22 Aug (Based on Mt 23:1-12)

Maundy Thursday is associated with a customary practice that is followed in many of the Churches all around the world…

It consists of choosing of twelve persons from the Church – based on various parameters or criteria.
>> These twelve are given the “privilege” to have the feet washed by the Main Celebrant (usually the parish priest) during the Holy Mass.

This is a symbolic remembrance of the “washing of the feet” that Jesus had undertaken on the evening of the Last Supper.

Preaching on this custom, on a Holy Thursday, a priest once spoke the following in his sermon:

“There are twelve of us, who have been chosen from among us, whose feet will be washed this evening.

Perhaps, there were many others also who had a desire that their feet also be washed.
Probably, some of you, children, are dreaming of growing up faster in life, so that one day, you too may be chosen to have your feet washed.

But here is a point to be considered…

Most of us probably are thinking only about ‘having our feet washed’.

But I really do wonder, how many of us – be it those who have got a chance or those who have missed – think also of ‘being the one who washes the feet of others?’

We all probably are desiring and wishing only for the chair, to be seated, and have our feet washed.
But how many of us also wish and desire for the ‘towel’?”

It was his crude way of telling that there were very few who will to be the last, the least and the lowest in the Church, the Body of Christ.

Am I a person who is willing to lower myself in humility?

Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23: 12)

The 23rd Chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew begins with Jesus turning the attention of His disciples and of the crowds, towards the Scribes and the Pharisees.

Focussing on the religious leaders and on their practices, Jesus launches a volley of critically true statements, a string of their hypocritical misconduct and a barrage of their wicked misdeeds!

The chapter ends with the “Painful Lament” by Jesus over Jerusalem – the city of the Lord!

One of the highlights in this highly volatile and strongly-worded Chapter is the number of times Jesus mentions the two groups of people – “Scribes and Pharisees”

There is, in total, 7 occurances of the phrase, “Scribes and Pharisees” – a biblical number for totality!

This Chapter is a therefore, a full-blown critique and condemnation of the ways of the Scribes and Pharisees.

why is Jesus so outright in His condemnation, so merciless in His usage of words and so blatant in His attacks on the Scribes and Pharisees?

(Meanwhile, when we go through these critical attacks of our Blessed Lord on this group, one must always remember the words of Jesus Himself: “I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32)

>>> There was deep pain in the heart of the Lord, in seeing the way religion was being manhandled, misused and misinterpreted by the religios leaders of His time

>>> As the Son of His Beloved Father, it was hurting for the Son to see a section of people, trampling upon God’s precious and venerable truths, and twisting them for their own self-interests and self-agenda

>>> A strong form of condemnation was reserved only to those who were hardened in heart – as a means for them to repent and turn back their ways to the Lord. The method of ‘sharp condemnation’ was reserved only to the proud and the arrogant; never to the poor sinners!)

The reason for Jesus making a scathing attack on the religious authorities of His times, could be summarized into one crucial point: Glorification of one’s ownself at the expense of the Glory of God and the Mercy deserving for His people!

Therefore, Jesus goes on to point out the many occasions and circumstances when the Self-Interest of the Pharisees and Scribes took extreme priority over God Himself!

It is this self-centred and self-glorifying act that makes Jesus to tell, “For they preach, but they do not practise!” (Mt 23: 3b)

How easily can this be our own state of affairs, in our life…!

~~ We may be persons who “appear” to be very fine and kind – but perhaps, we are persons who find it too hard to let go of our pride, in reaching out to the needy, in humble service!
~~ We may be people who speak a lot on helping others and being generous – but perhaps, we go through grilling moments in lowering ourselves and adopting a lowly status to extend a helping hand!
~~ We may be people who desire happiness in communities and peace at homes – but perhaps, we discover ourselves to be persons who are unwilling to let go of my ego and allow a listening ear to the views and opinions of others!

The call, today, therefore is…
… ” to work for a cause – not applause
… to live life to express – and not simply to impress!”

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Queenship of our Blessed Mother Mary.

Her life is the epitome of how, any of us also, on co-operation with God’s Grace, can achieve the heights of humility!

Her Humility is the model for us…
… a humility that was constantly attuned to listening to God’s Will in life
… a humility that prioritised God’s desires over her own personal wishes
… a humility that deeply trusted in the providence of God, despite not understanding His mysterious ways

A life of immense humility being crowned with the highest glory of God could be a one-line summary of the Feast of the Queenship of Blessed Mother Mary.

She is the embodiment of the quote, “Fairest and best adorned is she, whose clothing is humility”

Yes, the Feast of our Blessed Mamma, crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, sharing in the beauty and honour,of Her Beloved Son Jesus, invites us today…
… to love Her deeply so as to be able to inculcate Her spirit of humility and dependance
… to honour Her lavishly in order to grasp the mighty wonders of God in Her life

Let us “never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much, because one can never love Her more than Jesus did!”

Following the Great example of Jesus, and imitating our Blessed Mother Mary, may we dare to pick up the “towels” of service and kindness and live a life “clothed in humility!”

Happy Feast of our Humble Blessed Mamma, raised to the heights of glory and seeking to reign over our hearts, with Jesus, her Glorious Son!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

21 Aug (Based on Mt 22:34-40)

One of the important equipments aboard a ship is a boiler.

This marine boiler is “a closed vessel, in which water or other liquid is heated and steam is generated.

This steam is superheated, under pressure
or vacuum, for use, external to itself.”

In an engine-room of the ship, it is highly difficult to look into the great boiler and see how much water it contains.

But thankfully, beside this great boiler, is a tiny glass-tube.
This serves as the gauge.

>> When the tube is full, the boiler is full.
>> When the tube is empty, the boiler is also empty

The level of water in the little tube is an indicator of the level of the water in the great boiler.

This illustration very practically demonstrates the kind of correspondance that exists between the one’s level of loving one’s neighbour and loving God.

The level of the love towards one’s neighbour is an indicator of the level of one’s love towards God.

Love of God and Love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin.

Such are the expressions, sentiments and teachings that are derived from the Gospel of the Day, when Jesus responds on the query, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Mt 22: 36)

The Gospel passage opens with the verse, “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together” (Mt 22: 24)

A couple of interesting viewpoints on this often overlooked, yet a “worth-reflecting” verse…

1. The verse says that the Sadducees had been silenced

The Greek used for “silenced” is the word “Phimoo”.

>> Phimoo means a muzzle.
>> A muzzle is device or a guard,usually made with straps of wire, fitted over the mouth of an animal to prevent it from biting or eating or opening its mouth.

The Sadducees had appraoched Jesus, as we read in the previous verses (Mt 22: 22-33) to encounter Him on the subject of the Resurrection of the Dead.

~ They had sought to grill Jesus…
~ They had desired to put Jesus to the shame…

But the tables had been overturned!

The Sadducees found themselves “silenced” – muzzled and gagged!

They were made silent not out of their choice…
~ They wished to talk, but somehow they were made to be quiet!
~ They wanted to fight out, but the answer of the Lord totally muted them!

They wanted to humiliate Jesus with their human wisdom…
… but Divine Wisdom, tracked their evil intentions, and they were made totally silent!

>>> Do we make the mistake to challenge God’s Wisdom and Will by trying to distort them by our own evil manipulations?

>>> Do we try to boast and be proud by taking offence at God’s Word and making attempts to rig and distort His Word?

The result will be that sooner or later, we would be pushed into silence and made to realise that nothing can be greater than God and His Wisdom!

2. The verse also says that the Pharisees “came together”

The silencing of the Saduccees would have delighted the Pharisees.

These two groups were at loggerheads with each other, especially on some theological issues especially the Resurrection of the Dead, which the Saduccees did not approve.

However, on the other,the Pharisees would have also felt the rising presence of a greater Enemy – Jesus!

And so, with a wicked mentality, “they come togther”…
>> not to seek a genuine clarification
>> not to grow more in Divine Wisdom
.. but with a clear ulterior motive – of testing Jesus by somehow trapping Him in His words and teachings!

In our lives, do we also engage ourselves in this “Pharasaic style of Coming together?”…
… to discuss plans and strategies on putting down other persons or scheming against them?
… to ‘examine the conscience of other persons’ and making them the subject of slander, mockery and enjoying vile pleasures?

It’s in this background that the Scholar of the Law approaches Jesus with this question to test Him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” (Mt 22: 36)

This man, who questioned Jesus was no ordinary man or any ignorant person.

He was a Scholar of the Law.
>> Some translations would put it as “a Lawyer”.

He was an expert in the Mosaic Law.
… Like a Scribe, someone who studied the law, interpreted the law and taught the law!

Jesus, aware of all this background…

>>> the wicked conspiracy that was brewing against Him
>>> the plot of testing that was hanging in the air

… responds with something immensely marvellous and spectacular:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37, 39)

Here was a gem of an answer…

>> The air was filled with “hateful” thoughts and “wicked plannings”
… but Jesus dares to answer with the sublime answer of “Love”!

>> The Lord was being targeted badly with stones of “hatred, jealousy, aversion and hostility”
… but He powerfully showers back the flowers of “love, tenderness and commitment”!

And that is the essence of the Greatest Commandment that Jesus put forth – Love of God and Love of Neighbour.

~~ Life sometimes hits very hard at us – in the form of we not being accepted by others, in being ridiculed or criticized or slandered by others and in finding ourselves as the subject of hatred and injustice.
… Can we still dare to “love them”?

~~ Life sometimes is very unfair to us, we feel – by not rewarding us with the prizes that we consider, we deserve, in answer to the hardwork we put in.. or by not allowing us to enjoy the joys of life and instead being bombarded with tensions and worries
… Can we still go out of the way and live a life “in love and for love”?

Love, as Jesus defines, is not simply about feelings and emotions, as is the popular and the ‘commercial’ understanding.

Love surely has, without any doubt, the dimensions of being a tender feeling and an expressive emotion.

But beyond that…

Love is..
… a commitment
… a dedication
… and a decision
….  that one makes to be faithful – to a person or a duty or a situation!

“Agape” is the Love to which we are called…
.. a self-giving love
… a self-sacrificing love
… an other-centered love

It is when we assume this attitude of “loving others” that the measure of our Love for God is visibly seen.

The level of the love towards one’s neighbour is an indicator of the level of one’s love towards God!

May the intercession of Pope St Pius X inspire and strengthen us in our journey of Loving the Lord deeper, and expressing it in loving service to our neighbours.

In His words:

“My hope is in Christ, who strengthens the weakest by His Divine help.
I can do all in Him who strengthens me!

His Power is infinite, and if I lean on Him, it will be mine.

His Wisdom is infinite, and if I look to Him counsel,I shall not be deceived.

His Goodness is infinite, and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

20 Aug (Based on Mt 22:1-14)

A story goes of a King in the olden days and of his “clown” or “jester”

This jester would sometimes say very foolish things whereas sometimes he would make some wise utterances.

One day, it so happened, that this jester said something so foolish that the King handed him a staff and mocked at him saying, “Take this, and keep it.. till you find a bigger fool than yourself!”

Years later, the kind fell ill and was on his deathbed.

His favourite courtiers were summoned to him; his family and other friends were also around him.

The King, sick and pale, addressed them saying, “I am about to leave.
I am going on a very long journey and will never be returning to this place.
In deep sorrow, I wish all of you ‘goodbye'”

At that moment, the Jester stepped forward and said to the King, “Your Majesty, May I, please, ask a question?”

“When you journeyed abroad – visiting your people, or paying diplomatic visists to other Kingdoms, you have always made sure there is a great deal of preparation that is ensured.

May I kindly ask, what preparations has your Majesty made for this long journey that he is about to take?”

With tears and remorse and self-realization, the King replied, “Alas! I have made no preparation!”

‘Then,’ said the jester, here is this staff for you. For now I have found a bigger fool than myself.’

Is the state of the King – being unprepared for the journey towards heaven – finding resonance with our own lack of preparations, with respect to eternal life?

The Gospel of the Day presents the parable of the Wedding Feast with a mighty warning to “stay prepared” in our endevours to be part of the Banquet of Eternal Joy in Heaven.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast, broadly speaking, presents two dangerous attitudes that can overpower a Christian:
1. The arrogant attitude of rejecting God’s omnipotence
2. The lethargic attitude of taking for granted God’s graciousness

In the first part of the parable, we come across the group of people, who turn down the offer of the King for the Wedding Banquet (Mt 22: 5-6)

They made several excuses…
… some ignored the invitation and went away
… one to his farm
… another to his business
… the rest manhandled the King’s servants

On display was their highly casual and lethargic attitude towards the King.

> They were least bothered regarding the royal nature of the invitation
> They cared little for the feelings and the sentiments of the King who had called them with much expectations

In the second part of the Gospel, we come across the guest, who failed to wear to the appropriate wedding garment (Mt 22: 11-12)

It was a sheer lack of failure to follow the customs of the land and was a betrayal of the host’s generosity…
… It was customary for the hosts to provide the suitable wedding apparel
… The “speechless” silence of the man, showed his inability to produce any valid reason for this act of disobedience and non-compliance

On display was his highly diminishing and disrespectful attitude towards the King.

> He was overly adamant in keeping up the wedding protocols of his times
> He was exceedingly proud to acknowledge the generosity of the King and chose to purposely insult the King

These two extremes, then, are fearful plagues that a Christian needs to be wary of…
1. A devastating tendency to be arrogantly proud towards the Mercies and Favours of God
2. A dissipated tendency to be lethargic towards the Graces and Blessings of God

Do I put down the power of God…
… by failing to give any response to His constant calls and inspirations to lead a more holy life?
… by busying myself in my worldly activities and failing to give any heed to the works of the Kingdom?
… by engaging constantly only for self-centered glory and sideline anything that promotes the Glory of God?

Do I make a mockery of the Grace of God…
… by professing to be a Christian and yet failing to wear the garments of doing God’s Will and in living His Gospel Virtues?
… by wanting to be proudly seen as a follower of Christ and yet unwilling to follow His teachings and commandments in daily life?
… by enjoying all the comforts that comes alone with being a ‘Christian’ but shamelessly failing to perform the duties associated with it?

The foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet is seen in the Holy Eucharistic Celebration.

The seriousness in our preparation for the Holy Mass is a clear indicator of our seriousness in preparation for the Heavenly Banquet.

Do I approach the wonderful foretaste of Heaven – the Holy Eucharist – with greater devotion and preparation…
… or do I adopt an attitude of arrogant denial of its Holiness or an attitude of lethargy and “taking for granted”?

The Lord adopts a tone of seriousness and strictness, when it comes to our question of preparation for Eternal Life.

> There is only one life here on earth – and it deserves to be lived in its utmost fullness by responding to God’s Graces.

May we respond to this demanding call of the Lord – and make ourselves worthy of Life Eternal, to the best of our possibilties and capabiltities.

“Many are invited and a few are chosen” (Mt 22:14)

Are we willing to respond to the invitation and follow the norms of Love, to be among the chosen ones?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

19 Aug (Based on Mt 20:1-16)

Grumbling and complaining had become a habit for old Mrs. Dolly.

She would find a point to be critical for anything and everything.

Finally, it so happened one day, that the parish priest felt he had found something about which she could make no complaint: the old lady had a very excellent produce in her vegetable garden – of the finest potatoes in that area.

“Oh, finally, I hope you must be well pleased” said the parish priest, with a gleaning smile, to Old Mrs Dolly, “Every one’s excitedly talking about how wonderful are the potatoes in your garden this year!”

However, with a frown, the old lady rumbled back, “Well, they are not so bad.
But where are the bad ones for the pigs???”

Well, the one who puts on the tinted spectacles of grumbling, invariably finds a reason to complain about anything in life, isn’t it?

As it is said, “it is usually not so much the greatness of our troubles as the littleness of our spirit that makes us complain.”

The Gospel of the Day presents a group of people who find their way into grumbling even about, perhaps the most undeserved subject of complaining: the Free Gift of the Grace of the Generous God!

Jesus presents the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard liking it to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt 20: 1)

“It’s not fair” is a common phrase that we raise in our day-to-day activities.
 Children, while playing  games with each other, invariably raise a “It’s not fair” slogan, especially when they feel some cheating is done by the umpires or the opposite team players
 Students quote the “It’s not fair” phrase when sometimes they get lesser marks than expected, and blame the professor or the system
 Employees in a company chant “It’s not fair” when they feel that somehow they have been given lesser pay or treated unfairly with respect to promotions etc.
 Family members or friends shout “It’s not fair” when there are impartialities or favouritism or ignorance discovered in relationships

A sense of dissatisfaction reigns in many circumstances of our daily life.

Such was the displeasure expressed by those workers, who had toiled the whole day and received just one denarius, in the Parable of Jesus of the Workers in the Vineyard:  “It’s not fair!”

These workers felt…
 “It was not fair”.. that the landowner had equated the wages of those who came in last to them, who had toiled the whole day!

 “It was not fair”.. that there had been no consideration to the immense toil in the blazing sun that they had put in!

 “It was not fair”.. that the principle of justice and impartiality had been badly violated and trampled upon!

But the Master of the Vineyard was quick to point out to them their fallacy in such a thinking…
• He reminded them first of all, that the wages that they received, was something that they had already agreed upon

• He also brought to their notice that the wages given to the others were simply out of his generosity and good-will

How often do we also raise the cry of complains and ring in the growls of grumbling when we see others finding pleasure in greater favours and happiness of life…

 “I toil so much in life, and I don’t seem to be really growing prosperous or atleast being freed from the pangs of daily life struggles…
… But someone else, has a relaxed and cosy life and still find themselves enjoying with the comforts and luxuries of life”

 “I try my level best, with much hard-work and labour in order to excel in my talents and I don’t seem to reap its fruits…
… But someone else, maybe blessed by natural talents or sheer out of luck, seems to be doing much better and enjoying greater harvests of success”

The workers who grumbled did not complain because they did not get the “just” wage…
… but their complaint was because “they were made equal to the others”

 It was a complaint arising out of “unfair comparison”
 It was a complaint arising out of “jealousy in seeing others being rewarded more”
 It was a complaint arising out of “we being made small before others”

Perhaps, this is where we need to make a radical shift in our perspectives.

God’s grace comes to human persons in different levels and measures.

Grace is defined as “favour – the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God…partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life”.

Therefore to make bargains on Grace… to make it a “countable” entity…
… would be a clear violation of its very essential nature of being a “free gift”!

Hence, what is required is to make a shift in perspectives…
… from “complaining” to being “thankful”
… from “grumbling” to being “grateful”
.. from saying “It’s not fair!” to saying “It’s Your Grace”

Life constantly pushes us into corners which make us to have “grumpy” faces, “complaining” tongues and “grumbling” tones.

But, can we recognise and realise the immense wonders of God’s Grace at every step of our life…
… and lead a life with “joyful” faces, “grateful” tongues and “thankful” tones?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

18 Aug (Based on Mt 19:23-30)

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near the modern Naples, in the region of Campania in Italy.

This city was greatly devastated – destroyed and buried – by nearly 13- 20 feet of ash and pumice, in the volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The dreadful eruption killed the inhabitants of the city and buried it under tons of ash.

During the excavation, plaster was made use to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held dead bodies. This made way for one to see the exact position that the person was in, when he or she died.

Several years later, as the construction workers were laying a foundation for a building outside the city of Pompeii, they found something very strange…

They found a corpse of woman, who probably had been fleeing from the eruption, but had got caught in the shower of hot ashes!

The weird part was that the woman’s hands clutched jewels, which were preserved in a very good condition!

The jewels were all hers… but death had rendered them useless for her!

That perhaps, is the bottom-line of life, isn’t it?

Treasures of this world are just not a wise investment…
… they can neither be taken with us at the end of life
… neither can they be enjoyed for but a few years on the earth

These are the sentiments and the teachings that are transmitted by the Lord in today’s Gospel.

Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19: 23)

The Gospel goes on to say that, “when the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished…” (Mt 19: 25)

It is fairly understandable, that just like the disciples, we too find ourselves in a state of amazement, wonder or even shock, at the words of the Lord concerning richness.

 Could Jesus “really” mean that the rich won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
 Was Jesus meaning that all wealth is categorically bad and therefore to be dumped off?

One of the prevailing dominant notions with respect to riches, in the Old Testament was that, they were considered to be a sign of God’ special favour.

There are several references for the same…
 In Gen 24: 35: “Abraham’s servant tells Laban, ‘The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy.’

 In Job 42:12: “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.”

 In Prov 10: 22: ” It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it.”

But the Old Testament also very clearly points out that these material blessings ought to be undoubtedly accompanied by a concern and care for the poor…

In Ps 132: 15: “God will bless Zion with abundant provisions and satisfy her poor with food”

In Ps 37: 11: ” The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace”

Thus the teachings of the Scriptures point to a greater responsibility that is placed on the rich.

This responsibility finds it onus on discovering God as the greatest treasure and richness of one’s life.

The Prophet Habakkuk gives beautiful expression to this clarion call:
“Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” (Hab 3: 17-18a)

This then is the spirit of “richness” that Jesus, the culmination of the Laws and the Prophets calls forth for.

• A “richness” that rests not on material wealth… but on God, the Source of all wealth and prosperity
• A “wealth” that doesn’t pride on external glory… but on the Lord, the giver and provider of every richness and gift

Our lives sometimes gets so pre-occupied and anxious with….
 garnering of material wealth
 planning on amassing greater resources
 harvesting mighty fields of glory and richness

… that God gets pushed out of life and the Source and Sustainer of all goodness finds no place in our hearts and minds!

But Jesus makes us to realise that unless I discover, maintain and hold on to the Lord as the Supreme Treasure of our life and consider all other riches and wealth as flowing from His Mercy with a duty towards sharing it with the needy and the disadvantaged.

• Instead of clinging on to worldly wealth…. may we cling on the Lord, who alone can help us to find the true meaning of our lives!

• Instead of holding on to material glory… may we hold on to the Kingdom of Heaven, where alone can we find the perfect peace and happiness!

As goes a beautiful quote:
“A person is no fool to give up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”

May we give heed to the exhortation of the Lord to “give up” things that do not count and instead to “take up” the greater priorities of our Christian life!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

17 Aug ( Mt 19:16-22)

A river wanted to flow to the sea, through a vast desert.

But seeing the immense dry sand, it got afraid.

Fearful thoughts crept into its mind:
“The desert may gulp up all my water…
… the hot  breath of the sun will surely dry me up…

… and I will be reduced to a mere stinking swamp!”

Then it heard a mysterious voice, “Trust the Desert”

But the river retorted, “But then ,will I ever be the same?
Will I not lose my identity?”

The voice once again thundered, “There is no way to remain the same!”

So the river, with trust in the desert, began to flow through it.

 The simmering heat of the sun turned her into vapour.

 The wind carried her over, as clouds, over the hot expanse of the desert.

 She was formed into rain!

And out of the clouds, came down a newer, fresher and much more splendid river, on the other side of the desert.

The river was delighted and exclaimed, “Now, I am truly my Real Self!”

Immense trust and making that radical decision to pass through the desert, helped the river to experience newness in life and to enjoy the delight of a transformed and renewed life!

Is life calling us to have a deeper trust and cross through deserts, in order to experience freshness in life?
 Or are we afraid to take that risk of losing many of the ‘things’ we hold precious to ourselves?

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus exhorting us to trust in Him, and to cross the deserts of life, “letting go of riches, in order to experience true joy in Him and eternal life with Him!

The incident of the person asking Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Mt 19:16) finds resonance with many of our  inner desires and longings.

We too have a lot of questions, like the man who asked, ” what must I do to have eternal life…”

 How can I really have peace of mind and happiness at home and in my life…?
 How is it that I may be able to experience joy in life, despite the many poundings and grindings that life renders me…?
 How is it that I can be assured of the treasures of heaven and the bliss of life eternity…?

The man who enquired Jesus presented Him with a list of many activities and deeds that he engaged himself, towards this purpose.

“All of these (following the commandments) I have observed”, (Mt 19: 20a) said the man to Jesus

We too have something similar to say…

 I keep on working hard, putting in constant efforts in my daily duties and the various responsibilities entrusted to me…
 I toil very much in meeting life’s ends and gathering together my resources in making sure that things go on well in life…

But like that man, we too get lost with this one basic question, “What do I still lack?” (Mt 19:20b)

 What do I still lack… that my life fails to be soaked in happiness and my heart misses the train of joy and peace?
 What do I still lack… that my relationships fail to have the required fervour of love and affection?
 What do I still lack… that my spiritual life fails to have the flavour of passion, zeal and enthusiasm?

This is where the Lord will tell us, “to let go of things that keep us attached”

Jesus says, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell, what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then follow Me” (Mt 19:21)

• The man was attached to his possessions, even though he performed many acts of God’s commandments.
• The man found it hard to leave his riches, and his following of the laws of God made little impact on him, to make renunciations.

Therefore, the Lord diagnosed his problem as his inability to “let go” of his attachments.

“Unnecessary accessories” of life can be a burden in our smooth travelling on the path of eternity!

Are we also faced with the same diagnosis?

Do I find it hard to “let go”…
… of my selfish lifestyle and my own personal comforts… even though I seek to render service or engage in different works?

… of my egoistic tendencies and self-centred inclinations… in my relationships and in interacting with the people in my life?

… of my individual agenda and self-interested plans… and fail to base my life as per the Plan of God and walk according to His Will in my life?

As Christians, we are called to perfection (Mt 5:48)

This ‘challenge to perfection’ demands that we have to pass through the “deserts”…
 deserts of renunciation
 deserts of seeking only God’s Will
 deserts of altering our personal choices and prioritising the values of the Lord

… in order to experience newness in life and to enjoy the delight of a transformed and renewed life!

May we heed to the call of the Lord today…
… to make such radical choices and decisions in life, so that we can truly experience the joy of heaven in our day-to-day lives and one day, be blessed, with the fullness of life eternal!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

16 Aug (Based on Jn 6:51-58)

Here is an incident that has been reported in the newsletter named “Garabandal Journal” dated January/February 2007.

It was the year 1995 in the month of October.
Pope St John Paul II, on the evening of the last day of his visit to the United States, was scheduled to make a passing visit at St Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.

The timetable of the day had been so tight and hectic that the plan was to simply greet the seminarians, as they stood outside the seminary, on the steps.

But on reaching the seminary, the Saintly Pope expressed an unplanned desire: to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the Seminary Chapel.

This act of the Pope took all by surprise!

The security personnel quickly flew into action.
A quick sweeping of the securities in the building was done with extra attention paid to the Chapel where the Holy Father would be praying – to see if anything untoward was there or if any human presence was there.

For this purpose, highly trained dogs were engaged, which would detect any human presence.

These dogs had been trained to locate living people especially in crushed buildings after earthquakes and other disasters.

These clever and intelligent canines quickly made through their rounds in the various portions of the buildings – halls, offices, classrooms.

Finally, they were sent to the Chapel.

They went along the aisles and passed the pews and finally into the portion of the Chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.

On reaching the tabernacle, the dogs sniffed and whined and growled loudly!
They refused to leave that place!

They seem convinced that they had discovered Someone there and remained firmly in that place, refusing to leave!

The dogs were indeed right, isn’t it?

Our Catholic Faith firmly tells us that in the Blessed Sacrament is the Living Person – Jesus Christ!

((There could be perhaps objections raised as to how could the dogs “sniff” the Living Presence when the Catholic Teaching is that the ‘accidents’ of bread i.e. the external aspects do not  change, and only the ‘substance’ of the matter changes in the Eucharist.

But the fact that this incident occurred also needs to be explained!

 Perhaps this needs to be considered as a “miraculous” event whereby the Real Presence of the Lord was also detected ‘physically’
 Perhaps, the dogs, though lower in reason, were ‘miraculously’ blessed with the knowledge of their Creator and Maker
 Perhaps, just as human beings need not always have an external sensory experience to know the presence of another human being, these dogs also, at that moment, had a sort of an ‘intuitive’ feeling of the Presence))

In the light of this incident – whether we believe it to be true or not, whether we consider it to be authentic or not – it is good to examine and ask ourselves:

What is the strength of our faith and the weight of our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist?

The Gospel of the Day beautifully presents the teachings of Jesus on He being the Bread of Life and makes a radical challenge to our faith and belief in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…
… For My Flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed”  ( Jn 6: 53-54)

These were very powerful and shocking words from Jesus!

When we go through the “feelings dimension” in the words of Jesus in the 6th Chapter of Gospel of John, we find a progressive growth in the intensity.

• Jn 6: 1-15: In the multiplication of the loaves…
… Jesus has a tone of compassion, of glory and of gratitude
 “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

• Jn 6: 16- 21: In the incident of the walking on water…
… Jesus has a tone of assurance and of authority
 “It is I. Do not be afraid”

• Jn 6: 22-41: In the Introduction to the Bread of Life discourse…
… Jesus has a tone which evokes further thought and food for consideration
 “I am the bread that came down from heaven”

• Jn 6: 42 – 52: In the further explanation of the Bread of Life discourse….
… Jesus has a tone of emphasis and slowly causes people to feel offensive and uncomfortable
 “.. the bread that I will give is my flesh…”

• Jn 6: 52 – 58: In the clarification to His Words on the Bread of Life Discourse…
… Jesus has a tone that provokes shock and even induces disbelief and disapproval
 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood… For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink”

As the teaching on the Bread of Life progresses, the tone changes from a mild and serene nature to a shocking and challenging one!

We notice five progressive levels here:
1. A tone of compassion – that makes people to feel good

2. A tone of assurance – that makes people to feel more secure

3. A tone of introspection – that makes people to think deeper

4. A tone of discomfort – that makes people to be at the crossroads

5. A tone of shock – that makes people to make radical decisions

And this progression is what made the Jews to question in astonishment and bewilderment: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” ( Jn 6:52)

Today, the Real Presence of  Jesus in the Holy Eucharist challenges us – a challenge to move progressively, through higher levels of faith and trust, in knowing Him

• In our faith-life, initially, we may be content to just have Him as the One who satisfies us
 We feel good and encouraged

• Then, we are happy to be knowing Him and basking in the comfort of His graces
 We feel secure and wish to remain in this contentment.

• A little later, we are made to reflect a little deeper on the perspectives of our life
 We feel introspected and consider the level of our relationship

• As the relation progresses, we are made to feel discomforted since there arises some challenges to our way of thinking
 We feel challenged and go deeper into finding the priorities of our life

• Finally, we are provoked into making radical decisions in life and called to have a commitment in life
 We feel the need to make a radical choice and to remain firm and sturdy in that dedication.

At what level of faith and trust are we in?

• Can we let go of the factors – sinful acts, prejudiced mindsets, lethargic feelings – which prevents us from making a progression to the higher level?

Jesus – truly, really and substantially – present in the Holy Eucharist invites and challenges us to grow deeper in our faith in Him.

Shall we positively respond to this loving longing of the Lord?

May the words of  St Angela of Foligno inspire us:
“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

15 Aug (Based on Solemnity of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother Mary)

The Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother Mary is celebrated in variety of ways, all over the world .

In Rome, Italy, in some of the small towns, there is a very symbolic custom.

It is called as L’Incinata  – the Bowing Procession.

The people in the village carry a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary down the main street.
 This is symbolic of Mother Mary on Her way to heaven

From the opposite direction comes another procession, carrying the statue of Jesus.
 This is symbolic of Her Son Jesus coming to welcome Her

 
Under an arch that has been prepared with branches and thousands of flowers, the two processions meet.

The statues are then made to bow to each other, three times…
.. It is symbolic of Jesus welcoming His Beloved Mother at the gates of heaven.

Then the combined procession continues, with the people carrying the statues side-by-side to the Church….
… Symbolically indicating, Jesus taking along His Mother to Her throne in heaven!

This ‘bowing procession’ so very beautifully and symbolically represents the wonderful event of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother Mary.

It celebrates the Son-King sharing His glory with His Mother.

Human kingdoms have followed the tradition of the son who is the King of the Land, crowning his mother, as the Queen of the Kingdom.

The Old Testament bears witness to this fact:

King Solomon on assuming charge of the throne, after King David, raised his mother Bathsheba to his side, to be the royal queen.(1 Kings 2: 19)

This was also a foretaste of what was to follow…
… Jesus, the King of Kings awarding the throne of glory to His Mother, Mary and raising Her to be the Queen of Heaven and Earth!

The feast of the Day – the Assumption of Mother Mary –  is one of the four Marian Dogmas that the Catholic Church pronounces.

A dogma is a doctrine that is solemnly proposed by the Church as formally revealed in Scripture or Tradition.

The four Marian Dogmas are:
1. Mary as the Mother of God
2. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary
3. The Immaculate Conception of Mary
4. The Assumption of Mary into heaven

The declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary is as follows:

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

This Dogma of the Assumption was proclaimed on November 1, 1950, by Pope Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deus”

This proclamation was not defining something new in the Church…
… rather it was an official recognition of the centuries-old belief on Christians about the Assumption of their Heavenly Mother.

The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption teaches us one important aspect:  The Assumption of Mother Mary is the sure hope for us, for a life of eternal glory!

Our Blessed Lord came to this world to “die” and “win” salvation for human beings.

This act of salvation had its total co-operation in the Person that God had chosen as His Own in the Divine Plan – Mother Mary.

From the moment, She said “yes” to the messenger of the Lord to become the Mother of God’s Child, She placed Herself in a position of “constantly being under the scanner to say a Yes” to God’s Will!

Her Yes to God, meant a “No” to many things in Her personal life…
… her own individual desires
… her own undisclosed dreams

She would become the epitome of the one who lived the teaching that Jesus would later expound during His ministry, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God” (Lk 9: 62)

Her echo of “Yes” reverberated and resonated all through Her life…
…. in times of loneliness
… in times of immense pain
… in times of utter hopelessness

It was this daring  faithfulness and unflinched loyalty that made God to bestow on Her the privilege to share in Her Son’s Glory!

This is wonderful story of the Assumption.

This then is one of the great promise and assurance that God gives to each one us through this Dogma of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother Mary.

 Does life grind us, with its daily toils and do we undergo immense pain and suffering – sometimes even unbearable and agonizing?

 Does life grill us, with many incidents of misunderstandings, exposition to calumnious talks and total absence of positive encouragements and unconditional acceptance by people?

 Does life gnash us, with constant tensions and difficulties that never seem to leave us alone and paralyze us with innumerable jolts of depression and despair?

.
Then, the Assumption of our Blessed Mother comes to our rescue, with a hopeful answer to all such miserable questions!

Sometimes Mother Mary is raised, in our “pious” devotions and by our “sweet” affections to a such a high “goddess” status that one tends to forget that she was also a human being.

But we need to be reminded that She had exclaimed, “Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38)

 She too had Her ordinary and humble beginnings.
 She too went through common life’s struggles and strains.

But through these “ordinary” circumstances…
• God “raised” Her to the heights
• God “assumed” Her into glory

… simple because She “found favour with God” and lived a life worthy of that call  – in total submission, humble obedience and loyally faithful!

This then is our call too…
As Baptized Christian, we too have “found favour” with God.

We dwell in “ordinary” circumstances of life – with hardships and pains.

But if we also live…
• seeking and living the Will of the Lord at all times
• constantly submitting to what He wants
• and dutifully bowing to His mercy and grace
… the glory which Jesus has “won” for us at Resurrection can be ours!

God’s plans are indeed wonderful…
 In the “Story of the Fall” a Mother (Eve) had been involved intimately with a Man (Adam) and humanity fell into the sea of sin!
 In the “Story of the Rise”, a Mother (Mary) was involved intimately with a Man (Jesus) and humanity is promised to “assume” to the skies of glory!

Are we ready to co-operate with God’s plans in our lives, just as Mother Mary did…
.. and thus receive the “Privilege of Assumption into Glory” just as Mother Mary received?

May we grow in our Love for the Lord and for the Blessed Woman who bore God in Her womb and was borne by God into heaven, and not left in the grave to turn back into dust!

Today , the Great Land of India celebrates her 69th Independence Day.

May all Indians grow to understand the true meaning of freedom, and like Mother Mary, properly channelize the God-given Freedom towards excellence of life, blossoming of virtues and to the Glory of God!

Happy Feast to Jesus, Our Great King and to Mamma Mary, His Glorious Queen-Mother!

Happy Independence Day to all Indians, all over the world!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

14 Aug (Based on Mt 19:3-12)

“Fireproof” is a 2008 Christian drama film.

It is an incredibly gripping, compelling and a transformational story about saving a marriage – of Catherine and Caleb – that had hit rock-bottom.

Catherine was a hospital administrator, married to fire captain Caleb Holt.

Caleb recruited young men under the dictum of never leaving one’s partner, ‘especially in a fire’.

But at home, the scenario was quite opposite; he and Catherine argued over almost everything.

 Catherine accused Caleb of being selfish with time and money.

 Caleb complained that Catherine was ungrateful for all he did to help others.

Both felt that the other didn’t care or appreciate each other

The constant bickering reached the nadir when Catherine demanded a divorce and an irritated Caleb agreed.

The two complained to their respective friends regarding this unpleasant phase of their life.

John, Caleb’s father convinced his son to hold off on divorce proceedings in order to try “Love Dare”, a 40-day challenge for improving marriages by changing the way a spouse was treated.

Caleb’s friend Michael also persuaded Caleb to hold off on divorce and challengd the fire-captain with a bold statement:

“I’ve seen you run into a burning building to save people you don’t even know, but you’re going to let your own marriage burn to the ground?”

The acceptance of Christ into his life invigorated Caleb to ask God to help in defeating his demons and overcoming his addictions.

The movie proceeds, through many twists and turns, with Catherine finally realising and acknowledging the many selfless acts done by her husband and enters into reconciliation with him.

The film ends with Caleb and Catherine renewing their wedding vows as a covenant with God.

Marriage is a sacred institution – a precious covenant – that demands a lifelong commitment and a faithful dedication, despite the ups and downs of life.

It is this message that is driven home by Jesus in today’s Gospel when He expounds His teaching on the sacredness of the Covenant of Marriage.

The passage begins with a testing interrogation by the Pharisees, ” Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Mt 19:3)

Jesus came to the world to demonstrate the magnanimity of God’s Love.

This magnanimity includes…
… His unconditional manner of loving us, irrespective of our worthiness
… His unflinched faithfulness to us, despite our many acts of betrayal and disloyalty

It is this model of God’s love that becomes the blueprint for us in loving others, and especially in a marriage relationship.

The partners, pledged in love to each other in marriage, ought to imitate the love that God has for us…

• We have cheated and strayed away from what God wants of us…
… He still loves us and is faithful to us

• We have, on innumerable occasions, spat at His face by our shameful deeds and defamed His name by our sinful acts…
… He still holds us close to Him and remains loyal to us

• We have, despite many warnings, purposely hurt Him in thoughts, words and deeds and even rejected His graces by not co-operating with His Will for us…
… He still waits patiently for our return and constantly seeks to draw us to Him

 

 We have failed Him many times, but He has always made efforts to try to win us
 We have hurt and pained Him much, but He has still longs for us, with His soothing balm of acceptance

It is this “magnanimity of God’s Love” that becomes the basis, the inspiration and the ideal in every marriage relationship.

Therefore Jesus says, “What therefore God has joined, let not man put asunder” ( Mt 19: 6b)

We live in a world where the quickest solution to many problems is found in “throwing it away!”

And the same mentality affects human relationships too… especially to those in marriage.

The challenge therefore is to dare to swim against these worldly currents and bring in the “Jesus Culture of Faithful Commitment” in human relationships, especially of marriage.

Theoretically speaking, this sounds quite good and wonderful.

But when it comes down to the actual practice.. in married lives… it is undoubtedly a very hard effort.

“But what is impossible for humans is possible for God” (Lk 18: 27), is the assurance of Jesus.

When the going gets really hard and we want to call it ‘quits’ in our relationships…
… let us look to Jesus who said Yes to the Will of God in the painful agony at Gethsemane

 There may seem no hope ahead…
 There may appear only meaninglessness ahead…
Still, can we say Yes to God’s Will – to be faithful and committed?

When none of our efforts of restoration work out and we get ‘fed’ up and feel to have reached the ‘limit’ in relationships…
… let us look to Jesus Crucified, who was never ‘fed’ up with our misdeeds and our constant misunderstanding and misuse of His love

 It may look like the end of the road…
 It may seem that all the past was mere fantasy and the future appears to be non-existent…
Still, can we hold on to Hope in God – to be true to our promise and be loyal?

The promises made…
 to our Faith in Baptism
 to the spouse in Marriage
 to the Lord in Consecrated and Priestly Life

… all demand an undissolved commitment, an undiluted faithfulness and an unmixed dedication.

As the dialogues in the movie “Fireproof” says (in the scene with the ‘salt and pepper bottles’ glued together):

“When two people get married, it’s for better or for worse, like these joined salt and pepper.
… For richer or for poorer.
… In sickness and in health.

If you pull them apart, you’ll break either one or both of them.
God made marriage to be for life.”

Yes, fireproof doesn’t mean that a fire will never come…
But it does mean, that when it comes, one will be able to withstand it!

May the Lord, the lover of our souls be the assurance of “fireproof” in our relationships!

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Maxmilian Kolbe, who was called by Pope St John Paul II as the “Patron Saint of our Difficult Century” .

May his words –  the saint who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz – be an inspiration for us:

“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.

Let’s remember that not everything which is good and beautiful pertains to genuine, essential love…

Without sacrifice there is no love.

Sacrifice the senses, taste, hearing, and above all, the mind and the will in holy obedience.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

13 Aug (Based on Mt 18:21-19:1)

The March 9, 2015 issue of the New York Magazine reports an interesting article on “Forgiveness”.

According to this article, the animal kingdom has been the subject of studying the patterns of forgiveness and reconciliation for many scientists.

Much of the research has involved gorillas and chimps.

It is found that they often enter into fights with each other…
… only later to embrace and continue their companionship.

Similar traits of behaviour has also been noticed among goats and hyenas.

However, the researchers have found that one species of animal doesn’t seem to forgive (atleast externally)

They are domestic cats.

(Well, there might be many of us, who will out rightly reject this theory, especially those who really like cats.

But let’s just take this as a ‘research finding’ and not the ultimate truth.

Researches findings, of course, are subject to exceptions and limited by conditions and interpretations!)

Human beings too have our moments of grappling with the aspect of ‘forgiveness’.

 For some people, it’s easy to forgive…
 But some others struggle hard in serving out  pardon…

The Gospel of the Day is a teaching by Jesus on this necessary virtue of “forgiveness”.

To the query of Peter, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him” ( Mt 18: 21), Jesus illustrates His reply with the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

One of the principles in this virtue of forgiveness is the avoiding of a “mathematical accounting policy” in granting pardon.

As human beings, there is sometimes an avoidable tendency in us to “keep counts” in our relationships…

We make a count or keep a rough numerical impression…
… of how many times a person has done good to me
… of when was the last time a person behaved badly with me
… of how many times a person has hurt or caused harm to me
… of how often has a person offended me or spoken ill about me

Relationships…
… sometimes get reduced to mere mathematical entities
… sometimes find themselves entangled in the web of calculative units

It’s in such situations that “forgiving” the one who has erred against us becomes a ‘calculative’ affair.

Thus, we find that Peter in the Gospel asks Jesus, “How often must I forgive the brother who has sinned against me?”

We maintain, sometimes, a sort of an imaginary “fault-account” book.

And our thought-process takes the following pattern:

 “This person, on so and so date, committed this mistake
And on so and so date, I had forgiven him”

 “This person, on this particular day, had behaved in a very indifferent manner to me
And a particular number of days later, I had extended my pardon”

But Jesus today warns us to stop looking at life and relationships from a “mathematical” or “calculative” perspective.

What is the basis for Jesus to say this?

It is simply the fact that all of us – without any exception – are the beneficiaries of the mercy and forgiveness of God.

• God abandons all mathematical calculations in extending His forgiveness to us
• God lets go of every measure of computation in allowing us to receive His mercy

Rom 3:23 says that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace thorough the redemption in Jesus Christ”

 Each of us finds ourselves sinking in the “boats of sinfulness and guilt”
But it is the Mercy of God that still keeps us ashore.

 Each of us pass through the “deserts of shame and culpability”
But it is the Forgiveness of God that nourishes us with the oasis of blessings

This “free and underserved” reception of the Forgiveness of God places an undeniable responsibility on us to extend His pardon to all.

The prayer “Our Father” gets recited so often by us, during the day or in our prayers.

But do we realise that it contains a clause, whose condition, if not fulfilled, brings upon a self-inflicted consequence.

We pray, “Forgive us our sins.. as we forgive those who sin against us”

Even though the mercy of God is always made available for us, it can be truly received only if one is willing, generous and humble enough to “forgive” the faults of others.

Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that, of course won’t change the past, but will sure transform the future.

Even the animal kingdom in general, displays traits of forgiveness and reconciliation.
 How much more are we, as human beings, who are created in the image and likeness of God, bound to forgive one another?

Perhaps, some of us have a feline flavour in us to “avoiding granting pardon” and “nurturing the grudge”

But can we let go of our “pride and arrogance” and “put on Christ” (Rom 13: 14) to become that “flower which perfumes the hand that crushes it”

May the Gospel of the Day strongly cause us to take realistic resolutions to cherish our relationships with the freedom it deserves and to generously sow the seeds of forgiveness and mercy in the hardened fields of broken and damaged relationships!

God Bless! Live Jesus!