego often comes in the way of our discipleship. Too much importance to the self leaves one unable to follow, as one ought to.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Thursday, February 16, 2023 - Homily

 When troubles come your way, do you ask God to remove them or do you pray for the grace to face them squarely?

Thursday, February 16, 2023 - When troubles come your way, do you ask God to remove them or do you pray for the strength to face them squarely?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 9:1-13; Mk 8:27-33

The story that forms part of our text for today (8,27-30) is titled by many as “Peter’s Confession”. The place where Jesus asks his disciples questions about his identity is termed by Mark as “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” which Matthew corrects to “the region of Caesarea Philippi” (Mt 16,13). The first question of Jesus concerns the opinion of people or the common opinion. The views expressed are already in 6,14-16, namely: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. This obviously is an inadequate description of who Jesus really is, and this is why the disciples as a group are asked about Jesus’ identity. Peter replies on behalf of the group that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. In Mark, we come across yet again the command to silence after this confession, and concerns not making known that Jesus is the Messiah. The reason for this seems to be that since the confession is made before the passion, it will not have taken into account that aspect of the life of Jesus. This is why immediately after the command to silence Mark has the first of three passion and resurrection predictions (8,31). For the first time Mark informs us that Jesus “said all this quite openly” (8,32). On hearing Jesus speak about his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter who had earlier confessed that Jesus was Messiah begins to rebuke Jesus. The meaning is that Peter thinks that Jesus is insane and needs to be exorcised of the demon that has possessed him. Jesus in turn calls Peter, Satan. This is because in his confession, Peter had not included the suffering and death of the Messiah. Jesus will remain obedient to God even if it means laying down his life in total surrender and no one can come in the way of that obedience.

It is not easy for us to accept that suffering is a part of life itself and that there will be times when we are tested and tried. However, as Christians we must also note that suffering can never be the end and that since God wants only what is good for us we are loved unconditionally even in our suffering.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 - Homily

 God bigger than anything we can ever imagine

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 - Have you seen and met the Risen Lord? If no, what is preventing you from doing so?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 8:6-13,20-22; Mk 8:22-26

The miracle story that is our text for today is the second of the two miracle stories in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The first was in 7,31-37 in which Jesus cures a deaf man with an impediment in his speech. By placing this miracle immediately after Jesus poignant question to his disciples about their lack of understanding (8,21) and just before Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Christ (8,27-30), Mark probably intends to hint to the reader that the disciples too wall understand. Their blindness will also be healed. The healing takes place in two stages to probably correspond with the two answers to the questions of Jesus (8,27-30) about his identity. The first is the response of the people who say that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets (8,28) and this seems to correspond to the first stage in which the blind man can see people but who like trees walking (8,24). The second is the response of Peter on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ (8,30) which seems to correspond to the stage where the blind man can see everything clearly (8,25). At the end of this episode, Mark leaves his readers with the question of whether the disciples like the blind man will also be able see.

Some of us have a tendency to pigeon hole God and put him in a compartment. This leads to seeing him merely as one who fixes things for us or one to whom we go only in need. We might fail to see that he is always there and is much bigger than anything we can ever imagine.

Monday 13 February 2023

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 - Homily

 Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 - What is the leaven (influence) that is affecting your vision of who Jesus really is? Will you cleanse your heart to see rightly today?

To read the texts click o the texts: Gen 6:5-8;7:1-5,10; Mk 8:14-21

The text of today contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and ends the long sequence, which began with Jesus teaching the crowds from a boat (Mark 4,1-8). This is the third of the three incidents at sea in which the disciples seem to be at sea in their attempt to discover who Jesus really. The first was in Mark 4,35-41 when Jesus calms the storm so that the disciples have to ask, “Who then is this?” the second in Mark 6,45-51 when Jesus comes walking on the water and Mark comments that “the disciples were utterly astounded for they had not understood about the loaves for they did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6,51-52) and here in the third incident in this section they also fail to understand. (Mark 8,21).

The disciples think that Jesus is rebuking them because they had forgotten to carry food, when in fact he is rebuking them for their hardness of heart. When Jesus questions the disciples about the feeding miracles, the focus of his questions are not on the number of people who were fed (this would be asked to indicate the magnanimity and abundance of the miracle) neither are they on the smallness of their resources (which would indicate the stupendous power of Jesus) but on the breaking and gathering. The disciples know the answers, but are not able to perceive that Jesus is able to provide anything his disciples’ need. They are taken up with his power, but do not really understand.

Like the disciples we tend sometimes to focus on things that are not really necessary and so lose sight of the bigger picture. We can get caught up in details and so not see the whole. We might have a narrow view of the world and so lose sight of the fact that we can find God in all things and all things in him.

Sunday 12 February 2023

Monday, February 13, 2023 - Homily

 What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you continue to believe even without this sign?

Monday, February 13, 2023 - What sign are you seeking from the Lord? Will you continue to believe even without this sign?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 4:1-15, 25; Mk 8:11-13

The text of today appears immediately after the second feeding miracle in the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus has fed 4000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. The Pharisees demand a sign. The sign they demand is some form of divine authentication. Jesus’ response is to sigh deeply in his spirit, which could be akin to throwing one’s hands up in despair. He refuses to perform a sign. This refusal on the part of Jesus could be interpreted as a sign of Jesus’ rejection of “this generation”. Mark portrays Jesus here as a prophet announcing God’s judgement against this generation.

There are times in our lives when everything seems to go awry. Nothing seems to be going right. At times like these we might keep asking God to give us some sign that he is on our side and cares for us and we might not receive it. It is possible that this might lead us to lose faith and to stop believing. We need to have the courage to believe even without any signs. This is what true faith means.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Sunday, February 12, 2023 - Homily

 Focus on love not on sin

Sunday, February 12, 2023 - Will you interiorise all that you do today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 15:15-20; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37

While the commandments in the Old Testament are ten in number, these are summarised by Jesus into two which actually is one. This commandment is to love neighbour and in neighbour, one loves God. When Jesus speaks in the Gospel text of today as having come to fulfil the law, he means that he has come to take the law to a higher level which is the level of interiorization. This is to state that one follows the law not out of compulsion or fear, but from the heart. This means that Jesus will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action.

The next verses are about how the righteousness of the disciples of Jesus must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. In the six antitheses (5:21-48) that follow.

Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. The first of the six (5:21-26) is about the Law’s prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:13; Deut 5:18). After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (5:22). The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realise that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (5:23-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward.

In the second (5:27-30) Jesus reaffirms the prohibition against adultery (Exodus 20:14), but goes beyond i.e. to the intention of the heart. In the third (5:31-32) which is related to divorce, Jesus simply prohibits it.

The fourth of the six antitheses is completely a Matthean composition. There is no precedence for the absolute prohibition of oaths in Judaism. Rather, an oath invoked God to guarantee the truth of what was being sworn or promised, or to punish the one taking the oath if he was not faithful to his word. The Matthean Jesus here rules out oaths completely. He rejects not only false and unnecessary oaths, but also any attempt to bolster one’s statement claim to truth beyond the bare statement of it. It is a demand for truthfulness in everything that one says.

Thus Jesus reiterates and states even more emphatically what Ben Sirach had written centuries before namely that one chooses to obey the commandments of God as a matter of one’s own free choice. To choose obedience is to choose life. God will respect the free choice of every individual.

In order to do this we require wisdom, which is a gift from God. It is God’s Spirit which is given freely which helps us choose always what is right and good.


While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.

There is sometimes in our understanding of Christianity too much emphasis on what constitutes and does not constitute sin, and on how far we can go before we commit sin. The real question we must ask is how far we must go in love.

Friday 10 February 2023

Saturday, February 11, 2023 - Homily

 Has my abundance motivated me to “give” at least a little to someone else? Or do I keep it all to myself?

Saturday, February 11, 2023 - Has my abundance motivated me to “give” at least a little to someone else? Or do I prefer to keep it all to myself?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 3:9-24; Mk 8:1-10

Today’s reading contains the second of the two feeding miracles that are found in Matthew and Mark. It has largely been regarded as a Gentile feeding as opposed to the first feeding miracle (6,35-44), which is considered as a Jewish feeding. One reason for this is that the setting of the previous miracle of the healing of the deaf man with an impediment in his speech was possibly in Gentile territory and it is presumed that the setting for this miracle too is the same. Another reason is that this feeding is the less abundant of the two. While in the first feeding miracle fewer loaves (5) and fish (2) are required to feed more people (5000) and more baskets are gathered after the feeding (12), here more loaves (7) and fish (few) are needed to feed fewer people (400) and lesser baskets are gathered (7). Here too, however, like in the first feeding miracle, the crowds eat and are satisfied. This indicates the abundance of the messianic age and what the coming of Jesus represents.

All that we have is given to us in trust by God and is to be used not selfishly but for the good of others. We can decide to hoard and store for future generations of our nuclear families, or we can decide to share at least a little of what we have with the less fortunate. 

Thursday 9 February 2023

Friday, February 10, 2023 - Homily

 How often have you used your tongue to demean people? Will you attempt to speak only words that enhance today?

Friday, February 10, 2023 - How often have you used your tongue to demean people? Will you attempt to speak only words that enhance today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 3:1-8; Mk 7:31-37

The text of today is a miracle that is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The friends of the man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech bring him to Jesus. This is the first of two miracles in Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. The other is in Mark 8,22-26. The healing occurs immediately and the confirmation of the healing is shown in the man’s beginning to speak. Jesus gives the crowd a command to silence, but it is disobeyed and his reputation keeps spreading. The comment of the crowd indicates that they are becoming aware that with Jesus the messianic age has dawned, since according to Isaiah 35,5-6, healings of the blind, deaf and persons who were disabled were signs that the messianic age had indeed dawned.

We can use our faculties of hearing and speaking to hear selectively and to speak unkind and demeaning words, or we can use them to listen attentively to the world around us and to speak words that are kind and result in building up others.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Thursday, February 9, 2023 - Homily

 When at first you do not succeed, try and try again.

Thursday, January 9, 2023 - When at first you do not succeed, will you try and try again?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 2:18-25; Mk 7:24-30

At the beginning of today’s reading we are told that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. His reputation seems to have preceded him because though he did not want anyone to know that he was there, his presence cannot be kept secret. When the mother of a girl who is possessed by an evil spirit makes a request for healing, Jesus responds that the Jews (children) must first have their fill (Jesus’ reaching out to make whole) and only then can the dogs (Gentiles) be fed. While in Mark the response of Jesus accepts the possibility of a Gentile mission even if after the mission to the Jews. In the parallel text in Matthew (15:24-26), it is clear that Jesus’ mission is exclusively for the Jews and not Gentiles. The woman is not deterred and responds in a manner that bests Jesus’ response. In Mark, the concluding saying of Jesus makes explicit that the daughter of the woman is healed because she has won the argument. She has turned the metaphor to her advantage.

No one has the power to hurt or insult you unless you decide to give the person that power. When someone says something, I need to decide whether I will sulk because I find it insulting or whether I will use what he or she has said to learn something about myself and so use it to my advantage.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Wednesday, February 8, 2023 - Homily

Have you focussed more on your “doing” than on your “being”? Is your “being” good?

Wednesday, February 8, 2023 - Have you focussed more on your “doing” than on your “being”? Is your “being” good?

To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 2:4-9,15-17; Mk 7:14-23

The text of today continues the discussion of the earlier text, which was read yesterday (7,1-13). If the earlier part was a response to Jewish teachers, this part is addressed to the crowds. Jesus asserts that nothing from outside has the power to make one unclean. Instead of being concerned with externals, Jesus challenges those who listen to him to focus on the internal, since uncleanness comes from within. Mark presents this teaching of Jesus as a parable and so there is a need to explain it. In his explanation to the disciples, Jesus makes clear that what goes into a person from outside enters the stomach and not the heart and so cannot defile. It is what comes from within, that is from the heart that defiles and makes unclean.

Sin comes from within. While external circumstances do have an effect on us and influence us, we cannot put the blame for our actions on these. The actions that we perform are ours and we must accept responsibility for them.

Monday 6 February 2023

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 - Homily

 Will you by a kind word make at at least one person better today?

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 - Is your “worship” lip service or heart service?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 1:20-2:4; Mk 7:1-13

In the text of today, the Pharisees and the Scribes see that the disciples of Jesus eat with unwashed hands, and so ask Jesus a question concerning what they consider as defilement. In his response to them, Jesus takes the discussion to a higher plane, by focussing not merely on what defiles or does not defile a person, but on true worship, which stems from the heart. The quotation from Isaiah 29,13 is an apt description of the sham worship offered, when God wanted heart worship. To illustrate his point, Jesus gives the example of Corban, in which the Pharisees’ would dedicate, something to God, and so not allow anyone else including their parents to use it, but would use it themselves. In case others wanted to use it, their answer would be that they could not allow them to do so since it was “Corban” (dedicated to God) and so belonged to God alone.

There are times when we find way and means to get out of fulfilling our obligations to others. We come up with flimsy excuses when we cannot keep a commitment, and try to absolve ourselves of our responsibility. At these times we too can be accused of lip service.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Monday, February 6, 2023 - Homily

 Will you speak a kind word or perform an enhancing action today?

Monday, February 6, 2023 - Will you like Jesus make at least one person whole today?

 To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 1:1-19; Mk 6:53-56

The text of today is a summary statement of the activities of Jesus, but deals only with his healing activity. Numerous people sensing that Jesus was able to make them whole came to him from every part of village, city or country. All of them were healed. Through this Mark brings out both the need of the people for healing and the willingness and ability of Jesus to make people whole.

A kind word or an enhancing action on our part is enough to boost the spirit of people. Sometimes a short visit to someone who is sick or in pain, a positive word of encouragement to someone who has experienced failure or a word of praise to someone who has done well and succeeded will do wonders in helping these to become whole and glory in their selfhood.

Saturday 4 February 2023

Sunday, February 5, 2023 - Homily

 How will you as a disciple of Jesus be SALT and LIGHT to those around you?

Sunday, February 5, 2023 - How will you as a disciple of Jesus be SALT and LIGHT to those around you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 58:7-10; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

Besides making foods delicious, it is believed that there are more than 14,000 uses of salt. Many of these uses were for simple things around the home before the advent of modern chemicals and cleaners. However, many uses are still valid today and a lot cheaper than using more sophisticated products.

What could Jesus have meant when he used the metaphor of salt and invited his disciples to be the salt of the earth? It must first be noted that this identification is unparalleled in contemporary literature and that salt is never identified with people anywhere in the Old Testament. At the time of Jesus, salt was used as a preservative, in sacrifices, in food to add taste and to purify. Jesus does not refer to any specific function of salt and so some have interpreted this metaphor as a call to the disciples to be preservatives of all that is good and not allow it to decay, to be an example of purity since offerings were offered with salt and also to add flavour or taste to the world and make it palatable for others or in other words to give meaning to life.

This last use is brought out well in a story that is told of a merchant who had several daughters. One day he asked them: “How much do you love me?” They all said various poetic and abstract things, but the youngest replied: “I love you like salt loves food.” This seemingly silly and disrespectful answer angered the merchant who expelled her from the house to wander as a beggar. In time the young woman became married to a very wealthy and influential man. When many years had passed it happened that her father was invited to her house. She directed the cook to prepare all the food without salt. As they were eating the merchant began to weep violently. “I had a daughter who told me she loved me as salt loves food. Now I realize that she loved me most of all!” Those who suffer from high blood pressure and are advised by doctors to avoid salt in their food will know how the merchant will have felt.

However, from the context and the following sayings about salt losing its saltiness, it seems that Jesus is saying something more fundamental than that. Jesus, in using the salt-metaphor to describe his followers, is suggesting that just as salt has a certain intrinsic property--its saltiness--without which it would be of no value, Christians also have certain intrinsic characteristics that are definitive, and without which they would cease to be “Christian.”

Anyone who is asked what salt tastes like will almost certainly say, “Salty.” There seems to be no other way to describe it. The saltiness of salt is its definitive property. Although it has other properties--white, granular--these are not definitive. Saltiness, on the other hand, is so very definitive of salt that we would have trouble even imagining “unsalty salt”. Salt without its definitive property would be of no value. Salt is defined by, and valued for, its saltiness. Christians, as salt must be salty or Christians as Christians must be Christian and the only example that we need to explain what this means is the person of Jesus Christ. There must be something about us as Christians, something shared by all believers and followers of Jesus, which is definitive. There must be something that marks us, sets us apart not in the sense of being parochial or exclusive, but in the sense of being an example to others so that others will want to know what makes us tick. A Christian without these special characteristics would simply not be “Christian.” The challenge is not to become what we are not already, but to show forth what we are, what God has already made us. This is not something that we can muster up, not something that comes with training, with effort, with learning, with erudition (though these are all helpful), but something that is a natural concomitant of what we have received: our new being in Christ. We will not need to proclaim in words our saltiness but it will have to be experienced by others, just as no one tells the chef after a good meal that there was great salt used in the meal. Salt brings out the flavour and the food gets noticed.

Jesus also challenges his disciples to be “the light of the world”. This metaphor seems to be used here as an expression of the saving presence of God. Disciples of Jesus must radiate through their loving and healing actions this saving presence. This is further explained by the two sayings on the city on the hill top which is visible to all and the lamp on the lamp stand.  Just as these cannot be hidden from view, so also the disciples must be visible. They must not try to hide the light which God has lit in their lives. The martyred German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, criticizing the Church for cowering under Nazism, once wrote, “Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call.  A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.” This visibility according to Isaiah is not shown in private acts of devotion like fasting, but through an integration of personal devotion and social action. His action is expressed in the tangible manner of sharing bread with the hungry; sheltering the homeless poor and clothing the naked. This kind of a “doer” of good deeds is according to the psalmist the one who is a light in the darkness.

The crucified Christ is according to Paul, the best example of this light. To be a light is to follow this God, struggling to bring about social justice in our society, to safeguard human rights and to work for peace and reconciliation. Our witness must consist of both deeds and words that point to God the Father and bring glory to him. What a privilege we have to be the agents of evoking praise to our Father in heaven!