Thursday, 31 January 2013
Do you more often than not focus on the present or the future? Do you focus on the now or on the later?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:32-39; Mk 4:26-34
The text of today contains two parables. The first of these (4:26-29) is known as the Parable of the seed growing secretly, and is found only in the Gospel of Mark. The second (4:30-32), known as the Parable of the Mustard seed is also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the first parable the point that is being made is that the one who scatters the seed only does so and then goes about his routine, not worried about the outcome of his effort. The seed continues to grow, simply because he has first scattered it. He knows that by worrying the seed will not grow faster, and so he lets it be.
In the Parable of the Mustard seed, the point that is made is that from little, there will be much. Small beginnings have great endings. The parable is a call to begin what one has to do without worrying about how small or big the outcome will be. The growth is sure and definite.
When Mark says in 4:33 that Jesus did not speak to the people without a parable, he is in effect saying that there was a parabolic character about all of Jesus’ teaching. This means that all of Jesus’ teaching involved the listener and it was the listener who supplied the lesson to the teaching and not Jesus. This indicates a freedom of choice that every listener was given at the time of Jesus. They were the ones to decide for or against. Jesus would never force them to accept his point of view.
It is sometimes the case that we spend much of our time worrying about the outcome of our actions even before we can do them. This attitude does not allow us to be in the present moment and so the action that we do is not done to the best of our ability. We do not put ourselves fully into the action that we do. At other times, we do not act at all but only worry. While the first of today’s parable is calling us to act and then relax rather than worry, the second is assuring us that our actions will indeed bear fruit.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:19-25; Mk 4:21-25
The text of today follows immediately after the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower and the seed and contains two similes: that of the lamp and the measure. In Mark they seem to be connected with the response that a person makes to the Word spoken by Jesus. This Word is not an esoteric or secret Word. It is a Word that is to be make known, to be revealed, like a lamp is to be on a lamp stand. If one is open and receptive to this Word (the Measure of one’s openness) one will receive from God not only the ability to understand it but also to assimilate it.
Sometimes our closed attitudes and minds and our reluctance to accept change and newness may result in our missing out on all the revelations of the glory of God taking place around us. If we only open the eyes of our heart to see and the ears of our hearts to hear, we will be able to find God in all things and all things in him.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10:11-18; Mk 4:1-20
The text of today is taken from what is known as The Parable Discourse in the Gospel of Mark. The text contains an introduction to the Discourse (4:1-2), the parable of the Sower (4:3-9), a saying on the kingdom and its secret (4:10-12) and the interpretation of the parable (4:13-20). It is important that while it is likely that Jesus uttered the parable, in all probability the interpretation is the work of the early church. This is why; the interpretation of these texts must be done separately.
The parable of the Sower seems to point out that of the four types of soil in which the seed falls, it is LOST in three types and bears fruit in only one type. This indicates that while three quarters of the effort are lost, only a quarter is gain. However, the focus of the parable is not on the loss but on the gain, which even that one-quarter brings. The Parable is pointing out to the fact that this is how life often is. Three quarters of our efforts seem to be wasted and it is possible that when this happens we may give in to despair. However, we are called to focus not on this but on the enormous gain that the one-quarter of our effort will indeed bring.
We may tend to lose heart when we see that most of our efforts do not seem to be bearing fruit. At times like these, the Parable of the Sower offers hope that even though much of our effort may seem to be lost, the gain that will arise from it will be enormous. It invites us not to ever lose heart but to keep on doing our part and leave the rest to God. It is calling us to sow and rest confident in the hope that God will make it grow.
Monday, 28 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 10;1-10; Mk 3:31-35
The text of today forms the second part of the “sandwich” construction that Mark has used here. He introduced the family of Jesus in 3:20-21, interrupted this with the text on the Beelzebul controversy (3:22-30) and returns to the family of Jesus is today’s text 3:31-35. By using such a structure, Mark indicates that the family of Jesus are also hostile to Jesus. Also, Mark places them “outside” while Jesus is “inside” the house. This too indicates that they are not disciples. Jesus then defines family in terms of those who do the will of God. Some also think that by not mentioning the father of Jesus, Mark wants to assert that for Jesus and his disciples, only God is Father.
We may imagine that because we have been baptised are bear the name Christian we are automatically counted as members of Jesus’ family. However, baptism alone will not make us members of Jesus’ family, but the living out of the baptismal promises in our lives. This means that we must each do what we are called to do, namely our best at every given moment.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
Is your general attitude to life positive or negative? Will you make an attempt to interpret every incident positively today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 9:15,22-28; Mk 3:22-30
The text of today is known as the Beelzebul controversy. Scribes who come from Jerusalem accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus refutes their claim by showing how absurd it would be for Satan to cast himself out. The strong man whom Jesus talks about is Satan and the one who binds up the strong man is Jesus himself. Rather than accuse Jesus, the scribes must be able to see that with the coming of Jesus the reign of Satan is at an end.
The sin, which cannot be forgiven, is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Since there is the danger of looking at this sin as a specific sin, Mark clarifies that the reason why Jesus says this is because they accused him of having an unclean spirit. This means that the sin spoken of here is an attitude rather than a specific sin. It refers to the attitude of being closed to the revelation that God is making of himself in Jesus. It is an attitude of closing one’s eyes and refusing to see.
Today the sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse to believe that the Spirit can transform me. Practically this means to give up even before one can begin. It means to give in or throw in the towel. It means not to give the Spirit a chance to work in our lives. It means a refusal to persevere and keep on keeping on.
Saturday, 26 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Neh 8:2-4a,5-6,8-10; 1 Cor12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4;4:14-21
The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is unique because Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who states the purpose of his writing. It seems, from what he states, that his intention is to supply an orderly account, a doctrinal truth, and an assurance about the meaning of the whole Christ event, to Theophilus - for whom he is writing. Thus, his intention is not merely historical. He will also narrate the things “that have been fulfilled” so that Theophilus may know the “truth”.
A summary of the Christ event is given in the inaugural act of Jesus when he comes to the synagogue at Nazareth and reads from the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus, in all probability, chose the passage that he would read. Even as he read from this chosen text, he made subtle changes in his reading. The chosen passage, and the changes he made, brings out what his intentions are for all those whose lives he will touch. In his reading, the Lucan Jesus omits the phrase from Isaiah “to bind up the broken hearted” and adds instead, from Isa 58:6, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”. Also, he omits, from Isa 61:2, “and the day of vengeance of our God” and ends, instead, by proclaiming the “favourable year of the Lord”.
What could be the possible reasons for the choice of this reading in his inaugural discourse? Why would he make the changes he made? One important reason for the choice seems to be the mention of the Spirit. The Spirit plays an important role in the Gospel of Luke and, right at the beginning, Luke shows that Jesus’ ministry, which he will soon begin, is empowered by the Spirit by whom Jesus was anointed at his baptism. Second, the poor are given special prominence in the Gospel of Luke, and so, the Lucan Jesus begins with an option for the poor. While the rich are not excluded, it is very clearly the poor whom will have preference. “Poor” in Luke primarily means the economically poor, but also includes here, captives, the blind, and the oppressed. In a word, Jesus has come primarily for the marginalized, the scum of society, and those who are on its fringes.
What has Jesus come to proclaim to these? What are the implications of his proclamation for us today? Jesus has come to proclaim a year of God’s favour. He has come to show, through his word and deeds, that the God he will reveal is a God whose intention is to liberate the impoverished and the oppressed and, in that respect, fulfill the ideal and social concern of the Jubilee year. Jesus has come to announce deliverance, but not a national deliverance. He has come to announce God’s promise of liberation for all the poor and oppressed, regardless of nationality, gender, or race. The radical inclusiveness of his message was not easy for all to accept. Many preferred to be exclusive. They wanted a Messiah who would fit in with the categories they had set. Thus, not only was the message of Jesus scandalous, he was himself a scandal. Since they closed their minds and hearts to his inclusive message of God’s unconditional love, they were unable to receive it.
The implications of the proclamation of Jesus for us today are, first; the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, and that we must continue to proclaim, must be a kingdom that has the poor at its very centre. The rich are not excluded because the kingdom is all inclusive. Yet, there can be no doubt that the preference must always be for the poor, the marginalized, the impoverished, and those of no consequence. Even as we work for the kingdom, we must keep in mind that others, too, are called to the same task and responsibility. Thus, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, we must remember always that we are one body made up of many parts. We must be able to accept, not only unity in diversity but unity, even in diversity. This means that the work being done by those of other religions, other faiths, and other orientations, as long as it results in furthering God’s kingdom, is good and to be commended. We must learn to work, not only for others, but with others, as well. God’s word is a word that cannot be restricted to any particular group or community. It is a word that is freely given to all who are willing to understand and to accept it. In the first reading of today, Ezra, the priest, exposes the word of God to the people and tells them to not be sad and to not weep. We, too, need to understand that the word is not a word that causes sorrow or brings tears. It is not a word that causes division or strife. Rather, it is a word that builds up because the Lord is, indeed, our strength and our hope.
Because this is the case, and even though we realize that, despite our very best efforts, the kingdom will always remain beyond our grasp, we keep striving, never giving up, never giving in. We keep as our model and inspiration the mission and person of Jesus who, even on the Cross, continued to say “Amen, Amen”.
Friday, 25 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 31:31-34; 1Tim 2:1-6; Jn 8:33-36
The verses which form the text for the Republic Day of India contain what may be seen as the fundamental lines of debate and disagreement between Jesus and the religious leaders. In these verses the succeeding verse builds up on the preceding one and thus intensifies the debate. The sayings are addressed to the people who “believed in him”. Though these act, their faith seems inadequate as is seen in their response to Jesus to come to the truth. The truth that Jesus refers to here is not an abstract principle but the presence of God in Jesus. The recognition of this truth results in a person’s being set free. The words “will make you free’ result in upsetting the listeners who protest that since they are Abraham’s descendants they are naturally free. However, they do not realize that in rejecting Jesus they are also rejecting Abraham and so are not really his descendants and consequently not free.
Since freedom is a gift, it cannot be earned or acquired through one’s antecedents. It is made visible in the actions that one performs. If one performs sinful actions, then one is a slave and so not free. Though the leaders claim to be descendants of Abraham, their actions do not correspond to their claim. They are guilty of the sinful action of trying to kill Jesus. Freedom is possible only through the Son who alone can make free because he is the Truth. In order to receive this freedom one must be able to recognize the truth of who Jesus is. This they cannot do.
Republic Day is celebrated as the day on which the Constitution of India came into force. The Constitution promises all the citizens of India liberty, equality and justice. Yet.... we have a long way to go. It is easy to point fingers at our political leaders and others and lay the blame for the situation in our country at their door. However, we are as responsible as they are and so must accept responsibility for the way things are. If each one of us does what we have to do to the best of our ability, change for the better is a given.
My prayer is that unlike those 2000 years who did not heed the voice of God spoken in Jesus, each one of us might heed that voice which still calls all of us to unconditional love.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:1-22 or 22:3-16; Mk 16:15-18
Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In that instant he saw what he could become through grace and not law. It was a revelation to him that no matter how low a person may have fallen; God’s grace could always lift him/her up. It was also a revelation of the heights of mysticism one could reach if one opened oneself to God’s unlimited and unconditional grace.
The story of Paul’s conversion is narrated twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 9 and 22) and Paul himself makes reference to it in some of his letters (Gal 1:13-14; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 15:3-8)
The conversion of Saul to Paul was the conversion and transformation of a person who lived out the letter of the law, but forgot its spirit. However, once he allowed God’s grace to enter his heart, all that mattered to him was Christ and through Christ divine, gratuitous love. From the moment of his transformation, the focus of his preaching was that salvation was FOR ALL and that no amount of merit could save, because salvation was a free gift of God.
The first reading for the Feast speaks of his conversion and the Gospel text is from the longer ending of Mark and is an apt description of Paul’s power and actions after his transformation. He did indeed proclaim the Gospel to all creation and today invites us to do the same.
His Gospel may be summarised in one sentence, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 7:25-8:6; Mk 3:7-12
Mark gives in these verses a summary account of the themes that have appeared from the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus' popularity increases and he cannot appear in public without being pressured by great multitudes seeking to he healed. Jesus' reputation has spread even to those towns where he did not go personally. The use of the term multitude here and the mention of the names of places as far as the region around Tyre and Sidon are an indication that Jesus’ authority is much greater than that of John the Baptist to whom in Mark people came from only the Judean countryside and Jerusalem (1:5). These multitudes are not necessarily disciples, and could have come to see Jesus out of curiosity or even to receive healing.
Mark once again has the command to silence, which is where Jesus commands the demons not to make him known. While some interpret this command as belonging to the rite of exorcism, others see it as Mark's desire to reject the testimony of the demons as evidence for Jesus' identity.
It is possible that we relate to God or Jesus as we would relate to the local grocer and go to him only when we need something. The text of today challenges us to review our relationship with Jesus and ask ourselves what he really means to us.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
To rad the text click on the texts: Heb 7:1-3,15-17; Mk 3:1-6
The Gospel text of today concerns a Sabbath controversy. Though Mark does not specify at the beginning of this episode who it was that was watching Jesus for a reason to accuse him, at the end of the episode they are named as Pharisees and Herodians. While Pharisees had no political authority at the time of Jesus, they were influential. Herodians were a group of wealthy people who were partisans of Herod Antipas.
It is important to note that Jesus does nothing to break the Sabbath rest, but his question is the reason for the hostility. The response to Jesus' question is silence which here may be interpreted as an indication of the hostility of his opponents and of their intention to destroy him. Anyone who truly cares about the law will agree with Jesus and rejoice that a man has been made whole again. Though the man in this case is not in any way near death, Jesus adds to the second part of his question the words "to save life or to kill?" This seems to be Mark's way of anticipating the intentions of Jesus' opponents. The point he seems to be making is that they object to someone being made whole on the Sabbath because they are concerned about the law, yet on the same Sabbath, they will not hesitate to plot the destruction of someone else. The contrast between their words and their deeds is strongly brought out.
Often in our lives there is a dichotomy between what we say and what we do. Our actions do not always match our words. There are also times when we say one thing and do another. The call of the text of today is to be as consistent as we possibly can. One way of doing this is to avoid judging others too easily. Another way would be to avoid promising what we know we will not be able to deliver and to think carefully before we speak and commit.
Monday, 21 January 2013
How often in your life have rules and regulations become more important than love? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Heb 6:10-20; Mk 2:23-28
Today’s text is a pronouncement story. In such a story, the saying of Jesus is of central importance. In this story, it appears at the end where after Jesus pronounces that it was the Sabbath (rules and regulations) that was made for the human person and not the other way around, he identifies The Son of Man as Lord even of the Sabbath.
The Gospel of Mark does not explicate what the Pharisees are complaining about. They surely could not be complaining that the disciples of Jesus were stealing because they were plucking ears of corn, since Deut. 23:25 permitted a person to pluck ears of grain when he/she went into a neighbour’s field. Luke 6:1 seems to indicate that the objection of the Pharisees was that the disciples of Jesus were rubbing the heads of grain they had plucked in their hands which could be considered as threshing and therefore work, which was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod 34:21). As he often does in his responses, Jesus takes the objectors beyond the immediate objection to a higher level. Here, he focuses not just on the question of work on the Sabbath or the incident that is questioned, but beyond: to the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is at the service of the human person and not the human person at the service of the Sabbath. In other words, human needs take precedence over any rules and regulations. This must be the primary focus.
There are times in our lives when we treat rules as ends in themselves. One reason why we do this is because we have an image of God as a policeman who will catch and punish us if we do not follow the rules, as we ought to. Another reason could be that we expect that God will be gracious to us and bless us if we are faithful in flowing the rules. It is possible that sometimes we are so focussed on following the rules that we believe God has set for us that we might lose sight of human persons whose needs we must respond to first.
Sunday, 20 January 2013
How often have your actions been motivated out of fear rather than love? Will you perform at least one action from love today?
To read the texts click here: Heb 5:1-10; Mk 2:18-22
The text of today is a controversy story, and concerns one of the three important traditions of the Jews: fasting, the other two being alms giving and prayer. The question of the people compares the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples with that of John’s disciples and the Pharisees. The latter fast whereas the disciples of Jesus do not. The law required that people fast only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Num 29:7-11), though there were other reasons why a person might fast including as a personal expression of sorrow or repentance (1 Kgs 21:27; 2 Samuel 3:35). The Pharisees were said to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12). Since the people considered Jesus as a prophet or religious teacher, they would have expected his disciples to fast as other sects did. In his response to the people, Jesus clarifies that with his coming the new age has dawned, which is an age of freedom. He does this first by using the analogy of the bridegroom, and states that those who fast at the wedding are seriously insulting the host or bridegroom. However, even though there is the element of celebration in the analogy of the bridegroom, there is also a sombre note, which speaks of the bridegroom being taken away, and seems to refer to the death of Jesus, which will be an appropriate time to fast. The unshrunk cloth and the new wine refer to this new age, whereas the old cloak and the old wine skins refer to the old age. The two are incompatible. An attempt to patch an old garment using a new or unshrunk cloth will result in a worse tear; just as to put new wine into old skins will result in a great loss. The conclusion of the saying of Jesus emphasises that the presence of Jesus brings newness and to understand him one will need to give up the old categories that one has.
If we can talk of a rule or regulation that Jesus gave his disciples, it would only be the rule of love. All the actions of Jesus’ disciples must be motivated by love. This means that one may or may not fast, but that one will always and every time only love.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
To read the texts click on the texts:
While Year A is known as the year of Matthew, since the Gospel readings during this year are taken mainly from the Gospel of Matthew, Year B is known as the Gospel of Mark, for the same reason. Year C, in which we are now, is the year of Luke. However, in all three years, the second Sunday in Ordinary time takes the reading from the Gospel of John. In year A, the text deals with the identification of Jesus by John. In year B, the text discusses the first disciples who follow Jesus and remain with him and, in this year, the text concerns the wedding feast at Cana and the turning of water into wine.
John’s placement of the story of the miracle at Cana, at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, gives it an added significance. This is so because it is the first public act Jesus performs in John’s Gospel. Thus, it serves as the inaugural event of the ministry of Jesus. It also serves as a forerunner of things to come. Numerous themes are highlighted in this miracle, like Jesus’ hour, his glory, the sign pointing to a deeper reality, and the faith of his disciples in him. All these serve to indicate how the miracle must be interpreted.
Some have interpreted the miracle as Jesus’ rejection of the waters of purification and hence, a symbol of Jesus’ rejection of Judaism. Others have interpreted it as the replacement of the old with the new. However, neither of these interpretations seems to fit the context. They seem to read into the text what is not actually there. The jars standing there are empty and so, there can be no question of rejection or replacement. They are filled with water on the instructions of Jesus and, filled “to the brim”. It is in these details that the interpretation must be sought. Therefore, two points are being made. The first is that the old vessels are filled with a wondrous new gift. The second is that this gift is not given in measure but given abundantly. With the coming of Jesus, gifts, like that of new wine, will be given in abundance.
That this is the better interpretation is confirmed by the scene of the intervention of Jesus’ mother and his response to her, in which he makes mention of his “hour”. Jesus’ response to Mary, while seemingly harsh, is not really so. It must be seen more as a form of disengagement. Jesus’ hour, the hour set by the Father, has not yet arrived. Thus, even his mother does not have claim over him and what he is to accomplish. This is determined by his Father, and by his Father alone. No human, no matter how close he/she might be to Jesus, can hasten it. Mary understands this and this is why her instruction to the stewards is “Do whatever he tells you”. Mary will leave Jesus free to act. Accordingly, Jesus acts freely at this “hour” and through this act, gives a glimpse of what he will accomplish when the hour set by the Father actually arrives. Here, he merely converts water into wine, which John refers to as a sign. It is a sign because it points to greater things that are to come. It points to a time when he will convert his body and blood into a living sacrifice of praise. He has come to bring abundance to his people; he has come to vindicate them; he has come to save them.
This is also the theme of the first reading of today in which Isaiah speaks of the people’s vindication and salvation because of the coming of the Lord. This vindication will be public and will be seen and witnessed by all, much like the miracle at Cana. Forsakenness and Desolation are things of the past. Now, the new and the novel have come and will remain. No longer will the negative hold sway over the people. This is because God brings, with his coming, all which is positive.
This vindication and salvation will remain at the theoretical level if it is not translated into action. Paul, in the second reading of today, shows how this must be. Two ways are indicated. The first is the recognition of the individual’s gifts, of which there is a wide variety. Each is blessed with a special talent and gift and, each of these is unique. There is no greater or lesser; there is no good or better. They are different and so, need not be compared. The second is that the gifts of the individual are not for him/her alone. The gifts of the individual are for the sake of the community since they have as their source and origin, one Lord. If the gifts are used for one’s own glorification and praise, they are of no consequence whatsoever. However, if they are used in humility, and for the sake of the community, then they become gifts of the one Spirit and of the one Lord.