Thursday, September 23, 2010
September 23, 2010
Thursday. 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus’ presence is not always comforting, consoling, owe-inspiring and justifying. His presence in most occasions could be disturbing. Such was the experience of Herod, the Tetrarch. Herod was perplexed, confused and disturbed in His conscience when he heard of the story of Jesus. He was disturbed because his immoral ways of life and relationships were exposed and challenged by John the Baptist. John disturbed his conscience, yet Herod did not repent. He liked listening to John but had no courage to face the real face of his own being and to take steps to correct himself. His weakness was revealed when he had to behead John at the desire of his illegal wife Herodias. Now, in Jesus the voice of John came to haunt Herod. He believes that Jesus cannot be anyone but John returned to life. He was disturbed for panic and fear struck him. He is now faced with a double dilemma: This Jesus has shaken the comfort of his castle of immoral life. The return of John has put Herod powerless, for the ultimate weapon of punishment—death—has no effect on the Prophet. Since he can no longer silence John, He has to live in the constant echo of truth that comes straight to his heart from the prophet. He had two options: either repent, leave behind the sinful life and follow the path of reconciliation and love, or ignore the voice of the prophet, give a deaf ear to Him even as pretending to befriend him for the lurking fear of his being. He chose to be complacent, but only to be disturbed for his life forever.
It takes courage and decisiveness to be converted. A feeble heart and confused mind cannot embark on the path of conversion. Herod is a perfect example of the tragedy of wishful thinking. The call to conversion came to him through John and Jesus. He delighted in listening to them. He longed to see Jesus. Yet, he did not take any step to fulfill this longing of his heart. Imagine, what would have been the course of history, if Herod did listen to his conscience and embarked on the path of conversion, took a step towards the Lord to see Him and decided take the challenge Jesus gave Him! Had that happened, Herod would have been venerated as a great saint throughout the world today, a model to be emulated. But what has become of him is the opposite of the ideal. His heart’s longing for Jesus remained a wishful thinking.
Grace and Repentance:
It was Divine grace that came to Herod in the call of John for repentance. It was again that very same grace in its highest form that came to Him in the person of Jesus. The disturbance in his conscience was vicarious; an act of the Holy Spirit, impelling him to act on it so that he may receive the forgiving and merciful grace from the heart of Jesus. Had he dared taking one step towards God, God would have taken a thousand steps carrying him into His abode of peace and reconciliation.
How about me? How often do I feel the “disturbing presence” of the Lord? What direction do I take when the Lord gives me the grace of His disturbance in my heart? How do I respond to the impelling longing I have “to see Jesus”? Does the desire for constant conversion and transformation remain a “wishful thinking”, or do I take a daring step to encounter the true person I am with the person of Jesus?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
September 21, 2010
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Good News and Bad News:
“Good news is bad news, bad news is good news, no news is bad news”. This is the journalistic principle on which the media firms operate. This media law implies that good news (positive stories, pleasant happenings) is bad news for media, for they do not spiral subscription (audience)ratings. Bad news (negative stories, war, kidnapping, terrorist acts, violence and sufferings) is always good news for the media firms for they have the highest viewership ratings and there by they bring in the highest revenue. Media feeds on bad news--breaking stories--on which people are hooked. No news (news blackout, status quo, peaceful situation) is bad news for the media firms because such situations bring them little revenue. This “news principle” is based on the human tendency to magnify what is perceived to be bad, evil and unacceptable. Indeed, our media today thrives on bad news. And humanity seems to be happy being hooked on to bad news.
Against such “culture of bad news”, Jesus came ushering in a culture of good news. The story of Jesus—the Gospel is the Good News. Jesus not only gave us the good news of the Kingdom of God, He also became the Good News for us. Indeed, the message and the person of Jesus are identical, and hence is the Eternal Good News for the entire human race.
We celebrate today the feast of Mathew, the Apostle and Evangelist. Mathew was drawn to the Good News that Jesus is, accepted the call of the Gospel and became a proclaimer and channel of the Good News as he encoded the Gospel for the generations to come.
But not everyone thought of Jesus as good news. When the sinners, outcasts, tax collectors and the untouchables sensed the presence of God in Jesus and were happy moving with Him, eating with Him and making friends with Him, the Pharisees and scribes saw Jesus as a bad news. They were shocked by the scandalous behavior of Jesus in being friends with the sinners and sharing intimate moments with them in their table fellowship.
The Triple Hearts:
The story of the call of Mathew is a revelation of the heart of God, the heart of the sinner and the heart of the Pharisees.
The Heart of Jesus:
Jesus is comfortable with the socially outcasts and the public sinners. He feels drawn towards the repentant sinners so much that He recognizes His purpose of incarnation as one exclusively for the sinners. He feels welcome and acceptance in their midst. He feels happy when the sinners turn to Him. He opens His heart and reveals His mercy. Merciful and compassionate is the heart of Jesus. His heart delights not so much in sacrifices and prayers, but more so in mercy and compassion. This is why He dared to do the unpopular and “scandalous” in calling Mathew, a tax collector into the inner circle of His disciples, to be with Him and to be sent out. In the call of Mathew, Jesus is calling all the sinners to Him. The heart of Jesus is the ultimate refuge and solace for all the sinners. Now I have hope, I am welcome and accepted in the presence of God. A repentant sinner is the Good News for Jesus.
The Heart of a Repentant Sinner:
Even as the repentant sinner is the delight of the Lord, the heart of the repentant sinner is open for the grace and mercy of God. Mathew knew his identity in the society as a tax-collector. He does not seem to be too happy living with that identity. His heart longed for more. And He found Jesus. Or rather, it was Jesus who found Him. At the spark of His grace, Mathew’s heart leaped for joy. Jesus called Him, he responded with gratitude. Mathew had a heart so simple, unassuming and receptive. His heart was full of gratitude for the immense mercy Jesus poured on Him. In calling a man like Mathew with a history of disrepute, Jesus did not make a mistake. The Divine heart of mercy found a receptive, humble, generous heart of a sinner. Mathew became a good news for Jesus.
The Heart of the Pharisee:
The Pharisee is a symbol of self-righteousness. His self-imposed image of being the standard bearer of the society and the prince of God makes him arrogant and rude. The norm of perfection is himself. Such great pride in his heart impels him to be a perennial critic of everyone other than himself. This is why He would think that he is holy, so holy that even God Himself is unholy. His heart feels bad that Jesus is imperfect because He makes friends with the sinners and eats with the “unclean” people. His heart is closed to the light of Christ and the streams of grace. Mercy and compassion have no place in his heart. He feels that he is so good that He does not need the grace and forgiveness of God. His heart is beyond redemption. Jesus finds helpless in saving such a heart. Indeed, His mercy is for the sinners, those who consider themselves sick, in need of His healing grace.
Points to Ponder:
What heart do I have? Do I have the heart of Jesus, a heart full of compassion, mercy and love? Do I have the heart of an Apostle and evangelist, delighting in the heart of Jesus, grateful and proclaiming His grace? How open and receptive is my heart towards the forgiving grace of the Lord? How eagerly do I long for and how spontaneously do I give up my “sinful practices” at the call of the Lord? In what areas and situations of my life do I exhibit the pharisaic heart? How do I handle the itch to criticize everyone and demand that everyone should conform to my attitudes and mentality? Am I a promoter of Good News or bad news?
Monday, September 20, 2010
September 20, 2010
Monday, 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 8: 16-18
Christ the Light:
One of the most effective and powerful symbolism Jesus found to describe Himself was that of the light. He claimed to be the light of the world. He called His disciples to abide in His light. Further, He also claimed that His disciples are the light of the world. The Gospel of John speaks of eternal light breaking upon us tearing down the curtain of the darkness of sin and impurities. Indeed, Jesus, the Son of God is the light of the universe, the light shining in every soul, mind and heart, calling creation to the realm of the kingdom of light. God is light because everything is made manifest in Him, there is no duplicity in Him and He is the source and summit of all that is good, beautiful and truthful. Jesus is the light of the World, for, in Him the Father is made manifest to the world and the world is made manifest to the Father.
We, the Light:
Just as the Lord is the Light of the world, so are we, His disciples. Jesus wants us to live as children of the light. The properties of light such as vision, clarity, transparency, openness and purity are gifted to His disciples in the abundance of Grace from the heart of God the Father. Today we are called upon to be the light of Christ in a world of darkness, deception and contradictions. I am called to be reveal in my person, words, dealings and relationships the true image of God to the creation that surrounds me, and well as to bring the creation into the Light of the Lord in Heaven.
Light of Faith:
I come into the light of Christ by virtue of the grace of baptism. At baptism, a lighted candle was given to me and to my parents and godparents with the reminder that I am receiving the light of Christ. I was also reminded that this light is to be kept burning bright in my heart, giving light to those around me, till the time I enter the eternal light in Heaven. Further, I was told that the baptismal grace and the light of faith are the gift of the Holy Trinity, through the Church, for me to be strong and guide in my pilgrimage of life. This light is an assurance for me that the Lord has already come in history, He is present in my person, and He will come again in glory. I keep this light alive as a sign of my longing for Him, to welcome Him no matter whatever time and hour of the day He will arrive.
Witnessing the Light:
The light is meant for others. It cannot be hidden. So also, my faith cannot all be a “personal” and “private” affair. Faith is a communitarian affair. To say that I have faith, I believe in Christ, but I do not believe in the practices of faith in the Church is to say that I have no faith at all. To hide the light is to distinguish the light and to deny the existence of light.
Jesus wants me to practice my faith, to proclaim it, and to be a witness to His light wherever I may be. My faith is to be seen in my life and dealings. Do people around me see the strength of my faith? Do people related to me, beginning with my family, my friends and co-workers recognize my faith and faith practices? Do they feel attracted to “pray the way I pray” and to “worship in faith, as I do”? Do I become a pointer and image leading people to Jesus? Does my faith have a positive influence in the community I live?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
September 19, 2010
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
There is this story of three visitors who came to the house of a certain man. They sat outside under the tree. The woman of the house saw them and invited them in. The visitors asked, “is your husband in?” She said, “no, he is out on work and will arrive in the evening?”. The visitors said, then they will wait until her husband arrives, because they have something very important to offer. In the evening, when the man of the house arrived, his wife reported to him the story of the visitors waiting outside their home. So the husband went out and found them sitting under the tree. He invited them to come into his house. The visitors said, they would be happy to enter his house, but, they cannot go in all together. Only one of them would go in. They introduced themselves as “wealth”, “peace”, and “love”. They said, please go in, consult your wife and come and tell us who among us you would like to enter your house. The man went in and told his wife, “see, God has really come to visit us in the form of the three visitors. We shall chose one of them, ‘wealth, peace or love’. You know our problems; we are deeply in financial crisis. We struggle to make both ends meet. God has heard our prayers. Let us invite wealth in, our house will be filled with wealth and laughter, and we will be happy forever”. His wife, then said, “may be, we should invite peace. You know how much we suffer because of lack of peace. How long we have been struggling with mistrust and friction in relationship, anxiety and worry over our life! If peace comes in, we will be filled with joy and we will be happy forever!”. Their little daughter who was overhearing this discussion sprang up. She said, mommy, daddy, why don’t we invite love? If love comes in, we will be filled with grace, we will have a loving family, a piece of heaven on earth. And we will be happy forever. The parents decided to give into the demand of their daughter. The man of the house went out and said, “Whoever among you is love, please come in”. Love got up and started walking toward the door. Behind him wealth and peace got up and made their way into the house. At this the man of the house was surprised and said, “I do not understand you, I thought you said, only one of you will enter my house, and you asked me to chose one, but now all the three of you are coming in!” Then the visitors said: What we said is true. It is like this. Had you invited peace of wealth, they would come in alone. But now since you have chosen love, love cannot go in alone. Love is always accompanied by wealth and peace. Wherever there is love, there is wealth and peace!”
Today Jesus asks to make a choice. He tells us that our choice is between God and material possessions (mammon). We cannot chose both. It is either God or material possessions (anything other than God) to which we allocate the place of God in our lives. The interesting thing, is however, that if we chose mammon, we will end up losing God and all His graces, wealth included, and if we are to chose God, we end up gaining all, God and wealth as well. So whom do you invite into your house today—God or mammon?
Chose God and you will be rich. Chose mammon and you will be eternally poor! This is the paradox of life. In the first place, God and mammon are not equal entities for the choice. God is the creator of all the universe, of all the living and non-living things in it, all the spiritual and material blessings, all power and authority, all the heavens and earth. Mammon (the Greek word for material wealth) is only one among all his creations. Mammon has no existence in itself. It exists in relationship to others. It is the human mind that gives being and meaning to mammon. The human mind has the capacity to elevate the ‘non-existing” or “relatively-existing” mammon to the level of God. Greed is the feed on which mammon swells, grows and develops into a God. When a person is enveloped in greed, all that he would see is “money”, and the highest worth and value in life is “money”. Money, then assumes the yardstick, the measure of relationships and moral practices. Whatever can earn you the maximum money is good for you. Whatever can give you the highest dividend and return in terms of money is the supreme value for you. A man of mammon is blind. Such a person will perish in his greed.
Amos noticed how the people of Israel were possessed by their material possessions as they were competing each other in exploiting the poor, taking advantage of the weak and devising new plans for cheating. Corruption was written broad on their faces. Anything was alright for them if it would enrich themselves. Such ungodliness, insincerity, dishonesty and abominable practices were rampant on one side even as they gloried in the name of God and offered Him worship. Amos warned them of the wrath of God on them, for they were desecrating Yahweh and His temple all for the sake of mammon.
Jesus came 500 years after Amos and found the social situation remained the same, deep in corruption. This is why He demanded His disciples to be trustworthy, honest, loyal and sincere in their dealings with money, material wealth and possessions. His parable of the dishonest servant reminded them that they are all servants of whom are demanded accountability and transparency of dealings.
2000 years after Jesus’ cry for honesty and sincerity, our world does not seem to have taken His message to the heart. Corruption remains to be one of the problems that we have come to recognize as widespread, deep rooted and rotting our social and familial structure. The last general elections in the Philippines was fought on lines of corruption, and the present president made his impact with the slogan, “no corruption, no poverty!”. But how do we eradicate corruption? What is the corruption that we usually talk about? We talk aloud of corruption in the government and public office, corruption in the proportion of billions of pesos/dollars. We feel corruption can be healed if we are able to punish the “corrupt officials” at the top, if we can make them accountable and if we can terminate them from their posts. Yet, if we look at the situation through the eyes of Jesus we come to realize that punishing the “those who are caught” will not solve the problem. Rather, we need to strike at the bottom and begin with our children and each family. Corruption in business practices and governance is just the tip of the iceberg. They simply indicate the collective mentality of corruption in the society. Yes, it is the corrupt human mind that needs to be treated first. We need to heal the corrupt minds, mentalities, trade practices, and corruption in relationships.
The Jesus’ principle:
Jesus prescribes the cure: If you are sincere in simple matters you will be sincere in great matters as well. If you are trust worthy in small things you will be trustworthy in great things as well. So, here is the rub: be trustworthy and honest in small matters. We need to teach our children to be sincere and honest in small as well as great things. We need to remind ourselves and our children that it is bad to tell a lie, it is a sin to be untruthful. Be it a white lie, grey lie or a black lie, it is equally bad. A lie is always a lie. When I absolve myself by the thought that it is “only a white lie” I am corrupting my mind. We need to teach our children that cheating is always cheating, be it in big matters or small ones. We need to remind ourselves stealing is bad and a sin, be it one peso, a small little thing, five pesos, five thousand pesos or five billion pesos. If we are able to enter the mind of Jesus regarding the practice of the Ten Commandments in spirit and truth, we will overcome corruption in all forms.
The test of integrity is not in the ability to do great things and to be honest in big matters, rather in your sincerity in small matters and the fidelity in small things. It is the small things in life that make us great. It is the small things that define how trust-worthy you are!
How truthful am I in my words? How honest am I in my dealings in business, trade and employment? Do I absolve myself in cheating—on relationships, studies, trade and business practices?
Friday, September 17, 2010
September 17, 2010
Friday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 15:12-20; Luke 8:1-3
The Mission of Jesus:
Jesus is on the move. From town to town, village to village He moves about proclaiming and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God and manifesting the advent of His Kingdom in acts of healing, feeding, exorcising, feeding, caring and life-giving. He seems to be in a hurry so as to reach every nook and corner of the world and to reach out to people of all walks of life, all forms of human situations. He exemplifies the Love of the Heavenly Father in loving the sinners and saints alike, doing good to the religious minded and the atheists alike. Nothing stops Him from His mission—neither acceptance, nor failure. Yet He stops at the sight of the suffering, the destitute and the oppressed. He stops by also the self-righteous, calling them true repentance. Jesus stops by me today. Do I notice His presence and hear His call?
The partners of Jesus:
Establishing the Kingdom of God is the most ambitious project one has ever undertaken in human history. It was hatched right from the beginning of creation straight at the heart of the Heavenly Father. The Kingdom of love, mercy and kindness extends from the heart of God to the heart of man, from the heart man to the heart of God, again, from the heart of man to the hearts of the entire human race. It does not stop there, until it extends to the heart of every being and fiber of the universe. Indeed, this is a project of bringing heaven on earth and bringing the universe to the heavens. Jesus inaugurated it and accomplished it in His life, death and resurrection. Yet, the Kingdom building is a project unfinished. Jesus needs partners. His made the apostles partners of His Kingdom. Many women were also partners of Jesus. Yes, women proved to be great partners of Jesus in His Kingdom building.
The Women of Jesus:
The role of women in the life and Kingdom building of Jesus was one of great importance. A woman offered Him the comfort, care and love of a mother. Mary brought Him up, giving Him birth, teaching Him lessons of love, and showing Him direction. She stood by Him in His birth, infancy, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and with the community He founded. The first among the evangelists were women like the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene. The Canaanite woman and the woman afflicted with hemorrhage were Jesus model of great faith. The poor widow at the temple who contributed few cents at the treasury is the model of great generosity. The sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears is Jesus’ model of great love. The sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha were Jesus’ friends and they are highlighted as models of hospitality and discipleship. It is fascinating to notice that in a culture where women were not allowed to mingle with men in public, Jesus had so many women followers, disciples and friends, who not only came to listen to Him, but even more, followed Him wherever He went. They provided for Him and the Apostles from their resources. If not for the support of the women, Jesus’ ministry would fail. So is it with the Church today. Women are not only the most active believers in the Church, they are also the most resourceful when it come to the mission and ministry of the Church. Their faith and faithfulness are seen among the line of saints. Their generosity and love are seen in the financial contributions they make so silently, the way they take care of the physical needs of the Church, the ministers and the missionaries. Their love for Christ is seen also in their dedicated life of religious commitment, the ever growing number and spirit of religious communities. If not for the contributions and support of the women, the Church would be empty, dry and Her ministry would be impossible. Often, they go unnamed, unnoticed and unrecognized. Yet, the Gospel today counts them and names some of them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna & many others who travelled with Jesus wherever He went, and gave financial support and ministered Him. Jesus loves them all. Only Jesus loves them the way they deserve it—with kindness, compassion, understanding, love and generosity.
Today, I take time to count the women in my ministry who care for me, support me, and strengthen me in building up His Kingdom. May the Lord God, who has noticed their contributions keep them in His care, and give them His abundant grace! May their dreams come true and may their rewards be great in this life and the life to come.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
September 16, 2010
Thursday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Categories of Sin
Sin is generally categorized as mortal and venial. We have been taught from our childhood that we need to confess our sins and seek forgiveness, especially those that are mortal. Mortal sins, we know are grave sins. Those who commit mortal sins, we brand them as “sinners” needing repentance. The mortal sinners are easy to be identified. Most of them might be publicly accused, tried and punished in the civic court. This is why those committing mortal sins have been identified as public sinners.
Our general attitude towards venial sins is one of complacency. We say, we all commit mistakes (although, there are many who would even claim that they are perfect, without sin, the world around them is sinful, though), but it is due to the human weaknesses. So it is ok, understandable, tolerable, acceptable for us to do ‘the little sins’. Our logic is, any way we always live in grace and so we are absolved always.
But Jesus does not make such a distinction of sin as mortal and venial. For him, what we consider as venial could become mortal, and what we consider mortal can be venial. This is why He re-interpreted the Ten Commandments, “you have heard in the past, murder, and anyone who murders will be liable to judgment. But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, anyone who calls his brother ‘you good for nothing’ and raqa (‘you fool’) will stand before the senhedrin”(Mt 5:21-24), and again, “you have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery’, but I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5: 27-28). Indeed, for Jesus a sin is always a sin. The gravity of the sin is not in the nature of sin, in the external manifestations and attributes we perceive, but in the ‘perception of God in His infinite wisdom. Because of this Jesus warns us time and again: “do not judge others” and “leave judgment to God”.
Categories of Sinners
Even as Jesus does not categorize sins, He does categorize the sinners. For Jesus the sinners are of two kinds: self-righteous sinners and repentant sinners. Human nature is characterized by sin and grace. Where sin raises its head, Grace abounds. The very purpose of the coming of Jesus was to deliver us from the powers of sin. In God’s eyes, everyone is a sinner needing His forgiving grace and ineffable mercy. Yet, not everyone would open their hearts to the grace and forgiveness of God. Only those who would see themselves as great sinners wallowing in the clutches of evil, helplessly crying out for the redeeming grace of God can receive the forgiveness and strengthening grace that flows from the heart of Jesus. The Pharisees in the Gospel considered themselves righteous, leading good, holy and pious lives, deserving the grace of God. They felt themselves so good that the presence of the sinners made them uncomfortable. They even questioned the “morality” and integrity of Jesus who moved with and made friends with the sinners, and now enjoyed the ‘touch, kiss and love’ of a sinful woman, a “prostitute” at that. The Pharisee was shocked that the “sinful woman” dared to enter the presence of the “holy people”. But, Jesus knows the heart of the “sinful woman” and the “self-righteous man”, and reveals His heart that loves more a hardcore sinner who repents than a “self-righteous sinner” who never feels the need of repentance.
Sinners are not only welcome to Jesus; they are rewarded with more love. It is a difficult proposition of Jesus to understand that those who are forgiven more are loved more, and those who are loved more are forgiven more. So, more love is revealed in more forgiveness. Forgiveness is shown in more love. The woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears of remorse went home with a heart full of love. And Jesus made her a model worth emulating for all the ages. The Pharisee, who was self-righteous, a publicly acclaimed good religious, went down in history, a person who needed more repentance, more forgiving grace and mercy. To tell someone that I love him/her is to ask her for forgiveness and to say with all sincerity that I forgive.
How do I measure my love? Do I forgive more and seek forgiveness more even as I claim to love more?
Do I feel complacent in my sinfulness that “I commit only venial sins”? How often do I make a good confession?
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
September 15, 2010
Memorial, Our Lady f Sorrows
Wednesday, 24th Week In Ordinary Time
Mother of sorrows
Mother, thy name is sorrow!
The ancient curse of sin broke your heart and you bled streams of tears
In pain you give birth, and in pain you bring us forth.
Mother, shared with me your body broken, your womb, your artery, and all the fibers of my physical frame.
In pain you saw me part from you, and in sorrow you gazed my fall.
When I was whipped, scourged, and stripped naked,
You my mother assumed my pain.
The cross, so heavy, was forced on my shoulders,
Mother, of sorrows, your hands reached for me.
I hang on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth,
I saw your heart, mother, trembling and broken,
For your sorrow indeed, is the sorrow of your son, you feel wretched, frozen and dry.
Death came calling, yet you lived on, for your sorrow, no death can match.
Mother, you keep living, as long as your children stand struggling,
For your sorrow is the grace manifest for your children in grief.
What marvel God has done, in giving us a mother, who stands by the cross!
Room I make for you, my mother most beloved,
In my heart, shallow and weak, though, for you forever.
When you are with me, in my tears and strife,
I will never fall, for you endure my fall.
Your heart, my mother, might break, but never ever your dream...
September 14, 2010
Feast, Triumph of The Holy Cross
Tuesday of the 24th Week In Ordinary Time
Numbers 21:4-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17
We, Christians in general, and the Catholics in particular are a strange kind of people. We extol the cross and exalt in the triumph of the cross. We carry in our body, mind and heart signs of the cross. We were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit in the sign of the cross. Every prayer we make, we begin and end with the sign of the cross. When we pass by the Church and other Holy places we bless ourselves with the sign of the cross. Indeed, we glory in the sign of the cross.
The Sign of the Cross:
The cross is a sign. It connotes the infinite love of God for us in the self sacrifice of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. And it denotes the victory of Christ over sin and death. The cross is the sign of the Lord Jesus Christ—His obedience to the will of the Father and His fidelity of love to His people. It is the sign of the Church—her love for the Lord and her sacrificial commitment for the world. It is the sign of a Christian, a disciple—his baptismal covenant and fraternal love.
The Gaze of the Cross:
More than an arbitrary symbol, the cross is a sure source of grace, healing, love and life. “Everyone who looks up to the crucified one” will be saved. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, and everyone who looked up to the mounted snake on the pole were redeemed from the snake-bite, so also everyone who is bitten by bitterness, anger, enmity, pride, vengeance, addictions, and all forms of sin will be redeemed by the grace that flows from the crucified one. It is paradoxical that the sign of death has become the sign of life, the cross of shame and condemnation and punishment has become the sign of grace, love and redemption. Thanks to the cross of Christ, we now have a definite vision of salvation. In the moments of pain, trials, anxieties, worries, tensions, defeat, brokenness, sickness and death I just need to gaze on the Cross of Christ. It is His cross that gives meaning to my crosses. My gaze upon the Crucified one will envelop me in His grace of endurance, patience and healing.
The Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of the Cross:
The redemptive nature of the cross is manifest in its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Vertically, the cross of Christ descends from the heavens to the earth and rises from the earth to the heavens. It connects heaven and earth. The mount Calvary upon which the cross of Christ was erected rose to touch the zenith of heavens wherefrom the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son. The cross then is a sign of connectedness between God and man, the heaven and earth. This is why every time we make the sign of the cross we are instantly connected with the abode of God, the throne of Christ and presence of the Heavenly Father. In His infinite wisdom, God devised the cross a ladder for us to ascent to heaven. On the Cross our God comes down to embrace and He lifts us up to the heaven.
On the horizontal sphere, the cross extents to the ends of the world reaching out from one corner to the other. The cross connects the hearts of every human being. As Jesus spread His hands on the Cross, He embraced every member of the human family, those in the past, present and the future, of every race, color, class, sect and religion. So, when I make the sign of the cross, I embrace in love the entire human race as my beloved family. I cannot make the sign of the cross if I nurture hatred towards any of my brothers and sisters. I am desecrating the cross, when I embrace it with no commitment of love and fidelity towards my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Trinitarian Cross:
The sign of the Cross is the most concise beautiful prayer we have. When I mark myself with the sign of the Cross, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, I am consecrating myself to and through the Hoy Trinity. I consecrate and sanctify my intellect (mind, memories, knowledge and will) with the Love of God the Father, my body (humanity, creatureliness, physical properties) with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and my heart (feelings, emotions, relationships) with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. By making the sign of the Cross, I am renewing my baptismal covenant with the Holy Trinity. This why the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XI has said, “By signing ourselves with the cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on.”
Be the Cross:
The sign of the cross challenges me, not only to mark myself with the protection of the cross, to gaze on the cross, to stand at the center of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross and to pray the cross in Trinitarian grace, but also to be the sign of the cross wherever I am. To become the cross is the call Jesus gives me as a disciple. Cross is a sign of love and summit of sacrificial grace. So, I am called to imitate the cross of Christ in my kenosis and self-less love. The cross is yet another symbol of “inhumanity and ungodliness”, if not it were for the Christ who is mounted on it. I become a Cross of Christ when Christ is mounted on the throne of my heart.
"How splendid the cross of Christ!
It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss...
It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds.
A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life" --Theodore of Studios
Monday, September 13, 2010
September 13, 2010
Monday 24th Week In Ordinary Time – Year II
1corinthians 11:17-26, 33; Luke 7:1-10
The story of the centurion who sought the help of Jesus for the healing of his slave teaches us the three attitudes of prayer: mediation, humility and trust.
The centurion sends a delegation to Jesus to intercede for him. What the centurion would pray for is not a grace for himself, rather for his slave. Pleading for the needs and cause of others is an essential element of Christian prayer. It is a manifestation of love. To pray for others is one of the best gifts we can offer them. Do you want the prayer to be effective, then, pray more for others and less for yourself. This is one lesson I have learned over the years through my experience. This is where intercessory prayers become important in my spiritual practices. Jesus Himself is the mediator par excellence. He intercedes for us with the Father. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all other saints on whose intercession we rely for help. The Jews who came to intercede for the cause of the centurion place their petition before the Lord with the logic of the “kindness and generosity” of the centurion—that in spite of his being a non-Jew, he is good to the Jewish community and that he built a synagogue for them. Indeed the best way of praying for the self is to pray through acts of kindness, generosity and love. Jesus gladly listens to the prayer of petition made in generosity and love and offers to go and heal the slave of the centurion. When it comes to generosity and love, nobody can outdo Jesus. If you take one step toward Him, He will take a hundred steps toward you.
The centurion is a unusual symbol of humility. He was a man of authority, power and influence. He could have ordered Jesus to come and heal his slave. But, he understands the Divinity of Jesus and he realizes how small he is before the Lord. This awareness is reflected in his declaration: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. “Only say a word and my slave shall be well”. Such was his humility that he does not feel even worthy to stand before the Lord, to see Him face to face. Jesus is moved by such a manifestation of humility, that too, from an unbeliever. True prayer is a reflection of the humble heart. The more I realize the grace of God surround me, I will fall on my knees and fold my hands before the Lord. Our hearts can be raised to the throne of God only on our bended knees, prostrate minds and folded hands. A danger that could happen to me in my journey of faith is that, the more I walk with the Lord, I might presume it is my right that He grants my prayer, that He come to my heart, that He moves with me. This is spiritual pride which would blind my heart to the real nature of my being a creature who only can beg for His mercy. Jesus offers to enter my heart, and stay with me in the Holy Eucharist. How do I welcome Him?
Prayer demands trust and faith in the power of God. The centurion expressed his trust in the Almighty and All powerful Lord, in His Word and Presence. God accomplished the creation of the universe with the power of His word, “Let it be”. Jesus worked out miracles, bringing the dead back to life by the power of His Word. His Word has not diminished in power. His word is active and effective as it was in the beginning, as it was 2000 years ago, and it will be powerful till the end of the world. I just need to believe and trust in His power. Prayer involves a two-fold trusting: trusting in the power of God, and trusting in His mercy/love. To believe that Jesus can do a miracle is not enough. The faith that everything is possible with the Lord is just the beginning of trust. I need also to trust in His mercy and love that He will do it for me. The Lord can, and He will! This is what is called “confidence” in prayer.
Today, let me bring before the Lord, in confidence, faith and trust, all the intentions and petitions of my community, especially those who are in need of His healing grace this day. Even as I am most unworthy of His favors, I believe that the Lord will show mercy to those who trust in His Word.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Exodus 32:7-11,13-14; 1Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
Sunday Scripture Reflections
Losing and finding are common experiences of our daily life. And we live in the paradox of losing in order to lose and lose in order to find. Growth, change and becoming are measured in terms of our ability to lose and gain. The Gospel for our reflection today has three parables depicting the pain of losing and the joy of finding.
Salvation History—A History of Losing and Finding:
The Bible is the story of human beings’ pain of losing God, and God’s joy of finding us. It is also a story of humanity losing sight of its goal, losing and breaking relationships and finding each other in repentance and love.
Adam and Eve:
The very first story of the Bible is about God’s joy of accomplishing creation and His pain of losing the humankind. God brought forth Adam and Eve, the reflection of His very heart, showed them the whole creation, blessed them with the greatest blessings and set them in the Garden of Eden to be free, happy and God-like. The very next moment we find man being lost, hiding and seeking the cover of darkness. God comes looking for him, and calls him: “Adam, where are you?” Adam says, he is hiding, because he is afraid, he is naked, he is miserable. And he raises his accusing finger against his wife, saying, it is because of her, and she in turn accuses the serpent. In this process of finding fault and pointing figure at each other, they found themselves lost first to God, second to each other and third to the entire creation. But God does not want man to be lost. He calls his name, brings him before His light and makes shows Him a way to return: repent.
Cain and Abel:
We find God coming again, looking for the sons of Adam. He calls out Cain who murdered his brother, and asks him, “where is your brother?” Cain retorts, “Am I the keeper of my brother?” Cain tried to hide his sin, his anger, his bitterness, and himself from God. Yet, God will let him realize, he cannot run away from His sight, that he cannot deny his responsibility for his brother.
Yahweh kept accompanying His people, He chose them and made a covenant with them that He will be their God and they will be His people, that He will be loyal to them, true to His promise and faithful to His covenant. But His people turned stiff-necked, stubborn, and unfaithful. They ran away from their promise, abandoned their faith and went after false Gods. This is the background of the first reading, where, God seems to have run short of His patience for a people who went on playing hide and seek. But, no matter how his people will run away from Him, He runs after them with the cords of compassion and love.
God’s desire and efforts to find His children back home culminated in His becoming man, Emmanuel, His being with us that we may never again keep hiding from His presence. He brought us the lost-heaven, the lost grace and the lost way. Now we only need to look at Him, the crucified, that we may find life, light, and love. In so many ways, in so many words He reminded us that God delights in us in our finding Him, and God rejoices in getting us back home.
The Gospel passage today presents three parables of Jesus depicting the pain of losing and the joy of finding. These parables are on the one hand about the loss of grace and the joy of repentance. On the other hand, these are about you and me getting lost to ourselves and to each other. It is about loss of self-confidence, self-worth, and dignity as well as loss of relationships, loss of trust and loss of faith in each other. It is also about finding courage to face reality, accept truth about the self, taking steps to reach out to the broken/lost relationships, restoring the loss of dignity and trust.
The Three Kinds of Losing and Finding:
The three parables of Luke, chapter 15 are about three types of losing and finding that we experience in our daily life. They are: 1) the loss by carelessness, 2) loss by impulses/instincts, and 3) loss by defection.
Losing by Carelessness: The Lost Coin
The first parable is about a woman who lost one of her coins which she treasured so much. A coin cannot get lost by itself. It is the woman who either misplaced or dropped the coin somewhere by her carelessness, forgetfulness, oversight, or taken-for granted attitude. Now that she lost it she feels the pain, takes responsibility for the loss and acts on it, with a diligent search. How many relationships have I broken because of my carelessness? How many opportunities for improvement have slipped away because of my carelessness and taken for granted attitude? How many people have I hurt, bruised, and they in turn have walked away from my life because of my insensitivity, forgetfulness and oversight? How often have I neglected the presence of God, the blessing of love, security, care and comfort that so many people so selflessly give me? No matter what, if I have lost relationships, friendship, love and grace, the fact is I cannot afford to put the blame on the other person. I need to own responsibility for the loss. Like the woman who lost the coin, I need to light the lamp of hope and diligently seek what is lost. Seek, and you shall find is the promise of the Lord. Do not give up until you find. Once you find, celebrate your joy. Indeed, relationship is all about celebration. Life is all about the search. The search is all about hope, and hope is all about the joy of finding.
Losing by Impulses/Instincts: The Lost Sheep
A sheep is primarily an animal, no matter how pretty, adorable and lovable it may be. As an animal it lives by impulses and instincts. An impulsive life can expose it to dangers. A sheep is short sighted. It can lose sight of the way and get trapped in the wilderness. Sometimes we can be led by impulses and instincts rather than reason and faith. A person who lives by instincts and impulses loses sight of His purpose and direction in life. Impulsive behaviors can cause us relationships, and damage reputation. Sometimes we lose control of our senses, feelings, and instincts. A short tempered man, might easily get angry with others. He may not be aware of the rising of his pitch, the change of his tone, the reddening of his face and the resultant loss of patience and trust people have in him. How many people have broken away from me because of my wild and instinctive behavior! How many times have I lost my dignity and self-worth on account of my impulsiveness? Now, in Jesus, the good shepherd I have hope and comfort. No matter how people might look at me, the Lord will carry me in His hands, shoulder me to home, and rejoice for me, if only I give him the privilege of finding myself, listening to His call and submitting myself to His gentle love.
Losing by Defection: The Lost Son
The younger son who defected from his father willfully cut off his relationship with his home. He did not want to be called a son. He knew what he was doing. He knew the implications and consequences of breaking off with his father. With knowledge and understanding he took away whatever belonged to him and went away. He lost his sonship hoping that he will find better relationships outside. He risked the comfort of his home as he found more comfortable and pleasure filled homes outside his home. His breaking away, however did not mean that his father lost him. No matter what happened, nothing changed the love of his father for him. This is why the father would patiently, hopefully wait for his son to return him home and celebrate his homecoming with all his resources. He knew that at times it is better to let go that you may find the worth of life and love. For the son, it was a painful process of realizing, remembering, repenting and returning which resulted in great rejoicing. Since it was a willful act of defection, the father was helpless unless the son himself will come out from the hiding. Most experiences of loss in my life are results of my own willful acts. In this information society, I am well fed with sufficient information and bombarded with spiritual, emotional and social formation programs, that I make my choices of defection, breaking off, and abandoning relationships knowing too well the consequences and the pain of loss. This is where the entire world seems to be helpless, unless and until I humbly accept my mistakes and return home to the broken promises and damaged relationships. I need to remember my promises, repent over my mistakes from my heart, and return to the source of grace and to the people whom I hurt. Then I will experience the joy of finding what I lost. On the part of the offended, I need to be open minded, patient, compassionate and forgiving. You might let the other party hide and get lost, yet do not let yourself be losing hope. If your offender comes back make it a reason for celebration, not of nagging.
Here are the five Rs of losing and finding: Remembering, Repenting, Returning, Reinstating and Rejoicing!
September 11, 2010
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Today is 9/11. Our memories are still fresh with the images of the World Trade Center (WTC) melting down to the ground nine years ago. The twin towers of the WTC were the symbol of modern democracy, market economy and trade. It was built in pure steel, in the center of the high security zone of the city of human envy, the New York. Yet, the structures of the WTC collapsed in as the world watched in dismay and disbelief. Our world has changed since then. So much of suffering, war, destruction, suspicion, hatred, and all forms of human sufferings were brought about as an aftermath of the attack on race-down of the WTC.
Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel today of the need of laying strong foundations, and demands that we build our house on His Word. His parable of the house builders—those who built on shallow ground with inferior materials, and those who built on strong foundation with superior quality materials—is a reminder for us to check the house that we are. He does not want us just to look strong, beautiful and awesome rather be strong within and without to withstand all forces of nature and all attacks of the evil forces. Jesus wants his Disciples to stand up on the face of adversities, persecutions and sufferings. His Word and Sacraments are the foundation that will not melt down, crumble, and dissipate in the severest forms of attacks be, they physical, emotional, or spiritual.
It is disturbing to learn that this day, in order to mark the 9/11, a Christian sect in the United States is planning to organize the “burning of Quran”. The rationale behind such an attempt is that the 9/11 attack was an act of the Moslems on the psyche of the Christians. The terrorists, who blew up the WTC on this fatal day, nine years ago, belonged to the Islamic extremist groups. So, many people view it as a religious war. The developments after the 9/11 show how much hatred and subsequent violence has been perpetuated on the line of religion. People, especially in the West have come to brand all the Moslems as terrorists. And, the much publicized attempt of a certain Christian sect of burning the Quran has invited those in Islam, especially those in the extremist forms, to brand Christianity as evil, and threatened to burn down Churches and eliminate the Christians in India, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The fact is, terrorism has no religion. Religious extremism, in any form is dangerous and to be condemned. Jesus would be the first to condemn those Christians who show intolerance to the believers in other faith.
A tree will be known by its fruits. Christianity will be known by the fruits of love, kindness, compassion and mercy. Any fruit contradictory to these core values of the Gospel comes from the devil. Christians, being led by the Holy Spirit, are to show their identity by the fruits of the Spirit.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in the early years of her mission, had no home to care for the destitute and the dying whom she picked up from the streets. So she sought refuge in the premise of a Hindu temple. But one of the priests in the temple was a strong critique of the Blessed Mother Theresa. It so happened that this particular Hindu priest became sick, was abandoned by his family, and was dying. Mother Teresa took him under her care, washed his body, fed him, gave him medicine, sat beside him, and cared for him with so much love and patience. Eventually, the man regained his strength, and began to assist the mother. One time, Mother Teresa asked him if he would like to receive Jesus, to be baptized. He said, “mother, I do not know about your God, I do not know how good he is and what your religion is. Yet, I have come to know you, how kind, compassionate and loving you are. If your God is as good and wonderful as you are, I will be happy to receive him.” And he became an ardent follower of Christ. Mother Teresa is a wonderful example of a good tree that produces good fruits for the Lord.
The Church of Christ will never fall, perish or disintegrate, because it is built on the foundation of Jesus, the faith and faithfulness of His disciples, and the exemplery, fruitful lives of the saints. No form of attack has been strong enough to distroy the faith of the martyrs and saints for their faith was strong. They showed it in the fruits of forgiveness, compassion, mercy and kindness.
The scripture, in the context of the 9/11 challenges us to be true Christians, rooted in the foundation of the Gospel, and to bear fruits of the Spirit. Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you... by this love people will come to know that you are my disciples" (Jn 13: 35).
September 10, 2010
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 6: 39-42
One of the most delicate organs of our body is the eye. It can easily get sick, infectious and contaminated. When the eye is in trouble the whole body is in darkness. Blindness can affect not only the body but also the mind and the soul. This is why we need to check our eyes so very often.
I am talking not just about the physical eye, but more so of the inner eye and the “I” of myself. The “I” defines me. The “I” is my self—my true self and my false self. When the “I” is infected, sick and contaminated, “I” become “selfish”, “self-centered” and “self-righteous”. I am selfish when I carry a big ego, when I consider myself as the one who deserves everything in the world, when I think “I am” all in all. Selfishness does not allow me to see the other. You do not exist for me, or you do not matter to me. All that I care, is me, and mine.
Self-centerdness is revealed in me when I think of myself as the center of the universe, the center of attraction. You exist in as much as you are useful for me. I can see you as a thing, as a person secondary to me, as one who ought to serve me.
The self-righteous I would see you, and so very often notice you, but as an imperfect, subordinate being. If there is a problem in the community, I am the victim and you are the criminal. You are the source of all problems. I am perfect and holy. You need to improve a great lot. I consider it my duty to improve you and change you. I am happy to volunteer in pointing out the “evil” in you and the “splinter in your eyes”. I am a self-righteous person when I am an expert in criticism, tsismis and nagging. This is when I feel worried and restless over the splinter in your eyes, I do not realize the wooden beam in my own eye.
Now Jesus offers free consultation and cure for all “I” problems. Let me examine my “I” in the clinic of Jesus. Let me wash my “I” in the waters of repentance and cleanse my “I” in the drops of grace. Let the laser beams of His Word cut through the blindness of my “self”. Let me not over-expose my “I” to the contagious, harmful elements outside. Let me keep my “I” closed and shut at times, that I may restrain from all gossip, criticisms, self-praise, and condemnation of the world around me. Let my exercise of faith and spiritual practices help me have the courage to bare my true self (I) before the Lord and submit myself for an “I” transplant. My false self may be replaced with the true self of Jesus. Then I will be able to say with St Paul, ““Now I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2: 20).
Thursday, September 9, 2010
September 8, 2010
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Names: On this birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we heard in the Gospel proclamation, the genealogy of Jesus. So many names! I cannot but be amused every time I read these names out. Do you find your name there? If the genealogy of Jesus were to be written today, your and my name would find a place there. In the Matthean account of the family tree of Jesus, we have the names of those who connected the salvation history of Israel. Among these, some names are hard to pronounce, some are too odd to remember, some are very familiar, and yet some of these names are very sweet to me evoking great love, devotion and faith. The genealogy began with the name of Abraham, and ended with Jesus, the Emmanuel, the Son of Mary. The name of Jesus is the name above all names, the name before which all knees bend. Jesus brought us the name of God, a God who has been shied away from revealing His name to the prophets of the old. In Jesus, we know that God is Love, and He is with us. This name fills us with joy, adoration and hope. Another name, that lifts our spirit and draws us in joy is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and our mother, too! The name of Mary is great and sweet not because we love her name, but more so, because God loves her name. The name of Mary has been in the heart of God even before He accomplished creation. Mary’s name was in the mind of God when He dwelled on the plan of salvation.
Speaking about names, I am reminded of a story I heard when I was in grade two. Abou Ben Adhem woke one day from a deep dream of peace, and saw, within the moonlight in his room, an Angel seated on a throne and writing in a book of gold. Abou was amused, at the vision, and in peace and courage he asked the Angel, “May I know, your grace, what are you writing in the book?” The angel raised his head gave a sweet glance at Abou and said, “I am writing the names of those who love the Lord”. Abou asked in anticipation, “Is my name there?”, to which the angel said, “sorry, Abou, your name is not yet in this book”. Abou’s face fell. Yet in peace, in a lower tone he said, “I pray, you then, write my name as someone who loves his fellow men”. The angel wrote and vanished. The next night, the angel came again with a great wakening light, and showed Abou another book in which were written the names of those who were loved by God. The angel then declare, “Here in this book of names, Abou Ben Adham, your name is first among those who are loved by God”.
Mama Mary’s name, we love it. Her name is great not because she loved the name of the Lord more than anyone else. But more so, because she is the first among those loved by the Lord. Remember what the angel told her at the annunciation: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is pleased with you!”. And Mary said, “the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is His name… All generations will call me blessed… (Lk 1: 48-49). God loved her from the beginning of creation, set her apart, gave her immaculate conception, and handed her His Son, to be cared for and to present Him to the world. Her name is closer to His heart that she was assumed into the throne of God, in body and soul.
Indeed, all generations will praise the name of Mary. Blessed be her name! The name of Mary is so sweet to us that we cannot even count how many names and titles we attribute to her. We call her in so many names because, for every need, every occasion, every struggle, we have our Mother coning to our rescue. We gather today to sing the praise of Mary, to glorify God for the great gift of Mary, and to thank Him for giving us a mother who is the model of all virtues. In Mary, God has taken shape, form and a name. In her, we have come to be beloved to the Father. In her, God has come to live with us. The Emmanuel is as much a gift of God to Mary, so also a gift of Mary to us.
We celebrate her birthday because she is our beloved Mother. As we celebrate her, we are also celebrating our life. A mother is pleased and happy when her children band together around her. It is the greatest joy of a mother to see her children united in love and growing in sharing and mutual understanding. Let us give our Blessed Mother that joy today by strengthening our familial and community bond, love and strengthening our relationships.
Mama Mary's name is sweet to us because she is a wonderful mother. She never abandons us. When she was here on earth, she left her hart with God in heaven. She left her heart with Jesus. Now when she is in heaven, she has left her heart with us here on earth. Mary cannot be happily seated in heaven as long as we, her children reach her in heaven. Her heart is with us. This is why, when we are in trouble, as a loving Mother she rushes to our help. When we are in pain, in distress and agony, our Blessed Mother feels our pain and she comes down to comfort us and to give us strength. What a grace for us to remember, that we have a Mother who is in heaven, whose heart is with us. So, keep clinging to her. Open your heart to your mother. Tell her of your struggles, pains and inadequacies. Tell her your stories. Since the time Jesus entrusted John to her as her son, Mary has kept us all in her heart, she has accepted us as her beloved children. She loves us as she loved Jesus. As she took care of Jesus today she takes care of us. As she carried Jesus in her hands, she carries us and brings us to the presence of the Heavenly and constantly intercedes for us. So on her birthday, ask the blessed mother, a special gift, a special favor that you need today.
On her birthday let us also give Mama Mary a birthday gift. Let us give her the best. The best gift we can give our Blessed Mother is the gift she gave us. The best gift she gave us is Jesus. Let us also give Jesus to others today. In our love, compassion, care, forgiveness and acts of charity we bring Jesus to others and share His presence with others. When we become mirrors of the Emmanuel, God with us, we become true children of Mary.
Happy birthday Mama Mary! We are happy for you, and because of you, Blessed Mother! I pray, you will be happy for me as well!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
September 7, 2010
Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 6: 12-19
Jesus was a man of prayer. Come what may, no matter how busy his day could be of active ministry, Jesus still found time and place to pray. If the day is full of work, the night is full of prayer! If the valleys and planes are full of noise, preaching and action, the mountains are full of silence, solitude, serenity and prayer. How great to realize that the Lord who holds the universe in His heart has got time for everything!
Jesus prayed that He may chose well. He prayed that His choices be made in discernment. Life is a series of choices that we make. The Kingdom building life of Jesus consisted in one big choice of Incarnation and salvation, and was marked with the daily choices of making and keeping disciples, Word becoming flesh and flesh becoming Word.
PC and CP:
In prayer and choice one can either be a CP or a PC—Choose and Pray or Pray and Choose. Jesus chose to be a PC. He prayed first and then chose. The whole night He spent in communion with the Father helped Him realize the Holy will of the Father regarding the selection of the Apostles. He was making the foundation of His Church in choosing the Twelve, who would be His ambassadors and visible signs. He brought in prayer to the Father all those who followed Him, the great number of disciples who showed interest in His Kingdom building project. He sought the mind of the Father for each of them. From among the list of the disciples, it was the Holy Trinity that chose the Apostles. It was a choice made in Spirit, in Love and in Life. Although, on the face of it, in human standards, His choice of the twelve seemed foolish, History shows us that, Jesus made the right choice.
In most of my decisions and choices of my life, I realize that I am more a CP than a PC. I choose first and then pray that my choices are right. I set my eyes on the things I like. I choose relationships and comforts that I think are good for me. Then having made my choice and lived with it, I pray that the Lord may approve it, and accept it as His will. I choose jobs, careers, and vocations of my likings and then pray that Lord be pleased with me and my choices. From the daily mundane choices to the choices that have far reaching impacts on my life and the lives of other people I might go by my inclinations and likings first and wish it were the will of God for me and my people.
In being a CP, I am putting pressure on God, compelling Him to change His will. I am praying then that Lord I have made my choice, be pleased with it. In other words, a CP is praying, “Lord my will be done”.
Monday, September 6, 2010
September 5, 2010
Twenty-third Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9b, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
Jesus enjoyed great popularity. Great crowds followed Him. They followed Him because He impressed them with His words, and mighty deeds. It was at the height of this popularity and fanfare Jesus now made an unpopular demand on His followers. It seems, He was not as much impressed with the crowds as the crowds were with Him. The demands were so uncompromising and obviously difficult. Indeed, Jesus risked his popularity by making such great demands on His disciples.
The Triple demands: You want to be a disciple of Jesus? Here are the requirements: 1) Renounce your relationships, 2) Renounce your comforts, and 3) Renounce your possessions.
A paradoxical command: Anyone who listens to this teaching of Jesus would ask, if becoming a Christian, a disciple of Jesus implies renouncing (“hating”) one’s parents, children, wife, husband, relatives and friends, who can follow this teaching? Have we not learned from early on in our catechism the commandment of God that we shall love, respect and care for our parents? Has not Jesus also taught us that we need to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves? How does Jesus make sense, then in His call to renounce all our intimate relationships for us to be his disciples?
Indeed, this teaching of Jesus is paradoxical in nature. Renunciation is not to make us desolate, orphans and miserable. This is “losing in order to gain” and “letting go in order to be complete”. These triple renunciations will make us what we all look for in our relationships, comforts and possessions: happy, whole and contented.
Center and the peripheries: The triple demands of discipleship is all about positioning: position God at the center and everything else at the periphery of my life. Remember, what Jesus said, when He was asked which is the most important commandment in the law— 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Indeed, love of God is the center of all commandments. Everything else is to be positioned at the periphery compared to the Love of God. It is the love of God that gives meaning and purpose for the love of neighbor and the love of self. I love others first and foremost because I love God. How beautiful our world would be when the Love of God is the center of all our relationships, pleasures, pursuits and possessions!
God— the center of all relationships:
The call to renounce (hate) all human relationships then, is a call to deepen our relationships in love. It is a call to make God the center of all my relationships. When God is the center of relationships, all relationships are sacred and holy. There is a tendency for human relationships to grow so exclusive that there is no room for God, so intimate and private that there is no space even for God. It is this tendency that we need to give up, hate and renounce. Instead, allow God to be the center of your family, and every relationship you cherish in your heart. Seek His will for you, consult Him, and share your joys and sorrows, victories and failures, strength and weaknesses… This is a call to transformation, to see God in every person whom you love. St Paul understood and lived this transformation of relationship in a radical way when he said, “Now I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2: 20). Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose feast falls this day, verbalized this centrality of God in relationship, when she was asked, how is it that she is able to care for the neglected, abandoned, disfigured, and the dying people with immense love, she said: “I see Jesus in them. It is not a burden but a privilege to serve the Lord in the poor. In their cries I hear the cry of Jesus and in their smiles I see the smile of Jesus. I feel happy doing something beautiful for the Lord”.
God—the Center of my comforts:
Renunciation of comforts, if not for the grace of God, does not have any value in itself. Yet, all comforts and pleasures are sacred when God is the center of my comforts. When I allow God to be the center of my comforts and happiness, I realize another paradox of life: Cross is grace! Taking up my daily crosses no more becomes a burden for me, rather a source of joy, when done in love for the Lord. Cross becomes heavier, unbearable and miserable when I carry them on “my way”. Carry the cross, following the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus will refresh you. Cross is sharing burden. My cross is a source of grace for others. This is what self-less love, service and care all about. Because, in you I see my God whom I love more than my life itself, I give up my comforts that you may be comforted. Love without sacrifice is not true love. Sacrifices without love are not true sacrifices.
All the pleasures and comforts this world gives is legitimate and worth enjoying if God is the center of those pleasures.
God—the Center of my possessions:
Material blessings, riches and possessions may become a hindrance in my way of discipleship if I consider them above my faith, morality and Christian commitment. I might lose sight of my true calling to be a child of God if I do not make God the center of all my possessions. When God is the center of my riches and blessings, I become a liberated person, with an attitude of gratitude and love.
The story of Onesimus which we heard in the second reading gives us a fitting example of Christian attitude towards possessions. Onesimus was a slave, a property of Philemon, a Christian convert. Onesimus ran away from Philemon and came to St Paul who baptized him. Paul was now put under house arrest in Rome, and Onesimus offered to serve him. But Paul decided to send him back to Philemon with an appeal that Onesimus, by virtue of his baptism has become the spiritual son of Paul. He sends Onesimus with great feeling of love. He is no more a slave now. Accept him as a brother. For everyone who believes in Christ is His family and we are brothers to each other. Do not treat him as a slave any more. Onesimus, who was the property of Philemon is now shown to be a means of grace for his once master. By giving up the right of ownership Philemon is not losing the service of Onesimus, but he serves him all the more, with love, and Philemon, is called upon to serve him in return, in love. This change of attitude has come about because of Christ, and our call to be disciples of Christ.
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to set us free, make us whole and fill us with contentment, satisfaction and joy in our relationships, comforts and possessions. Let us also promise to the Lord, as we lay the cross of our life in this Eucharistic offering, that we will make Him the center of our relationships, comforts and possessions.
September 3, 2010
Friday of Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 5: 33-39
Jesus gives us three practical, simple yet profound principles of life which should be the mark of every Christian: Do not criticize, do not compare, and have discernment.
The Pharisees and scribes never missed a chance to criticize Jesus. They were constantly looking for opportunities to show Jesus in bad light. They fabricated stories and distorted facts to accuse Jesus of being and doing wrong. They left no leaf unturned in finding fault with Jesus. This time they thought they got something to accuse Him of in the vivid life-style of His apostles and of Jesus Himself. They did not conform to the standard of “being religious”. They judge Him as a glutton and pervert. His band of disciples do not exhibit religious discipline, they accused. But, Jesus is unmoved by criticism. He had already made it clear to His disciples not to judge others. The one who judges others brings about judgment on himself.
There is this story of a young professional and her husband migrated to Sydney for their job. They moved into a house in a subdivision. As they were dining she looked through the window and saw the laundry line of her neighbors. She noticed that the laundry were not done properly, the clothes looked stained and soiled. On the following day, as she looked through the window she saw the same sight, the woman in her neighboring house was spreading laundry for drying. She was dismayed to notice that the clothes looked not clean. She thought to herself, may be this neighbor does not know how to do laundry. Why does she not consult someone to improve her job? May be somebody needs to call her attention that she is not doing a good job. She brought this to her husband. On the following day, the woman was taken by surprise as she looked through the window and found a very clean and neat laundry line outside. She shared her surprise with her husband and said, “see, it is incredible. Something has happened, our neighbor seems to have learned their lesson. Now their laundry looks so clean. May be somebody has called their attention!”. Her husband looked at her and said, “yes, something has happened. This morning I cleaned our window pane. Now you can see clearly the objects outside”.
What you see outside is a reflection of what you are within. Jesus said, “if your eyes are sound, your whole body is in light”. Indeed, the more imperfect you are, the more imperfections you will find in others. The itch to criticize indicates the infection of imperfection within.
Do not Compare:
The Pharisees and scribes found Jesus and His companions unacceptable because they did not conform to others. They were not like the group of John or of the Pharisees. Jesus showed how unique He is. The best formula for an unsatisfied and unhappy life is to compare yourself with others and to compare others with yourself or else one.
God does not compare two people, he created them unique. God is delighted not when I try to be like others, but when I try to be who truly I am. Be myself. Know my potentials and weaknesses. Know my abilities and talents.
For everything there is an appropriate time. For everyone there is an appropriate destiny. There is time for everything. Discernment is a spiritual principle that helps me do the right thing in the right time in the right manner. Jesus was a person of discernment. He knew when to be with the crowd and when to be in solitude. He knew when to preach and when to act.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
September 2, 2010
Thursday of Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Great Catch: A fisherman’s dream:
Peter and his companions had a great catch as they risked their wisdom and dared to obey the command of Jesus. It was a dream catch. The greatest dream a fisherman has is to have a great catch, so great that his life could change. Indeed, this was the day Peter and his companions had it beyond their dream. They caught big. Their nets were tearing up and their boats were about to sink for the quantity of fish they caught that day. Their joy was beyond expression for they had their dream catch when they had given up after all their efforts went dry.
Eyes off from the fish to the Carpenter:
If the fish they caught amazed them, they were all the more amazed when they took off their eyes from their catch to the one who showed them the direction. The Carpenter-teacher, who borrowed Peter’s boat for a while for his teaching has now rewarded them beyond their expectations and imaginations. The fisher men rightly sensed that the Carpenter from Nazareth has a greater wisdom and power than the fisher folk. He knows the direction. It has slowly dawned on them, that, HE IS THE DIRECTION in life. They were caught up in wonder with the wisdom and direction of Jesus.
He Caught Them:
Jesus caught them! More than Peter and the companions with the amazing catch of their lives, it turned out that it was Jesus who had a great catch that day. He caught them by surprise and amazement. He caught them by faith. He caught them by His Divine word of love. Indeed, Peter and his companions realized that this was their day. Their life will be no more the same not because they had their dream catch, but because Jesus has caught them! They wound no more complain for the dearth of fish, for Jesus has offered to teach them the art of fishing. He has promised even greater catch—to catch men for His Kingdom! This realization led them to let go of their dream catch—the jackpot they hit—along with their fishing gear, hired workers, families and friends and follow the carpenter turned Master Fisherman. Now, Jesus not only provides for them, but becomes the boat of their life in which they will cross the ocean of this turbulent world. Jesus has become the fish for them, satisfying them in their physical, spiritual, emotional and social needs. From their job of fishing in the sea, they are now given the vocation to fish people and bring them to the ocean of grace. No more will they need to frantically spin for direction, for they have the sure source of direction with them.
Do I feel frantic, directionless, and hopeless in my relationships and work? Let me look up to the Lord this day for direction and strength.
Do I allow myself to be caught by grace?
Do I lend my boat for Jesus today?
What are the greatest dreams I cherish in my heart?
Do I bring those dreams to the Lord, and what response do I give Him when He asks me to change the direction and let go of my fears?
How do I open myself, my life and resources to Jesus the Teacher, the Leader, the Motivator, and the Provider?
What are the things the Lord is asking me to risk this day that I may have the greatest catch of my day?
How do I respond to the call of the Lord to join him in “catching men for His Kingdom”?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
September 1, 2010
Wednesday of Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
This Jesus is difficult to understand. His ways are not our ways. His attitude is not our attitude.
Jesus was rejected in Nazareth. He did not reject them in return but quietly went away from them. He was welcomed in Capernaum. He made His home there, yet He did not keep Himself grounded over there. He refused to work miracles in Nazareth, yet His frist day in Capernaum was full of miraculous deeds—driving out demons and healing the sick. As He raised up the ailing mother-in law of Peter, He became the darling of his househod. He became the darling of the town mates as He laid His hands on all the sick and afflicted people, and cured them all who were brought to Him. He became the darling of the Apostles as He rose in popularity and became an instant “hit” in the town. Yet, Jesus withdrew from the crowd and even from the Apostles and went into a deserted place to spend His time in silent prayer.
The disciples were woken up by the people who came looking for Jesus. They realized that “Jesus is found missing!” They look for Him intently, and found Him in solitude and prayer. They could not understand this Jesus, who in the height of His popularity and fame, would run away from His fans and seclude Himself in silence. They could not understand this Jesus, who worked throughout the day and late in the evening, would discard His rest only to spent His time in silence and prayer. They could certainly not understand this Jesus, when He was in high demand, and everybody is happy with Him and look for Him, would abandon the place and leave the people in pursuit of other places for his mission!
Yes, His mission! That was the focus of His life. This was a mission given to Him by His Father. Therefore, He constantly consulted with His Father and sought after His Divine will for Him. His mission did not rest on popularity or mass-drive, acceptance or rejection, success or failure. His mission is not confined to some areas of life or some aspects of human situation. It is integral. In this sense, Jesus is the most perfect person—integral and balanced. His integrity flows from the integral life He chose to live. It was a life of deep compassion for others, yet a life of liberation, not grounded or tied down to any. It was a life of selfless service, rooted in prayer, meditation and deep intimacy with the Father. He immersed Himself with the people and their needs, even as He secluded Himself from the distractions of the crowd, and withdrew into the chamber of solitude. He effected healings and drove out demons even as inhibited from the clamor of performing miracles and working out signs and wonders. He preached a Gospel of love, peace and fullness of life, even as He invited us to take up our cross and follow Him and reminded us to give up and let go of everything for His Kingdom.
Nothing can stop Him: neither rejection nor acceptance, neither hostility nor hospitality, neither friends nor foes, neither popularity nor mass-hate… He leaves behind pain and joy, and He moves forward.
How do I follow this Jesus who is full of surprises and difficult to understand? How do I approach success and failures? How liberated a person am I? How easy is for me to leave behind the applause and popularity and move on to the unpopular? Do I feel being tied down to people, place, situations, projects and ideologies? How balanced a person am I in my service and contemplation? Am I comfortable with silence, solitude and contemplation as also with the company of people, noise and active service?