1 Jul 2015 (Based on Mt 8:28-34)

Four boys were on an expedition – through the rivers and valleys and the mountain ranges.

At the end of the day, they camped – with supper by a campfire – in a lonely ravine.

However, at midnight a terrific thunderstorm encountered them.

The boys were forced to take refuge from the storm in the barn of a farmer.

They felt safe from the stormy rain and lay on the hay…
… when suddenly they heard loud noises…

This time not that of nature.. but of a human voice – loud and wild.
All through the night they heard that terrible shouting.

Somehow, in fear and trembling, they managed to through the night.

When dawn appeared, they come down from the barn, and realised the reason for the noise…
The farmer’s father was insane, a maniac…locked up in one of the rooms of the house!

The expedition of the boys ended up with a dual-storm-experience!
… the storm of nature’s fury – in the thunderstorm and heavy rainfall
… the storm of human anger – unleashed by that poor man who was insane

The Gospel of the Day along with yesterday’s Gospel passage, present two storms that are encountered by Jesus and His Disciples…
… the storm of nature’s fury – as They got caught in the heavy tempest while in the boat (Mt 8: 23-27)
… the storm of human anger – as They met the two demoniacs coming out of the tombs (Mt 8: 28-34)

In both the “stormy” and “turbulent” encounters, Jesus calms the “violence” and displays His supremacy as the Lord of all storms and turbulence.

The Gospel of the Day is the incident of the healing of the two demoniacs.

The word “demons” might immediately put off many a people…including perhaps some of us…

“Modern and learned” sceptics of the  Bible dismiss demon-possession as rubbish!
• Some might say that it was just a primitive manner that people had, to describe psychic or social disorders.
• Some might say that it was just a superstitious belief and practice.

But when we consider the Bible in its totality and especially the ministry of Jesus, it is very evidently seen that there is not much accommodation to superstitious beliefs or practices.

Any false or fanciful superstitious stuff was in fact, corrected or rectified!

The Church teaches that the Devil is real, and not just a mythical personification of evil.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Satan “acts in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and … his action causes grave injuries” (CCC #395).

Pope Francis, in his first homily quoted: ‘He who does not pray to the Lord, prays to the Devil.’

This then is an important aspect that we see in today’s Gospel… Jesus performing this miracle of exorcism, showing His supreme power and authority over the satanic forces.

What is my understanding of Satan and the evil forces?

I need to realise that this real force opposes anything that is spiritual and holy.
This also means that wherever there is a spiritual action taking place, there is an opposition by the Devil and his evil power.

• Do I arm myself with deeper faith, courage and conviction in God’s power?
• Do I equip myself with greater holiness and sanctity to withstand evil influences?

The “Our Father” is a powerful prayer which invokes the power of God against the evil: “… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil”

Another important and interesting dimension that we see in today’s Gospel passage is the repulsion and disgust for Jesus…

This repulsion is displayed by two groups:
1. The two demoniacs
2. The people of the town

And this repulsion is characterised by a singular word – “begging”
 The demoniacs BEGGED Him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine” (Mt 8: 31)
 Thereupon the whole town came to meet Jesus, and when they say Him, they BEGGED Him to leave their district” (Mt 8: 34)

• The demoniacs couldn’t stand the Holiness and Power of the Lord and so they “begged” Him to cast them into the swine
• The people of the town – we are not very sure, what exactly were their reasons – too had a repulsion to the Lord and “begged” Him to leave their district.

In both the cases, one thing is clear:
Holiness was opposed and was found repulsive by evil forces!

 Where there is Holiness, evil cannot stand!
 Where there is Sanctity, satan finds it unbearable!

This then, makes it imperative on our parts, as Christians, to embrace ourselves closer into holiness and immerse ourselves deeper into the power of God!

Evil is a reality…
But the power of God, is a much stronger force!
Jesus says, “Fear not, I have conquered the world”

May we grow deeper in our relation with the Lord, and with Him, be strong and bold against the “storms” of the evil one!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

30 Jun 2015 (Based on Mt 8:23-27)

We live in a world of wonders…

For example…

Salt is a wonder.
• It is composed of two dangerous substances – Sodium which is explosive when exposed to moisture and Chlorine which is poisonous.
But salt is so very stable!

Alnico magnets are a wonder.
• It is composed of three nonmagnetic substances—aluminium, nickel and cobalt.
But it is the strongest magnet in the world!

Water is a wonder.
• Its chemical formula is H2O – Oxygen is flammable and hydrogen readily burns.
But unite them into water and we put out fires with it!

But above all these things of nature and the natural phenomena, we have the greatest wonder in the Lord and Creator of every “object and situation” of wonder – God!

 How often do we realise the wonder of His Being?
 How often do we be thankful for the wonders He does in our lives?

The Gospel of the Day is a reminder and an eye-opener for us to realise the “wonderful” Person that we have in the “boat” of our lives – Jesus – and to be grateful for Him for His “wondrous” presence!

We are with the familiar passage of the calming of the storms.

The Gospel of Matthew reports the fact that when Jesus and His disciples got into the boat, there was sudden violent “storm”…

The Greek word that is used for “storm” is “seismos”…
Seismos means a “shaking” or a “commotion” or a “tempest” or an “earthquake”

(It is from this word “seismos” that we get the word “seismic” which refers to earthquakes)

The disciples were right in the midst of something like a “sea-earthquake”
And it came on “suddenly”!

How often is our life too so similar…

We sail across calmly, enjoying the peace and serenity of life…
… when suddenly…… we are hit by a deadly storm…in the form of….
• a major crisis in the family or the community
• an unexpected sickness to us or to our loved one
• some unimaginable disaster arising in our work-place
• an inexpressible pain or an absolutely unforeseen problem

We find ourselves totally despairing in the thick of that “seismos”, that “storm”.
The waves hit the boat of our lives so badly and violently…
… that for a moment, our heart skips a beat and we think, “is it all going to be over?”
… that for a split-second, we let go of every hope and we feel, “is it really the end?”

But the Lord who was always with us, in our boat, relaxed and calm, “gets up, rebukes the winds and the sea, and there is great calm” (Mt 8: 26)

 It is as if the whole world is His classroom, and the Master Teacher gets up and demonstrates His power to His students!
 It is as if the waves and the winds are getting “too naughty” and Jesus, the Lord, gets up and “rebukes and chides” them!

And suddenly the disciples realised something spectacular…
All this while, in the midst of the storm, they were shocked and appalled at the “wonder” of the mighty wind and the raging tempest.

But now… right before them and with them… was a person who was the source, creator and the perfection of all wonders – “Jesus”!

• The “wonder” of the Lord’s presence far outmatched those of the deadly side of nature!
• The “wonder” of the Mighty Creator greatly surpassed that of the crisis they faced!

The Gospel says that the disciples were “‘amazed’ and said “What sort of a man is this, whom even the winds and the seas obey?” (Mt 8:27)

 How often do we realise the wonder of His Being?
 How often do we be thankful for the wonders He does in our lives?

Today we celebrate the Feast of the “First Martyrs of Rome”
They were the Christians martyred in the city of Rome during Nero’s persecution in 64.

Historian Tacitus records this gruesome incident in the following words:
“Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.
Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed!”

These Martyrs could boldly give up their lives in faith and love, because they had mightily experienced the “wonder” of the Lord in their lives…
No storm could stall them!
No wind could blow them away!

May we also learn to experience deeper and mingle with the “wonder” of the Lord – especially in the Most Holy Eucharist, where He is truly and really present – so that we can sail through the storms of our life, in faith and hope!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

29 Jun 2015 (Based on Solemnity of St Paul and St Peter)

There were two brothers were convicted of stealing sheep in a particular place.

In accordance with the brutal punishment of that society, both were branded on their forehead with the letters S T, which stood for “Sheep Thief.”

One of the them, unable to bear the stigma, ran away to a foreign place.

But people would ask him about the letters on his brow, and what they meant.
Thus he wandered from land to land.

Finally, full of bitterness, he ended his life and was buried in a forgotten grave.

But the other brother, repented of his misdeed and did not go away from his home.

He said to himself: “I can’t escape from the fact that I stole sheep.
So I will remain here, until I win back the respect of my neighbours and myself.”

As the years passed by, he established a reputation for respectability and integrity.

One day a stranger in this town saw this man (by now, old) with the letters S T branded on his forehead.

He asked a native what they signified.

After a little thought, the villager said: “It all happened a great while ago, and I have forgotten the particulars; but I think the letters are an abbreviation of SAINT.”

The man whose forehead was branded with S T to signify SHEEP-THIEF, had repented and revived his life so much that other people experienced him as a SAINT

Yes…. The marvellous grace of God in the penitent and a believing heart is able to change and transform the ‘detestable scars and branding of sin’ into an ’emblem of honour and beauty’!

It is this transformative power and grace of the Lord that we thank and celebrate on this Feast of St Peter and St Paul.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Love of God is that it brings people of contrasting characters and temperaments to come together in the Church.

• The love of God respects individuality, but forges together beautiful relationships.
• The love of God maintains personal traits, but mingles together wonderful team-efforts.

Such is the power and beauty of God’s Love!

St Peter and St Paul were certainly quite different – in their upbringing,  in their temperament and in their nature…

• St Peter probably just had what is called in our days ‘elementary education’.
• He was a fisherman, married with a family, and had the enormous privilege of having known and worked alongside Jesus during his ministry.
• He was chosen by Jesus as the leader of the apostles
• He was impulsive by nature and often said and did things without a prior second thought!

On the other hand…
• St Paul was a graduate from one of the prestigious universities of his day and had been tutored by the fa(perhaps, like the Oxford or Cambridge in our days) mous leader of the Hillel School of Rabbis called Gamaliel.
• He was very well-versed in the Scriptures and lived passionately by the Jewish Law
• He spent his early years persecuting Christians and seeking to end the movement called “Christianity”
• He was converted after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.

There is more…

 The real name of Peter was ‘Simon’, meaning: ‘he who hears’ (from Hebrew) or ‘flat-nosed’ (from Greek)
 His nickname was ‘Cephas’ in Aramaic or Petros in Greek, meaning ‘the rock’.

 The real name of Paul was ‘Saul’, meaning: ‘asked for’ or ‘prayed for’ (from Hebrew)
 His nickname was “Paul’, meaning ‘short in height’ or ‘small’

• St Peter denied Jesus three times before His Crucifixion; later, after the Resurrection, he would be asked to affirm three times to the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

• St Paul persecuted the Church and affirmed the stoning of the first martyr, St Stephen; later, he would be asked the pertinent question on the road to Damascus, “Paul, Paul, why are you persecuting Me?”

Despite all these differences, the two apostles had an important aspect in common: They both took part in the mighty miracle of “repentance”

Ordinarily, both these persons would have perhaps drowned themselves in the sea of sorrow and misery, if they got stuck to their past life and depended only themselves…

Peter could have felt…
“I was given so many special privileges by the Lord.
I was to be a model for others to follow.
I had even boasted that I would give up my life for the Lord!

But now I have failed…
I can never ever be credible in life!

What would others think of me?
I would be branded forever by others… An imposter… A traitor… A boaster… A betrayer!
It’s the end of my life… It’s all over for me!”

Paul could have felt…
“I have been such a dreadful persecutor
My name and presence would cause such terror to the innocent followers of Christ

I have made my life an absolute wreck…
I can never be credible in life!

What would others think of me?
I would be branded forever by others… A persecutor… A tormentor.. A tyrant… A Cheater!
It’s the end of my life.. It’s all over for me!”

But they did not look into themselves.. rather looked onto to Christ!
And they found strength.. they found hope!
They found the Grace to Repent!

Yes…. The marvellous grace of God in the penitent and a believing heart is able to change and transform the ‘detestable scars and branding of sin’ into an ’emblem of honour and beauty’!

Today they are remembered with honour and admired with great respect…
St Peter and St Paul are the pillars of the Church!
Their names today stand for mighty courage, passionate love for the Lord and faithful submission to God’s Will

Is my life also being “branded” with guilt or shame or misery or unfaithfulness or sin?
• Let’s not get discouraged and drown ourselves into misery!
Instead, may we look to the Lord, who is ever merciful and compassionate, and receive the grace of repentance, which can help us to also become saints!

Happy Feast of St Peter and St Paul – the mighty and valiant warriors of our Faith!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

28 Jun 2015 (Based on Mk 5:21-43)

Here is a story of a mother and her little four-year-old daughter were getting ready to retire for the night.

The child was afraid of darkness.
The mother, alone with the child, felt a little fearful as well.

When the room lights were put off, the child caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window.

“Mother,” she asked with innocence, “is the moon, God’s light?”

“Yes, my child” said the mother “God’s light is always shining.”

The next doubt was, “Will God blow out His light and go to sleep?”

The mother smiled at her and replied, “No, my child. God never goes to sleep.”

Then out of a simplicity of a child’s faith she said that which gave reassurance to the fearful mother: “Well, so long as God is awake, I am not afraid!”

The assurance that God was with them, made the little child courageous and strong!

 A deep faith casts away every fear…
 A strong belief puts aside every panic…

The Gospel of the Day is a wonderful journey, with Jesus, in this movement from “Fear” through “Faith”…
… Jairus, whose daughter was at the point of death, is led from the “fear of death and hopelessness” through “faith” to experience the miracle of restoration of life
… The woman with haemorrhage for twelve years is led from the  “fear of shame and depression” through “faith” to experience the miracle of cleansing and wholeness of life.

The Gospel passage of the day is one of the many “sandwich” passages in the Gospel of St Mark.

“Sandwich” stories are a literary technique in which the narration of one story begins, but is interrupted by another story, before finishing the first one.

Some of the examples of these “sandwich stories” are…

In Mk 3: 20-35, we have…
 Mk 3:20-22: Jesus’ family members set out to seize Him
o Mk 3: 23-30: Jesus speaks to the Pharisees on their accusation of Him
 Mk 3: 31-35: Jesus family comes to meet Him

In Mk 6: 7-33, we have…
 Mk 6: 7-13: The disciples sent on a mission
o Mk 6: 14-29: Herod’s opinion on John the Baptist and the narrative of the beheading.
 Mk 6: 30-33: The disciples return from the mission

In Mk 11: 12-25, we have…
 Mk 11: 12-14: Jesus cursing the fig tree
o Mk 11: 15-19: Jesus cleansing the Temple
 Mk 11: 20-24: Jesus’ teaching on the withered fig tree

In Mk 14: 1-11, we have…
 Mk 14: 1-2: The Conspiracy against Jesus
o Mk 14: 3-9: The anointing of Jesus at Bethany
 Mk 14: 10-11: The conspiracy plan by Judas to betray Jesus

Such kind of “sandwich” layers illustrates points for reflection by showing ..
… similarities and contrasts between the outside and the inside layers.
… the first and the last as “the bread”‘ and the centre one as the “filling” of the sandwich!

Today’s Gospel also follows this “sandwich-story” structure… Mk 5: 21-43
 Mk 5: 21-24: Jesus is pleaded by Jairus to heal his daughter
o Mk 5: 25-34: The woman suffering from haemorrhage is healed
 Mk 5: 35-43: Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus

There are many similarities and contrasts between the “bread” – the outside layers and the “filling” – the inside layers in this ‘sandwich’ passage…

• Jairus’ daughter is 12 years
• The woman was suffering from haemorrhage for 12 years

Description of the Condition:
• Jairus’ daughter at the point of death
• The woman at the point of utter hopelessness

Status of the person:
• Jairus is the daughter of a ruler of the synagogue
• The woman with the problem of bleeding is an old widow

The support system for the suffering one:
• Jairus’ daughter has many people to mourn – to weep and wail loudly
• The widow is all alone in her suffering and agony

The place:
• Jairus’ daughter is in her room, in the house
• The woman with the haemorrhage is out on the crowded street

The mode of healing:
• Jairus’ daughter is healed with a word, “Talitha Koum”
• The suffering woman was healed by a “touch”

The title used by Jesus:
• Jairus’ daughter is called by Jesus as ‘Little Girl’
• The suffering woman is called by Jesus as ‘Daughter’

Some of the key messages of both these stories invite us to reflect on our own life…

• Emphasis on Faith
Jairus, the father of the sick child, as well as the suffering woman display a tremendous faith and trust in Jesus

 Do I also put my trust and hope in the Lord, even when situations are “dead-like” and there seems no hope in life?

• Acts of humility
Jairus, as well as the suffering woman, make acts of humility, by falling at the feet of Jesus and pleading for mercy and help

 Am I able to let go of my egoistic tendencies and be ready to fall at the feet of the Lord, seeking for His mercy, compassion and help?

• The Lord being in perfect control
Jairus, as well as the suffering woman experience the charismatic power and control that Jesus displays even when throngs of pain, suffering and death are surrounding him.

 Do I realise that even if there are crowds of humiliation and shame around me or mourners of discouragement and despair wailing loudly in my life, the Lord is still in perfect charge, if I surrender and offer my life to His tremendous power?

The “sandwich stories” of the day are a great invitation for us to move from a “Life of Fear” to a “Life of Faith”, trusting and putting our hope in the Lord and in His Mighty Power.

It is to be also noted that after the cure of Jairus’ daughter, the Lord asked her parents to “give her something to eat” (Mk 5: 43)

This could also be a reminder for us, in our spiritual life, that after moving from a “Life of Fear” to a “Life of Faith”, we also need to sustain and nourish it by eating and consuming of the “Life of Fullness” in the Most Holy Eucharist!

Let us let go of every “Fear” in our lives, by having deeper “Faith” in the Lord and enjoying the “Fullness” of healing and happiness!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

27 Jun 2015 (Based on Mt 8:5-17)

The Roman military was one of the most successful and powerful in world history.
It dominated the  Western world for over a thousand years.

• The Romans believed themselves to be descendents of Mars, literally the sons of the war god.
• They were a proud and uncompromising people who, above all else, excelled at the art of warfare.

The core of Rome’s military strength lay in the professionalism of their heavy infantry.

The Gospel of the Day begins with a beautiful narrative of a healing encounter that an officer of this mighty Roman Empire had with Jesus, the greatest Emperor of the Everlasting Empire of God!

The Gospel begins with the verse, “As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress” (Mt 8: 5-6)

A centurion was a professional officer of the might army of the Roman Empire.

Even though, theoretically, this word traces its roots to the Latin word ‘centum’ which means one hundred, a Centurion in the Roman Army was one who commanded 80 men.

When the Centurion made his request to Jesus, our Blessed answered him, “I will come and cure him” (Mt 8: 7)

It is very remarkable to note what the Centurion answered in reply.

He says, “… For I too am a person UNDER authority” (Mt 8: 9)

Some other translations would read,  “… For I too am a person SUBJECT TO authority”

Though he was a ‘Centurion’ – a person with 80 people under his ‘beck and call’, it is fascinating to see that he doesn’t say, “I am a person WITH authority” or “I am a person FULL OF authority”

Instead he says, ” I too am UNDER authority”.

What was the authority that he was UNDER?

To know this, it would be good to see what was the position of the Centurion in the Roman Army.

 Above the centurion was a senior centurion… (a total of 80 men for a Centurion)
 Above this senior centurion were sixty centurions… ( a total of 4800 men)
 Above the sixty centurions were six tribunes… (each tribune had 3000 men.. so total 18, 000)
 Above the six tribunes were the two consuls.
 Above the consuls was the Emperor!

It was in this very long line of delegated authority that the Centurion of our Gospel passage stands.

The Centurions were also chosen from the best of the best.

A Roman soldier did not become a centurion overnight.
It took years!

The special ‘cohorts’ within each legion made up of veterans of sixteen years or more were the normal source for men to be promoted as centurions.

The historian Polybius wrote: “In choosing their centurions, the Romans look not so much for the daring or fire-eating type, but rather for men who are natural leaders and possess a stable and imperturbable temperament; not men who will open the battle and launch attacks, but those who will stand their ground even when worsted or hard-pressed, and will die in defence of their posts.”

It was such kind of a man who stood before Jesus, requesting for a healing for his servant.

We usually look at Jesus as a soft, gentle and affectionate person.
But this Centurion saw Jesus as the Commanding Emperor of a mighty army!

In Jesus, he saw a man of strength… a man of power.. a man of immense authority!

And so He tells Jesus, “… only say a word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8: 8b)

The Centurion looked at Jesus as the head and person-in-charge of the mighty army of God.
 He believed that the Lord had immense power and strength
 He trusted that the Lord vested tremendous authority and influence

It was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house.
Instead, all it needed was a “Word” from Him….
… a command as in a military set-up
… an order as in  the armed forces

Jesus is amazed and marvelled at this tremendous faith of the centurion and lavishes His praise on him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt 8: 10b)

Is my faith comparable to the faith of this Centurion and can I be inspired by his marvellous belief?

 Do I look on the Lord and have confidence in Him, as the One infested with all power and glory – able to overcome every crippling force of the world?
 Do I consider and trust in the Lord as the Mighty Emperor with all supremacy and dominance  – able to conquer every problem that I face and triumph over any sinful situation?

The Lord is the great healer.
He is the One who takes away our every infirmity and disease.

May we be inspired deeper by the people of faith, and grow in our trust and belief in the Lord, knowing that…
 We need to be bold soldiers, because we have a Powerful and Authoritative Commander!
 We need to be courageous citizens, because we have a Mighty and Awesome Emperor!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

26 Jun 2015 (Based on Mt 8:1-4)

An integral system of education consists of proper blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application.

Theory refers to learning ideas and concepts, principles and philosophies regarding a particular subject through books, media, encyclopaedias, academic institutions, classes, lectures and other sources.

Practicals refers to the ability of using that information and applying it in a real-life context.

• Theoretical knowledge shows the whole forest –  builds the context and helps to set strategy.
• Practical knowledge shows a single tree – puts forth the situation and challenges to act.

In recent times, many of the subjects and the curriculum in institutions, insist and demand on both the theoretical knowledge and the practical dimension of knowledge.

The Gospel of the Day is the narrative of the ‘first in the series’ of practical applications of the theoretical knowledge that Jesus has expounded through the Sermon on the Mount.

The incident of the cleansing of the Leper in Mt 8: 1-4 is placed immediately after the Great Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1- 7:29)
• The Sermon on the Mount was the theoretical knowledge that Jesus expounded
• The cleansing of the leper was the theoretical application of some of those principles

At the start of the Sermon on the Mount, we read “When Jesus saw the CROWDS, He went up to the mountain…..” (Mt 5:1)
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, we read, “When Jesus came down from the mountain, great CROWDS followed Him” (Mt 8:1)

• Many people in the crowd have listened and marvelled at the teachings of Jesus.

• Many of them now follow Him…
o Perhaps to see how He would apply those lofty teachings in real life
o Perhaps to see whether all those high ideas were really liveable in actual life

And what is the scene that they encounter?

A leper who approaches Jesus!

“A leper!!”… Yucks!!
“Stay away, all” would have been the united chorus of that multitude of crowd!

Leprosy was one of the most feared and dreaded disease of the ancient world.

The Hebrew word for leprosy (Tsara’ath) comes from a root word which means “to scourge or to strike.”

Leprosy was very often, considered a curse.
It was incurable and highly deadly – blatantly evident on the body and an ugly sight!

Leprosy was almost a ‘living death’, with many sweeping implications.

A person would be declared a leper after tests were performed (Lev. 13).
Once declared a leper by the priest, the leper had to be cut-off from contact with society.

• He had to display marks of mourning, as if for the dead (thus, to touch him would defile oneself)
• When someone drew near, he had to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!”
• He had to remain outside the camp with no access to the temple or perform any worship.

Leprosy was, indeed, a living death!

The crowd who saw this leper approach and worship Jesus would have had mixed feelings – shock… anger.. unpleasantness…

They would have been also very curious what would Jesus do…
“He preached so much… let’s see what He does now”
“Is He really going to touch and get defiled by that dirty leper?”

But the Lord was not just well-versed in theoretical knowledge; He was also the perfect executioner of applied knowledge!

 Theoretically He had said…
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the Scribes, you shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven” ( Mt 5:20)

• Practically…
He now goes beyond the ceremonial stipulations of the Law and ‘touches’ and heals the leper (Mt 8:3)

 Theoretically He had said…
“.. take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them” (Mt 6:1)

• Practically…
He tells the leper not to make a publicised show of his cure; instead to ‘show himself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded’ (Mt 8:4)

 Theoretically He had said…
“Judge that, you may not be judged” (Mt 7:1)

• Practically…
He doesn’t condemn or despise or mock the leper who comes close to him and instead expresses his whole-hearted willingness to shower mercy on him by saying, “I am willing; be clean” (Mt 8:3)

 Theoretically He had said…
“Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the Will of the Father in heaven” (7:21)

• Practically…
He puts into effect His teachings, ‘walking the talk’ and fulfilling the Will of the Father to be a Healer and Saviour to people.

The Lord was not just an eloquent and effective preacher but also a committed and convinced practiser of what He spoke.
• His deeds matched His wonderful words!
• His words produced dazzling deeds!

This then is the invitation to us too:
To have an integral Christian Life by being a Preacher of the Word (in whichever little or insignificant way possible) and a Practiser of the Word (through a witnessing and charitable life)

May the touch of the Lord take away any ‘leprous’ tendencies in our mind and life and free us from any bondage in order to live a firm and committed Christian Life!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

25 Jun 2015 (Based on Mt 7:21-29)

A chameleon is a tree-dwelling lizard with long thin legs, a strong curled tail and a long sticky tongue.

One of the special characteristic of the chameleon is the ability to change its colour.

The chameleon takes the colour of its background and environment – tree, bush, or  grass etc.

Generally it was considered that this change of colour happens by dispersion of pigment-containing organelles within their skin.

However, recent researches (2014) show a different picture…

Chameleons have two superimposed layers within their skin that control their colour and thermoregulation.
• The top layer contains a lattice of guanine nano-crystals.
• By exciting this lattice, the spacing between the nano-crystals can be manipulated, which in turn affects which wavelengths of light are reflected and which are absorbed.
• Exciting the lattice increases the distance between the nano-crystals, and the skin reflects longer wavelengths of light.

Thus, in a relaxed state the crystals reflect blue and green, but in an excited state the longer wavelengths such as yellow, orange, and red are reflected.

Is this not a similar case with many Christian lives as well?

Many Christians are like the chameleon – they can take on the colour of the world about them.

Just as it is difficult to distinguish the chameleon from the background, so it is very difficult to distinguish many Christians from the background of the world in which they live!

And the reason for this seems to be similar as well, just as the chameleons.

Perhaps such Christians have two superimposed-layers…
• The top layer with the tag of “Christian” – but containing a lattice of “personal agenda” and “sinful inclinations”
• When the external surroundings get conducive and favourable, this “lattice” of sin and duplicity expands – the colour changes – from “holiness” to “worldliness”!

The Gospel of the Day is a bold reminder and warning to us Christians from possessing such kind of a “colour-changing attitude” – professing one thing and living something else to suit the surroundings!

Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the Will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7: 21)

This Gospel passage is the conclusion of the spectacular Sermon on the Mount which began from Chapter 5 of the Gospel of St Matthew.

This great discourse and the brilliant exposition of the Christian teaching is concluded with two fundamental exhortations by Christ:
1. Be a doer of the Word, not just a listener
2. Have a strong foundation built on Him, rather than on the world!

Christianity, for some, becomes a soothing philosophy and a relaxing religion.
• The mercy of the Lord… the love of the Father… the providence of God – they become easy escape routes to avoid duties and responsibilities
• The pious practices…the devout rituals… the spiritual exercises – they sometimes get reduced to mere ‘relaxing’ techniques or ‘lifeless’ customs

 It gets easy to merely say ‘Lord, Lord’ – but to live a life in witness to the Lord becomes a pain in the neck
 It feels good to say, “Jesus, Jesus” – but to orient our actions and deeds, worthy of our vocation becomes a hard reality.

But this is the challenge that the Lord invites us to rise up to…
• Being a person who seriously lives ones profession of faith and makes life a truly witnessing one!
• Being a person who consciously makes efforts to be holy and saintly in order to give glory to the salvific act of the Lord, who shed His blood for us!

Towards this end, Jesus says that we need to have our faith and life built on the strong foundation of the Lord Himself!
 To all who place their entire hope on worldly treasures or self capabilities – like the house build on sand – are sure to collapse!
 To all who build their entire trust on Jesus and His grace and goodness – like the house built on rock – are sure to remain firm!

Being a Christian is an exciting adventure.
There is lot of contentment… loads of peace… bundles of  joy!

But there is also the danger of being snared by the pleasures or riches or temptations in the world, which is constantly enticing us to move away from the Lord and identify ourselves with the world.

 St Peter says, “Your enemy, the Devil, is prowling round, like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith…” (1 Pt 5: 8-9)
 Jesus says, “They do not belong to the world anymore… ” (Jn 17: 16)

Let us examine our Christian lives and check…
Am I a “committed and convinced” Christian?
Or am I a “chameleon” Christian?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

24 Jun 2015 ( Based on Feast of Nativity of St John the Baptist)

There was a school system in a large city that had a program to help children keep up with their school work during the time when the children were admitted for sicknesses, in the city’s hospitals.

One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child.

She took the child’s name and room number and had a short talk with the child’s regular class teacher.

“We’re studying about words in his class now – nouns and adverbs,” the teacher said, “and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”

The hospital-program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon.

The boy had met with a bad accident, been badly burnt and was in great pain.

Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.”

When she left after teaching, she felt she hadn’t accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to that boy?”

The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize.

“No, no,” said the nurse. “You don’t know what I mean. We’ve been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed.

He’s fighting back, responding to treatment…
It’s as though he’s decided to live!”

Two weeks later, the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived.

Everything changed when he came to a simple realization which he expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to teach about words and work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”

The gesture of teaching about “words” reinforced hope and courage to that dying boy!

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.
If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.

The Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist comes with this great message of “hope”!

The Gospel presents the beautiful incident of the birth and naming of St John the Baptist.

The birth of John the Baptist is the pivot around which the history of our faith turns.
He was the last prophet of the Old Covenant – and the first of the New Covenant.

One of the highlighting aspects of the birth of John the Baptist is the message that “hope is not to be lost, even in the midst of extreme barrenness!”

The Gospel of St Luke says that “Elizabeth and Zechariah, both were advanced in years”, but they had no child; Elizabeth was barren” (Lk 1: 7)

Elizabeth’s barrenness was also symbolic of the barrenness of the land, of the world and of the entire humanity…
• Wickedness had caused creation to be incapable of nurturing and sustaining life
• Sin had rendered human beings infertile, to bear God’s grace and live in holiness

But God is the God of hope, the God of fulfilling every promise and the God of surprises!
 From the barrenness of Elizabeth emerged the forerunner of the One who is Life!
 From the barrenness of the world, God gave rise to the Fountain of hope and trust!

The entire life of St John – through the key events -is a spectacular reminder of this great virtue of “hope”…
• The conception of John
Even when there is barrenness all around, we need to “hope” in God who is able to work miracles and give us life and joy!

• The naming of John
Even when there are many worldly voices that seek to distract us from the ways that God wishes for us, we need to “hope” in God and follow whatever He wills, so as to find glory and joy in Him!

• The life of John in the desert
Even when life takes us through the deserts of emptiness, dangers, hardships and misery, we need to “hope” in God who has a definite plan and purpose for our life!

• The beheading of John
Even when we become victims of cruelty, exploitation, wickedness and inhumanness, we need to “hope” in God by living a life of truth, courage, convictions and valour!

The Church celebrates the Nativity of only three persons, in her liturgical calendar…
 Jesus -“Hope” Himself
 Mother Mary – the Mother of “Hope”
 John the Baptist – the symbol of “Hope”

May our lives become truly rooted in “hope” and become beacons of spreading this “hope and trust” to others.
• There are many who are sick in our world.
• There are many who are burnt by the fires of afflictions and at the point of death
• There are many who have lost all faith in life and give themselves up to despair and dejection

Our gestures of teaching about “The Word – Jesus”  can reinforce hope and courage to those dying – in sin, in affliction, in depression, in loneliness.

Wish you a Happy Feast of the Nativity of the “symbol of Hope” – St John the Baptist.
May Jesus our “Hope” and Blessed Mamma, our “Mother of Hope” strengthen us!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

23 Jun 2015 (Based on Mk 7:6,12-14)

Like dieting?

Here are some “interesting” and “humorous” diet tips…
• If no one sees you eating what you like, it has no calories
• If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, they will cancel each other out.
• Food taken for medicinal purposes does not count. This would include buttered toast, cheese sandwich, chocolate jam…
• Snacks consumed during a movie do not count as they are part of the entertainment.
• Late-night snacks have no calories.

Dieting, over the last few years, has grown to be a fashionable trend.
 Many try to look slim and fit
 Many are more health-conscious.
 Many want to shed off any extra kilos

But when it comes to a spiritual realm, perhaps all of us need to do a “spiritual dieting”!
• A dieting to shed off the extra “fat” of sin and evil inclinations
• A dieting to reduce the overweight of “unholy” thoughts and “impure” feelings
• A dieting to burn away the bulging flab of “uncharitable” deeds and “critical” speech

This “dieting” is a necessity to be “slim” and “fit” and “fine” in order to enter through the narrow gate that Jesus proposes in today’s Gospel.

Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate… for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7: 13-14)

The Sermon on the Mount continues with Jesus presenting the wonderful message of the Kingdom of God and its radical requirements.

One of the key aspects in the Sermon on the Mount is the demand made on the part of the disciple to “make a choice”
• One has to radically “make a choice” for the Kingdom of God.
• One has to stay committed to this “choice” that is taken and live it to the fullness.

It is this “choice” that will determine whether our entry to eternity…
… eternal condemnation  – is through the “wide gate” or
… eternal life – is through the “narrow gate”.

Jesus says that it is easy to pass through the wide gate…
• All those who choose not to live in accordance to the Gospel values
• All those who are content to make life “merry” and just “live life to the max”
• All those who fail to respond to God’s Grace and deny having a life in Him
But this will lead to doom and condemnation!

To pass through the narrow gate is hard…
• All those who make a choice to live according to the teachings of the Lord
• All those who boldly seek to proclaim the Kingdom by their faithful and holy lives
• All those who constantly hold on to the Lord despite hardships and difficulties in life
But this will lead to joy and eternal life!

The choice for the Lord and His Kingdom requires us to shed away unnecessary “fat and flab” and ‘diet’ ourselves into being “fit and fine” to enter through the narrow gate.

Today is the feast of St Joseph Cafasso.
He was a 19th century priest, greatly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to Blessed Mother Mary. It was through his encouragements that St John Bosco decided his vocation of working with boys.

May his intercession and life be an aid and example for us.
Let His words inspire us, “We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

22 Jun 2015 (Mk 7:1-5)

The microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye.

The basic microscope is an optical instrument that uses a lens or a combination of lenses to produce magnified images of small objects – especially of objects that are too small to be seen by the unaided eye.
• Microscopes are used in industrial processes, in investigation of living cells, in comparative studies of chemistry and geology, and in diagnostic medicine.
• Biologists and doctors use microscopes on cell samples, on small organisms, and on chemical structures, to classify and analyze them and their functions.

When we consider relationships, it won’t be wrong to say that there are many who use microscopes in their dealings and interactions.
• Microscopes to focus on the mistakes and negative aspects of others
• Microscopes to magnify and enlarge the faults and failures of others

Perhaps, some of us are also guilty of having such a “microscopic” view of the defects and imperfections of others.

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus “focussing” His view on this very critical and crucial topic: of judging others and of pinpointing mistakes of others without considering one’s own negative dimensions.

As human beings, we are constantly in the mode of “judging”
Judging in the sense of “choosing” or “making a selection” or “taking a decision”

But the Lord clearly warns us to be wary and careful in this act of “judging”

Our judging…
… should not be rash
… should not a final opinion on a person or situation
… should not be a means to putting down other persons
… should not be an unfair ruling on someone’s external behaviours

Maybe a simple list could help us check our areas of “judging”

Do I…

 Enlarge the negatives of others—their faults, mistakes and petty ways?

 Come to hasty and negative conclusions of situations or persons?

 Get involved unnecessarily in situations where I should not?

 Gossip critical stories and uncharitable tales regarding others?

 Have a strong prejudice to find others guilty?

 Be overly harsh and even ruthless, even when speaking the truth?

 Add “spicy” remarks  and “sensational” jingles when telling a story?

 Set aside an unkind comment by simply saying, “I was just kidding!”

 Speak something critical and then try to cover it up?

 Be unkind and hurtful and then quickly change the subject, to impress the hurtful feeling?

 Have pleasure in condemning others?

 Report the truth in order to hurt and not to help?

 Put down others with an intention to let ourselves be seen better?

The Lord strongly warns to keep away from all these and many more acts of such “judgement”.

It is also good to consider judging from another perspective:

When somebody does an act, which we consider that it can be “judged”, there are two areas which we may not really know…
1. How hard the person has tried “not to do” that particular action – be it a sin, or a mistake or a failure or a blunder etc…
2. How strong were the external forces or the circumstances that “made the person to do” that particular action…

Many of us may have perhaps,  a tendency to use a “microscope” in finding the faults and failures of others.
We tend to focus .. we tend to magnify… we tend to relish looking closely!

The Lord is serious on making us walk the “path of perfection”
• Making efforts to become “less judgmental” is an essential part of this process.

May we focus the lens of our microscopes from looking at the “faults” of others and instead shift to concentrate more on the “positives”, the “brighter” and the “affirmative” areas of people and situations.

God Bless! Live Jesus!