Nov 1 (Solemnity of All Saints Day)

The second half of the 20th century, saw a number of Christians facing suffering and persecution in Eastern Europe… … under the influence of the Communist regime.

There was a heroic Bishop, who continued to work in this dreadful atmosphere…

… and continued to preach the Gospel.

He attributes his strength to be bold and zealous for the Lord..

… thanks to a beautiful vocation call he received, through the medium of his grandmother.

This Bishop had been orphaned at a young age and lived with his grandmother.

>> They stayed in the house of his uncle, who was the parish priest of a particular church.

Soon after the communists had taken power, they captured this parish priest and had him arrested..

… leaving the grandmother and the little son (the Bishop) alone.

After a week of captivating the parish priest, the offenders came to the church as well as the residence, to ransack any religious article, documents or images that could be found.

Finally, when they finished looting everything, as they left…

… the grandmother and the boy, stood at the entrance of the house.

One of the soldiers, with contempt and mockery asked the old lady, “Well, do you have any more religious articles or cross that we can take with us?”

The grandmother, with boldness and courage, looked into the face of the soldier and said:

“Well, I do have one.

But you cannot take that away from me!”

Saying so, she made the Sign of the Cross!

The soldiers were taken aback…

… but left, without saying a word.

The powerful witness by the grandmother, sparked the fire of Divine Vocation in the heart of that young boy…

… who went on to become a heroic Bishop – himself giving witness to the Lord, in the midst of persecutions!

Such are saintly lives, isn’t it?

 

They inspire…

They motivate…

They spur us on… to live Christian lives with boldness and courage!

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, Fra Angelico, 1423-24, National Gallery, London

Today, Holy Mother the Church is geared up to celebrate Her Saints – on this Solemnity of the All-Saints!

>> It’s a day of immense celebration of these superheroes of God!

The Church invites us to lift our gaze to heaven…

… and thank and praise God for the innumerable people who not only persevered in their faith while they lived on earth…

… but actually lived their lives in such a way that they built up Christ’s Kingdom in the world.

The saints are not superheroes in the worldly sense…

What sets them apart…

… is not their miraculous power

… is not their popularity and fame.

Rather, what makes them saints, is their faith and their discipleship and their service to others.

The word..SAINT…sometimes strikes an odd chord in our minds…

Saints are often considered to be people…

… beyond our reach and too holy for our lives

… for whom the path to sanctity was made easy and cosy.

… who are given a special boon from God to live a holy life.

But the truth perhaps, is quite contrary…

Saints are people…

… who are truly very close to us and lived in simple and ordinary life situations like us.

… who had to struggle through many hardships and trials in the path to holiness.

… who co-operated with the grace of God and remained faithful to their commitment and call

Every Christian is called to a life of Holiness and to be a Saint…

How is this possible in our lives…?

The Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus, in today’s Gospel shows us the path… (Mt 5: 1-10)

Being a saint…

… by depending on God in all dimensions of our life and seeking His Kingdom above all

… by mourning over our sins and seeking to live a life in repentance.

… by living a life of firm gentleness and trusting patience in the midst of injustice and pain

… by becoming agents of justice and seekers of establishing truth

… by giving mercy and compassion to the needy and even to those who we feel, don’t deserve

… by preserving purity in our thoughts, words and deeds

… by striving for establishing peace and harmony even in conflicting situations

… by accepting suffering and becoming stronger in our struggle to establish God’s Kingdom

This Feast day is a chance for us to sneak into the personal diary of the saints…

… and to “steal” some tips for us to admire and imitate them…

 

The Saints’ Favourite Food: The Holy Eucharist

The Saints’ Favourite Dress: The Armour of Faith

The Saints’ Favourite Pastime: Doing anything with immense love of God

The Saints’ Favourite Symbol: The Holy Cross

The Saints’ Favourite Moments: Every time they discovered more the depth of God’s Love

The Church has a marvellous number of saints who are canonized.

On this special day, we also take our time, to raise our hearts in gratitude, for the many other holy men and women, who sparkle with sanctity, but have not been officially declared so.

>> A few may be known to us, in our family or friends circle…

But most of them, will remain unknown and unfamiliar and unheard.

But in the Lord’s presence, they dazzle and shine, in holiness and purity.

This galaxy of Saints beckon and encourage each one of us today to tread this path of holiness.

As St Augustine says, ” Do you aspire to do great things? Begin with the little ones”

…Doing our simple works with much love of God.

…Living our Christian life with much faithfulness

….Seeing the deep presence of God in all areas of our life.

Let us live a life…

… of self-sacrifice, renunciation and trust in God

… seeking to do God’s will at all times

… laced with the tender Love of God in all our activities.

Today, all the saints in heaven, with a loud chorus invite each one of us:

“Come, dear Child…Be a Saint!

Do not be afraid! We are with you!”

What is our response?

Happy Feast to all the Saints in Heaven…the Church Triumphant!

>> Happy Feast to all the faithful departed, being purged to be saints… the Church Suffering!

>> Happy Feast to all of us, striving to be saints, here on earth…the Church Militant!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 31 (Lk 14:12-14)

Christianity is described as a religion of contradictions…

…Paradoxes are perhaps a way of life, for a Christian.

The Christian Lifestyle could be described in the following few lines:

“The way to be master… is to be servant;

The way to receive… is to give;

The way to be rich… is to be poor;

The way to be wise… is to be a fool;

The way to be exalted… is to abase oneself;

The way to live… is to die.”

The Gospel of the Day is a call from Jesus to examine our attitude towards others and to grow to become more and more selfless..

.. and thus be more and more Christian!

We are in the 14th Chapter of St Luke.

Jesus has been invited for a dinner to the house of a leading Pharisee on a Sabbath Day.

>> He has just cured a person with dropsy…a disease wherein water gets retained in the body

>> He also tried to cure persons with hypocrisy…a disease wherein duplicity gets retained in the mind!

And now He seeks to cure the attitude of the people who have a false understanding of giving.

Jesus says, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives and wealthy neighbours. For surely they will invite you in return and you will be repaid” (Lk 14:12)

Much of our giving is based purely on the (hidden) aspect of receiving back…

>> Much of our sharing is based purely on an (unconscious) agenda of getting back…

We share our time with friends…

… often expecting that they too will accompany us in our times of hardships and difficulties!

We render service to many people who are in need…

… often expecting that they too will render us assistance in our difficulties!

We pray to God & make a lot of sacrifices…

… often expecting that He’ll meet all our expectations, in the way & time, we want!

We love many saints…

… often expecting that they’ll make faster intercession on our behalf and get our works done quickly.

 

We have, perhaps, become very business oriented:

>> I give, and expect return

>> I share, and expect a bonus.

But the Lord, in today’s Gospel comes down heavily on such an attitude.

“When you give, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind…because they cannot repay you” (Lk 14:13)

We are exhorted to give to those, who may never be able to repay back.

>> We are challenged to help those, who may never have a chance to return back the favour.

The Lord who said these words, shows us an example in the highest manner possible…

… in the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Eucharist is the best example and model…of such kind of a giving..

>> A giving without expecting back!

>> A sharing without seeking back.!

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the poor…

>> We who are poor…

… in our morals and purity

 … in our commitment and dedication

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the crippled…

>> We who are crippled…

… with our many sins and faults

… with the guilt of many past failures

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the lame…

>> We who are lame…

… in our longing and thirst for the Divine

… in our acts of self-giving and self-sacrifice

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the blind…

>> We who are blind…

… to the cries of those around us

… to see our habits which needs repentance & improvement

Jesus, who gives Himself entirely in the Holy Eucharist today challenges us to do the same..,

“I give myself to you as food and nourishment…even though many people fail to thank me

>> Can you also give yourselves to nourish the lives of others…even if they fail to acknowledge?”

“I give myself to you in joy, happiness and peace…even though many despise and mock me

>> Can you also become a source of joy to others…even if they back-bite and spread calumny?”

“I give myself to you as a healing for sin and guilt..even though many hate and desecrate me.

>> Can you also become a healing touch to the other…even if it means dying slowly to your self slowly die in the process?”

The onus is on us…

Can we truly pray and live…

… The Christian Life – with its contradictions and paradoxes?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 30 (Lk 19:1-10)

There is a story said about a carpenter, who had least botheration about his Christian faith.

His pious and devout wife would often exhort him to return to faith…
… but he cared least!
>> They would even often have fights over this issue.

Once, he left to the woods, to fell trees.

As he glanced around, he noticed a tree – dead and dry, with its leafless branches embracing the skies.
>> He said to himself, “That tree I will cut down. For it is dead and dry, fit only to burned!”

As he got himself ready with the axe, to chop down the tree…
… he heard a voice thundering within him, “Are you not also like this dead tree…. Fit only to be burned?”

He tried to banish away such thoughts…
… but the higher he lifted up the axe to cut the tree, the greater was the voice heard!

He went on to strike the tree a few times…
… but the thought kept flashing in his mind: “Will God ever tell me.. ‘Cut it down..fit only to be burned!”

Eventually, the thoughts became so great, that he fell on his knees…
… and pleaded with God, to receive him back.

The story goes on to say, that he went back to his wife and was reconciled to her…
… and had his faith restored in the Lord…
… revived by the Mercy of God!

Is my life like a dead tree….without spiritual energy and “fit only to be burned”?
… then the Lord today thunders in our hearts: To restore our faith and be revived in His Mercy!

The Gospel of the Day takes us through such a faith-restoring and mercy-experiential incident in the life of a little man – Zacchaeus

The story begins with Jesus coming to Jericho and intending to pass through the town (Lk 19:1)

Jericho has a long history, especially seen in the Old Testament.
>> Jericho was the first city to be conquered by the Israelites under Joshua. (Josh 6:1-27)

It was surrounded by a huge wall. However, with directives from God & under the leadership of Joshua, the city was laid siege.

On the appointed day, Joshua ordered the people to shout & the walls of the city collapsed and the Israelites destroyed it.

Joshua laid a curse on the one who would rebuild this city.
>> Thus, Jericho bore the brunt of a curse.

It is to this ‘place of curse’ that Jesus makes his entry.

As Jesus makes his entry to this cursed place, a little man named Zacchaeus climbs & hides himself behind the leaves of a tree.

Now this incident of Jesus entering an accursed city and a man hiding behind the leaves of a tree, has quite striking similarities with another incident, seen at the start of the Bible – the incident in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3)

In the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve sinned, God moved about in the garden.
>> But they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3: 8)

God comes to a place, which has been now cursed because of sin.
But two persons hide themselves in the trees of the garden.

Interesting similarity, isn’t it?

God comes to a place of curse… the Garden… and two persons (Adam and Eve) hide in the trees.
>> Jesus comes to a place of curse… the city of Jericho… and one person (Zacchaeus) hides in the trees.

But with the similarity, there are also striking differences…

Adam and Eve hid from God, in order to stay away from God, because of the guilt of sin.
>> Zacchaeus hid from Jesus, in order to see him better, because of his own complexes.

Adam and Eve were fearful to hear the words of God addressing them.
>> Zacchaeus was surprised and joyful to hear the words of Jesus addressed to him.

Adam and Eve wanted to remain hiding even after God sought for them in the garden.
>> Zacchaeus jumped down from the tree after Jesus sought to come to his home.

Is there some similarity of these incidents to my life too?

Am I, like Adam & Eve, hiding from God, because I am scared of Him due to some of the sins which I am unwilling to give up?
>> Or am I, like Zacchaeus, seeking refuge in the leaves of trees like money, pleasure, evil habits and yet have a desire to see the Lord?

The Lord is gazing at us… like He gazed at Adam and Eve and Zacchaeus.

Am I, like Adam & Eve, fearful to hear the words of God, in the Bible or through the teachings of the Church or the words of other people, because of the pain to get rid of my sinful tendencies and evil practices?
>> Or am I, like Zacchaeus, joyful to hear God’s words addressed to me, & also ready to make changes for a better spiritual life?

The Lord is addressing each one of us…like He addressed Adam and Eve and Zacchaeus.

Am I, like Adam & Eve, wanting to remain in my sinful and lethargic state of life even though I experience that God’s mercy and compassion is readily available?
>> Or am I, like Zacchaeus willing to jump down with joy, from the tree of pride, complexes, sin and fear, and welcome the Lord into the home of my life?

The Lord is seeking for us…as He sought Adam and Eve and Zacchaeus.

The Lord is gazing, addressing and seeking for us.
>>  Am I ready to encounter, to listen and to be found by Him?
 

A Yes to the question, will also mean taking some radical decisions in our life, just like Zacchaeus did…
>> Giving up of possessions…
>> Letting go of my undue desire for money, cheap popularity, the riches in my life etc.
>> Repaying those whom I have cheated…
>> Forgiving and accepting those whom I hurt, whom I don’t like, whom I am not in good terms etc.

Zacchaeus was a despised man.
…  because of his short stature.
… because as a tax collector, he worked for the enemy-government and would cheat and defraud people.
… because Jesus came to his house – a house of a sinner.

But the encounter with Jesus made him a transformed person
>> The encounter with Jesus made him to go beyond all complexes and filled him with deep joy!

This same transformation is at hand for us…

Let, us, learn from the Little Man and make significant changes in our life, in order to experience the magnanimous wonders and graces from our Big God!

Maybe our life is like a dead tree….without spiritual energy and “fit only to be burned”!
>> The Lord today thunders in our hearts: To restore our faith and be revived in His Mercy!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 29 ( Lk 14:1-6)

For our reflection today, we shall make a verse by verse analysis of the Gospel Passage…

The passage under consideration is the Healing of the man with dropsy on the Sabbath Day.
>> Let us carefully reflect on this amazingly dramatic incident…

The passage begins with the statement, “On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees…” (Lk 14:1a)

Here was an invitation of a high and elite nature…

A leading Pharisee of the Jewish society had called Jesus to his home. He was joined by many other scholars of the Law and the Pharisees.

>> Maybe it was a show of one’s status and pride and dignity as a great Pharisee…
>> Maybe it was another chance for the critics of Jesus to find something to crib about him…
“…and the people there were observing Him carefully…” (Lk 14:1b)

To be invited for a dinner was something nice and pleasant…
>> But to be invited to become an object of observation and scanning was bad enough.

“The people were observing  Him carefully” suggested a suspicious action…
It was as if…
… some thieves were waiting eagerly to strike on their target…
… some fierce lions, were stealthily preparing to pounce upon their prey…

And then comes the bait…”In front of him, there was a man suffering from dropsy” (Lk 14:2)

What’s dropsy?
>> Dropsy was a condition in which there was an unnatural collection of serous (pale yellow and transparent) fluid in any cavity of the body.

Dropsy was water retention in the body. 
>> Dropsy itself was not a disease, but a symptom of a disease.

It could be a number of things – complications of the liver or kidney or the heart or all three!

In the Jewish understanding, someone who had this condition of dropsy, was seen as a great sinner, even related to being a sexual sinner.

This sickness was a pointer to the man’s condition of being highly unclean!

But excuse me…
>> Is this not a setting of a dinner?
>> Was not Jesus called for a meal… and that too, a dinner with the elite and leading religious people…
…and that too, on a Sabbath day?!

Then what was a man with dropsy, a serious condition of uncleanness, doing there?

The plot of the drama thickens…
The setup was clear…
>> The Pharisees have invited Jesus for a meal, yes…
… but with a hidden and a mean agenda:
“Drop a man with dropsy in front of Jesus…and observe what he does!”

They know Jesus has the power to heal…
… but they also know that it will lead to violation of the Sabbath!

They know Jesus would feel compassion on the man…
… but they also know that it will give them a chance to go up in arms!

They wanted Jesus to violate the Sabbath to give proof that He was not from God!

The Rabbinical rule was that one could only be doctored if one was going to die immediately on the Sabbath.
>> But if death is not imminent, wait till the Sabbath is over.

But Jesus had time & again proved, that he had no regard for that lack of compassion or for the folly of that legalism.
>> In Lk 6:6-11, Jesus heals a withered man on the Sabbath…
>> In Lk 13: 10-17, Jesus heals a woman, crippled for eighteen years, on the Sabbath…

And so He asks the guests gathered around, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?” (Lk 14:3)

>> Jesus knew their answer.
>> Jesus knew their perspective of things.
… Yet He wanted them to tell.

“..but they kept silent” (Lk 14:4a)…
>> They knew the answer too.
>> They knew it was unlawful.
… Still they did not tell Him.

Sheer hypocrisy.
>> Absolute malicious trapping.
>> Horrifying trick of deception!

And then Jesus does something astonishing…
“..he took the man, and after he had healed him, dismissed him” (Lk 14:4b)

The Greek word used for “took” is a very very strong verb….”Epilombano”

Epilombano literally means to lay hold of or to seize upon anything with the hands
(The same word used in…
…. Lk 23:26, when the soldiers seized Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross
… Acts 16:19 to say that Paul and Silas were seized and dragged by their persecutors..)

The cruel silence of the crowd provokes Jesus, to strongly seize the afflicted man!
>> He doesn’t work the miracle in hiding or quietly or from a distance!

Rather, with much force, He just grabs the man, seizes him, crushes him in His arms as if to squeeze the fluid out and give him a new heart, a new liver, and a new self…
… and creates in the man a whole new set of internal organs.

And finally Jesus justifies His action with another thundering question: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath?” (Lk 14:6)

A beautiful picture indeed…

Jesus asks them, “None of you would have allowed your son or ox to drown in the waters, isn’t it?
Then why don’t you see, that I have also saved from drowning… this man with dropsy, drowning in his own fluid!”

Another total silence by the onlookers!

Am I also silent now?

Let us give heed to the message of the Gospel and learn from this dramatic incident…
… a wonderful inspiration, for us… who need the touch of the Lord, from being drowned in the troubled waters of life!
… a hard warning, for us… who malign other’s lives by seeking to find ways and means to trap them in the works of goodness!
… a tremendous booster, for us.. who often get bogged down by troubles of life & instead to be bold to the hard & gritty challenges of life!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 28 (Feast Day of Sts Jude and Simon)

A garden of flowers delights most people!
>> A garden consists of a variety of flowers, with varied colours, sizes, shapes.

Some flowers tend to capture our attention more…some escape the gaze of our eyes.
>> However, this in no way, reduces or increases their relevance and importance.

Each flower has its own specialty….Each flower has its own attraction.

Jesus in His garden of ministry, chose twelve apostles.

Some apostles tend to capture our attention more…some escape the gaze of our eyes.
>> However, this in no way, reduces or increases their relevance and importance.

Each apostle has its own specialty….Each apostle has its own attraction.

Today Holy Mother the Church celebrates the feast of two apostles: St Jude and St Simon.
>> These are apostles, who in most probability escape the gaze of our eyes.

These two saints are usually known as the “unknown apostles”.
>> Yet, they have their own greatness before God and their own importance to inspire us in our lives!

The scarcity of their appearance in the New Testament is so vivid that except in the list of the names of the apostles, the name of Simon never appears elsewhere whereas the name of  Jude makes only a single appearance in the discourse of Jesus after the last supper (Jn 14: 22).

In the Gospel of Matthew & Mark, the apostle Simon is given the title of a Cananaean, while Luke mentions him as “Zealot”.

This apostle Simon must have belonged to the Zealot Party.

The Zealot Party was a first-century political movement among Judean Jews who sought to overthrow the occupying Roman government.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, four main Jewish groups existed at the time of Christ—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots.

The Zealots were known for their aggression and violent behaviour.
>> They advocated that no one, but Yahweh alone should rule over Israel and hence, obedience to the Roman government should be refused.

• The selection of Simon, the Zealot  as an Apostle, is a great insight into the workings of Jesus, in His Kingdom Ministry…
The Lord accepts us with our hard instincts.
>> The Lord takes into account our various mentalities and mindsets.

In His Divine Love, He squashes all such factors and patterns us into people fit for His Kingdom.
>> He doesn’t reject us in our over-zeal.
>> He doesn’t cast us away because of our impulses.

All that He expects is an openness to follow Him fully and allow ourselves to be moulded!

The Apostle Jude is given another title by St Matthew and St Mark: Thaddeus.
>> Thaddeus means “the courageous heart“

St Jude is certainly one of the most popular saints in our world today, considering the fact that he is called as “The Miraculous Saint”. 
>> St Jude is the one whose aid is often sought when all hope is lost, especially in grave illness & life-&-death situations.

There is a story that since his name is identical with Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus, St Jude would hardly be interceded too, except in the most desperate situations!
>> And hence, perhaps, he got identified as the Patron in Helpless Causes!

St Bridget of Sweden & St Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept St Jude as ‘Patron Saint of the Impossible’.

• The Apostle Jude teaches us a few insights for our spiritual growth:
 Like the name – Jude Thaddeus – we are invited too, to have a “heart full of courage”.

The Kingdom of God requires brave soldiers and people of immense valour.
>> The Lord needs followers who are imbued with the might of His Holy Spirit and who boldly proclaim the Gospel and witness its values by their lives.

No situation of discouragement or setbacks will hinder the march of a “Courageous Heart”!

 St Jude, as the Patron of Desperate Cases, inspires us to have a deeper faith and trust in the Providence and Mercy of God.
The Lord is all-knowing.
>> He wills what is best for us.

However, in our human frailty, we often tend to lose our hope and become highly desperate.
But this Saint teaches to grow deeper in our faith & know that “behind every dark cloud is a silver lining of the sun…(Son!)”!

 St Jude also teaches the powerful role of Intercessory Prayer.
We are all created in the Image and Likeness of God, and each of us have a bounden duty to the other…to take care, to love each other and to pray for one another.
>> When we pray for others and bring others to the presence of God, we help them in their difficulties and join with them in solidarity and compassion.

There are many hidden flowers in a garden.
>> Yet, each one has its own beauty and fragrance and value.

These two apostles – St Simon and St Jude – are fairly hidden in the Gospels, and yet we can learn and be inspired much by them.

May the life and intercession of these two hidden, yet Great Apostles of the Lord…
… impel us further, to love God and His people
… and spread the Gospel of God to many more!

Happy Feast of the Apostles St Jude and St Simon.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 27 (Lk 13:31-35)

As children, we have often heard short stories…

One of the famous stories we have heard is about the Fox and the Hen.
>> The Fox tries his level best to kill the hen & it almost succeeds, until, the hen, by its cleverness, escapes through the clutches of the fox!

The fox is described with dominative and oppressive characters.
>> The hen is described with a defenseless and subjugated character. 

Yet, the hen with its cleverness and adeptness manages to escape through its grasp.

The Gospel of the day presents such similar images of the Hen and the Fox to deliver a powerful message for our spiritual lives.

The passage begins with some Pharisees giving a warning to Jesus to leave that place since Herod wanted to kill Him.

Firstly, we encounter an unusual image of the Pharisees…
>> Usually, they are a group who present a very opposing and critical attitude.

The thought of a Pharisee, usually, brings an image of people who are knowledgeable, yet judgemental & disapproving in their behaviour.

But here is a welcome distinction…
>> These Pharisees display a concern towards Jesus and warn Him of the dangers posed by King Herod.

Why did these Pharisees do so ?

…In malice, to further trap Jesus?
…In jealousy, to keep Jesus away from the crowds?
…In concern, to help in His mission?

We can’t say for sure.
>> We can’t ascertain what really was their motive behind warning Jesus.

But it does allows us space to think that all people cannot be judged as wrong all the time!
>> Atleast an inkling of goodness exists in all, even in the midst of thick evil!

The answer of the Lord to the warning is a strong one…”Go and tell that fox…!” (Lk 13:32)

The image of the fox appears….King Herod.

Why does Jesus call King Herod as a fox?

The fox was an unclean animal for a Jew.
>> More than the slyness of the animal, Jesus was perhaps referring more to its uncleanness.

Herod always had issues with respect to being a clean and credible Jew…

After the death of his father, King Herod the Great (the one who had killed the many innocent male children at the birth of Jesus), this Herod Antipas had been put in power by Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, in 4 BC.

History tells that in 17 AD, to honour his Roman rulers, he build a grand new capital city named Tiberius, after the current emperor, only to discover that it was built on top of an old Jewish cemetery.
>> No pious Jew ever entered it, & was occupied exclusively by the pagans.

Herod also had his moral issues…
>> He divorced his first wife, in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother, Philip.

John the Baptist had been a persistent critic of Herod for this dubious marriage.

Herod had John killed because he had promised his daughter anything she wanted if she danced for him, and John’s head on a platter is what she wanted.

True, that King Herod Antipas was a powerful man and a person of great influence.
… But Jesus, the King of Kings and the God of all, fears him not and calls him “a fox”!

>> When one is filled with the mighty Spirit of God, no earthly forces can cause fright or scare!
>> When one fully trusts in the strength of God, no worldly might can cause anxiety or dread!
>> When one is committed to one’s convictions and missions, no power can deter away from it!

This leads Jesus to give another image…
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how many times, I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…“

The image of a mother Hen appears…Jesus Christ

It is one of the most overtly feminine references to God in all of scripture.

Jesus will be the mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to harm. 
She has no pointed fangs or rippling muscles. 
>> But all she has, is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. 

If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.

This is the image that Jesus for Himself… a Hen.
>> It lays bare God’s vulnerability. 

Here is the contrast…
King Herod, presented as a Fox…powerful, rude, forceful.
>> Jesus, presented as a mother Hen…protective, sacrificial, shielding.

This mother Hen, Jesus, invites each of us, His chicks, to find shelter under His wings.

Am I willing to take shelter under the wings of Jesus, the mother Hen?

The Gospel  has a sad note : When the mother hen tried to gather her chicks underneath her wings, “they were unwilling” (Lk 13:34b)

The chicks are unwilling to remain under the shade of the hen’s wings…
>> Maybe they wanted more freedom…
>> Maybe they just wanted to have their own way of living life…
>> Maybe they did not find the mother hen too exciting, whereas the active fox attracted them…

We too are sometimes so…
>> We fail to come under the shade of God’s wings…
>> We become unwilling.

The story of the fox and the hen continues…
Do I get attracted more to the energetic and tempting fox…
>> Or do I find rest, shelter and protection under the wings of the mother hen?

The choice is before us…

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 25 (Lk 13:18-21)

“Little Is Much When God is in It!”

Jesus in the Gospels loves to use simple, tiny and insignificant objects, to project His message of the Kingdom!

Today He uses the example of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven in describing the Might of the Kingdom!

The mustard seed & leaven would’ve hardly received any attention in the normal sense.
>> But Jesus, the Master Artist paints these li’l objects into the Mighty Canvas of the Kingdom & delivers a powerful message…

>> The Kingdom of God has its humble beginnings….but it develops into a Powerful Force!
>> The Kingdom of God often starts very insignificantly…but it expands into a Huge Reality!
>> The Kingdom of God initiates in an unnoticed manner….but it enlarges into an Influential Entity!

Little Is Much when God is in It!

The mustard seed develops into a Tree, which renders shelter to the birds of the air (Lk 13: 19)…..

•The sinners find a solace in this Tree….
•The sick encounter support in this Tree..
•The rejected have a remedy in this Tree…
•The cast-outs meet consolation in this Tree….
•The prostitutes experience peace in this Tree…

The leaven which is little, makes the whole mass of dough to rise (Lk 13: 21)…

•The rod in Moses’ hand…a shepherds’ ordinary crook…became a mighty symbol of God’s Power
•The jawbone with Samson…. a decaying useless bone…became an instrument of killings thousands of enemies!
•The stone in David’s hand….an unnoticed stone… became the  means of conquering the gigantic Goliath!

Little Is Much When God is in It!

>>  We live in times when many things are explained or rejected in terms of science, psychology,  post-modern modern philosophies and assorted spiritualities
>> We live in times when material values and worldly attitudes are corroding our lives.
>> We live in times when ethical principles and traditional virtues often get kicked into the backyard!

>> Times are bad. Times are worsening. Times are sickening…
>> Times, are even, sometimes seen to be hopeless, scary and terrifying!

But we also ought to realize that…many things, which cannot be discovered and understood through the microscope of science and modern theories can be discovered by looking through the eyes of faith!

Yes, massive things can be seen and achieved by looking through the miniscule eye of Faith!

Our efforts and attempts to spread God’s Kingdom may be just minor and appearing to be insignificant…
  … like the Mustard Seed and the Leaven.

But, Little Is Much When God is in It!!

May we seek the grace to realize the power of “little things” and “little efforts” in building up the “Great Kingdom of God” and to spread the “Immense Love of the Lord” to all!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 23 ( Lk 18:9-14)

A family had shifted to a new house, and the little girl of the house was given her own little room.

On her bedroom wall, just over the head of the bed on which she slept…
… was a picture of Jesus.

This picture was reflected in the large mirror of the dressing table…
… which was directly on the other side.

Thus, when the little girl woke up on the first morning in the new house…
… she could see the picture of Jesus (which was reflected on the mirror)

As she lay on bed, with her eyes opened, she exclaimed:
“Oh Mummy.. I can see Jesus through the mirror!”

To have a better look, the little girl, quickly kneeled up, to have a better look.

But in so doing, she brought her own body between the picture and the mirror!
>> As a result, instead of seeing Jesus, she now saw herself!

So she lay again, and saw the picture of Jesus once more.

She did this quite a few times over and over…
… seeing the image of Jesus as she lay down, and seeing her own image as she knelt up on bed!

Finally, she said:
” Mummy, when I can’t see myself, I can see Jesus!
>> But every time I see myself, I don’t see Him!”

How true it is this isn’t it…?
>> When our own self fills our vision, it clouds the view of Jesus!

Perhaps, very often, we are so full of ourselves, that we cannot see or recognise Christ!

The Gospel of the Day exhorts a strong message on this deadly vice of “being full of ourselves”
… in a single word – “Pride”.

Chapter 18 of the Gospel of St Luke begins with two parables, that teach on the aspect of Prayer.
•       The parable of the Widow who was persistent (Lk 18: 1-8)
•       The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18: 9-14)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector have interesting comparisons with respect to the various gestures and actions that they take:

>> Both go up to the Temple area to pray…
•       The Pharisee took up his position… the tax collector stood off at a distance
•       The Pharisee spoke the prayer to himself… the tax collector would not even raise his eyes to heaven
•       The Pharisee spoke of his personal glories…the tax collector acknowledged being a sinner, in need of mercy.

Though the Gospel doesn’t speak of it, it seems that both, the Pharisee and the tax collector had taken a mirror with themselves, when they went to pray….
A mirror.. yeah!

But, the strange fact is that, both of them used the mirror in contrasting manners!

The Pharisee used the mirror and saw his many achievements and accomplishments…
… being unlike the rest of the sinful humanity like the greedy, dishonest or adulterous
… fasting twice a week
… pay tithes on his whole income

The tax collector, also used a mirror…but saw in it, his many failures and shortcomings…
… the moments when he had cheated others to have greater financial gains
… the times he had subjected himself to be a traitor by working against his own people
… the need to seek for God’s mercy acknowledging his sinfulness

Prayer is like a mirror…but it depends on one’s attitude and disposition what one sees…
•       If one is filled with pride and self-conceit, one sees only one’s accomplishments…
… and thus pushes out God and replaces oneself as the source of all good works!

•       If one is truly humble and modest, one sees one’s weaknesses and limitations…
… and thus acknowledge the dependence on God and on His grace in life!

>>  Prayer could be made into a time of reciting the litany of one’s great achievements…
…or prayer could be made into a moment of seeking God’s mercy and compassion.

>> Prayer could be made into an occasion to boast of oneself and put down others…
… or prayer could be made into a moment to see the glittering light of God guiding us.

What is our attitude and disposition?
•       Am I afflicted with the sickness of pride which makes me to flaunt only myself at the expense of the other?
•       Am I distressed with the disease of arrogance which makes me to see myself as the greatest person in the world, casting aside all people and even God?

There is something of “this” Pharisee, perhaps, in all of us which needs to be shun…
>> There is something of “this” tax collector, which needs to be cultivated…

This “this”…
… is the need to cast away pride and the need to embrace humility and dependence on God!

Let us “lay ourselves low” in humility…and not be “knelt up” in pride…
… and thus realise:
” When I can’t see myself, I can see Jesus!
>> But every time I see myself, I don’t see Him!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 21 ( Lk 12: 54-59)

Our world is seeing immense technological advances.

Such developments have greatly helped humanity…
… to avoid many possible natural disasters
… to be forewarned against future calamities
… to minimize the damages caused by nature’s fury

Such amazing technological advances by human beings is an example of how we are learning to explore the deeper aspects of the mysteries in nature and the universe.
>> Human beings are truly marching miles in reading the signs in nature and the universe.

In the midst of all these great achievements, we are posed with some probing questions…
…are we falling short in reading the signs with respect to humanity’s moral degradation?
…are we failing to read the signs of the times with respect to humanity’s spiritual decline?
…are we missing out reading the signs regarding the reign of God in our lives?

The Gospel of the Day is a reminder and a wake-up call, by Jesus to this dimension of our lives. Jesus says:
“You superficial people! You understand the signs of the earth & sky, but you don’t understand the present times!” (Lk 12:56)

From ages past, human beings have been gaining expertise on interpreting the signs and indications given in nature…
o Spotting of some dark clouds, to predict heavy rains…
o A red sky at dusk, indicating a clearer sky the following day…
o Strange movements of animals and birds, to predict earthquakes or other calamities…

Jesus uses this example in nature to expose the hollowness and duplicity of the people of His time.

Jesus came in the world to usher in the Kingdom of God.
>> He came to announce to the world that God is not some distant entity but rather is very seriously interested to be close to their lives.

To this end of announcing the Kingdom of God…Jesus performed a number of signs…
 He taught the Scriptures and the Laws with a greater freshness and stronger authority.
 He healed the blind, the deaf and the dumb to make them witness His power.
 He raised up the dead and powerfully demonstrated the saving power of God.
 He restored the crippled and cast out demons to show them God’s might.
 He forgave sinners and accepted the outcast to display God’s deep mercy and compassion.
 He searched for the lost and invited the oppressed to experience the depth of God’s love.
 He performed many miracles in nature to show God’s supremacy over the whole creation.

But many of the people failed to see beyond these signs…
>> All these miracles & manifestations of the Lord were very often looked upon with much suspicion & sometimes, even contempt!

Jesus pities such an attitude!

The people could interpret so easily the signs in nature…
… but they failed to interpret the signs of the Kingdom of God!
>> They failed to understand the call of God, in the wonders done by Him.

The people could easily predict certain things by seeing the climate…
… but they refused to hear God’s inviting voice, in the marvels performed by Him.
>> The remained stubborn to the invitation of the Lord towards change of sinful attitudes

The people could easily tell certain events of the future by observing their surroundings…
… but they adamantly declined to turn to Him in repentance, by seeing His deeds.
>> They purposely chose to be stuck to their “tunneled” minds and failing to accept God’s mercy

This is a danger that any one of us could also have in our own personal lives…

God sustains our daily life with much care…but we fail to give praise for His wonders.
>> We take for granted all these daily blessings.

God protects us from various calamities…but we fail to admit His providence.
>> We take for granted His shielding hand.

God infuses our lives with many inspirations…but we fail to give heed to His voice.
>> We take for granted all His tender invitations.

 Personal sins are God’s ways of calling us to experience His Mercy and Justice.
 Delays in prayers are God’s ways of asking us to Trust in Him more Deeply.
 Accidents and calamities are God’s ways of calling us to trust in His Providence.
 Unexpected failures and pains are God’s ways of making us to Share in His Sufferings.
 Happy and a satisfied life is God’s ways of inviting us to Thank and Praise Him more.
 Failure to overcome our bad tendencies is God’s ways of calling to us to a Life of Humility
 Despair in life and hopelessness is God’s way of appealing us to Grow much more in Faith.

Signs from God, may sometimes be liked…sometimes be disliked.
>> St Augustine said, ‘If you believe what you like in the gospels but reject what you don’t like, it’s not the gospel you believe, but yourself’

In trust and faith, let us walk with the Lord, knowing that all things “work for good, for those who love Him” (Rom 8:28)

Human beings have come a long way in technological advancements & seeking to conquer the outer space &powers of nature…
>> But we still have a long way to understand the mighty works being performed by God in our personal & communitarian lives.

Let us see the signs… Let us recognize God’s power… Let us march joyfully in Him!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Oct 20 ( Lk 12: 49-53)

One of the common questions that is usually asked to kids is:
”What do you want to become when you grow big?”

And the answers we get are sometimes common, sometimes interesting, sometimes even weird…
“I want to be a doctor”,
“I want to be an engineer“,
“I want to be the next Bill Gates”,
” I want to fly to Mars”…

But suppose, if the same question were to be put forward to another Kid…
>> This Kid would have given perhaps the strangest and the shocking answers of all:
“When I grow big, I want to Die!
>> I am living my life, so that I can die!”

Guess who is this Kid?

Well…no marks for guessing who it is..

It is Jesus!
>> Death was the goal of His life!

The Gospel of the Day presents this burning and intense desire of the Lord, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized and how great is my anguish, until it is accomplished” (Lk 12: 50)

Christ came into the world to save the world.
>> And this salvation was possible for Him, only through the way of suffering.

This is the Baptism to which Christ refers to….
> A Baptism of suffering.
> A Baptism of obedience.
> A Baptism of self-sacrifice.

This way of the Lord is not easy.
>> It causes division and separation, even in families.

How does this division happen?
>> When one stands for the values and the person of Christ, the world mocks and fools.
>> When one holds on to one’s faith and convictions in Christ, there is immense shame inflicted.

A member in the family stands for Church values and principles, whereas others in the house oppose.
>> A division is created among them, in the Name of Christ!

A student in the class stands for honesty and truthfulness and refuses to join in copying and malpractices during the examination.
>> A division is created among them, in the Name of Christ!

A friend stands for his convictions and refuses to join his peers in some bad habits or activities which are unbecoming.
>> A division is created among them, in the Name of Christ!

A person counters accepting bribes at work or opposes doing some manipulation in the place of work to gain some extra finances.
>> A division is created among them, in the Name of Christ!

Christianity indeed is the strangest of all religions…

Usually religions advocate a way of life which calls for comfort and relaxation.
>>> Christianity disturbs one’s life from comfort to become a people who comfort others.

Usually religions promote happiness of life by following some rituals and ceremonies.
>>> Christianity challenges one to uproot one’s sinful roots and discover true peace and joy.

Christ is indeed the strangest of all religious figures…

All religious figures have their greatness in just their teachings and exhortations.
>>> Christ stands unparalleled in making His life itself as the greatest message and teaching.

All religious figures ride on popularity wave of external manifestations and wonders.
>>> Christ stands out in becoming a single icon of absolute self-sacrifice and victimhood!

All religious figures propose a variety of tips for living and paths of attaining immortality
>>> Christ alone became the way itself to be walked and the truth itself to be followed!

Its sometimes easy to follow other ways of life…because they are comfortable and secure.
>> Its always hard to follow the way of Christ…because He always challenges in our coziness.

The Lord invites us to be bold in accepting the Crosses of our life &to share with Him, in the Baptism of suffering & pain.

We still have much to grow.

What are we growing ourselves into?
>> Christ is the example for us.

He chose suffering and self-sacrifice as His path to glory.
> His way is the way of suffering.
> His way is the way of pain.
> His way is the way of the Cross.
But…
…  His way is also the way of joy!
… His way is also the way to glory!
… His way is also the way of healing!

And now He beckons each one of us too…
>> Shall we also join Him in His intense desire for Baptism?

God Bless! Live Jesus!