Sep 1 (Mt 25:1-13)

“Take time by the forelock” is a phrase that means ‘to act quickly and decisively” and “not let slip an opportunity”

( “Forelock” is the strand or cluster of hair, growing just above the forehead)

This phrase has an interesting origin…

 

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

This statue…

… had wings

… a lock of hair on the forehead

… and was bald at the back of the head

Underneath this statue, was engraved the following conversation, in a question-answer format…
“Who made thee?”

“Lysippus made me.”
 

“What is thy name?”

“My name is Opportunity.”

 
“Why hast thou wings on thy feet?”

“That I may fly swiftly over the earth.”
“Why hast thou a forelock?”

“That men may seize me as I come.”
“Why art thou bald on the back of thy head?’?

“Because, when I am gone, none can lay hold of me.”
 
“Opportunity is like this bald-headed man with only a patch of hair right in front.
 

One has to grab that hair, grasp the opportunity while it’s being confronted…

… else, one will be grasping a slick bald head!”

Is my Christian Life characterised by an enthusiastic response to the many opportunities for blessings that God offers me…?

.. or do I ‘doze off’ in lethargy and laziness, letting away many wonderful opportunities and squandering many chances of God’s abundant favours?
 

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

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

 
In the time of our Blessed Lord, the wedding was probably one of the greatest events in a typical Palestinian village or an Israeli town.
This was a time of great social celebration!
All got together…

… friends, relatives, villagers..
It was a time of great festivity, abounding happiness and overflowing celebrations.

A Jewish marriage consisted of three parts or elements:
1. Engagement

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

 
2. Betrothal

>> This second element consisted of the friends and family members coming together and the couple making vows and promises that were binding.
This phase onwards, they would be officially considered as husband and wife.
 

3. Marriage

>> The time after Betrothal lasted up to a year, which was for the bridegroom to prepare a place for his bride – either an addition to his father’s house or to have his own
It was to be his concrete expression of showing his love to her – preparing a home for her and preparing his heart and life for her!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s so ironical that the wedding which was such a well-prepared and a long-awaited event, had these five virgins who were so unprepared and so  unequipped for the grand moment!
 
The story of these five virgins who were unprepared (whom our Blessed Lord calls as ‘foolish”) could well be our own stories too..

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

 
… The Lord gives ample opportunities to get back our life on track, through various Biblical inspirations, talks, retreats, literatures etc.

… There are so many occasions that are provided for us to grow in our virtues, to learn deeper the mysteries of heaven and to illumine ourselves with holy knowledge

… We also get so many chances to build our relationship with one another, to grow in appreciation and praise of other and to discover and nurture the goodness in others

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

As we thank the Lord for all His Graces and Blessings in the month of August,
we offer, on this First Friday of the Month, all our plans and aspirations of the New Month of September, to the Sacred Heart of our Blessed Lord.
>> May we always keep ready “our lamps” to shine bright for the Lord with the “oil of gladness and love”!
 
God Bless! Live Jesus!

Aug 31 (Mt 24:42-51)

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

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

He is charming…

>> He is there with a purpose…

>> He is imposing with His charisma…
 

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

 
“The magazines and the books on my table…

>> Do I need to hide them or keep them away, so that He doesn’t feel shocked at the kind of materials I read?

The wallpaper on my laptop and mobile and the pictures that are pasted in my room…

>> Do I need to change them or dispose them off, so that He doesn’t realise the ‘visual food’ that is often fed to my mind?

 
The music that is blaring in my room and to which I tap my feet…

>> Do I need to put it off and plunge the room into a silent mode, so that He doesn’t feel offended by the ‘audio junk’ that I dance to?

The websites that I browse through, the chats that I engage in and the jokes that I think of…

>> Do I need to forcefully shut-down my system or delete all the unnecessary files, so that He doesn’t come to know the ‘e-waste’ that I bombard my life with?”
 

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

 
Have I made a mess of my life…

… filling it with filth or unwanted aspects of life…?

… missing out on opportunities to do good or render service…?

… engaging in activities that are just not worth being exposed to…?
The Charismatic Person is all set to enter my room…

Have I made myself worthy and prepared, to allow Him to enter…?

 
Well, no prizes for guessing who is this Mysterious Person we are imagining about…
… Yes, Jesus – the Lord and Saviour and the Judge who is coming into this world!
Is my heart ready to recieve Him?
 

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

Chapter 24 of the Gospel of St Matthew..

… begins with Jesus addressing His disciples on the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple(Mt 24: 1ff)

… and continues, with Jesus further explaining the forthcoming persecutions and calamities that were to befall

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

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

“Unexpectedness” strikes at many turns of life…

… an unexpected sickness or disease which pushes people into the pit of anxiety and worry

… an unexpected misunderstanding which damages and crushes our relationship with one another

… an unexpected financial crisis which drowns individuals or families into the sea of hopelessness.

 
This “unexpectedness” can also strike our spiritual life!
And this is the danger, that to which the Lord raises our attention towards, by means of the parable of the Unfaithful Servant.
In the parable, the servant was entrusted with the duties of the household, while his master was away.

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

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

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

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

This feeling of the “Lord not being around me” makes us to somehow get into activities and engage in pastimes that are not worthy of our lives…
>> We let our moral lives be loosened..
>> We allow our prayer lives to be haywire…
>> We permit our sacramental life to be lethargic…
>> We enable our social life to be without the power of the Lord
But the consequences of such “letting loose” can be disastrous, as the parable teaches us.
 

What is needed therefore….

… is a constant vigilance and a relentless perseverance in being faithful

… is an unfailing performance of our duties and being on the guard at all times

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

Is my life neat and clean enough to allow the Lord to enter in …?

… or do I need to make suitable alterations and necessary repentance so that the Lord may find me worthily waiting and He may dine with me?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Aug 30 (Mt 23:27-32)

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

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

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

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

But she still fails to get the answer.

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

The girl, who had come to the exam with heavy make-up, quickly composed herself and said, “No Sir! Don’t worry, I will not cry!

>> After all, I can’t allow my tears to spoil this heavy make-up, that I have applied, with much difficulty and care!!”

Well, this incident might sound a bit funny or slightly bent towards exaggeration..

… but it still does capture an important trend that is constantly on the rise in our societies today: A Cosmetic-Culture!

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

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

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

The presence of Cosmetic-Culture can be seen in various strands of our living…
Socially (in communities, families, nations etc), there is a lot of discrimination on the basis of colour, language, caste etc…

…but the “cosmetic-culture” presents the society in such a way, that everything seems to be fine and all are living in unity and happiness!

Politically, there is a great deal of hidden agenda, back-biting and differences in ideologies among the political parties or groups…

… but the “cosmetic-culture” covers-up the ‘evil intents’, causing many of such “opposing” parties to join hands and to be seen as being united, for their own selfish interests!

Economically, there are enormous cases of poverty on the rise, in different parts of the world and people missing out on even the basic essentials etc…

… but the “cosmetic-culture” puts a mask on all such “stark realities” and gives an impression as if there is only growth, development and prosperity!

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

Continuing His prophetic denunciation of the practices of the religious leaders of His times, Jesus comes down heavily on the Pharisees and Scribes by comparing then to “white-washed tombs”
“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness!” ( Mt 23: 27)

Tombs of Palestine, in the time of Jesus, were painted with a lime paste or whitewash, at the start of the year.
There was a two-fold purpose to this:

1. It would helps in easy identification of the tomb, so that it could be avoided
2. It would help in the beautification of the tomb, so that it could be admired
 
Jesus likens the Pharisees and the Scribes to these white-washed tombs…
>>> Just as the white-washed tombs would clearly hide the decayed stuff within…

… these religious leaders, by the external shows of piety, would hide their decayed character of deceit, falsehood, duplicity and fraud!

>>> Just as the white-washed tombs would look wonderful on the outside, but would be full of filth and disgust inside…

… these religious leaders, would impress all with their strict ritualistic-practices, but would be full of dishonesty, falsity and deviousness!
 

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

 
This then is the danger to which we are exposed to…

… Is my spiritual and religious life also “Cosmetically-Cultured?”
> I may be known to be exemplary in my prayers and a role-model in my strict following of Christian practices…

… but is it just a “cosmetic” to hide my inner vices and to cover-up my sinful tendencies?
> I may be appearing to be a very a charitable person in extending a lot of material help in many causes…

… but is it just a “cosmetic” to conceal my hidden agenda or a means to boost my ego and inflate my pride?
> I may be considered as a very social person – always jovial, cracking “many” jokes and being a “happening” person…

… but is it just a “cosmetic” to mask my inner-wounds and pains, to veil my own complexes or to trigger opportunities to gratify some of my desires?

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

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

A quotation by a modern-day American politician goes thus:
“If you look at great human civilizations, from the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union…

… you will see that most do not fail simply due to external threats…

   … but because of internal weakness, corruption, or a failure to manifest the values and ideals they espouse!”
It requires the power, grace and strength in the Lord to become counter-witnesses to this “Cosmetic-Culture”
 

As Christians, our beauty in life ought to spring forth from an integrated life of faith!
 
>> The deeper that one is united with Christ…

… the lesser will be the dependence on “external shows” and greater will be the harmony and attractiveness of one’s life!
 

>> The stronger that one is in the faith in the Lord…

… the lesser will be the wanting to be “flashy on the outside” and greater will be the level of true charm and pleasantness

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

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Aug 29 (Mk 6:17-29)

There was a certain king who possessed a magic ring.

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps, some of us are ignorant of it..

>> Perhaps, some of us have lost touch with it..

>> Perhaps, some of us have forgotten its presence…

This ring is nothing else but our ‘Conscience’!
 

Am I aware of the voice of the Conscience prompting me with its timely warnings and admonishing… ?

… or have I lost awareness of the Conscience, by my constant rejection and frequent refusal of its still, gentle voice…?

The Gospel of the Day is the dramatic re-telling of the story of the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist – a victim of a “Deadened Conscience”!
 
One of the important focus subject of this “soul-stirring and heart-gripping” incident is the aspect of Conscience.

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

The Catholic Church, in her teaching on the Conscience says:
“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience.
Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that.
>> For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it, he will be judged.

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

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

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

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

>> The Word of God was directly addressed to him…

… but he chose to reject it.
 

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

>> The Word of God was put forward to him and challenged his moral integrity and his lustful life…

… but he failed to give any heed to the call to repent or change.

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

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

>> We hear God’s Word telling us not to do certain things, or forbids us from following a particular lifestyle…

… but often, we don’t give any consideration to it, and live life “bindaas” – without any fear!

>> We are informed by people who care for us, on the need to mend our ways or to live a life which is more disciplined or oriented towards our faith…

… but sometimes, we just don’t bother about it, or pretend as if “We know to live our lives, without anyone’s advices”

>> We come to know of the many wrongs that we indulge ourselves in, or are made aware of the sinful paths that we may be treading across…

… but quite often, we sink into the waters of lethargy or indifference or climb up the mountain of pride and arrogance

The Result?

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

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

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

>> Making a daily examination of conscience (ideally twice a day – noon and night – or at least at the end of the day)
… consciously going through each activity of the day
… thanking the Lord for all His blessings at every step of the day
… discovering the moments when we have strayed away from His paths and failed to do His Will
… make deliberate and practical decisions to amend them, and to foster actions of goodness

>> Reading the Word of God – seeking to assimilate It and moulding one’s lives as per the Sacred Will of God
… setting apart, strictly, at least a few minutes of the day ( Let’s not forget that A Day consists of 1440 minutes!) to spend time with the Word of God

 
>> Seeking to spend more time in personal prayer (ideally and whenever possible, before the Most Blessed Sacrament)
… The conscience derives strength, clarity and cleansing, when presented before its Creator!

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

May we constantly seek to have the ‘beautiful ring” of our conscience in tune with God’s Will…

… and thus help us to live a life of complete commitment and courageous passion, like St John the Baptist.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Aug 28 (Mt 23:13-22)

The role of the actor or an actress in a movie or a drama or an enactment is highly essential and crucial.
Sometimes, when seeing their performance, an actor or actress is incredibly believable in their role. 

>> The actor or actress seems so authentic…genuine…& real…

…  that it’s hard to know that it’s all “make believe” & “just acting”
 

The Gospel of the Day has persons on the stage who have achieved a sort of perfection and expertise in the field of acting and making people believe by their subtle behaviours…

Lights….Camera.. Action….!!

Welcome to the Stage…
And presenting before you….the “Leading Lights” (or are they “Corrupt Deceivers”??)

>> The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law… models of “Acting” and “Deception” and “Fraud”…
And the Great Critic – Jesus – has a special name for them: “Hypocrites”!

Jesus during His ministry on the earth worked always with one kind of a sinner or another.

>> And it’s amazing to see the way He treated them all..

 
Sinners were considered with respect and dignity…

>> Prostitutes were given respect and worth…

>> Tax collectors were accorded value and importance…

>> Lepers were offered acceptance and favour…
 

He often forgave people’s sins as He healed their broken and diseased bodies.
>> Jesus loved the sinners…

… He loved them so much that He wanted them to be always released from the clutches and slavery to Satan!
 

But JESUS HATES SIN!!!…..

>> He hates sin with a great passion and rebuked it whenever He could!
 

This sin of Hypocrisy, was one  of the sins…

… to which He had the most hatred

… to which He reserved His best condemning words

… to which He lashed out and which gained His greatest abuses

The English word, “hypocrite,” comes from the Greek word, “hypocresis” which is the Greek word for “actor.”

>> A good “hypocresis” is a good actor.

>> A good actor is good at playing a part, playing a role and a playing a character…

Jesus today vehemently and quite heatedly labels the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law as ‘Hypocrites’!

The sin of Hypocrisy is a deadly one…

We need to ask ourselves: Have I become a prey to this deadly and poisonous Sin?

I am hypocritical…

>> When I profess to be a Christian…

… but don’t even seek to live the Gospel values in my life!
>> When I say I love God above all…

… but don’t find even few moments to be with Him in prayer!
>> When I say I love others…

… but constantly hurt with my words and fail to appreciate them!
>> When I receive the Eucharist…

… but fail to even try to give my life in service for others!
>> When I recite many prayers…

… but do not seek to listen or do God’s Will in my life!
>>When I am a Priest/ Religious…

… but have failed to even try to give God the first place in my life!
>> When I am a Church member…

… but have failed to even try to learn and follow the commands and regulations of the Church!
 

The habit of hypocrisy is a lethal one…

>> Have I become a victim to this noxious and fatal Habit?
 

When we read this passage of the Gospel.. we must also keep in mind one basic principle: Jesus is not making a blanket condemnation of the whole group of people…

… rather He criticizes and condemns the attitude and their mentality
>> The Sin is hated…

… not the sinner!
>> The Sin is to be thrown away…

… but the sinner is given a chance to repent!

The Pharisee is not hated…

… but Pharisaism is condemned!
 

• The Lord is a tough task-master… He loves not to dilute His teachings and His policies.

Such critical passages and harsh extracts of the Gospel may leave us with a feeling: “All this demand of the Lord seems all too difficult for me…”

>> “Who at all can live in perfection?”

>> “Is there any person who can claim not be living in duplicity?”
 

I fail to find a good example in today’s world…

… and therefore, I think, this is neither practical nor feasible!”
 

But the Lord rushes to our rescue & tells: “What’s impossible for humans is possible for God!”
>> What is needed is a genuine attempt at perfection…

… a true longing to be free from duplicity

… a solid motivation to live a harmonious life
 

We may be “acting” very well in the stage of life: maybe knowingly… maybe unknowingly…

>> But today, the Lord wants us to examine our lives…and set things right

With deep love, He encourages and motivates us through St Paul and his companions:
“…We constantly pray for you; may our God make you worthy of His calling.

May He, by his power, fulfill your good purposes and your work prompted by faith!” (2 Thess 1:11-12)

Let us do away with the Habit of Hypocrisy…

… and genuinely seek to grow in Authenticity, Genuineness and Faithfulness!

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

May this Great Doctor of the Church who said:
“What does love look like?

> It has the hands to help others.

> It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.

> It has eyes to see misery and want.

> It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”…

… intercede for us, to live our life in genuine and authentic service of God and our fellow beings!
 
God Bless! Live Jesus

Aug 27 (Mt 16:13-20)

An incident is said about a visitor, when he came to River Mississippi (the second longest river in North America).

>> He had to go across the river, but found that there was no bridge.
Fortunately, it was winter time, and the great river was completed sheeted over with ice.

>> But the visitor was afraid to walk over the ice, not knowing its thickness.

Finally, with immense caution and fear, he began to creep on his hands and knees…

… over the sheeted ice

… constantly fearing, whether, the ice would be able to hold him up or whether it would crack any time. 
 He managed to get half-way through, when suddenly, he heard singing from behind.

Cautiously, he turned around and was shocked to see the sight:

Another traveller – a native of the land – was coming behind him…

>> Driving a four-horse load of coal, over the ice…

… singing, with joy and mirth, as he went!

That was the difference between the two – the visitor and the native!

>> The visitor was in constant fear, not knowing when the ice would break away and he would be inside the waters!

>> The native was in complete bliss, fully knowing that the ice was strong enough to contain his weight, as well as the load of his materials!

Similar is our Faith-journey.

Going alone, without any idea of the Way, is always filled with risk and fear

>> But when we travel with those who are well-aware of the Way…

… the travel becomes a beautiful melody – filled with joy and mirth!

Our Good God in His Great Wisdom has entrusted each of us, in the care of The Body of People – Who are well-aware of the Way – and thus travelling along, will make our faith-life filled with joy and mirth

>> This Body of People is The Church!
Yes, the Church is the “pillar and foundation – the bulwark – of Truth” (1 Tim 3:15)

The Gospel of the Day presents before us the Faith Statement of Peter, the leader of the group of the Apostles…

…. and Jesus declaring to him: “…on this rock, I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it!” (Mt 16:18)

 

The Great Rock … entrusts to Peter, the rock and assures Him that the Church will always stay Rock-grounded!

Let’s get to some of the Basics of the Church.

 

The word “Church”, in Greek is… “Ekklesia”. 

>> Ekklesia can be split to two words… “ek” = out of + “kaleo” = to call

 

This gives us an important meaning of EKKLESIA – THE CHURCH…. TO BE CALLED OUT OF….

 

>> The Church is a Body….to be called out of the world…to be called out of materialistic and worldly gains…

… into being a Family in God!

… into being a sign of hope and salvation!

 

 

This gives us a clue to many aspects of the Church…and which will help our own understanding…

>> The Church is not a mere building… the Church is the People of God.

 

 

We often, reduce the Church in our everyday vocabulary, to a mere building made of stones and cement…

 

But, the Church is made of living stones (1 Pet 2:5)

>> And all of us need to contribute our mite in keeping alive this Church of God.

 

  

>> Do I give my share of talents and gifts to the Church is keeping it effective and relevant for our modern times?

 

>> Do I make sacrifices and offer prayers for the Church so that she may stand strong in the midst of struggles?

 

>> Do I promote and encourage the Teachings of the Church and find beauty and wisdom in them?

It is very interesting to note the parallel between today’s Gospel Passage and another passage of the Bible – Is 22:19-23 (the First Reading of the Day)

>> (This “typology” reading would give us a rock-solid Biblical Basis about the Church as well the Primacy of the Pope.)
1. In Is 22: 22a: Eliakim is entrusted with the “key” of the House of David

>> In Mt 16:19: Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the ‘keys’ of the Kingdom of Heaven”
2. In Is 22: 22b: It is said about Eliakim: “when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open”

>> In Mt 16: 19b: Jesus says to Peter: “Whatever you bound on earth, shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven”
3. The name “Eliakim” means “God will place” or “God will establish”

>> The new name given to Simon – “Peter” means “rock” 
4. Eliakim would be the vicar of Hezekiah, who was the King of Israel 

>> Peter would be Vicar of Jesus, the King of the New Israel -the people who accept His Reign in their lives!

It is also noteworthy, to see that in the Old Testament, God is often referred to as the “Rock” (eg. Ps 18:2, Dt 32:4)

>> Now, Peter is called by this name “rock” to suggest, that the Church would the channel of “the functions of God, the Rock”
a. The Rock was the source of water in the wilderness (Dt 8:15)

>> The Church, is the channel of Living Waters of Grace, provided in the Sacraments
b. The Rock protected Moses and covered him and thus becomes a source of refuge (Ex 33:22)

>> The Church, is the refuge for the sinners and the home for those who are lost.
c. The Rock speaks of the nature of God – solid, strengthening and immutable

>> The Church, remains solid in her traditions, strong in her beliefs even in changing situations of the world, and infallible in her magisterial teachings.

  
These parallels show, how the Lord had established His Church on Peter – the rock – to be a constant “traveller” in our Faith-journey.

Today, let us firmly profess our Faith in the Lord, answering from the depth of our hearts to that very personal question of the Lord: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16: 15)…

>> And take firm refuge in the Church – the Body of People, Who are well-aware of the Way – as our “travelling Guide”…

… so that, our travel becomes a beautiful melody – filled with joy and mirth!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Aug 26 (Mt 23:1-12)

There is an incident mentioned in the life of St Francis de Sales.

 

A short time before his death, St Francis was asked by a nun from the Visitation Convent, to mention what virtue would he specially wish the sisters to cultivate.

 

The saint, being unable to converse, owing to his extreme sickness, asked for a piece of paper to write.

On this piece of paper, the Gentleman Saint wrote one word: “Humility”!

 
• This saint who lived this virtue, considered humility as the most essential virtue for a genuine Christian living.
• The saint who preached and practised love, exhorted humility as the primary virtue for growth in holiness.
 

The one who lacks humility begins to proclaim one’s own glory and draw attention to oneself.

 

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus highlighting this lack of humility among the religious leaders of His time…

… and putting forward a warning to be wary of the danger of falling into the dungeon of pride and conceit.

 
The Lord in all His teachings loves to get to the core of true human living and makes it a point to emphasize on all such inner values.

 
In the 23rd Chapter of St Matthew, Jesus makes a long condemnation of the “proud” actions and “conceited” devotions of the Pharisees and the Scribes.

 
Jesus says, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach, but do not practise” (Mt 23: 2-3)

 
Jesus lashes out strongly at the self-attention seeking attitude of these religious leaders.

• They would tie heavy burdens on others….but would themselves not move a finger to move them

• They would widen their phylacteries and even lengthen their tassels.

• They would love to be seated on places of honour in the synagogues and banquets.

• They would seek to be called with great salutations and titles in the public places.

• They would perform many works before others…but all to be seen by other people.

 
What were Phylacteries?

>> Phylacteries were small cube-shaped “leather cases” that was worn on foreheads and arms. In these cases, were the Scripture verses (Ex 13: 1-10, 11-16 and Dt 6: 4-9; 11: 13-21)

• The Exodus verses were about how God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, and about the celebration of the Passover.
• The Deuteronomy verses were about loving God wholly – with one’s heart, mind, and spirit.
 

The tassels (fringes) on the robes were to be a constant reminder of God’s commandments (Num 15: 38-41).

>> Each time the one who wore noticed the tassel, he was to ask himself if he were sincerely living God’s law in the world.

 
However, by making their phylacteries and tassels extra-long, the Pharisees and the Scribes were putting on a show of great religiosity, of being spiritually more superior than others.

 
The purpose of these external signs were to be great reminders of the wonders of God Yahweh and their own commitment to the Lord.

>> But this purpose was lost.. and it was replaced with a self-show!

 

The one who lacks humility begins to proclaim one’s own glory and draw attention to oneself.

 
The Pharisees and Scribes were losing the virtue of humility…

… and instead were drowning in the murky waters of pride!

 

This danger can be reality for anyone of us too, in our lives…

 
And so the Lord cautions us…

 • Am I making my practise of Christianity as a mere tool for a higher social status and some cheap material benefits?
• Am I losing out on cultivating true and honest devotion and instead settling for a “showy” and “external” facade of pious practices?
 

The Lord invites us to grow in the virtue of Humility.

 
Let the words of St Augustine be a challenge as well as a reminder for us:

“It was pride that changed angels into devils;

It is humility that makes men as angels.”

 

God Bless! Live Jesus!