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.

25th Sunday (B)

In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and the servant of all.”  This statement of Jesus is indeed a puzzling one for us like several of the utterances he places before the disciples.  They all go against the call of the world such as to be held in esteem, to have the power and to bask in honor and glory.  Jesus calls us to serve, to remain humble and to be at the disposal of God and others.  However these statements invite us into God’s life in a particular way.  The early Christian hymn in the letter to the Philippians talks about how Jesus emptied himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. In response God exalted him and raised him above all creation. This hymn describes the dynamic that is at the heart of life in the trinity: each person of God is constantly pouring out the divine self in love and service to the other persons. Each person is welcoming the other and makes room for the other in the outpouring of love. Even in our life as Christians we are incorporated in the self-emptying life of love of God in Baptism. We are part of that dynamics and yet we have to make effort in the self-emptying call that Jesus gives us constantly where we are to lose our life in order to find it.  Only when we empty ourselves can we really go ahead to the Trinity and move towards the fullness of the glory of God.

All the three Readings of the day have one common denominator: They all speak of wisdom that is divine and the human expectations demanding to excel over others. In our normal life situations there is a paradox of human living, namely, the hatred that the good person engenders. It is put so well in the First Reading: “Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man.” Why? “Because he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our breaches of the law and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.” Jesus annoyed many people, because he opposed their way of life and of being false to the real meaning of their traditions, of worshipping only with their lips but with hearts far from God. “Let us see if what he says is true, let us observe what kind of end he himself will have. If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.” They want to make the life of the righteous persons intolerable and more difficult. They want to make the lives of just very inconvenient, oppose their actions and reproach them of their sins against the law and thus condemn them to a shameful death. While he hung on the cross they mocked him. “If you really are the Son of God, come down and then we will believe!” But something they failed to realize. While the godless ones applied human wisdom in the planning of their evil deeds, they failed to notice that human knowledge and understanding cannot compete against the Wisdom of God.

Jesus willingly accepted the sufferings and humiliations for our sake. His gentleness and endurance and his love for us were proved beyond doubt. And he was looked after though not in the way they anticipated. He was allowed to drink the cup of suffering to the very dregs, dying a most awful death. But that moment of final surrender into the Father’s hands – “Into your hands I surrender my life” and “It is finished” – was the moment of glory, the moment of exaltation, of being lifted up to the right hand of the Father, leading the way for us to follow. The history of the church proves that many of them will follow in his footsteps and be themselves the victims of hatred and recrimination.

Jesus was trying to teach and make the disciples understand the cost of true discipleship they seemed to be more in tune with the worldly values and concerns. So while they were in the “house” he asked them about their topic of conversation of which they were highly embarrassed, because they were arguing among themselves who was the greatest.  Jesus was fully aware of all that was going on in their minds. He sat down and spoke just to the Twelve, his close friends and told them the type of leadership his followers ought to have. “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” Once again he throws an idea at them, which is in total contradiction to everything they had ever been told. The type of authority will be of a new type, never experienced by any one. The authority in his house has to be one of giving and of service. At this point Jesus pulls in a young child and puts him standing in the middle of the group. “Anyone who welcomes one of these children in my name, welcomes me.”

The child here pictured by Jesus represents a person who has no power, no say, no influence; a person who can easily be controlled, abused or neglected and who has little redress. At the same time, a child has novelty and vision. It sees all things afresh. It has the sense of joy and admiration. It loves without reservation. Above all it is humble, helpless and very vulnerable.  The child represents all those in our society; who are powerless and easily manipulated, who are easily abused, neglected and marginalized. The poor, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the immigrant…Today, in the light of all our readings, we need to pray above all for that spirit of service, for that deep down attitude of reaching out and wanting the well being of those around us, no matter who they are or what kind of people they are.  It is a prayer that will bring us closer to God and to every other person and result in our own enrichment. Let us call upon the Lord Almighty, asking Him with a sincerity of heart for the gift of Wisdom.