A Reflection on Ex 2,1-15 and Mt 11, 20-24
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A reflection on Lk.19.31
“The Lord needs it”.
Jesus sent two of His disciples saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied here a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it? just say this, ‘The Lord needs it’ (Lk.19.29-31). Jesus knew very well that He needs the colt for His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem because ‘all the things that are written about Himself in the Old Testament’ (L.24.27) had to be fulfilled (Mt.5 17).
Through Prophet Zechariah, who lived 500 years before the coming of Jesus, the Holy Spirit foretold about the coming Ruler of God’s people. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9.9).
Let us just reflect on the phrase: “The Lord needs it”. As the Lord needed the colt (donkey) for His Jerusalem Entry, He needs all of us for a particular task. There was a lady, who from very young age, has been praying that she gets a husband of faith who can pray with her and go to church together. But she happened to get a husband who was not at all religious minded, and a drunkard too. Once she was asking her counselor Priest why God did this to her. The Priest told: “To whom else shall God entrust that person, if not to you who is so prayerful? God needs you to transform that person through your prayer and perseverance”. Thereafter she had no complaints to God for what He had permitted in her life.
Very often we feel that we go through difficult situations and live with difficult people. Seldom do we realize that God has a purpose in placing us in that situation and amidst such people. He needs us to change the situations and change the people with His Grace. If only we ‘have the mind of Christ’ (Phil. 2.5), we can see people and situations with His eyes, hear with His ears, speak with His mouth and love with His heart. As we are entering into the Passion Week, may we
become a blessing for others by letting our Lord use us according to His pleasure and purpose. Then we can join with Jesus in saying: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your presence” (Jn.17.4)
The Faith of the Centurion (Mt. 8.5-13)
Jesus entered Capernaum, an army officer approached him to ask his help for healing of his servant who was sick lying at home. The army officer was not a Jew. Still with expectant Faith in Jesus, he approached him. What is remarkable to notice here is the love and concern of the officer towards his servant. It was not so among the masters at the time of Jesus. A servant or a slave working under a master is not given consideration and status of a human being. Especially when the slave becomes sick or invalid, he is thrown out as a useless commodity. But here we find this officer coming to Jesus to ask for the healing of his servant because he really cared for his servant. Something which is to be appreciated!
The officer also had faith and confidence in his position towards his servants. So when Jesus said he would come and heal the servant, realizing that he is a non-Jew, and was of lower status than that of Jesus, he said: “I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under orders myself, and I have soldiers under me. And if I say to one: ‘Go’, he goes, and if I say to another: ‘Come’, he comes, and if I tell my servant: ‘Do this,’ he does it.”
Before healing the servant, Jesus turns to those who were following him and said: “I tell you, I have found no one in Israel with faith like this. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but those who belong to the kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness outside; there they will weep and gnash their teeth.”
Let us take this as a warning for us who are labeled Christians, Baptised, the so called ‘followers of Christ’. The Lord is looking into our hearts to see how much faith we have; and also in our lives, how much do we express that Faith. The Holy Spirit tells through St. Paul: “When the Gentiles, who do not have Law, practise by nature what the Law commands, they are a Law to themselves, even though they do not have the Law. They show that the demands of the Law are engraved in their hearts, while their conscience also bears testimony and their conflicting thoughts either accuse or defend them. This will take place on the day when, according to my Gospel, God will judge people’s secret actions through Jesus Christ” (Rom.2.14-16): “To the jailer who asked Paul and Silas “What must I do to be saved?” they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved”. Whether it is a Hindu or Muslim or any one belonging to any religion, cast or creed, if he “calls upon the name of the Lord, he will be saved” (Act. 2.21). It is ‘through the grace of the Lord Jesus that everyone will be saved” (Acts. 15.11).
Let us take heed to the message the Lord is giving us through this incident of healing the servant of the Centurion. Our bearing a Christian name through the Sacrament of Baptism, our ritualistic devotions and prayers will not guarantee heaven for us. We need to have a living Faith in the Lord which will make us doers of his Word. In our lifetime, Jesus is our merciful Lawyer before God the Father, but after our death, he will be our Just Judge. But Jesus also has made it clear: “He who rejects me and does not receive my word, already has a judge; the very word I have spoken will condemn him on the last day”. (Jn. 12.48). So let us make use of our life time living a life of Faith, which means believing in Jesus and living his Word, through which salvation is guaranteed for all. (because they already receive Baptism by desire , if not by blood).‘The upright one (belonging to any cast or creed) will live by faith. So let us not be ashamed of this Good News; for it is God’s power saving those who believe, first the Jews and then the Greeks’ (Rom. 1.16, 17).
You also must be ready (Mt. 24.44)
Ready for what? For the coming of our Lord Jesus. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn. 1.1). This Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1.14). That is Christmas. So from the 1st day of Advent, we prepare ourselves to celebrate this great event of ‘infinite God became man’ to live among us, in order to make us God-like, divine. He came to reconcile us with the Father.
Advent is a time to ponder on the love of God. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”(Jn 3.16). “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn. 4.10). We are called to celebrate this love of God. Forgetting this main focus, we get ourselves busy with many external preparations. In Advent Season our Mother Church leads us through beautiful readings in the Liturgy of the Holy Mass, inviting us to reflect on our lives in order to cleanse our hearts/ lives of all that is not of the Lord and of His Kingdom, so that His Kingdom of love, joy and peace may be established in us. As we prepare the Crib for baby Jesus, let us also get ready to prepare our hearts for Him, for it is there He really wants to be born and to dwell.
Also Advent should help us to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus. In reference to the story of Noah and Lot, Jesus pointed out that the people were too engaged in ‘eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building’ (Lk 17.27, 28). Jesus reminds us that there is something more important than these things. Our citizenship is in heaven, where the Lord has ‘prepared a place for us’ (Jn. 14.3) The Son of Man will come at an unexpected time to take us there and hence we need to be ready to meet our Lord. Those who have gone before us for the eternal reward and those of us who will get the call before the Second Coming of Christ will be ‘raised imperishable, and will be changed’. Those who are destined to remain here to hear the trumpet call of His Second Coming will face the Saviour of the world in ‘the twinkling of an eye’ (1 Cor. 15.52). So let us “be dressed for action and have our lamps lit” (Lk. 12.35), ‘preparing the way of the Lord’ (Mt.3.3) to tell people that Jesus is going to come again, and also help them to prepare for His coming.
Prayer: Lord help us ‘not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but help us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Mt. 6.19,20).
A Reflection on Lk 13. 25-28
“When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door saying, ‘Lord, open to us’, then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from’. (Lk. 13.25)
Our God is a God of Mercy and God of Justice. “Note the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness towards you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (Rom. 11.22). Through the book of Sirach, the Lord tells us: “Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins”, for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger will rest on sinners. Do not delay to turn back to the Lord, and do not postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come upon you, and at the time of punishment you will perish” (5. 6, 7)
The door of God’s grace and mercy is opened for us during our life-time. He keeps inviting us to repent our wayward life and come back to Him. But a time will come when the door will be closed. In the above cited Parable Jesus makes it clear. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord, but the Holy Spirit tells us through St. Paul: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil.2.12). We need to co-operate with the grace of God. In the Parable of the ten virgins also we find ‘the door was shut’ when the five foolish virgins came late buying the oil for their lamps (Mt. 25.10). Let us be watchful, for we ‘do not know on what day our Lord is coming’ (Mt. 24.42). Let us be ‘dressed for action and have our lamps lit’ (Lk.12.35). We need to awake from our slumber and lethargy in our spiritual pursuits. St. Paul exhorts: “Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5.14). “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3.13,14).
The Feast of the Mother of Sorrows
“A sword will pierce your own soul“ (Lk. 2.35)
Our Lord Jesus has given us his Mother in order that we may take his place, love her and care for her; and she in turn will love us and lead us closer to Jesus. To accept her Motherhood in our spiritual life is the call to every believer in Christ. We are invited to relate to her as John, the believing and loving disciple related (Jn. 19.27). Mother Mary loves and cares for us as she did to Jesus in his earthly days. So let us respond to her love and entrust ourselves to her Maternal care and intercession.
Prayer: ‘O Blessed Virgin Mary, through you we drink from the wellsprings of salvation‘. (Responsory-Morning Prayer-Breviary). Through your intercession may the whole humanity, for whose sake Jesus your Son was made an atoning sacrifice, enter into that wellsprings of salvation. May we accept our sufferings and unite them with that of yours and offer them to the Heavenly Father in atonement for our sins.
A Reflection on Mk. 10. 35-40
The two Apostle Brothers, John and James, asked Jesus to grant their heart’s desire of one brother sitting on the right hand side and the other on the left hand side, when Jesus reached in his glory. We too put forth many petitions to Jesus which are quite selfish and for our own glory. Ignoring their question, Jesus asked them: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”? In order that their request may be granted, they immediately answered: “We are able”. But Jesus understood well that they did not grasp the meaning of it. So very affirmatively Jesus said: “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized”.
Before His Passion on the Mount of Olives Jesus prayed: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; but not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22.42). Jesus was asking the Apostles whether they are willing to drink the cup of suffering. Jesus is asking the same question to each one of us. Are we ready to take the cup of suffering extended to us by the Heavenly Father for varied purposes, and drink it to the full? Very often we want to avoid suffering, run away from suffering situations and hate the people who give us sufferings. “Whoever says, “I abide in him”, ought to walk/live just as he walked/lived. (1 Jn. 2.6)
After the Baptism of Jesus in river Jordan, Jesus said: “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” (12.49). Jesus was pointing out to this completion of His baptism, namely His death on the Cross, when He asked the two Apostles whether they are ready to be baptized with His baptism. The Holy Spirit asks through St. Paul: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (6.3). This is the template of our baptism which is to be lived everyday of our lives. We have to “consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6.11). In life and in death, Jesus is our model. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to “fight the good fight of the faith and take hold of the eternal life, to which we are called” (1 Tim.6.12).
Please listen to the audio ‘Martyrdom of St. James’- homily by Fr. Mariakumar- in the page ‘Media’
A reflection on Jn. 15.15
Jesus said: “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (Jn. 15.15). This loving God who is our Creator knows the plans He has for us, “plans for welfare and not for harm, to give us a future with hope” (Jer. 29. 11). Why don’t we ‘seek Him with our whole heart’ (Jer. 29.13) and get to know His plans for my life? He says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33.3). Unfortunately we don’t have not much time to dial this phone number of God- Jer. 33.3- because all the time we are occupied with incoming and outgoing calls, sms and chats through our mobile and iphone. When we are confused and face uncertainties in life, our loving Lord is so eager to help us out. He has promised: “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Ps. 32.8). If we cherish a loving relationship with this God every day of our lives, it will no doubt turn to be for our good! “Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose” (Ps. 25. 12). So let us build up a loving and living relationship with this God who walks with us, stand by us in whatever situation we are.
The hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven (1855) to comfort his mother in her loneliness is an inspiring one to all.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Listen, my people, to my warning
We hear so many warnings from different sources. About a forthcoming Tsunami, an earthquake, a flood, hot wave, storm etc. We immediately heed to the precautions suggested and move to different places, or seek protection in some other suggested ways. They are all meant for our physical well being. Our living God, throughout the centuries, have been giving us warnings, not only for our physical well being, but also, and mainly, to avoid spiritual disaster. Through Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord admonished Israel: “thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel…..’Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you’. Yet ,they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their own evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward…..They did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks” (Jer. 7, 23-26)
Even now we, the new Israel, are repeating the same mistake, doing things even worse than our ancestors did. But our God, so merciful and compassionate, who wants everyone to turn back one’s evil ways, is patiently giving us opportunities again and again to listen to His admonitions; He gently warns us of the consequences we will have to face, if we fail to heed to His voice.
Lent is a wonderful Season of Grace for us- a Season of prayer, fasting, penance, almsgiving, doing deeds of mercy- all meant to unite ourselves with the redeeming Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. From the 1st day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, every day, the Readings of the Liturgy of Mass call us for a radical change of heart- change of our attitudes to ourselves and to others, change of our way of speech and behaviour to people, our way of loving etc. Because often our life style is not according to the standards set by Jesus. Yet He is so merciful and so patient with us. He knows our frailty; He does not want to condemn us, but rather like a good shepherd searching for the lost sheep, He is coming behind us.
Let us love this loving Lord a bit more in this Lenten Season. Let us gladden His heart by heeding to His voice. May the Holy Spirit of God help us rise from a life of lukewarmness. In the words of St. Paul He exhorts us: “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5,14).
BEARING FRUITS ALL THE TIME
Continuation of reflection on last article
How can we produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5. 22, 23) ‘in season and out of season’? The Holy Spirit tells us through St. Paul that ‘we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph. 2.10). And he exhorts us ‘not to grow weary in doing what is right’ (Gal. 6.9).Even if we are faced with ongoing jealousy, envy, enmity and so on…from those around us, we are not to react; but be unmindful of their ‘evil’ attitude, and continue to do good. Is it practically possible for us?
Yes, it is; but only with the help of God. Knowing our weakness, the Lord has given us His Spirit to be with us always. (Jn. 14.16); but we must live in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2. Cor. 13.13) so that he will lead us, (Gal.5.16) and guide us (Gal. 5.25) – our every word, thought and deed. St. James says: “We do not have because we do not ask” (4.2). If we ask the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us radiate the goodness of Christ always, to ‘bear much fruit and become His disciples and glorify God, the Father’ (Jn.15.8), the indwelling Divine Guest will be more eager than us in helping us because his mission is to glorify God in our lives (Jn.16.14). That is why St. Paul said: “Pray in the Spirit always” (Eph. 6.18).
In first letter of St. Paul to Thessalonians, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5.16-18). When I was explaining this in one of my classes, one lady told me: “God forgot that we are human beings”. I said: ‘No, God has not forgotten that we are human beings. If he asks us to do something, he gives us the strength to do it, and he shows us the way to do it’. Then I tried to explain it this way. ‘We all eat a food stuff called sandwich. The plain pieces of bread are not so tasty and hence we keep something in between like egg or jam, with the taste of which we eat the sandwich’. I told her ‘God has given us a spiritual sandwich that is first letter of St. Paul to Thessalonians chapter 5. 16-18. Verse 16 and 18 may seem to be difficult to ‘digest’, like the dry bread. How can we rejoice always, and give thanks in all circumstances? But the wise God has put something in between; that is verse 17: “Pray without ceasing”. Yes, what we cannot do is possible with the help of God, which we have to get through our constant fellowship with him, praying and seeking his help and guidance. That is why Jesus said: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch (our life) cannot bear fruit (Gal.5. 22, 23) by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (Jn. 15.4).
May we pray for the grace that in life and in death we will glorify God and prove our credulity as the true Disciples of Christ. Let us not forget that ‘each tree is known by its fruits’ (Lk.6.44). Lord, we pray that we will not have to hear from you on the Last Judgement day: “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers” (Mt. 7. 21-23).
THE CURSED FIG TREE: A REFLECTION ON MK. 11.12-14
“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.”
We know that apples are seasonal. When it is not the season for apples, we will not tell ‘let us cut down the tree. It is simply taking the space’, even when there are no fruits on it. We know that the tree will bear fruit only in its season. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Mark has written, “It was not the season for figs”. Yet Jesus cursed the fig tree. What is the reason?
I often ask this question to the retreatants, but I have seldom got a proper answer. Recently one gentle man answered: “Jesus must be crazy”. This answer really shocked me. I cautioned him to mind his words because Jesus has said: “On the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12.36,37). The gentle man’s answer prompts me to share the insight the Lord has given me some years back in my personal prayer, which I have been telling during the retreats when my class is appropriate for the topic.
Jesus is not concerned with the fig tree producing fruits or the apple tree producing apples. But He is concerned with our lives’ tree producing the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom” (Mt. 21.43). Even St. John the Baptist, while preaching the Gospel of repentance exhorted people: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Mt. 3.3; Lk.3.8). There is no option; it is imperative, for Jesus has said: “Each tree is known by its own fruit” (Lk.6.44). The kingdom of God has ‘its own fruit’ and the kingdom of evil has ‘its own fruit’. We belong to the kingdom of God, we are the ‘kingdom people’ and the fruits of our lives should be the fruits of the kingdom of God, namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5.22, 23).
The fruits of the kingdom that we are expected to bear in our lives cannot be seasonal. ‘In good time and in bad time’, there should be fruits of the Spirit in my life which is the mark of my being the disciple of Christ, a subject of His kingdom.
In the first letter of our first Pope we read: “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh” (2.18). It is easy for us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, , generous, faithful, gentle and self-controlled, when everything and everybody around us are good to us. But as witnesses of Christ, we have to bear these fruits in our day to day life, by which ‘everyone will know that we are His disciples’ (Jn.13. 35).
It may seem impossible for us, but “what is impossible with men are possible with God” (Lk. 18. 27). We shall continue to reflect on it in the next article on this page.
MARANATHA – COME LORD JESUS
We are privileged to enter into another season of Advent, which is a season of spiritual renewal and preparation for the coming of the Lord. We await the coming of the Lord as we pray: ‘Maranatha : Come Lord Jesus’. In this Year of Faith, let this season be of much more grace-filled time for us than ever before. Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman has said in one of his sermons: “We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what? For the great event, Christ’s coming”.
Yes, we are watching, waiting, seeking and relating to a very personal God, who has become man and lived among us. God has become ‘Immanuel’ in Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of all the Divine Revelations. We do not believe in a myth or in an ideology or in an idol. ‘We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth; we believe in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died and rose again…’ He lives to die no more. He is with us ‘till the end of the time’ (Mt. 28.20). He becomes an experiential Reality for all the souls who seek Him with whole heart. Our watching for Him will never be in vain, because all those who have sought Him have found Him. “When you look for me you will find me; when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord” (Jer. 29.13, 14). Like Zacheus let us desire to ‘see Him’; like the blind Baltimaeus let us ‘long for His healing touch with expectant faith’; like Nicodemus, let us ‘long and search for the Truth’; like the Samaritan woman at the well, let us ‘thirst for the (Source of the) Living Water’. Yes, let us sincerely and wholeheartedly long for the ‘Messiah’, the Saviour of the whole world.
In history, He has come: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1.14); and He will come again! “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts. 1.11); “All flesh will see the salvation of our God” (Lk. 3.6)
‘St.Bernard of Clairvaux describes three aspects of the advent. He named as first that advent which had already happened in historical time and space and which we commemorate at each Christmas, the second one in which Christ entered the world through the womb of Mother Mary to “seek and to save that which was lost”. The third one is the Parousia, the advent in which Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and to take us to himself. Bernard explained the second advent as the “time of visitation” by which Christ is now present and active in each of our lives. Daily he is at work in us through grace to transform us into his likeness and to bring us salvation and healing from the sin, difficulties, sicknesses, and human frailties of our everyday lives’. (‘Awaiting the Messiah’ by Jeanne Kun- published in ‘Charisindia’ December 2010)
Each time when we listen to the readings of the Holy Mass, or when we personally read and meditate the Holy Scripture, let the Word become flesh in us; and may we walk through the ‘door of Faith’ (Acts 14.27) opened for us by our God Almighty through His Church, particularly in this Year of Faith. St. John the Baptist exhorted: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mt.3.3). Our Lord who died and rose again, who lives forever and is seated at the right hand of the Father, wants us to experience ‘His visitation’ everyday in our lives; that we may experience the ‘daily advent’. For in Him and with Him we all can experience the lasting Peace. But we need to heed to His voice: “Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place. Put not your trust in the deceitful words: “This is the temple of the Lord!” Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbour; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place. (Jer.7.3, 5).
Let us no longer lead lukewarm lives and be contented with being a baptised Christian and with our ‘outward form of religion’ (2 Tim. 3,5). Especially in this Year of Faith, let us strive to understand what is the meaning of our faith; of the great dignity and mission of our being a CHRISTIAN, being a true disciple of Christ. May the Holy Spirit of God help us to deepen our personal faith and to proclaim the message of Christ through our convictions, words and deeds.
The Mystery of Corpus Christi
The Mysteries of Trinity, Incarnation and Holy Eucharist are bound together in Christianity and these revealed truths are beyond the understanding of human reason.
In the mystery of the Trinity, the Father generates His perfect image, the Logos, the Divine Word, who is in ‘the bosom of the Father’ (Jn.1.18), and this Divine Word became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In the mystery of Incarnation,” The Word became flesh” (Jn. 1. 14) by the power of the Holy Spirit. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Jn. 1.1, 2). This is Jesus.
“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn.13.1). As the climax of the expression of His love and His desire to be with us to be ‘God Emmanuel’ (God with us), Jesus, by his Divine power at the last supper, instituted the Holy Eucharist. Taking the bread He said “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Mt. 26.26). Taking the cup of wine, “He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mk. 14.24).
The Church teaches us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church thus: “In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order to never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return.” (Para. 1337)
Jesus told His disciples : “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples” (Jn. 8: 31). The Holy Eucharist is for the disciples who ‘continue in His word’. But for the unbeliever it is just bread and wine. For the believer, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who suffered and died on the cross as a ransom for our sins, He who rose again from the dead and ascended to the Father, is the one who is present in the Holy Eucharist as our divine food for our souls , healer of our body and mind, and guarantee for our eternal life. This is the Mystery of the Eucharist. “Just as I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me” (Jn. 6.57). Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus comes into our life, makes us totally selfless and loving persons, and enables us to live like Him. It is He who helps us to think like Him, speak like Him and act like Him and finally to rise with Him to be with the Father. Therefore the worthy reception of the Eucharist accomplishes the miracle of transformation in our lives, restoring the image of God, so that we can say, it is no longer I but Christ that lives in me” (Gal. 2 .20)
Only we Catholics are privileged to know and believe what the Blessed Sacrament actually is. For us the Holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself. In the Eucharist Jesus Christ hides Himself from the secular eyes, from the eye of the unbeliever and reveals Himself to the believer. When Jesus foretold about the institution of the Holy Eucharist, some of His disciples were offended and went away. Then He asked the twelve chosen Apostles: “Do you also wish to go away?” (Jn. 6. 67). But St. Peter who was destined to lead the Apostles replied: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6. 68)
The history of the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi goes back to St. Juliana of Liege, Belgium who lived in the 13th century. She became an orphan at the age of five, and with her own sister Agnes, together with other few devoted women developed a special veneration to the Blessed Sacrament. She had a vision of the Church under the appearance of full moon (sign for Eucharist), having one dark spot which signified the absence of such a Solemnity. In 1208, she had a vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the Feast of Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist. Though she continued to have this vision for twenty years, she kept it secret but later she told this to her Confessor who in turn reported this to the Bishop Robert de Thorete and he instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi – body and blood of Jesus Christ- for his Diocese. Later, Pope Urban IV, who was formerly an archdeacon of Liege, and was interested in this devotion, instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi for the whole Church to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Pentecost. After the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V revised the Roman Liturgical Calendar and transferred the Feast to the second Sunday after the Solemnity of Pentecost, first Sunday being the Feast of Trinity.
Fr. J. Mariakumar and Mary Pereira
One man died for the sins of the whole world
“It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole world destroyed” (Jn.11.50). Yes, these words said by Caiaphas, the high priest was really a prophecy, though he did not fully understand the mystery and plan of God the Father behind it. Jesus came to die ‘not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God’ (vs 52). As St. John says in his first letter, “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world” (2.2)
We have entered into the Passion Week, starting with the Palm Sunday celebrating the Jerusalem entry of Jesus, singing the hymn:
“The King of glory comes,
The nation rejoices,
Open the gates before Him,
Lift up your voices”
About five hundred years prior to Jesus’ birth, God prophesied through prophet Zecharia: “Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9.9).
As we have entered into the Holy Week, let us allow the Holy Spirit to ‘waken our ears to listen to what the Lord teaches us’ (cfr. Is.50.4).The deep mysteries of His work of Salvation of the whole world are revealed to us through the Holy Scripture which we read, hear and meditate in this Solemn week. Let us be away from the daily schedule of our ‘busy and hectic life’ and heed to the loving invitation of our Lord: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest a while” (Mk.6, 31). The Lord is calling us to imitate Him in making God’s will our daily food, take up our day today cross and follow Him, to deny ourselves, and to lose our life for Him so that we may experience His abundant life.
He had said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15.13). And he fully translated His words into His life. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13.34). Everybody, all religions tell about loving others. But only Jesus Christ gave us a criterion for our love: “Just as I have loved you, love one another”. Let us open our ears to listen to the still voice of the Lord teaching us to love others following in His footsteps.
As we are at the closure of the Lenten Season, may we be conformed a bit more to His likeness by trying to ‘live the life of Christ in our sinful flesh though faith in Jesus Christ’ (cfr. Gal.2.20)
The Solemnity of St. Joseph
“Joseph, son of David do not be afraid” (Mt 1.20)
Every year on the 19th of March the Church keeps the Solemnity of St. Joseph who was the ‘husband of Mary’ (Mt.1.19) and the foster-father of Jesus. This is one of the two Feasts solemnised during the 40 days of Lent on which days, the Gloria is sung, and also the acclamation of Alleluia is uttered before the reading of the Gospel during the celebration of the Holy Mass . In fact St. Joseph comes only next to Mother Mary in the devotions of the Catholic Church. No record is kept about the death of St. Joseph, but it is said that he did not live to see the public life of Jesus. ‘Having died in the “arms of Jesus and Mary” according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death’ (Wikipedia). Hence he is the Patron of a happy death.
As we solemnly commemorate the death of St. Joseph on the 19th March, let us try to learn few lessons from this Saint who was so silent in his life. No words of him are recorded in the Bible but his actions speak a lot. The only description we see in the Bible about St. Joseph is that he was a ‘righteous man’. King James Bible and some other translations say that he was ‘a just man’. The New International Version (NIV) says that he was ‘faithful to the Law.’
When the Virgin Mary “had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with the child from the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1.18). Since Joseph was a just man, he did not want to put Mary to disgrace and ‘planned to dismiss her quietly. But when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him ‘not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’ (20), he submitted himself totally to God’s word. Who is a righteous person according to the Bible? The one who lives his life pleasing to the Lord, faithfully obeying His word. St. Joseph’s faithfulness to God’s word is seen in Mt.1. 19-24, Mt.2. 13, 14 and 19-21). He was ready to obey the message from the angel of God instantly, without arguing or questioning. He was not hesitant to act upon the message even in the middle of the night.
The only description about St. Joseph that he was ‘righteous’ speaks volumes. It means that he had set his heart on seeking God and doing His will. It needed courage to act upon the word of God, to accept Mary as his wife, to take care of the Mother of God and the Divine Child in the consequent trials and tribulations, in the doubts and insecurities. But Joseph responded in faith to the Lord’s message: ‘Do not be afraid’
Let us also put all our trust in God; in all our dilemmas of life, let us not give our ear to the words of people around us, but let us in silence listen to the voice of the Lord for our guidance. Let us quieten our mind and heart to listen to the still voice of God. Especially in this Lenten Season let us ‘keep our mouth shut’, and be silent like St. Joseph so that in our times of quiet reflections, we can hear God’s voice in our depths. The God Immanuel, God with us and within us, always whispers to us, but we seldom listen!
New Wine, New Wineskin
Jesus said, “New wine cannot be poured into the old wineskin” (Lk. 5.38). It is quite applicable for us as we are entering into the New Year. Usually people want to put new dresses for the New Year. It is good, but what is more needed is a ‘transformation through the renewal of our mind’, as St. Paul says in Rom. 12.2.. So as we are eagerly welcoming the New Year with all festivities, let us do an ‘examination of conscience’ to see where do we stand in our relationship with the Lord our God. We should give up all that takes us away from God. Each one of us should strive to become a new being, not with our strength, but with God’s grace and power. “Get rid of your old self; your hearts and minds must be completely made new, and put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy” (Eph.4. 22-24. Good News Bible). As we put on new clothes, let us remind ourselves that we need to ‘cloth with the life of Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 3.27).
Let this New Year take us closer to God, not away from Him. For without God, we cannot become a new being, for it is God who transforms our interior being. “When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come” (2 Cor.5.17). Symbolically when we put to fire the caricature of the ‘old man’ with crackers , let us not be just lost in that amusement, but seriously take a resolution to ‘burn’ all the filth of sin that is within us and decide that we are going to be a new being in Jesus Christ. He has said, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness” (Jn. 8.12). Nobody wants to walk in darkness. But we cannot deny the fact that there are traces of darkness in our lives – the darkness of sin of various sorts and in various degrees. Let us cleanse our ‘system’ of all that, so that the New Wine of God’s grace which is in store for all of us, can be poured into us. If it is poured into the old wineskin with all the malice and filth, then as Jesus has said: “it will break”. God’s Word reminds us of a change in 3 areas of our lives in Sirach 25.1 “There are three things in which I take special delight – things that are beautiful to the Lord and man alike – brothers who get along with each other, neighbours who are friends, and a married couple who are happy together”. Do I need a ‘repair work’ in these areas? Let us be humble enough to realise where we fall short of the glory of God, how we fail to be the fragrance of God’s love in my family, in my neighbourhood and everywhere. “Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits, and have put on the new self” (Col.3. 9, 10). As we stand at the outset of the New Year, let us in a very special way cooperate with the grace of our Lord who wants to ‘make all things new’ (Rev.21.5). Shall we sing along?
New life, new life
You come to give us new life
New life, new life
We take such joy in Your abundant life…….
May you all have a grace-filled, joyous New Year 2014.
I NEVER KNEW YOU, GO AWAY FROM ME
A reflection on Matthew 7, 21-23
The Lord taught in a nut shell the criteria of the life style of His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount which comes in the three chapters of St. Mathew’s Gospel, 5, 6 and 7. Towards the end of this discourse He pointed out the deception of doing many things in the name of Jesus, but failing to live His word in one’s life. Whether we are the true disciples of Jesus or not, is depending not only on our prayer life, our preaching or doing many things in His name (healing, casting out demons etc); but it is depending on how authentically, sincerely we try to live His Word in our day to day life. Is the Word of Christ enfleshed in my thoughts, intensions, personal decisions, my attitudes and dealings with others, in my words, in my whole lifestyle ….? OR do I only preach the Word ‘with authority’, do many things for the Kingdom of God, but forget about the transformation and renewal of my personal life? St. Paul writes: “If you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, then that you teach others, will you not teach yourself ? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2.17-24)
Let us take to heart the admonition of the Lord: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me. ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers’ (Mt.7.21-23).
After our conviction and satisfaction that we are ‘busy with the affairs of the Lord’, what a terrible thing it will be to hear this from the Lord, ‘I never knew you’! “A tree is known by its fruits” (Lk. 6.44), Jesus has pointed out. So my life should be like a tree bearing the fruits of the Kingdom of God. But we all can say along with the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips (Is. 6,5). This is our state, as “nothing good dwells in our flesh”. So St. Paul said: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom.7. 18, 19). But then he acknowledged the great truth: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom.7.24, 25)
Yes, “if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8.13). Thanks be to God the Father who sent His Son Jesus to give us His Spirit to help us overcome all our weakness. Thanks be to the Holy Catholic Church, who everyday in the night prayers (The Brievery) invites us to examine our conscience. As Pope Benedict XVI has said on the 5th death anniversary of Bl. Pope John Paul II, (02.02.2010) : “Catholics are called to a constant examination of conscience”. Only when I examine my conscience in the presence of the Lord at the end of each day, I can understand where I have failed the Lord.
Was I impatient with people today?
Was I harsh and angry towards others?
Was I dominant and self-righteous in my ways?
Was I humble and meek and was ready to consider others better than myself?
Did I have double dealings with others, having one thing in mind and saying or doing something else?
Did I show enough respect to the elders and to the Priests and authorities in my talk and actions?
Did I expect praise from others, rather than from the Lord?
Did I react to unjust criticism and justify myself unlike Jesus?
There can be many other things upon which the Holy Spirit of God can shed His Light and gently point out my failings. He, who convicts us of our sins, also gives us the grace of repentance and renews our lives, if we are ready to cooperate with Him. May we all yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and transform our lives every day so that in the end we will not have to hear from the Lord: “I never knew you”.
“I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9. 27)
JESUS COMES TO CAST FIRE ON EARTH
A reflection on Luke 12, 49 – 53
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” We know Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, came to earth as the Saviour of the world; the good news announced by the angel of the Lord at His birth was: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Lk. 2,14).
In the Gospel of St. John we read the testimony of John the Baptist proclaiming about Jesus who came to him to be baptised in order “to fulfil all righteousness” (Mt. 3.15). “John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and, it remained on him. I myself did not know Him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit’. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1,32-34).
When Jesus had been baptised, ‘the heavens were opened’ (cfr.Mt.3,16). Heaven was on earth in Paradise where Adam and Eve were living in communion and communication with the living God. But they were driven out of Paradise after their fall to the sin of disobedience and independence (Gen. 3). After the sin of the first parents, humanity shared in this ‘distance from God’, but the loving Father sent His Son to bridge the gap. It is the Holy Spirit of God who enlightened, empowered and worked in Jesus in his incarnation, all throughout His ministry, in His Death and Resurrection. Jesus was longing for this Holy Spirit of Divine Fire, of Divine Love to be kindled in the hearts of everyone. Because only the Holy Spirit of God will convict us of our sin; “will prove the world about sin and righteousness and judgement” (Jn. 16.8). In order to set our minds on godly things, we need the Holy Spirit to indwell in us, and guide us. Only this Fire of Divine Love can help us to recognise that God is our loving Father and we all are the children of this Father, our Creator; and we are brothers and sisters to one another. What a blessed world will it be, when we live in such love and unity! All that is against these sentiments of love is from the evil spirit.
Let us listen to what the Holy Spirit of God inspired St. Paul to write: “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these. I am warning you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5. 16-26).
Let us examine our lives at this time of history that we are living. Are we leading our lives guided by the Holy Spirit? In the lives of many of us, very often, it is certainly not. More often than not, the evil spirit is dominating in our personal lives, families, communities and societies. Hence we are not able to enjoy the ‘paradise experience’ in the places where we live and work. Jesus came that we may enjoy the ‘abundant life’ of God (Jn 10,10b). But “Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2,3), revealed the truth that we can ‘get back’ into the life of God only through the grace of the Holy Spirit. So He was aspiring that the Spirit of God be enkindled in every heart. Let us join ourselves with the desire of our Lord Jesus Christ and pray that everyone may open the doors to His Holy Spirit, that we all may realise the ‘dead works’ in us (works that will not lead us to eternal life), may we all repent them, and become willing to reconcile with God our Father and Creator, and be ready to resolve to renew our lives.
Yes, if we cooperate with the grace of God and respond to Him, we can make our homes, communities, societies a paradise. This, in fact, is the heartfelt desire of our dear Lord who came to take our sins upon Him, to die and rise again in order to give us the ‘promise of the Father’ (Lk. 24,49), the Holy Spirit, in order to help us live as the children of God.
The Fire of Divine Love
Jesus revealed a great truth while praying for His disciples of all times, who would believe in Him through the Word: “Father, you have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn. 17.23). When we go through the pain of not being loved, how soothing it is to realize that we are being loved by God as much as He loved His beloved and perfect Son! None of us merit His love for ‘we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3.23). Why should God love us? Because it is His nature and His choice to love. “God is love” (1 Jn. 4.8, 16). “When we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5, 6-8). Nobody can ever claim what this God of love has said. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31. 3). Since He is love, he cannot be without loving us. Our weaknesses and sinfulness will not prevent God from loving us. But it is true that in order that we experience this love of God, we need to remove the blocks of sin (Is. 59. 2).
The Pentecost – El Greco (WGoA)
Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, God has put in us this capacity to love. But as the burning charcoal, when covered with ashes, will not show its spark, the sinful attitudes or the wounds of our life prevent us from expressing this love. Once a beggar was going through the shops with his heavy begging bowl, which was dark in colour. When he went to a jewellery shop, the shop owner took the bowl from the beggar and rubbed it with a testing stone and he realized that it was a vessel made of gold. He told the beggar: “You are so rich and yet are going around begging!” Yes, we too do not often realize our worth. We are created as loving and lovable persons. Each one of us is a bundle of love ‘wonderfully made’ (Ps 139.14) by the loving hands of God. To put in the words of St. Augustine; “O God, because you have loved me, I have become lovable”
St. Paul writes: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5.5). If we are ‘bankrupt’ in expressing this God-given attribute of love, let us pray to the Holy Spirit each day to fill our hearts with the divine love. Only when we have the love of God in us, and we experience it through His Spirit, can we love all. Loving those are good to us is quite easy and normal; but loving the ‘unlovable’ is the speciality of Christianity. By loving them we are fanning into flame in their hearts the capacity to love which is in them, but covered with ‘ashes’ of hatred and enmity. Is it not a wonderful mission to awaken in them the hidden talent to love, so that they too become lovable? By our lifestyle we should make God’s love known to this world which is lacking in this love. We may do many great things, but if we lack in love, we are nothing, as St. Paul points out in 1 Cor. 13.1-3). “The ends of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4. 7, 8). So it is good even for me to be convinced of this truth and become people of love. Let us say along with Little Therese of Lisieux, “my vocation is to love”.
God has loved us as He has loved Jesus (Jn.17.23). Therefore let us be “imitators of God and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5. 1, 2). It is the Holy Spirit who can form ‘Christ’s mind’ (Phil.2.5) and enable us to love as Christ loved us. So we pray: O Holy Spirit of Love, inflame our cold hearts with the fire of Divine Love and make us all Christ-like.
The Cross of our Saviour and King
We hail thee, Saviour and Lord, Thy cross ever be adored
It is a paradox for the world that our Saviour and King is the crucified Christ. St. Paul who was a very learned person of that time was fully convinced of this truth. After the paradigm shift in his life –from a zealous life, living for the Law, and persecuting all those who followed ‘the way’ of the Lord, to a life burning with zeal for the Lord and His kingdom- told the Corinthians: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor.2.2).. Formerly, the cross was considered as a sign of shame, curse, failure and despair; but after the crucifixion of Jesus, it has become a sign of victory and hope. Cross is the sign God gave to the world as a sign of salvation.
At the beginning of His Galilean Ministry Jesus said: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mk. 1, 15). “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt. 4, 23). Experiencing the joy and peace of the kingdom which, in fact, was in Jesus, and which he preached, people ‘wanted to prevent Jesus from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk. 4, 43).
So the core message of Jesus Christ was the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Jesus is the king of the kingdom He preached. When Pilate asked Jesus at the time of trial: “You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn. 18, 37). The Scripture scholars have found out that there are 122 times the word ‘kingdom of God’ is mentioned in the New Testament and out of which 90 times Jesus Himself speaks about it. But Jesus has also made it clear that ‘His kingdom is not from this world’ (Jn. 18, 36).
Christ carrying the cross – H. Bosch (WGoA)
The kingdom which He preached involves a cross. Jesus is both the herald of the kingdom (Mk. 1, 15) and the Son of Man who must suffer and die for the kingdom (Mk. 8. 31; 10, 45). Jesus was well aware of His ‘way of the cross’ which He should tread, the task assigned to Him by the Father in order to fulfil His mission of establishing the kingdom of God among the whole humanity. His baptism in the river Jordan was only a start for his redemptive work. Its completion was in his death on the cross for which he was waiting so eagerly, though he knew that it would be most painful and shameful. “I have a baptism to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is accomplished” (Lk.12. 50)
Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God and it is on the Cross that Jesus’ royalty shines out. Hence He specifies that His kingdom is not of this world because for ‘this worldly people’, cross of Christ is a scandal, a contradiction; for them it is a failure, weakness and foolishness. But for the kingdom people, as the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul, it is the “power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1. 24; Heb. 2.10). The Cross was the highest expression and proof of Jesus’ love for the whole humanity. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15.13). The lines of one hymn express this truth:
“You went to Calvary, there you died for me. Thank you Lord for loving me”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his homily during the Mass of his Installation: “It is not power, but love that redeemed us. The world was saved by the Crucified One, not by the ones who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It gets destroyed by the impatience of man.”
Every disciple of Christ is called to “walk just as He walked” (1 Jn. 2. 6); “to love as He loved (Jn. 13, 34)”. In the film ‘Passion of Christ’ we see Jesus lovingly kissing the heavy cross and willingly accepting it. Likewise we too are called to accept the ‘crosses’ that come in our way. Jesus said: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10. 38).
Let us be ‘passionate lovers’ of Jesus burning with zeal to quench the thirst of Him who thirsted for souls while hanging on the Cross, and who is still thirsting for all those souls who deny Him. But to win them for Christ, we need to be willing to ‘take up the cross’. People who hate us, alienate us, ridicule us, do injustice to us….In our dealing with these people, we are called to be like the ‘grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies’ (Jn. 12.24), in order that they may get an entry into and a taste of the kingdom of God. Bl. Mother Theresa has this to tell us: “Do not be afraid of loving to the point of sacrifice, until it hurts. Jesus’ love for us led Him to the cross. We must be broken for the glory of God. Let us not try to escape the cross, but grab the chance to be like Christ. (Mother Theresa’s Quotes).
Let us be faithful to our baptismal commitment of dying with Christ and rising with Christ – to die with Christ for our sins and share in His Resurrection by walking in the newness of life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus will rule as the King of our hearts and His reign will come into our lives.
Throne, crown, sceptre, majestic dress etc are the paraphernalia of a king. But our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is closely associated with cross.
Lamentation over Christ – Fra Angelico (WGoA)
The cross is His throne, His crown is the crown of thorns; instead of praise and applause, He received mocking and ridicule; His sceptre was the staff used for beating him; His robe was his wounded body…What a paradox! Yet, Pilate himself, who ‘handed Him over to be crucified’ (Jn. 19,16) ‘had an inscription written and put on the cross which read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jn. 19, 19). Do we want to be subjects of this King?
We adore you Christ and we praise you because by your cross you have redeemed the whole world
What are you looking for?” (Jn.1, 38)
At the very beginning of his public ministry, Jesus asked this question to the two disciples of John the Baptist who followed him. Everyday of our lives it is good to examine our conscience in order to honestly respond to this question of our dear Lord. In our prayers and all our devotions, in my ministry, what am I looking for? St. Paul writes in his letter to Philippians: “All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (2,21). Do we strive to seek God first in our lives? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6,33)
The three kings from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Mt. 2,1-2). They did have the purity of intention of seeing the Holy Babe born in Bethlehem and pay him homage. But King Herod had a different intention in his mind when he told the three wise men: “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage” (8). His intention was to kill the Babe Jesus. We too sometimes have this double play with our intentions, words and actions. Let us have the single-mindedness
The Adoration of the Magi – P. Perugino (WGoA)
in seeking the Lord in all our spiritual pursuits. The Lord assures us: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29,13).
The Feast of Epiphany, the visit of the three wise men from East, was the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world. When they enquired from king Herod ‘where is the child who has been born king of the Jews’, Herod was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born” (Mt. 2, 3-4). They could exactly locate the place of birth of Messiah from the Holy Scriptures. The star which guided the three kings was a public revelation of the truth. The wise men followed the star and found Christ, the king of kings and the light of light. But Herod did not want to accept the truth, but rather ‘kill the truth’. The Pharisees, Scribes and the high priests hated and rejected the truth. Is not this phenomenon being repeated down the centuries? Especially nowadays when the truth of God and the people who stand for truth are persecuted, ridiculed, scoffed at, what stance do we take? Are we ready to surrender ourselves to the Lord and pay due homage to Him by our lives for the gifts we have received from Him? Though not gold, frankincense and myrrh, let us offer Him our time, God-given talents, our energy, our wealth… In our spiritual journey of Faith, let us seek not merely His blessings but God, Father of all blessings.
Zacchaeus had also the purity of intention: “to see who Jesus was” (Lk. 19,3). With this genuine thirst to see Jesus, he climbed a sycamore tree, unmindful of what people would think of him. His effort was rewarded by the Lord. He got the privilege of receiving Jesus in his house, his personal life was renewed and his whole household obtained His blessing. “On that day salvation has come to this house” (9). The Lord who looks into our hearts sees how sincere we are in looking for him and we receive His blessings accordingly .
Let us pray: “Father, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith” (The Roman Missal).
Faith makes the difference
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”(2 Tim. 4,7).
This is the conviction proclaimed by St. Paul when he realised that the time of his departure from this earthly life has come. We are all making a journey from our (earthly) mother’s womb to the bosom of the Father as we are destined for our citizenship in heaven. At the end of our pilgrimage here, can we say like St. Paul that we have fought the good fight – against the evil inclinations and fleshly desires, against the standards of this world ……? Are we ‘running the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith? (Heb.12,1- 2)
The Church teaches that ‘faith is a theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe in what God has revealed and promised’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1814). God has promised His never failing presence with us; He has promised that He cares for us; He has a plan of welfare about our future. Since we do not believe in His words and in His might, we often become prey to the negative feelings, which takes away our peace. Many people go through fear, anxiety, worry, tension, depression and the like. Is it not because we do not have enough faith in God and in what He has said? “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him”.(Heb.11,6)
Jesus has said that I am with you till the end of time’ (Mt.28,20). Do we believe that our God is ‘Immanuel’, ‘God- with- us’? What the loving Lord told Joshua, He tells to each of us: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1.9). If we truly believe in His never failing presence with us, we do not have to fear, when we travel alone, when we face ‘unfamiliar situations and people’, when ‘unexpected things’ happen in our lives. We also have the Blessed Mother with us whom Jesus gave as his last gift to all who believe in him. (Jn.19,27)
Recently I had to travel from one state to another one (from the state where I was working before I entered into fulltime Word Ministry, to my native place). The bus ticket was booked well in advance, but a couple of hours prior to the journey, I was informed that due to heavy rain, the bus which was supposed to come from one state has failed to come (due to some repair work) and hence the scheduled bus trip was cancelled. I was told that either the ticket fare can be refunded, or they would arrange for my journey, going by two buses. Since it was very urgent that I travel on that night itself, I agreed to their agreement to help me to take 2 buses. When I boarded the first bus at 6.30 in the evening, I realised that there was not even a single lady travelling in that bus and the bus would be reaching the place of its destination around 00.30 midnight; and I needed to wait for another bus to proceed with my journey to my native place. So my friends were concerned about my journey as to who would put me in the second bus with my luggage etc. But I was convinced enough that Jesus and Mother Mary would be with me, not only to put me in the next bus, but that they would be travelling with me all through. It gave me such a peace and I was not a bit upset about the bus arrangement due the last hour changes. I told them: ‘God knew that I was travelling tonight; yet He had permitted this cancellation of the bus. Whatever He permits, I will accept’. I could see the Lord’s hand leading me by each step and I reached my place around 8 o´clock in the morning. And I did have a quite comfortable journey.
When I was on the bus, I read in some places an advertisement about the mobile sim ‘idea’: ‘Idea can change your life’. Then a thought flashed through my mind: “Faith can change your life”. Yes, if only we have faith in God and in what God has said, our convictions and outlook of life will change; I can claim His promises in varied situations of life. “This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith” (1 Jn. 5,4). If I have faith in God’s word, “I can do all things that strengthen me” (Phil.4,13), I can overcome my lack of confidence in undertaking any task assigned to me; If I believe in His word, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you” (Is. 43,4), no matter how I am belittled and ridiculed by others, it will not affect me, for my faith helps to overcome my inferiority complex. I can come out of my feelings of rejection and un-wanted-ness by my faith in His word: “If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up” (Ps. 27,10). I can be freed from all anxieties about the future when I believe that my life is in the hands of the Lord who has a plan of welfare about my future (Jer. 29,11). Therefore St. Paul says,” whatever is not coming from faith is sin” (Rom.14,23). Without faith there is worldly outlook, with faith godly outlook, that leads to holiness. “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all” (Is. 7,9)
“Faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it over to others. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in faith” (Catechism of Catholic Church 166). If my association is with unbelievers, or rationalists, then it is possible to lose my faith. Hence St. Paul “Do not be yoked with un-believers” (2 Cor.6.14). This is more with regard to marriage, close friendship, even business.
In this Year of Faith let us pray to the Holy Spirit of God to rekindle in us the fire of Faith so that, by living the life of Faith we can draw others to the Lord and to His word. Yes, it is high time to show to the world that ‘Faith can change your life’.
Herod and Herodias in us
God told prophet Jeremiah: “Gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them” (Jer. 1,17). God does not want that we compromise with his Word, out of fear or favour. St. Paul says: “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1.Thess. 2, 4). Standing for the truth may cost even our life. Jesus came to stand for the truth and the world persecuted him. While sentencing Jesus to death Pilate rightly said: “I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Indeed he has done nothing to deserve death” (Lk. 23, 14 – 15). While standing for the truth, like the Master, Jesus- the disciple too will have to face opposition and persecution from the world.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ had the same experience. He pointed out boldly the wrong doing of King Herod who married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herod arrested John and put him in prison on account of Herodias who wanted to kill him. But ‘Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him’. (Mk. 6, 20). When he was listening to the ‘gospel of repentance,’ preached by John the Baptist, it was his ‘time of visitation from God’ (cfr. Lk. 19, 44). But he did not want to give up his sinful relation with Herodias; instead he only wanted to silence John the Baptist. We too often do not want to change our life but want to silence those who criticise our wrong doing.
Herodias knew that she was living a wrong life but she too did not want to change her life. ‘She had a grudge against John the Baptist because he opposed her wrong way of life, and hence she wanted to kill him’ (MK. 6, 19). St. Stephen, the first Martyr of the Church, boldly admonished the Jewish authorities who were furious at his proclamation of the truth: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do” (Acts. 7, 51). This often is our attitude too. When somebody says something against what we like, or when our mistake is exposed, we retaliate, and we even want to eliminate him/her. We play the role of Herod and Herodias in our life!
Herodias got an opportunity to fulfil her desire of killing John the Baptist. “When Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised an oath to grant her whatever she might ask for. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter’. The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oath and for the guests, he commanded it to be given” (Mt. 14, 6 – 7).
In the beheading of John the Baptist we see an unjust murder of a just man. In the present day society such incidents are becoming quite common. As long as we have the attitude of ‘Herod and Herodias in us’ it continues…….Christianity is a call to live by godly values, not by worldly values. Christian values of living holy lives, forgiving the enemy, being humble like a servant, serving through
Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist – Caravaggio (WGoA)
authority,loving everyone as I love myself, “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you”- which is the Golden Rule- (Mt. 7, 12) etc. are against the natural desires of a sinful man. As St. Paul says: “What the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh” (Gal. 5, 17). This is what Hitler meant when he said: “Christianity is a rebellion against Natural law, protest against Nature.(“the natural fleshly desires”) Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure” ( Hitler Quotes ).
When we follow God’s law, the world will reject us. Therefore it is a call for every Christian to be ready to die for Christ. Anyway one day we will have to die. “Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand, so are a few years among the days of eternity” (Sir. 18, 8). In this short span of earthly life, if we live for Christ, we can enjoy the eternal bliss with the Living God. So John the Baptist was not afraid of persecution nor of death; he knew he was fulfilling God’s plan in his life. John was trying to please God and not man. So he got the reward according to the world. But Christians, true disciples of Christ are never afraid of such ‘reward from the world’, for they are confident of ‘an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure’ (2 Cor. 4, 17). Even at the face of persecutions Christianity will ever stand against the sinful ways of the world. “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb.12, 1), who “did not cling to life even in the face of death” (Rev.12, 11).
The Holy Spirit of God says through St. Paul: “Stand and fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (Eph. 6, 14). Let us be courageous to battle against the” Herod and Herodias” in us, to ‘gird up our loins; stand up and say (and live) all that God has commanded us’.
Fr. J. Mariakumar and Mary Pereira
Incarnating Christ in us
A reflection on 2 Kings 4, 8-9…
“One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal with her. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine. So she said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God”.
There are many people in our lives ‘who regularly pass our way’ – at home, in our neighbourhood, in our place of study or work, in our parishes, in our communities. Do they recognise us as ‘a holy man/ woman of God’? Holiness is something that can be perceived by others. As the Shunammite woman felt about Prophet Elisha: “Look, I am sure that this man is a holy man of God”. ‘The skin of Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God’ (Ex.34. 29). People who came into contact with Bl. Mother Theresa, Bl. Pope John Paul II could easily see in them the holiness of Christ… Likewise people can see holiness in Pope Benedict XVI and in many others who really live in simple and humble way the life of Christ in their day today life situations. When we forgive and love others – even those who are unjust to us, persecute us; when we are patient with others; generous to the needy…..in short when we live the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Mt. Chapters 5, 6,7), Christ is being incarnated in us.
Through our Baptism, we are basically called to live a life of holiness. As the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul, we should ‘consider ourselves dead to sin and live to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.6.11). We can live so, only when we remain close to Jesus, keep our focus on Him in all our life situations (cfr.Heb.12.2). But oftentimes something takes away our focus from Jesus; our prayer life too becomes mechanical. Through our prayer and Sacramental life we need to deepen our personal relationship with the Loving and Living God. Jesus has said: “Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt.6.6). We are the temple of the Holy Spirit; and we make our lives a home for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit when we live God’s word (1Cor.3.16; Jn. 14.23). Realisation of this dignity of our lives- that we are the living Tabernacles of the Holy Triune God – will lead us to live in His Presence always. Entering into deep fellowship with the Lord, who dwells within us, is a necessary precondition for us to continue to radiate His holiness. He calls us ‘to be with Him’ (Mk 3.14), for ‘without Him we can do nothing’ (Jn. 15.5). Transformation of our lives will take place when we are able to relate to Jesus in a personal way in our prayers.
As the magnet attracts the iron foils, the Lord and his word attract the ones who believe in Him. Hence other things which distract us from our journey towards God, our Father, should be considered as ‘trash’. We cannot be lukewarm Christians, distracted by the attractions of the world.
Mother Mary received Jesus in her heart first and then in her womb; later she offered Him to the world. Like her, we have to incarnate Logos in us and bring Him to the world. How do I incarnate Jesus in my day to day life- at home, in my neighbourhood, in my place of study/ work, in my Parish? I open my heart to Jesus and to His word (cfr. Rev. 3.20), and with the help of the Holy Spirit ‘live my life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Phil. 1.27), thus becoming His ‘true disciple’ (cfr. Jn. 8.31), His visible sign on earth. To put it in the words of St. John Chrysostomos, “each time I work for the good of others, God is born in me’.
Mother Theresa has said: “I am a different person. What I can do, you cannot do; what you can do, I cannot do. But both of us can do something beautiful for the Lord”. This was the God-incarnating experience of Bl. Mother Theresa.
The angel appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem at Christmas night and said: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2.11). Each day we need to give Jesus to people because only in Him can one experience real, lasting peace and joy. The Christians in the early Church had a witnessing life and the people around were inspired by the love and joy of the disciples. We do profess Christ; but are our lives attractive enough for others to accept Jesus as Lord? Do they see the holiness of God in me?
Let us pray: “Shine on us O Lord that we may shine before others.”
He gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God
A reflection on present persecution of Christians
When Stephen was proclaiming the truth of God, the elders and the scribes ‘could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke’ (Acts 6.10). Instigated and stirred up by them, the crowd became enraged and ground their teeth at him. “But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts. 7.54, 55).
We, as the Disciples of Christ, are to “walk the way Jesus walked” (1.Jn. 2.6). When we confront injustice, persecution, ridicule, we cannot choose a way other than our Master walked. For the world, it may be our weakness or foolishness to endure persecutions, but in the sight of the Lord, it is worthwhile. As St. Peter reminds us,” let us not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to us. But let us rejoice insofar as we are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that we may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4.12,13). Jesus preached patience, forgiveness and humility instead of immediate gratification; obedience to higher power, instead of to oneself when it is not breaking God’s law. We know that we are called to walk in this way of the Lord, even if we are treated as ‘unpopular, weak, foolish or misfit for modern society’.
In the history of the Church we have many martyrs who endured sufferings for the sake of Christ. They withstood everything with the deep joy and with ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding’ (Phil.4.7). The world cannot understand that Christian joy and peace can co-exist with suffering. St. Paul shares the experience of the disciples of Christ: “ As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger……in honour and dishonour, in ill – repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making man rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6. 4-10). This is the beauty and paradox of Christianity! Yes, we can ‘boast in our sufferings’ (Rom.5.3).
The brave disciples of Christ ‘have fought the good fight, have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4. 7). They did not cling to life even in the face of death’ (Rev.12.11 b). Since ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’, (Heb.12.1), let us not become disheartened at the persecution of Christians that is ever on the increase all over the world. Jesus has said: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (Jn. 15. 18, 19; 16. 33).
The joy and success of Christians is not in this worldly term. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3.20) and we are created to reach that goal. In this pilgrim land, the sufferings and persecutions we face, are ‘preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure’ (2 Cor. 4.17). By the Spirit of God dwelling within us, we are enabled to ‘consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us’ (Rom. 8. 18). So even at the face of the enragement and persecution Stephen, the first martyr in the New Testament, could gaze into heaven and see the glory of God. The dishonour and insults, injustice and ill-treatment which we get from the world are only leading to our greater glory in this life and in the life to come.
When we really live what Jesus preached, the Spirit of God within us will testify to the world that we are the children of the living Father. And this Spirit gives us the courage to face all persecutions with joy because when ‘we suffer with Him we will also be glorified with Him’ (Rom.8.17). The Spirit of Christ also gives us the strength and grace to forgive all who persecute us, as Jesus forgave. Hence retaliation, revenge and reaction of this worldly people are not the life style of a disciple of Christ. St. Stephen, who was ‘full of grace and power (Acts 6.8), while being stoned to death, cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.
When St. Lawrence was put on the frying pan by the persecutors, after a while he said : “My one side is cooked; you can turn the other side”. He too could surely see during his suffering the glory of God and ‘the crown of righteousness prepared for him’ (2 Tim. 4.8).
We may not face this sort of persecutions…..yet at times in our lives, we all bear the pain of insincerity, injustice, exploitation and ridicule even from people who are very close to us. At those moments can we lift our gaze to heaven and see the glory of God, instead of retaliating with anger and bitterness towards the people who ill-treat us ?
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5.11, 12).
“The new wine cannot be poured into the old wineskin” (Lk 5,37)
In the Holy Scripture the Holy Spirit is referred to New Wine. We receive the Holy Spirit of God through the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the first Sacrament of faith. But we need to grow more. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “through His grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to “know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ” (No.684). Since we all need to grow in faith (cfr. Mk.9,24) and to ‘strive to know the Lord’ (Hos.6,3), it is essential that we pray every day of our lives for a deeper repletion of the Holy Spirit.
After the first proclamation of St. Peter, the listeners asked him: “What should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts. 2,37- 38). The leader of the Church knew well what the Master had taught: “”No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Lk.5,37-38). Repentance from our old sinful ways, determination to ‘to put away the former way of life’ (cfr. Eph. 4,22) and a desire to ‘walk in the newness of life’ (Rom. 6, 4) are prerequisites for fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14,15-17). So after a ‘metanoia’ (repentance) let us honestly try to ‘live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Phil.1,27), so that the Lord would fill our hearts with the ‘new wine’ of the Holy Spirit.
We thirst for many things in life. Do we thirst for the Holy Spirit? Jesus exhorted his disciples: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’. Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive” (Jn. 7, 37-39). It depends on our disposition how we grow in the repletion of the Holy Spirit.
After saying how the earthly parents give good things to their children, Jesus pointed out: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk. 11, 11-13). So let us be confident of the Lord’s faithfulness to His promises and ask much more for the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit in order to ‘live by the Spirit and be guided by the Spirit’ (Gal. 5.16,25). Yes, we all need ‘eternal Pentecost’ because as it is prayed in the Byzantine Liturgy, “It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify, and animate creation, for he is God, consubstantial with the Father and the Son. Power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God he preserves creation in the Father through the Son. “(Quote from CCC 703- inset).
During the General Audience on November 29, 1972 Pope Paul VI stated: “More than once we have asked ourselves what the greatest needs of the Church are. What is the primary and ultimate need of our beloved and holy Church? His own answer turned out to be a very prophetic exhortation: “We must say it with holy fear because this concerns the mystery of the church, her life: This need is the Spirit; the Church needs her eternal Pentecost. She needs fire in her heart, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic”. The Holy Father again made this exhortation in an article in L’Osservatore Romano: “More than ever, the Church and the world need the miracle of Pentecost to be continued in history” ( ‘Celebrate Pentecost’ –by the National Service Team of the National Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services in India – page 10)
Since Pentecost should be an ongoing experience, let us pray fervently through the intercession of our beloved Mother Mary, the Mother of the Church and the most beloved spouse of the Holy Spirit that we be filled more and more with this ‘new wine of the Spirit’ so that our lives will turn to be a better blessing for others each day (cfr. Jn. 2, 1-10) as it happened in Cana.
“Often enough in life’s banquet, we shall run short of wine:
Then, like in Cana, request your Son, to make our lives divine”.
Glory to the Risen Lord
On the 4th Sunday of Easter, in the first reading of the Liturgy, the Church presents before the faithful, the brave proclamation of Peter, our first Pope. “If we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” (Acts 4.9).
During the Passion of Christ, Peter was frightened to acknowledge himself as the acquaintance of Jesus; but he gained courage after being filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Lord even before the leaders of the Law who crucified Him. “Clothed with Power from above” (Lk.24. 49) he took up the mission entrusted by His Master: “Go into the entire world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk. 16. 15).
We are eager to do many things for Christ. But often we forget the fact that we need to be united with Him and have ‘the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.2.5). Let us not seek ‘our own interest’ (vs 21); our name, fame, monetary gain etc in fulfilling the mission of Jesus. Peter gave the glory to ‘the name of Jesus’ in healing the Crippled Beggar at the gate of the temple. St. Paul is giving a warning to the Galatians: “Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh”? (3.3). When we grow in deeper intimacy with the Risen Lord in us, along with St. Paul we can humbly acknowledge that ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me’(Gal.2.20). Let the ‘love of Christ urge us on’ to continue the mission of Christ as the Apostles and disciples of the early Church did, giving all glory and honour to Jesus who ‘work with us and confirm the message by signs and wonders’ (cfr. Mk. 16. 20).
Jesus has said: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Mt.10.32). We cannot acknowledge the Lord unless we first taste Him and experience His goodness. As the Psalmist prayed: “Let your work, O Lord, be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands” (Ps. 90. 16, 17). To get the favour of the Lord should be of primary importance in our lives. Before being busy with the ‘works of the Lord’, let us find enough time ‘to be with the Lord’, in order to get His favour. These two dimensions are inevitable for every disciple of Christ. Jesus calls His disciples ‘to be with Him’ (cfr. Mk. 3. 14), in order to continue His mission on earth. Unless we are united with Him, we miss His favour; we need to be ‘in the twilight of His favour’ so as to shine for His glory. As promised by the Lord, the disciples were able to do many miracles in His name; because they were faithfully continuing the mission, joyfully passing on the Good News entrusted to them. The Lord and Saviour of all, who defeated sin,death and Satan through his glorious Resurrection wants to be in us and we in Him. Let us pledge our lives for the cause of His mission, as many souls are longing for this love, joy and freedom of the Lord. We can do this only when we are united with the Lord. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15.5). The conviction of this truth will prompt us to give all glory and honour to the Lord for what we are and what we do.
“The stone that was rejected by the builders has become the corner stone” (Acts. 4.11). As St. Paul tells, we are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone”. (Eph.2.20). Let us be united with this ‘living stone’ (1 Pet. 2.4), so as to become the ‘living stones to build the spiritual house’ (2.5) of our personal lives, our family, community and thus the “Church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son” (Acts. 20. 28) may flourish with our works of witness to the Lord. May the Risen Lord be glorified in our lives; and through our life’s proclamation may many more come to experience the Living Lord.
Children, you have no fish, have you?
A reflection on (Jn 21, 1-14)
Jesus had foretold His Resurrection to the apostles, by having told them that on the third day after His Passion and death, He would be raised to life. But neither the apostles, nor the other disciples nor the Jewish superiors who knew the Scripture well, believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. A bit disappointed ‘about the happenings’, some of them decided to go back to their former trade/ business. They forgot what Jesus said, and also the mission Jesus entrusted to them. It was Peter who took the lead: “I am going fishing”. Others gathered by the Sea of Tiberias said: “We will go with you”. They went out and got into the boat, but on that occasion they caught nothing.
Let us apply this situation to our own life. We too at times become disappointed seeing that our expectations and dreams are not being fulfilled, in spite of putting our whole effort in the endeavours that we undertake. God says about such a situation through the prophet Haggai: “Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes…. You have looked for much, and lo, it came little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” (Haggai.1, 5-9).
We need to trust in the Lord at all times, no matter how bleak the situations in our lives are. As it goes in a hymn: “Though the storm clouds darken the sky; o’er the heavenly trail; I just keep trusting the Lord, He will never fail”. Yes, He is THE FAITHFUL GOD, who has promised to be always with us. Do I ‘keep trusting’ in this Lord at times of confusion, doubt and other turmoil of life?
The disciples did not succeed in their efforts because they forsook the Lord who chose them to “remain with Him”(Mk.13,14), and “not to let their hearts troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me”(Jn.14,1). Even though the disciples failed in this trust and went back to their way, the Lord was very patient with them. Realizing the failure of their efforts, the ‘forsaken one’ Himself comes asking them: “Children, have you no fish, have you?” The Lord is ever after us even though we turn away from Him. As He provided the disciples with what they lacked in a miraculous way, the Lord is willing to help us, even when we turn our back to Him. Let us not be foolish to manage our lives without God’s help; rather let us be wise in clinging to Him at all times. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (2 Chro. 16,9).
Holy Spirit of God, deepen my faith. Help me to be convinced that the Lord is able to carry me through thick and thin. Help me never waver in faith even when ‘the clouds darken the sky’.
THE DAY OF THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD
We hail Thee, Saviour and Lord; Thy Cross ever be adored”
On every Good Friday, such hymns resound in our ears…But we are living in an age when Jesus and His values, His Passion and Death on the Cross, are ridiculed. Donald E Green writes in the introduction of his book “The Folly of the Cross’: “Both the Jews and Gentiles rejected the message of the cross partly because of the cultural connotations of crucifixion in the first century. Crucifixion was a vulgar, common execution that the Romans imposed on notorious criminals, prisoners of war, and rebellious slaves. Its harsh brutality symbolized the supremacy of the Roman government over the victim. Gentiles thus viewed crucifixion as a sure sign of the victim’s defeat. Jews, on the other hand, held crucified men in even greater contempt because to them crucifixion was a sign of God’s curse on the victim. Jews rejected the idea that the Messiah could be crucified (and thus cursed) and looked for signs instead. Gentiles rejected as foolishness the notion that a crucified man could be the only Saviour of mankind and sought eloquent rhetoric in its place.”
But St. Paul understood well the value and significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (1Cor. 1.23-25).
St. Paul who had a very good (pharisaic) religious background, who studied under Gamaliel (a famous teacher of Law), totally changed his convictions once he met the Risen Lord on his way to Damascus as he was going to persecute those who belonged to the ‘Way ’of Jesus, (cfr. Acts 9, 1-9). He never boasted any more about his family status nor about his knowledge; on the contrary he “decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor.2.2). He got the true conviction that it is not through the ‘observance of the Law’ but it is through the death of Jesus on the Cross that sinful humanity is reconciled back to God the Father. So he wanted to grow deep in the love and knowledge of Christ; thenceforth he considered everything else as futile (cfr.Phil.3,7-8).
Like St. Paul we need to ‘”confront the culture with the same message of Christ crucified and not to cater to the latest fads in marketing the gospel to the passing whims of unbelievers” (‘Folly of The Cross’, Donald E. Green)
Some people ask: “Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross”? It was the Wisdom and Will of the Father to redeem humanity through this great Passion and Death of His Beloved Son. (cfr. Heb 2,10). In His discourse with Nicodemus, the leader of the Jews, Jesus told him: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn.3.14). The answer to the question as to why Jesus had to die is very clear when we understand the context of what Jesus told to Nicodemus.
In the desert, the Israelites, whom the Lord was bringing out of the slavery in Egypt and leading them to Canaan, sinned against God by complaining about the lack of food and water. The Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said: “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.”So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live”. So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live”.(Num.21,4-7)
God, the Creator of the universe and all that is in it, who gave the commandment: “You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Deut.5,8- 9), is asking Moses to make a serpent of bronze. We need to realise the truth that it is not the bronze serpent that brought healing to the Israelites, but the Israelites’ response to the directive of God in faith; that is, looking at the erected serpent in obedience and faith.
In the Paradise, when Adam and Eve were living in total obedience and submission to God, enjoying the living fellowship with God, the enemy, the evil one, was jealous and put the poison of sin (disobedience to God) into their mind. Man was created to have fellowship with God and to have eternal life with Him, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world (Wis. 2,24). But God, the loving Father wanted to restore man back to His fellowship and eternal life. The Saviour was promised to humankind at Paradise itself (Gen.3,15).
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4,4), to live among us as a humble servant of God, to atone for the sin of humanity by his total obedience to the will of the Father. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross” (Phil.2.7, 8). The love of God can be seen in its highest form on the cross. Fully experiencing this love, St. John writes: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3,16). Jesus said himself : “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15.13).
Through our participation in the Liturgical celebration on Good Friday with the solemn Veneration of the Cross, through our prayer and reflections on the Passion narrative, let us raise our heart and mind to the Lord in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished for us by His death on the cross.
Jesus has said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (Jn. 12,32). On every Good Friday, the Church commemorates this event of Jesus being lifted up on the cross for the whole world. Anyone who looks at the Cross with faith will experience the healing and salvation, because Cross is our Salvation; In Cross is our redemption. When we see a cross, our heart and mind are raised to Jesus who died for us on the cross, bearing our sins to set us free from sins (cfr. 1 Pet. 2,24).
St.Peter, when he was sentenced to death on a cross, said: “Crucify me upside down. Kissing the feet of Jesus I can die”. He knew he was not going to be crucified on the cross on which Jesus died. Yet he said: “I can kiss the feet of Jesus and die”. This reveals the truth. When we see a cross, we know and believe that it is the sign of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Like St. Peter every Christian should be able to see Jesus on every cross and thus venerate the cross. Without Jesus, there is no significance for the cross. Each cross tells us of the great love of God the Father who was ready to sacrifice His only begotten son on the cross for our sake.
This also shows the value and worth of my soul. If God the Father has willed to let Jesus go through the most shameful and painful passion and death to win me back , how precious I am for Him! It is natural that in order to get something valuable, we are ready to give up something of equal value.
If Jesus was ready to let his head crowned with thorns to atone for the sins of my thoughts, if Jesus was ready to be scourged in his body in order to atone for the sins of my flesh; if Jesus did not resist to be stripped naked in order to atone for my sin of exposure of my body by immodest dressing; if Jesus was ready to let his hands pierced with nails in order to atone for the sins and cruelty that I have done with my hands, if Jesus was ready to let his feet pierced with a nail to atone for my sins with my legs, for going to places which would lead me to sin, ….I can understand the depth of Jesus’ love for me; and how worthy I am in the sight of God the Father! As God said through prophet Isaiah: “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Sheba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life”…(Is. 43,3-4).
After His Baptism by John the Baptist at the river Jordan, Jesus exclaimed: “I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” (Lk.12,50). Jesus knew well His earthly mission that it was through His Passion and Death on the Cross that humanity would be reconciled with God the Father. Jesus for whom ‘doing the will of the Father was his food (Jn.4,34), and who loved us so much, was waiting for the completion of this second baptism – the death on the cross . He was ready to accept the criticism, ridicule, unjust accusations, betrayal, denial, desertion …….everything out of love for me which reached its climax on the cross.
Through the great sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God the Father rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son’ (Col.2.13). Our loving Father does not want any one of us to be lost. “He desires everyone to be saved” (1 Tim. 2,4) ; and what a great price Jesus paid to save us from the clutches of the Evil one! His crucifixion was for the whole humanity. He was “slaughtered and by his blood he ransomed for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5, 9).
As we hail the Cross on Good Friday, let us reflect on our lives; are we returning this great love of the Lord by loving Him with our whole heart, with our whole mind and strength? If we are still on the path of sin (selfishness and self-will and all other sins which are just expressions of these), let us become mindful of the great price the Lord has paid to redeem us; let us pledge to the Lord to return to Him with our whole heart. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to recommit our lives to the Lord, to return ‘love for Love’ and not to crucify our Saviour through our life of sin.
Fr. JMK, Mary Pereira
The Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Virgin Mary on the 25th of March. This is the only Solemn Feast which is celebrated solemnly and universally during the Lenten Season. In order to count 9 months before Christmas, this Feast is fixed on 25th of March.
Since 25th March of this year falls on the 5th Sunday of Lent, which is a week before the Palm Sunday, the celebration of this Feast of Annunciation is kept on the 26th, Monday.
Let us try to reflect on that beautiful scene of Annunciation, the narration of which comes in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, from versus 26 to 38. The Archangel Gabriel, sent by God, comes to Virgin Mary and addresses her: “Greetings, O favoured one! The Lord is with you”. Imagine the appreciation that God bestows on His lowly devotee! Mary was chosen by the Heavenly Father to be the Mother of His Son and our Saviour and with this in view, Mary was conceived without original sin. Not only that, but also during her whole life, she remained sinless. Yes, she was Immaculate by birth and continued to be so in her entire life time, fully cooperating with the grace of God. Thus she “has found favour with God” as she was leading a life most pleasing to Him. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are set free from our sins, both original and actual; but like Mother Mary we need to cooperate with the grace of God to remain sinless, by listening and obeying (living) God’s Word. As the Lord tells us in the book of Proverbs: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently, find me. Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the Lord” (8.17, 35). “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (Jn.14.23). Mary was the perfect model for us to love the Lord and to seek Him with our whole heart, to live the Word and thus to find favour with the Lord. As we are close to the Lenten Season, along with our self denial in varied ways, let us imitate Mother Mary in refusing what is displeasing to the Lord and in accepting only that which is pleasing to the Lord.
Right from her childhood, Virgin Mary had been quite acquainted with the Scripture through the upbringing by her holy parents, Joachim and Anna. So when the angel consoled Mary (who was perplexed by such a greeting), and revealed her this message: “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most High…….” she was fully aware of the implication of it. For she was not only reading the Scripture, but also was fully believing in God’s Word. In her visit to Elizabeth, she was told by Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”. We do read and meditate the Scripture, we hear the Word of God when we attend Holy Mass; but do we accept it as God’s Word and believe in His promises?
Everything concerning the coming of the Saviour of the world through her was being confirmed as the angel continued revealing the message: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God”. So Mary, the simple village girl, is to be the Mother of the Saviour of the world! Even with the full realisation of this truth, she remained humble. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord”. The favoured one of God, whom He chose to be the Mother of His Son, the Saviour of the world, was ever willing to remain as humble as possible. That humility was transferred into action as she set out and went with haste to visit Elizabeth, who in her old age had conceived a son, as said by the angel. “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord” (Sir. 3.18). Mary not only knew this Scripture but also patterned her life accordingly.
How do we accept ‘great appreciation’, and ‘applause’ from others? When we are lifted high in our job or business, or in any other realm, do we still have the simplicity and humility like that of our Blessed Mother who gave all glory to God? She gave due credit to God who did great things in her, as she proclaimed in the ‘Magnificat’ (verses 46-55). “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name”.
For the Blessed Virgin Mary, doing the will of God was the delight of her life. Her ‘Fiat’ to God’s message through the angel was an expression of her total surrender to God’s will. “Let it be done to me according to your word”. Though she knew scandal, ridicule, scoffing and even possible punishment according to the Deuteronomic law was awaiting her for conceiving a child outside marriage, she submitted herself totally to the plan and will of God. Are we ready to forego our plan and will and submit to that of God, especially when the outcome is going to be against our expectations or the road which we have to tread, when we say ‘yes’ to the will of God, is going to be a stony path?
Mary listened to the Word of God, believed in it, treasured it in her heart, and lived accordingly. We do love the Blessed Virgin Mary, honour her and seek her intercession, but do we try to imitate her? Let us ask her intercession that the Word that we read, hear and meditate becomes flesh in our life, thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.
“Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates”. (Prov.8.34). Let us learn from Mother Mary who not only PRAYED AND READ THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, but also was listening to the Lord speaking to her through the Scriptures and in her times of communion with the Lord in prayer (watching daily at His gates’) with her whole heart and obeying the Lord. As we approach the end of the Lenten Season, “let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos.6 3).
“Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the Lord; but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death”. (Prov.8. 35, 36).
The Last Judgement
A reflection on Mt. 25: 31-46
We are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1,27), and our life style should be to reflect God’s nature and action in our lives. “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph.2,10). We are pilgrims in this world as our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3,20). The loving God wants all to attain this eternal life with Him. But even though we all are destined for heaven, whether we get in there, depends on our ‘lifestyle’ here. Jesus has said: “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge” (Jn.12,47-48). Those who live the word of God will be considered worthy to enter the kingdom of God. As Jesus said to the faithful servants in the ‘Parable of the Talents’: “well done, good and trustworthy servant….Enter into the joy of your Master”; whereas the unworthy servant would be ‘thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Mt. 25.14-30).
Jesus likened the kingdom of God to ‘a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt.13. 47-50).
The judgement of the Nations will take place on the day the Son of Man comes in glory. His coming again is an undeniable fact. At the Ascension of Jesus, the angels of God clothed in white robes ‘catechised’ the apostles who were gazing into heaven in amazement: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1,11).
St. Mathew gives a vivid illustration of The Last Judgement as he heard it from Jesus (Mt.25,31-46). “The king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. (34).
There is a deeper meaning in all the requirements of which Jesus spoke.
“I was starving and you gave me to eat ”. It is not just the nourishment for the body. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of the Father” (Mt.4,4).” The human soul, not the body is starving now due to lack of this nourisment. Jesus came down from heaven to nourish our soul. He said: “The flesh is of no use; it is the spirit that gives life. The words that I speak to you are life and spirit” (Jn. 6,63). He came to give us abundant life” (Jn.10,10b). Jesus has also said: “My nourishment is to do the will of my Father” (Jn. 4.34); whereas modern man wants to do his will. We can experience the abundant life of God only if our soul is nourished by the word of God, and doing the will of God in our lives. It is an urgent need of today, as the time is short. God has pointed out through Prophet Amos: “The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord but they shall not find it” (Am. 8.11, 12).
“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”. It is not just the thirst for drinking water. Let us do all that we can to quench the thirst of human soul leading them to the ‘Fountain of the Living Water’. May they drink enough from the well spring of Lasting Love. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the Love Incarnate, while on earth gave this good news of God’s love to all; He went about doing good and healing all who were alienated and rejected by the society, depressed by the lack of love and acceptance. Today, the Risen Saviour does not have a body as He is spirit. He wants our body in order to continue his mission on earth. Since Christ is present in the people who are broken, whose brokenness He has taken on the Cross, and He wants to heal them through His Risen Presence by means of His chosen instruments.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. When we help a stranger in his need, we become a real blessing for him and the Lord appreciates that. We also can reflect on the deep meaning of a ‘stranger’. A person who is in sin is alienated from God and from himself; He becomes introvert, feels guilty, develops an inferiority complex, loses confidence and hope in his life. But he is created in God’s image and called to grow in the likeness of God. In his innermost self he is crying out to us to help him to come out of his estrangement. We need to reach out to him with the compassionate love of God and help him to come to the intimacy of Christ, to experience His welcome into His kingdom. Christ in me should help Christ in others. No one is a stranger in the kingdom of God. “There is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3,28). No one is outside the Love and Salvation of God in Christ Jesus. For Christ was slaughtered and by His blood He ransomed for God saints from every tribe, language, people and nation.
“I was naked and you gave me clothing”. It is not merely physical nakedness, but the nakedness of sin which the first parents experienced after their sin. When God called Adam, he said: ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself”. Only Jesus who died for the sins of the humanity can take away the nakedness of our sin. Hence St. Paul says: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13,14). As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal.3,27). When we are helping others to acknowledge their sin, to repent and confess their sins and lead them to live a righteous life, we are clothing their nakedness with the holiness of Christ.
“I was sick and you took care of me”. It is a very noble act to take care of the sick and the suffering. Saintly people like Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta and St. Vincent de Paul, St. Peter Damian could identify Jesus in them and take care of them. Like these saintly souls who embodied Christ’s love and compassion, we too must reach out to the sick and the suffering. But through such acts of charity they were not only taking care of the bodily need of the persons, but also the well-being of their spirit and mind. For we are created body, mind and spirit. Therefore it is not only physical sickness, but even sickness of our mind and spirit that we need to attend to.
Today so many are living merely for the pleasure and enjoyment of their body, to satisfy their bodily passions; they are satisfied with filling their mind with the secular, godless understanding and ‘the worldly wisdom’. People are often living without faith and it leads to sickness of body and mind. It is the duty of every Christian to bring total healing to the people by giving life a vision of faith; to give them hope, real meaning and goal of life – thus they can be healed in soul, body and mind. A ‘God-centred’ life alone will make us truly whole beings ‘fully human and fully alive’.
“I was in prison and you visited me”. All glory and thanks to God for the many people that are committed to do ‘prison ministry’, visiting them and be of help and consolation in many ways…But there is also a deeper meaning when Jesus said this. When a person is in despair, guilt, unbelief, inferiority complex, shame….he is closed up in himself, he is in bondage. He is not able to open up to others, or even to God. We should not alienate him, rather reach out to him with the compassion of Christ and give meaning to his life and help him to open up to God and to others. If I am not doing this, I am not caring for others in whom Christ is suffering. That is why Jesus appreciates those who are at the right side, who were co-redeemers with Christ to bring His salvation to all, who were Christ’s instruments to bring divine wholeness to all.
In this Lenten Season, let us become more aware of the truth that we are called to be the “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (Jas.1, 22). “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 Jn. 3,18).
Finding God within
Jesus started his public life and ministry with the proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1.15).
“The time is fulfilled”. What does Jesus mean by this affirmation? A Saviour was promised to all humanity when it lost the Paradise. When humanity came under the spell of evil, God pronounced a judgement: “I will put enmity between you (snake) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite her offspring’s heel” (Gen.3.15). The coming of the Saviour was in God’s plan.
The prophets foretold the coming of Jesus, the Saviour. At different times in history, they wrote about his birth, life and mission. Some 700 years ago Prophet Isaiah foretold his birth: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Is.7.14). Even His Passion and death was foretold: “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as the one from whom others hide their faces he was despised and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole…” (Is 53.3-5). His Jerusalem entry was foretold by Prophet Zechariah: “Your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt…” (Zech.9.9). Prophet Micah prophesied where the Messiah will be born: “You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel” ( Mi 5.1)
In the coming of Jesus all these prophesies were fulfilled. In Him the coming of the Kingdom of God was inaugurated. Jesus came to establish the reign of God amidst us and in us. With His coming God is no more distant, but one who dwells among us and within us. God is One whom we can experience within. In the discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus told her: “The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn 4.21, 23).
Human heart is restless until it finds rest in God. St. Augustine has rightly said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you”. Human heart longs for God-experience. Experiencing God within is a heavenly bliss. Heaven is not some place we go to after our death. Heaven begins here on earth since the heavenly Father has sent us His Son. And Jesus reveals to us the purpose of his coming: “I have come that you may have life- life in all its abundance” (Jn.10.10).
But Jesus began the proclamation of the kingdom with an invitation: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. The Greek word for repentance is ‘metanoia’. It is a radical change or conversion of our hearts and minds. We are in need of conversion from our selfish, egoistic, proud, jealous, envious, bitter self. The Incarnate Word came to dwell within us and among us. The Word- made-flesh enables us to change from within so that we can experience the kingdom of God already here on earth.
St. Paul says: “Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14.17). Yes, we cannot have this ‘kingdom experience’ by our strength or merit, but through the help of the Holy Spirit who is given to us as our Advocate and Counsellor. The Holy Spirit leads us to deeper intimacy with Jesus and the community of Jesus. Jesus said: “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk.17,21). “Those who abide in me and I in them will bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn.15.5).
In order to experience this abiding presence of the Lord deep within, and to live in fellowship with this loving God, we need to ‘prepare the way for Him in our lives, making His paths straight’. This exhortation of John the Baptist has been our theme during the Advent Season. Now during this New Year, let us open our hearts daily for the ‘Kingdom experience’.
For this to happen we need a real ‘metanoia’, a change of heart from our worldly or carnal ways to the way of Jesus, to the way Jesus thinks, feels, says and does. Only then can we experience ‘heaven in our hearts’ and become ‘the kingdom people’. To repent and believe in the good news means: ‘living our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Phil.1.27). Prophet Isaiah reminds us: “The word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose” (Is 55:11).
Let us make an offering of our heart and our entire life to the indwelling Lord. Let us try to realise the presence of God in the depths of our being. St. Paul reminds us: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16). Anne Frank writes: “Everyone has inside a piece of good news. The good news is that you really don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is.” When we succeed in finding God within and live in fellowship and communion with Him, it becomes easier for us to realise our real worth despite the criticisms and negative statements that we may hear from others.
Once while cleaning up the house a gentleman found an old guitar. He discarded it on the pathway outside his home along with other things. An old musician while passing that pathway found the discarded guitar and he picked it up. In amazement he realised that it was the same guitar he had made and which then was presented to a little boy in that house some years back. He dusted it out and did some ‘stringing and unstringing’ and started playing on it. It produced the most melodious music so pleasing to the ears of the people around. And more people from the neighbouring places gathered around the old man!
Indeed, the touch of the Master and Creator can make a melodious song out of our life, a song worth listening to and living for! Let us cast off all our frustrations, complexes, fears, anxiety and distress into the hands of our Creator, in whose heart we are ‘precious, honoured and loved’ (Is 43.4); and in whose mind ‘there is a plan of welfare, and not of disaster about each one of us’ (Jer. 29.11). In this New Year, let us with greater zeal and enthusiasm, fix our focus on the Lord who dwells within us and surrender our hearts in hope. Let our hearts sing with poet Tagore: “There are numerous strings in your lute, let me add my own among them!”
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (Jn.14.23).
“Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is (dwelling there) in secret” (Mt.6.6)
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1.Cor.3.16).
Let us make the prayer of St. Augustine our own:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you” .
Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that each day of this New Year we may enjoy the loving presence of the Lord within us and live out our life in response to His promptings and inspirations!
MARANATHA – COME LORD JESUS
We have entered into yet another time of the Season of Advent, starting from the last Sunday of November till the Christmas Eve. The Liturgical Year of the Church begins with Advent. During this Season we focus on the spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. The word ‘Advent’ means coming. Jesus Christ has come into the world two thousand and ten years ago and the faithful with much joy prepare to celebrate this Event which divided the history into two- Before Christ and After Christ.
Advent is a time to stir up our faith in the Lord who came as the Light into the world to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God. The lighting to the Advent wreath with four candles representing the four weeks of Advent signifies that Christ is the Light of the world.
Why did Jesus come into the world? God our Father, in His original plan, created mankind in His own image and likeness (Gen.1.26). He desired mankind to have loving fellowship with Him but the enemy, the Satan tried to distort this plan of God. He tempted the first parents and made them sin against the Creator; thus they lost the fellowship with God the Father. “Through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis.2.24). The rebellion and wickedness of mankind was ever on the increase. ‘When Yahweh saw how wicked everyone was and how evil were their thoughts all the time, He was sorry that He made them; and it grieved His heart (Gen. 6.5, 6). We are the losers when we are deprived of the loving fellowship with God. The God of love (1 Jn. 4.16) in order to restore this loving relationship with His creation and to release humankind from the clutches of sin and Satan, has made His only Son to be incarnated, to become ‘Immanuel, -God among us. He came down from heaven to show us the way to the Father, to reveal His love and mercy; to make us divine. As St. Paul says: “When the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, so that we might become God’s children” (Gal. 4.4, 5).
Israel was waiting for this Messiah for many centuries. Every waiting, if it is not certain of the person awaited, can be boring or burdensome; whereas if there is certainty of the person awaited, it can be joyful and exciting. The Israelites were sure of the coming of Messiah as it had been predicted by many Prophets. “The Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” (Is.7.14). God had already promised in the Garden that a Messiah, would be sent by God to crush the head of the serpent, the Evil one (Gen. 3.15); it was promised that he would be born as the heir to the throne of King David (Is. 9.7; 11.1-5;2 Sam. 7.13; Mt.1.6); and that he would be born in the city of Bethlehem (Mic.5.2; Mt.2.1) and that he would be born of a virgin (Is. 7.14; Mt.1.18); and time of his coming is foretold in Dan.9.25; the Messiah would be a greater prophet than Moses (Dt.18.15-18) and many other things about his life, crucifixion, resurrection, were foretold in the Old Testament.
Thus the Israelites were waiting with much expectant hope. During Advent time, we recall to our mind this waiting of the Israelites for the Saviour, and prepare ourselves with much joy to celebrate His coming into the world because He came for all ‘people of every tribe, language, nation and race’ (cfr. Rev.5. 9), He came to remove every barrier between people and nations, to put to death all hostility and proclaim peace to all. (Eph. 2. 15-18).
How were the Israelites instructed to wait for the Lord? In prayer, fasting and penance .(Ps.35.13; Dan.9.3 Acts. 14.23). So united with the same Spirit of God, the faithful devote themselves more in prayer and become willing to do fasting and abstinence. Mortifying our body, controlling our desires are always good for advancing in godly virtues.
The Church exhorts the faithful, to make use of the Season of Advent, not only as a preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but much more than that, to prepare our hearts to receive Him, as He wants to reign in our hearts. As Mother Mary and St. Joseph walked through the highways and byways of Bethlehem in search for a place to give birth to Jesus, now everyday He is knocking at the heart of us whether we are ready to receive Him. ‘He comes, He comes, He ever comes’. He comes to us through His Word and through the Sacraments. In this Advent Season, let us look into ourselves in the light of the Divine Word that we hear/ read every day and see where we have to change. Let us ‘level the path’ as St. John the Baptist exhorted his hearers, chiselling ourselves of our pride, vanity, selfishness, arrogance, lethargy, lust, greed and the like so that we become ‘in the likeness of God’ according to His original plan. It is for this purpose that the Word was incarnated, and He desires to come into us every day to make us conform to His image. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”(Mt. 3.2, 3). And this waiting for the Lord into our hearts too is very certain because the faithful God has said: “I am standing at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you…” (Rev.3.20). During this Advent Season let us with much joy and enthusiasm invite the Lord into our hearts, preparing ourselves for His coming, through prayer, fasting and abstinence. Let us try to ‘level our path’ so as to make His Word flesh in our thoughts, words and actions. May our hearts be a beautiful ‘crib’ for the Lord to be born, to dwell and to reign over us. All our spiritual preparations during the Advent Season is to ‘make Him feel at home’ when He comes.
Thirdly, this Advent- waiting- also points out to the Lord’s second coming, which too is very sure. When the Apostles and Disciples were looking up to heaven as the Lord was being ascended, the angel from heaven said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1.11). The Lord Himself has said that He is going to prepare a place for us in heaven and He will come to take us there (cfr. Jn.14.2,3). Through many parables the Lord has indicated his Second coming. And He asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Lk.18.8). Jesus’ disciples are given this command in Mark’s gospel: “Be on guard because you do not know when the master of the house is coming- it might be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or at sunrise. If He comes suddenly, He must not find you asleep. What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!”(Mk.13. 35, 36).
May the Holy Spirit of God enlighten our minds and give us God’s wisdom to read the ‘signs of the times’ and prepare ourselves to meet the Lord in our day today life and at the end of the time, be it the time of our death or the end of the world.
To quote the Catholic Encyclopaedia: ‘During the time of advent the faithful are admonished :
– to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love
– thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
– thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world’.
As we enter into the Season of Advent, let us not be just fascinated by the Christmas cards, Christmas Tree, the stars, the lights and the decorative pieces which appear in the shopping malls. Let us not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas; rather, may these outward symbols help stir up our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word Incarnate and who dwelt among us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn.1.1-5). “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn. 1.1-3).
“We know we are travelling together. If our pace is slow, go on ahead of us. We won’t envy you but rather will seek to catch up with you. However, if you consider us capable of a quicker pace, run along with us. There is only one goal, and we are all anxious to reach it….some at a slow pace and others at a fast pace. Let every one’s sighs be uttered in longing for Christ. Let us run to Him and cry out for Him” St.Augustine.
HEALING OF A MAN PARALYSED FOR 38 YEARS
A reflection on John 5, 2-14
“Take off the garment of your sorrow and misery and put on the beauty of the glory from God forever ” (Baruch 5,1).
St. Paul states in his letter to Romans: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (15,4). With help of the Holy Spirit of God who is the Principal Author of the Holy Scriptures (CCC 304), may we turn to the biblical teaching in which Jesus is healing a sick man at a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda in Jerusalem.
At the pool of Bethesda, “there lay many invalids – blind, lame, and crippled.” (Jn.5,3). We too are at times invalids. In what way are we blind? We feast our eyes with many worldly things that we often turn blind to many spiritual realities. There are many people around us suffering the consequences of their drug addiction, going for occult and New Age practices; children and youth bearing the bitter consequence of their parents’ loose life of misusing their freedom and living against the commandments of God and the like. The reasons for the life of sorrow and depression of the present generation are very much in front of their eyes. Yet, they follow the same or even worse track in their life. Are we not, in some way blind to the truth?
In the book of Revelation we read: “You say ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’, and yet you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Therefore I advise you to buy from me…..ointment to smear your eyes so that you may see” (3,17-18).
Are we lame and crippled? We would like to progress in life, but find ourselves not able to climb up the ladder of progress. In our spiritual life too we are limping…we remain lukewarm ….We become paralysed in many ways because we do not live God’s word: People hate one another and they are not able to love; they are very much trapped by lust that they are not able to respect and love others; they are under so much of occult practices that they are unable to call on the name of the Lord. “Their deeds do not allow them to return to their God. For the spirit of harlotry is in them and they do not recognise the Lord” (Hosea 5.4).
Also the Lord fills our lives with many blessings, but we often do not recognise it; rather we become worried about the problems which come on our way that cripple and paralyse us.
Among the sick people at the pool of Bethesda, as noted above in the Scriptures, the focus is on the one who had been ill for thirty eight years. “Jesus saw him lying there and he knew that he had been there for thirty eight years” (6). The Lord who is ‘with me till the end of the time’ (Mt.28,20), who is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Heb.13,8), also sees me as I am; He understands my blind, lame and crippled condition. As He asked the man at the pool, He asks also me : “Do you want to be well?”
When we make Him know our pitiful condition and our helplessness, He is ever ready to reach out and help us. The man was not only sick physically but also broken emotionally because he felt that he was rejected and there was no one to help him to experience healing by putting him into the pool. When he expressed his pain to Jesus, instantly He said: “Stand up, take up your mat and walk”. At once the man became well, took up his mat and walked”. (8- 9) For sure, the man experienced not only the physical healing, but also the joy of being accepted and given notice of. Yes, Jesus comes, not only to heal our physical illness, but also our emotional hurts.
“Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Look, you are well! Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (14). We can presume from this statement that he had committed some sins, of which Jesus was well aware. Thus the man was sick, in his body, mind and spirit. And Jesus came into his life making him whole in spirit, mind and body. Yes, Jesus is the healer of our soul, mind and body.
Let us surrender our life to Jesus with all its brokenness. Much more than we, the Lord is eager to heal us and make our lives wholesome because He “came that we may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn.10,10). This abundant life He promised is for our soul, body and mind. St.Paul exhorts: “May your spirit, soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5,23).
Let us pray – JESUS HELP ME
In every need let me come to you with humble trust saying JESUS HELP ME.
In all my doubts, perplexities and temptations JESUS HELP ME.
In all my difficulties, sorrows and disappointments JESUS HELP ME.
When others fail me and your grace alone can assist me JESUS HELP ME.
When I throw myself on your tender love as Father and Saviour JESUS HELP ME.
When my heart is cast down by failures at seeing no good come from my efforts JESUS HELP ME.
When I am ill and my head and hands cannot work and when I am lonely JESUS HELP ME.
Always, always, in spite of weakness, failures and short comings of every kind
JESUS HELP ME AND NEVER FORSAKE ME.
Signs of the End of the Age
Today there are many people who are worried about the end of the world in 2012. This is found among both Protestants and Catholics. What should be our attitude?
Jesus, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor.10,11) ……has clearly given us the “warnings” about the end times. “When He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age”? (Mt.24,3). Responding to this question, Jesus gave an answer in detail indicating the signs of the End of the Age. We read this in Mat. 24,3-44; Mk 13, 3-37; Lk. 17, 22-37; 21, 7-36. He has very clearly said about the ‘Signs of the End of the Age’…such as the sun getting darkened, and no moon light, stars falling, terrible sufferings, earthquake, flood, wars, persecutions, desolating sacrileges, loss of faith and the like. If only we could take interest to ‘surf’ the Holy Scripture, we can avoid getting panic when we hear the messages about it. All the Scripture passages of ‘warnings’ given by Jesus conclude with the exhortation of the Lord to ‘be ready’, ‘keep awake’, ‘be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man’.
Because of our ignorance of the Word of God we get panic hearing such messages, and think that it is some ‘new message’. ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to St. John to show his servants what must soon take place’ (Rev.1.1), are for us to ‘read aloud, hear and keep what is written in it’ (3). (The word ‘soon’ is to be understood in the eschatological sense. For example,”our thousand years are like one day for the Lord”2 Pet.3,8). St. John says about his vision: “I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth- to every nation and tribe and language and people”. God may send his angels/ messengers to remind us about the truth of the gospel that “Jesus was slaughtered and by his blood he ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev.5,9); but the enemy comes to steal, to kill and to destroy and Jesus comes to give us life in abundance (Jn.10,10); and to enjoy this life in abundance God calls us to ‘repent’ our misdeeds and turn to Him; He wants that we lead fearless lives of joy and freedom of the children of God and at the ‘end of our life’ to enter into eternal life with Him. But God will not force anyone because He respects our freedom. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo on July 10, 2011: “God does not force us to believe in Him, but he draws us to Himself with the truth and goodness of His Incarnate Son: love, in fact, always respects freedom”.
But misusing this freedom, now we are even rejecting God, the author of our lives and rebel against His Law. More people are being killed today than the people whom Hitler and Stalin together killed in concentration camps; the wombs of many mothers have become the place of murder. If we sow wheat, we will reap wheat; on the contrary if we sow weed, we will reap weed. We will be judged, not by the Lord, but by the way we have lived the Word of God or not. “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge” (Jn. 12,47-48). God does not want to punish us, but He has given us ‘warnings’ about what would be the consequences of our rebellious life. (Mt.25,31- 46 ‘The Judgement of the Nations’).
So what should be our response to these messages? When the messages are in tune with the truth of the public revelation of the Bible, it is a reminder for us to be wise and to keep awake like the five wise virgins in the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. (Mt.25,1-13).
For example, the messages given about the need for repentance, suffering in the purgatory, hell fire, signs of the end times etc in the Apparition of Mother Mary at Fatima do not contradict with the public revelation in the Scripture and hence the Church has approved it. (The Church needs to study the new things coming up before she approves any message). And it has been a reminder and call for humankind for repentance, to turn away from wickedness and to turn to God. If we resort to the means given to us, like the prayer, Rosary, Holy Eucharist, acts of penance and sacrifices, ‘the crisis of faith and pastoral negligence’ indicated in the end times in the Fatima apparition, can be minimised.
So the private messages which come from any source, if it is not contradicting with this public revelation of the Bible, can be read and taken to heart; it need not make us panic. But if anything in the message is not in tune with the Word of God, we have to reject that part. For example nobody can tell when will be the end of the world, for Jesus has said: “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. ….You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Mt 24.36, 42, 44).
St. Paul writes: “As for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction” (2 Thess.2,1-3).
In the letter to the Galatians St. Paul writes: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!” (Gal.1,6-8). So the authenticity of the truth of any message is to be tested only against the Word of God and the teaching of the Church.(“The bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the Apostles as pastures of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ” (CCC. 862; Lk. 10,16). In order to discern whether any message, prophecy or vision is correct or not, we need to be familiar with God’s word. Let us be more interested to read and understand it, before being interested to know the private messages.
No one is going to live permanently here. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3,20). Jesus has gone to prepare a house for us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn. 14,2-3). When the disciples were eye-witnessing the Ascension of Jesus to heaven, and were “watching Jesus being lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight” (Acts 1,9), two angels appeared before them and said: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1,11).
When the ‘appointed time comes’ we will have to go and meet the Lord. The only goal of our life here is to reach this eternal life with the Lord. Whether it is on the day of our death or on the last day of the world, it doesn’t matter for us when the end comes, if we live in union with the Lord. Those who do not live in His Kingdom in this earthly pilgrimage, get panic about the messages. God prophesied about the last days through Prophet Joel: “I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke; The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, At the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day. Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord (Joel 2, 30-32a (RSV); Joel 3, 3-5a (NIV, NAB….). Noah was a righteous man, blameless amidst the wicked people, and he walked with God (Gen 6,9), and God took note of him and saved him from destruction. Sodom- Gomorrah was destroyed because of the sins of excessive indulgence in lust and homosexuality, but Lot and his family who were living godly lives were spared (Gen.19.15-26). If our lives are pleasing to the Lord, the severity of the end times will not affect us as it happened to prophet Jeremiah at the time of Babylonian invasion on Jerusalem in BC 587; so also the Christians had left Jerusalem when the Romans came to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70. When we live in Him, He will protect us even amidst the ‘hard time of the end days’. “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Ps.91,7).
Once, St. Don Bosco had a vision. He saw a ship being attacked by many boats and the ship was about to sink. He saw that the ship was captained by Pope; after a while there appeared two pillars; on one pillar the Holy Eucharist and on the other Mother Mary. The captain (Pope) anchored the ship to the two pillars and the enemy boats began to disappear and there was peace.
The vision was just a prophecy about the Church being attacked by so many forces which has been happening for the past 500 years; it became more aggressive with Rationalism and French Revolution and also through Communism and Nazism and in today’s Secularism where through anti-Christian teachings on abortion, contraception, rejection of marriage according to God’s law, gay marriage and adoption; antichristian governments, media and culture. And finally with the antichristian tendencies like Freemasons, New Age, Theosophy, Anthroposophy etc there is a severe attack on the divinity of Christ and on the truth of faith, leading people to unbelief and going away from the Church. We have already come to an age where, if we live our Christian values, we are persecuted, isolated and ridiculed… Even within the Church there are scandals and rebellion of the ministers. Jesus has already forewarned us about all these. “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world- therefore the world hates you” (Jn. 15,18 – 19). Jesus asked the disciples: “When the son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
But, nonetheless, our God is a God of hope. The Church shares the victory of Christ over all these antichristian elements, which are nothing but the working of the powers of darkness. And Jesus has promised that the gates of Hades will not prevail against His Church” (Mt.16,18). Though there will be decisive battle between Satan and Mother Mary, as She promised Lucy in the Fatima Message, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will prevail”.
According to the vision of St. Don Bosco, the captain (Pope) of the boat (Church) anchored the boat on the two pillars which appeared, on one, the Holy Eucharist, and on the other, Mother Mary. We know that in 2003, Pope John Paul II declared the Marian year and brought about The Pro-Life Scriptural/Encyclical Rosary (The Gospel of Life) which is one of the greatest and most important documents of the twentieth century. In the same year the Pope issued an Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia addressed to the clericals. In 2006, we saw an unusual event of Pope Benedict XVI going on the boat in river Rheine. We are coming to a time where we may experience the persecution all the more but we need not lose hope because we have the means of protection- devotion to the Holy Eucharist and meditative recital of Rosary, which is, as Bl.Pope John Paul II has said: “sitting on the lap of Mother Mary and contemplating the Face of Jesus”. It is true that there will be sufferings to come, but let us look to the triumphant end through Jesus who has died for our sins, has risen and is seated at the right hand of God the Father who has made Himself Immanuel and is present with us in the Holy Eucharist; and through Mother Mary who is assumed into heaven. That is our destiny.
So let us not be lost in the worldly pleasures and trying to make our life here secure; but let us remember our Creator and give Him due place and honour in our lives. The people in the times of Noah and Lot made mistakes. “They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them” (Lk. 17, 27- 28). These activities of our lives are not sinful, but while enjoying the goodness and blessings of life, they forgot to give time for Giver of these blessings. St. Paul says: “These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come”. (1Cor.10,11). When ‘the wickedness of the people had come up before the Lord’ (Jon. 1,2), He sent His Prophet Jonah to tell them His message: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jon. 3,4). The people of God believed God, did prayer and acts of penance, and were ready to turn from their evil ways. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them. And he did not do it”. (Jon.3,10). Therefore what God wants is that we turn back to God, live his word, and experience our union with God, and do not remain in fear and continue to remain sinning against the Holy Spirit. “In the plans of divine providence, God always, before He is about to chastise the world, exhausts all other remedies. If we refuse or despise and reject the ultimate means, we will not have any more forgiveness from heaven because we will have committed a sin against the Holy Spirit” (Sr Lucy, the visionary of Fatima, in her interview with Fr. Fuentes).
HE CALLS ME BY NAME !
“Jesus said to her, “Mary”! She turned and said to him in Hebrew (Aramaic), “Rabboni”! (which means teacher).
God’s love for each of us is very personal, intimate and unique. He knows each of us by name. “The Lord called me before I was born; while I was in my mother’s womb he named me” (Is 49,1).
He gives name even to the stars: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names”. (Ps.147,4). While telling about the imagery of the sheep and the shepherd, Jesus said: “He calls his own sheep by name” (Jn. 10,3). Jesus is our good shepherd and we are the sheep that belongs to His pasture. What a privilege it is that He calls us by name! This shows His personal love and concern for each of us. For our Creator God, each of us is an object of His infinite love.
Once a teacher asked the students: “What do you think God is like?” Varied answers came from the students. A thirteen year old boy said: “I imagine God as a person who has managed to create six billion or more people and love each one as if he or she were his only child”. Do I realise this that my Father God loves me as though I am His only child?
When we see the crowd around, we see many faces, but no two faces exactly identical in appearance and in behaviour pattern. We all have a face of very ‘short space’, and in this short space, we all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and one mouth. Yet with all these common features, we look so different from each other. This is the case, not only with the crowd whom we see around, but also with regard to the six billion or more of His creation. Is not His handiwork so marvellous? Yes, I am absolutely unique for my God!
Through prophet Isaiah, the Lord said: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Is. 49,15-16). God brings out the truth symbolically, that He keeps us always before His eyes. “He will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps.121,4). We may go away from His presence, but He keeps us always in the focus of His attention. When we do good things, He is happy with us. So the psalmist says that our God takes delight in us. Whereas when we do wrong, He is grieved. No thoughts, no words, no deeds of ours are hidden from His eyes. “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Ps.32,8).
Once a Religious Sister brought to Fr. James Mariakumar a lady for counselling and prayer. The Sister briefly told the Father about her family background. She was from a Hindu family, working as a teacher in a school. Her cousin was so fascinated by her beauty that he wanted to marry her. But she did not agree to it. The cousin told her: “I will not allow you to marry anyone else”. In course of time, her marriage was arranged with another boy. On the previous day of her marriage, when she was going to her school, her cousin came from behind on a motor bike and threw acid onto her face. Her face and front part of her body was burned. She was taken to the hospital and was treated for few months; but still she was totally disfigured in her appearance. After that, no proposals were coming for her marriage. Since her younger sister reached the marriageable age, the parents started trying for the marriage of their second daughter. But when the people came to see the younger daughter (as is the normal custom in India), seeing the elder ‘disfigured’ sister at home, they would turn to be reluctant to agree for the wedding. So the parents became very angry with the elder daughter and would pass following remarks: “If only she was not here, it would have been nice”. This attitude of the parents was giving much pain to her.
Realising this, once some Religious Sisters visited their house and told the parents: “if you do not like her we will take her to our house”. The parents happily agreed for this proposal. The Sisters were very kind and good to her. Gradually she expressed her desire to become a Catholic and in the course of time she was baptised. Even after few years of her leaving her house, neither the parents nor anyone came to see her. So once she decided to go home and see them. As she entered the house, the mother said: “Why did you come here? If we wanted to see you, we would have come there”. This broke her heart and she went back to the Convent in tears. The Sisters were not able to console her. It was in this situation that the Sister brought her to Fr.Mariakumar.
Father tried to make her understand the unconditional and never failing love of God which is revealed in the Bible. Then Father read out for her Isaiah 49,15-16. Afterwards he started praying over her. During the prayer she started crying, but stopped after some time. Father continued the prayer. In the end he asked her: “Why did you cry during the prayer?” Bursting out with joy she said: “Father, I saw the hand of Jesus and my name was written there—‘Saroja Mary’. My name as a Hindu was Saroja and in Baptism I took the name Mary. I was so happy seeing my name on his palm. Realising how God knows all about me and my name, I cried out of joy!”
“You shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give” (Is. 62,2). Everything revealed by God and written down in the Bible is for each one of us, “for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Rom.15,4). The living Word of God reveals “the steadfast love of the Lord which never ceases, his mercies which never come to an end”. His love is “new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (Lam.3, 22-23).
As early in the morning, Mary Magdalene went ‘in search of this love’, let us too every day search for this Love. “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord” (Jer. 29,13-14). Mary Magdalene was seeking the Lord with all her heart and she got the privilege to confront the Lord and to hear Him calling by name. We too should desire to meet the Living God who has revealed Himself in Jesus to me.
And as Mary Magdalene responded to the Lord, let us also respond to the love of God by acknowledging Him as our Lord, Master, Teacher ….and everything. Our relationship with the Lord should not be one way traffic but two way traffic. He wants to befriend us and “speak to us ‘face to face’ as one speaks to a friend” (cfr. Ex. 33,11). Every day amidst our busy schedule of life, let us find time to enjoy this befriending of the Lord who calls us by name.
THROW INTO THE DEEP
A reflection on Lk. 5,1-15
“Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God” (Lk.5,1). Where ever Jesus went, he first preached the word of God, and then he did the healing, deliverance and miracles. “Many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases” (Lk.5,15). He gave the same mission to his Apostles: “As you go proclaim the good news, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Mt.10,7- 8).He also entrusted this mission to the appointed seventy – two others (Lk.10,1).
Am I eager to hear the word of God? We find many people who are eager to get healing, get their problems settled etc, but are not interested to listen the word of God. But the pattern of Jesus’ mission is the same for all times. “Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; walk only in the way that I command you, so that you may prosper” (Jer.7.23). “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt.6.33).
Sitting in the boat of Simon Peter, Jesus taught the crowd about the Father’s word. Even today Christ speaks authoritatively from the boat of Peter, namely from the Chair of Peter, that is, the Roman Catholic Church.
After teaching, Jesus told Simon: “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk. 5,4). The word of God is a treasure, the depth and meaning of it is inexhaustible. In it we have “all the richness of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2,2-3).
We can grasp the depth of its mysteries only little by little. So our first Pope has written: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation” (1Pet.2,2). But we cannot stop with that. As the infant is fed with solid food for growth, he concluded his letters exhorting us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Pet. 3,18). We need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the Divine Wisdom, because ‘the Holy Spirit is the Principal Author of the Divine Scriptures’ (Catechism of Catholic Church.304). We should pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds to understand the ‘hidden treasure ’ (cfr. Mt.13,44) in the Scriptures.
Am I satisfied with the ‘milk of the word of God’, or do I strive to nourish my soul with the ‘solid food’ (cfr.1 Cor. 3,2) also as I grow? How do I cast my net into the deep sea of the Divine Mystery?
Simon Peter’s answer to Jesus is quite impressive! “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Lk.5,5). Simon and his family were well trained and experienced in fishing. Jesus was known as ‘the carpenter’s son (Mt.13,55). Yet Simon did not argue with Jesus. He was ready to obey what the Lord said. At times we struggle a lot in our business and other undertakings, but without much success. If we invite Jesus into our lives’ boat, and are ready to obey what he says, we can experience miracles in our lives. Sometimes what the Lord says may be senseless for us, or beyond our reasoning. Yet, like Simon Peter, let us submit to God’s word, and we will see the difference!
Peter recognised the greatness of Jesus at the big catch of fish. He acknowledged his sinfulness in the presence of this holy God. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk.5,8).Only when we confront ourselves with the holiness of God, we can realise that we are sinners. When we are away from God, and when His word is not in us, we tend to think that we are ‘sinless’.
Nowadays people are becoming more and more insensitive to sin, because there is no place for God and His word in their lives. Blessed Pope John Paul II has once said: “Insensitivity to sin is the greatest curse of this generation”. Let us ‘remain in His Presence”, and let His word sink into our hearts; and we will know where we are and what we are! “This is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word” (Is.66,2). Let us be humble and contrite like Simon Peter.
Jesus, the sinless One, the Holy God, did not go away from Simon, for “he has come to call not the righteous, but the sinners” (Mt.9.13). Jesus told him: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Lk.5,10). The Lord who is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb.13,8) is telling us the same thing. He is looking for people who are humble, who are willing to do what He says, for “the harvest is plenty, but the labourers are few” (Mt.9, 37). Many are sinking in the depth of sin and darkness; the enemy is putting them in bondage of depression, addictions to sex, drinks, drugs, unhealthy programmes of mass media; marriages are disintegrated, families are broken, children are wounded and hurt…..Am I ready to say yes to the Lord and be available for the work of His kingdom to catch people and ‘rescue them from the power of darkness and transfer them into His kingdom of light? (cfr. Col.1,13).
“They left everything and followed him” (Lk.5,11). What are we to get detached from in saying ‘yes’ to God’s call? God is looking, not for our ability, talents and skills; but for our availability.
THE LOVE OF CHRIST URGES ME
Filled with the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father and the love of the Son, the disciples went about preaching, healing and setting people free from the bondages of the evil. The Acts of the Apostles is well called thus because they are the ‘ACTS’, the deeds of the Apostles in the early Church. They witnessed to the person of Jesus and to His teachings through their lives. Jesus promised them just before His Ascension to heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8). It was not a jolly trip for the disciples to ‘go to the ends of the earth’ to continue the mission of Jesus. They had to face many trials and persecutions, but they were ready to brave it all. St. Paul shares his experience thus: “As servants of God, we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger…..with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see, we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6.4-10). There was ‘no restriction in their affection in spite of all that they went through’ (verse 12). St.Paul reveals the truth: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5.14).
We need to reflect on our lives. Don’t we have this love of Christ in us? Or is our love for the Lord just peripheral or shallow? Why do we find it difficult to put up with the difficulties of life? Modelling after the Apostles, there had been many Saints and Martyrs, down the centuries who had walked the Way of Christ braving all hardships because they were urged by the love of Christ. Christianity is called ‘the Way’ (Acts 9.2). Because Jesus has said: “I am the way “(Jn 14.6). It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” (Acts 11.26). In this Way of life, the disciples are to live the qualities of the Master whom they follow, and to face all the challenges in fulfilling His mission. “Whoever says, I abide in Him, ought to walk the way He walked” (1 Jn 2.6). But they are never alone. Jesus is with them to work with them (Mt.28.20; Mk 16.20) and the indwelling Holy Spirit as their strength and Advocate. When the early believers were threatened by the authority for following ‘the Way’, they prayed for boldness. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4.31).
We may not face such great persecution in our lives; but in our day to day life, we may face in smaller degrees persecution, exploitations, misunderstandings, hurts, unjust accusations…from the people with whom we live and work. Often we get disheartened, get angry with them; even want to run away from such people and situations. As the Apostles and disciples renewed their strength through prayer, we too need to turn to this indwelling Spirit and pray for His help to be patient, forgiving, kind, gentle and enduring. As we go through this journey of life, with our travel mates who are ‘unlovable’ and seem to be ‘difficult to live with’…; and also when we have to face persecutions because of our faith, it is ‘our love of Christ that should urge us on’.
- When I am criticised and judged, the love of Christ should urge me not to defend myself
- When I am talked ill of, the love of Christ should urge me to talk good about that person
- When I am unjustly accused, the love of Christ should urge me to keep quiet
- When I am rejected, the love of Christ should urge me to forgive and accept them
- When I am cursed by someone, the love of Christ should urge me to bless that person.
- When I am humiliated, the love of Christ should urge me to accept that situation
- When I am challenged for my faith, the love of Christ should urge me to brave it
- When I am denied of what is due for me, the love of Christ should make me consider others better than me to enjoy it
Normally people love those who love them, do good to them; it is worldly love. But when we are filled with the love of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are enabled to love as Jesus loved. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13.34). As Disciples of Christ, we are not to react to peoples’ behaviour pattern; but always ‘ACT’ as Jesus has done; follow the WAY the Apostles and Saints followed, loving people ‘unconditionally’. This is the love from above: “loving the enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who abuse us” (Lk 6.27). Worldly love will not urge us to do this; but only the love of Christ, with which the indwelling Spirit of God fills us. We are called to win our enemies with our love. When we love them, we are bringing them into the radius of the sunshine of love. Stephen who was “full of grace and power” (Acts 6.8), at the time of facing the persecution “filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7.54). While they were stoning him, he knelt down and prayed: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (60). Nothing but the love of Christ urged him to do so!
The history repeats itself. Down the centuries there have been so many people who were persecuted, just because they were following ‘The WAY’ of the Lord. When we face such persecutions, in order that “in Him we may have peace”, Jesus has foretold about it: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (Jn16.33) “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God” (Jn 16.2). Even today many Christians are being persecuted or killed in different countries. ‘Christianity today’ says that EVERY 5 MINUTES SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD A CHRISTIAN IS BEING PERSECUTED OR KILLED. But the love of Christ will urge them on and the power of the Holy Spirit will strengthen them to witness for Christ till the end of time.
In situations of hardships let us pray to the indwelling Spirit of God to fill us with this love of Christ and the power to live Jesus in our personal life, in our families, in our place of work.
Along with the Church may we always pray:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
And Thou shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, Who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Most of the time, our relationship with the Lord,tends to be a one way traffic. We pray for God’s blessings and He indeed is ready to bless us in all our ways. But we often forget that our loving God has established a Covenant Relationship with us and that we have obligations to fulfil in our relationship with God. God told Noah: “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you” (Gen 9.9).
A covenant is an agreement with two parties and it includes promises and obligations. For example a country A agrees to supply oil to another country B, on condition that country B will help country A in times of war. Country B can enjoy the benefit from country A, as long as it continues to be faithful to the agreement made and help the latter in times of war. But if it fails to fulfil the agreement, country B cannot escape the consequences of losing the supply of oil by country A.
In Genesis 17.1,2 we see God entering into a covenant relationship with Abraham. “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous”. Later through Moses God made the Israelites aware of this covenant. “Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love Him and keep his commandments…” (Deut 7.9).Thus the covenant which God established with His people also carried obligations as well as promises. In order to enjoy the blessings of the Lord, we need to fulfil the obligations or conditions required of us. Failing which we will have to face the inevitable consequences. Through His Prophets God has explained to them the benefits of obeying the covenant; and also the consequences of disobeying the covenant. In the chapter 28 of book of Deuteronomy, we read: “If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God.” (1, 2). Whereas “if you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, will then overwhelm both you and your offspring with sever and lasting afflictions….(58, 59). This ‘overwhelming afflictions” is not a punishment by God, but we bring it to ourselves by breaking our covenant loyalty with the Lord.
Fr.Marcelino in one of his books says about three steps:
God promises; Man responds; God fulfils His promises.
Jesus promises: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6.33). When I respond to this promise by striving first for the kingdom of God, God’s promise will be fulfilled in us. When I ‘take delight in the Lord, and the desires of my heart will be granted’ (Ps 37.4).
Through the prophet Jeremiah God spoke about a new Covenant. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31.31, 33). The Holy Spirit fulfils this promise. Jesus promised that His message would live in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. (cfr Jn 14.25,26). Jesus came as the initiator of the New Covenant; and in His teachings He reinterpreted the life of the covenant people (Mt chapters 5, 6 and 7; Jn 6.35-53). “In speaking of a ‘new covenant’ He has made the first one obsolete” (Heb 8.13).
Moses, Aaron and the successor priests were the ministers of the old covenant. Jesus made His Apostles and the successors to be the ministers of the New Covenant. About this St.Paul, who was being counted as one among the Apostles, but who ‘considered himself as the least of the apostles’(1 Cor 15.9) writes: “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor 3.5,6).
The sign of entering into the old covenant was circumcision, whereas in the New Covenant it is the Sacrament of Baptism. When the Israelites heard Peter’s proclamation of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2.22-24), they were ‘cut to heart, and asked Peter and other Apostles: “what should we do?” Peter said to them: “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.37, 38). And this promise is for everyone (cfr verse 39). The aim of covenant relationship with God is this that the blessings promised by God should be freely available for all people. One only needs to fulfil the obligations. In the New Covenant, “circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything” (1 Cor 7.19).
Institution of the Holy Eucharist is the extension of the covenant relationship in the New Testament. Taking the cup he said: “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26.27,28). “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22.20). In the old covenant, the high priest would ‘go into the sanctuary once a year, not without taking the blood (of goats and calves) that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people’ (Heb 9.7). “When Christ came as a high priest….He entered once for all into the Holy place, not with the blood of the goats and the calves, but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb 9.11, 12). Since the life of the flesh is in the blood, it is the blood that makes atonement for our lives (Lev 17.11), both in the old covenant and in the New Covenant. But in the New Covenant Jesus identified Himself with the ‘blood of the covenant’.
In 1 Cor 11.23-29, St.Paul appeals to the church in Corinth to remember that they are part of the New Covenant people. Jesus, through His Word and through His Church is calling us every day to realise this dignity that we are a covenant people with our Creator God.; Let us heed to His loving invitation to enter into this covenant relationship and be faithful to it with the help of the Holy Spirit, given to us in Baptism.
Visitation of our Blessed Virgin Mary
Today, the last day of the month of May which is dedicated for the special reverence to Mother Mary, the Church honours the Blessed Virgin Mary by remembering her visit to Elizabeth. The Gospel narrative we hear during the Holy Eucharist is (Lk 1.39-56).
From angel Gabriel she came to know this good news: “your relative Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son; and his is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (36, 37).
The visitation of Blessed Virgin Mary is more than a mere charitable visit. Among the feasts of Mother Mary this feast of Visitation has a special significance. Her visit after the Annunciation that God has chosen her to be the Mother of the Saviour, was a humble act of hers and through this visit, Elizabeth and the child in her womb were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1.41). And it was when she was filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (42). And prompted by the Holy Spirit, she also recognised and confessed that the Blessed Virgin is the ‘mother of her Lord’ (43). So the Divine Motherhood of Mary is a Scriptural truth which the Holy Spirit revealed through Elizabeth. As Jesus taught his disciples: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (Jn 16.13).
Mother Mary is called blessed because she believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (45). It is our faith in the promises of the Lord that makes us blessed. All the disciples of Christ are called to share in this blessedness. Mother Mary, as our Spiritual Mother, is only leading us to her Son and to His word. At the wedding at Cana she told the servants to ‘do whatever He tells you’ (Jn 2.5). When they did what Jesus told them to do, miracle happened.
In our lives also, we can see the miracles of the Lord when we do ‘whatever He tells us’; thereby we prove that we believe in His word and promises and thus we too become blessed like Mother Mary.
In the Magnificat (46-56) , the Blessed Virgin is exalting the Lord for His power, His holiness, His mercy and His faithfulness. Like her, we too need to glorify the Lord each day for who is and for His abundant blessings (The living, the living, they thank God- Is 38.19); acknowledge Him as holy God (“Our Father in heaven, holy be your name’-Mt 6.9); proclaim His mercy and faithfulness to all generations (Lam 3.22, 23; 1 Pet 2.9). As she humbled herself in the presence of a Holy and Mighty God, even though she was given the privilege of bearing the Saviour of the world.
On this last day of the month of May which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is quite fitting that we reflect on the Gospel narrative of the Visitation. We, who are committed to the Rosary devotion, are made to aware again and again about the significance of the prayer of ‘Hail Mary’. As we know the angel Gabriel addressed the Virgin Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace (favoured one)! The Lord is with you.” (Lk 1.28). When she visited Elizabeth, hearing her greetings, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Lk 2.42). In the second part of the prayer ‘Hail Mary’, which is an invocation, we ask her to pray for us addressing her as ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God’. So when we pray Rosary, we are repeatedly pronouncing the Word of God; even so in the prayer of ‘Our Father’. The whole mystery of our faith is in the recitation of the Creed. And we sign ourselves ‘ in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit’ by which we are sealed at the time of Baptism- and we give all ‘glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit’. As somebody has said: Even if one cannot find the prayer of Rosary as such in the Bible, the Bible is in the Rosary.
Lord Jesus, you enlightened the mind of Elizabeth to realise the truth. Enkindle in us the fire of your Spirit and give us your wisdom to recognise the truth of the Gospel.
THE WORD THAT HEALS
“He sent out His Word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction”, says the Psalmist (107.20). In the book of Wisdom we read: “Neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was your word, O Lord that heals all people” (16.12). “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you” (Jer 7.23). When we have reverential fear for God and live His Word, our immunity system becomes strong. Whereas when we disobey God’s Word and walk not in His ways, our spirit loses God’s grace, we lose our peace of mind and the health of our body too is affected. God, who wants us to experience abundant life in our body, mind and soul, has also instructed us how to make this wholesome life our own. “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statues, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases…..; for I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex 15.26)”. When we live the Word of God, our worldly outlook is changed into Godly outlook and healing takes place; our heart will be filled with love, joy and peace and that is the experience of God’s Kingdom in our lives: “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14.17).
God has not prevented us from going to the doctors or taking medicines. On the contrary, He has said that he who fears the Lord will honour the physician: “Honour physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; for their gift of healing comes from the Most High….Give the physician his place, for the Lord created him” (Sir 38. 1-15). The maxim ‘the doctors treat and God heals’ is quite true.
Keeping our heart free of anger and bitterness; sorrow and tension; despair and depression is a prerequisite for experiencing the healing of the Lord. When there are such negative emotions in our mind, certain poisonous secretions are produced within our system, causing much disturbance for the smooth functioning of our system. For example, in the book of Proverb we read: “Anxiety weighs down the human heart” (12.25). So Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn 14.1). When we live this Word and trust in God every moment of our lives, there is no room for anxiety and worry, causing ‘weighing down of our heart’.
Once a lady came to me, saying that the doctor had told her one month ago that she had cancer of the brain. On questioning further she said that she had had a headache for 15 years; I further enquired whether she had had bitter enmity prior to that for some years. She admitted that she had had bitterness towards somebody for 20 years. I presumed that this enmity was the cause for the cancer. The Bible says that God is love, and where there is love there is eternal life, and where there is enmity, the spirit is already dead (1 Jn 3.14,15). When we hate people, it affects our mind, and there is no peace and joy and love, and it affects the weakest part of our body and we become sick. When Jesus is our life, then his life flows into our mind and body and through his Risen Presence in us, we experience wholeness in mind and body. After the prayer by which I led her to forgive that person, she felt that a big burden left her, and she felt quite at ease.
DOES THIS OFFEND YOU ?
The Holy Eucharist and the Cross are spiritual realities which can be understood only by faith and by the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as announcement of the Passion scandalised them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?” The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has “the words of eternal life”, and that to receive in faith the gift of His Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself” (1336)
When some of His disciples were ‘offended’ by His teaching on the Bread of Life, Jesus did neither change nor dilute His teaching in order not to lose His followers. Rather He asked them: “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (Jn 6.61, 62). From this we can logically conclude that the second thing which Jesus mentioned was more difficult to believe than the first. But the second thing did take place and the Apostles were witness to it. “As they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud told Him out of their sight” (Acts 1.9).
Many believers in Christ are giving a deaf ear to the living invitation of the Lord: “…Take, eat; this is my body; drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant…” (Mt 26.26-28). At the Consecration of the Holy Mass, the bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and it is His desire and command that we consume Him in a worthy manner in the Holy Eucharist. In Ezekiel 37.1-10, we see the prophet prophesying to the dry bones and they became alive; it was not the Lord Himself who directly commanded the bones.
“I prophesied as I had been commanded: and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone… I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Likewise when every Catholic Priest at the altar pronounces the words of consecration as commanded by the Lord, the miracle takes place- the transubstantiation- the elements of nature, transformed by the work of man, i.e. the bread and wine, are changed into the glorified Body and Blood of Christ by the invocation of the Holy Spirit.
Some faithful are ‘offended’ as the Holy Eucharist is given in one species. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that ‘Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species’ (1377). St.Augustine says: “Each of us receives Christ the Lord entire under each particle”. ‘The faithful can gain nothing more by receiving both the kinds and lose nothing by receiving under one form’ (Imitation of Christ)
See what the Fathers of the Church have taught us: “our Redeemer, it is true, has said: “Drink all of you”. But it should be remembered that these words were not addressed to the people at large, but only to the Apostles, who alone were also commanded, on the same occasion, to consecrate His Body and Blood in remembrance of Him. Now we have no right to infer that the faithful are obliged to drink of the cup, because the Apostles were commanded to drink of it, than we have to suppose that the laity are required or allowed to consecrate the bread and wine, because the power of doing so was at the last supper conferred on the Apostles.
It is true also that our Lord said to the Apostles: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6.53). But this command is literally fulfilled by the laity when they partake of the consecrated bread, which contains Christ the Lord in all its integrity. Hence if our Saviour has said: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (Jn 6.54), He has also said: “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6.51)”.
Also note what St.Paul tells after ‘receiving the Gospel which he was preaching, through a revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Gal 1.11). “Whoever eats the bread OR drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11.27). The innumerable Eucharistic Miracles down the centuries are but eye openers for us to believe in the Presence of Jesus in the Consecrated Host in His Body and Blood, in His Soul and Divinity. For those who do not believe these miracles are not helpful; and those who do believe, no miracles are necessary.
Let us yield our thinking and reasoning to the Wisdom of God. “O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy, give me the wisdom that sits by your throne, ….man is short –lived, with little understanding of judgement and laws; for even one who is perfect among human beings will be regarded as nothing without that wisdom from you” (Wis 9.1,4-6).
Some people are ‘offended’ because ‘in their eyes’ the Priests who are administering the Holy Mass and pronouncing the words of Consecration are not holy! It is by the power of God’s word pronounced by the Priest and by the power of the Holy Spirit that the miracle of transubstantiation takes place. St.Thomas Aquinos, the greatest Theologian of the Church has taught us thus: “It is not man that causes the things offered, to become the body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for all the sinners (Christ Himself). The Priest in the role of Christ (in Persona Christi), pronounces the words, but their power and grace are God’s. “This is my body”’ he says; this word transforms the things offered” (Suma Theologica III.73.3)
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20.29). What a privilege it is that we are called by the Lord ‘Blessed ‘because we do believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, even though for our eyes, for our touch, for our taste, for our reasoning, it is only bread and wine!
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5.7)
IT IS I
When the disciples were sailing in a boat through a rough sea, Jesus came towards them walking on the sea. Because they did not realise that it was the Lord, they were terrified.
But the Lord reassures their faith telling: “It is I; do not be afraid” (Jn 6.16-20).
At times we face difficulties and challenges in our life that cause us fear. But the loving invitation of the Lord, His reassurance of faith is always there. He is God Immanuel, who is ever with us. We only need to open our eyes of faith to recognise His Presence. He keeps telling us: “It is I; do not be afraid”. His words are loving, comforting, strengthening. So let us keep our ears attentive to His voice. No matter how much we are frightened, upset or anxious about a situation, if we have the faith conviction, then I can overcome these negative emotions.
St.John tells: “Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith” (1 Jn 5.4)
What is faith? The CCC (Catechism of Catholic Church) teaches: “Faith is our response to God” (166). I need to believe in the Word of God, for what it is: IT IS GOD’S WORD. When I respond to that Word, I live by faith.
Once a flat caught fire. All the inmates from upstairs were rushing to the ground floor. One little boy of 4 years could not come down fast. Standing on the second floor he was calling out to his father: “Pappa, Pappa.” Turning towards the side from where the sound was coming, the father shouted from down: “My son, jump soon”. The boy said: “How can I jump? I cannot see you”. The fumes rising up from down were blocking the son from seeing the father. The father retorted: “My son, it doesn’t matter that you cannot see me. You jump soon. I can see you”. Immediately the son jumped from there and fell into the safety hands of the father!
Sometimes we will not see what lies ahead or are much troubled with the problems we face. But the Lord never fails in His promises. “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt 28.20). “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1.9). Let us remember that our “God is not a human being that he should lie, or a mortal that he should change His mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has He spoken, and will He not fulfil it?” (Num 23.19). I need to blindly believe what the Lord tells me and act upon it. That is how we put our faith into practice and thus we grow in faith.
When the storms of life are raging, the Lord is there. And great things will happen when I acknowledge Him and resort to His help with expectant faith without getting panic over the situation. ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Heb 11.6). And also it is by having the shield of faith that I can quench the flaming arrows of the evil one’ (Eph 6.16)
‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ (MK 9.24). Holy Spirit of God dwelling within me, help me to grow in faith so that my attitudes, speech and actions will be expressions of faith.
WHAT DO I PREFER ?
“The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (Jn 3.19).
This is the situation amidst which we live , and this is in a greater degree now than ever before. Christianity and Catholic Church are attacked from within and outside, mainly on this ground. Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church teach everyone to lead a holy and good life. But in the world now there is so much of evil which wants to destroy all that is good. Jesus has foretold: “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God” (Jn 16.2). Jesus wants us to love one another, forgive each other, do justice, help the poor and the downtrodden to come up in life, respect and value human life …….But the attitude of the unbelievers is often different: keeping revenge, repaying evil for evil, killing the unborn in the womb of the mother ……. these have become just normal for many people. Even in the early church when the believers in Jesus were living ‘the way’ taught by Jesus, they were being ‘dragged by the authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also’ (Acts 17.6).
Yes, we Christians are the people who are called to make the normalcy of God our lifestyle. “All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed” (Jn 3.20). Should we be discouraged? Not at all!
As Blessed Mother Theresa would often say, ‘let us light a candle rather than curse the darkness’. Let our lives of belief in Jesus; our attitudes towards one another, ‘having the mind of Jesus’ (Phil.2.5), be a blessing for others. ‘In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation’, we are called to ‘shine like stars’ (Phil 2.15). It is possible only by ‘holding fast to the Word of life’ (Phil 2. 16).
God, our Creator has given us the freedom of choice and He always respects our freedom.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30.19). If we ‘call evil good and good evil, if we put darkness for light and light for darkness’ (Is 5.20), then we are the losers. We miss the abundant blessings of God in this life and in the life to come – our eternal life. Let us discern whether we are in the Kingdom of Light or in the Kingdom of Darkness:
The Kingdom of Light The Kingdom of Darkness
Selflessness, forgiving love Selfishness, anger, bitterness
Truth and sincerity Falsehood and deception
Doing God’s will Doing my own will
Submission to God’s plan My own plan, burn- out
Trust in God’s Providence Anxiety, depression
Experiencing God’s Presence Absence of God, Fear, nervousness
Respecting one another Using others for my pleasure
Giving first place to God Giving more importance to people/things
Love, Adoration to the Living God Satanism, Occultism, New Age
What do I choose? Do I prefer to live in the kingdom of darkness or do I desire to live in the kingdom of light by believing in Jesus and living His Word?
“Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (Jn 3.21)
Lord Jesus, help me to choose your light and remain in Your Kingdom of Light, so that through me others may come to You, the Eternal Light.
DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
We have reasons to rejoice!!
“Today is the day the Lord has made;Let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps. 118.24)
There are many reasons that the Sunday of this week has been blessed with: We celebrated the Mercy Sunday to thank the Lord of ‘the Divine Mercy’ for giving us the messages through St.Faustina; the May Day , feast of St. Joseph, the worker, honoring him as the Model Worker. It was our beloved Late Pope John Paul II who declared the second Sunday of Easter as the Mercy Sunday, whose Beatification too was on this day. So we could definitely rejoice in the Lord singing, “today is the day the Lord has made…”
In the Gospel narrative of St.John on this day (Jn 20.19-31), we commemorate the institution of the Sacrament of Confession. Jesus on the cross has taken the ‘sin of the world’(Jn 1.29) and He has forgiven the sin of everyone on the cross. Now the Risen Lord is appropriating the effects of His Passion, Death and Resurrection to all those who are willing to repent of their sins and belive Him as the Saviour of the world. Therefore the Risen Lord breathed on the Apostles and said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 22,23). As St. Paul says: “God reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5. 18-20).
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. …..If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins , and not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 1.9; 2. 1b, 2)
So let us approach this Sacrament of Reconciliation and get reconciled to God and experience His mercy that we may get strengthened to resist temptations and climb the ladder of holiness through the sacramental grace we receive. The Confessional is the place where the penitent confront the inexhaustible mercy of the Lord.
Also we realize that we are blessed! The Lord told Thomas: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”(Jn 20.29). The disciples proclaimed Jesus whom “they have seen with their eyes, whom they looked at and touched with their hands” (1 Jn 1.1), but we proclaim Christ in faith. And for Jesus we are blessed because we believe in the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in faith; It is an indescribable gift (2 Cor 9.15) which our senses or our intellect and reasoning cannot grasp.
What more do we require to rejoice than the fact that the Lord considers
us ‘Blessed’! So we can sing the mercies of the Lord for ever.
REKINDLING OUR FAITH
We see the disciples growing in faith degree by degree. Our growth in faith and in the experience of the Lord is an ongoing process. From fear to courage, from disbelief to belief, from doubt to strong conviction, from sorrow to joy—when we journey with the Lord this takes place in our lives.
We find the Risen Lord with full of love and compassion for his disciples even though they were wavering in faith. He understood their failures, not only in their spiritual life but also in their physical life. He asked them: “Children, you have no fish, have you?” (Jn 21.5). The loving Lord had neither accusation nor condemnation about their lukewarm nature or backsliding.
‘The disciple whom Jesus loved recognized Jesus’ at the big catch of the fish (Jn 21.7) because a similar incident took place earlier at their first calling (cfr Lk 5. 1-7). Even though the Lord entrusted them with the mission of ‘catching people’ (Lk 5.10), in their disgust they were deciding to go back to their former trade. Still the Lord was patient with them- loving, forgiving and merciful towards them. Both the instances are an eye opener for us to realize that when we confront with failures and meaninglessness, Jesus is there to encourage us and to support us. When we work with Him and in Him; and when we act upon His Word, we can experience plenty. I can sing with the Psalmist: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps 23.1)
In the book of Lamentation we read: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (3.22, 23). The disciples were experiencing this love, mercy and faithfulness of the Lord each day anew in the Easter Octave/Tide– in the post Resurrection days.
Let us keep our hearts open each day for this new experience of the Lord ; and may we grow deeper in our faith as we experience His love.
Holy Spirit of God, enkindle in us each day the fire of the Divine Love. Keep us close to the heart of Jesus. Help us to renew our call whenever we go back to our old ways.
“My beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain”. (1 Cor. 15.58)
KNOWING OF THE RISEN LORD
In the Easter octave, in which we are now, the Gospel narratives prove that the Lord’s Resurrection was witnessed by the disciples; it was not like Jairus’ daughter, or the man of Naim or Lazarus coming to life. Jesus passes from the state of life to another life beyond time and space.
This is what the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) teaches: “The Lord’s Resurrection is the crowning truth of our faith. By means of touch and the sharing of a meal (Lk 24. 41-43), the Risen Jesus establishes direct contact with His disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that He is not a ghost and above all, to verify that the risen body in which He appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of His Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body. It is not limited to time and space. He invited them to touch Him and had breakfast with them which attributes to the properties of a physical body; and on the other hand He could pass through a closed door and this attributes to the properties of a risen and glorious body.”
The Risen Saviour “opened the minds of the disciples to understand the Scriptures: ‘It is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Lk 24.45-47). While on earth, Jesus started His mission, the proclamation of the kingdom of God with a call to repentance. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”(Mk 1.15).
The Resurrected Christ, before being ascended to heaven, is reminding the disciples to continue that very same mission. From unbelief the disciples grew to total faith and then Jesus entrusted His mission to them.
Every one of us undoubtedly desires healing, especially of our body and mind. But there is no short cut for it, through Reiki, Spirit healing, New Age methods etc, which in the long run, will only put us in bondage. “The Word of God is not chained” (2 Tim 2. 9), and repentance and forgiveness of sins has to be preached to all.
“Repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is Jesus” (Rev 3.19, 20). “For He was slaughtered and by His blood He ransomed for God saints from every tribe, language, people and nation. (Rev.5.9).
The Resurrection of Jesus is a mystery of faith and so let us thank the Lord for giving us this faith. Let us also pray that the Holy Spirit may ‘open the mind’
(cfr Lk 24. 45) of the unbelievers which is ‘blinded by the god of this world’ (cfr 2 Cor 4.4), that they may be able to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and they may be able to experience Him as the True Living God and Saviour.
THE LORD CALLS
(Reflection on John 20, 11-18)
St. John gives a very moving account of Mary Magdalene confronting Jesus at the tomb. Great was her pain of missing Jesus; but once Jesus called her by name, all her sadness and despair vanished.
What a privilege it is to hear the Lord calling me by name! He calls, He calls, He ever calls. But due to my busy schedule, lukewarm nature, my indifference, often I am deaf to His call. Mary immediately recognised Him in faith and acknowledged Him as her `Rabboni`, Master. And she did bring the Lord`s call into action: she went forth into the mission of announcing the testimony of her witnessing the Risen Lord.
The Risen Saviour needs my body to continue His mission and He is looking for people who will respond to His call. In the Old Testament, when Prophet Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying: „Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?“ Isaiah responded:`Here am I:send me“ (6.8).
Let us feel the impulse of the Lord who is bearing the burden of the souls. He has you and me in His mind when He asks: „Whom shall I send?“ In our free will, which our Loving Lord always respects, let us respond to Him: „Here I am Lord, send me“.
Let us (hear and) pray with this beautiful hymn which gave me an impetus to enter into the Divine Word Ministry.
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I`ve heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin; my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.
I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people`s pain
I have wept for love of them; they turn away
I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone
I will speak my word tot hem, whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord …
I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,
I will set a feast for them, My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied
I will give my life to them, whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord …