Seventh Sunday of Easter -A

“Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Today we move on to the great chapter 17 of John, which contains the final part of his discourse and Jesus is still with his disciples at the Last Supper.  It consists of the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, which has three parts:

Jesus prays for his own mission;

– He prays for his immediate disciples, who are with him as he prays;

– He prays for all those who in later times will become his disciples.

The time has come for Jesus to offer himself completely to the will of His Heavenly Father. We see how painful it is going to be as He sees the passion ahead of him. He says in the garden of Gethsemane; if it is possible let this chalice pass away from me, but not my will but your will be done. He had spoken to his disciples the baptism that he had to undergo and how eager he is to fulfill it. Knowing the pain and agony, Jesus prays to the Heavenly Father the strength to carry out the Divine Mandate in order to save us from the darkness of sin and alienation form God. He prays that, through his passion, death and resurrection, he may find glory.  In John’s gospel Jesus’ glory begins with his passion and the high moment is the moment of his dying on the cross, which is also the moment of resurrection and union with the Father.  This glory is not for him but to lead people to glorify God, of whom Jesus is the Revealer and Mediator.

He prays that all he does may lead to people everywhere sharing in the life of God. And what is that life?  Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” To know God and to know Jesus is to acknowledge their unique place as the source and end of all we have and are.  To know the Father and Jesus is to have as full as possible an understanding of Jesus’ message and to have assimilated it into one’s whole life. The Gospel speaks about the intimate union between the Father and the son. At the Baptism and Transfiguration the Spirit descended and proclaimed; that “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

To know God in the Gospel sense is to have a deep personal experience of God Who is working in our lives. It involves a close and intimate relationship, which matures eventually into a mutual love and trust.  Christian Faith is essentially a ‘believing in’– a total surrender.  Jesus is encountered and experienced in a personal relationship. Jesus is the source of life for us and He is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to the Father except through me. Eternal life is the result of imbibing the Gospel values and establishing a deep personal relationship with Jesus and growing in it by our life of total surrender.

Jesus now prays for his disciples, the “men you took from the world to give me”.  Although it was Jesus who chose them, ultimately they are the gift of the Father to help Jesus continue his work on earth.  Jesus thanks God that they have recognized that he comes from the Father and that they have accepted his teaching.  And, because they belong to Jesus, they also belong to the Father and through them Jesus will receive glory.

Finally, they have been chosen from the world and yet will remain in the world, though not sharing in its values.  In fact, they will give glory to Jesus precisely by challenging the values of that world and leading it to the ‘eternal life’ which they have discovered through Jesus and which they have already begun to enjoy.

We thank Jesus for his disciples. We thank them for handing on to us the secret of life. We thank them for the giving of themselves, sometimes through a martyr’s death, to share that secret with us.  We recognize that they, like us, had many weaknesses but Jesus still worked through them and through them the world came to know Jesus.

Peter challenges his early Christian audience to accept sufferings as opportunities to identify themselves with Jesus.  “Rejoice,” he encourages the newly baptized, “to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.  Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but should glorify God because of the Name.”  Both the Jewish and the Gentile Christians had to face persecutions and inner suffering.  The Jewish members had to give up many of their long cherished traditions and to suffer the loss of their Jewish friends.  The Gentiles had to struggle to give up some of their old ways, such as magic and idolatry, which were incompatible with the Gospel.  Although they all considered Jesus the restorer of the kingship of David, they soon discovered that his throne included the cross and suffering as well as joy.  Peter is not suggesting that greater Faith will make one impervious to suffering, but that, properly accepted, it can render that suffering salvific.  Jesus, the Messiah, that is, the restorer of the glorious kingship of David, a monarch above all suffering, had the cross for His throne, and found his strength in his submission to the evil others did to him.  Hence, the believer needs and is meant to use suffering to give meaning to his life by identifying himself with the suffering Jesus.

We need to center our Christian life on prayer: Prayer is one of the most essential elements in order to grow in our relationship with God and be in communion with him. We should try to set aside some time each day to spend with God in prayer.  If we are convinced of the presence of God within us, we can talk to him even while we are busy with our daily activities. Our talk with God can include praise and thanksgiving, pleas for forgiveness and prayer for our needs.  A few minutes spent in reading the Bible is a good way of listening to God.

We need to glorify Christ by the lives we live: When we live ethical lives, that is, lives of integrity in which our performance is in harmony with our profession of Faith, we are glorifying Jesus. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, a fair deal on a product, a truthful, trustworthy guarantee – all these reflect our integrity. When others see Christians who will not cheat on their income tax, who will stand up for peace with justice, who will love even when it costs, who will stand with the poor and oppressed, who will use their money as a gift from God to bless other lives, who will use their money to guarantee that the Gospel is preached all over the world, we glorify God. We also glorify God by our prayer life and faithful observance of the Lord’s Day. We glorify Jesus by humble and selfless service. Finally, we glorify God by speaking kind, merciful, loving and encouraging words to everyone we encounter in our daily lives.

 

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter A

“If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

The Gospel is about the final testament before His passion, death and Resurrection. Jesus knew well that His disciples would be at a lost and needed lot of courage and strength to persevere in their life of commitment to Jesus, their master. He prepared them for a new era in which they would have to face new challenges and assume new tasks, without the constant support of his presence and his advice. Foreseeing their difficulty, Jesus consoles the disciples he was about to leave, promising to send them his Spirit. He would not, therefore, leave them abandoned. He would no longer be with them in body as he had been until now, but he would be available to them spiritually in a new and permanent way.

He speaks to them about the importance of their fidelity and commitment. That is why He says if you love me, you will keep my commandments. In other places He says that whoever loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode within him (Jh.14, 23). One of the conditions Jesus specifically speaks is the unconditional love of God that we should have in our lives. How do we express our love of God and have that as the primacy of our lives. The book of Deuteronomy speaks about “the Lord our God is the only Lord! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk. 12, 29-30) There has to be convergence of all these four elements in order to love God totally and completely. Here it is very specifically points out the various dimensions that contribute to the fulfillment of this great commandment. There has to be a combination and integration of the heart and mind, because we love with our heart and not with the intellect. The intellect gives us the knowledge and this information when combined with the heart it comes to its fullness.

Loving Jesus therefore is not just something emotional; loving Jesus means changing our lives, reforming our lives, working on our personalities and characters, overcoming sinful habits, stretching ourselves to love as Jesus loved. This calls for a total transformation of our life in Christ and we need to possess the person of Christ totally and completely. No wonder St. Paul says writing to the Philippians “For me to live is Christ and die is a gain.” We need to be ruled and governed by the person of Christ and His Gospel, which are his own words, which are powerful and effective. Again the words of Jesus are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We cannot have both a pure love of Jesus and sin in our lives at the same time. As Jesus said in Matt 6:24, we cannot be the slaves of two masters. Truly loving Jesus leads us to give up whatever in our lives draws us away from Jesus. Truly loving Jesus leads us to making changes in the way we live and think and act. When we keep the commandments not only do we love Jesus but we also have the love of God in us. At the end of our Gospel excerpt today we heard; anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

The Gospel gives us certain guidelines in order to comply with the commandment of Jesus.

Let your light shine before the people. If your deeds are good, do not hide them and let the others see and glorify your heavenly Father in Heaven.

Love your enemies; you have heard that love your friends and hate your enemy, but I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you will become the children of your heavenly Father, who sees everything that is done will reward you.

Forgive everyone who sins against you. The Lord is merciful and kind and he expects us to forgive others in order that we may receive forgiveness form him. We cannot be recipients of mercy unless we ourselves are merciful and kind. The Lord says give and it will be given back to you in full measure, pressed down and flowing over will be poured into your lap.

Clean inside the cup and dish and the outside will take care of itself. It clearly refers to the cleanness of our own inner self. Psalm 50 would say a pure heat create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me, do not cast me away from your spirit nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit.

Love one another as I have loved you. If you do this, then I will know that you are my disciples. Look at the early Christians that their life was clearly an example of this great commandment. If we really loved him, we would make his will the norms of our existence until they are imprinted in our hearts. The proof that we love him in his absence is that we do his will. If the will of Jesus is the norm of our lives, we will not feel abandoned and left alone.

I have come to serve and not to be served. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand the greatness of this virtue that He himself washed the feet of his own disciples.

Repay evil with good, in this way you will be called the children of your Heavenly Father; for he brings down snow and rain on the good as well as the bad. Nothing is achieved by retaliation except to pile darkness upon darkness. Do not judge and you will not be judged; Do to others what you want them to do to you. God is the righteous judge and He knows the intentions of our heart well compared to anyone in the world.

Do not store up treasures for yourself here on earth- money, property, goods and so on. These are like chaff in the eyes of God and will be blown away by the first wind of judgment. Do not worry about food, drink and clothes as if they were the most important things in life. Your first concern is to live a life worthy of a child of God and all the rest will fall into place. Let our life be permeated and predominated by the love of God and expressed in loving and caring for our brothers and sisters

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter -A

“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Actions speak louder than words. We have heard these words many times and our reactions could be either in conformity with it or it does not affect us at all. Today we live in a world dominated by Technology and progress. These are human achievement and they need to be appreciated, but there is a question that we need to answer whether we have forgotten God, who is the author of everything. If we have lost sight of the gospel values and the person of God form our lives, then we need to introspect and see where we are going and what we want to achieve in our life. We need to realize that all the progress is a means for us to achieve the end for which we are created. St. Augustine says that we have been created for God and we cannot rest until we rest in him. Esmeralda Solis was the beauty queen of Mexico in 2016. At the age of twenty she had everything she wanted, but she felt within herself that God is calling her to follow him closely. On 25th March 2017 she becomes a novice of the Poor Clares of Blessed Sacrament.

The disciples are gathered together with Jesus on the last Thursday night of his life in the Upper Room for the Last Supper. The departing Jesus instructs them about how they may preserve his memory and carry on his mission. As his final hours on earth approach, Jesus prepares his disciples by explaining to them the full significance of what will happen. He will return to his Father and send them the gift of the Holy Spirit. And after dedicating their lives to leading others to Faith through the power of that Holy Spirit, they will be reunited with him in his Father’s house. “I am going to prepare a living space for you, a mansion, a place for you for all eternity… I will come again and take you to that place.”

The early Christians had to face persecutions and were struggling to maintain their Christian identity. John in his message was attempting to give courage and hope to people who found themselves in the midst of a very nasty fight with their passionate and fanatical Jewish neighbors in the Synagogue. It is clear that John’s aim was pastoral, an attempt to comfort those friends of his who were afraid and who needed assurance. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me… “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
”My Father’s house:” When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily. “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in Heaven as my heart is there.” “I will drive you from your people, and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor. “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in Heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
John’s central message is that Jesus is both the revealer and the Revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God. “The Jesus of the Gospel does not only show us the way – his life of humble and generous service is the way; he does not just philosophize about a concept of truth – he is the perfect Revelation of the truth about a God of enduring and unlimited love for his people; he is not just a preacher of futuristic promises – he has been raised up by God to a state of existence in God to which he invites all of us. In embracing the Spirit of his Gospel and living the hope of his Word, we encounter, in Christ, God Himself.”
Jesus is the Way. We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus and we call Jesus the “Way” because he is the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his Heavenly Father. The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides. Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.” Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana,” but he was not sure if these would lead one to God. Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it. However, Jesus claims that he is the only way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure way to God is the narrow way of the cross. It is the least-traveled way of humble, loving, self-giving and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus reveals to us. It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus. The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis the author of Imitation of Christ explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” thus: “Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.”
Jesus is the Truth. Gandhi said, “God is truth.” Jesus is the Truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God. He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father. He also teaches us the truth that our Triune God lives in each one of the believers. Jesus is the Truth also because he has borne testimony to truth, demonstrating through his life and death the love of God for human beings. Truth here is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person. Jesus is the Truth, the Word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So we pray the 86th Psalm, “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth.” For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a “fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.
Jesus is the Life. As God, Jesus has eternal life in himself. In addition, he is the one who gives us his life-giving Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the Sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God.
If we had more of Jesus in our lives we would have less fear, worries and anxieties. We would still have problems. God never promised that we would not have problems. Jesus himself had a big problem; he was sentenced to death as a common criminal. But Jesus rose on the third day and Jesus will help us rise above our difficulties also because as the second reading stated Jesus is the “living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4) If we try to live without Jesus, life will not go nearly as well for us as when we have Jesus at the center of our lives. We can overcome problems better with Jesus in our lives than without Jesus. If we turn our backs on Jesus how can we expect to succeed? Let us focus on Jesus and not on the problems. Again as our second reading stated, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:6) When we have problems, let us turn to Jesus who is always waiting for us.

Homily, Fourth Sunday of Easter.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly”

Yahweh, the Good Shepherd: The Jewish people, for a long time had used the image of the Good Shepherd for God. The usage goes all the way back to Genesis 49:24, which says that Joseph was saved “By the power of the mighty one of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel and the God of your father…” Such imagery was used by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah, and of course by David in his Psalms. The psalmist addresses Yahweh as his Shepherd.  Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd; nothing shall I want.” (Compare also Psalms 77:20, 79:13, 97:7).  “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Ps.95:7).  “Like a shepherd, He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Isaiah 40:11).  Ezekiel foretells what the Messiah will do as Good Shepherd.  “I myself will tend My sheep …I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34: 15-16).  In short, God is the ultimate Shepherd of the people, providing guidance, sustenance and protection (Psalm 23), and He intended their Kings and other leaders to be their shepherds as well.

The prophets pointed out the main duties of the Good Shepherd: 1) The Good Shepherd leads the sheep to the pasture, provides them with food and water and protects them.  In Palestine, the shepherd went in front and the sheep followed behind.  2) He guarded them, not allowing them to get lost in the desert or become victims of robbers and wild animals – preventive vigilance.  3) He went in search of the lost ones and healed their wounds – protective vigilance.  4) He was ready to surrender his life for his sheep – redemptive vigilance.

The first parable in today’s Gospel: The first part of today’s Gospel contrasts Jesus, the true Shepherd, with fake shepherds, thieves and robbers. Jesus gives us warning against false shepherds and false teachers in his Church. Jesus’ love and concern for each of us must be accepted with trust and serenity because he alone is our Shepherd, and no one else deserves our undivided commitment. As a true Shepherd, he leads his sheep, giving them the food and protection only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can provide, and he protects us and leads us to true happiness.

The second parable: In this second parable Jesus compares himself to the Shepherd and to the Gate. The first title represents His ownership because Shepherd is the true owner of the sheep. The second title represents His leadership. Jesus is the Gate, the only Way. He is the One Mediator between God and mankind. All must go through Him, through His Church, in order to arrive in Heaven. By identifying Himself with the sheep-gate, Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters the pen through Him will be safe and well cared-for.  Jesus is the living Door to His Father’s house and Father’s family, the Door into the Father’s safety and into the fullness of life. It is through Jesus, the Door that we come into the sheepfold where we are protected from the wolves of life. There is safety and security in being a Christian. There is a spiritual, emotional and psychological security and safety when we live within Jesus and his Church, within the protectiveness of Christ, Christian friends and a Christian family.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis was in Egypt last week and in one of his talks highlighted the 7 temptations that are prevalent today.

  1. The temptation to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead. The Good Shepherd has the responsibility of guiding the sheep (cf. Jn. 10:3-4), of bringing them to fresh pastures and springs of flowing water (cf. Ps 23). He cannot let himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism: “What can I do?” He is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken-hearted. He is a father when his children show him gratitude, but especially when they prove ungrateful (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Our faithfulness to the Lord must never depend on human gratitude: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).
  2. The temptation to complain constantly. It is easy to always complain about the shortcomings others, about the state of the Church and society, about the lack of possibilities… But we are called to turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse! The person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work. It was for this reason that the Lord said to the pastors: “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb. 12:12; cf. Is. 35:3).
  3. The temptation to gossip and envy. It is a great danger when persons, instead of helping the little ones to grow and to rejoice in the successes of their brothers and sisters, allow themselves to be dominated by envy and to hurt others through gossip. When, instead of striving to grow, they start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value. Envy is a cancer that destroys the body in no time: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mk 3:24-25). In fact, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). Gossip is its means and its weapon.
  4. The temptation to compare ourselves to others. Enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us. Comparing ourselves with those who are better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness. Those who are always comparing themselves with others end up paralyzed.
  5. The temptation to become like Pharaoh that is to harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters. Here the temptation is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve. It is a temptation that, from the very beginning, was present among the disciples, who – as the Gospel tells us – “on the way argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). The antidote to this poison is: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).
  6. The temptation to individualism. This is the temptation of selfish people: along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves. The Church is the community of the faithful, the Body of Christ, where the salvation of one member is linked to the holiness of all (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Lumen Gentium, 7.) An individualist is a cause of scandal and of conflict.
  7. The temptation to keep walking without direction or destination. We need to remain always focused on what we want to achieve that is eternal life; otherwise there is a possibility that we take the broader road rather than the narrow road. They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful! Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission. The quality of our consecration depends on the quality of our spiritual life.

Psalm 23 is a personal application to enjoy the comfort and security of the relationship with the Lord

The Lord is my Shepherd…THAT’S RELATIONSHIP!

I shall not want… THAT’S SUPPLY!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…THAT’S REST!

He leads me beside still waters…THAT’S REFRESHMENT!

He restores my soul…THAT’S HEALING!
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness… THAT’S GUIDANCE!

For His name sake…THAT’S PURPOSE!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…THAT’S CHALLENGE!

I will fear no evil… THAT’S ASSURANCE!

For thou art with me…THAT’S FAITHFULNESS!

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…THAT’S SHELTER!

Thou preparest a table before mein the presence of mine enemies…THAT’S HOPE!

Thou anointest my head with oil…THAT’S CONSECRATION!

My cup runneth over… THAT’S ABUNDANCE!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…
THAT’S BLESSING!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord…THAT’S SECURITY!

Forever…THAT’S ETERNITY!