Mar 1 (Mt 18:21-35)

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!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Feb 29 (Lk 4:24-30)

Muhammad Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champ, is considered to among the greatest sportsmen of all time.

Also known as Cassius Clay, he was also infamous for bragging – “I am the Greatest!”

Once, before the take-off on an airline flight, the stewardess reminded Ali to fasten his seatbelt. “Superman don’t need no seatbelt,” Ali told her with pride.

The stewardess was unwilling to compromise….
So she retorted, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.”

Ali was discomfited in his pride.
>> In shame, he fastened his seatbelt without saying an extra word.

Pride can block a person from being open to the views, trends and wavelengths of other people and situations.

This is much more true, when it comes to spiritual matters

A proud mind…
>> rejects the plans and workings of God in one’s life…
… and makes one to say, “I can manage my life by myself!”

A haughty spirit…
>> opposes any movements  that causes one to get out of one’s comfort zones…
… and makes one to say, “I know what’s best for me! None need to teach me!”

An arrogant heart…
>> rejects any good inspirations or constructive feedbacks…
… and makes one to say, “I don’t need anyone’s advices. Only I can advise myself!”

The Gospel of the Day presents the rejection of Jesus, in the Synagogue at Nazareth, by the people, who displayed a proud mentality, a haughty spirit and an arrogant heart.

Jesus, is in His hometown.

He entered the synagogue and began to teach.
>> Though initially, there was a wave of excitement…
… the words of Jesus caused a major setback to the people.

This caused the people to reject Jesus…
…they even try to kill Him ( Lk 4: 29-30)

St Luke uses a very strong word to describe the feelings of the people…
“When the people in the synagogue heard, they were all FILLED WITH FURY”

Or another translation… “… they were all FILLED WITH WRATH”

>> When one’s pride is hurt…
…. One tends to become angry and hurt

>> When one is made to get out of one’s comfort zones…
… one tends to become restless and agitated.

This is what happened to the people in the Synagogue.

Their pride was hurt..
… because Jesus spoke to them on the need to be humble, and accept the “all-embracing” love of the Lord!

They were made to get out of the comfortable zones…
… because Jesus spoke to them on the need to change their closed ways of thought-pattern, and to accept the “all-merciful” invitation to the Kingdom of God!

This “instigation” can happen in our life too…

When we are challenged to move out of our “traditional” style of thinking…
….and accept instead, the merciful and compassionate ways of God

When we are forced to change our crippling attitudes of rejecting people on the basis of caste, creed, colour, language etc…
… and accept instead, the “all-welcoming” style of the Kingdom of God

Human tendency it is, to sometimes “get used to” comfortable situations…
… even if they are fruitless or unproductive and useless

Human tendency it is, to sometimes “remain fixated” in crippling mentalities…
…even if they cause harm to the other and are no longer effective.

The Lord today, invites and challenges us in our proud mentality, a haughty spirit and an arrogant heart.

There is a constant invitation by Jesus:
“Learn from Me.. for I am gentle and humble in heart”

Let us learn from the Gentle and Humble ways of the Lord, and become persons, who are open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Feb 28 (Lk 13:1-9)

It’s interesting to note the phenomenon of an Eagle’s nest!

When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the house.
>> But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs.

By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave.

That’s when the mother eagle begins “stirring up the nest.”

With her strong talons, she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface.
>> As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles.

Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behaviour.

Our life is often such!

We take for granted comfortable situations, merciful acts and providential events.
>> But when something unpleasant happens, we are unable to digest them

When something “bad” happens, we look for people to be blamed and scapegoats to be accused!
>> And most of the time, the Scapegoat turns out to be “God”!

God is blamed…
…  for all negative situations that come up suddenly
… for all uneventful happenings and calamities
… for all tragic moments in personal and societal life

The Gospel of the Day opens our eyes to consider the “Jesus” way of looking and understanding such “uneventful” mishaps and “tragic” calamities.

Humanity is a daily witness to calamities, catastrophes, adversities and disasters.
>> Tragedies occur in the life of every human being.

Every now and then, we hear of many reports of unpredictable or unimaginable misfortunes occurring in the lives of people….tsunamis, floods, earthquakes….or bomb blasts, mass killings etc..  In our own personal lives too, we experience a lot of painful moments…
…. very often, unexpectedly.

In the face of all these horrors… we are faced with many doubts and questions….
>> Why do these things happen to the innocent?
>> Why doesn’t the Good and Loving God do anything about all this?

>>> Sometimes, we even take on a critical and judgmental attitude and say, ” Probably, God is punishing all these people for their sins or their misdeeds”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also is presented with a couple of human tragedies and made to react on them.

>> The first tragedy is about the Galileans who suffered at the hands of Pilate (Lk 13: 1-3)
>> The second is about the people who dies when the tower of Siloam fell on them (Lk 13: 4)

>> The first one is about a disaster brought about because of the cruel deeds of human beings
>> The second because of the misfortunes in nature.

In both these cases, however,  the people who died, were mere subjects to death…
>> They had an unfortunate death, without perhaps really being guilty.

And so the natural reaction of the people of the times was that, the people who died would have been greater sins, and they are being punished by God.”

“These people deserved death because of their sins” was the popular slogan of those times.

Perhaps, when faced with calamities, we too often take upon this judgmental attitude,

But here Jesus points out the great reality…

These calamities and disasters are not to be another occasion for us to pass judgments
>> Rather, they become golden opportunities for us to make a self-reflection  on our lives.

Like the tree which is given one more year –  to be dug around, to be given manure and to produce…these tragedies and events in life, present us with more time to examine, how do we live our lives.

Do we take our lives for granted?

Perhaps, we have a tendency to often think there is plenty of time in life.
>> And complacency creeps into our life.

But these tragedies point to us the fact, that after all human life is very short.
>> And in this short-lived life, we need to make the best use of God’s graces to repent and to lead a Holy life.

In Rev 22.7, Jesus says ” Behold, I am coming soon” .

As Christians, we believe in the Coming of the Lord.
>> No one knows the hour
>> No one knows the day

But, being prepared, being vigilant always, is a must, is a necessity.

Human tragedies and personal misfortunes are to be understood as God’s manifestations of Love for us, to have our lives set clearly on our priorities for God and His Kingdom

They are not to evoke fear or elements of judging
>>  Rather, should prompt us to take life more seriously, and to make Real Repentance and live a Holier Lives.

One of the practical tip that we could easily practice is our Daily Examination of Conscience.

When we daily examine our conscience, and make efforts to amend our lives with true repentance, we are able to live the graces that are showered on us.

Also, a meaningful Regular Confession helps us not only to be forgiven of our sins, but also gives grace to lead a more holy and unblemished life.

The Lord invites us today, to wake up from our slumber of taking life easy and cool

>> He disturbs us in our comfortable and cosy life…
… and challenges us to make real repentance and  lead a genuinely holy life.

Disasters, tragedies and misfortunes will keep happening.
>> But they are also a reminder for us to be eternally vigilant and keep guard over the sanctity of our lives.

Lets run in repentance to our Lord who seeks us…and Be His forever!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Feb 27 (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)

There’s a story from the land of Spain about a father and son who had become estranged.

The son had run away as a result of some misunderstanding.
>> But the father set off to find him.

He searched for months and months… but to no avail!

He missed his son…
>> The name of his son was Paco.

He missed Paco…

Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an advertisement in a national newspaper.

The ad read:
“Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I accept you, as you are. I love you. Your Father”.

On Saturday, 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers!

Paco was a very common name in Spain…and the ad appealed to many Pacos, who were estranged from their father…and sought to come back home!

>> The world is thirsty, seeking to be quenched from the fount of forgiveness.
>> The world is hungry, seeking to be satisfied from the storehouse of forgiveness.

The Gospel of the Day is a strong reminder by Jesus, to experience the forgiving love of the Lord and in turn to become “instruments of forgiveness”!

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the most popular, the most loved, the most sentimental and the most meaningful of all the parables in the Gospel.

One of the lasting images that this beautiful parable impresses upon the readers is that of a Loving Father in patient waiting for the return of the son.

The Son had abandoned the love and protection of the Father.
It could have been…
… because of some misunderstanding…
… because of some pride and arrogance…
… because of some selfishness and egoism…
… because of some immaturity or peer pressure…

Whatever be the reason…
….  a rupture had occurred in the beautiful relationship!

>> The son sought to find enjoyment in many worldly pleasures…
…meanwhile the Father was left with a seemingly never-ending wait for his beloved!

>> The son drowned himself in the pleasurable waters of enjoyment and gratification…
… meanwhile the Father sought to keep floating on the waters of hope and optimism!

The Father kept waiting…and waiting…
>> Every evening as the sun set… and as the darkness would engulf the land…
… the hopes of the Father would have diminished and a gloom darkened in his mind!

>> Every morning as the sun arose….and as the bright rays enraptured the land…
…the expectations of the Father would have intensified and a glow lit his heart!

And thus the Father kept waiting and waiting for the son to return.

Finally, when the son returned, the long wait of the outstretched arms of the Father, waiting to embrace his beloved was over…
“… while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him…”( Lk 15: 20)

image
Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt, 1669, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

The father’s joys knew no bounds!

The son was considered lost… the son was considered dead…
>> But now here he is… found…and alive!

What a beautiful picture!
>> A son who comes back in repentance, clasped in a deep affectionate hug with his father who longed for the return of his beloved!

Our heavenly Father wishes to have this same picture, with each of us….

We have often gone away from the Love of our Heavenly Father…
… by our sins and disobedience
… by our selfishness and egoism
… by our pride and worldly pleasures
… by our immaturity and misunderstanding

But He now waits in eager expectation and hope for our return to Him…
>> Shall we not run to the open and outstretched arms of our Blessed Father?

In turn, we are also invited, exhorted and challenged to become “an instrument of forgiveness and reconciliation”

May the forgiving love that we have received from our Heavenly Father be extended and widened to all the people in our life too.

Let the words of our Beloved Heavenly Father be a powerful invitation to us, ” All is forgiven. I accept you, as you are. I love you. Your Father.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Feb 26 (Mt 21:33-43, 45-46)

An enigma is a considered as a person or a thing that is mysterious or difficult to understand.
The word has its Greek and Latin roots, in words which mean “a riddle” or “a puzzle”.

>> An enigma has the tremendous capacity to attract followers or to detract the critics.
>> An enigma has the intriguing potential to captivate its fans or to puzzle its doubters.

When we analyse history and personalities down through the centuries, one can definitely come to a conclusion…
… that there has been no person who deserves a greater merit to being an “enigma” than Jesus Christ.

The life of Jesus, historically speaking, was a journey from being a semi-skilled Jewish carpenter in a tiny village in northern Palestine to an itinerant prophet, a wonder worker and a social revolutionary… one who confronted the religious and social institutions of his times so radically that he was put to death for it.

The Gospel of the Day presents this “enigmatic” Jesus confronting closed minds and blocked hearts, in recognising Him as the Messiah and Saviour…and an invitation to each of us, to make a radical choice for Him!

Jesus puts forward the parable of the tenants.

The tenants were entrusted with the vineyard by the Master, and were expected to provide the produce in due time.
>> They were entrusted fully with the taking care of the vineyard.

The Master places a lot of trust in the servants.

He gives the freedom… a responsible freedom…
…which could be meaningfully used and nurtured
…or which could be woefully misused and manipulated.

However, the tenants, who were trusted immensely…probably lost their focus on the real trust and diminished in their commitment and responsibility to their Master as well as their duty.

>> Their personal interests gained greater prominence over their entrusted duties.
>> Their selfish agenda gained the upper hand over the faithfulness to the Master.

This led to them to a total denial of all the emissaries and servants of the Master, who were sent to collect the produce.
>> This denial was extended even to the Master’s own Son!

This denial of the Son led to the letting loose of the anger and fury of the Just Master!
>> A squandering away of the responsible freedom, led to the downfall of the tenants!
>> A failure to give heed to the emissaries and servants caused them to face the Master’s rage!
>> A denial and rejection of the Master’s own Son, with a cruel intent, caused their destruction!

Are we also, as Christians, as tenants of the Heavenly Master failing in our responsibilities and duties?

The Lord presents Himself as the cornerstone…
… “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone..” (Mt21:42)

In ancient practices of building, the cornerstone was the principal stone.
>> It was placed at the corner of the edifice or the building.

The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the whole building structure.
>> A cornerstone gives direction to the rest of the foundation.

It also is the support on which the rest of the building relies for strength and stability.

Jesus is the cornerstone…of Salvation.. of the Church.. of His People!
>> At the same time, Jesus can also be  “a stumbling block”

As it is written in Romans 9:33:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”

>> To those who believe…
…  Jesus is the cornerstone of their faith and their life.

>> To those who do not believe…
… Jesus is the stumbling block in their faith!     

Who is Jesus in our life?
The cornerstone? Or a stumbling block?

The cornerstone to build a wonderful life in God and grow in holiness…
>> Or a stumbling block which causes us to be proud in our own merits and not depend on Him?

The cornerstone to stand firm and strong in faith to withstand every storm of life…
>> Or a stumbling block which makes us uncertain, hesitant and cause a collapse in life?

Jesus is indeed the greatest “enigma”
>> This “enigmatic” Jesus has the tremendous capacity to attract followers or to detract the critics.
>> This “enigmatic” Jesus has the intriguing potential to captivate its fans or to puzzle its doubters.

Jesus can remain the “enigma” who will be forever misunderstood or mysterious…
… Or He can be the “enigma” which becomes the guiding force for fullness in life!

Let us make Jesus the “cornerstone” of our life and faith!

Live Jesus! God Bless!

Feb 25 (Lk 16:19-31)

We live in a world of contrasts.
Contrasts are encountered at every sphere of our life.

>> Socially, we find contrasts among the various classes…
… the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the caste distinctions, the racial and language divides…

>> Emotionally, we find contrasts in our experiences…
…  joyful situations sandwiched between tragic moments, moods varying between situations and people, temperaments changing from person to person…

The Gospel of day presents some of these contrasts in a vivid manner…and could be termed as a “parable of contrasts” –  the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

This parable is set out as a play… a two-act play.

The plays takes place on two stages…
… the stage of this world
… and the stage of the other-world.

The contrasts are plenty:

In the First Act….
>> A rich man  – a poor man
>> The man is rich but unnamed – the man is poor but is named, Lazarus (meaning ‘God Helps’)
>> The rich man clothed in purple  – Lazarus clothed fully with sores
>> The rich man caressed with fine linen – Lazarus licked by the dogs
>> The rich man feasted sumptuously – Lazarus desired to be fed by what fell from the table.
>> The rich man died and was buried – Lazarus died but was carried by the angels.

In the Second Act…
>> Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom – the rich man is in Hades.
>> Lazarus receives good things – the rich man was in torment.
>> Lazarus was comforted – the rich man was in anguish

This “parable of contrasts” is also …
… a “parable of comfort and consolation”
… a “parable of challenge and confrontation”

>> It’s a “parable of comfort and consolation” because….
… Lazarus, who had undergone great misery and suffering was blessed with the presence of joy of the Lord.

It’s gives comfort and consolation to us, who need to be strengthened in our moments of trials and hardships, knowing that the Lord will surely look with mercy on His needy ones.
>>>> “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5: 3)

>> It’s a “parable of challenge and confrontation” because…
… the rich man, who had a luxurious life, was condemned to torments, and had to endure the flames of suffering.

It’s a great challenge and a confrontation before us, who need to realise that indifference and an attitude of closing one’s eyes to the pain and misery of the other can be disastrous and punishable
>>>> “He who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in his own time of need.” (Prov. 21:13)

The world of contrasts needs a Gospel of Comfort and Consolation, and towards this, we are challenged and confronted…
>> Challenged to get rid of our attitudes of indifference and lethargy to help the needy ones.
>> Confronted to overcome our tendencies to remain satisfied in our comforts and close our eyes conveniently to the necessities of the other.

Let us make our life a Good News of Comfort and Consolation.

God bless! Live Jesus!

Feb 24 (Mt 20:17-28)

It was the place known as the Place of the Skulls…
A Man had died…a cruel death… an unjust death!

Nature had witnessed the excruciating suffering of this Man.
And nature, silent and speechless, yet responded in its own manner:
·       Darkness enveloped over the whole land…

·       The earth quaked in anger and desperation…

·       The rocks split wide and many tombs opened up…

A few people had also witnessed the terrifying suffering of this Man.
And these people, though had voice and power, responded in their own manner:

·       Some were sadistically and treacherously ‘feasting’ their senses with the agony of the Man…

·       Some were appallingly indifferent and shockingly lukewarm…

Very few were enormously heartbroken and shattered..

Among these were a few men….
·       One by name, John… who was a Beloved of the One who died

·       Another was Nicodemus… who a secret follower of the One who died

·       Yet another was Joseph… who was from Arimathea, another disciple of the One who died

Among these were also a few women…
·       Most notably, the Mother of the One who had died!

·       Among others, a Mary of Magdalene… a Mary, who was the mother of James and Joseph

There was also another woman…
The last few hours had been extremely terrible for her.
She had witnessed the horrible suffering and death of a Man…and also experienced the pain of the Man’s Mother.

This woman herself had two sons.
>> And she knew the agony and pain of a mother seeing the suffering of her precious children.
>> And through those dreadful moments, this woman remembered an incident that had happened in her life…

Some weeks back, she had approached this Man with a favour for her children (Mt 20:20)
Her children, were the disciples of the One who had died.

She had requested, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left, in your kingdom”
(Mt 20:21)

But the Master had responded, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”
(Mt 20:22)

She had not really understood the meaning of the Cup, back then.
>> She was more interested in securing a good place for her children, as it the case for every mother.

But, now….
…standing before that same Master…who had died a horrible death… she understood what was meant by the “Cup”
… standing before the same Master’s Mother… who had borne immense pain of Her Little Child’s death… she understood what was meant by “drinking the cup of suffering”.

She realised…
… the path to glory is only by treading the way of the Cross.
… that more than asking for places of honour, a true commitment to do God’s Will was needed
… that her request was triggered by a ordinary human concern and not tuned to seeking what was more needed by the Lord.

And standing before the Cross, she would have wished and prayed..
“Lord, not a place of honour, but grant that my children would follow you passionately!
Lord, not a seat of glory, but grant that my children may be faithful to you for life!”

This woman, invites each of us also…
… to put our focus totally on the Kingdom values and not on transient material concerns.
… to live in absolute commitment to God’s Mission and leave rewards to the mercy of God

·       Are we ready to put into place “first things first”…God’s Kingdom over every other materialistic wanting…?

·       Are we ready to prioritize our concerns and     focus… seek holiness and salvation over other transitory aspirations…?

>> Let us look to the Cross to draw greater inspiration to prioritize our needs and wants.

>> Let us look to our Blessed Mother who sought God’s Will for Her Child above all else.

God Bless! Live Jesus!