1 Sep (Based on Lk 4:31-37)

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who rose into prominence during the French Revolution.

In a short span of time, he had gained prominent control of the Continental Europe.

Once, while discussing and planning his strategies, with his staff officers, he spread a large map of the world on the table before him.

Then he put his finger on a kingdom which was coloured red and told them, “If it were not for this red spot, I could conquer the whole world!”

That red spot was the British Isles.

(The British Isles were identified with the colour ‘red’ derived from its prominence in their flag.

> They were the only force, which Napolean felt, was preventing his plans to capture the entire world)

Probably, in the similar manner, Satan, while discussing and planning his strategies, would spread the large map of the universe.

Then, He would put his finger on a place which was coloured red and told them, “If it were not for this red spot, I could conquer the whole universe!”

That red spot is the Blood of our Blessed Saviour, shed on the Cross at Calvary!

Yes, Satan trembles at the glorious presence of our Blessed Lord.
>> Evil cannot stand Holiness!
>> Wickedness cannot tolerate Goodness!

The Gospel of the Day presents this expression and dread of the evil one, who is unable to bear the presence of the Divine Saviour.

The Gospel Passage is the incident of the curing of the demoniac (Lk 4: 31-37).

The preceding passage (Lk 4: 1-30) described the dramatic inauguration of the public ministry of Jesus in His home-town, Nazareth.

… Initially, there was a lot of amazement, wonder and awe that was expressed by the people
… But when the Lord, began to explicate His Mission, especially of being a Saviour of all the nations, there was a change in attitude of the people
… The shift from a “goody-goody” expectation of the Messiah to a “challenging” presence, caused them discomfort, and they began to express their anger and infuriation, by seeking to even kill the Lord

But the Spirit-filled Jesus had no stopping…
Nothing could stop Him from continuing His Mission and the Duty entrusted to Him

And so, the Gospel says, “He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And He was teaching on the Sabbath” (Lk 4: 31)

As the quote goes, “This is the kind of stuff, champions are made of!”

He was…
… determined in His dedication
… committed to His cause
… purposeful in His programme

Can we also imitate our Blessed Lord in this unswerving fidelity…
>> Oppositions may rock our life…
>> Crises may strangle our hopes…

But can I still continue to hold on to being Faithful to the Gospel and to the ways of the Lord?

This requires the tremendous infilling and a constant seeking and doing of God’s Will in our lives.

It was this purposiveness that enabled Jesus to be a person of authority and evoke astonishment and amazement from His hearers: “They were astonished at His teaching, for His Word was with authority” (Lk 31b-32)

Therefore, when the man who was possessed by the evil spirit, encountered Jesus, “he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (Lk 4: 34)

Yes, Satan trembles at the glorious presence of our Blessed Lord.
>> Evil cannot stand Holiness!
>> Wickedness cannot tolerate Goodness!

As followers of our Blessed Lord, we too are called upon to become “people of authority and holiness”

> Can I seek to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord…
… so that my Spirit-filled presence will cause the demons of “filthiness, lust, corruption and injustice” to tremble and be cast away?

> Can I make efforts to co-operate still more with the Grace of the Lord…
… so that my life-in-Jesus, will cause the demons of “wickedness, indifference, hatred and pride” to shiver and be chased away?

There is a beautiful hymn, known to many of us, “Are you washed, in the blood of the Lamb?”

~~ When we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, we have the power to stand before the forces of evil
~~ When we are purified by the cleansing might of the blood of Christ, we have the grace to challenge the pressures of Satan

May our lives, washed in the Blood of our Blessed Lord, be a “red spot” which would distort every wicked plan of Satan to conquer this world, and may we shine forth, in brightness and holiness, radiating the Authoritative Presence of Christ to all!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

31 Aug (Based on Lk 4:16-30)

The Dynamite was one of the most powerful invention known to humans at that time.

It was invented by Alfred Nobel.

When Nobel had invented it, he asked his friend – a Greek scholar-  for a word in Greek, for ‘explosive power’.

The Greek word that was given was ‘dunamis’ – an explosive power!

By itself, a dynamite is fairly stable.

But once combined with an ‘igniter’ it becomes extremely powerful.
(An igniter is something like a firecracker placed inside a stick of TNT to set it off)

It is interesting that the “Power” of the Holy Spirit also has the same Greek word, “dunamis”!

As Christians, at our Baptism and in the further Sacraments, we have received this “dunamis” – Power!
>> We all have the potential within us to be a “Dynamite” – of God’s Love, Mercy and Power!

But the question is…
Do I give witness to this mighty power of the Holy Spirit- ‘dunamis’ – in my life…?
… Or have I been rendered powerless and ineffective, lacking the force of an ‘igniter’?

The Gospel of the Day is a powerful display of the Power of the Holy Spirit, by Jesus, as He inaugurates His public ministry at Nazareth.

The public ministry of our Blessed Lord begins with the reading and proclamation of the prophetic words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…” (Lk 4:18)

The Jewish world had been eagerly waiting and longing for the coming of the Messiah.

But Divine Irony had it that when the Messiah did arrive, it was not with a mighty bang, but with a sweet gentleness and calm!

>> He came from a place, that was perhaps, least expected – Nazareth
>> He announced His coming to the public not with any grand show or spectacle – but by just declaring the Word of God with authority

But this humble beginning, that Divine Wisdom planned it so beautifully, would  slowly unleash its mighty power – its “dunamis”!

The mighty words and proclamation by Jesus caused an immediate stir and buzz among the people who listened to Him.

The Gospel would testify to this fact, in the words: “And all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth”

However, as the Spirit of God continued to display its mighty power, in the Person of Jesus, there also arose the spirit of division and opposition.

The “all-hailing” and “all -praising” crowd, on realising the demands placed by the Word of God, was getting converted to “being enraged”  and “being infuriated”!

So much was the antagonism that had brewed up that “all in the synagogue were filled with wrath, and they rose to put Him out of the city…” (Lk 4: 28-29)

This then is the mighty dynamite of God’s Mighty Spirit:
>> A Power that arrests the attention of all and causes amazement and wonder…
>>> Yet, A Power that also mightily challenges and confronts!

Each of us, as Christians, possessing the Mighty Power of the Holy Spirit are called to a “Spiritual Dynamite”…
… One which arrests the attention of the people by our witnessing and faithful life
… One which causes people to make an introspection into their lives to turn towards God, even if it results in persecutions

Our Blessed Lord, with the mighty power of the Anointing of the Holy Spirit, became a life-transforming and a society-challenging Dynamite!

>> The unflinching focus and the faithful commitment was His Igniter
>> The deep desire to fulfil His Father’s Will was His Igniter
>> The intense love for His people was His Igniter.

Am I, as a Christian, somehow failing to be a powerful witness and give a mighty testimony to the Gospel?

Can I reinforce the ‘igniters’ of…
> being focussed and faithfully committed
> having a deep desire to seek and do God’s Will
> cultivating an intense love and compassion for His people
… so that my life can be a “powerful dynamite” of God’s Compassionate Love and Mercy?

May St  Raymond Nonnatus, whose feast we celebrate today, intercede for us (Nonnatus = ‘never born’).

He is the patron saint of expectant mothers, childbirth and infant babies.

May this Saint’s deep love for Blessed Mother Mary, help us to also hold our Blessed Mamma’s hands, as we walk with Her, to make our Christian lives, a “dynamite” of Christ’s love and mercy!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

30 Aug ( Based on Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Here is a simple anecdote known to many of us (perhaps in different versions)…

There was soap manufacturer, who professed atheism.
He however had a wonderful friend who was a devout God-believing person – going around different places, preaching the Gospel.

Once, during an evening walk, the soap manufacturer said, “Look around at the evil and wickedness that is prevalent in our world today.

~ People killing each other, mercilessly.
~ Women and children subjected to horrific abuses.
~ Peace and harmony fearing to walk openly, afraid that they would be mangled and devoured by the forces of injustice!

The Gospel that you preach has just not done much good.
Wickedness is so much in the air and seems to be ever increasing!”

The God-fearing friend made no reply to these hard-hitting, yet factual comments until they passed by a little child, who was playing in the mud.
The child had dirtied himself badly.

Discovering his chance, the devout friend said, ” Look around at the dirt and the uncleanness that is prevalent everywhere.

The soap that you manufacture has just not done much good.
Dirt and uncleanliness is so much around and seems to be ever increasing!”

“Oh, but that’s not fair to say!” said the soap manufacturer, “soap is useful only when it is applied!”

“Exactly”, said the preacher-friend, “so it is with the Gospel that I preach!
It i’s effective, only when put to use!”

Has the Gospel of the Lord become effective and meaningful in our lives …?
… or is it remaining unused, and causing us to remain dirtied in sin and unclean in lifestyle?

The Gospel of the Day is a wake-up call to discover the Power of God’s Word to cleanse our lives and to abandon our mentality of ‘just being content’ in having the Gospel as a mere “decorative and ornamental” value in our lives.

The Gospel passage begins on a “complaint note” with the Pharisees and some Scribes, finding fault with the Disciples of Jesus, who ate with hands defiled. (Mk 7:2)

Firstly, isn’t  it pretty ironical, that the Pharisees and Scribes, who were judicious in their keeping of the Law, failed to recognise Jesus, the Author of the Law Himself?!

Jesus was growing in popularity as the Mighty Healer, the Great Preacher and a Powerful Transformative  Force.

But the Pharisees and the Scribes, somehow, failed to discover these Divine elements in Him.
>> Every time they saw Jesus, they would look for something to find fault in Him
>> Every time they heard Jesus, they would sneak a chance to find a loophole in His teachings
>> Every time, they encountered Jesus, they would fastidiously seek to put Him to the test and grill Him

This “Pharisaic and Scribal” tendency is not to be directly condemned or rashly judged…
… They were a group, trying to make sure that Jesus was not any of those false prophets (who were plenty in those days) and wanted to corrupt their pure religion
.. They were also wanting to test and prove the authenticity of “the one who came from Nazareth” and His claims to be the Messiah

However, beyond these “innocent intentions” of the Pharisees and Scribes, it is to be also noted, that this “law-protecting” and “law-fanatic” group of Scribes and Pharisees had also slipped into grave dangerous zones…

>> They were critical..
…but they also drenched themselves in total scepticism and gave no room for any openness to the truth or to God’s Spirit talking to them!

>> They were strict followers of the Law…
… but they had also failed to authenticate their zealous following, with a life of mercy, justice and love, which was the aim and goal of the Law!

>> They declared themselves as being faithful to God’s Law …
… but they had also precipitated this Divine Law into hundreds of man-made stipulations and cruelly insisted on its following, without being aware that God’s basic purposes for the Law were being abandoned and trampled upon!

And so our Blessed Lord, makes a scathing attack  and strongly exhorts them to move from a mere “decorative and ornamental” understanding of the Law towards a radically “transformative and life-changing” practice of the Law.

>> They insisted only on the strict ritualistic washing of vessels and cups and pots..
.,.. But Jesus exhorts them to first cleanse the sinful vessels of their mind and the adulterous pots of their hearts

>> They insisted only on the austere cleansing of their hands..
… But Jesus exhorts them to first wash the defiled fingers of their duplicity and the dirtied palms of their pride

The attack on the Pharisaic and Scribal attack is also a lesson and reminder for us to examine our attitudes in life and to make the necessary changes…

Have I adopted a “decorative and ornamental” understanding of being a Christian, and just be happy to be “called as a Christian”, enjoying some of the privileges and comforts that come along with it…
… or do I allow God’s Gospel to powerfully effect changes in me?

Am I just satisfied with “external cleanliness” – either in just being neat and tidy or in looking glamorous and fashionable or in being constantly bothered only with my external looks…
… or do I take steps to cleanse my heart of all sinful tendencies and to allow the rivers of God’s grace to wash away my inner defilements?

Sin is a deep reality of our lives…
… whether we like it or not… we accept it or not.

Do I be satisfied with just remaining a Christian and “appearing” to be a Follower of Christ, with some basic Church obligations fulfilled…
… or do I truly open my heart to allow God’s spirit to “heal me from within” of all my evil tendencies and social irresponsibilities?

May our Blessed Lord give us the blessing to “put His Gospel into true effect”, so that our lives may shine brightly, not just externally,  but more importantly, from His grace that flows from within.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

29 Aug (Based on Mk 6:17-29)

There was a certain king who possessed a magic ring.

This ring, looked like any of the other rings that the King wore, except the fact that this ring had some influential powers.

Whenever some evil thought would cross across his mind, or if he was tempted to do some wrong thing, this ring would press painfully on the finger!

This would make the King realise that he was on the wrong track, and would quickly become aware of the paths of danger.

Perhaps, many of us – especially with the ease with which we often slip into the slush of sin – would wish that we too could possess such a ring…
… a ring that would prick us painfully, so that we become aware of the wrong we do
… a ring that would act as a reminder to prevent us from treading on the thorny tracks of sin

But how many of us do realise, that all of us have been blessed and adorned with this beautiful ring?

Perhaps, some of us are ignorant of it..
Perhaps, some of us have lost touch with it..
Perhaps, some of us have forgotten its presence…

This ring is nothing else but our Conscience!

Am I aware of the voice of the Conscience prompting me with its timely warnings and admonishing… ?
… or have I lost awareness of the Conscience, by my constant rejection and frequent refusal of its still, gentle voice…?

The Gospel of the Day is the dramatic re-telling of the story of the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist – a favoured victim of a “Deadened Conscience”!

One of the important focus subject of this “soul-stirring and heart-gripping” incident is the aspect of Conscience.

Conscience is the inner guide to determine the right from wrong.

The Catholic Church, in her teaching on the Conscience says:
“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience.
Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that.

>> For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.

Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.”

The Education of the Conscience is a life-long task.

However, as a person grows up – going through various experiences in life – there can be…
… errors that creep into the conscience
… areas in the conscience that are never informed

Hence, the formation of the Conscience is to be of utmost importance in the moral life of a person – a formation that has the Word of God as the light for our path!

In the Gospel, we encounter King Herod, who failed to give heed to the Word of God, prophetically spoken by John the Baptist.

>> The Word of God was directly addressed to him…
… but he chose to reject it.

The Result: His conscience became subdued and the voice of his own personal desires grew louder in the depths of his heart!

>> The Word of God was put forward to him and challenged his moral integrity and his lustful life…
.. but he failed to give any heed to the call to repent or change.

The Result: His conscience was stifled and its gentle voice was drowned in the ocean of adulterous appetite and carnal cravings.

This danger is a possibility in so many of our lives too…

>> We hear God’s Word telling us not to do certain things, or forbids us from following a particular lifestyle…
… but often, we don’t give any consideration to it, and live life “bindaas – without any fear”

>> We are informed by people who care for us, on the need to mend our ways or to live a life which is more disciplined or oriented towards our faith…
… but sometimes, we just don’t bother about it, or pretend as if “We know to live our lives, without anyone’s advices”

>> We come to know of the many wrongs that We indulge ourselves in, or are made aware of the sinful paths that We may be treading across…
… but quite often, we sink into the waters of lethargy or indifference or climb up the mountain of pride and arrogrance

The Result? : Our conscience becomes weakened… fails to become a forceful power in our lives… and slowly, stutters towards a crippling death!

The powerfully intense story of the Beheading of John the Baptist is a mighty call for us to give greater heed to the formation of our conscience.

Can we take some practical resolutions ( just to mention a few) to help towards the same…

>> Making a daily examination of conscience (ideally twice a day – noon and night – or at least at the end of the day)

…. consciously going through each activity of the day
.. thanking the Lord for all His blessings at every step of the day
… discovering the moments when we have strayed away from His paths and failed to do His Will
… make deliberate and practical decisions to amend them, and to foster actions of goodness

>> Reading the Word of God – seeking to assimilate It and moulding one’s lives as per the Sacred Will of God

… setting apart, strictly, at least a few minutes of the day ( A day consists of 1440 minutes!) to spend time with the Word of God

>> Seeking to spend more time in personal prayer (ideally and whenever possible, before the Most Blessed Sacrament)

… The conscience derives strength, clarity and cleansing, when presented before its Creator!

>> Strengthening our Sacramental life especially in the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Confession

… making it a point to participate in the Holy Eucharist more often (with wholehearted preparation and due reverence)
… resolving to make a Confession at very regular times (probably, once in a month), realizing that Confession is not only for “forgiveness of sins” but also “for grace to be stronger and courageous in one’s spiritual life)

May the words of St Euphrasia, the saint from India, who was recently canonized ( Nov 23, 2014):

“May your heart be an altar, from which the bright flame of unending thanksgiving ascends to heaven”

… and her intercession, inspire and help us to constantly have the ‘beautiful ring” of our conscience in tune with God’s Will and helping us to live a life of complete commitment and courageous passion, like St John the Baptist.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

28 Aug (Based on Mt 25:1-13)

“Take time by the forelock” is a phrase that means ‘to act quickly and decisively” and “not let slip an opportunity”
( “Forelock” is the strand or cluster of hair, growing just above the forehead)

This phrase has an interesting origin…

A statue chiselled by Lysippus (one of the greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek Era in the 4th century BC) stood in one of the cities in Ancient Greece.

This statue…
… had wings
… a lock of hair on the forehead
… and was bald at the back of the head

Underneath this statue, was engraved the following conversation, in a question-answer format…

“Who made thee?”
“Lysippus made me.”

“What is thy name?”
“My name is Opportunity.”

“Why hast thou wings on thy feet?”
“That I may fly swiftly over the earth.”

“Why hast thou a forelock?”
“That men may seize me as I come.”

“Why art thou bald on the back of thy head?’—
“Because, when I am gone, none can lay hold of me.”

“Opportunity is like this bald-headed man with only a patch of hair right in front.

One has to grab that hair, grasp the opportunity while it’s being confronted…
… else, one will be grasping a slick bald head!”

Is my Christian Life characterised by an enthusiastic response to the many opportunities for blessings that God offers me…?
.. or do I ‘doze off’ in lethargy and laziness, letting away many wonderful opportunities and squandering many chances of God’s abundant favours?

The Gospel of the Day presents the Parable of the Ten Virgins, with a strong warning to “make use of every opportunity that life offers” and “to be ever-prepared” in receiving the coming of the Lord.

The parable of the Ten Virgins has its setting in a Jewish Wedding.

In the time of our Blessed Lord, the wedding was probably one of the greatest events in a typical Palestinian village or an Israeli town.

This was a time of great social celebration!
All got together…
… friends, relatives, villagers..

It was a time of great festivity, abounding happiness and overflowing celebrations.

A Jewish marriage consisted of three parts or elements:

1. Engagement

>> It was sort of an official contract between the two fathers, who would be giving their son and daughter to each other.

2. Betrothal

>> This second element consisted of the friends and family members coming together and the couple making vows and promises that were binding.

This phase onwards, they would be officially considered as husband and wife.

3. Marriage

>> The time after Betrothal lasted up to a year, which was for the bridegroom to prepare a place for his bride – either an addition to his father’s house or to have his own

It was to be his concrete expression of showing his love to her – preparing a home for her and preparing his heart and life for her!

At the end of the time that he needed to get it prepared, he would go to take her and bring her to his place – and they would thereafter, live together.

This third phase, therefore was the fulfilment of the eager longing of the bridegroom and bride, in being together for the rest of their life!

The Wedding set-up that is mentioned in today’s Gospel is this scene of the third phase of the wedding.

This is the climax of the wedding festivity where the bridegroom goes to get his bride.

This was done in a grand procession through the village, so that all in the village could be part of this festivity.

The Ten Ten Virgins (or bridesmaids) who are mentioned in the Gospel Passage, had the role of performing one of the acts of entertainment.

>> They would have to perform a wedding dance – “torch dance” around the bride and the groom, holding torches.

It would symbolize the light of their love, wishing them a luminous future.

Then the wedding party would go into the house, and the celebration would last for seven long days!

In the parable, it is mentioned that “since the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Mt 25: 5)

It was only when the call that the Bridegroom had arrived was given, that Five of the Virgins realised, that “they brought no oil with them” (Mt 25: 3)

It’s so ironical that the wedding which was such a well-prepared and a long-awaited event, had these five virgins who were so unprepared and so  unequipped for the grand moment!

The story of these five virgins who were unprepared (whom our Blessed Lord calls as ‘foolish”) could well be our own stories too..

How often are we too unprepared and unequipped….. missing out on opportunities….

… The Lord gives ample opportunities to get back our life on track, through various Biblical inspirations, talks,retreats, literatures etc.
… There are so many occasions that are provided for us to grow in our virtues, to learn deeper the mysteries of heaven and to illumine ourselves with holy knowledge
… We also get so many chances to build our relationship with one another, to grow in appreciation and praise of other and to discover and nurture the goodness in others

Do we make good use of all such opportunities or do we squander them away?

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Augustine, the great Doctor of the Church.

It can happen that many of us may enter into a mode of “delaying God’s power” and “denying God’s Grace” just as Augustine in his early days who would say, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”

But his life is also a reminder, that if we allow God’s power to work in us – in openness to the Spirit of God – He can mould us and shape us, into His mighty and powerful instruments!

May this Great Doctor of the Church who said:
“What does love look like?
> It has the hands to help others.
> It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
> It has eyes to see misery and want.
> It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”…

… intercede for us, to make use of every opportunity to grow in God’s Love and to be truly prepared to welcome the coming of the Lord!

May we always keep ready “our lamps” to shine bright for the Lord with the “oil of gladness and love”!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

27 Aug (Based on Mt 24:42-51)

Let’s get into some visual imagination to help today’s reflection process…

Imagine a Person comes into the room of your heart, this evening.

He is charming…
He is there with a purpose…
He is imposing with His charisma…

As this Fascinating Person approaches the door of your room, ready to step-in, some flash thoughts pass through your mind…

“The magazines and the books on my table…
>> Do I need to hide them or keep them away, so that He doesn’t feel shocked at the kind of materials I read?

The wallpaper on my laptop and mobile and the pictures that are pasted in my room…
>> Do I need to change them or dispose them off, so that He doesn’t realise the ‘visual food’ that is often fed to my mind?

The music that is blaring in my room and to which I tap my feet…
>> Do I need to put it off and plunge the room into a silent mode, so that He doesn’t feel offended by the ‘audio junk’ that I dance to?

The websites that I browse through, the chats that I engage in and the jokes that I think of…
>> Do I need to forcefully shut-down my system or delete all the unnecessary files, so that He doesn’t come to know the ‘e-waste’ that I bombard my life with?”

Well, the time is too short…’cos He is fast approaching me!

Have I made a mess of my life…
… filling it with filth or unwanted aspects of life…?
… missing out on opportunities to do good or render service…?
… engaging in activities that are just not worth being exposed to…?

The Charismatic Person is all set to enter my room…
Have I made myself worthy and prepared, to allow Him to enter…?

Well, no prizes for guessing who is this Mysterious Person we are imagining about…

… Yes, Jesus – the Lord and Saviour and the Judge who is coming into this world!

Is my heart ready to recieve Him?

The Gospel of the Day is a powerful preaching by Jesus on the need to remain ready for His second coming.

Chapter 24 of the Gospel of St Matthew..
… begins with Jesus addressing His disciples on the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple(Mt 24: 1ff)
… and continues, with Jesus further explaining the forthcoming persecutions and calamities that were to befall

With this background, Jesus speaks of the need to be “watchful” at all times (Mt 24: 42) and explicates it, with the help of the Parable of the Unfaithful Servant (Mt 24: 45-51)

One of the important realities of human life is “unexpectedness”

“Unexpectedness” strikes at many turns of life…
… an unexpected sickness or disease which pushes people into the pit of anxiety and worry
… an unexpected misunderstanding which damages and crushes our relationship with one another
… an unexpected financial crisis which drowns individuals or families into the sea of hopelessness

This “unexpectedness” can also strike our spiritual life!
And this is the danger, that to which the Lord raises our attention towards, by means of the parable of the Unfaithful Servant.

In the parable, the servant was entrusted with the duties of the household, while his master was away.

But when the worm of wickedness crept into the mind of the servant, he said, “My Master is delayed” (Mt 24: 48)

This is very much possible and practically happening in many of our lives.

As Christians, our Blessed Lord, the Great Master has entrusted many responsibilities and duties, to us, His servants.

But often times, we tend to live in the comfort of telling ourselves that “My Master is delayed” or that “My Master is not watching me”

This feeling of the “Lord not being around me” makes us to somehow get into activities and engage in pastimes that are not worthy of our lives…

>> We let our moral lives be loosened..
>> We allow our prayer lives to be haywire…
>> We permit our sacramental life to be lethargic…
>> We enable our social life to be without the power of the Lord…

But the consequences of such “letting loose” can be disastrous, as the parable teaches us.

What is needed therefore….
… is a constant vigilance and a relentless perseverance in being faithful
… is an unfailing performance of our duties and being on the guard at all times

We celebrate today the Feast of St Monica, that exemplary mother-saint, who was ever-vigilant in interceding for her child, to get back to the ways of the Lord.
>> She becomes an example for us to be always on the watch, and wait in patience and hope!


Her prayers bore fruit in St Augustine, the Great Doctor of the Church

The Lord is knocking at the door of our hearts (Rev 3:20)

Is my life neat and clean enough to allow the Lord to enter in …?
… or do I need to make suitable alterations and necessary repentance so that the Lord may find me worthily waiting for Him and that He may dine with me?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

26 Aug (Based on Mt 23:27-32)

Here is an incident (though perhaps a bit silly one) from a short film, which captures a great essence of an aspect of our society…

A college girl, is giving her Viva (oral) examinations.

When the professor asks her a particular question, she goes into a deep thinking-recollecting mode.

The professor gives one or two clues to help the girl to help her answer it.

But she still fails to get the answer.

Seeing her desperation, the professor, noticing also a tear or two in her eyes, out of compassion says, “Do not be too worried! Please don’t cry!”

The girl, who had come to the exam with heavy make-up, quickly composed herself and said, “No Sir! Don’t worry, I will not cry!
After all, I can’t allow my tears to spoil this heavy make-up, that I have applied, with much difficulty and care!!”

Well, this incident might sound a bit funny or slightly bent towards exaggeration..
… but it still does capture an important trend that is constantly on the rise in our societies today: A Cosmetic-Culture!

This Cosmetic-Culture is not merely to be considered in connection to the cosmetics or items of make-up.

It is in fact an increasing trend that seeks to make inroads into every aspect of our life… social, political, economic, religious…

Cosmetic-Culture could be described as a “tendency to project entities/things with an external beauty and with a greater visual appeal, without necessarily ensuring the actual quality from within!”

The presence of Cosmetic-Culture can be seen in various strands of our living…

Socially (in communities, families, nations etc), there is a lot of discrimination on the basis of colour, language, caste etc…
…but the “cosmetic-culture” presents the society in such a way, that everything seems to be fine and all are living in unity and happiness!

Politically, there is a great deal of hidden agenda, back-biting and differences in ideologies among the political parties or groups…
… but the “cosmetic-culture” covers-up the ‘evil intents’, causing many of such “opposing” parties to join hands and to be seen as being united, for their own selfish interests!

Economically, there are enormous cases of poverty on the rise, in different parts of the world and people missing out on even the basic essentials etc…
… but the “cosmetic-culture” puts a mask on all such “stark realities” and gives an impression as if there is only growth, development and prosperity!

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus sharply lashing out at the “Cosmetic-Culture” existing in our religious practices, with a clarion call to do away with such “hypocritical” trends and tendencies!

Continuing His prophetic denunciation of the practices of the religious leaders of His times, Jesus comes down heavily on the Pharisees and Scribes by comparing then to “white-washed tombs”

“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness!” ( Mt 23: 27)

Tombs of Palestine, in the time of Jesus, were painted with a lime paste or whitewash, at the start of the year.

There was a two-fold purpose to this:

1. It would helps in easy identification of the tomb, so that it could be avoided
2. It would help in the beautification of the tomb, so that it could be admired

Jesus likens the Pharisees and the Scribes to these white-washed tombs…

>>> Just as the white-washed tombs would clearly hide the decayed stuff within…
… these religious leaders, by the external shows of piety, would hide their decayed character of deceit, falsehood, duplicity and fraud!

>>> Just as the white-washed tombs would look wonderful on the outside, but would be full of filth and disgust inside…
… these religious leaders, would impress all with their strict ritualistic-practices, but would be full of dishonesty, falsity and deviousness!

They had probably mastered the art of being “Cosmetically-Cultured” – projecting themselves with an external beauty and with a greater visual appeal but without ensuring the actual quality from within!

This then is the danger to which we are exposed to…
… Is my spiritual and religious life also “Cosmetically-Cultured?”

> I may be known to be exemplary in my prayers and a role-model in my strict following of Christian practices…
… but is it just a “cosmetic” to hide my inner vices and to cover-up my sinful tendencies?

> I may be appearing to be a very a charitable person in extending a lot of material help in many causes…
… but is it just a “cosmetic” to conceal my hidden agenda or a means to boost my ego and inflate my pride?

> I may be considered as a very social person – always jovial, cracking “many” jokes and being a “happening” person…
… but is it just a “cosmetic” to mask my inner-wounds and pains, to veil my own complexes or to trigger opportunities to gratify some of my desires?

Our generation is gravely exposed to this “Cosmetic-Culture” and perhaps many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, become proponents of the same.

A generation which focusses only on the peripherals of life and fails to give consideration to the core and inner dimensions is bound to doom!

A quotation by a modern-day American politician goes thus:
“If you look at great human civilizations, from the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union…
… you will see that most do not fail simply due to external threats…
   … but because of internal weakness, corruption, or a failure to manifest the values and ideals they espouse!”

It requires the power, grace and strength in the Lord to become counter-witnesses to this “Cosmetic-Culture”

As Christians, our beauty in life ought to spring forth from an integrated life of faith!

>> The deeper that one is united with Christ…
… the lesser will be the dependence on “external shows” and greater will be the harmony and attractiveness of one’s life!

>> The stronger that one is in the faith in the Lord…
… the lesser will be the wanting to be “flashy on the outside” and greater will be the level of true charm and pleasantness!

May our Blessed Lord, help us in our efforts and desires “to beautify our life not just with an outer show, but with an inner glow!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

25 Aug (Based on Mt 23: 23-26)

In Milan, Italy stands a cathedral featuring a wonderful entrance, in which one has to pass through three doors, in succession.

Each of these doors has an arch, with an inscription.

~~ Over the first door is carved a beautiful wreath of roses.
Underneath is written, “All that which pleases, is but for a moment”

~~ Over the second door, is sculptured a cross.
Underneath is written, “All that which troubles, is but for a moment”

~~ Over the third door – which is the great entrance to the main isle, is written:
“That only is important, which is eternal!”

> Do the thoughts of eternity permeate us and cast its radical influence in our every belief and action?
… Or am I stuck to being busy with the affairs of external trifles and obessesed with being engaged in only the ‘peripherals’ of life?

> Am I a person plagued with only the “external” fantasies of life…
… Or am I growing to be a person making the right ‘priorities’ in life and choosing to make choices for a hopeful eternity?

The Gospel of the Day presents our Blessed Lord lashing out at the Scribal and Pharasaic attitudes of “being obsessed with the mere unimportant aspects of life” and instead, invites us to “being interested in the real necessities and true essentials of life”

Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage makes a two-pronged attack on the religious leaders of His time:

1. “…tithing mint and dill and cumin and neglecting the weightier matters of the law – justice and mercy and faith” (Mt 23:23)

>> Mint was a garden herb which had a fragrant smell. It was used to sprinkle the floors of the houses and synagogues.

>> Dill, also known as Anise, was a plant used as a spice and in medicine

>> Cummin, was a plant with seeds that have a bitter warm taste and an aromatic flavour

The Jewish Law required that a “tenth of the produce of the earth” be given as tithe (Lev 27:30)

However, this ‘produce of the earth’ was generally considered only to be limited to the common grains and items like corn, oil, wine etc.
>> Tiny garden herbs were not considered part of it.

However, the religious leaders, in their over-zeal to keep the law, made it a point to include even the minutest herbs, in their ‘tithing custom’.

Unfortunately, this over-zeal for the “peripheral and externals” of the law, made them to completely neglect the more important requirements of the law…
… the fragrant ‘mint’ of “justice” was denied to those in need
… the spiced ‘dill’ of “mercy” was not offered to those suffering
… the aromatic ‘cummin’ of “faith” was not displayed in situations where it mattered most

Transient aspects of life had far-overtaken their priorities over the eternal truths required from life!

2. “… cleansing the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside being full of extortion and rapacity” (Mt 23: 25)

The Jewish oral law gave rules and regulations with respect to washing and cleansing – of oneself and of the vessels used.

However, the religious leaders, in their “strict external observance” of the Law, completely missed in having also an internal purification…
… the washing of the ‘dirt’ on the outside failed to wash the ‘dirt’ of greed and avarice from their minds
… the cleaning of the ‘stains’ on the external were unable to cleanse the ‘stains’ of materialism and covetousness in their hearts

Transient aspects of life had far-overtaken their priorities over the eternal truths required from life!

And so the Lord charges them with “a vocabulary of strong condemnation” – ‘Hypocrites’ – in order to make them realise their mistake.

>> Theirs was a case of misplaced priorities of life
>> Theirs was a case of pursuance of wrong goals in life

Are we in the same boat as that of these Pharisees and Scribes?

Are we also people who invest a great deal on the “externals and peripherals of life”, but fail to give any priority or importance to the “true, real and eternal aspects of life?”

~~ I may be a person who, perhaps, spends a lot of time on prayer, reading the Bible, engaging in devout activities etc
…. But do these pious actions also make me to become a person of “humility, service and grow in genuine relationships with one another?”

~~ I may be a person who likes to participate in Church Fests and engaging in a lot of works for the Church and even contributing materially much
…. But do these ‘great actions of charity’ also help me to grow in my love for the Lord, personally and also help me to reach out to the poor and needy, in their craving for love and acceptance?

~~ I may be a person who treasures having the statues and relics of saints, garlanding holy statues and offering them flowers, collecting exquisite rosaries, medals and other religious articles etc
…. But do these ‘external objects’ help me to look deeper into myself so that I too may grow deeper in serving the Lord with a spirit of self-sacrfice and dependance on God?

The Lord does not object to any of our “external” actions of piety or devotions.
>>> But He certainly challenges and indisputably impels us to ‘grow beyond the peripherals’ and to focus on the ‘weighter aspects of our faith in Him’

This ‘focus on the greater essentials’ will definately…
… cause inconvenience in our comforts
… and challenge us to be humbler

It is, however, this “proper prioritizing” that our Blessed Lord demands of us!

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Louis, who was a King of France – a just king, a devoted spouse and the loving father of eleven children.

May His words also inspire us to have the “proper priorities’ in life:

“Fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any worth.

It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom.
This last I shall lose at death, but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

24 Aug ( Based on the Feast of the Apostle St Bartholomew)

Human character and human behaviour is a complex entity.

It consists of various traits and characteristics – peculiar and unique to each human person.

These characteristics get associated with a person and becomes an integral part of one’s personality.

Today we celebrate the Feast of a Unique Apostle who stands out with some of his Unassuming yet Powerful character – St Bartholomew.

The Scriptures have very little to speak on St Bartholomew.

The three synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) lists Bartholomew among the names of the Twelve Apostles.
In all these three, he is linked in the company of Apostle Philip.

However, St John’s Gospel doesn’t mention him.

However, by a reading of St John, it can deciphered that Nathaneal is the name that is associated with Bartholomew.

Therefore, Holy Mother the Church, on the Feast of St Bartholomew presents before us the Gospel Reading which speaks of the encounter of Nathaneal (Bartholomew) with Jesus.( Jn 1: 45-51)

This passage is one of the most interesting “encounter” passages of the Bible.

Philip who had met Jesus, went and told Nathaneal that “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazereth…” (Jn 1: 45)

However, Nathanael bluntly puts forward an obvious question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1: 46)

Here is the first presentation of his character…

>>> A bluntness and boldness in speaking out what he felt.
>>> A prejudice and bias due to knowledge of some known fact

Here are some aspects of his character, with which many of us can also, perhaps associate…
… We too sometimes speak out blunty and openly, being straight-forward, without caring for people’s feelings or the circumstances
… We too sometimes tend to “have a bend” in our opinion and views regarding people or situations and they often create mental blocks in us

However, the meeting with Jesus brought about a massive transformation in Nathaneal.

It was the words of Jesus, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called” (Jn 1: 48) that hit Nathaneal like a lightening!

Perhaps, many of us who have read this passage have also wondered whats so special about this “being under the fig tree”

What’s so unique about it, that on hearing it, Nathanael makes one of the most powerful faith statements in the Gospel of John – “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (Jn 1: 49)

What made Nathaneal to have this life-transforming and character-upgrading effect?

Perhaps, we need to shed some light on this aspect of “I saw you under the fig tree”

The fig tree had become a common place for prayer, especially for young students who were learning to be the Jewish Rabbis.

The book of Zechariah mentions: “In that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty.” (Zech 3:10)

The Prophet Micah also used the same image to “describe the state of man after the Kingdom has arrived” (Mic 4:5)

These imageries made many of the Faithful Israelites to sit under the fig tree, as a place of prayer, meditation and hope… hope for the Messiah!

So most probably Nathanel was also under the fig tree “praying”

But what was he probably praying?

A Jewish believer was taught that “he who, when he prays, does not pray for the coming of the Messiah, has not prayed at all!”

The coming of the Messiah was on the lips and minds of every Jew – a great hope of expectation!

Therefore, Nathanael under the fig tree was in all probablity, “praying for the coming of the Messiah!”

Hence, when Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree”, the words caused a deep stirring in the heart of Young Nathaneal!

He would have most probaby considered, “There could be only one person Who knew and could have heard His prayer – the Messiah Himself!

Therefore, with deep joy, contrition and a transformed mind, Nathaneal falls at the One for Whose coming He had been praying under the fig tree – the Messiah and declares, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (Jn 1: 49)

The sceptic was given the illumination to become a saint!

And here is the second presentation of his character…
>> An openness and willingness to bring a change in mindset on realising the facts
>> A humility and generosity to surrender oneself to the power of truth

These then are some aspects of his character, with which many of us need to also, grow in to…
… Prejudices can sometimes plague our life and our activities; but can we dare to be open to the Spirit of God and allow the truth to take greater control of our lives?
… To grow towards changes for the good and to make transformations in life, can be a ego-crushing process; but can we do away with our pride and clothe ourselves in humility to also accept the many unknown realities and truths of life?

The character of St Bartholomew (Nathanael) is a powerful and unique one.

Each of us also have our own personal traits and characteristics.
But this saint of the Day, also makes an invitation and inspires us, to sometimes, allow for changes, be willing for transformations and let in newness to enter in, in areas which concern our Blessed Lord.

May we, challenge ourselves to bring about changes in life, so that the Mighty Power and Grace of the Lord many have complete dominion and control over us..
… and like St Bartholomew, we too may be touched and transformed to cry out, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel, the King of the world and the King of my heart!”

Happy Feast of St Bartholomew!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

23 Aug (Based on Jn 6:60-69)

There is a challenging incident that goes thus…

A pastor, having completed the Sunday services was standing outside the Church, when he came across a young girl.
This girl had been in the hotel plaza and had missed the Sunday service.

“Good Morning!” greeted the Pastor.

“Good Morning too, Pastor”, came the reply from the girl.

“Are you well this morning?”

“Oh, I am so tired!” she explained, “I blistered my feet dancing, the whole night!”

And then she had a query, “By the way, Pastor,what do you think about dancing?”

With a grave seriousness, the Pastor replied, “You call yourself to be a Christian, isn’t it?
Have you ever blistered your feet for God?”

That question hit her like a lightening!

She turned away, with guilt and shame displayed on her face.

A few days later, she spoke to the Pastor again, saying, ” I have hardly slept since you asked me that question.
I want to tell you honestly… I have never blistered my feet for the Lord.
But to the best of my abilities, I will seek to work for Him, hereafter!”

Has our Christian Life ever caused us…
… blisters on our feet?
… aches in our hands?
… tensions in our minds?
… anxiety in our hearts?

It pays to be a Christian!
It costs much to be a Follower of Christ!

Yes, Christianity demands…
And only the ones who are willing to respond to these demands are worthy of being the Followers of the Lord.

The Lord is pretty straight-forward and candid in His challenging requirements and would even ask us, as He asks His disciples in the Gospel of the Day, “Do you also wish to go away?” (Jn 6: 67)

We are at the concluding portion of the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of St John – known as the chapter on the Discourse of the Bread of Life.

The hearers of Jesus, from the beginning of this Chapter have been taken through a very intriguing path…

>>> It began with the fragrance of compassion and mercy being radiated by the Lord in the multpilication of the loaves (Jn 6: 1-15)

>>> This fragrance developed into an aura of authority and power that was displayed in the incident of the walking on the water (Jn 6: 16-21)

>>> This aura began to radiate more gloriously through His teachings on He being the Bread of Life (Jn 6: 22-59)

>>> This glorious splendour was further revealed and explained when He declared Himself as the Son of Man who would ascend to where He was (Jn 6: 61-62)

The Chapter, as its nears the conclusion, finds many of the hearers abandoning Christ.

Therefore we read, “As a result of this, many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him” (Jn 6:66)

It seemed nice and wonderful to be the followers of Christ, when He provided food to their satisfaction
… But when there was a demand made by Christ, the “goody-goody” feelings disappeared and they began to reject Him!

Is this not the attitude that is prevalant among many of the Christians… including we, perhaps?!

As long as the ground of our lives, recievs the continual showers of favours being granted and prayers being instantly heard, we feel nice with the Lord.
… But in the times when the ground has to experience the drought of delays in prayers and absence of the rains of consolation, we feel to do away with the ways of the Lord!

As long as the garden of my life, is blessed with the flowers of prosperity, security and comforts, we remain happy to be with the Lord
… But in the circumstances when the garden goes dry and the weeds of misery begin to crop up, we feel to abandon the presence of the Lord and tread our own wills!

And therefore the Lord asks us, “Do you also wish to go away?” (Jn 6: 67)

Faith in the Lord is no cheap thing!
It indeed costs to be faithful!

The History of the Bible is replete with examples for this fact…

It cost Abraham in giving up Isaac, his beloved, in order to prove his faith in the Lord

It cost Moses to let go off his weaknesses and frailties, in order to become the leader of a vast multitude

It cost Daniel to be cast into the den of lions in being a faithful warrior of the Lord

It cost Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to pass through the ordeals of the fiery furnace in proving to be loyal to the Lord

It cost Stephen a painful death by being stoned in order to witness his daring courage in the Lord

It cost Peter to be nailed upside down to stand firm as the rock of faithfulness and commitment

Yes, Christianity demands…
And only the ones who are willing to respond to these demands are worthy of being the Followers of the Lord.

What is it costing us to be faithful to our Lord and King?

Often times, our practice of Christian faith enters, tiptoed and slyly, into the halls of comfort and coziness…

A Baptism received long ago…
Some Sacraments obtained now and then…
A few Church obligations completed once in a way…
Some occasionally unavoidable practise of piety and devotion…

This is all that sometimes it “costs” us in being a Christian!

But the Lord today powerfully seeks to shake off the dusts of lethargy and casualness and confronts us, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Our remaining with the Lord, ought not to be in mere words, but also in deeds and actions

Being with the Lord demands…
… that we grow in our zeal and love for the Lord
… that we become an extension of Christ to the needy
… that we strive to be passionate proponents of His love and mercy

We have to be ready and willing, to let our “feets be blistered”, bear “aches in our hands”, go through “tensions in our minds” and battle “anxiety in our hearts” for the sake of the Lord and His Kingdom!

The Holy Father has given the beautiful theme for this Year of the Consecrated – “Wake up the World!”

May our Christian lives be encompassed by a deep love for the Lord and may we rise up to the challenge to remain loyal and faithful to the demands placed on us by Christ, our Powerful and Mighty King!

God Bless! Live Jesus!