Scripture Reflections

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


August 25, 2010

Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 23:27-32

Hypocrisy: If there is one thing that Jesus cannot stand, it is hypocrisy. Jesus has the strongest words and direct approach in condemning hypocrisy. He doesn’t mind offending the sensibilities and pricking the conscience of people as he hits hard on the hypocritical practices, tendencies and attitudes of the society. The entire chapter 23 in the Gospel of Mathew presents to us Jesus’ deploring of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes.

Hypocrisy is duplicity and deception. Even God finds himself helpless in healing a hypocrite. In this sense, hypocrisy is a sin more dangerous than other mortal sins. The hypocrite lives in a world of deception, he deceives himself and others. He is characterized by a split personality, a fake persona, and a deceptive look. His heart wallows in decay and death. His mind and conscience is enveloped in thick darkness of selfishness and self-righteousness. He is a den of the devil that appears in the garb of an innocent child. Even as his heart is rotting and fuming with evil, he has the most attractive smile and the life-style of a saint. He appears to be the standard bearer of holiness. Jesus uses the image of a whitewashed tomb to depict the hypocrite. A well decorated tomb is a beauty to behold. The expensive stones and carvings, the serene surrounding of green grass carpets… indeed, a tomb well kept and decorated is pleasing to the eyes. Yet, the externals of the tomb are just cover-ups of the rotting flesh, the decaying bones and the frightening darkness that lies within. Such is the case with the hypocrite: He is a walking tomb—a glittering, shining, adorable personality outside, and a decaying, rotting, dark personality within. He lives in the tomb of his own creation.

Healing not possible: Perfection is his clarion call. He is perfect, and the whole world is imperfect for him. He is impatient with the imperfections of others even as he is happy with the deceptive self. He does not need reform. Grace of God has no place in him. God can work in us if only we admit our sinfulness and beg for His mercy. Hypocrisy is the highest form of sin, because, it is a sin upon sin. On the one hand, a hypocrite indulges in all forms of sin such as envy, hatred, lust, pride, deception, self-gratification, selfishness, corruption and so on, on the other hand he does not feel he is sinful, he covers up his evil, and puts on a garb of holiness before others and God. If you feel you are perfect, the light of Christ cannot penetrate your heart. The forgiving grace cannot come into your life. This is why Jesus cannot stand hypocrisy in any form.

So today, let me stand bare before God, allow him to search out my heart—my inner feelings, thoughts, fears, anxieties, corruption and self-righteous mentality. Let me open wide the door of my heart, mind and life and admit my sinfulness, weaknesses and imperfections. Let the grace of Christ melt away the duplicity and deception within me, let His light shine upon my being that I may be made whole and clean. Let my steps lead me to the sacrament of reconciliation today that I may be healed of my hypocrisy of words, attitudes and dealings.


August 24, 2010
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

John 1:45-51

Nathanael was an impressive person. Andrew found him impressive and brought him to Jesus. Jesus found him impressive, even much before he came to Him, and offered him the vision of great things. Jesus was impressed with this rare quality of Nathanael: his innocence, non-duplicity and truthfulness. In the course of events, Nathanael became a changed person. He was now fully impressed with Jesus. He committed his life for Him. From a casual visit to his friend Andrew, Nathanael was led through an unimpressive story about Jesus, to the presence and gaze of Jesus, to the gift of discipleship.

Andrew became the vocation promoter of Nathanael. He employed two tactics in bringing Nathanael to Jesus: Reason and experience. Nathanael took his religion seriously. He knew the scriptures, and cared for the study of scripture. So Andrew opens before him a theological discussion. Since the time Jesus called him, Andrew moved with Jesus, stayed with Him and learned from Him. He was convinced that Jesus is the Messiah whom Israel awaited. Andrew shared with Nathanael this conviction he had, and corroborated it with the strength of scriptural references. Yet, Nathanael is not convinced. Probably he knew the scriptures much better than Andrew. So he stumps Andrew with the question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Andrew stopped the argumentation. He now used the second tactic: Have a personal experience of Jesus—“Come, and see”. Nathanael accepted this call. He went and saw. But he was surprised to realize that even before he had “come” and “seen” Jesus, the Lord has had already “seen” him! Jesus has seen his past and present. He also reveals to him his future—that Jesus and Nathanael will have the same destiny! Nathanael complimented the vision of Jesus with His commitment to follow Jesus and make His vision true.

We are the apostles of Christ today. Like Andrew, we need to invite people—beginning with those of our friends, relatives and family members—to Jesus. Is it not our experience that we find it difficult to convince them to come to the Lord—to the church, to the daily/Sunday mass and to other sacraments? If you have tried all your catechism and failed to convince people to come to Jesus, try the second tactic of Andrew. Just tell them, “come and see”. We only need to invite them to the Lord. Once they are in His presence, they will be “impressed” by the Lord. He will change them and make them his inner circle of disciples.

As an apostle of Christ, do I take the mission of inviting people to Jesus?
How far does the comment of Jesus “A true child of God, in whom there is no duplicity” apply to me?
When was the last time I realized the gaze of Jesus in my life?

Monday, August 23, 2010


August 22, 2010

Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7.11-13; Luke 13:22-30

“Enter through the narrow door.” (Luke13:6)

'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines the ones whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he accepts’. (Heb 12:11)

The narrow door: In Bethlehem, one experience that the pilgrims cannot forget is entering the grotto of the nativity. The door way of the grotto leading to the spot where the birth of the Savior took place is so low and narrow that you cannot get in unless you bend and stoop down as you pass through the door. Once you are inside, you come face to face with the unimaginable grace of God in witnessing the spot where incarnation took place. The door of the grotto was designed in order to prevent unwanted elements entering the grotto. It reminds us of the call of Jesus, “enter through the narrow door”, “wide is the door that leads to destruction.” In and by His incarnation, Jesus made an opening in heaven, and now we are invited to enter life through the door Jesus opened for us.

Jesus, the door: The door of heaven is Jesus Himself. He said, “I am the gate of the sheep. My sheep come in and go out through me”. This is why we believe that apart from Christ there is no salvation. No amount of struggle, knowledge, spiritual practices and self-chastising would find us in heaven, unless we walk “the way” of Christ and enter through the door of Christ. Through the door of Christ has come upon us grace and mercy.

The cross of Cross of Christ is the way that connects heaven and earth. Everyone who walks this path will enter the sanctuary of heaven. Indeed, it needs a stooping down and walking on our knees.

Discipline is the way: The narrow gate Jesus refers to is a disciplined way of life. In the second reading, in the letter to the Hebrews, we are reminded lead a life of discipline. To walk through the gate of heaven requires a rigorous life of discipline. Discipline accomplishes two things for us: it refines us and makes us strong. The strength of a person is not in the muscle power, but in the will power. Indeed, what distinguishes us humans from the rest of creation is the will-power we possess.

The difference between a disciplined and undisciplined person is that the former is refined while the latter is wild. An undisciplined person lives by impulses, inclinations and passions. His life is shaped by emotions and feelings. A disciplined person lives by the strength of the spirit, his will power and the dictates of his conscience. Discipline brings in character and long life.

Shake up and shape up: Discipline involves a painful process of self-restraint and shaping up. Putting pressure on the body mind and soul, discipline brings about restrictions and demands sacrifices. Yet, in the light of the greater goals it can achieve, namely in refining and strengthening my life, discipline becomes not a cause of pain but of joy. Discipline shapes me up to enter through the narrow door. It strengthens my weak knees and drooping hands. I fall on my knees and fold my hands before the Lord constantly. “Be strong to stand the trials”, the scripture invites us today.

Imposed discipline: The society imposes discipline on us because that we may be refined and made perfect. The more a parent loves his/her child the more he/she will discipline the child. From the first moments of our birth, with the very first act of life after birth, the cry of the baby, we begin this process of discipline that will last until we enter the gates of heaven. Everyone is happy when they hear the first cry of the baby, for it indicates life. Whatever goal one may set for his/her life, it demands from him a long process of discipline. An athlete would need to control his diet, put pressure on his body and have a rigorous life-style. For us on the way to the gates of heaven, we need also a spiritual life of discipline.

Spiritual exercises: The Lord Jesus, through the Church offers us a program of constant exercises to shape up our spirit. The daily reading of the scriptures, the liturgy of the hours, the regular attendance to the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments, daily devotions, acts of charity and fidelity to the state of life are programs that discipline us. Another way of discipline is given to us in the form of the Ten Commandments. Therein we are demanded of restricting the natural tendencies of our body and mind, and controlling our self-indulgences into the attractions of our senses and the lure of the world.

Trials as discipline: Yet another form of spiritual discipline is that of trials. God allows us trials, difficulties, pains, agonies, temptations and distractions in life because He wants us to be strong. We are often being tested by fire. As gold is tested in fire, so are we purified and refined in trials of life. Trials are not to destroy us. It is comforting to think that trials are signs of God’s love and grace for us. The more we are being loved by God, the more He will purify us that we may become like Him. So, if right now you are in pain or trial, know that you are in grace, in the intimacy of the love of God. Fold your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees… the Lord is leading you through the narrow door!

Thought Capsule:
“The path to paradise is through the cross” –St Rose of Lima.


August 21, 2010
Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 23: 1-12

A priest once narrated his experience of how people in his community were competing to honor him. One organization in his parish addressed him as “reverend father”, another one would try to be closer to him and called him “very reverend father”, yet another one would out do them and call him “most reverend father”, and the smartest of all, this organization who patronized him went as far as calling him “almost reverend rather!”

We live in a world crazy with titles and honors. People are known more for their titles than their names and services they render. Jesus strikes at the root of this self-seeking, image conscious culture, when He said, “but for you, do not be called father…. Master… rabbi…., for you have only one Father (who is in heaven), Master and Teacher (the Christ)”. Indeed, all authority and power comes from Him. All glory and praise are due to Him alone. All that we are comes from His generosity and goodness. So if I am a priest, doctor, attorney, teacher or farmer, it is not what qualifies my person and life. What I am is being qualified by the generosity and love of God for me. What I am is a reflection of the perfection of God. It is not I who stands out, but Christ who should be all and in all. The perfection in me is a reflection of the perfection of God. So in my being, body, soul and in all my achievements and failures let me glorify God.

My Identity:
If ever there is one title I can rightfully claim for me, it would be that of a “servant”. Whatever I may be in my profession, I am first and foremost a servant. I am a servant of God and servant of my human family. As a servant, it is my privilege to work and make others happy. I am working not for me—for that becomes a self-service. I am working for my master and Lord. Even as God is my master, every other human being, in whatever condition of life he/she may be, is also my master. I am a servant in as much as I am willing to obey, take orders, and share my time and talents not counting the cost.

Humble and Obedient:
Humility is the mark of a servant of Christ. No wonder, the Church calls a candidate for sainthood in the first phase a “servant of God”. The more he/she proves to be a servant of God, the faster the canonization process is accomplished. Humility leads to obedience. Even when I know those in authority do not lead by example, I remain obedient, because, authority comes from God.

Thought Capsule:
“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be” –Ralph W. Sockman

Thursday, August 19, 2010


August 19, 2010
Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22: 1-14

You are invited! This is not an ordinary invitation, but one so profound, that it can change your life forever. The invitation is comes from the all mighty, all powerful, all encompassing God who is the author and owner of the whole universe, to whom is adoration, praise and worship is due from the entire creation. His invitation is a privilege extended to me. I am invited to His Kingdom, to be part of the grand celebration of life and love. I am invited not because I deserve it, but because I am loved and counted precious in His eyes. He wants me to be with Him. It is His joy that I join Him. My presence delights Him. That’s how much He loves me. Yes, the fact that I come to God indicates the inspiration He has given me first, than the sacrifices I take to make myself present to Him. “Unless the Holy Spirit inspires, nobody can come to God.”

I do! God never fails to inspire me. But how do I respond to His call? It may be that I am too focused on the daily chores of my life I do not find time to act on His invitation. I may be too busy with my work building up a business or working out a project so crucial that I do set aside his invitation in the “attend later” folder. It could be that I am spending all my energies and resources in building up relationships—mending , repairing, and strengthening relationships—that I have no time right now to attend to the inspirations, invitations and the commitment to God’s call. Or maybe, I’m too focused on the mundane, the material existence that I do not even hear His voice speaking to me in my heart and conscience. No, I’ve listened to His call and responded generously. I have said yes to Him on the very crucial phases of my life. Yet, my life today does not show the proof of my fiat. I do not care to honor the positive responses (I do’s) I gave to the Lord.

Am I dressed up? In most occasions, however, I do take His word and call seriously. I take time to read His Word, attend the daily sacrifice of the mass and commit myself to His mission. I am happy to present myself in His presence. Wait a moment: “where is my royal garment?” In baptism I was given a white garment symbolizing purity and holiness. I was reminded then to keep this purity unstained and wear it until I enter the eternal Kingdom. God is Holy, and nothing unholy can enter His abode. If I feel I am so poor that I have no royal garment with me, and I have no resources today to own one, I only need to approach the Heavenly Father and present my case before Him. He will lead me to His beloved Son who will clothe me with the garment of Grace which was washed clean in His Divine blood. Yes, it is not enough that I have the invitation and I respond to the call, I also need to clothe myself with the sacramental grace and the child-like innocence.

Thought Capsule: “I have never let my baptismal garment of grace stained in my conscious state of life”.
–Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kingdom Workers

August 18, 2010
Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 20: 1-16

Employment, salary, security of job, opportunity to work, just wage, bonus, increments, fairness in employment, employer-employee relationships etc are terms that we chew on each day. Indeed, these are to us more than mere terms –these are basic experiences of life which shape our daily living. In the parable of the workers called to work in the vineyard, Jesus is proposing the nature of the Kingdom of God which primarily rests on the generosity, kindness and justice of God. This parable alludes to the nature of God and His mission in which He has called us to participate.

Work: To work is the right of every person. One of the first commandments man has received after the fall was the command to work: “Earn your bread by the sweat of your brow” (Gen 3:17,19). God is the archetype of work. He is always at work in the universe. The kingdom of God is a project God has initiated which needs enormous labor for its fulfillment. Idleness, laziness and neglect of labor are crimes against the creator who has given us the call to work.

Opportunity to work: Even as we may not find the “ideal atmosphere and conditions” for work, we will never miss opportunities. Look around: God, who has created you, has prepared circumstances for me to work. I don’t have to lament and feel ruin my life for the lost opportunities in life. It could be that I have wasted the mornings (childhood), noon (early adulthood and middle age) and even find no sense of purpose in the afternoon (late adulthood) of my life. Even in the evenings of my life, if only I am willing I can hear the call of God to work in His kingdom: to be productive, useful, and fruitful. It is comforting to know that God has found me fit to work for Him. What a great feeling to realize that I can start over from where I am right now, no matter what little resources I may have, what my past life experiences might have been, and what little strength is left within me! With God’s call in our heart, we are bound to make it, and find our evenings and nights pleasant, rewarding and fulfilling.

Rewards assured: A laborer deserves his payment (Lk 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18). Our God is a just God. If ever there is something that clouds His justice, it is His generosity. Oh, yes! The generosity and kindness of God is so great that we find His justice incomprehensible. Nobody can outdo the generosity of God. And nobody can match His justice. His rewards are just and always fair. He does not give us what we deserve, but what we need. Often times I become, irritated, frustrated and impatient with the experiences of “unfair treatment” and “unjust rewards” from God. This is because I tend to compare myself with others. The promise is not that I will get more than what others have, but I will get what I need. God knows, He alone knows, my resources, strength and weaknesses. He knows my needs. Let me appreciate what I have received rather than feeling jealous of what others have. Comparing myself with others is the best formula for a dissipated, unhappy life.

Thought Capsule:

No one can go back and change a bad beginning,
but anyone can start now and create a successful ending.

Monday, August 16, 2010


August 16, 2010
Monday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 19:16-22

The young man who came to Jesus had all the qualities that would have made him a saint. He took his faith and religion seriously. He meticulously practiced the moral code. He observed the Ten Commandments since his early childhood. He was attracted to Jesus, and took His counsel on matters of perfection. He came to Jesus with his great desire to grow in spirituality. He was more than an average disciple. He was moved with the desire to be perfect. And Jesus loved him for his spiritual quest.

Yet he lacked one thing. He was “possessed” with material things. He had many possessions, indeed. And Jesus prescribed what he should do. Liberate himself from the possessions. Sell everything, give to the poor and come, follow Jesus. But this was not something the young man expected from Jesus, much less from his part prepared to do. He went away sad and depressed. He would never be happy again. For, he was under the control of possessions.

I am like the young man. I take my religion seriously. I delight in encountering the Lord. I admit my imperfections. I count the sacrifices I make in keeping the commandments of God. In spite of the fact that I devote much of my time for the Lord, I still find that there is something lacking in me. I do not feel being complete. This is why I ask the Lord, “what more shall I do?” My soul wants to do more, to be more perfect.

The Lord loves such a thirsting heart for perfection. And He has the remedy. But am I ready and prepared to accept His prescriptions? Do I not feel that the Lord is too demanding? Jesus strikes at the root of my vulnerability, insecurity and attachments. I came so close to perfection and I miss the grace.

I realize now that what I had was just “wishful thinking”. I wish if I could be perfect. But I lack the fire and motive to become perfect. Even as I find the struggle within, I enjoy my state of “possessions”. I am too attached to many of my possessions such as money, prestige, power, sensuality, unhealthy relationships and fatal attractions.

My desire for perfection and the initiative in taking the matter with the Lord itself turns out to be an exercise of “feel-good spirituality”. I feel good in recounting with the Lord that I am a good, practicing Catholic, making many sacrifices and sparing much of my time for the practice of my faith. I just want the Lord to approve what I do and tell me He is happy with me, that I am perfect already. I would be happy if He would tell me to multiply the prayers and other spiritual practices. An admiration and approval from the Lord is all what I seek. I least expect Him to tell me that there is something seriously lacking in me and that I should make radical changes in life.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving me a desire for perfection. Tell me Lord, what more shall I do today in the path of perfection. Give me the courage and strength to let go of my possessions.

Thought Capsule:
The more I grow in perfection, the more imperfections I will notice within me.
The more imperfect I am the more imperfections I will find in others.


August 15, 2010

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1: 39-56

Assumption is going home: “And Mary returned to her home”(Lk 1:56 b), this ending phrase of the Gospel passage we have for our reflection today conveys the meaning of the feast of Assumption we celebrate today. Yes, Mary went home. She went home to the Father. She went home as an integral person with her body and soul. It was the work of God for her as she was full of grace, as she was immaculate, the mother of God and of the Church.

Mary’s assumption is the culmination of her “blessed” life on earth and a sign of hope for all mankind. Mary being the prototype of the Church, where she is, we hope to follow. What she has achieved we, her children, hope to share.

Body and Soul: Thanks to the assumption of Mary, we are now sure of something of heaven. Heaven is the place not only of the souls, but also of the bodies. So the best way of praying for the dead is to pray for the person who has died, rather than the departed soul. In the creed we proclaim: “We believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting”.

This feast reminds us of the integral persons that we are: Body and soul. It would be appropriate, then, to reflect today on the spirituality and theology of the human body.

The spirituality and theology of the body: God created us body and spirit. He formed our body from the elements of nature and infused life into it. It is God who animates the body. We glorify God in our bodies.

Priceless: I was once invited to bless the pathological laboratory of a medical college. I was surprised to find some fifty dead bodies laid on the table. I asked them how they managed to get so many of those. They said, most of those were brought for a price ranging from five thousand pesos to twenty thousand pesos. I was taken for surprise: a human body for five thousand pesos! So cheep!

But the fact is, the human body is invaluable. I came across this revelation from the medical field, again, from a researcher who took the effort to come up with the prize tag of an adult human body, taking each limb, and cell and tagging it at the market price. You know how much it is worth? It would be US $386,000 trillion. Yes, your body is worth much more than the entire wealth of the world put together. With all the advancement in the medical field, and with all the strides in the scientific progress, we have not been able to create even a cell of the human body. Micro biology, genetic engineering, and what not, yet we cannot duplicate the wisdom of our created. For, we are created for eternity.

What does it mean to us?
1. Love your body, respect it and cherish it. In your sight, your body may have imperfections, yet it is the hand work of God. Christ, the son of God has revealed to us that He is the head of the Church, and we are His body.

2. Dignity of the body: St Paul reminds us, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of the holy spirit” (1 Cor 3:16), and again, “Don't you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you.” (1 Cor 6:19). Abusing the human body is desecrating the temple of God.

3. Commoditization and commercialization of the body: Body sells. Commercial wisdom has proved time and again that human body has the power to bargain, and sell any product. Take a look at the commercials and the advertisements… take a look at the television shows. Human body is exhibited as an alluring commodity. Equally demeaning are the practices of ‘flesh trade’, selling the body for economic, political, social gains.

4. Violence against the body: Human body, in the modern society is vulnerable and susceptible to myriad forms of violence. Direct and visible violence such as murder, strangle, mutilation, rape, abortion and have become so common that they do not even get media attention in our age. There are other forms of violence against the body which are all the more neglected. Such subtle forms include excessive alcoholism, smoking, drug addiction and gluttony. The increase of epidemics and various kinds of illness have a direct connection with the abuse of human body.

5. Mary was assumed into heaven because she was full of grace. Let our body exhibit the grace of God. May Mary, our blessed mother help us to keep our body mind and soul pure, holy, and acceptable for God here on earth and the world to come.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not Just Kidding

AUGUST 14, 2010

EZEKIEL 18:1-10, 13:3032
MATTHEW 19:13-15

Children! They fascinated Jesus. Jesus fascinated His disciples on account of Children. Child is the model a Christian disciple should follow and aspire to become.
When the disciples found children to be noisy, insignificant and nuisance and tried to keep them at the periphery, Jesus made them the center of His kingdom! In them Jesus found the essential characteristics of what humans should be: the children of God.

A child, as the word indicates (C-H-I-L-D) represents Care, Humility, Innocence, Learning and Dependence. These kingdom values are natural to them. A child is known for the care it needs and the carefulness it is demanded of. A child is the epitome of humility as we often say "as humble as a child". Innocence: If one does not know what innocence is, one has only to behold the face of a child. For in the child there is no duplicity. The innate nature of wonder opens the child's heart, mind and senses to the world of knowledge that surrounds it. A child learns pretty fast. What a child learns in one year, an average adult would take five years to master. No wonder, it is easy to teach children, and very hard to teach the adults. And, dependence is the trademark of children. They depend on the elders for everything (food, security, love, affection, and what not!). Dependence comes from trust. As adults, we develop independence and self-sufficiency. Dependence, however, is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Depend on God, people and the society. Trust them, their goodness, you will find life flowering.

Do not hinder them: The Father is pleased to behold the children come to Him. Children take delight in being with the Father. In the presence of God our Father we have love and security. Offending a child is, then offending the Father.

Do I become a hindrance to others in coming to Jesus?
Am I an open door or an iron wall for others in their way of faith and morality?
How far do I need to re-learn the ways of adulthood in becoming a child--caring, humble, innocent, learning and dependent?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Enduring Relationships

AUGUST 13, 2010

EZEKIEL 16:59-63
MATTHEW 19:3-12

The Bible is a one single long story of enduring relationship: of commitment, loyalty, fidelity and grace. Right from the beginning God has declared: Relationships are forever.God has united us in creation and He will keep us united till the end of times. We are to live united even in the age to come.

The scripture passages for our reflection this week has a continuous theme: enduring relationship. The other day and the day before we heard Jesus reminding us of fraternal correction (gaining your brother/sister who falters) and forgiving the offender to the last breath of your life (seventy times seven). We are made for each other, we cannot afford to severe relationships, however hurting they may be. God does not lose confidence in us. Nor shall we.

The most sacred of all relationships and the most intimate, too, is found in the family, especially between a husband and wife. St Paul finds the marrital covenant as high and profound as the covennant of christ with His Church.There is no greater delight God can have than seeing a family united in love and fidelity.
The soul-touching narration of Ezekiel, in the first reading, of Yahweh's fidelity to His covenant with Ephraim is a mirror of marrital faithfulness. Yahweh loved Ephraim not because he is lovable. Yahveh cared for Ephraim not because he is gentle and obedient. Yahweh stood by Ephraim even when he was arrogant, unfaithful, rude and showed the ugly side of his life.God respects the covenant He has made with us no matter how we might humiliate Him and reject Him. The culmination and concretization of the fidelity of God to His covenant with us is found in the offering of His Son on the Cross. God will go any extent to keep us with Him. He never breaks the relationship, not even when we tend to seperate ourselves and turn away from His offer of love. This shall be the model we follow in human relationships as well.

Fidelity to relationships and marrital covenant has never been easy. From the time of creation, through the Biblical times and to the present age people struggle with the "permanance of relationship" in marriage. This is why people around us today speak of stipulating the marriage covenant not for life, but for a period of time, say one year, five years or ten years, which could be renewed upon evaluation. Relationships if they work, until they work, and as long as they are satisfactory! Our world is fragmented and everything, even love seems to be so fluid. But for us, Christians, there is one principle that cannot be compromised: stick to the relationships, be committed, be loyal and faithful. For this is the first and last commandment God has given us: Be faithful in love. What God has united, let no man put assunder!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

How much do you owe?

August 12, 2010
Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Matthew 18:21 -19:1

Jesus teaches us a difficult, yet very practical lesson today: Forgive everyone, all the time.

Peter was sounding more than generous when he volunteered to forgive seven times to his erring brother. Seven in the Biblical sense indicated perfection and completion. The seven times of forgiveness would mean then forgiving until you feel perfect enough--until the limit of your patience and generosity. Have I not felt often that i have reached the limits and even gone beyond my strength in bearing with my brother who keeps on insulting me? When the nagging and evil tricks of my brother/sister follow me like my shadow, have I not felt "enough is enough", "I cannot stand the humiliation anymore"? When my generosity, meekness and compassionate attitudes are taken for my weakness, and when my simplicity and my religiosity is made use of an overt instrument of exploitation against me, do I not feel that it is getting into my nerves and I need to prove my strength in retaliation? To what length shall I go in forgiving? More than what my heart can take, more than what my brother/sister deserves? That is the seven times of forgiveness which falls short of the Christian standard.

For Jesus, there is no limit for forgiveness. It is seven-times-seventy. It is perfection upon perfection. Never say enough in forgiving. The boundaries of forgiveness do not depend on the limit of my patience or the response of my offender. Forgive every time as if that were the first time you would forgive.

I forgive not because the offender (my brother) deserves it, but because I myself need greater forgiveness. In the parable of the "unforgiving servant" Jesus calls my attention to the fact that I am a debtor. I owe God so much, much more than what I can pay Him back. I live in the generosity and kindness of God. If I count the times I have offended myself, others and God, I would be at a loss. If I recall how many times I fall on my knees asking God for forgiveness, I realize how great an offender I have become. Yet, God forgives me not counting my offenses, their gravity or frequency. I stand before God with confidence that God understands me, my weaknesses and imperfections; He knows my good intentions and wicked ways. I promise Him I will start over again, and beg Him "be patient with me". And God forgives.

It is this "patience of God" towards me that demands of me to be patient with others. Yes, I forgive because I owe Him much!

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.
In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”

--Robert Muller



“Do not be fools”, this was the message Jesus gave us last Sunday in the parable of the rich fool. Today Jesus reminds us to be “wise”, be wise servants, ready and willing to serve. The rich man in the parable was a “fool” because lost focus of life. The fortunes of life gave him a false sense of security. Now that he has material wealth, he thought, life is secure: he could eat, drink, and make merry. He got ready for a life of self-indulgence and merry making. But death struck him that night and his riches departed him. He did not store-up anything for the life ahead. He proved to be a great fool. The wise servant in today’s gospel, on the other hand is always vigilant, alert, and ready to heed the call of the master—day in and day out. He is wise because his life is always focused on the arrival of His master.
I am reminded of the story of a priest who was giving a seminar on the topic of death and resurrection. The priest asked the congregation: “would you like to go to heaven?” The congregation said in unison, “yes, father”. The priest said again, “If God is to call you this very day, would you like to enter heaven today?” Everyone in the congregation but one young man said “yes”. The young man sat there crossing his hands on the chest, looking away from the preacher. The priest thought this is very odd. So he approached the young man and asked: “Don’t you like to go to heaven, my child?” He replied, “Yes, father, I want to go to heaven. That is why I take such great sacrifices and pains in practicing my faith”. The priest asked him: “why do you show such disinterest, when I asked if you want to go to heaven this very day?”. “You know, father”, the young man responded, “I thought you are recruiting a group to tour heaven right now. I am not yet ready for the moment. May be for the next group, I will join you”.

I am like that young man. I do want to go to heaven. I am awaiting in eager anticipation to the call of God to join Him in His eternal abode. Yet, I am not interested in joining him right now. May be another day-- I have many other wonderful things to do right now.

This is why I thought this homily would become so unpopular. This homily is about death, preparing for death, a thought which most of us want to brush aside. But, this is a topic we have to pay attention to urgently. As wise stewards, we need to be aware of the nature of our existence and the purpose of our call. Jesus makes it clear to us: Life is unpredictable. The length of our life is uncertain. God alone knows how long we live and in what manner we are to go from this life. Our life journey is on a path laid clear by the Lord. All that we can see is the present moment. The next moments are in the hands of God. Yet, thanks to the Lord Jesus, we know something about the timing and the manner of our death: It is God’s timing, it is His plan. We are secure in His grace. When Jesus is our security, we don’t have to be afraid or confused. We just need to be wise, wise enough to trust Him call our name and lead us by hand. We be wise to be servants: to be at the service of God and His people all the time.

We often joke about people who are advanced in age or are afflicted with terminal diseases that they are in the pre-departure area. Blessed are those who know that they are in the pre-departure area, that they are given the opportunity to get ready to meet the Lord. Yet, the fact is, wise are the people who even in the pink of their health, and the best of their times realize that they are strolling at the pre-departure area already. For the Lord could give me a marching order this very moment or this very night. Blessed am I, if I make use of this day as the special allowance of Divine grace for me.

The best way of preparing for death is living our life fully. This implies two aspects of life which the readings of our liturgy today put forward for us: have faith and be faithful.

Have faith: Faith defines and shapes the life we live. It is faith that dictates to us that life does not end in death. It is faith that reminds us that we have a home in heaven. Faith reveals to us the beauty of life and the plan of God. Faith demands commitment: commitment to the will of God. In the first reading we heard how Israel lived by faith. The second reading reminded us of the faith of Abraham who earned the favor of God by being obedient to the call and will of Yahweh. Even as he was not able to see how God is going to fulfill His promises of giving him a land of dreams, offspring countless and strong, make out of him a nation set-apart, holy and strong, Abraham simply believed that God’s promises will come true. Faith made him a wise follower. Jesus, in the Gospel repeats the promise of God for us: “God is pleased in us. The father is pleased to give us His Kingdom”. What more can we ask from God! Our future, and present, too, is secure in His plans. We just need to trust Him. Have faith in His promises. Have faith in His word. Have faith in His Church and the Sacraments.

Be faithful: Faith without faithfulness does not bear fruit. Jesus tells us plainly: “"Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” Faithfulness, then is faith-in-action. Faith tells us that God is the master of our life and resources. We are only His stewards and servants. All that we are and all that we have belong to God. We are caretakers of God’s favor. As care takers we be wise in caring and responsible. Faithfulness is the mark of a servant.
Faithfulness is demanded of us because we are given so much. Remember what Jesus said: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." See how much God has blessed us in our life! Thanks be to God for the personal blessings of good health, physical attributes; relational blessings of a family, love and affection; social blessings of a job, and social security; and spiritual blessings of the faith, the Church, the sacraments and the Christian community. These blessings also place upon me a demand of faithfulness: Be faithful to myself, my conscience; be faithful to my vocation, my family and relationships; be faithful to my job, career and social responsibilities; and, yes, be faithful to the Lord, His Divine Word, His Commandments, His Church and the Sacraments.

A life of faith and faithfulness on earth is the secure investment we make in heaven. That is the way we get ready, stand prepared all the time for the call of the Lord. A person of faith and faithfulness does not fear death any more. He does not look at death as the final examination day, rather as the day of graduation.
Let us pray to the Lord in this Holy Eucharist: “Lord, give us faith and help us to be faithful”.

James Thayil Cmi