To hear the Audio Reflections of Wednesday, December 13, 2017 click HERE
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - Are you carrying the burden of unforgiveness, guilt, resentment, jealousy, or anger in your heart? Will you lay down that burden on Jesus’ shoulders today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30
The verses that make up the text of today are exclusive to Matthew. They are an invitation from Jesus to all those who are burdened. The burden referred to here is most likely the burden of religious obligation. This often became an obstacle in one’s path to God. While “yoke” generally meant obedience or even servitude, here the yoke is Jesus’ own yoke. Thus, this is not the yoke of the law; rather, it is the yoke that will deliver one from the artificial burdens of human religion.
The “easy yoke” of Jesus is not an invitation to a life of ease but to a life of freedom. This is why it is important to “learn” from Jesus as a disciple learns from his/her teacher. This learning is not imitation but is learning from the revelation of God made visible in Jesus. When one recognizes who God really is, after learning from Jesus, one realizes that God is indeed a God who desires that all men and women be free and serve him only in freedom rather than from any external compulsion.
Jesus invites anyone who wishes to come to him to do so. No one is excluded. What are required are openness and a desire to see a new revelation of God. It is a revelation that only Jesus is competent to make because he alone knows the Father, as father, and reveals him as such. This revelation is of a God who will not burden people with sets of rules and regulations. It is a revelation of a God who is unconditional love and who can be recognized only when love abounds.
Monday, 11 December 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14
The Gospel text of today is taken from the fourth discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, known as “The Community Discourse”. It is addressed primarily to members of Matthew’s community and not to outsiders.
The parable of the lost sheep is found also in the Gospel of Luke. The context in Luke, however, is quite different from that in Matthew. While in Luke, it is told as a response to the murmurings of the Pharisees because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew, it is part of the Community Discourse.
Thus, the concern in these verses in Matthew is clearly for members of the community who stray. The point is pastoral care and sanctification rather than evangelism and justification. The sheep that is lost is not more valuable than others, but has strayed and needs to be brought back. The finding and the return of the lost sheep cause joy. Every individual in the community is important and it is the responsibility of the community to seek out those who stray and bring them back into the fold. Mature disciples are to live their lives with the spiritual welfare of others in view. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. Every Christian is a Christian within community.
In a world in which individualism seems to be the order of the day, and when each is concerned only about him/herself, the parable of the lost sheep comes as a breath of fresh air. It challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and our selfish ways of living and live instead, lives that are other centered. It informs us that we are, each of us, our brother’s and sister’s keepers; each of us must accept responsibility for them. We are not individuals but one community that must be a community of concern for the other and a community showing this concern by reaching out in love.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017 - Can you be described as a person who perseveres? Do you easily give up or give in? Will you have the courage not to give up at all today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26
The healing of the paralytic, which is the text of today, introduces a series of four controversy stories. The religious authorities, the Pharisees and scribes, are introduced for the first time in the Gospel of Luke. The general resistance Jesus met in Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry now becomes much more focused, and a specific charge is considered: blasphemy. The story weaves together, even more closely than earlier scenes, the twin themes of the power of Jesus: the power of his words and his power to heal. For the first time, faith and forgiveness of sins are introduced.
Luke has very likely taken this story from Mark 2:1-12. Yet, he makes significant changes in his own narration which bring out the points that he wants to make. These changes are obvious in his introduction and in his conclusion. Unlike in Mark, where the crowd presses around Jesus, in Luke, it is the Pharisees and teachers of the law who are around Jesus. At this stage, it is not clear whether they are there to investigate Jesus or to listen to his teaching. The faith of the men carrying the paralytic is seen in their determination to not let the crowd be an obstacle to his encountering Jesus. Since Luke has spoken of Jesus’ power to heal, in the introductory verse, it would seem that Jesus would heal the man instantly. However, instead of healing, Jesus pronounces a forgiveness of the man’s sins. This pronouncement leads to an objection on the part of the scribes and Pharisees. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. Jesus rises to the challenge by demonstrating, through the healing of the paralytic, that he did indeed have the authority to forgive sins. In Luke, both the paralytic and the crowds glorify or praise God.
Many significant points are made by this story. The first is that Jesus, who forgives, is also who heals. Faith is shown here not so much as a verbal proclamation or an intellectual assent to a truth, but in action. The action is both confident and determined. It believes and perseveres. Jesus is shown here, not only as the one who frees us from an ailment, but the one who effects a total healing with his word of healing. It is wholeness that is at the root of what Jesus came to do.
There are times in our lives when we give up too easily. We lack perseverance when we do not get what we pray or ask for. Sometimes this lack of perseverance leads to frustration and despair. We lose faith, we stop believing, we become negative and depressed. We are called through this pronouncement story to continue to believe, even in our darkest hour. We are called upon to persevere, even at those times when the road is only uphill. We are called upon to never give up, to never give in.
Saturday, 9 December 2017
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 40:1-5,9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15; Mk 1:1-8
Our God is coming. He is coming to save and redeem. The time of exile – the long separation of humankind from God, from one another and from nature because of sin – is about to end. This is the good news proclaimed in today’s liturgy.
The second Book of Isaiah begins at Chapter 40 and is known as the Book of Consolation. It was written at a time when Israel was still in exile in Babylon. Isaiah is speaking to a captive people. Israel’s Babylonian captors were conquered themselves by Cyrus and Persia. Cyrus celebrated his victory by releasing the peoples who had been conquered by the Babylonians. So when Isaiah spoke of comfort and the glory of the Lord being revealed, the captives celebrating their release could readily imagine a return to the better days of their history when God had felt closer. God had indeed come not to scatter but to gather, as a shepherd gathers his sheep. Isaiah saw Cyrus as God’s instrument to release his people from captivity and allow them their freedom.
The Psalmist, like Isaiah, celebrates God’s initiative in redeeming his people and proclaiming peace upon them. He is confident that God’s initiative will result in the whole of creation bringing forth plenty.
This, however, was seen by the first Christian community as only one of many acts in a long line of saving acts that would culminate and find its fulfillment in the decisive act of sending his only Son. The Gospel of Mark begins by announcing this fact in the first verse itself. Mark’s Gospel is a Gospel not only about Jesus Christ, the Son of God but also Jesus’ Gospel or good news. This good news is that in him God will save all peoples everywhere. This salvation will be not merely from the physical bondage of being oppressed by foreigners in a foreign land but will touch every aspect of life. It will be a kind of salvation never experienced before.
In order to prepare for this salvation, John the Baptist comes into the wilderness and begins his proclamation like Isaiah had done centuries before. In the Bible the desert or wilderness means a place of encounter with God. It was in the desert that the people of Israel met God and learnt the ways of God. There they became God’s own people and the Lord became their God. Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, spent forty days and nights in the desert or wilderness. It was a time of discovering and deepening his personal relationship with God. By calling the people into the wilderness desert), John was calling them to let go of their false hopes and securities and learn to hope and trust in God alone.
Isaiah and John did their task. They did what they were required to do. They have completed the mission entrusted to them. They prepared the way of the Lord, they made his paths straight.
The disciples of Jesus continued the mission of preparing the way of the Lord, as is evident in the second reading of today in which Peter exhorts his readers to continue to prepare for the coming of the Lord. They must not be discouraged at the delay in the coming of the Lord. This delay is simply to give his people time to repent. As they look forward to the coming of the Lord it must not be a looking forward with fear or anxiety, because creation will be transformed in a ‘new heaven and new earth’, in which all the things that are held dear will be filled with the righteousness, or incomparable goodness, of God’s ways. The Lord is patient and understanding and wants all to be saved.
These images of hope, promise, and renewal remind us that human obedience, walking in the way of the Law, is a proper response to God’s grace. We do not build the highway and then wait for God to come. God has already drawn near to us before we repent. Our repentance is not a condition but a consequence of God’s drawing near to us. The readings make it clear that we are preparing for no less than the coming of God’s son yet again into our world and our lives. During this Advent season, we need to repent that we humans have not responded to God’s offer, as we should. Therefore peace, justice and security remain illusive. Dishonesty, corruption and greed still beset us. This is why we care called to make the kingdom that he inaugurated a reality even today. That is what we prepare for and work for, today, and every day, here, and wherever we are.
Yet God continues to come into such a world much like he came two thousand years ago. He continues to challenge us to remain as positive as we can be. He continues to call us to selflessness, generosity, honesty and love even amidst the negative of this life. He was not recognized by most of the people when he first came, will we recognize him when he comes now?
Friday, 8 December 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017 - Will you speak an enhancing word today? Will you perform a healing action today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35-10: 1, 6-8
The text of today begins with what is known as a Summary statement. It states succinctly the ministry of Jesus which is both word and action. It forms an inclusion with a similar summary in 4:23 and thus brackets what comes between, namely the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7) and the Miracle Cycle (Chapters 8-9). Through this Summary, Jesus is portrayed as Messiah in words and deeds. This Summary statement and Jesus’ observation of the crowd, who appear to him as harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd, serves also as an Introduction to the Mission Discourse in Matthew (10:1-42) which is the second Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. By placing this Introduction at the beginning of the Mission Discourse, Matthew succeeds in conveying that the Mission of the Disciples is at one with, is continuous with, the Mission of Jesus. Like Jesus, they, too, are called to say and do. They, too, are called to word and action. They, too, are called, like Jesus, to make the Kingdom that they proclaim a tangible reality.
The disciples’ mission is not voluntary activity initiated by them; rather, they are chosen, authorized, and sent by God through Christ. It is his authority with which they are sent. They are to speak and act in Jesus’ name. The content of their missionary proclamation is that the kingdom of heaven has indeed come. This is a kingdom that is not theoretical but extremely practical and down-to-earth. This is why the verbal proclamation has to be accompanied by action. The actions they perform are actions of healing, of making whole. Since the kingdom of heaven is given by God freely and gratuitously, their proclamation and actions must also be done freely and without charge. God’s kingdom cannot be purchased and need not be purchased, since it is God’s free gift.
The mission that Jesus inaugurated continues even today. It is, even now, a mission that must consist of both word and action. The word that is spoken must be a word that enhances and builds up. The action that is performed must be an action that heals and makes whole.