30th Sunday (A)

Last week we have seen how Jesus outweighed the wisdom and the wit of His opponents in answering the question about the payment of taxes. The Sadducees were silenced again in response to their hypothetical question. They had a question of whose wife will she be after having married by the seven brothers. Today some of the scholars of the law led by the Pharisees approached Jesus with another question: “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Unlike other encounters, there is not necessarily any malice in this approach. As a Rabbi, influential with the crowds and known by many as someone with a mind of his own, they wanted to know Jesus’ opinion.

In answering the question about the most important commandment in the law, Jesus focuses equally on the two commandments, namely loving God with one’s whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength and loving one’s neighbor as one’s own self. For Jesus, these two commandments are inseparably related to each other. Love of God and love of the neighbor are two aspects of the same love, not two different kinds of love. They complement each other.  Absence of the love of the neighbor means absence of the love of God too.

A way of life: These “commands” to love God and those around us are not really commands. Love is not love unless it is free and spontaneous. What Jesus proposes are not just commands or rules but a whole approach to life and to our relationship with others. There is only one “commandment” consisting of two inseparable parts. The key word is “love” but there are really three loves involved: love of God, love of others and love of self. Ultimately, love of God, the source of all being and life, comes first. Then comes, as a natural outcome, love for all those in whom God dwells and whom God creates. Because they are the objects of his love, they must also be the objects of mine. Lastly, there is the love of self. I also am worthy of being loved.

Here we find the answer to a very natural question: How can you love God whom you have not seen, heard or touched? How can you relate yourself to God who is in his heavenly abode, far away from the world? Jesus bridges the apparent gap between God and the world through the commandment of love. St. John would say that it is by loving and serving others that we come to the knowledge of God. He has written in his letter: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7). Loving one another is the way to God, because God is the source of love.

Jesus has already forewarned that on the day of the Final Judgment the divine verdict will be based on the acts of charity, rendered to the poor, naked, homeless and the sick. When you do something for the poor out of love, you are doing it for God himself. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me (Mt 25:35-36).

Charity, love of the neighbor is, therefore, the characteristic mark of Christian spirituality. It is neither the cross you wear nor the creed you recite that determines your identity as a Christian, but love and service you render to others. St. James emphasizes on charitable works as inevitable to keep one’s faith alive and fruitful (Jam 2:14-18). Faith, which is not proven by acts of love is dead. How can you be a believer of God, if you have no mercy towards a hungry person? St. James does not mince his words, when he speaks of charity to the poor.

By pointing out the inseparable relationship between love of the neighbor and the love of God, Jesus raises a great challenge to our conscience. It is the challenge to recognize God’s face in humanity, even in its most miserable conditions, in poverty, sickness and oppression. It is consistent with the Incarnation in which God took the form of a human being in Jesus Christ. He became a servant and took on himself the tragic fate of humanity, until he restored it and revealed in it the divine Glory.

The constant temptation to separate the love of God from the love of the neighbor has done great harm to peace and harmony in the world. With this teaching of love Jesus touches this most serious problem, which concerns all religions, which claim to have a monopoly of God. When any religion claims God as its monopoly, it reduces God to an idol. It is the negation of the immensity and the universality of God. They extol obedience to the law and thereby forget the heart of the law.

This was the case with many critics of Jesus. Jesus has specifically warned them of their folly: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean (Mt 23:25-26).

Jesus’s interpretation of the greatest commandment challenges our tendency to make our own gods and fitting them into our mental molds. These mental molds are characterized; by absolutism, fundamentalism, intolerance, hatred, fear, selfish interests and power craze. The fundamentalists are prone to misuse God’s name for intimidating, oppressing and enslaving. These tendencies constitute the profile of a false god or an idol.

All idol worshippers will be destroyed.  Idol worshippers are those who oppress the poor and the weak. Idols are the instruments of oppression. As described in the Book of Exodus, God’s anger will fall on those who afflict the poor, the stranger, the widow and the orphan. If they cry out to God in their affliction, God will heed to their cry. This is a warning to all who perpetrate injustice in the form of merciless structures of subjugation and oppression in the name of God.

Religious faith should liberate human minds. Jesus offers us in his teaching of love true freedom of the children of God. He offers us the courage to break the molds of our fixed concepts in which we limit the infinite love of God. Let the love and mercy of God flow into the hearts of all. As true believers we can be channels of his infinite peace and goodness. Let us love God in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:8).

 

 

29th Sunday (A)

The past Sundays we have seen Jesus attacking the religious leaders of his people, for their failure to recognize in him the Word of God, the power of God and the compassionate love of God. All they could see was a man, who broke their laws; a man who freely mixes with the tax collectors and sinners ate and drank with them. The so called despised accepted him as the Messiah, who would fulfill their hopes and aspirations.

The Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians were the three prominent Jewish sects of Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees were rabid nationalists and totally anti-Roman, while the Herodians were willing to collaborate with the Romans, hoping to benefit from them.  Together with the chief priests, these three groups accused Jesus of “associating” with sinners and challenged his authority to teach in the Temple.  The three “parables of judgment” were Jesus’ calculated reply to their accusations.  After the first two parables, “the chief priests and the Pharisees … realized that he was speaking about them” (21:45-46).  Hence, they resumed their counter-attack in an attempt to destroy Jesus’ influence with the people, either by discrediting him in the presence of the crowds or by causing him to make statements that would get him into trouble with the Romans.

The Jews were forced to pay three types of tax to the Roman Emperor: the ground tax, the income tax and the census tax. Here, the question concerned the census tax.  A census tax implied that, if one were a citizen, one owed the money to the Emperor.  The Jews believed that they had only one Lord and Ruler and that was their God.  Taxes, or any form of submission, should be made to Yahweh alone.  Hence, the question, which the Pharisees asked Jesus, was intended to create a very real dilemma for him. If he said that it was unlawful to pay the tax, the Herodians and their allies would report him to the Roman officials, who would then arrest him as a revolutionary.  If he said that it was lawful to pay the tax, the insurgents and their supporters would turn against him and he would be discredited in the eyes of the people who were against paying taxes to a pagan emperor.  In other words, to state that tax should be paid would have made Jesus appear a traitor to his country, while a denial would have left him behind the bars as an enemy of Rome.

We see the opening statement is clever and flattering, because they praise the utter honesty and integrity of Jesus. All of which was perfectly true. Jesus, in fact, is being praised as endowed with God’s own sense of truth and justice, totally impartial, with perhaps a bias for the poor, the weak and powerless.

The strength and power of Jesus is speaking the truth without fear or favor and that is what they hoped to entrap him. Jesus defeated their scheme by asking his challengers to show him “the coin of tribute” – the coin they would give to the tax-gatherer.  In those days, all secular money was thought to belong to the Emperor. Thus, the Emperor’s image was on each secular coin.  The money belonged to him and   he simply permitted people to use it.  By actually having a Roman coin in their possession, complete with Caesar’s image and Caesar’s inscription, the challengers had already shown where their loyalties lay. They had, in effect, answered their own question.  Jesus, rather than answering their question directly, asked them a question, thus turning their trap inside out and upside down: “Whose image and inscription are these?”  “Caesar’s,” they said.  Jesus then said, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar — and to God what belongs to God.”  In other words, we give to the Emperor the coin because his image is on it, and we give to God our own selves because we are created in the image of God (Gn 1:26).  Jesus’ answer acknowledges our obligation as citizens to the state, but affirms our larger obligation to God.  Both the state and God require certain loyalties from us, but we owe God our very lives.

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”

 

28th Sunday (A)

The prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading was about God preparing a banquet for all people (Isa 25:6-10), a banquet of fine wine. While it could refer to the feast at the end of time in heaven, it could also be seen referring to what God did for us in Jesus through the Church. As more and more Gentiles entered the Church the Lord removed the veil covering all peoples. Isaiah’s word from God was that in the future not just the Jews would be the Chosen People but all peoples would be chosen and invited to God’s banquet. At this banquet prepared for all peoples Isaiah saw a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. This prophecy of fine wine was fulfilled in the very first miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana when Jesus changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11). When Jesus performed the miracle at Cana it meant the Old Testament prophecies about the future Messiah were now beginning to be fulfilled and after Pentecost all peoples would be welcomed into the Church to taste this wine.

The parable of the royal banquet is a parable about the Kingdom of God and about the people who will eventually belong to it.  It is also the first of three parables that challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish leadership. The parables all contrast the true Israel with the attitudes and lives of the Pharisees, demonstrating the claims of the Pharisees as false.  In addition, the Parable of the Royal Banquet and the Wedding Garment is Jesus’ interpretation of the History of Salvation.  It is also one of the three parables of judgment or “rejection parables” that Jesus told in the Temple of Jerusalem during the last week of his public life, addressing the “chief priests and elders of the people”, i.e., their religious and civic leaders.  This parable was delivered by Jesus; on his last visit to the Temple on what we know as the Tuesday of Holy Week. The encounter was part of the Master’s last confrontation with those who saw Jesus as their enemy, before they had him arrested.  The actual parable is the disturbing story of a King Who celebrated the wedding feast of His Son.  When the important guests who had been invited refused to come, He brought street people in to take their places.  Here, Jesus combines the parable of the marriage feast with another rabbinic parable, the parable of the wedding garment.

Last week we have seen the parable of the landlord and the wicked tenants, this too, is an allegory unfolding the whole of salvation history.  The parable was intended to be a fitting reply to the accusation that Jesus was unfit to teach because He was mingling with the publicans and sinners.  It also answers the question of Jesus’ authority to teach in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Jesus hints in the parable that he is befriending the sinners and preaching the Good News of God’s salvation to them because the scribes and Pharisees have rejected him and his message, while the sinners have accepted him wholeheartedly.  That is why he compares God to a King who gives orders to invite the ordinary folk from the waysides as guests for his son’s royal banquet.  Jesus also declares that the source of his authority is God his Father Who has sent His Son to preach the Good News of Salvation.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells this parable in reply to the statement made by one of his listeners: “Blessed are those who are invited to take part in the Messianic Banquet in Heaven.”  This parable is based on the Jewish marriage customs of Jesus’ day and contains both a local and a universal lesson.

The universal call and rejection of the Jews: The “good and bad” (v. 10), in the parable constitute the mixed memberships of the Church: the sinners and the righteous.  The people in the highways and the byways stand for the sinners and the Gentiles, who never expected an invitation into the Kingdom.  Since this parable was directed to the chief priests and elders, Jesus contrasts their rigid observance of the Law with the open-hearted generosity expressed by the King: “Invite everyone you find.”  This is obviously more than a story about a king and a banquet.  It is the story of Salvation History in which God sent prophets and Christian evangelists with Good News.  The first-invited are now rejected, but strangers are accepted.  In other words, the Gentiles have replaced the Jews who refused to respond to Yahweh’s call.  This was the way that first-century Christians looked at the Jewish rejection of Jesus.

Even though Isaiah’s prophecy about all being invited to taste the wine in the banquet (Isa 25:6) of the Church open to all people is now fulfilled, there is a warning at the end of the parable in the Gospel. The king noticed someone at the wedding banquet not wearing the wedding garment and ordered him to be thrown out (Matt 22:11-14). We can understand this to mean that the man was not living a good life, he was not living like one invited by God to his banquet. In the Book of Revelation we are told that the Bride of the Lamb, the Church, wears a clean white linen garment which is the righteous deeds of the holy ones (Rev 19:8). Yes we are all invited to the feast in the kingdom of heaven but we are to come to the feast properly dressed, living good lives that show we are worthy to be invited to that feast.

He demands the bridal dress, which is charity and love. “All of us are invited to be Lord’s guests, to enter with faith in his banquet, but we must wear and guard the bridal dress, charity, and live a deep love for God and the neighbor” (Pope Francis). This dress is symbolically woven of two woods, one is vertical and the other is horizontal: the love for God and the love for the neighbor. All of us are invited to be Lord’s dining companions and to enter through faith in his banquet, but we must wear and guard the bridal dress: charity, which is the measure of our faith. We cannot separate prayer, the encounter with God in the Sacraments, from the proximity to the neighbor and above all to his suffering.

We need to be grateful to Christ for the invitation to the Heavenly banquet: From the moment of our Baptism, we have been invited to the Heavenly banquet and provided with the wedding garment of sanctifying grace.  These are great privileges and blessings freely given to us by a loving God.  But the same obstacles, which prevented the Pharisees from entering the Kingdom, can equally prevent us too. They are pride, love of this world, its wealth and its pleasures.  Hence, we must be prepared to make the right decisions, which will help us to remain faithful to the commandments of God and offer ourselves in love and service to Jesus and to his people.  That is how we will make our wedding garment clean and bright every day.   The parable ends on a slightly pessimistic note: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  It is a sad fact that, although everyone is called to experience the love of God, relatively few will really try to follow His teachings. The Eucharist that we celebrate is a banquet in which he feeds us with his own body and blood to give us life. A day is going to come when we will join him to celebrate the heavenly Eucharist, in which we will see him face to face.

 

27th Sunday (A)

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

This Sunday’s first reading, taken by Isaiah 5: 1-7, is a masterpiece and introduces the parable of Jesus who speaks of the vineyard and tells us that the punishment of God is in order to convert and not to destroy. This prophet of the Old Testament uses the allegory of the vineyard to describe the story of the people of Israel when they betray the love of God who had chosen them as the people elected to announce that He had not forgotten humanity and to give flesh to the Son of God.

This story of infidelity – Isaiah says – cannot go on forever. God’s patience has a limit and there will be a judgment (5.3). God expected fine grapes, and instead got poor grapes (5.2). Without metaphors: he expected justice and there was oppression, he expected righteousness and here is dishonesty (5: 7). At this point there is nothing but punishment: the vine will fall in ruin and will no longer be cultivated and brambles and blackthorns will grow. But God’s punishment is not forever.

The parable we are presented with today is the third in a line of three parables to be found in Matthew’s Gospel, which concern themselves with vineyards. It is no mistake that Jesus often uses the vineyard as a symbol of the Kingdom of God. There certainly are many parallels between a vineyard and the Kingdom. Maintaining a vineyard is hard work and it takes equally hard work to enter the Kingdom of God, but the hard work of planting, pruning and harvesting the vines and then pressing the grapes eventually leads to the production of wonderful wine which brings joy to the heart. We can see how his is a very appropriate parallel for the hard work which ultimately leads to the unsurpassable joy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. The parable for today is the most direct of the three parables about vineyards.

It comes closest to describing the actual situation of Jesus who is represented by the son of the owner of the vineyard. The tenants are clearly understood to be the Chief Priests and Elders who have usurped the rights of the owner. And the prophets are the servants who are beaten up and kicked out by the tenants. Jesus warns the priests and elders that the vineyard is about to be taken from them but they ignore his words and carry on with their distorted beliefs and twisted actions, which eventually end up with them putting to death the Son of God. But Jesus warns them that the stone, which the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone. Jesus whom they dismissed as someone of no consequence turns out to be the very stone upon which God chooses to build his Church.
The true vine is Jesus Christ, the son of the Lord of the vineyard. The grace of God bears its plenitude of fruit in him. Jesus saves us from destruction – the harsh destiny of the wicked, abusive tenants in the old vineyard. By his sacrificial obedience to the Father’s saving will, the “Song of the Vineyard” is transformed from a tone of reproach to an exultant song of praise and thanksgiving. United with Christ, the Church exults in the fruitful harvest of “life in the Spirit” that the “new vineyard” produces.

The Lord’s vineyard at present is the Church, and we Christians are the tenants from whom God expects fruits of righteousness.  The parable warns us that if we refuse to reform our lives, to become productive, we, too, could be replaced as the old Israel was replaced by the “new” Israel.  We cease being either God’s vineyard or the tenants of God’s vineyard when we stop relating to others as loving servants. In the parable, the rent the tenants refuse to pay stands for the relationship with God and with all the people of Israel, which the religious leaders refuse to cultivate. This means that before anything else, God checks on how well we are fulfilling our responsibilities to each other as children of God.  The parable teaches that instead of glorying in our privileges and Christian heritage, we are called to deeds of love, including bearing personal and corporate witness that invites others into God’s kingdom.

The parable has several messages. It tells of God’s trust in men. The owner of the vineyard entrusted it to the cultivators. He did not even stand over them to exercise a police-like supervision. He went away and left them with their task. God pays men the compliment of entrusting them with his work. Every task we receive is a task given us to do by God.

It tells of God’s patience. The master sent messenger after messenger. He did not come with sudden vengeance when one messenger had been abused and ill-treated. He gave the cultivators chance after chance to respond to his appeal. God bears with men in all their sinning and will not cast them off.

It tells of God’s judgment. In the end the master of the vineyard took the vineyard from the cultivators and gave it to others. God’s sternest judgment is when he takes out of our hands the task, which he meant us to do. A man has sunk to his lowest level when he has become useless to God.

It tells of human privilege. The vineyard was equipped with everything ”the hedge, the wine press, the tower” which would make the task of the cultivators easy and enable them to discharge it well. God does not only give us a task to do; he also gives us the means whereby to do it.  It tells of human freedom. The master left the cultivators to do the task as they liked. God is not a tyrannical task-master; he is like a wise commander who allocates a task and then trusts a man to do it.  It tells of human answerability. To all men come a day of reckoning. We are answerable for the way in which we have carried out the task God gave us to do.  It tells of the deliberateness of human sin. The cultivators carry out a deliberate policy of rebellion and disobedience towards the master. Sin is deliberate opposite to God; it is the taking of our own way when we know quite well what the way of God is. It tells of the claim of Jesus. It shows us quite clearly Jesus lifting himself out of the succession of the prophets. Those who come before him were the messengers of God; no one could deny them that honor; but they were servants; he was the Son.

Are we good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church?  Jesus has given us the Church, and through her everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing: i) The Bible to know the will of God.  ii) The priesthood to lead the people in God’s ways.  iii) The Sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins.  iv) The Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food.  v) The Sacrament of Confirmation for a dynamic life of Faith.  vi) The Sacrament of Matrimony for the sharing of love in the family, the fundamental unit of the Church. vii) Role models in thousands of saints we are expected to make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God.

26th Sunday (A)

We are called to conversion and obedience to the commandments of God.

Today’s Gospel speaks of the parable about two sons whose father operates a vineyard. He tells one to go and work there. The lad refuses but later changes his mind and goes. The second one is also told to go. He agrees to do so but in the end he does not. “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Jesus asks. They all agree that it was the one who refused at first, but obeyed later. The parable refers to the two kinds of personalities and characters. The first one is open to the grace of God and ready to repent and be converted. So he could be considered as more sincere and dependable. The other is superficial and would like to please everyone by mere words and not by deeds. He could be considered as insincere and dishonest and not reliable at all. He is very selfish in outlook and will do anything to materialize his plans, because of his duplicity.

The message is clearly directed at the religious and civil leaders of the people in Jesus’ time. They spoke much about God and, in particular, how God was to be served by a strict observance of the Law. But it is clear they did not have the spirit that Jesus was communicating through his life and teaching. They lacked the spirit of love, compassion, care and forgiveness for the weak and vulnerable. They also heard the teaching of Jesus but made no effort to carry it out as they were not palatable for them. They excused themselves by challenging Jesus’ legal authority to do what he was doing. Since Jesus did not fit into the parameters of their legal world, they could not classify him and they rejected him. On the other hand, the “tax collectors and sinners are making their way into the kingdom of God before you”. They certainly were not keeping God’s Law. They had said No to his commandments many times. But then they met Jesus and they have experienced a radical transformation (metanoia,) in their lives. They listened and they responded.

We can think of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) who was a chief tax collector. One of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew (Matt 9:9) also called Levi had been a tax collector (Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28). Mary Magdalene is another from whom Jesus expelled seven demons considered to be an outcast (Luke 8:2). So certainly Luke intends us to understand that she had lived what we might describe as “a very bad life” before she met Jesus. The chief priests and elders of the people had not converted, because they were blind to the call of God. So in the parable that Jesus taught, the tax collectors and sinners were the first son who at first said no to his father but then thought better and obeyed his father and worked in the vineyard. They had lived a life disobedient to God in the past but when they heard the preaching of Jesus they converted. The chief priests and elders of the people were like the second son in Jesus’ parable who said, “Yes sir” but did not obey his father. They heard the preaching of Jesus and knew the Scriptures but their hearts were closed and they were not responding to God.

 

Why were tax collectors and sinners able to open their hearts and respond to the preaching of Jesus while the chief priests and elders were not? Perhaps it is because the tax collectors and sinners had reached rock bottom and realized that the lives they were living were empty and meaningless. The tax collectors were well known to be greedy. They paid taxes for the full year in advance to Rome, which they would later collect from others but Rome never checked if they were overcharging the tax they collected from others. Everyone suspected they collected much more tax than they paid to Rome. Surely the sinners and tax collectors realized their lives were meaningless and they received respect from Jesus, which they did not receive from any of their contemporaries. In Jesus they found life as it was meant to be. Jesus offered hope to the tax collectors and sinners; hope they never before had. When they converted the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading were fulfilled,…if a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (Ezek. 18:27-28)

There are two messages coming out loud and clear. On the one hand, we can never be complacent about our relationship with God. It is possible for any of us at any time to find ourselves falling away from our commitment to Jesus and to his Gospel. And God always accepts us where we are. If we are in union with him, things are well; if we have by our own choice become separated from him, he accepts that too. His love and his grace are always available but they can be rejected and spurned. And we can “die in our sin”.

On the other hand, no matter how far we have strayed from God and Jesus in the Gospel, no matter how depraved we have become, it is never too late to turn back and we can be absolutely sure that a warm, no-questions-asked welcome is waiting for us. We remember the parables in Luke’s gospel about the lost sheep and the lost (prodigal) son. It is the meaning of the dialogue between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection – “Do you love me…?” Three times Peter had, in pure fear, used oaths to deny he ever had any connection with Jesus. Now, repentant, chastened and humbled, he comes back. Not only is he forgiven, his mandate to lead the community remains intact. His repented sin, far from being a disqualification, will make him a far more understanding leader. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”

We have the magnificent hymn about Jesus’ own spirit of service and selflessness in the Second Reading. Paul says this in the context of a plea for greater unity in the Christian community at Philippi. In urging the Christians to serve each other’s needs with the deepest respect, he asks them to have the mind of Jesus himself, to think like he does. And he illustrates this by quoting what seems to have been an early Christian hymn. It speaks of the awesome dignity of Jesus as the Son of God. Yet Jesus did not emphasize this in his life among us. On the contrary he “emptied” himself and became just like us. He went further and took on the status of a slave and ultimately accepted human death, and the most shameful of all possible deaths, death as a convicted criminal on a cross, a barbaric form of execution.

If we were to be filled with that same spirit that Jesus had we would have nothing to fear. And what wonderful places our Christian communities would be: places of harmony and unity, of love and caring, of compassion and mutual support, of looking after each other’s needs. And, let us remember, it is never too late to start. Let’s begin today.