27th March 2018.
HOLY WEEK, TUESDAY
Reading 1: Is 49:16 The liturgy presents another of the Servant Songs from Isaiah:“You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.”
Res. Psalm: Ps 71: 1-6, 15, 17 My lips will tell of your help.
Gospel: Jn 13: 21-33, 36-38 John describes the part of the Last Supper when Jesus announces his betrayal by Judas and the denials of Peter.
FREE TO CHOOSE JESUS!
It’s the last week of Jesus’ life. The 13 of them are eating the Passover meal and it’s a tense time. Jesus predicted his betrayal, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” And nobody could believe it would be him, “Surely it is not I.” Pride keeps us from admitting our faults or failures and that’s exactly what was happening at this meal. “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” Thus Judas betrayed him simply out of greed. And Peter denied because he was fearful for his own life and lied, to give himself an escape from danger.
Jesus had a human heart and loved Judas with a divine love through His human heart. As a result of this perfect love of Judas, Jesus’ heart was deeply troubled. It’s not that Jesus was personally offended or angered by Judas’ betrayal. Rather, it’s that Jesus’ heart burned with a deep sorrow at the loss of Judas whom He loved with a perfect love. Judas had free will. Without free will Judas could not freely love Jesus. But with free will, Judas chose to betray Jesus. The same is true with us. We have free will and we are given the same ability that Judas had to accept the love of Jesus or to reject it. We can let His loving gift of salvation and grace enter our lives or refuse it. It is fully up to us.
Holy Week is an ideal time to seriously contemplate the road we are on. Each and every day of your life you are invited by God to choose Him with all your might and love. But, like Judas and Peter, we so often betray Him by our refusal, embracing His Cross as ours. We so often fail to give completely of our lives in a sacrificial and generous way, as our Lord did. In this holy week, let us introspect, if I am willing to seek forgiveness from the Merciful Jesus? Let us thus turn towards Jesus and follow him with the Cross during this Holy Week.
26th March 2018.
HOLY WEEK, MONDAY
Reading 1: Is 42: 1-7 We hear at first of the Servant Songs from Isaiah — a prophecy of the Servant’s suffering, which will result in salvation for all.
Res. Psalm: Ps 27: 1-3, 13-14 The Lord is my light and my help.
Gospel: Jn 12: 1-11 John relates the details of Jesus’ last visit in the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus: Martha cooks, Mary pours out her precious ointment, Lazarus watches.
THE FRAGRANCE OF LOVE!
Love knows no bounds. Today, Mary does something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had, the perfumed ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet with all of it. Mary’s action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for God’s mercy. It was also significant that Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, since well-kept hair contributed to a person’s dignity in the ancient world. Women took pride in long hair, which was considered attractive, and damage to one’s hair was considered degrading. By using her hair to wipe the feet of Jesus, Mary heightened the sense of humility already reflected in her willingness to serve him as a slave. Mary is generous and she is the model disciple. She does what Jesus will do later…washing of the feet.
Jesus was perfectly selfless in His love for us. By accepting to be anointed by Mary, Jesus reveals what each one of us needs to do. We need to worship Him, honor Him and make Him the center of our lives. We need to humble ourselves before Him and serve Him. Not because He needs us to treat Him this way, but because we need to treat Him this way. Honoring Him in our humility and love is what we need to do for our own holiness and happiness. Jesus knew this, so He honored Mary for this act of love. This story invites us to do the same. It invites us to look to Jesus and to make Him the center of our adoration and love. It invites us to willingly pour out all our labor for Him (symbolized by the perfume worth 300 days’ wages). Nothing is too costly for Jesus. Nothing is worth more than an act of our worship.
The gospel records that the whole house was filled with the perfume of the ointment. What Mary did brought sweetness all over, just like in a few more days, Lord Jesus would show us the extravagance of his love in giving the best he had by pouring out his own blood for us and by anointing us with his Holy Spirit. We see models of love in Mary and in Jesus, Let us pray that our lives to spread the love and fragrance of Jesus.
22nd March 2018.
THURSDAY, FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Gen 17: 3-9 God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, establishes a covenant with him, and promises to make him the “father of a host of nations.”
Res. Psalm: Ps 104: 4-9 The Lord remembers his covenant forever.
Gospel: Jn 8: 51-59 “Before Abraham came to be, I AM,” Jesus declares, and his enemies make ready to stone him for blasphemy.
THE COVENANT OF LOVE!
Today’s liturgy and the Word of God invites us to remember God’s covenant with us through Jesus. The first reading speaks about God’s generosity in making a covenant with Abraham, thus entering human history. Abraham’s greatness lied in his utter faith and obedience to God. Abraham listened to God. He listened to the difficult command to leave home and move to a strange land. With uncertainty before him Abraham embarked on journey to an unknown land. He also listened when he was told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. And so God made a promise to be on the side of Abraham and his descendants. God would always keep that promise, that covenant with Abraham. In calling Abraham, God changed his entire destiny. For the first time in the history of the humankind God changes the name of a person: Abram is called Abraham. This means that God has complete control over us and our future. God’s covenant is not limited to Abraham and his family alone. Like a perpetual flowing river it is assured to his posterity. One thing God requires of us is that we keep the covenant always and all the time.
In the gospel today, John wants us to see how that openness to listening was lost, why these heirs of Abraham were not as open tonew experiences of God as their famous ancestor. In front of them stood the promise-made-flesh, the word-made-flesh Jesus.Jesus reminds his people about the God’s covenant and invites them to respect the covenant. If they follow the covenant they will never see death. As death is the necessary consequence of our sin. Due to disobedience man lost sight of the beatific vision of God but God’s covenant in Jesus is the restoration of the lost grace. Are we open to God’s covenant? Do we see Jesus, the promise made flesh? Do we understand fully all that God does for us? All that God requires of us? Or are we like that crowd in the gospel that doesn’t quite catch on?
The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt»
Today, Matthew's Gospel invites us to ponder over the mystery of forgiveness by proposing a parallel between God's ways and our own human behavior when it comes to forgiving others.
Man even dares measuring and keeping control of the magnanimity of his forgiving nature: «Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?» (Mt 18:21). Peter felt seven times was a bit too much, perhaps the very maximum we can stand. In fact, Peter comes out of it quite splendidly if compared to the official of the parable who, when he met one of his companions who owed him a hundred pieces of silver, «grabbed him by the neck and almost strangled him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’» (Mt 18:28), refusing to listen to his pleading and promises of payment.
In actual fact, man either refuses to forgive or miserly measures out his forgiveness. Who would actually say that we have just received from God an infinitely reiterated and limitless forgiveness…? The parable says: «The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even canceled his debt» (Mt 18:27). And this, despite the fact his debt was very big.
But the parable we are commenting on emphasizes God's ways when it comes to granting forgiveness. After calling the debtor's attention to the gravity of his situation, he suddenly took pity on him before his humble and sorrowful pleading: «(...) he threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything’. The king took pity...» (Mt 18:26-27). This episode reflects what each one of us knows by our own experience and with deep gratitude: that God forgives the repentant and converted one without any limit. The negative and sad ending of the parable, however, honors justice and evidences the truth of Jesus' words in Lk 6:38: «For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you».
«No prophet is honored in his own country»
Today, in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that «no prophet is accepted in his hometown» (Lk 4:24). By making use of this proverb Jesus is introducing Himself as a prophet.
A "Prophet" is someone who speaks on behalf of another, he who carries someone else’s message. Among the Hebrews, the prophets were men sent by God to announce, whether with words, whether with signs, the presence of God, the coming of the Messiah, the message of salvation, peace and hope.
Jesus is the Prophet par excellence, the long awaited Savior; in Him all prophecies are fulfilled. But, just as it did happen at the time of Elijah and Elisha, Jesus is not "well accepted" among their own, for those who are filled with anger «got up, and drow Him out of the town» (Lk 4:29).
Each one of us, because of our baptism, is also called to be a prophet. Therefore:
1st. We should announce the Good News. To do so, as Pope Francis said, we have to listen to the Word with a sincere approach, to let it touch our own lives, to let it retrieve us, exhort us, mobilize us, because if we do not dedicate time to pray with that Word, then we shall indeed be a "false prophet", a "swindler" or an "empty charlatan"
2nd. To live by the Gospel. Again Pope Francis says: «We are not asked to be flawless, but to keep growing and wanting to grow as we advance along the path of the Gospel; our arms must never grow slack». It is essential to be sure that God loves us, that Jesus Christ has saved us, that His love is forever.
3rd. As disciples of Jesus, we must be aware that just as Jesus experienced rejection, anger and being thrown out, this will also be present on the horizon of our daily lives.
Let Mary, Queen of the prophets, guide us on our way.
4th March 2018.
SUNDAY, THIRD WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Ex 20:1-17 We hear of the commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. They are a map of life for a people that has a special relationship with God.
Res. Psalm: Ps 19:8-11 “the law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul”.
Reading 2: 1 Cor 1:22-25 St. Paul reveals the content of his preaching, namely, Christ crucified. To some the idea of a crucified Saviour makes no sense whatsoever. But to those who can grasp it, it is a sign of the wisdom of God.
Gospel: Jn 2: 13-25 John gives his account of the cleansing of the Temple and how the Jews reacted to this “sign.”
TRUE WORSHIP OF THE HEART
In the first reading: God speaks his commandments, as though one would deliver a child. With his words, he gives birth to a new people, a nation, and a new way of life; by rendering a future out of a desert band of wandering folk. The Ten Commandments become the basis of the Jewish community’s relationship with God and one another. Their actions and way of governing themselves are to be signs to other nations that they belong to Yahweh. For Christians, God’s mercy and saving presence in drawing the chosen people out of slavery in Egypt has been extended to all in the waters of baptism and the death of Jesus. We now fulfill the Law as Jesus did, in our lives, relationships, and communities, so that the nations will see our presence among them as a beacon of hope that lights the way to freedom. The commandments reveal the holiness of God in the life of God’s people.
The Responsorial Psalm sums up what scripture offers us: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life” (Ps 19). Words can set us free, instill hope and freedom in us. The Law, the word of the Lord, is perfect, trustworthy, and wise; it refreshes the soul, it offers vision, truth, and justice. They are worth more than any treasure of precious metal or jewels. They are sweeter than honey.
St. Paul underlines to the Corinthians, that Christ crucified is the sign of God’s love. A sign to which no one can remain indifferent. However to the Jews, the crucified Jesus was a scandal and to the Greeks, it was foolish. The Jews were expecting spectacular demonstrations of God’s power, as it happened during the Exodus from Egypt. The Greeks did not believe in miracles, but in rationality. The death of Jesus on the cross did not respond to any human logic and was therefore to them a genuine madness. Many of us to fall into the category of the Jews or Greeks, if we lack faith.
During Passover, Jerusalem was full of pilgrims, from all over the world. They went to the temple to pray, to seek counsel from the priests, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, to deliver their generous offers with copper coins, the only ones that could be used in the holy place. The money of Rome was declared legally unclean and had to be changed with the money changers. The traders used this time to accumulate more gains than throughout the rest of the year. It was also a time when the temple priests made a profitable buck. They allowed the traders and money changers around the temple area. The place was filled with the clamor of merchants, farmers, tanners, guards and pilgrims. The house of prayer had been transformed by its own ministers in a market place. It is on this occasion of a Passover feast that Jesus came to the temple. Jesus did not say a word; he made a whip using ropes and began to furiously overturned chairs, money, cages of doves. Then, without pausing, overturned the tables of the money changers. In addition to the vendors, Jesus also drove out the sheep and oxen.
The gesture of Jesus was to end the religion related to the offering of animals. In the greatest proof of love, Jesus was going to give, the only sacrifice pleasing to the Father: “This is how we have known what love is; he gave his life for us, for our brothers and sisters” (1 Jn 3:16). Jesus who presented himself “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), now commands: “Take all this away, and stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace”. He was referring to an oracle of Prophet Zechariah: “There will no longer be merchants in the house of the Lord” (Zec 14:21). By purifying the temple of the merchants, Jesus pronounced his severe, final sentence against mingling religion and money, between worship the Lord and economic interests.
Lent demands a hard look at ourselves, our parishes, and our church. Do our “Temples” of God resemble the “Body of Jesus”. The Jews enslaved themselves with rules, laws that did not offer God true worship. Worship is true adoration of God. Worship validates the rituals practiced in the Temple only if it is lived and honored outside of liturgy. True worship is found in living the heart of the commandments: in care for our neighbor and the poor; in respect for all people and the earth; in giving and sharing what we have been given and what has been shared with us; and in always remembering that we were brought out of slavery and are never to tolerate the enslavement of others, let alone subject them to that humiliation because of our sin and evil ways. To worship God without living truthfully and in obedience to the commandments is to dishonor God and insult and mar the image of God that we profess to worship.
Jesus was zealous in defending God’s house. Are you zealous for God’s house, for the worship of God, and for God’s honor and glory in public? Jesus says, in the words of Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” What consumes you—time, work, money, worries, sports, children, marriage, gossip, insecurity, health? Jesus spoke of the Temple as his body. How do you treat the temple of your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you? How do you treat the bodies of others: the sick, the infirm and old, the homeless, the outcast, your enemies, those you fear and detest?
3rd March 2018.
SATURDAY, SECOND WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Mic 7:14-15,18-20 We see a vision of God who forgives sins, removes guilt, and delights in clemency and compassion.
Res. Psalm: Ps 103: 1-4, 9-12 The Lord is compassion and love.
Gospel: Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32 Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is the story of our life as sinners, whom God never gives up on!
RETURNING TO THE LORD!
In the story of the Prodigal Son, we see courage in the son by choosing to return to his father. Yes, he humbly admits his wrongs and asks his father to forgive and to treat him like one of his hired hands. But he did return! The question to answer is “Why?”It’s fair to say that the son returned to the father, first and foremost, because he knew in his heart the goodness of his father. The father was a good father. He had shown his love and care for his son throughout his life. And even though the son rejected the father, it doesn’t change the fact that the son always knew he was loved by him. Perhaps he didn’t even realize how much he actually realized this. But it was this certain realization in his heart that gave him the courage to return to his father with hope in the father’s abiding love.
This reveals that authentic love always works. It is always effective. Even if someone rejects the holy love we offer, it always has an impact upon them. True unconditional love is hard to ignore and it’s hard to push away. The son realized this lesson and so must we. This is the love the Father in Heaven has for each of us. He is not an angry or harsh God. He is a God who longs to take us back and reconcile with us. He wishes to rejoice the moment we turn to Him in our need. Even if we are uncertain, He is certain about His love, He is always waiting for us, and deep down we all know that.
Lent is an ideal time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s the story of us going to the Father with our sin and Him lavishing us with His mercy. It may be frightening and intimidating to go to Confession, but if we enter into that Sacrament with honesty and sincerity, we are in for a wonderful surprise. God will run to us, lift our burdens and put them behind us. Don’t let this Lent go by without participating in this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
23rd February 2018.
FRIDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Ez 18:21-28 Ezechiel speaks of God’s forgiveness to sinners who repent and warns the virtuous people who depart from the path of virtue to do evil.
Res. Psalm: Ps 130: 1-8 If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive?
Gospel:Mt5:20-26 Jesus tells us that worship of God can be ruined by unwillingness to be reconciled with anyone who has anything against us.
BEING RIGHTEOUS, BEING HOLY!
Today, the prophet Ezekiel places before us God’s expectation of us. He gives us an image of an all merciful God, to all who repent from sin. And a ruthless God of justice, for the good who turn to evil ways. God does not want a mediocrity, he is not concerned with actions, but with the complete personality of each person. Lent is indeed a time for repentance and sorrow for past sins. But repentance is more than mere regret springing from a sense of self-defeat. Lent is a time for conversion, of a real change of mind and heart, a time for all to learn to think, to judge, and to live our community life as totally responsible human beings.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven. He gives us one bit of clear direction on how to attain that ultimate goal of life – the Kingdom of Heaven. The path He points to is righteousness. Righteousness is being authentic, not fake. The Pharisees struggled with pretending they were holy and good followers of the will of God. But they were not very good at it. They may have been good at the acting job, and they may have convinced themselves and others, but they could not fool Jesus. Jesus could see through the fake covering and perceive that which was underneath. He could see that their “righteousness” was only a show for themselves and others.
If we want to daily keep Heaven as our ultimate goal, then we must also strive to make an honest attempt at holiness. We must daily seek Christ with all sincerity and truth in all the small things of life. We must then let that sincerity shine through, showing what truly lies beneath. To be righteous, in the truest sense, means we sincerely seek God throughout our day and make that sincerity the constant goal of our life.
22nd February 2018.
THURSDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT (Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle)
Reading 1: 1 Pet 5: 1-4 Peter exhorts the leaders of the Church to be shepherds to the flock entrusted to them. He asks them to be an example that the flock can follow.
Res. Psalm: Ps 22:1-6 The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Gospel: Mt 16:13-19 Peter makes the confession of faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus makes Peter the rock on which Jesus would build his Church.
AUTHORITY FOR SERVICE!
Peter’s confession and Jesus’ passion prediction mark a turning point. From this point on there is no turning back for Jesus, for Peter, and even for us. Today we celebrate a very interesting feast: the Chair of St Peter. This feast is not exactly in honour of a person, as most are, nor of an event, as others are, but of a chair. Of course we are not commemorating a piece of furniture today; the chair in question is “chair” like “chairman”, a position, an office. We celebrate today the founding of the position of the leader of the Church. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church; this office in no way replaces his office of high priest and king. God did not need Noah to build the ark, and he did not need Simon Peter to lead the Church. He chose to allow us humans, positions of dignity, as co-operators of his grace.
Peter made the profession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, and after this profession, Jesus renames him Caephas, which in Greek is Petros. Jesus bestowed to Peter a special place among the Apostles. He was one of the three who were with Christ on special occasions, such as the Transfiguration of Christ and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was the only Apostle to whom Christ appeared on the first day after the Resurrection. Peter, in turn, often spoke on behalf of the Apostles, was often the first to answer. However, he was not without faults and was thus reproached often by Christ.
The Church in its 2000 years of history has seen glorious events, challenging conflicts, turbulent times and dark moments. But the very fact that the Church has survived those moments only goes to show that the Pope (successor of St Peter) draws his authority from Christ, and that the Spirit of Christ is even today guiding the Church.
20th February 2018.
TUESDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Is 55:10-11 God, through Isaiah, compares his word to the rain and snow that water the earth and make it fertile. Human hearts rise up to God when fertilized by God’s word.
Res. Psalm: Ps 34: 4-7, 16-19 I sought the Lord and he answered me.
Gospel: Mt 6:7-15 Jesus gives us a lesson in prayer by sharing with us his own prayer.
THE POWER OF PRAYER!
Prayer is supposed to consume us, hand us over in sacrifice, and transform us from mere recitation of words and formulas into the reality of the words. Prayers are not mere words. When we speak words, especially words of God, we set something awesome in motion. In the first reading, we see the power of words, in the person of Isaiah the prophet. He for certain knew the power of the word of God in his own mouth and the massive consequences that issued forth in politics, economics, and society as he uttered them. He spoke in the first person, but they were not his words. They were God’s words, and he only handed over his voice and lungs and body to express them to others. God’s word that left his mouth likened to rain and snow that fall from the skies. Once they fall they do not return until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful. It does only God’s will, achieving the end for which it was sent.
In the gospel today, this Word Jesus exhorts his disciples not to rattle on like unbelievers who think that by the numbers of their words they’ll get a hearing. Prayer to Jesus’ Father is a different experience altogether, for God knows what we need before we ask. So, we don’t have to ask. We start in another place, in God’s place, and ask for what God wants for each of us and all of us. The Our Father, when prayed makes God’s name is hallowed; God’s kingdom comes; God’s will is done, on earth, in us, right now. As we ask God to forgive us the wrongs we have done as we forgive those who wrong us, we begin to live freely in relation to one another with open hands and hearts, sharing bread as sustenance and forgiveness as freedom. Thus if we were to pray this prayer well, we would need no other words, no other prayer. The power and the word would be set in motion and carry us along.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.
19th February 2018.
MONDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Lev 19: 1-2, 11-18 God proposes an ideal of holiness which is arrived at by refraining from injuring our neighbor in any way.
Res. Psalm: Ps 19: 8-10, 15 “Your word are spirit, Lord, and they are life.
Gospel: Mt 25: 31- 46 Jesus tells us that our eternal destiny depends on the manner and degree of the care and help we give to the poor and underprivileged.
GAINING HOLINESS THROUGH OTHERS
We are in first full week of Lent, and the readings show us the groundwork that must be laid in our lives as disciples. Our life individually and as a group must reveal our God that. The first reading is an account of the Law given by God to Moses. It begins with the basic commandment: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This is followed by a series of “You must not..” and ending with “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
In today's Gospel, Jesus goes beyond the "don't" of Leviticus and tells us about the positive side of participating in the Goodness of God. The "sheep" on his right hand fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, and so forth, whereas the left-side "goats" are condemned to hell for failing to see Christ in the suffering and deprived. "Whatsoever you did (or did not do) to even the most insignificant of my brothers is what you did to me!"What makes this a startling religious precept is that the least of the earth’s children are the privileged presence of God among us. What we neglect to do in our care and appreciation of them, we neglect in our worship and attentiveness to God. So our relationship with God, our personal holiness, and our eternal destiny depend entirely on our relationship with our neighbor.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I do understand and believe that You are present, in hidden form, in the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor and in the sinner in our midst. Help me to diligently seek You out in each and every person I encounter, especially those in most need. Amen.
Tuesday, 13th February 2018,
Sixth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: James 1:12-18
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 93:12-15,18-19
Gospel: Mark 8:14-21
LEAVEN IN THE WORLD!
Everyone who bakes bread knows the effect of just a little leaven (yeast) in the dough. Add just a little bit and it affects the whole loaf. And it all resulted from just this little yeast. So what is this leaven of the Pharisees and Herod? It’s the evil words, evil intent and errors that they spread. For the Pharisees, it may be that it’s just a little misconception or misrepresentation of what Jesus said or did. They may twist His words or may simply give non-verbal opinions to others. This is contagious and has potential to affect everyone. Little by little their small seeds of doubt and dissent take a toll on others.
We may tend to be thinking about all of “those” people we know who do this. But we’d miss an important opportunity for growth if we failed to first look at ourselves. Do I do this sometimes? Do I say things that mislead in small or subtle ways? Or do I mislead others by my non-verbal negative attitudes? No need to feel guilty or get down on ourselves if we feel convicted. Rather, we should look at this little lesson of Jesus to realize the great power of our words. The smallest of words can do great harm over time.
But that’s not all we should focus on. It’s just as important to realize that the small loving words we say also have potential to make a huge difference over time. Perhaps it’s just that small smile we give or a kind action that we think goes unnoticed. These little actions and words are the leaven of the Gospel. They do make a difference and they can become contagious, also. Let us reflect upon the small things in life. Know that these small sins and small acts of love make a huge difference in the end.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be honest and see what sort of leaven I sow each and every day. Help me to be purged of the bad and filled with the good. May You inspire me to be that good leaven in all the many daily interactions I have. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen!
Monday, 12th February 2018.
Sixth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: James 1:1-11
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 118:67-68,71-72,75-76
Gospel: Mark 8:11-13
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN!
Between two boat trips (Mk 8:10 and 8:13), Mark reports a brief encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees who ask him to provide them with a ‘sign’ from God that will authenticate what He was doing. Considering the many miracles Jesus had already performed, it is surprising at first that the Pharisees would ask for another. What the Pharisees want is not another healing or exorcism or feeding or subjugation of nature but a ‘sign from heaven,’ i.e., an apocalyptic manifestation that would prove beyond all doubt that Jesus has God’s approval.
Indignantly Jesus refuses the request for a sign and leaves them standing as he departs by boat to the other side of the sea. Certainly his departure is an indication of his displeasure toward the Pharisees. Quite often we too are incredulous of God’s signs of love manifested constantly in our lives. Our shallow faith coupled with our intellectual and spiritual arrogance and pride blinds us to perceive innumerable miracles and signs done in and for us. Our faith journey demands that we remain docile and open to God, for He reveals his love in simplicity and humility.
It’s interesting that we rarely think of Jesus’ love for the Pharisees. Often, we only think of Him being harsh to them and condemning them. But every strong word He directed toward them was aimed at converting them out of love. It was an attempt, on His part, to shake them out of their indifference and rejection of grace. It was an act of love. Let us reflect, if we are like the Pharisees who reject the free gift of love Jesus is offering?
Prayer: Lord, help me to love with a pure and holy love. Help me to feel a holy sorrow over my sins and the sins of others when I encounter their sins. Let that holy sorrow compel me to love more deeply. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Sunday, 11th February 2018,
6th Week in the Ordinary Time
First Reading: Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
The Law regarding leprosy is given to Moses and Aaron.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 32:1-2,5,11
A prayer of contrition and confession for sin.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Paul urges the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:40-45
Jesus cures a person with leprosy, who reports his cure to everyone.
In Biblical days, the diseases which passed for “leprosy” were scourges which inspired fear because the ancients appreciated just how serious the worst cases could be while they seemed powerless to alleviate the problem. In the Book of Leviticus it was not merely the terror of a slow and miserable existence which evoked horror, but also that such corruption rendered the individual ritually unclean, i.e., religiously unworthy. The leper was therefore prohibited from participation in the Jewish religious rites as described and developed from the days of Moses down through the centuries which followed. Leviticus, the third of the Five Books of Moses, was put into its essentially final written form about the 5 Century BC. In it the task fell to the temple priests to evaluate the seriousness of each particular case of leprosy. Indeed, it could be anything from the mildest visible form dry skin to what we know today as Hansen’s Disease. If the case was active, the ancients presumed that it was infectious, and thus, dangerous to the community. Ostracism was a fairly common prescription for anything which might be a threat to the health of the community of people or their animals. A social stigma of “punished by God” accompanied the ostracism. This idea likely evolved from the simplistic ancient attitude that all sickness was from Evil and that such a state merited punishment from God. So, not only was a leper considered ritually unclean and separated from the community of God’s People, the leper was also a serious sinner however unknown or secret the imputed sin might have been. We can only imagine what it must have been like to have been forcibly and publically ostracized (effectively “excommunicated”) from one’s entire society of family, friends, neighbors, culture, city, and religious community! “He shall dwell apart ...” What loneliness! What isolation! What lack of touch, consolation, encouragement, support, . . . What practical hopelessness! Such was the penalty for carrying a disease which one had not been responsible for contracting!
As in all cultures, ways evolved for assuming or presuming what society considered an appropriate behavior. In Jesus’ day, lepers were obligated to maintain their distance from all non-lepers in society. They were permitted neither to enter a town nor to approach closer than earshot to healthy individuals out in the countryside. They could beg at a distance, but never touch a healthy person nor the items a healthy person might use. That a leper approached Jesus in Mark’s Gospel narrative was itself a serious breach of social convention. And that Jesus touched the leper in order to make him healthy and whole was another astonishment. Both leper and Jesus deliberately broke the Law of Moses in order to accomplish a good result. In the Gospel narrative, both behaviors would have astonished the audience, even risking scandal. Thus, might we conclude (and rightly, I believe) that Jesus proposed that some radically “new” behaviors might be necessary for the sake of the Gospel message, even if (and especially because!) they might shock the self-righteous among us into changing our societal and religious world!! By the logic of Jesus’ day, anyone who touched a leper risked contracting the disease, and thus, would likely be expected to be ostracized from society. In the Gospel narrative, having healed the leper, Jesus told him how to make his healing public (to the temple priests), and he himself became even more intensely sought after than he had been. While he had deliberately abrogated the prohibition against touching a ritually unclean leper, the crowds appreciated only the healing. And, they sought a like healing. That Jesus had touched the unclean man was lost except to those who gave further consideration. For us today however, admittedly we have remarkably few socially condemned public behaviors for which we would lose our place in society. But, we also ought to consider when, where, and which are the various unjust or silly or superstitious societal customs we might deliberately risk changing. Remember, “Culture incarnates the Gospel, while the Gospel critiques the culture.”
Jesus’ Gospel behavior critiqued the Jewish ritual culture of his day, and changed it as an example to others and to us. Such an example of bold and loving change is very important in our Church culture.
The very short passage from 1 Corinthians is so completely out of context that it has lost its original meaning. Paul had expounded at great length in chapters 8 and 10 to answer and resolve the issues around whether Christians could eat meat which had been sacrificed to pagan divinities at the pagan butcher shops or in pagan temples. Indeed, in Greece (where Corinth was situated), pagan culture dominated. Paul’s conclusion was that whether or not there had been any offering to any pagan idol or divinity, it made no difference. From his perspective, pagan gods and goddesses were nothing more than imaginary. However, since some former pagans among the Christians were still squeamish, and even superstitious about the practice, he counseled that other Christians be sensitive to the “weak” ones and avoid eating meat when necessary. Hence, today’s opening lines “Whether you eat or drink ... Avoid giving offense ...” These were assertions about being sensitive and constructively helpful to others within the Christian Gospel fellowship. Indeed, there is no excuse for ill mannered or insensitive behavior. Paul was proposing that his fellow Christians imitate his own kindness and graciousness. This was as profound an example to the Corinthians as is Jesus’ example in the Gospel narrative about touching a leper.
So, between welcoming lepers (and those whom modern society treats as the ancients treated lepers: e.g., AIDS victims, the poor, illegal immigrants, street people, drug addicts, et al.) and promoting graciousness and good manners, we have the example of both Jesus and Paul. How much clearer could Gospel behavior be made for those of us who think of ourselves as considerate believers??!!
Saturday, 10th February 2018,
Fifth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Kings 12:26-32,13:33-34
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 105:6-7,19-22
Gospel: Mark 8:1-10
ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR GOD?
The episode in the Gospel can be seen in different ways and reveals the compassion of Jesus. There was large gathering including Jews and gentiles, men and women adults and children. They had only one thing in common. That was they were hungry. They were hungry for the teachings of Jesus - what else would keep them at that location for three days? And due to their spiritual hunger, they were now physically hungry. Have you ever been hungry for God? Have you desired for God’s company and His fellowship more than the basic necessities of life?
The crowds were so drawn to Jesus that they were willing to spend three days with Him, listening to Him in a deserted place despite the fact that they were without food. They chose Jesus and His teaching over food and over the comfort of their own homes. It reveals how drawn they were to Him. Nothing else mattered, they simply wanted to be with Jesus. This passage also reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the people. His heart was moved with pity for them. He was grateful for their presence but He was more concerned for their physical well-being than they were. Jesus, then in identifying the problem of people being without food for so long, invites the Apostles to see the problem. He doesn’t solve the problem right away. Instead, He simply explains the problem. Perhaps, Jesus was trying to foster love and concern for the people in the hearts of the Apostles. Perhaps it was a moment in which He was testing them and training them to think about the needs of the people. Jesus wanted their hearts to be “moved with pity for the crowd” just as His was.
Let us consider today: Is Jesus the central focus of our life? Does a longing for Him flood our heart and consume our soul? Are we aware of the deep concern that Jesus has for us? Are we able to allow the love and compassion that Jesus offers to us, in turn be offered to others? Only then will we be worthy of being called one of His disciples.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be drawn to You with intensity and longing. Help me to see You as the source of all that I long for and need in life. May I choose You above all else, trusting and knowing that You will satisfy my every desire. As I turn intensely to You, fill my heart with an abundance of mercy for all. Jesus, I trust in You.. Amen.
Thursday, 8th February 2018,
Fifth Week in the Ordinary Time
Saint Josephine Bakhita, Virgin
First reading: 1 Kings 11:4-13
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 105:3-4,35-37,40
Gospel: Mark 7:24-30
MANIFESTATION OF FAITH!
Why did Jesus talk to this woman that way? She comes to Him, probably in fear and trembling, falls down at His feet, and begged Him to help her daughter. He tells her, that “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Why would He say such a thing?
First of all, we have to know that whatever Jesus says is an act of love. It’s an act of the greatest kindness and mercy. We know this because this is who Jesus is. He is love and mercy itself. So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? The key to understanding this interaction is to look at the final result. We must look at how this woman responded to Jesus and how the conversation ended. When we do this, we see that the woman responds with incredible humility and faith. What Jesus says is true. In a way, we can interpret what He says to mean that no one has a right to His grace and mercy. No one, including her and her daughter, “deserve” to have God act in their lives. Jesus knows this and, by saying what He says, gives this woman a wonderful opportunity to manifest her deep faith for all to see. His words allow her to shine forth as a beacon of faith, hope and trust. This is Jesus’ goal and it worked. It worked because, when she came to Him, He was immediately aware of the fact that she did indeed have a deep faith. He knew that she would respond with humility and trust. The woman did and thus we are able to witness the manifestation of her faith and humility.
Let us try to put ourselves in this woman’s shoes and hear Jesus speak these same words to us. How would we respond? Would we respond with anger or agitation? Would our pride be wounded? Or would we respond with an even deeper humility, acknowledging the fact that all God gives is a gift which we have no right to receive. Responding this way is most likely the act of faith God is waiting for from each of us and is the key to that outpouring of His mercy we so need.
Prayer: Lord, please humble me. Strip away my pride. Help me to fall at Your feet. Help me to trust You so deeply that You are compelled, by my love of You, to open Your storehouse of grace and pour it down upon me. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Wednesday, 7th February 2018,
Fifth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Kings 10:1-10
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 36:5-6,30-31,39-40
Gospel: Mark 7:14-23
That which comes from within is what makes a person holy! Often, we are more concerned about that which is on the outside than that which is on the inside. We often worry excessively about how we are perceived by others, how we look, or what our reputation is in the eyes of the world. Today’s Gospel specifically addresses the charge of the Pharisees that eating certain foods defiles someone. Jesus on the other hand points our attention to our hearts. What is there in our hearts? And what is it that comes forth from the heart? This is what makes us who we are.
Jesus wants to point to the purely external observances of God’s law. He addresses the tendency of the Pharisees to be excessively worried about how they are perceived by others. Their external observance of the law reveals the fact that they seem to be overly concerned about what others think about them and what others say about them. They want to look holy. But it’s all an appearance and not reality. For that reason, Jesus puts the attention on the internal. God sees what is in our hearts. Even if no one else sees this we should never forget the fact that God sees all. That which is in our hearts can either do great damage to us or do great good. There is only one thing that matters: What does God think?
Let us reflect today, upon that which is inside our heart. Why do we do what we do and why do we make the decisions we make? Are they choices that come from an honest and sincere heart? Or are they choices that are based more on how we will be perceived? Let us consider if our motives come from a heart that is deeply united to the heart of Christ.
Prayer: Lord, please make my motives pure. Help me to live only out of a pure heart. Help me to always realize that holiness is found only in serving You and not in serving my public image. I love You my Lord. Jesus, I trust in You! Amen.
Tuesday, 6th February 2018,
Fifth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 83:3-5,10-11
Gospel: Mark 7:1-13
THE CHURCH BELL!
The Church Bell cries out to people to enter the Church, yet never enters the Church itself. So also our actions might lead people to God, yet would make us far from God. In today’s gospel, scribes and the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands before eating their meals. Jesus condemned their hypocrisy, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah. Hypocrites profess one thing and practice another. They profess with their lips that they worship and follow God’s commandments, but in their actual lives they led lives contrary to the commandments of God. They are people who are holy in the sight of men, but unholy in the sight of God. Men see only the externals and judge, but God who searches the hearts, judges man from within. The worship of the hypocrites is vain. Keeping hearts away from God and worshipping Him, give neither praise to God nor does it bring His blessings. God does not delight in sacrifices or in oblations or in prayers or in Sacraments, when the hearts are away (Is 1:15).
So what is the key message we should take from this for our own lives? We should take from it two simple facts. First, the will of God must take hold of our lives and become the basis and foundation of everything. His will, His law, His precepts are our rock foundation. God has established His truth as the basis of human life and we must strive to humbly embrace His law. His law includes all publicly revealed teachings of our faith, found in Scripture and in the Church, and it includes all that we hear God speaking to us in our own lives. The Pharisees, in their lack of humility, could not see these truths. Instead, they held onto their own ideas and convictions alone. God chastised them harshly for this out of love.
Secondly, we should realize that when we embrace the divine law, and His particular will for our lives, we will be pure of heart and will be freed to love Him with outward expressions. We will worship Him from our hearts and this will flow through our words and actions. But this will never happen if we do not start with His divine law.
Prayer: Lord, help me to love Your holy and divine law. Help me to embrace it with my whole heart. I do believe in You and in all that You have spoken through the ages. I believe in what You speak to my heart regarding my own life. Give me the grace to embrace Your holy will and, in that embrace, to be transformed both interiorly and exteriorly. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen!
Monday, 5th February 2018.
Fifth Week in the Ordinary Time
(Saint Agatha, Virgin, Martyr)
First reading: 1 Kings 8:1-7,9-13
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 131:6-10
Gospel: Mark 6:53-56
RUNNING TO JESUS
In today’s Gospel, when Jesus passed through the lands of Genneseret, people flocked to see Him in order to receive blessings and healing from Him. The people of Genneseret were a filled with faith. They had heard about Christ before and they knew Him. When He passed that way through their village, they welcomed Him with warm hearts, unlike their neighboring town Gerasene, who asked Him to depart from their land when He cast demons into their pigs, which perished into the stream. They were fools who valued their swine more than this wonderful Savior. What about you and me? What value does Jesus hold to you?
In a sense, this must be our approach to Jesus in regard to our life of faith. We must recognize Him as the source of all healing, especially spiritual, and we must keep our minds focused on Him as the Divine Physician. Our longing and intensity with which we seek Him out must consume our full attention.
Let us try to put ourselves into this scene of the Gospel, pondering whether we need to be more intentional and intense in your desire to be with Jesus. He is the source of all grace and mercy, and He is the Divine Physician who waits for you and me to come to Him with our every need. Let us scurry toward Him and let Him pour forth His grace.
Prayer: Lord, increase my longing for You and my desire to be with You. Help me to know that You are the Divine Physician my soul desires. Help me to trust in You always, coming to You for the fulfillment of all my needs and longings. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen!
Saturday, 3rd February 2018,
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Kings 3:4-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:9-14
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
THE COMPASSIONATE JESUS!
Jesus is the ideal leader who has compassion on the helpless in the society, who is also sympathetic towards human needs. As the disciples return from a preaching mission, he suggests rest for them. But he himself, leaving aside his needs like rest, food, etc., started serving the people, because they were in greater need. Ordinary man is selfish; he first thinks of himself and fulfills his needs first. But Jesus is the embodiment of selflessness.
Jesus’ response is one of heartfelt mercy and compassion. He is moved with pity for them and He continues to teach them many things. This happened for a number of reasons. First, as a result of the deep longing that the people felt. They were drawn to Jesus, to listen to Him and to learn from Him. Secondly, it was because Jesus also had a deep longing to be with His people. He desired to share His heart with them and to shepherd them, leading them into the many truths He came to reveal. Jesus was a true Shepherd who loved His sheep and welcomed them continually.
The same must be true for each one of us. We must all seek to be with Him, love Him and follow His commands. We must diligently and tirelessly seek Him out no matter how difficult that may be. We have a duty, in love, to seek and find our Lord. And Jesus, for His part, will fulfill His duty toward us to shepherd us and teach us many things. He will allow His heart to be moved with mercy and compassion toward us and He will draw us close to Himself.
Once a girl was returning from school, on foot with her two younger brothers. Suddenly there began a terrible snowfall. They saw death face to face. The girl removed her own warm clothes and wrapped her younger brothers in it and cuddled them, protecting them, as much as she could, with her own body. The parents who came in search of the kids, found the boys alive and their sister dead. The natives erected a memorial there and wrote on it, “An Inspiration for the Living”. Today Jesus invites you to be inspired by him and to imitate him, are you ready.
Prayer: Lord, I do love You and I give my life to You. I pray that You will always fill me with a burning desire to seek You out, each and every day. I thank You for Your mercy and for Your shepherd’s heart. May I rest close to Your heart every day. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Thursday, 1st February 2018,
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Kings 2: 1-4, 10-12;
1 Chr 29: 10, 11ab, 11d-12a, 12bcd;
Mark 6: 7-13
As we travel through life, we often gather a lot items along the way. The problem with excessive baggage (sometimes garbage) we gather is that it can slow us down from our journey’s purpose and prevent us from moving along as we should. King David realizes at the end of his life that all that he has accumulated will not be going with him as he transitions from his life on earth. Likewise, Jesus commissions His apostles with the warning not to take more than the minimum necessities because His Abba-Father will be providing for them as they undertake their missionary journeys.
Our first reading is David’s last will or statement to his son, Solomon. David realizes that he is going to die soon. David challenges Solomon to do what God has commanded. He also realize that he, like all who transition from earthly life, will not be taking all that he has gathered with him as he moves on from his life on earth.
In the Gospel today, Jesus sends out His apostles to continue His work of spreading the Good News. He tells them that they need to travel light and trust that God will take care of them.
In both readings we see a transition to a new stage in God’s plan. David is handing over the reign to Solomon. Jesus is commissioning the Apostles to spread the Gospel. Also we hear the message in both accounts that those who are taking on their new roles need to trust that God will take care of them, particularly if they stay focused on what God has commanded of them.
What is important is being faithful to the will of God. I am reminded of three seminarians who were going to spend their summer doing parish work in a parish far from their home. They had filled their car with their possessions: stereos (boom boxes), radios, sports equipment, clothes, extra food, etc. There was no room left in their car except for the three of them. Before they left on their summer experience, they went to church and they heard the words of today’s Gospel (or one of its parallels in the synoptic Gospels): “Take nothing on the journey but a walking stick – no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in the purses in your belts.” They began to laugh at themselves and their vehicle packed with their belongings.
Is there any activity, feeling, or possession which is burdened me down and preventing me from following the Lord Jesus more fully? What can I do to let go of that excessive baggage and lighten my load so that I can do what GOD is asking of me? How can I be of positive assistance to others who need assistance in lightening their loads?
Wednesday, 31st January 2018,
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
(Saint John Bosco, Priest)
First reading : 2 Samuel 24:2,8-17
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 31:1-2,5-7
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
THE ORDINARY MAKES US READY FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY !
The people who knew Jesus from His youth were suddenly astonished at His wisdom and mighty deeds. They were amazed at all He said and did. They were familiar with Him as He grew up, knew His parents and other relatives, and as a result had a hard time understanding how this neighbor of theirs was suddenly so impressive in His words and deeds. Jesus apparently lived a hidden life. It’s clear that the people of His own town were unaware of the fact that He was someone special. This is clear because once Jesus began His public ministry of preaching and performing mighty deeds, the people of His own town were confused and even astonished. They never expected all of “this” from Jesus of Nazareth.
What can we take from this insight? First, it reveals that, at times, God’s will for us is to live a very “normal” and ordinary life. It’s easy to think that we should be doing “great” things for God. But the great things He calls us to are at times simply living normal daily life well. There is no doubt that during Jesus’ hidden life He lived a life of perfect virtue. But many in His own town did not recognize this virtue. It was not yet the will of the Father that His virtue be made manifest for all to see. Secondly, we see that there was indeed a time when His mission changed. The will of the Father, at one moment in His life, was that He suddenly be cast into the public eye. And when this happened, people noticed.
These same realities are true for us. Most are called to live day in and day out in a somewhat hidden way. Know that these are the moments when you are called to grow in virtue, do small hidden things well, and enjoy the quiet rhythm of ordinary living. But we should also be aware of the possibility that God may, from time to time, call us to step out of our comfort zone and act in a more public way. The key is to be ready and attentive to His will and plan for you. Be ready and willing to let Him use you in a new way if it be His divine will.
Let us reflect upon the will of God for our life right now. What is it He wants of us? Is He calling us out of our comfort zone to live a more public life? Or is He calling us, at this time, to live a more hidden life while we grow in virtue. Be grateful for whatever His will is and embrace it with your whole heart.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your perfect plan for my life. I thank You for the many ways that call me to serve You. Help me to always be open to Your will and to daily say “Yes” to You no matter what You ask. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Tuesday, 30th January 2018,
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 2 Samuel 18:9-10,14,24-25,30-19:3
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:1-6
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
EXTRA ORDINARY FAITH!
In the Gospel, we see a woman who had suffered greatly for twelve years with hemorrhages. She sought out many doctors and had spent all she had in an attempt to be healed. Sadly, nothing worked. It’s possible that God permitted her suffering to continue all those years so that she would be given this particular opportunity to manifest her faith for all to see.
“If I but touch his clothes…” How would she have known that she would be healed? What was it that led her to believe this with such clarity and conviction? Why, after spending twelve years working with every doctor, she could come to suddenly realize that all she needed to do is to touch Jesus’ clothes in order to be healed? The answer is simple. Because she was given the gift of faith.
This illustration of her faith reveals that faith is a supernatural knowledge of something that only God can reveal. In other words, she knew she would be healed, and her knowledge of this healing came to her as a gift imparted by God. Once imparted, she had to act on this knowledge and, in so doing, she gave a wonderful witness to all who would read her story. Her life, and in particular, this experience, should challenge us all to realize that God also speaks profound truths to us, if we only listen. He is constantly speaking and revealing the depth of His love to us, calling us to enter into a life of manifest faith. He wants our own faith to not only be the foundation of our lives, but also to be a powerful witness to others.
The woman knew God would heal her because she allowed herself to hear Him speak. Let us reflect upon our own interior attentiveness to the voice of God and try to be open to the same depth of faith witnessed by this holy woman.
Prayer: Lord, I love You and I desire to know You and to hear You speak to me each and every day. Please increase my faith so that I may know You and Your will for my life. Please use me as You wish to be a witness of faith for others. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Monday, 29th January 2018.
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 2 Samuel 15:13-14,30,16:5-13
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 3:2-8
Gospel: Mark 5:1-20
TRANSFORMATION THROUGH JESUS!
A young man, who lived out among the tombs, was fully possessed by many demons. The demons identify themselves as “Legion” stating that there are many of them. It’s clear from the story that this man is wild, out of his mind, and fully under the control of these demons. As the story goes on, Jesus addresses the demons, rebukes them, and casts them out, sending them into a herd of swine. The swine go running down a slope and drown in the lake. Afterwards, the man is totally transformed as he sits there conversing with others.
One interesting thing to note in this story is that, when the townspeople came out and saw this man sitting there “in his right mind,” they are shocked and are “seized with fear.” They do not know what to think about this situation. The townspeople had written him off. They gave up on him and most likely wanted nothing to do with him. They were afraid of him. But when they see this man completely transformed, sitting there looking normal and rational, the people don’t know what to think. They are shocked. And their shock takes on a form of fear in that they are afraid of what they do not understand. This reveals that, if we fail to understand the power of God, we will actually find ourselves fearful of His power when confronted by it. The townspeople should have been filled with great joy and excitement at the total transformation of this man. However, instead of great joy and excitement, they were fearful. They were fearful because they did not understand God’s almighty power.
God desires to do great things and to bring total transformation to your life. He desires to cast out the evil one lurking within our world, bringing instead His mercy and peace. As we reflect upon God’s power, let us allow ourselves to more clearly understand Him, and to more fully ready to rejoice in His good works.
Sunday 28th January 2018,
Fourth Week in the Ordinary Time
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28
Moses tells the people that God will raise up for them a new prophet.
A song of praise to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Paul expresses his concern that those who are married are more likely to face the distractions of earthly life than those who are celibate.
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.
Today’s Gospel continues our reading from Mark and describes what some believe was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus and the disciples that chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark reports that the people respond to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment, noting Jesus’ authority and contrasting it with the scribes’. Early in Mark’s Gospel we already find evidence of the tension that will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem.
After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.
In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Our modern understanding of illness is very different. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine. Jesus appears to be like these healers, but he heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching.
We are missing the point that Mark is trying to make in this Gospel, however, if we try to explain away the healing work of Jesus. The crowds see in Jesus’ cure of the possessed man further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching. Jesus impresses the crowds through his words, which are manifested with power in his deeds. Mark’s Gospel tells us that because of the authority with which he healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee.
Saturday, 27th January 2017,
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
Reading: II Samuel 12:1-7,10-17
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Is today’s lesson not to wake Jesus? The miracle in today’s Gospel passage seems to be Jesus rebuking the wind and sea, resulting in “great calm”. However, it’s not only the wind and sea that Jesus rebukes. Perhaps more important is Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples.
Jesus chooses not to calm the disturbance in His disciples’ souls in the same manner that He calms the sea and wind. But He does challenge them: “Do you not yet have faith?” His rebuke of the elements and of His disciples seems to have a meritorious effect on them. “They were filled with awe” at His power over the elements. But is this the faith He demanded of them?
It’s only natural to be impressed at the power of nature, and of God’s power over nature. It’s something supernatural, however, to allow God to have power over oneself. This is the sort of faith Jesus is asking for from His disciples. Faith is a gift freely given, but it’s also a gift that must be freely accepted. Jesus will not calm our souls without our consent, or rather, our faith in His power to do so. The disciples marvel at Jesus as one “whom even wind and sea obey”. Even more marvelous, however, is a disciple who obeys Jesus as His Lord.
Friday 26th January 2018,
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, Bishops
First reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-8
Alternative First reading: Titus 1:1-5
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 95:1-3,7-8,10
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
MESSENGERS OF PEACE
Today, we look at our ancestors in faith and how they put the gospel into practice after the Resurrection of Jesus. These men and women are the second generation: disciples of disciples and were often sent out two by two to preach by their very presence. The way of visiting and travelling show that the kingdom of justice and peace was indeed already alive in the world.
In the passage from the Letter to Timothy, Paul expresses his deep affection for Timothy, his companion on many missions, and a strong desire to see him. He thanks God for Timothy’s faith which he owes to his Jewish mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. At the same time, he reminds Timothy of the gift he received when Paul laid his hands on him. That gift, says Paul, was not one of timidity but one of power, love and self-control bringing with it the courage of witnessing to the Gospel even when, as in Paul’s case, it involved persecution and suffering. In the alternative reading from the Letter to Titus, Paul reminds his fellow-missionary of the duties of an apostolic person. It is “to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion”.
The Gospel reading speaks of the instructions that Jesus gives to 72 disciples as he sends them out on a mission to do the same work that he himself is doing. His opening words are as true now as they were in the days of Timothy and Titus: “The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.” Their message was to be one of healing. Not just physical healing but healing of all kinds, a making whole of people’s lives and of relationships. In doing this, they were bringing the Reign of God into the places where they visited. For it is love and peace and an ability to live together in mutual care and support that are the marks of God’s Reign in our lives. This was what Timothy and Titus devoted their lives to doing. We – whatever our status in the Christian community – are called on to do exactly the same.
Prayer: Lord, May I become a brave messenger of your peace and healing. May I learn to trust in your providence and live a life submitting myself to your mission. Jesus I trust in You. Amen.
Thursday, 25th January 2018,
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
First reading: Acts 22:3-16
Alternative First reading: Acts 9:1-22
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 116:1-2
Gospel: Mark 16:15-18
The story of Paul is a personal encounter with Jesus. It has captivated many people. Once he encountered Jesus, he needed nothing else. No task was too hard and no trial too trying for him. The Gospel reading is from the end of Mark’s gospel. Today’s reading includes instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples before leaving them for the last time. They are words which apply very much to Paul. They begin with the instructions to proclaim the Good News to the whole of creation. This is exactly what Paul was doing as he reached out to Gentile communities all the way from what is now modern Turkey, through Greece and Macedonia and on to Rome.“The one who believes and is baptised will be saved.” Paul was second to none in his belief in Christ. He would be able to say later on, “I live, no, it is not I, but Christ lives in me.” An expression of total union with his Lord.
Conversion is not something that only happens once in a lifetime. It is something that can happen to us several times in the course of our life. Let us be ready to answer whenever the Lord calls us to something greater. We too are called to open the eyes of our heart. We are called to recognise our blindness to the call of Jesus, and prepare for a worthy repentance. For Jesus, wants to send us out into the whole world to preach the Good news of forgiveness and continue the work that Jesus has begun in the world.
Prayer: Lord, May I accept like Paul, your call to have a personal encounter with you. May I welcome your call with an open heart. May I continue to walk the path of your calling all the days of my life. Jesus I trust in You. Amen.
Wednesday, 24th January 2018,
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
Reading: II Samuel 7:4-17
Gospel Mark: 4:1-20
“But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit….”
Given that Saint Mark’s Gospel account—the shortest of the four—focuses more on Jesus’ actions than His preaching, we ought to take special note of the preaching that Mark does choose for inclusion in his Gospel account. We might consider the parables Mark includes as a “best of…” list.
Today’s Gospel passage has three parts. The first and the last are Jesus’ proclamation of a parable, and the parable’s explanation. In between, Jesus briefly explains His general purpose in preaching through parables. Most of the fourth chapter of Mark consists of parables, and today’s Gospel passage consists of the first twenty verses of Mark 4, so today’s parable is of primary importance.
The Parable of the Sower, Mark’s telling of which is a mere six verses, has inspired dissertations hundreds of pages long. Like the mustard seed (to allude to a different parable), its size belies its potential. To choose one simple facet of today’s parable: who is the sower? There are at least two answers. The parable can be thought of in terms of the sower being either God the Father, or you as an individual. Here consider the former scenario.
The sower is God the Father. He sows His Word (God the Son) prodigally. What seems like foolishness or imprudence in His manner of sowing is in fact a measure of His love’s depth. He offers His Word even to those of us whose souls are rocky or otherwise inhospitable. The challenge here is for each individual to till the soil of the soul, or otherwise clear and tend it as needed to allow the word to take root there.
Tuesday, 23rd January 2018,
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-15,17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:7-10
Gospel: Mark 3:31-35
FAMILY OF GOD!
Jesus said many shocking things throughout His public ministry. In today’s Gospel there was a sort of hush that came over the crowd when Jesus spoke about his family. Many who listened most likely thought Jesus was being rude to His mother and relatives. But was He? Is this how His Blessed Mother took it? Certainly not.
What this highlights is that His Blessed Mother, above all, is His mother primarily because of her obedience to God’s will. Her blood relationship was significant. But she was even more His mother because she fulfilled the requirement of perfect obedience to the will of God. Therefore, by her perfect obedience to God she was perfectly the mother of her Son.
Many a times Jesus message was misunderstood. Why is that the case? Because Jesus knew how His message is communicated and best received. He knows that His message can only be received by those who listen with an open heart and with faith. And He knows that those who have an open heart in faith will understand, or at least ponder what He said until the message sinks in. The message of Jesus cannot be argued and defended in the same way as some philosophical maxim can be. Mary listened to those words of Jesus with her perfect faith she understood and was filled with joy. It was her perfect “Yes” to God that enabled her to understand all that Jesus said. Consequently, this enabled Mary to claim the holy title of “Mother” far more than her blood relation. Her blood relation is no doubt greatly significant, but her spiritual bond is so much more.
We too are called to be a member of the intimate family of Jesus. We are called into His family through your obedience to His holy will. We are called to be attentive, listen, understand and then act on all that He speaks. Let us say “Yes” to our Lord, this day, and allow that “Yes” to be the foundation of your familial relationship with Him.
Prayer: Lord, help me to always listen with an open heart. Help me to reflect upon Your words with faith. In this act of faith, allow me to grow deeper in my bond with Youas I enter Your divine family. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen
Monday, 22nd January 2018.
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
Day of Prayer for legal protection of Unborn Children
First reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-7,10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 88:20-22,25-26
Gospel: Mark 3:22-30
TURNING FROM SIN
Today’s Gospel passage reveals to us that there is a particular sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit that will not be forgiven. What is this sin? Why would it not be forgiven? Traditionally, this sin has been seen as a sin of final impenitence, or presumption. It’s the situation where someone sins gravely and then either fails to have any sorrow for that sin or simply presumes on God’s mercy without truly repenting. Either way, this lack of sorrow closes the door to God’s mercy. Of course it must also be said that whenever a person’s heart is changed, and he/she grows in sincere sorrow for sin, God is there to immediately welcome that person back with open arms. God would never turn away from someone who humbly returns to Him with a contrite heart.
Let us reflect upon the abundant mercy of God, and also reflect upon our own duty to foster true sorrow for sin. Let us do our part, and God will lavish His mercy and forgiveness upon us. There is no sin too great when we have hearts that are humble and contrite.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner. I do acknowledge my sin and I am sorry for it. Help me, dear Lord, to continually foster within my heart a greater sorrow for sin and a deeper trust in Your divine mercy. I thank You for Your perfect and unfailing love for me and for all. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Sunday, 21st January 2018.
Third Week in the Ordinary Time
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5,10
God spared the people of Nineveh because they heeded the message God sent through Jonah.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
The Lord teaches us his ways.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Paul warns the Corinthians that they must act differently because the world in its present form is passing away.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:14-20
Jesus calls the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be his disciples.
Saturday, 20th January 2018,
Second Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 2 Samuel 1:1-4,11-12,17,19,23-27
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 79:2-3,5-7
CRITICISM FOR FOLLOWING JESUS!
Jesus is very Wisdom of God and is God. Everything He said and did reveals the perfect love of the Most Holy Trinity. Some people listened to Him attentively with faith and glorious astonishment at His words and actions. They could see His divinity shine through and knew He was the Son of God, the Savior of the World. But there were others, even some who were His own relatives, thought He was “Out of His mind!”
If this was said of Jesus in His perfection, so it also will be said of us if we follow in His ways. Following Jesus and fulfilling His divine will in our lives will not always be accepted by others. There are many things we are called to say and do by the Gospel that will invite the criticism of others. When this happens, we should not be astonished, hurt or scandalized. We should not become angry or resentful. Rather, we should see ourselves as following in the very footsteps of Christ. We should recall His own false judgments and not allow what we experience from others to deter us from following the will of God.
Prayer: Lord, I know that You were misunderstood and even criticized by others. You were misrepresented and judged even by those close to You. Help me to always accept unjust persecution and judgment in life as I seek to follow Your holy and divine will. Help me to seek You and Your will in all things despite any erroneous opinions of others. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Friday, 19th January2018,
Second Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Samuel 24:3-21
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 56:2-4,6,11
Gospel: Mark 3:13-19
GOING UP THE MOUNTAIN
Today Jesus calls to himself those he wanted to build a community. He appoints twelve, that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. He invites them into a special relationship with Himself so that He might send them forth, to make a difference in this world. One significant aspect is that Jesus summoned the Apostles “up the mountain.”This particular action displays great symbolic value. The commission of the Apostles to preach and to cast out demons only took place after they went up the mountain at Jesus’ invitation. Why did He do this only after calling His Apostles up a mountain?
A mountain is a symbol of our journey toward God. It’s an indication that we are to go up toward Him. And it reveals that we are only equipped to go forth and fulfill God’s will after we have first gone up to meet Him. The “mountain” we are called to go up is first and foremost prayer. We are to daily go up to meet our Lord, seeking Him through a life of deep surrender. Jesus calls us to Himself where He waits for us so as to be alone with Him basking in His glorious presence. Unless we go up that mountain with our Lord, we will be ill-equipped to fulfill His divine commission. We will be insufficiently prepared to bring His love and mercy to a world in need. Jesus offers you to follow Him up the mountain of prayer. Respond to that invitation so that you can then be sent forth by Him to fulfill His divine command of love.
Prayer: Lord, I do accept Your gentle invitation to go up the mountain of faith and prayer. I desire to seek You out and to be with You. As I meet You in prayer, give me the grace I need to then go forth and fulfill Your divine will. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Thursday, 18th January 2018,
Second Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Samuel 18:6-9,19:1-7
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 55:2-3,9-14
Gospel: Mark 3:7-12
ON A JOURNEY TO ENCOUNTER JESUS
Today’s gospel passage tells of the enthusiastic reception accorded to Jesus. We see people travelling a long distance seeking Jesus. They had just heard about him and the things he was doing. This moved the people to walk a long distance and approach him with great faith. People are converging on him as the center of attraction. It was a pilgrimage in faith to these people. Pilgrims travel either seeking divine experience or to strengthen the experience they had before. The journey is enkindled by faith, zeal and expectation. For them, the hurdles on the way are not barriers to reach the person whom they desire to encounter. The people in today’s gospel who travelled a long distance to see and listen to Jesus are an inspiration for us. Are we ready to walk an extra mile seeking Jesus?
If we decide to do so then we have to:
Wake up: We have to rise from our spiritual slumber. We cannot continue as sleep walkers. Because pilgrimage is a journey of those who are fully aware of their movement.
Give up: As we begin our spiritual pilgrimage to experience Jesus, we have to give up unnecessary luggage of the mind which might pull us back on the way.
Look up: As we continue on our journey when we are tempted to return let us look up to those people who have been successful in their pilgrimage.
Build up: Every step towards Jesus is an occasion to build up our relationship with him and with others. In this journey we do not walk alone, but we walk along with others.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for giving me the grace to encounter you. Lord, I thank You for your eternal sacrifice You offer for me. May I wake up from my slumber. May I give up all that is not You or not for You. May I look up to You alone. And may I build up my relationship with You. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Wednesday, 17th January 2017,
Second Week in the Ordinary Time
(Saint Antony, Abbot)
First reading : 1 Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51
Responsorial Psalm : Psalm 143:1-2,9-10
Gospel: Mark 3:1-6
SIN CLOUDS OUR LIFE
It didn’t take long for the Pharisees to allow envy to cloud their thinking about Jesus. The Pharisees wanted to be looked up to and honored as the authentic teachers of the law. So when Jesus showed up, and many were astounded by the authority with which He taught, the Pharisees immediately began to criticize Him. The sad reality we witness in their actions is that they appear to be blind; envy fills them keeps them from realizing that they are actually acting with extreme irrationality. Sin confuses us, especially spiritual sin such as pride, envy and anger. Therefore, when someone becomes consumed with one of these sins, that person most likely does not even realize how irrational he becomes.
Jesus is put in a situation where He chooses to heal someone on the Sabbath. This is an act of mercy. It is done out of love for this man to relieve him of his suffering. Though this is an incredible miracle, the disturbed minds of the Pharisees look only for a way to twist this act of mercy into something sinful. We all struggle, to one extent or another, with sins like this. We all struggle with letting envy and anger sneak in and distort the way we relate to others. Then, too often we justify our actions just as the Pharisees did. Let us reflect on our lives and then ask Jesus to heal and sanctify them.
Also as we begin the Christian Unity Octave, let us not be prejudiced to our other Christian brothers (Protestant, Orthodox, etc.,) who are not in full ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church. Let us be people working and praying for the Christian unity and ecclesial communion.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please do forgive me for all my sins. I am sorry and I pray that I will be able to see all that clouds my thinking and acting. Free me and help me to love You and others with the pure love I am called to have. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Tuesday, 16th January 2018,
Second Week in the Ordinary Time
First reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 88:20-22,27-28
Gospel: Mark 2:23-28
JESUS AND THE SABBATH!
Today Jesus and his disciples along with a few Pharisees were walking on a Sabbath. The disciples must have been so captivated with the teaching of Jesus, that they must have forgotten about the law of fasting and plucked a few ears of corn to relieve their hunger. They continued to enjoy the presence of Jesus, without any guilt. But the Pharisees made the claim that by picking the heads of grain, the disciples were breaking the Sabbath law.
Jesus’ final statement about this sets the record straight.“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” In other words, the whole point of the Sabbath Day was not to impose a scrupulous burden upon us; rather, it was to free us to rest and worship. The Sabbath is a gift from God to us. Sunday is the new Sabbath and it’s a day of rest and worship, an invitation to the life of grace.
Let us reflect, today, upon the way we celebrate the Lord’s Day. Do we see the call to worship and rest as an invitation from God to be renewed and refreshed by His grace? Or do you see it only as a duty that has to be fulfilled. Right attitude to this day will bring a whole new meaning for it in our lives.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for establishing the New Sabbath as a day to rest and worship You. Help me to live every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation in the way You desire. Help me to see these days as a gift from You to worship and to be renewed. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen