Monday 22 April 2024

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 - Do you believe that God always wants what is best for you? How will you respond if things do not go the way you wish them to go today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 11:19-26; Jn10:22-30

The verses that begin today’s reading inform us that Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication which was celebrated in December each year. This feast is the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. It celebrated the liberation of Jerusalem from the reign of the Syrian (Seleucid) king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus had defiled the Jerusalem Temple in 167 BCE by building an altar to his own gods within the Temple sanctuary.  In 165 BCE, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers regained control of the Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The eight-day feast took place in the month December and was marked by the lighting of lamps and rejoicing.

The Jewish religious authorities begin the dialogue by asking Jesus whether he is the Messiah. They are annoyed that Jesus is not being explicit. This is the only place in the Gospel of John where Jesus is asked explicitly whether he is the Messiah. Jesus responds that he has been explicit and that he has told them, in no uncertain terms, the truth about himself and yet, they do not believe. Jesus then points to his ‘works” as indicators of this claim. “Works” here does not refer to miracles alone, but to the broader scope of Jesus’ ministry and includes the revelation of himself as having been sent by God.

Belief in Jesus determines whether one belongs to the fold of Jesus. Since the Jewish leaders do not believe, they cannot and do not belong to the fold. Those who belong to the fold hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow trustingly. Following Jesus leads to eternal life which he alone can give. The reason why Jesus can do this is because he has received this gift directly from the Father. What is more is that Jesus and the Father are one. This means that Jesus and God are united in their work of salvation and Jesus shares completely in God’s work.

We are privileged, as Christians, to have as our God one who is Good Shepherd, one whose primary interest and concern is to care for the good of the sheep. Our God is a God who wants to lead us to safety and to places where there is abundance. He wants what is best for us at all times and will do anything to protect us from any kind of harm. Though this is the case, we do not always listen to his voice and we prefer to go our own way. The only result that we can expect, after such a choice, is destruction and death.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Monday, April 22, 2024 - Homily


 

Monday, April 22, 2024 - What is the shepherd calling you to do today? Will you listen to his voice?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 11:1-18; Jn10:1-10

These verses contain part of the Discourse on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This Discourse appears in the Gospel of John after Jesus has healed a blind man on the Sabbath, because of which, the Jews are upset (9:1-41). It is the last full discourse of the public ministry of Jesus. The Farewell Discourse from 14:1-16:33 is exclusively given to the disciples and not to the public. 

The focus in the first part of the Discourse (10:1-5) is on the shepherd and his relation to the flock. A contrast is made between the authorized shepherd and the bandit. The authorized shepherd enters by the gate, but the bandit climbs in another way. The reason for this is because the gate keeper opens the gate for the authorized shepherd but not for the bandit. Since he is the authorized shepherd, the sheep hear and recognize his voice. When he calls, they answer. There is an intimate bond between the shepherd and his sheep. They recognize and know each other. The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and leads them out. The sheep are confident in his leadership and thus, follow him trustingly. They will not follow a stranger but will rather run away from him. The comment of the evangelist serves two purposes. The first is that the reader must understand that Jesus is using a “figure of speech” and thus, not take the metaphor literally. The reader must realize that many meanings are possible and therefore, must go below the surface, to the deeper meaning. The second point is that the listeners did not understand this figure of speech. If seen in the context of the miracle, and the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees objection because the healing took place on the Sabbath, then it seems clear that the authorized shepherd is Jesus and the bandits are the objectors.  Jesus has the good of the sheep at heart and the bandits do not.

In the second part (10:7-16), while pastoral imagery is still used, the Discourse moves in a new direction. Jesus is also the “Gate” for the sheep. The gate has two functions: one is to give access to those who are legitimate and have a right to enter, and the other is to prevent those whose intention is to cause destruction. Rightful entry into the fold is only through Jesus, who is the gate.

The text of today concludes with one of the most beautiful and comprehensive statements of the mission of Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Gate. He has come to give life and give it to the full. All who listen to his voice will receive this life in abundance.

As the gate, Jesus is the way to life, but he is not merely that.  He also leads the way and so, is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the way to life because he is himself life and he leads the way to life because he lays down his own life. These are non-transferable attributes; they derive from the heart of Jesus’ identity as one sent by God.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Sunday, April 21, 2024 - Homily


 

Sunday, April 21, 2024 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday - Live as a united community!

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:8-12; 1 Jn3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18

The fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday and it is easy to see why. In the eight verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus twice describes himself as the Good Shepherd. This clearly indicates that the thrust of these verses is on meaning of this term and also on the relationship of the shepherd and his sheep. Even as he describes himself as the Good Shepherd, he contrasts himself with the hired hand and through this emphasizes the qualities of the Good Shepherd.

Those of us who live in cities or towns may not be able to fully appreciate this allegory. Our experience of sheep leads us to see them as dumb creatures who are good only for their wool and as food on our tables. However, if we go beyond this superficial understanding and attempt to understand instead the deeper meaning then we will be able to appreciate more fully what Jesus means.

The adjective ‘good’ used here can also be read as “model” or “true” and so Jesus is saying that he is the model of true shepherd. This is a reference to the image of God as the good shepherd in the prophet Ezekiel. There God is described as the shepherd who cares for the sheep, rescuing them from danger, feeding them, tending to the weak sheep, healing the wounds of those who are injured and going after those who are lost.

Jesus as the model or true shepherd does all this and more. He even willingly, and of his own accord, lays down his life for his sheep. He does this not to earn a reward, but as an expression of the love that he has for the sheep which is an expression of love for the Father. This is why he in control of even his own death. No one can take his life, because he gives it up freely and without reserve. However, his death is linked inextricably with his resurrection and ascension, and it is through all these three events that he completes his work as good and true shepherd.

In contrast, the hired hand is the bad shepherd or untrue shepherd. This one is concerned only about his own welfare and not the welfare of the sheep. When such a one takes charge, the sheep are scattered and neglected, and go astray.

The good shepherd on the other hand gathers the sheep and keeps them together. He is concerned not only with the sheep that belong to his fold and so is not exclusive. There are other sheep also, who though not of the fold will listen to the shepherd’s voice because they will recognize it as a voice of unconditional love. They will know that their salvation lies in listening to this voice.

Some may find being compared with sheep derogatory. However, if we understand the metaphor for what it is and capture its essence, we will find that this need not be so. The challenge to the sheep is to listen to the voice of the true shepherd and not the hired hand. This means that in a world in which we hear so many voices, to discern the voice of the true shepherd is not easy. The voice of the shepherd calls first to unity. This unity is manifested in community living, in which each is concerned about the other much like the shepherd who is concerned about each and all. It is also manifested in imitating the true shepherd’s qualities of self-giving and self-sacrificing love. Such imitation of the shepherd will draw all sheep into one fold, in which differences in individuals will not be points of contention, but will be celebrated instead. In the fold of the true shepherd there will be a unity even in diversity, because the mission of the true shepherd is an inclusive one.

This is why Peter can invite the rulers of the people and elders whom he addresses in the first reading of today to join this community of love. It is a community that has one head, one true shepherd, Jesus Christ in whose name and through whose power wholeness occurs. Though he was rejected, crucified, died and was buried, he continues to draw all peoples to him through his resurrection and ascension and being present always.

This gift of being drawn to him is, however, only a foretaste of what is to come. In the second reading John tells his community that they are to receive the grace to see God as he is and will always be: unconditional love.

The readings of today therefore call each one of us to live out our lives according to the model of community envisioned here by Jesus. It is a model of mutual self-giving, of self-sacrifice and of living as a community. It is a model where the needs of the other take precedence over my own. It is a model in which differences are not frowned upon but celebrated. It is a model in which there is a profound unity even in diversity. It is a model grounded in the mutuality of love embodied in the relationship of Jesus and God.

 

Friday 19 April 2024

Saturday, April 20, 2024 - Homily


 

Saturday, April 20, 2024 - Will you opt for Jesus today? How will you show this in your actions?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:31-42; Jn6:60-69

The text of today begins with the disciples grumbling after hearing what Jesus has said. The sayings are too difficult for them to accept. Jesus responds to their grumbling by issuing a challenge to them. If this affects them, they will be even more affected when they experience the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. Jesus takes the disciples beyond the specific event of becoming and giving bread.  He takes them to the whole of the Christ event and its mystery.  Jesus, as Bread of Life, must be seen in the larger context of God’s plan of salvation through his Son.

The flesh, as flesh, and without the Spirit, is nothing. It cannot give live, nor does it have life. It is the Spirit that gives life and makes the flesh what it is. This means that simply eating the flesh of Jesus, without the right disposition, will not lead to life. Thus, those who eat and drink are not merely eating Jesus’ flesh and blood but the Spirit filled flesh and blood of Jesus. Even as Jesus offers the gift of life, through becoming bread, the gift is rejected because most prefer death. There are still those who will not believe. They have made their choice. God offers the gift of his Son to all, but not all will accept him. This is why many disciples drew back and no longer went with Jesus. This rejection leads Jesus to turn to the Twelve and ask them about their stand. They must choose whether they will accept or reject the offer of life that God makes in Jesus.

Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve and at least verbally accepts that offer of life. He acknowledges that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that he is the Holy One of God, the one set aside by God.

Life always offers us choices. The choices that we are sometimes faced with might not always be what we desire, but the fact remains that we are free to choose. We can choose to be miserable or to be happy, we can choose to fear or to love, and we can choose to say No or to say Yes. Every choice that we make has its own consequences and we must be prepared to face them since it is we who have made the choice.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Friday, April 19, 2024 - Homily


 

Friday, April 19, 2024 - When someone places a new idea in front of you, is your first reaction one of rejection?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59

The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.

Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.

Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.

The reference to the synagogue in Capernaum is to highlight the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives.

It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Thursday, April 18, 2024 - Homily


 

Thursday, April 18, 2024 - How will you show that you have accepted the gift that God gives in Jesus?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:26-40; Jn6:41-51

The symbol of “bread” is misunderstood by the people. They respond with unbelief. They grumble at Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life and has come down from heaven. They protest that they “know” where Jesus comes from, they are aware of his antecedents. Even as they make such a statement, they are unaware of its error. They “think” they know, but in reality do not know.

Jesus addresses the crowd and asks them to stop their grumbling and then repeats the promise made earlier of resurrection on the last day for the ones who will believe. To reiterate the point that he makes, Jesus appeals to scripture and specifically to the prophets. “And they shall all be taught by God” refers to the initiative that God takes. The emphasis is on God who does the teaching. This means that Jesus’ commission is divinely ordained and not from humans. If the ones who hear realize this, then they will come to Jesus and they will have learnt correctly. This means that, while God does take the initiative, humans are responsible for responding accurately.

Jesus shares a unique relationship with the Father and is the only one who has seen Him. Those who learn have to learn to see the Father in Jesus. They have to learn that it is in Jesus that they have eternal life and that he is indeed the Bread of Life.

By using the distancing “your ancestors”, Jesus makes a contrast between the manna that they ate and the bread of life that he gives. The manna their ancestors consumed could not result in saving them from death, but the bread that Jesus gives results in a person living forever. This is because the bread that Jesus gives is living bread, a life giving bread. The bread that he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. This can mean, on one hand, the incarnation, where the Word became flesh, but on the other, can refer to his death on the cross, when he will give his life for the life of the world.

The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to reveal the Father as God who wanted to save all people. This results in God taking the initiative in the tangible way of sending his son to become flesh for all. Even as God takes the initiative, he leaves humans free to respond to his act of love. Humans always have a choice when it comes to the gifts that God gives. They can accept them or reject them. Acceptance means life, rejection means death. There is no middle way.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - Homily


 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - What is preventing you from receiving the gifts that Jesus gives?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:1-8; Jn6:35-40

Today’s text begins with the last verse that was read yesterday in order to place what follows in context. Jesus has stated that he is the Bread of Life and he invites all who are willing to come to him to be fully satisfied. The words “seeing’ and “believing”, which appear at 6:36 and again at 6:40 form an inclusion. The crowd has seen and yet has not perceived. They have not seen rightly and thus, cannot come to faith. This lack of proper vision is surprising when one realizes that Jesus’ primary purpose is not to hide but to reveal. He will welcome all who come to him. They will not be driven away. The purpose of his coming down from heaven is for the sake of revelation. This is the Father’s will and Jesus will do only what the Father commissions him to do. The Father’s will is inclusive and no one is to be excluded unless they want to exclude themselves. If one sees rightly and thus believes, what is gained is eternal life and resurrection on the last day. This promise combines both the present and the future.

These verses bring out powerfully the balance between divine initiative and human response. God takes the first step and remains open to anyone who is willing to come and receive the gifts that he wants to pour out. However, there will not be any coercion or pressure on the part of God. Those who come to receive from him must come freely and without reservation. The gift is ever available and free.  It is not for a select few but for all.

Monday 15 April 2024

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - Homily


 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - Will you dare to become bread for at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 7:51-8:1; Jn6:30-35

The invitation that Jesus issues to the crowd, to believe in him who was sent by God, results in the crowd asking for a sign. This demand is a clear indication that they have not grasped the meaning of Jesus’ words. They have been fed at the miraculous feeding but were not able to see it for the sign that it was meant to be. The crowd goes further in this demand by looking back at what happened in the desert during the Exodus and how their ancestors were fed. This seems strange, and even absurd, because they have been fed even more abundantly than their ancestors. This also points to how ignorant and even closed the crowd is to the revelation that Jesus continues to make.

Jesus does not remind them that he had already given them bread, but first corrects their misunderstanding. It was not Moses who gave their ancestors bread but his Father. This bread is not merely bread that was given in the past but it continues to be given in the present. It, and not the manna, is the true bread from heaven. It is true bread because it gives life to all who eat it.

Like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman before them, the crowd does not fully understand what Jesus is really offering and so, make a request for this bread. They are convinced that this bread is better than the bread their ancestors ate, but do not understand how or why. Jesus is available to them and yet, they cannot see. He gives the bread once for all and, in doing so, gives the bread always. This is why Jesus can assert that He is the bread of life. This is the first time in the Gospel of John that the “I am’ saying is followed by a predicate nominative “the bread of life”. John’s Gospel often uses this distinctive way of revealing who Jesus is. The symbols that are used by Jesus in these sayings come from human and Near Eastern religious experience. The use of these common, everyday symbols results in conveying to all who will hear that Jesus can satisfy both the base and higher needs of people everywhere. These symbols indicate that the mystery of Jesus cannot be captured by any one symbol and that Jesus cannot be put into a well defined category.

The saying also contains an invitation to come to him and be sated. Though, on the one hand, the invitation refers to a physical eating and drinking and so satisfying human hunger and thirst, on a deeper level, the invitation is to listen to Jesus’ teaching and see in him the revelation of God and so, the fulfillment of all human needs.

Bread is the staple of many people all over the world and is used to represent the basic needs of people. By use of this symbol, Jesus reveals that his mission is to be available to all and for all. He does not belong exclusively to any one group and no group can ever capture him fully. He is available to all who are open to the revelation that he continues to make. The primary form that this revelation will always take is the form of love.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Monday, April 15, 2024 - Homily


 

Monday, April 15, 2024 - Will you express your faith in Jesus through one loving action today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:8-15; Jn 6:22-29

The first three verses of today’s text, which appear immediately after the miracle of walking on the water, serve as transition verses for the dialogue with the people and the discourse on the bread of life that follow. They also serve to bring the crowd, which had eaten at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, back into the story and so, link Jesus’ words that follow with the feeding miracle and the miracle of walking on the water.

Since the crowd has not been privy to the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, they wonder how he got to the other side. Jesus does not answer their question but draws attention to their reason for seeking him. Though they have seen the sign that Jesus gave at the miraculous feeding, they were not able to perceive it because their attention was directed to the earthly and temporary, not to the heavenly and permanent. Even as they seek him for temporary food, Jesus invites them to a higher seeking. He asks them to seek for the food that only he can give, the food that endures forever. Jesus is competent to give this food because the Father himself has approved and set his seal on Jesus. In response to Jesus’ statement to not work for food that perishes, the crowd interprets the word “work” to mean certain actions that they must perform to acquire this food. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by explaining what is meant by “work”. They must believe in Jesus who has been sent by God.

Believing in Jesus does not only mean a verbal profession of faith. In the Gospel of John, the term believing is, most often, used to describe faith that shows itself in action. This is why believing is akin to work. Jesus does not provide merely physical nourishment, but also nourishment of the mind, heart, and spirit. To know and believe in Jesus is to be sated in every aspect of life. It is to never lack or want anything, because all things are provided in him.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Sunday, April 14, 2024 - Homily


 

Sunday, April 14, 2024 - Emmaus is where the Lord meets us

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:14, 22-23; 1 Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35

Doubt and disillusionment, discouragement and despair, dread and fear are emotions that are common to all of us at some point or other in our lives. When we are confronted with the death of a loved one or loss of a job, or a life-threatening illness, we are thrown into a tailspin and our hearts can be filled with anxiety and fear. We think that things will never be right again.

Especially in the middle of the night, things seem at their very worst. We find it hard to hope, and all that we have learned about God’s saving grace is nowhere to be found. If ever we knew how to call upon God, it is now only a distant memory from a better and happier time; and even when we need God the most, we turn our backs on God and walk away.

The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is a story which addresses precisely these negative emotions. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful of the Resurrection appearance stories in the New Testament. The text states that the village is about 60 stadia from Jerusalem, which is about seven miles or a little more than eleven kilometers. Though Luke does not tell us why the two disciples are going there, it seems very likely they are going away from the mission which was to begin in Jerusalem. They had experienced the death of Jesus in Jerusalem and with no hope of the resurrection they were on the verge of giving up and giving in. They are sad and gloomy. They had hoped but now their hopes are dashed. They are puzzled by the resurrection appearance reports. So they started out, the two of them, talking as they went, and going over and over the same ground, as if saying it one more time would change everything. Don’t we all do that? If we have lost something, don’t we keep revisiting the same spot, thinking that if we go there often enough; the lost item will miraculously appear?

Emmaus therefore represents defeat. It is a place to which many of us go in order to escape from the harsh realities of the world. So, apart from a geographical location, Emmaus can also mean a state of mind, a way of proceeding or even an attitude. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that reality is too difficult for us to handle. It is the tendency to run away, because nothing seems to be going the way we expect it to go. We can do this by using defense mechanisms like denial, displacement, regression or repression or sometimes external stimulants like alcohol and drugs. However, as the two disciples experienced, this is where Jesus meets us. He comes to us at those moments when we least expect him. Even in the midst of our despair and negativity, he continues to walk with us and show us the right path.

He does this in two ways. First he opens their minds to understand the scriptures which were fulfilled in their totality not only in the death of Jesus but also and more importantly in his resurrection and ascension, Second, he makes as if to carry on his journey because he does not want to impose himself on them – something which the Lord will never do with anyone (Rev 3:20). But they invite him to stay and eat with them. Though it seems at first glance that they want Jesus to stay with them because “it is toward evening and the day is now far spent”, the real reason for the invitation is the impact of his concern and conversation. He accepts their invitation. Even as he takes bread, blesses and breaks it and gives it to them, they come to knowledge from ignorance, to insight from blindness and to recognition from a blurred vision.

Once this happens, however, Jesus disappears from their sight, since his presence is no longer required. They have understood, they have believed, they are willing to move from despair to hope. This is why immediately they set off to return to Jerusalem and to hope. We too can meet the risen Lord through the Scriptures as read and explained in the celebration of the reality (and not just the ritual) of the Eucharist.

One of the most wonderful things to come out of the resurrection is that we learn this about Jesus: no matter how bad things become for us, no matter where we go to hide ourselves from the bitter reality, even if we lose our faith for a time, he will come to be with us. He will not ask us for explanations. He will simply meet us as we walk, each of us along our own road to Emmaus.

The wonderful truth of this story is that God uses everybody to proclaim his kingdom. Just as he made himself known to the two disciples and then used them to make his resurrection known to the world, so he does with us.

Friday 12 April 2024

Saturday, April 13, 2024 - Homily


 

Saturday, April 13, 2024 - When the road is steep and the going is difficult, will you continue to believe that God walks with you or will you give in to despair?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:1-7; Jn6:16-21

Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who does not narrate the story of Jesus walking on the water. In Matthew (14:22-32), and Mark (6:45-51), like in John, the miracle is narrated immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. John’s account of the miracle is the shortest of the three.

The story begins by portraying the disciples in a boat moving towards Capernaum. The statement that “it was now dark” indicates, on the surface level, the time of the day, but on the deeper level, the absence of Jesus. It is always “dark” for John when Jesus is absent. The rough sea and the strong wind make rowing difficult. Suddenly, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, coming towards them. In the Old Testament, only God has the power to walk on the waters (Job 9:8; Isa 43:2), and so, this act on the part of Jesus, already reveals him as divine. John does not give us the reason why the disciples were terrified. Matthew (14:26) and Mark (6:49) explain the fear of the disciples by saying that they thought they saw a ghost.

As Jesus comes close to the boat, he identifies himself to the disciples with the divine name, “I Am”. This is the name that God gave to Moses when Moses asked God for the name that he must give to the Israelites when asked (Exod 3:14). In addition to identifying himself with the divine name, Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid”. These are words of comfort and consolation and, here also, function to allay the fears of the disciples who are in awe after witnessing a theophany. Even as the disciples want to take Jesus into the boat, they realize that they have reached their destination. The presence of Jesus assures them a safe passage through all the storms.

Thus, the point of the miracle is not so much to stress the miraculous powers of Jesus, but to reveal Jesus as God. The glory of God is revealed in Jesus and here, God is portrayed as a God who is for the disciples and with them in all their struggles and tribulations. He is a God who comes to the disciples’ aid when they need him and allays all their fears.  He is a God who will provide a safe passage for them even in the midst of all the storms they encounter in life.

Life is composed of ups and downs. It is easy to see God’s hand and his working in our lives when everything goes as we plan. However, when the going gets tough and the road is difficult, God seems, to us, to hide himself. It is at times like these when suddenly, without our knowing how, Jesus comes walking on the water towards us, allaying our fears and telling us that HE IS.  He is God with us and for us, God who walks with us and ahead of us. He is God who will never let the storms of our lives overwhelm us. We have only to open our eyes and see, and get rid of the fear that grips us, because we have a God who himself has gone through the storms of life. We have a God who, even in the most difficult moments of his life, continued to believe that the Father was with him. We have a God who has shown us the meaning of trust, confidence, and courage.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Friday, April 12, 2024 - Homily


 

Friday, April 12, 2024 - Will you like Jesus dare to become bread for at least one person today?

To read the texts click on the texts : Acts 5:34-42; Jn 6:1-15

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand ,with five loaves and two fish, after which 12 baskets are gathered, is the only miracle of Jesus that is narrated by all the four Gospels (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17). Yet, there are significant differences in the narrative in the Gospel of John when compared with the Synoptic Gospels. Only in John are we told that the Passover was near at hand and that it was a boy from whom the barley loaves were acquired for the feeding. In John Jesus “gives thanks” over the bread and distributes it to the people himself. This lends a distinctive Eucharistic touch to the miracle. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says the “blessing” and gives the bread to the disciples who distribute it among the people.

When Jesus sees the large crowd, it is he who initiates the miracle by asking Philip the question about the possibility of feeding such a large crowd. This question, however, is asked as a test, which Philip fails. His answer sets limits on what God can do, much like Nicodemus had done. He asserts the impossibility of the situation. Andrew seems not as unbelieving as Philip, yet he, too, thinks that it is impossible to feed so many with the meager ration that is at their disposal.

John does not explain how the miracle occurred, but states succinctly that the crowd was ordered to sit down and, after Jesus had given thanks over the bread, there was enough and more for the five thousand. By stating that Jesus gave the bread to the people himself, John asserts that the gift of food comes from Jesus, who alone is the bread of life.

Jesus’ words in 6:12, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost”, are unique to the Johannine version of the miracle and make an important connection between this story and the manna story of Exodus 16. In Exod 16:19, Moses asked that the people not leave any extra manna around, but the people disobeyed Moses and the leftover manna “bred worms and became foul” (Exod 16:20). Jesus’ words, in 6:12, seem to caution against a repetition of Exodus 16.

The people who are fed respond to the miracle only at a surface level. They are taken up with the sign and base their faith on it. This sign results in their wanting to make Jesus king. However, Jesus will not trust himself to those who base their faith in him only in the signs that he works.

To ask the question - “How did five loaves and two fish suffice to feed five thousand people? - would be to miss the point. The “how” question cannot be answered, because none of the evangelists narrate “how” it happened. The concentration seems to be on Jesus as the bread of life, able to sate the hunger of all who come to him. The question to Philip, Andrew’s intervention, Jesus ordering that the people sit down, his “giving thanks” and distributing the bread to the people himself, are all indications that John focuses on the preparation for the miracle more than on the miracle itself. The fact that all five thousand people are satisfied and twelve baskets can be gathered after they have eaten their fill, points to the abundance of the miracle and Jesus’ free gift of bread and himself. God, in Jesus, will satisfy every kind of hunger of the people. The hungry and thirsty need not look elsewhere for bread. They have it in abundance in Jesus.

Many of us are still searching for meaning in life. The hunger that some of us experience is not only a physical hunger, but a hunger of mind and heart. We keep looking to satisfy this hunger and at times, try to do so by using means that can only satisfy temporarily.  No matter what questions we may have, Jesus continues to be the answer.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024 - Homily


 

Thursday, April 11, 2024 - Have others been drawn to Jesus by the witness of your life?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27-33; Jn 3:31-36

These verses contain what some think is John’s final witness to Jesus. Others see them as the words of Jesus or the Evangelist. If the words are regarded as that of John, then the “one from above” refers to Jesus and “the one from the earth”, to John. If they are interpreted as the words of Jesus, then the same refer to Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In either case, it is clear that Jesus is the one from above. The testimony of both John and Jesus was rejected by some to whom it was made. To accept the testimony of John and Jesus is to trust God, since it is God himself who sent both. While John was sent to bear witness to the light, Jesus was the light to whom John bore witness. Jesus, having been sent by the Father, speaks what he has been commanded to by the Father. He has received the gift of the Spirit and so is able to gift the Spirit to others. The relationship between the Father and the Son is one of unconditional love. This love results in the Father handing over all things to the Son. Thus, to believe in the Son means to have life, to reject the Son means to call death on oneself.

Whether we regard the words as those of Jesus or of John, what is striking is that each witnesses to the one he has been called to witness to.  John was called to witness to Jesus, and he does this perfectly. Jesus was called to witness to the Father, and he does this like no one before him could ever do. The lives of both John and Jesus resulted in many being drawn to Jesus and to his Father.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 - Homily


 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 - How will you show that you have opted for light over darkness?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:17-26; Jn 3:16-21

The first verse of today’s text is one of the most well known verses in the entire Bible. It speaks of the unconditional love of God which was made visible and tangible in sending his Son into the world. This was a free gift of God which was accepted by some but rejected by others. The sending of the Son was so that all may have eternal life. The primary purpose of sending the Son was not to condemn, but to save. Yet, every person is free to decide whether he/she wants this free gift. Acceptance of the gift of the Son of God results in salvation, rejection means that one condemns oneself.

Though the light has come, and people should normally have opted for it, some preferred the dark. The reason why they did is because they did not want either their deeds or their person to be exposed. Fear ruled their hearts. Those who opted for the light opted for freedom and love.

It is unthinkable that God would choose the manner of salvation that he did when he sent his Son to save. God could have, like he did in the past, sent yet another messenger or even a message. Yet, he opted for the most extreme of measures when he sent a part of himself. It is even more stunning that this son was sent, not to judge, but to draw people to God through love and forgiveness. The primary task of Jesus, as his name suggests, was to be salvation to all. The all inclusive nature of this salvation, and its availability to the whole human race, is something that is possible only for God.

Monday 8 April 2024

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 - Homily

 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024 - Have you been tempted to give up or give in when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you see in the cross you are carrying your own exaltation?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:32-37; Jn 3:7-15

The text of today repeats the last two verses of yesterday in order to situate the question that Nicodemus asks in the following verse. To Jesus’ statement that it is necessary for a person to be born of water and the spirit, or from above, and that this birth, like the wind/spirit is a mystery that cannot be fully grasped, Nicodemus responds with amazement. His question once again begins with “How”. This indicates the limits that Nicodemus sets even before any revelation can be made to him. This is the last time that Nicodemus will speak. He begins with “How” and ends with “How”. He does not seem to have been able to go to the deeper meaning and mystery to which Jesus was taking him. Though he is a teacher himself, he has refused to learn and so, cannot understand.

Through the monologue that follows, Jesus renews the offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension. The “we” of Jesus, in the Gospel context, stands for Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples of John, who followed Jesus and witnessed to him. These witnesses speak from their own experience; what they know, they say. If Nicodemus is not able to understand the simple things, like being born from above and with water and the spirit, how will he able to understand even greater mysteries than this? Jesus alone has the authority to make the revelation of heavenly things since he has come from heaven. He has the power on earth to reveal things of heaven. In 3:14, for the first time, we come across what may be regarded as a passion, resurrection, and ascension prediction in the Gospel of John. Jesus will be lifted up/exalted, just as Moses lifted up/exalted the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The word “hupsoo’ can mean “lift up” or exalt”. Thus, while the word might indicate the physical act of “lifting up” the cross beam at the time of his crucifixion, it can also mean his “exaltation”. Thus, in his crucifixion, Jesus will also be exalted, yet there is no exaltation apart from the crucifixion. The consequence of believing in Jesus lifted up/exalted is eternal life, which here means a life lived in the constant presence of God.

It is significant that for the Gospel of John, the very act of the crucifixion is also seen as the act of the resurrection and ascension. Jesus dies, but only to be raised to life and ascend to the Father. This insight is extremely important for our lives as well, because it means that, if we accept it, our lives will never be the same again.

It says to us that, even when we are in extremely difficult situations and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, God continues to be there with us. It says to us that, at moments when we think all is lost and we have no hope, we must not give up or give in. It says to us that, even at those times when we cannot fully understand why things happen the way they do and we are tempted to throw in the towel, God continues to offer hope and consolation.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Monday, April 8, 2024 - The Annunciation - Homily


 

Monday, April 8, 2024 - The Annunciation

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 7:10-14;8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38

The Annunciation of the Lord is the beginning of Jesus in his human nature. Through his mother and her courageous YES, Jesus became a human being. The point of the Annunciation is to stress that Jesus did not come down from heaven as an “avatar” but rather that in every sense of the word; he was totally and completely human. Another related point is that God “needs” the co-operation of human beings to complete the plans God has for the world. One of the most beautiful examples of co-operating with God is that of Mary and her unconditional Amen.

The text chosen for the feast is that of the Annunciation as narrated by Luke. It relates the scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given.  It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.

Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history.  Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.

In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.

The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.

Today, many assume that those whom God favours will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favoured one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favoured,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.

When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to everything that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Saviour in our hearts.

Saturday 6 April 2024

Sunday, April 7, 2024 - Homily


 

Saturday, April 6, 2024 - Homily


 

Sunday, April 7, 2024- How will your belief in the Living Lord show in action?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

The verses which make up the Gospel text for today may be seen to be divided into four parts, all of which are interconnected. The first of these is the appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples, and this is followed by his commission to them. The third is the appearance of the Risen Christ to the disciples when Thomas is present.  The final part is the comments made by the evangelist.

The disciples did not believe the word of Mary Magdalene that the Lord had appeared to her and so, they are behind closed doors. However, even closed doors do not pose a hindrance to Jesus. He comes into their midst. His first words to the disciples are his gift of peace. This is not merely a wish, but a gift, since it is with his peace that they will be sent out into the world. This gift enables them to substitute fearlessness for their fear, courage for their cowardice, and joy for their sorrow. The manifestation of his hands and side is to indicate to them that there is continuity. It is not a different Jesus who appears to them, but the same Jesus, who was crucified, died, buried, and raised from the dead. He is now, also, the Risen Christ. This manifestation enables the disciples to see and recognise him. This is the reason for their joy.

However, the manifestation serves another purpose as well, which is to send the disciples on mission. The disciples are sent by Jesus, the Risen Christ, just as Jesus was sent by the Father. In other words, they are to continue the mission that Jesus began.  As he received the gift of the Spirit before his ministry, so too, the disciples receive the gift of the Spirit from Jesus. The breath of Jesus on the disciples makes them a new creation and readies them for their mission that is to forgive and retain sin.

While this has been understood as a basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it seems, from the text, that the mission is much deeper. The Commission is to “the disciples”, which, in the Gospel of John, is a much larger group than the eleven or twelve. It involves the entire faith community. It is the whole community that is called to continue the mission of Jesus. This mission is not merely the forgiveness or retention of sins that individuals commit.  It is more than that.  In the Gospel of John, sin is, more often than not, a theological failing. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus is the manifestation of the Father. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus reveals God as no other does. Thus, when the disciples are commissioned to forgive and retain sin, what they are really commissioned to do is reveal God to the world as Jesus did.  They will reveal God to the world by the love they have for one another, and by the love they show to others. They will make others see that God is, indeed, love. They will, through their actions, invite others to share in this unconditional love. Those to whom this manifestation is made are free to accept or to reject it. It is in this acceptance or rejection that sins are forgiven or retained. Acceptance means forgiveness.  Rejection means that sins are retained.

This interpretation is confirmed when we realise that one reason why Thomas did not believe the disciples when they told him that they had seen the Lord, was because he was not able to see in their words and actions a manifestation of the love of Jesus. They were as they had been before the revelation that Jesus made to them. There did not seem to be any marked change in their behaviour. They were not able to convince him that the Lord had, indeed, appeared to them. However, Jesus will use, for Thomas, that way which will bring him to faith. In this, Thomas is as “doubting” as the disciples and no more so. Thus, in this scene, the focus of attention is not Thomas, but Jesus. The focus is on the generous offer of himself that Jesus makes to Thomas, an offer that Jesus made to so many others, so often in his life time. After his resurrection, Jesus continues to give. Thomas responds with the most powerful, complete and the highest acclamation for Jesus found in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus is, indeed, Lord and God. The words of Jesus to Thomas after the acclamation include future generations of believers. It is not necessary to have external sight to come to faith. It is not necessary to touch and to feel to come to faith. It is not necessary to have tangible evidence to come to faith. We, who believe without having seen, are invited, like Thomas and the other disciples, not merely to believe in the resurrection, but to believe in the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God.  We are invited to believe in his unique relationship with God. We now have life in abundance because Jesus has completed his work on earth and returned to the Father.

He is, as the second reading of today informs us, the one who has been raised by the father. He who was dead is alive forever and it is he who holds the keys of the kingdom. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the first disciples the power to heal and make whole. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to reach out in love.  It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to make him manifest in their every word and action so that others will be brought to believe.

It is the same Lord who gives us this power today. What will we do with it?

 

 

 

Friday 5 April 2024

Saturday, April 6, 2024 - Will you communicate Jesus’ healing touch to someone like he has communicated it to you?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:13-21; Mk16:9-15

Most scholars today regard Mk 16:9-20 as an addition to the original ending of Mark at 16:8. A number of reasons are put forward for this view. The first is that Mary Magdalene is introduced in 16:9 as if she is being mentioned for the first time.  However, Mark has mentioned her before (15:47; 16:1). Second, there is no mention of a Galilean apparition in these verses, though one is explicitly promised in 16:7. Third, these verses are a combination, in summary form, of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus in the other Synoptic Gospels, in John, and in the Acts of the Apostles.

The text of today begins by narrating the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene. Her witness is not believed by those to whom she communicates this news. The next to witness the risen Lord are two disciples as they were walking into the country. These, too, were not believed. Jesus then appears to the eleven while they are at table and first, upbraids them for their stubbornness and lack of faith and then, makes them messengers and apostles of the good news to the whole world.

Even in the longer ending, one of the main themes is the lack of faith on the part of the disciples. Because of what they witnessed at the crucifixion, they had given up and felt defeated. They had lost all hope and could not get themselves to believe that God could make all things new. Yet, as he did in his life time, Jesus reaches out to them even in their weakness and fear. Since he was able to accomplish all that God wanted him to even when on the cross, he knew that God could continue to accomplish his will even in his weak and frightened disciples. Thus, while they are made aware of their fear, they are also challenged to go beyond it, confident in the knowledge that Jesus himself would be with them.

Unbelief is the friend of faith; the enemy of faith is fear. However imperfect our faith, and however many times we remain silent when we should testify to the gospel, we can always return to the Lord. None of us can get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by God’s healing presence. Jesus continues to use each of us even in our weakness to be his messengers of the good news that, in him, God loves everyone.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Friday, April 5, 2024 - Homily


 

Friday, April 5, 2024 Do you prefer to sit on the fence or do you take a stand on issues?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:1-12; Jn21:1-14

Most scholars today see Jn 21:1-25 as a later addition to the Gospel of John. It is not clear whether this material was added by the Evangelist or added later by another redactor or editor. It is true that the language of Chapter 21 differs from the rest of John’s Gospel but, it is also true that all existing manuscripts of John contain Chapter 21. The difference in language is explained as being conditioned by the content and not because someone other than the Evangelist wrote it. Yet, some are clear that, because of the ecclesial concerns which are at the forefront in Chapter 21, and which are not the focuses of the Gospel until Chapter 20, it was added later. Others see the ecclesial concerns as essential to the ending of the Gospel and so, regard Chapter 21 as an integral part of the Gospel. Be that as it may, Chapter 21 is now part of the Gospel and so must be interpreted within the framework of the whole Gospel of John.

There are two parts to this post resurrection story. The first deals with the miraculous catch of fish and the second with the recognition of the risen Lord.

The text begins by informing the reader that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples and then goes on to narrate how this revelation took place. The story is thus to be interpreted as an epiphany. Seven disciples are mentioned, of which only three are named. The beloved disciple, who is mentioned later in the narrative, is one of the seven. The activity of fishing on the part of the disciples, even after they had received the commission from the risen Lord in Chapter 20, may be seen as a sign that they had not obeyed the command.  It might be seen as a sign that they had given up and returned to their former way of life or even as an indication of their aimlessness. This means that an appearance of the risen Lord, and even a command from him, is not enough to cause a transformation in one’s outlook to life. One must be willing to take risks and believe.

The response of the other six to Peter’s statement that he is going fishing is to go with him. This indicates a sense of community and oneness. Though they may not be able to fully understand the significance of going fishing at this crucial time, they will collaborate with Peter. They will pull together. However, despite all their efforts, they are not able to achieve anything. Jesus appears unobtrusively when it is light, and asks a question about the catch. They respond that they have caught nothing. They obey Jesus’ command to cast the net on the right side and are successful. The quantity of fish is so great that they struggle to haul in the net.

The second part of the story narrates the recognition of the risen Lord. The miraculous catch seems to be the reason why the beloved disciple is able to recognize that it is the Lord. Here, too, like at the empty tomb (20:8), he is able to recognize through his intuition. Peter responds to this statement with alacrity, though his desire to be clothed and therefore, respectful, restrains him. The other disciples respond soberly.

The enormity of the catch is detailed in the number of fish caught, namely one hundred fifty three. A variety of interpretations have been offered to explain this number. St. Augustine proposed a mathematical way of reading this number which is regarded even today as plausible. His explanation was that the number 153 is obtained when all of the integers from 1 to 17 are added together; this mathematical fact thus suggests the completeness of the number 153. Others regard the number as clearly indicating that the narration of this event is an eyewitness account of what actually happened. This is why the number is not a round number, but 153. Still another interpretation is that 153 was the number of species of fish known to Greek zoologists of that time and thus, it signifies that every kind or species of fish was caught in the net. This symbolizes that no one is excluded. That the net did not break, despite the fact that there were so many fish, is an indication of unity even in diversity. That this seems to be the best explanation is confirmed by the fact that the verb “to haul” used here of Peter’s hauling the net ashore is the same verb used to describe those who come to Jesus from God (6:44).  It is the same verb that is used to describe the salvific effect of Jesus’ death when he will “draw’ (haul) all people to himself (12:32). Thus, the disciples continue the mission of Jesus even when they fish, by drawing all to him.

Since the disciples “know’ it is the Lord they do not ask him his identity. Jesus plays the host and invites them to dine with him.

At least three significant points are made by this text. The first is that there is no guarantee that, just because a person has “seen” and “heard” Jesus, he/she will obey his commands or continue his mission. It is possible that, even after such an experience, one will continue in the old ways.

Second, any mission that is undertaken without the help of the Lord will rarely meet with success as is evident in the disciples’ failure to catch anything, even after all their strenuous efforts. Sometimes, it is the words of a stranger that result in the transformation of a situation. To hear these words, it is important to be as open and receptive as the disciples were though they did not know who that stranger was. If the disciples, instead of listening to what the stranger was saying, had acted arrogantly and with pride, they would never have made the miraculous catch and may never have encountered Jesus.

Third, exclusivity has no place in any mission that has its roots in Jesus’ mission. All are included and all are welcome. Even more, each retains his/her identity and is still very much a part of the whole. There is no need for uniformity in the family of Jesus, but unity is very much a core value.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Thursday, April 4, 2024 - Homily


 

Thursday, April 4, 2024 - Have you received the forgiveness that Jesus proclaimed? How will you preach this forgiveness today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:11-26; Lk24:35-48

These verses contain the appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven and their companions.  Luke’s account has parallels with the accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and John.  Here, too, like in the Emmaus story, the disciples are unable to recognize Jesus. When Jesus appears to them and greets them with a wish of peace, they think they are seeing a ghost and so, are frightened and terrified. Jesus’ response to these emotions is to ask why they are frightened and why doubts must arise.  In order to prove to them that it is indeed he, Jesus shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him. This is to prove that he is not a spirit which has no flesh and bones. Despite this invitation, they continue to doubt. Jesus then asks them for something to eat.  He eats what they give him, in front of them. This gesture results in portraying the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Yet, Luke does not explicitly state that the disciples believed, even after seeing Jesus eat.

Jesus does something more. He explains to them, like he did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the scriptures and the things concerning him that the scriptures had foretold. Scripture could only be fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. After this, he commissions them to be witnesses of this fact and through it, the gift of forgiveness of sins to all nations, which will begin in Jerusalem.

 

Thus, the text which began with the doubt and confusion of the disciples ends with them being made witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  They are witnesses that his death and resurrection have resulted in salvation and forgiveness of sins for all humankind.

 

The points that Luke seems to want to make here are first, that Jesus has indeed been raised, and bodily, and second, that the disciples who will proclaim this fact were eye witnesses to this event.  It was not simply an event that took place beyond history (though the resurrection, as such, is a meta-historical event) but happened in space and in time, was real, and witnessed by the disciples who saw the risen Lord.

 

The hands and feet that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are to be shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 - Are you not able to see God because he does not reveal himself or because you do not open wide your heart?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:1-10; Lk24:13-35

"That very day” – This phrase refers to the immediately preceding scene in which the women who saw the empty tomb return and narrate to the eleven and to all the rest what they had witnessed. The response of those who heard about the empty tomb from the women interpreted it as an “idle tale and they did not believe them” (24:11).

“two of them” – these are not identified, though later we are told that one of them is Cleopas (24:18). Luke could be intending that the reader place him/herself in the position of the ones who are travelling.

“all these things that had happened” – This phrase refers to all that has happened in the passion and death of Jesus.

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” – They are discussing the things that happened to Jesus when Jesus himself approaches them. These verses also make us wonder how and when they will recognize him. While the use of the passive tense “were kept” may indicate that God prevented them from recognizing him, it may also indicate that their closed attitude or their despondency kept them from recognizing Jesus.

“What is this conversation…? And they stood looking sad.” – The question of Jesus takes them by surprise so that they have to stop their walking.

“Cleophas” – now we are given the name of one of the travelers. The fact that Cleopas was not well known in the early Christian community, and is not in any lists of the Twelve, adds credibility to the story.

“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” – the irony is that, whereas the question assumes Jesus is the only one who does not know of these earth-shattering events, he is the only one who does know the meaning of all that has taken place.

“What things?” – Jesus feigns ignorance. This simple question of Jesus leads to a lengthy explanation.

Cleopas summarizes the events of Jesus’ life, leading to his death. The death of Jesus, which was indeed the fulfillment of all hope, is seen by Cleophas as the frustration of their hope. He also narrates the report of the women, and concludes with an emphatic statement, “But him they did not see.”

“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe…” - Jesus brings the irony to an end and reveals himself and the meaning of the resurrection to them. In his explanation, Jesus insists that suffering was a necessary condition for the resurrection.

“He appeared to be going further” – While on the surface, it seems that Jesus did not want to intrude on their plans. On a deeper level, it reinforces the idea that Jesus never forces himself on others. Jesus always leaves the other free. Faith must be a response to God’s constant revelation and grace.

“Stay with us.  So he went in to stay with them” - Jesus accepts the invitation offered by the two disciples.

“took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” – These are the same verbs that are used at the feeding (9:16) and at the last supper (22:19). Jesus the guest becomes the host.

“And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” – At table they saw who the stranger was. Sharing bread with a stranger makes the Lord present.

“and he vanished from their sight” – God cannot be captured only by the external senses. We need to encounter him also in our hearts.

“Did not our hearts burn within us..?” – Any encounter with Jesus cannot leave one untouched.

“And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem...” – The Gospel of Luke begins and ends in Jerusalem, and the journey to Jerusalem dominates the ministry of Jesus. The return journey is narrated very briefly. This could also indicate the urgency of the disciples in wanting to communicate to the others their experience of Jesus. It was an experience that they could not contain in their hearts, but had to share with others.

Only after the two hear of the appearance to Simon do they get a chance to share their own experience. The words “what had happened on the road” signifies the conversation that took place between them and Jesus, in which Jesus opened the scriptures to them.  “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” signifies the meal that Jesus shared with them.

This story of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which is found only in the Gospel of Luke, speaks about the failure of two disciples to recognize their fellow traveler. The moment they recognize the Lord, he disappears from their sight. The story is for the sake of those who will believe without seeing. It tells us that the presence of the Lord can be known in experiences that transcend the events of the resurrection appearances. It tells us that, even in the darkest moments of our lives, when we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair, when we are tempted to give up, the Lord is walking by our side. We have only to “open” our eyes to see. Emmaus is not simply a geographical location. It is a place to which we go to escape from the realities of life when we find them too hard or harsh to bear. This may be an external place (a movie theatre, out of the home, somewhere on the road) or a habit (excessive drinking) or even an internal disposition that we may adopt (giving into frustration, despair, despondency, depression, etc). Emmaus may be a feeling that life is not worth living; that everything is in vain, that it is of no use to anyone whatsoever. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die, that even noble and pure ideals like love, fellowship, and freedom, have been twisted by people for selfish ends. The risen Lord meets us on this, our road to Emmaus, and assures us of his presence. He invites us not to give up or give in. He tells us that we must continue despite all evidence to the contrary, and that we must keep on keeping on. The story also warns us that the Lord will not always come in the manner in which we expect him to come and, that he may come when we least expect him. 

Monday 1 April 2024

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 - Homily


 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 - Have your “tears” come in the way of your encountering the Lord? Will you stop crying today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:36-41; Jn20:11-18

Mary Magdalene had seen the empty tomb and went and told Peter and the beloved disciple about it. They, too, go to the tomb and find it empty. While Peter and the beloved disciple return home (20:1-10), Mary returns to the tomb. Though John does not give any reason why Mary returns to the tomb, he, also, of all the evangelists, tells us that she stood outside the tomb weeping. This detail sets the stage for the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy (16:20, 22). Mary sees the angels who make no pronouncement of the resurrection. In John, the pronouncement of the resurrection and ascension comes only through Jesus. The angels only draw attention to Mary’s present state. Mary’s response to the question of the angels is a plaintive cry for her “lost” Lord.

Immediately after she makes this statement, Jesus himself appears to her but, because of her tears, she cannot recognize him. While Jesus repeats the question of the angels and thus, draws renewed attention to Mary’s present state, he asks a second and more important question: “Whom are you looking for?” This, or a similar question, is asked three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Jesus asks such a question is to the two disciples who follow him (1:38). These are the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John and so, carry added significance. The question here is “What do you seek?” The second time, the question is asked of those who come to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4). The question in all three instances, while courteous, is a deep and penetrating question. It requires the one of whom it is asked to go deep into him/herself to search for the response. The disciples are seeking for the residence of Jesus but encounter the Messiah. Those who come to arrest Jesus are seeking for “Jesus of Nazareth” and so are thrown to the ground.  Mary Magdalene is seeking for the dead Jesus, but finds the risen Lord.

Yet, this recognition of the risen Lord is not easy for Mary to make. While in many instances in Jesus’ life, the metaphors he used were misunderstood, here it is Jesus himself. Mary is so caught up in her own desire for the dead Jesus and for what she wants that she cannot recognize his voice when he asks her two pertinent questions. It is only when Jesus calls her name that she is awakened. Though some spiritualize this scene by stating that Mary recognized Jesus since only he called her in this manner, it is not plausible, since John does not speak of the intonation or inflection in the voice of Jesus. Others interpret this scene as a revelation of Jesus as the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name. The sheep respond to his voice, when he calls to them, as Mary does here. Though this is more plausible, it must also be noted that Mary does not recognize Jesus’ voice before he calls her name, although he has asked two questions of her. It thus seems that the main reason Mary was able to recognize Jesus when her name was called was because, being so caught up in herself, only calling her by name would have awakened her from her stupor. That this seems to be the best explanation is also evident in the response of Mary on hearing her name. After addressing Jesus as “Rabbouni”, which is an endearing term, she wants to cling to Jesus. Though the text does not explicitly state that Mary held on to Jesus, his words indicate that either she was about to do so or had already done so.  Jesus will not allow this.  Mary has to go beyond her selfish interests and get used to the presence of the Lord in a new way. She need not hold onto a memory since Jesus is and continues to be.

Despite this self absorption, Jesus commands Mary to be an apostle, not merely of the resurrection but of the ascension.  For the first time in the Gospel of John, the Father becomes the Father of the disciples also. A new family is created. This means that the disciples and Jesus are related. Jesus is the brother of all disciples and the disciples share the same relationship with God that Jesus shares.

Mary does what Jesus commanded. She has indeed seen the risen Lord. This return makes new life possible for the believing community, because Jesus’ ascent to God renders permanent that which was revealed about God during the incarnation. The love of God, embodied in Jesus, was not of temporary duration, lasting only as long as the incarnation. Rather, the truth of Jesus’ revelation of God receives its final seal in his return to God.

Self pity, uncontrollable grief, and self absorption can all prevent us from encountering Jesus in the challenging situations of life just as they did Mary Magdalene. These emotions take hold of us when we misunderstand the promises of God or, when we do not take them as seriously as we ought. They arise when we give up, even before we begin, or when we prefer to be negative rather than positive about life. It is at times like these that Jesus comes to us, like he came to Mary Magdalene, and asks us to open our eyes and see that he is still with us and alive. He asks us to get used to his presence in all things, in all persons, and in all events. He asks us to be able to see him in the bad times and in the good, in sickness and in health, and in all the days of our lives. We need only open our hearts wide enough to see.