2nd Sunday of Advent (C)

“A voice cries in the wilderness, Prepare a way for the Lord,”

John the Baptist is the central figure of Advent season. His message can be hard for us to understand as it was for the people who gathered in the wilderness to hear his words some 2000 years ago. Few people then really comprehended what he meant when he declared his mission was “to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight”. Fewer still could even begin to understand him when he said, “After me comes one whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”. And fewer still when he said, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. What was John talking about? And what does the message mean for us today?

John the Baptist is the very voice of Advent: He is the last of the prophets and the greatest of them all. He is the voice of the coming of Jesus to earth to make straight the relationship between God and ourselves. We are reminded of the loss of paradise and the promise of the redeemer. The preparations were on down through the centuries, but John had the privilege of immediate preparation by inviting everyone to repentance in order to welcome the messiah into the world. “ As for you little child you shall go before the Lord to prepare His way.” He baptized the giver of baptism and identified him to the world- “Here is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Billy Graham, who often played the 20th century role of John the Baptizer, had these comments about the disease running rampant in the world: “We’re suffering from only one disease in the world. Our basic problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is not a poverty problem. Our basic problem is not a war problem. Our basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed, the heart transformed.”
John presents an image of the mountains and valleys being made flat and smooth as a sign of Israel’s repentance and moral transformation. Preparing “the way” means to create a favorable environment or to make it easy for someone to come to one and operate in one’s life. The quotation which John’s work fulfills is taken from Isaiah 40:3-5, where the prophet was calling the people to prepare for the Lord’s visitation. The preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. “The king is coming,” he said in effect. “Mend, not your roads, but your lives.” The quotation, “making straight the paths of the Lord,” means clearing the path of sin, which is the major obstacle preventing the Lord from coming into our lives. The valley here stands for the estrangement of man from God.
There are mountains that need to come down – mountains of pride, anger and prejudice that blocks our way to healthy relationships with one another and with our Lord. There are valleys to be filled – valleys of depression, despair, loneliness, grief, pain, any of which can keep us from the rich relationship the Savior offers and that keep us from enjoying the fellowship of the faith. There are crooked places to be made straight – yes, there is perversity, even among those we might never imagine; fine exteriors mask rotten interiors of abuse, neglect, immorality, even violence. There are rough places to be made smooth – rough places that have come because of oppression and injustice.

John called people to repent as a way of preparing their hearts and lives for the Lord’s visit. He is calling us, too, to get ready for something so great that it fills our emptiness with expectation. A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal. Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord. By emphasizing the last line of the quotation “All flesh will see the salvation of God,” Luke stresses the universal aspect of God’s salvation. Having begun the section with a list of rulers who did not bring wholeness or salvation, Luke ends with the expectation of a true Lord Who can bring these about.

We need to prepare the way for the Messiah in our hearts: We have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls, which have resulted from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our Faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. If we have been pushing God off to the side of our road, if we have been saying to Him that we don’t really have the time for Him, now is the time for us to get our priorities straight. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent faultfinding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism.

We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and our fellow-human beings: John’s message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We have to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God’s forgiveness. There are basically two reasons why people who have recognized their sins fail to receive forgiveness for them. The first is that they fail to repent — but the second is that they fail to forgive. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14 and 15. He says, “For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Is there someone I need to forgive today? We must not let what others have done destroy our lives. We can’t be forgiven unless we forgive. We must release our bitterness if we are to be able to allow God to do His healing work in our lives.

We don’t live in a perfect world, and we don’t look to this world to see God’s salvation. For salvation, we have to look to Jesus — Jesus present in Scripture, Jesus present in the Sacraments, Jesus present in our coming together in his name, Jesus present in the lives of his followers. Perhaps if we began to see Jesus in each other and in ourselves, and started to treat one another (and ourselves), as we would treat Jesus, more of the world might come to see God’s salvation.

1st Sunday of Advent

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Today we are entering into the new liturgical year and at the beginning itself, the holy mother the church gives a clear vision of the end to which we are travelling; the second coming of Christ and what we ought to do in order to achieve the final victory of our life here on earth. Advent is a season of expectation and waiting for the coming of the Lord. We have the historical birth of Jesus in space and time. He continues to be with us and accompanies us on our journey to the New Jerusalem, the city of God. Then there is the second coming of the Lord in glory and majesty to reward us at the end of our life.

Our lives are often stressed up with too many preoccupations, constant worries and anxieties about how to manage situations and events. In the process we often forget our priorities and end up achieving very little at the end of the day. We are distracted and often get disappointed when things do not turn up the way we want them to be. The gospel gives a reorientation to our priorities that we should be focused on the goal of our lives. He warns his disciples that they will not know in advance when that dreadful day will be. Although there will be signs in the sky and on the earth, actually that day will be sprung on us suddenly, as Jesus says, like a trap. Our task is to live our lives in readiness, prepared always for that final day of days. We are advised by Christ to stay awake, to be alert so that we may stand in confidence before the Son of Man when he comes in glory. Those who live sinful lives will have reason to fear when that day comes. Those who are caught up in selfishness, licentiousness, deceit and such things will be shaking in their shoes when that final day arrives. However, for a serious Christian the proper attitudes to adopt in preparation for that day are alertness and readiness and a spirit of repentance for our sins. The whole of our Christian lives ought to be one of preparedness, getting ourselves fit for that Last Day.

The Gospel passage of the day is in the background of the curiosity of people to know the details regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ. There had been always useless arguments and baseless speculations about this great event. The answer of Jesus is clear that he wants to teach the followers what is their duty in view of the second coming. All knowledge is desirable as far as it will help us to put into practice. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” Jesus is warning us that this world is passing away. Our lives are short, and we have much less time than we think. He wants us to keep things in perspective. It is the eternal life that God is preparing for us, which is really important and the goal of our life.

It is the desire of all of us to enjoy peace, joy and happiness in our lives, but our everyday experience is contrary to our best hopes, so much so that we are often tempted to despair. Who will restore our enthusiasm in the faith? How do we maintain hope in this life? How do we keep our lamp burning bright in spite of the challenges that we encounter daily? We are called to read the signs of the times and be ready to face any eventualities at any time of the day or hour.

Gospel speaks of the certainty that Christ will come. It is true that his discourse seems strange to us. Signs in the sun and moon and stars, the clamor of the ocean, heavenly powers that fall to earth – these are images that we find hard to understand. We find it easier to understand when he speaks about the suffering of the nations, and about men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world.

Living in hope is the only fitting way to celebrate the coming of Christ, and the only way worthy of trust. Christians who believe in hope create situations of hope, and give reasons for others to hope. We pray that when God comes he will find us at work, spreading hope in our world, which is so much in need of it. May he find us vigilant, standing erect, working for a better world of the kind we all hope for. Only in this way can we celebrate Advent and the coming of our Lord into our lives. Then when he comes, he will recognize us as his servants, because when he was absent we did what he told us to do. We made his promises come true as we were waiting for him.

We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us remember the words of Pope Alexander: “What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then only will we be able to give people his hope by caring for those in need, give them God’s peace by turning the other cheek when we are provoked, give them His love by encouraging those who are feeling sad or tired, and give them His joy by encouraging and helping those who feel at the end of their strength, showing them that we care and that God cares as well. When, with His grace, we do these kinds of things we will receive hope, peace, love, and joy in return. Then we will know that when the King, our Lord Jesus, returns on the clouds of glory, we will be ready for Him.

Christ the King (B)

Jesus the King of Truth and Love
“I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

The Solemnity of Christ the King was established in 1925. Pope Pius XI had seen the rise of secularization, atheism, and communism. The world was still trying to recover from World War I, which had devastated Europe and shattered people’s hopes for unlimited progress based solely on human reason. Besides, it was just around this time that the Russian Revolution, which had given birth to the world’s first explicitly atheist totalitarian regime: Soviet communism. Everywhere the pope looked, he saw human societies abandoning Christian values and trying to build paradise on earth through other means. The pope by instituting today’s Solemnity reminds the world that to reject Christ, either in private life or in public life, is to reject our only hope, and to accept him is to accept life eternal. He is a model leader, who inspires, guides and empowers people.

What is that makes Jesus so special? He was born in a stable while others were born in palaces. He had to flee for safety, while others grew in opulence. He came to serve, while others were served. He loved and cared for everyone and died for us that we may gain eternal life, while others instilled fear and used swords to subdue their subjects. He came down from heaven in order to take us to heaven, while others were of the earth and had no power to take us to heaven. He is the perfect human being with out sin, while others are imperfect and born with original sin.

The multiplication of the loaves had a great impact on the people, who wanted to make him the king. Jesus refused this dignity, and escaped from those who were looking for him to proclaim him as king (Jn. 6, 15). Later, he was to die with the accusation that he had wanted to be the king of the Jews and their liberator from foreign dominion (Jn. 19, 19-21). But Jesus claimed this dignity and title for himself only when there was no possibility of his being misunderstood, during a trial when even his friends had abandoned him, his enemies mocked him and the authorities condemned him to death. It was only in this moment of extreme weakness and supreme loneliness; that Jesus acknowledged, with certainty and dignity, that he was the king.

The Gospel of today (Jn. 18:33b-37) presents us with the true meaning of Christ’s kingship. The form of kingship that Jesus assumed is that of servitude and fidelity to truth. The King of the Jews is the beloved Servant of Yahweh who brought to fulfillment the Father’s saving plan to save the poor and the sinners. Indeed, Jesus is a King, but not of earthly origin. His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), but of the spiritual order. His exercise of kingship consisted in bearing witness to the truth (Jn. 18: 37). He is the Messiah sent from heaven to reveal the truth about God’s love. Hence, the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated in his entire life of service and self-giving is a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface of the Feast of Christ the King). The Kingdom of God is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs 122 times in the Gospels, 90 of which are on the lips of Jesus. “The Kingdom of God is a total, global, and structural transfiguration and revolution of the reality of human beings; it means the cosmos purified of all evils and full of the reality of God” says Eugene Maly a biblical scholar.

The crucifix with the inscription: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews,” tells us of his claim to be a king not of this world but the world to come. Remember when Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He replied: “Yes I am but my kingdom is not of this world therefore you have no authority over me.”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Jn. 18. 36-38

What is remarkable is that He speaks with authority. He doesn’t say he is one wise man among many, one philosopher among many, or one prophet among many. He tells us that all the nations of the world will come before him to be judged; He holds in his hands the eternal destiny of every man and woman of all time. Jesus is claiming to be the Lord and King of the entire universe, of all history, and of eternity and he will judge everyone at the end of our lives. He is the way, the truth and the life at all times.
There is another realm of existence where He reigns supreme. Neither Pilate nor any worldly powers will be able to do any harm to his authority there. His kingdom is in the hearts of people. Emperors after emperors tried in vain to dethrone him from the hearts of people. Religions, ideologies and political masters through the centuries tried and are trying even today in vain to remove Jesus from the hearts of people. Recently ISIS tried the heinous and worst kind of cruelties on Christians just because Christ is the king in their hearts. But they thought it is better to die than to reject him. So they gave their lives victoriously to become members in his kingdom. But their efforts are not going to succeed since Jesus is the supreme power of this world.

Jesus is king of the universe, because of what he is to each one of us. He is the author of our life, the beginning and the end. Jesus is close to us, he walks by our side, he lifts us up when we need help and he gave his life for us. The celebration of this feast is an impetus to put Jesus first and foremost in our lives and make him King of our hearts and minds. We make Jesus king of our minds by blocking out voices that are contrary to Jesus and filling our minds with what would please Jesus. When we make Jesus King of our minds it is much easier to make Jesus King of our actions. We make Jesus King of our actions when we have decisions to make and we choose the option that would most please Jesus.
St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:9-11, has a beautiful hymn to express the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus attributed by the Heavenly Father.
“God has highly exalted him [Jesus],
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

33rd Sunday (B)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

We are Living between the first and Second Coming of Jesus, we cannot but be aware that there is a great battle going on, a battle between good and evil, which seems to be intensifying. On one side we see it especially in the destruction of family life, the priesthood and the lack of respect for life. While on the other hand, we also see the good that people do, the rise of prayer groups, people going on pilgrimage and an eagerness to encounter and experience God in their lives. The battle between good and evil will be finally over when Jesus comes again. Then evil will be conquered forever and good will be victorious.

The radical intervention of God to destroy the ultimate power of evil in the end-time is the theme of today’s Gospel reading (Mk 13:24-32). While the end-time description, with its dark imagery of trials, tribulations, and turmoil is scary, there is also the note of consolation, which takes form in the glorious figure of the Son of Man, Jesus, coming in the clouds to gather his faithful and chosen ones from the four winds of the earth. The heart of this powerful apocalyptic device is the belief that God would one day intervene in a cataclysmic way to destroy evil and restore the fullness of life and abounding peace. Ultimately, the specter of doom gives way to the hope of a new creation, where the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its light, and the stars will fall before the splendor of the Son of Man.

Jesus reiterates the power and the efficacy of His words in the life of every disciple, who listens and translates them into his life. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “The word of God is active and alive, cuts more finely than any two edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow. It can read our secret thoughts and emotions.” (Heb.4, 12)
We are fortunate to have received the words of life. The word of God should continuously inspire and guide us in all our actions. Where do we stand? Am I open to listen what God is speaking to me? What is the impact of the words of Jesus in my life and activities? Do they guide me? Am I a living gospel? Perhaps seldom in the history of the Church has the message of this Word of God been as relevant as it is at the present time. Precisely because we feel secure in this world that we have built, because we have never enjoyed so much comfort and convenience, such economic and social progress, so much peace and civil liberty, we have relegated God to the last place. We believers know well that our world without God, our house without a Father, is steadily becoming a less human place and a home without brothers. We have exiled the Father, our brother has become our enemy, our neighbor has become a stranger. Our suffering has no value in a world without God, and a society that has no God and no future.

Living now in the time between the first and Second Coming of Jesus each of us has the capacity – a second chance – to quicken the triumph of good over evil by living more as Jesus asks or perhaps we could say to allow Jesus to have more control over our lives. This is to have the primacy of the spiritual and supernatural as a priority in us. We allow Jesus to have more room in our lives by spending time with him in prayer, by attending Mass every Sunday and as often as possible during the week, by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, once a month or if possible more frequently, by praying the Rosary, by praying together as a family and also through acts of charity. We allow Jesus more room in our lives and more control over our lives when we live the way he asks us to live, when we are morally upright. When we allow Jesus to be the focus of our lives we are tipping the balance in the battle between good and evil a bit more towards the eventual victory of good over evil.

Today our life is preoccupied with so many things and it is easy to forget about the second coming of Christ. We prefer to ignore our mortality and put off our preparation for the death, which we all must face. How do we prepare ourselves? How do we get ready? How will we be sure that the Lord recognizes us? What are the right choices to make during our day? The end of chapter 25 reads:

“Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Although we do not know the day or the hour of the second coming of Christ, we do not know the day or the hour of our own deaths, we have been told what staying awake entails. It will be unfortunate if we have to hear from the Lord: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you, it will be because of our foolishness and not because of a lack of mercy or justice on the part of the Lord.

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and in the process loses his own soul? This is the message we have to proclaim by our hope-filled lives and by our active opposition to evil that destroys the human beings. We believe that God still has a place in today’s world and a role to play. To make our witness credible we must be Christians with greater commitment, optimism and hope, with no discouragement or pessimism, as we face up to the task of proclaiming to our world that a world without God will surely end.

32nd Sunday (B)

“ This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”

Today’s readings from the Old and the New Testaments teach us about the wisdom hidden in small things and humble actions. There is a tendency in every one to invest in a very calculative way in terms of returns. This is the utilitarian philosophy that teaches to use people and things in terms of what we can get out of others. It is a very selfish attitude and unfortunately that is the tone of the day, but contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus.

The story of the poor widow described in the Book of Kings is also inspiring. Elijah was escaping from the powerful and rich king of Israel, who was persecuting him, and now here he is in a pagan country by God’s direct order. Elijah tells the widow that God of Israel will not let her flour and oil run out. The widow of Zarepthath trusted in God, listening to Prophet Elijah’s words. She baked bread for the Prophet with the handful of flour intended for her last meal with her son at the verge of starvation death. Because of her kindness and generosity to the hungry Prophet, God did not let her jar of flour and jug of oil go empty. They were always supplying miraculously until the season of drought was over.

In the gospel Jesus compared the attitude of the scribes with that of the poor widow, which was bound to provoke controversy. Some people perform acts of worship in the hope of gaining privilege or advantage in the community. This poor woman gave to God all she had to live on. They give in the hope of receiving. She simply gives, and gives totally. They expect to receive more than they give. She places everything she has in God’s hands. Jesus comments to his disciples on both, and proposes the anonymous widow to them as a model for their imitation.

Jesus wanted to teach the people a lesson on the miserly behavior of the scribes, but he could not overlook the detached attitude of the widow. Those who think they need God to give them status in the sight of others, who honor God in order to be honored by others, who seek God because they want others to seek them, do not deserve God. God cannot be made a pretext for accumulating honor and privilege, but the temptation is always there, especially among those who honor God most. We lose the respect we owe him when we respect him only to win the respect of others, when secretly we want to obtain for ourselves the honor we give to God. In our relationship with God, we need to be more sincere, because this is the only way we can be sure we will not become like the scribes whom Jesus criticized.

The message contained in the readings today challenges us to examine our generosity towards God and our attitude towards the poor. Usually our admiration goes to who people in the limelight of name and fame. We ourselves desire to be like them. Jesus would remind us that we have lost the proper perspective to look at reality and its genuine values. From the view point of Jesus the human values of selfless love, kindness and generosity are found among the poor and the marginalized of society who utterly depend on God and his provisions.

The story of the widow is only the culmination in a series of people in the Gospels who abandon their false securities in the presence of God:

• The Magi open their treasures and humbly prostrate before the baby in whom they have seen the presence of God (Mt. 2:1-11);
• The disciples when called by Jesus leave their boats, hired men and even their father and follow Jesus (Mk. 1:20, also Mt. 4:22);
• When Mathew the tax collector encounters Jesus he is ready to leave his table and follow Jesus (Lk. 5:27-28);
• Zacchaeus is willing to give half of his property to the poor (Lk. 19:9);
• Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, leaves his upper garment and comes to Jesus in a symbolic nakedness (Mk 10:50); and,
• The Samaritan woman after her encounter with Jesus leaves her empty water jar at the feet of Jesus in a symbolic abandonment of her past (Jn. 4:28).

A question that we can all ask ourselves then is: what is it that I am still holding on to – that prevents me from totally surrendering myself to God?
Luke 6, 35-38 says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not you will not be condemned; give and it will be given back to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

We need to accept Christ’s criteria of judging people: We often judge people by what they possess. We give weight to their position in society, to their educational qualifications, or to their celebrity status. But Jesus measures us in a totally different way – on the basis of our inner motives and the intentions hidden behind our actions. He evaluates us on the basis of the sacrifices we make for others and on the degree of our surrender to His holy will. The offering God wants from us is not our material possessions, but our hearts and lives. What is hardest to give is ourselves in love and concern, because that gift costs us more than reaching for our purses. Let us, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold. Let us stop dribbling out our stores of love, selflessness, sacrifice, and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our “whole life” into the love-starved coffers of this world.

The Eucharist gives us the perfect model of self-gift in love. It should continually inspire us to live our daily lives with trust in God and commitment in service to our fellow human beings.

31st Sunday (B)

The command in the Book of Deuteronomy, which we heard in our first reading today, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, (Deut 6:4-6) and repeated by Jesus in the Gospel (Mark 12:29-30), is what we want to do when we see what God has done for us and how God loves us. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the only response to God who loves us so much. These words commonly known as the Shema (hear) are at the heart of Jewish piety. Elegant in their simplicity and powerful in their wisdom, they direct the believer to a proper relationship with God. Jesus preserves this commandment and adds love of neighbor and self to it. It is usually written on the doors, which could be seen always and on leather parchments to be kept safely with the persons as a constant reminder.
1.Loving God with all your heart means knowing Jesus and having a deep committed relationship with Him.
Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by ME. If you had known Me; you would have known My Father also; henceforth you know Him and have seen Him.” When you come in relationship with Jesus everyday, you come in relationship with the Father also everyday. Then the unconditional love of God is poured into your hearts as said in Romans 5:5 says God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This unconditional love of God helps us to forgive our own selves and others, heals our hurts emotionally so that we can unconditionally forgive and love our neighbor. As you grow deeper in relationship with Jesus; your love for Him and dependence on Him will be more. Your dependence on Him and in His Word shows your total and unconditional response towards Him.

2. Loving God with all your mind means obeying all His commands.
Jesus said if you love Me you would obey my commandments. And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever. (Jn. 14:15-16). Open your heart to hear the Word of God and obey them. You can love God 100% only when you read the Word and obey from your hearts. The ‘IF’ is a condition, so if you love Him; obey His Word, so that Jesus will ask the Father and send the Holy Spirit to you. The Holy Spirit is not in everyone.Jn.14: 17 say the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit. Those who do not live in the Word of God can only live according to the standard of the world, they neither sees Him nor knows Him. Jesus is speaking this to the disciples who knows Him and loves Him by obeying His word so they have the Holy Spirit as said in Jn.14: 17-18. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”. Jesus at the right hand of God will ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to control our lives only when we love Jesus and obey His commands.
Obeying all His commands lead us to love Him with all our mind and to stay in His will, for the Word of God renews our minds. Romans 12: 2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. “As your mind gets renewed each day through the Word of God, revelation knowledge of God, and understanding of your identity in Christ will be reveled more and more to love Him with all your mind.

3. Loving God with all your soul means building your life in the Word.
Jesus said in Math.7: 24-27 “Everyone then who hears these Words of mine and does them will be like a wise man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Only if you obey the Word, you will become like a wise man, then no matter what storms come in your life, your soul which consist of your emotions, will and mind keeps you healthy to live a victorious Christian life in every situation because your life built according to the Word. This wisdom that we receive through the Word of God, leads us to love Him with all our soul. So beware of building your life according to the wisdom of this world for God says in 1 Cor. 3:19 ” For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight…..”
Why did Jesus say those who hear and obey the Word are like a wise man who built His house the on rock?
The rock signify Jesus, the rock is created by God and it is very strong, compared to the brick created by man which can be broken easily. Jesus is the rock of God and the name rock describes the essence of stability and reliability of God and this title stresses the permanent unchanging nature of God also the dependence and faith through which man can lean on to Him. We see the name ‘Rock’ used for Jesus many times in the Bible. Jesus is Word of God, (seeRev.19: 13, Jn.1: 1; 14.) So Jesus is the Rock, the Word of God that we must hear and obey to build our lives on the chief corner stone that is Jesus (Eph.2: 20).

The Word of God builds your life only if you receive the Word into your heart and obey them. Paul when he left Ephesians he committed the people in that church to God and to the Word. Acts 20:32 “now I commit you to God and to the Word of grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified”.
When I do not love the Lord with all my heart by obeying His Word as said in Jn. 14:23, and when I become stiff necked, stubborn and disobedient to the
Word of God with an uncircumcised heart. Holy Spirit is Resisted Acts 7: 51

Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind; for this is the first and great commandment. Then we will have the unconditional love of God to love our neighbor. All the other commandments come inside these two commands and His commands are not burdensome.1 John 5:3 “For this is the love for God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Because the Holy Spirit helps those who obey His Word, Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. Let us make sure that we obey His Word to enter the promise land (heaven). The Word of God can be sent only to those who humbly receive it and God looks at those people. Isaiah 66:2,5 says ” But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my Word”.

30th Sunday (B)

“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” “Master, I want to see” “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Two famous prayers for spiritual vision: Cardinal Newman prays for clear vision in his famous poem, “Lead Kindly Light”:
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom; lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
“Amazing Grace,” As the captain of a British slave ship, John Newton regained his faith during a storm at sea and became an ordained minister who was very active in the abolitionist movement. He explains how he gained his spiritual eyesight in his famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.
Today’s Gospel, which tells of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus, challenges us to strengthen our faith in Jesus, the healer, and invites us to gain true spiritual vision.
Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. They reached Jericho and there was a large crowd following him since the fame of Jesus had spread far and wide. He was known to be a healer who could miraculously heal any disease, a preacher who preached about the revolutionary ideas of freedom and the Kingdom of God, the messiah who was expected to come for the redemption of Israel. The news about the healing powers of Jesus had reached the ears of blind Bartimaeus too. He might have been dreaming of that day when Jesus would come his way and he would get a chance to be healed by Him. Then as he sat idly on the side of the road he heard the sound of a crowd moving. He asked the passersby what the sound could be. He got the answer for which he waited through his life: Jesus of Nazareth is coming. He cried out competing with the noise of the crowd: “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.”

In spite of the crowd’s objections, Jesus stopped and, recognizing Bartimaeus’ faith, called the blind man to him. In the Law of Moses, the blind are among those who are to be accorded protection in the name of God. Leviticus admonishes the Israelites not to “curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind.” In Deuteronomy those who lead the blind astray along the road are placed under the same curse as those who withhold justice from the alien, the orphan or the widowed. Psalm 146 proclaims that God gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down and loves the righteous.

The sound of the master was sweet music for him. He waited not for a second, but threw aside his long cloak, his only possession, which protected him from heat and cold. In throwing away his cloak, he gave up everything he had depended on, putting his complete trust in the Lord. Jesus then asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Was it that Jesus did not know what the blind man wanted? But he wanted to hear it from his own mouth. It makes a difference. Bartimaeus replied promptly: “Master, I want to see.” Jesus rewarded his faith by restoring both his physical and spiritual sight. Suppose today Jesus asks you the same question – what do you want me to do for you – What will be your answer?

The healing of the blind Bartimaeus contains four main elements of Christian discipleship: a) the correct recognition of Jesus as Lord and Savior (“Jesus, Son of David”); b) the acknowledgement of the need for Jesus’ help (“Have pity on me”; “I want to see”); c) ready response to Jesus’ call (“He . . . came to Jesus”); and d) becoming Jesus’ disciple (” … followed him on the way”).

Having received physical and spiritual sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus joyfully along the road. The gift of sight led Bartimaeus to faith, and faith came to full expression in committed discipleship. He wanted to stay close to his Savior, to thank, praise, and serve Him. Thus today’s Gospel presents Bartimaeus as the model for us in his prayer and in his wholehearted commitment to a discipleship that includes rejection by those who refuse to believe.

In a 2012 homily, Pope Benedict XVI reflected: “Bartimaeus represents one who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing. Indeed, when he hears that the Master is passing along the road, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”, and he repeats it even louder. And when Jesus calls him and asks what he wants from him, he replies: “Master, let me receive my sight!” Bartimaeus represents one aware of his pain and crying out to the Lord, confident of being healed. In the encounter with Christ, lived with faith, Bartimaeus regains the light he had lost, and with it the fullness of his dignity: he gets back onto his feet and resumes the journey, which from that moment has a guide, Jesus, and a path, the same that Jesus is traveling. The evangelist tells us nothing more about Bartimaeus, but in him he shows us what discipleship is: following Jesus ‘along the way,’ in the light of faith.”
Instead of remaining in spiritual blindness, let us pray for spiritual sight. Each one of us suffers from spiritual blindness, and hence we need the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. Anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, evil habits etc. make us spiritually blind, preventing us from seeing the goodness in our neighbors and God’s presence in them. Hence, let us pray to have a clear vision of Christian values and priorities in our lives and to acknowledge the presence of God dwelling in ourselves and in our neighbors. A clear spiritual vision enables us to see the goodness in others, to express our appreciation for all that they have been doing for us, and to refrain from criticizing their performance.

29th Sunday (B)

“The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Gospel speaks about the contrast that exists between way of the world and the way of Jesus. The society of today is looking at greatness as material prosperity, power, position, prestige, name and fame. They use any means to achieve their end even exploiting others without any quam of conscience. The more they have the more they want to accumulate and there is no end to the greed for wealth, money, power and position. It is known from the lives of various people that a prosperous and glamorous life may not bring lasting peace, joy and happiness, as they are temporary. It is a fact that in life there are joys and sorrows, sufferings and pleasures, success and failures, but the way we accept these realities and have a proactive response would make a difference in our life.

Christ had a completely different understanding of authority. He saw it as an opportunity to serve, to promote good of others, rather than to promote one’s own glory and honor. He said: “look at the pagan rulers. See how they lord it over their subjects. It must not be like that among you. The one in authority must be the one who serves.” Surely this is the most revolutionary thing ever said about authority.
Jesus was trying to educate his followers that He has come into this world to give his life as a ransom for many, which is to be achieved by his passion and death on the cross. First time after the transfiguration Jesus talked about it and peter immediately retorted, “Let it not happen to you.” After the second prediction, the apostles were arguing over which of them was the most important. Now after the third prediction, James and John became more ambitious and ask for a favor from their master. He said to them, “What is it that you want me to do for you?” The answer is “Allow us to sit one on your right and the other on your left in your glory.”

Jesus tried to remind James and John of the sacrifices and sufferings associated with their effort to reach his abode. He tells them that in his kingdom, it is not about sitting. It’s about standing! Can you? Will you? Stand by me? Stand for me? Stand for what I am all about? They expressed their willingness to undertake any sort of adventures and undergo any amount of sufferings to reach where Jesus resides. Jesus knew their good intention in spite of the selfish spirit that instigated them. Therefore he clarified them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” The other ten disciples who watched this whole episode in dismay were not in any way superior to these two Zebedee brothers. Their fuming jealousy found its expression in the form of indignation.

Jesus, knowing full well their ignorance and inability to grasp of the realities of life, tells them that anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. Here Jesus is talking about the spirit and the attitude that we should possess. The commandment is “to love one another as I have loved you.” So love of God is the power and the force that permeates in all our words and actions.

That radical teaching of Jesus is a deep spirituality to live by: “the more power I have, the more respect I must show; the more service I must give; the more aware of the ‘small people’ in life I must be!” This is to be acknowledged and appreciated in pope Francis, as he speaks out against global corruption, and speaks up for the refugees and the homeless!! He is people oriented than self oriented and so he goes out of his way to extend the love and compassion of Jesus to the poor, marginalized, the differently abled and the like just as Jesus went about doing good.

Jesus always notices the child; he notices the sinful woman; he notices the small man up a tree; he notices the beggar and the cripple; he notices the sinner; he notices the bereaved; he notices the stray – and the lost, he notices you and me and we are significant and important to him. And he says: “come to me! Come to me all you who labor, and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. For I am gentle and humble of heart, and I will give rest for your souls!! ”

James and John also converted from being greedy and selfish in the Gospel today to serve Jesus, each in his own way drinking the cup of Jesus’ Passion and undergoing the baptism of Jesus’ Passion. James gave his life in Jerusalem for Jesus and John looked after Mary taking her to safety in Ephesus in what we now call Turkey when Jerusalem became too unsafe due to persecutions of Christians. John would continue to give of himself for Jesus by writing one of our four Gospels, New Testament letters and the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. When we return love for hatred, when we are misunderstood and spoken against, when we sacrifice our time and energy to perform thankless, hidden acts of love, we share in Jesus’ suffering. What could cause more pain than to love so deeply, and not be loved in return? Yes our reward is in heaven and we need to follow the path of our master to gain that eternal treasure, prepared for us.

28th Sunday (B)

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In 1922, six of the world’s most successful businessmen held a special meeting in Chicago. They were a group of high-powered specialists who know the secret of making money. There was no doubt about where their alter was. Let us a look at those nine men 27 years later.
Charles Schwab, president of the largest independent steel company, died bankrupt and lived on borrowed money the last years of his life.
Samuel Insull, president of the greatest utility company, died a fugitive from justice, penniless in a foreign land.
Howard Hopson, president of the largest gas company, was insane.
Arthur Cutter, the greatest wheat speculator, died abroad in poverty.
Richard Whitney, president of the New York stock Exchange, was in Prison.
Albert Fall, a member of the president’s cabinet, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
All these men knew how to make money, but none of them knew how to live. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve both mammon of God.”

The story of the rich young man is one of the saddest in the gospels. It is the only instance recorded in the gospels of someone who was called directly, personally and individually by Jesus who refused the invitation. The initial encounter was good and promising as he followed all the commandments from his childhood and expected to be acknowledged by Jesus. What more should I do to gain eternal life? Jesus looks straight into his eyes and tells him there is one thing you lack. So he became all the more inquisitive to know about it and Jesus told him that he should “go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The gospel says his face fell at these words and went away sad for he was a man of great wealth.

We have in the gospel of Luke chapter 9, 57- where a man comes and tells him master “I will follow you wherever you go”. The Lord said to him that the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay His head. Then to another he said, “follow me”. He responded, let me go and burry my father. To which Jesus answered, “Let the dead burry their own dead but your job is to proclaim the kingdom of God.” Now a third one says I will follow you but let me go and say goodbye to my dear ones. To him Jesus said anyone who puts his hand on a plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.

Alexander the great was the famous Macedonian King, who practically conquered all the near by kingdoms with his military power, but towards the end of his life he called his ministers and instructed what has to be done after his death. First of all the doctors who treated him have to carry his coffin as they could not save him, Secondly, the coffin will have two holes and through that his hands will be laid bare and empty, because he carries nothing with him. Thirdly, all the precious stones and jewels he had amassed and plundered should be laid on the path of the funeral procession as they are of no use to him anymore.

This has been the fate of so many people who lacked the wisdom o f God at the right time. The Second Reading (Heb. 4:12-13) gives wonderful insights on the word of God and underlines its efficacy and formidable capacity of discernment. God’s living and effective word penetrates to the innermost part of a person and forces him/her to come to grips with what really matters. It scours our entire being, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and reveals the deep truth about God’s love and our gracious destiny.

Jesus is the personification of wisdom and it allows us to discern, often beyond deceptive appearances, what is true, just and good. He comes to reorient lives toward God’s will. Those who open up their hearts to Jesus will receive the gift of a discerning heart and will be empowered by God to make a radical choice for the Gospel.
So learn to accept the primacy of God and his Kingdom: The repeated message of Jesus is very clear – seek first the kingdom of God (Lk. 12:31)! What is it that occupies the core of our hearts? Is it our wealth and possessions? Is it our fame and achievements? Is it our human securities? Jesus simply challenges these ephemerals, and invites us to give God the prime place in our life. It is said that money can buy us a cozy bed but not sound sleep. Money can buy us a variety of food, but not the peaceful ambient to enjoy our meal. Money can buy us a house, but not a home of loving people. Money can buy us books, but not the gift of wisdom.

We do not have to see Jesus’ command to the man – go, sell, give, come, follow – as applying only to money. The one thing in which we are lacking may be something else. We may be lacking in some virtue. We may be proud or selfish or lustful and thus lacking in humility or altruism or purity of heart. We are not blind to ourselves but are sufficiently sensitive to be aware of how we could grow in holiness. We almost certainly know what is the thing lacking in our life and how the Lord is challenging us to grow in following him. As our second reading from Heb. 4:12-13 said, the Word of God shows up our secret emotions and thoughts, everything is uncovered before the Word of God.

When we do respond to Jesus’ challenge, Jesus promises us, as he promised the man in today’s Gospel, “treasure in heaven.” (Mark 10:21) Jesus wants only what is best for us and if we take up his challenge to us, whatever it may be, we can be sure that it will bring us only happiness. We want to do whatever the Lord asks of us, we want to follow him that we may have treasure in heaven.

26th Sunday (B)

Jealousy, Intolerance and Scandal

In 1994, a British Sociologist of religion (Grace Davie) published a book on the rise of secularism in Britain since 1945 and the book is named Believing without Belonging. She says that most of the people who do not belong to the institutional religions have some form of belief about God, but they do not want to be part of a special religion due to one reason or other. There are also other books and articles written on the theme of Believing and Belonging. Today we find people belonging to the church does not believe in what the church teaches. Recently another British scholar (Abby Day) in her book Believing in Belonging suggests that actually people believe because they want to belong to a group that gives them identity.

The first reading talks abut God’s command to Moses to choose seventy eldersas helpers in the task of leading the people. So it was done, and God tooksome of the spirit that was on Mosesto distribute it to his helpers. It happened that Eldad and Medad  had not gone to the meeting tent, although they were part of the gathering, began to prophesy in the camp where they had remained. When Joshua heard this, he asked Moses stop them, probably because he feared his master’s authority would not be respected. Such words betray a practical misunderstanding of God’s freedom, of the nature and finality of his gifts. These gifts are ways and means for being of service to the community, and not personal prerogatives to be jealously guarded. God does not impoverish anyone by spreading his gifts among many. Moses does not resent the “new prophets” and is not jealous of their gifts. He wishes that all the people of the Lord might be prophets and hopes selflessly that the spirit of the Lord be bestowed on them all. Christian tradition would see Moses’ prayer fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

 In today’s Gospel John comes to Jesus, informing of an unknown exorcist who was using Jesus’ name to drive out demons.Jesus in his response, however, recommends openness, allowing anyone who wants to exorcise in his name, to do so freely. For, the man who uses Jesus’ name cannot be against him; nor will he speak ill of him, because “whoever is not against us, is for us”. Jesus states a general principle. One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ life and mission is openness: He was ready to accommodate and accept even those whom the society had given up: The call of Levi, the tax collector and his reaching out to sinners and outcasts prove this point.

If we truly want to be disciples of Jesus today, we will have to accept that not all the goodness in the world comes from our actions. We will have to learn to live with other people, who are not of our group, but nonetheless fight against evil, at least as much as we do. We are disciples of Christ who live according to his gospel, and seek to do good in his name, should rejoice that others also do the same good and fight the same fight against evil, in the name of Jesus Christ. We should be happy that Jesus Christ, Our Lord, inspires others whom we, by the way we live our Christian lives, have not been able to inspire. As disciples of Jesus we should be proud that the name of Jesus, his life and his ideas, inspire people that we have not been able to convince by our lives and our ideals.

The Gospel reading continues to underline the challenges of Christian discipleship. Confronting the evil of causing scandal to others, Jesus uses the imagery of the unquenchable fires of Gehenna. In order to avoid this unfortunate destiny, the disciples must be extremely cautious of giving bad example to anyone. Jesus asserted: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire”. Similarly our feet and eyes are to be controlled against any untoward behavior. Jesus’ remarkable saying is not to be taken literally, but the challenges should be understood as there can be no compromises.

Indeed, the Christian disciples need to be purified in their innermost motives. They need to be “salted with fire”and experience the purifying fire of trials by which the faithful become pleasing sacrifices to God and at peace with one another. They need to expunge the evils of ambition, intolerance and scandal from their midst. In place of these, they have to make a tough choice for primacy in service, for tolerance and openness to others of good will, and for integrity in their dealing with God’s “little ones”. Those who respond to the radical demands of Christian discipleship with zeal and passion become the “salt of the earth”. As the good “salt of the earth”, they continue to inspire people with the liveliness of the Gospel spirit and lead them to yearn for God’s kingdom.  

Let us avoid conduct that can lead to scandal.  We give scandal and become stumbling blocks to others: a) when we are unkind or unjust in our treatment of them, b) when we humiliate them by hurting their pride and damaging their self-image, c) when we discourage, ignore, or refuse to accept them, and d) when we become judgmental of those who are still struggling to reach a level of commitment that we feel is too low to be useful.

Let us learn the Christian virtue of tolerance: Christian tolerance asks that we bear with the weaknesses of others (without condoning the evil they do), by: a) remaining true to our conscience and beliefs, b) respecting the differences we encounter, c) working together on projects of common interest, d) affirming what is good in the other person’s position, even when we disagree on certain things, and e) allowing the light of Christ to shine through our loving words and deeds.