Sep 1 (Lk 14:1;7-14)

Sir Isaac Newton is considered to be one of the greatest scientists of all time.

>> It was Newton who had discovered the Laws of Gravity which caused great advancements in the field of astronomical studies.

But there was another person, who had greatly helped Newton to climb this ladder of success…

… and of fame and popularity.

>> But he mostly remains unknown!

His name is Edmund Halley.

>> It was Halley who corrected some of the mathematical errors committed by Newton.

>> It was Halley who prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries.

>> It was Halley who edited and supervised the publication of his great work, “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”

>> It was also Halley who financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and easily could have afforded the printing costs

These acts are considered to be among the most selfless ones in the history of science.

But, Halley hardly received any prominence or recognition.

He is, of course, known for the discovering a comet named the “Halley’s Comet”

… which appears briefly every 76 years.

>> But it was recognized only after his death!

Halley is stated to have said that he didn’t care who received credit for discoveries…

>> His single mission in life was to advance the cause of science…

… and he did it!

To do an act of goodness and charity, without…

>> Wanting appreciation…

>> Seeking recognition…

>> Desiring applauds…

… though, a mighty challenge, is at the same time, a Christian demand!

The Gospel of the Day is a call from Jesus to examine our attitude towards others…

… and grow in this tremendous dimension of the Virtue of Humility!

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 work hard for our families..

… often expecting that they too will be with us in our moments of struggle & not leave us lonely!

>> 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 returns…

>> 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

… we who are poor in our commitment and dedication

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the Crippled…

… crippled with our many sins and faults

… crippled with the guilt of many past failures

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the Lame…

… lame in our longing and thirst for the Divine

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

The Eucharist is a banquet for us, the Blind…

… blind to the cries of those around us

…blind 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 yourself slowly die in the process?”

Yes, as Christians, we have to grow in humility…

>> Our single mission in life ought to be, the advancement of the Kingdom of God…

… and we ought to pray and work for this virtue!

The onus is on us…

May we seek the grace and make the efforts…

… to do acts of goodness and charity, without…

>> Wanting appreciation…

>> Seeking recognition…

>> Desiring applauds…

… which, though, a mighty challenge, is at the same time, a Christian demand!

As we begin this new month of September, let’s offer ourselves just as we are, to the Safe and Providential Hands of our God, knowing for sure, that He will always take care and strengthen us.

We could perhaps, even use this month, to practice, in a very practical manner, the virtue of Humility, every day

Yes, shall we try to do…

… “The September Month Challenge?

>> One- small-act-of-humility-a-day-filled-with-God’s Love!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “We do not very often come across opportunities for exercising strength, magnanimity, or magnificence…

… but gentleness, temperance, modesty, and humility, are graces which ought to colour everything we do.

>> There may be virtues of a more exalted mould…

… but these are the most continually called for in daily life!”

——————————–

Aug 31 (Mt 25:14-30)

A familiar story, in various versions goes thus….

A lady came up to a shop which had the name “Everything your heart desires, is available here”

The curious lady went to the shopkeeper and asked: “I want peace of mind and love and happiness and wisdom and freedom from fear”

The shopkeeper, in return, smiled and said: “Madam, thank you for expressing your desire. But please do note: I sell only seeds, not fruits!”

Such is the logic in our Christian Life as well.

God has gifted the “seeds” of good things to all of us….

But…

… do we “sow these seeds” to produce good fruits?

… do we “invest these seeds” in order to derive its potential blessings?

The Gospel of the Day – Mt 25:14-30 – presents before us a simple-to-understand and practical-to-follow Parable of the Lord: the Parable of the Talents!

One of the beauty of this Parable is that it is simple, clear and easy to understand.

>> And its lessons are hard to miss!!

This parable tells what to do while we live in this world and the need to be responsible and dutiful.

The Parable introduces the fact that the servants were judged by the way, they managed the master’s resources.

We learn a very crucial truth from this: All that we have belongs to God!

We need to underline and highlight the word “ALL”

>> All…

>> Fully…

>> Totally…

>> Everything…

>> Completely…

… Belongs to GOD!

>> We own nothing…

>> We hold no space…

>> We possess no one…

… All belongs to GOD!

He made them…

… He gave them to us

>> And one day… He will take them from us again.

Even our life itself is a gift from God!

If only our world and our generation were to grow more and more in this truth…!

>> How often we hold on to our possessions…

… and go bonkers in preserving and safeguarding them!

>> How often we seek twisted and distorted ways…

… to acquire more wealth and capture vital status and ranks!

>> How often we resort to disgraceful and shameful means…

… to win over positions and powers and authority!

>> How often we play dirty games and indulge in dreadful activities…

… to put down people and go up in dominance!

Another aspect that we find in the parable is the usage of the word “talents”.

Usually, when we hear the word “talents” in English, we tend to think of some natural abilities, like…

… playing the piano

… or being good at some sports

… or being skilled in painting or knowing how to handle computers etc….

In the time of Jesus, however…

… the ‘talent’ was referred to a huge amount of money.

One talent would represent approximately 16½ years of salary for a labourer.

>> To give a man two talents would equal around 33 years of salary….

>> To give a man five talents would be like giving him 80 years of salary to invest…

That’s indeed a huge amount, isn’t it?

>> Imagine, how rich would the Owner himself have been!

(This once again reminds us that the Owner – God – is the Source of ALL… everything in our life!)

What was the criteria in giving different people a particular amount of money?

>> Each one according to one’s ability

And who made this determination to allocate the amount of money?

>> The Master himself, according to His wish!

Here’s another truth: God is not obligated to treat us, like he treats anyone else.

>> He can give us more or He can give us less than others.

Some have more money and talent and opportunity and strength and health and relationships than others.

>> Others have less money and talent and opportunity and strength and health and relationships!

It’s not about being unlucky.

>> It’s not about our ill-fate.

The Master…

…has total sovereignty and freedom with what and how much HE wants to give to His people!

This leaves us with a choice:

1. We can either crib and complain, gripe and grumble about our situation and make excuses and just sit idle!

OR…

2. We can accept the given situation we are in – with gratitude – and start from where we are, and do what we can… to the best!

Yes…

>> The Dynamics of Comparison is useless…

… the Tactic of Hard Work is amazing!

>> The Strategy of Complaining is ineffective…

… the Scheme of Determination is superb!

>> The Policy of Grumpiness is futile…

… the Approach of Gratefulness is incredible!

The Parable of the Talents is a very Practical Parable that the Lord has offered us!

Yesterday is past…

… tomorrow is the Future.

>> But Today is a GIFT…

… that’s why, it is called as The PRESENT!

Let’s make this PRESENT, a PLEASENT GIFT to the GREAT GIVER…

… by seeking His Grace and combining it with our hard works and determination!

Let us make the best use of the “seeds” of good things given to all of us and …

… sow these seeds” to produce good fruits!

… “invest these seeds” in order to derive its potential blessings!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “I do not approve in any way that a person bound to some duty or occupation distracts himself by desiring a different kind of life than that which is befitting to his duty…

… or even practices inconsistent with his present state.

>> Indeed, this dissipates the heart and weakens it in carrying out necessary exercises.

Likewise, I would not even wish that we desire better talent and better judgment because these desires are silly.

>> They take the place of that desire which we should have to improve our own talent such as it is.

We are not to desire the means of serving God which we do not have.

>> Instead we are to use faithfully those which we have!”

——————————–

Aug 30 (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 characterized 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 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?

Let us pray and make efforts to always keep ready “our lamps” to shine bright for the Lord with the “oil of gladness and love”!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “It is important to make a daily examination of conscience; it keeps the soul in a state of humility, and enables it to know itself.

>> It wins new graces from Heaven by gratitude for those already received.

>> It prevents vices from taking root in the soul.

>> It renders contrition easy by frequent acts of sorrow

In a word, it makes us more humble, more vigilant, more wise, more pure…

… and better prepared to meet death!”

——————————–

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 realize 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 realize, 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 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… 86,400 seconds!!) 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!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “As to the examination of conscience, which we all should make before going to bed, you know the rules:

1. Thank God for having preserved you through the day past.

2. Examine how you have conducted yourself through the day, in order to which recall where and with whom you have been, and what you have done.

3. If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better.

4. Then commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God.

>> Ask that the Saints and Angels may keep watch over you, and with God’s Blessing, go to the rest He has appointed for you!”

——————————–

Aug 28 (Mt 23:27-32)

Wooowww!! Wooooaaah!!!

These are expressions which conveys feelings of surprise, wonder and great acclaim!

These feelings are articulated particularly when we come across a fascinating building or a great piece of architecture or a grand monument!

When we scan across through some of the fine buildings or monuments or structures around the globe, we find that many of these majestic edifices and constructions are actually tombs…

…or the burial places of many people.

A quick glance at some of those imposing constructions:

The Westminster Abbey in London…

… tomb for the monarchs and the famous people of England

The Terracotta Army…

… tombs, as sculptures, of the armies of the First Emperor of China

The Great Pyramids of Giza…

… tomb for the Pharaohs and the Kings of ancient Egypt

The Taj Mahal…

… tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Shahjahan in Agra, India.

All these great wonders of human making, though tombstones, evoke feelings of Wooowww!! Woaaah!!

…Isn’t it?

The Gospel of the Day too, presents before us tombstones…

… in the form of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law!

But what is the feeling of Jesus that is evoked?

… Not of surprise or wonder…

… but anguish and sadness… WOE!!

“WOE TO YOU!”

>> HE says….. “You are like whitewashed tombs!!”

We are at the last part of the condemnation of the Pharisees in Chapter 23 of Matthew.

And today, Jesus comes down heavily on them by describing them as whitewashed tombs!

They are beautiful in appearance from the outside…

… but full of dead bones and uncleanness inside!

It was the custom of the Jews to whiten graves, especially if they were in unusual places, so that people might avoid them…

… because of the ceremonial pollution contracted by the touch of a grave.

Num. 19:16, ” Anyone…who touches a grave shall be unclean for seven days”.

To avoid defilement by accidentally stepping on or touching a grave, the tombs in Palestine were painted with a lime paste or whitewash at the beginning of every year.

Whitewashing accomplished two purposes:

1) It identified tombs so they could be avoided  … 2) It beautified tombs so they could be admired.

Today, the Lord calls the Pharisees and the Teachers as these Whitewashed Tombs….

They were like tombs…

… dead, filthy.

>> But they were whitewashed…

… beautiful and lovely outside!

They did many things to win people’s admiration…

… but they failed to please the Lord of the Law!

They exercised many times the practice of fasting…

… but they missed out on being merciful and charitable!

They performed many actions of prayer…

… but they were unsuccessful in helping and serving other people!

Human life has all through the ages been fascinated and attracted with the beauty of externals…

Anyone, anything which APPEARS good and captivating has captured the minds and hearts

Eve was tempted by the Serpent…

… with the delicious and good looking fruit

>> She got trapped!

Lot asked the whole Jordan plain from Abraham…

… because it looked nice

>> He got trapped!

Israelites made the golden calf as their god…

… because it appeared more attractive

>> They got trapped!

Today we are invited to check and examine…

Am I making my life a whitewashed tombstone..

… beautiful outside..but filthy within?

My life is adorned with a good house, fat-chequed job etc…

… but is my house is in tatters with fights and conflicts?

My prayer life is beautified with constant prayers and praises…

… but within, do I experience unforgiveness and hatred?

My works are decorated with frequent appreciations and admirations…

… but do I give in to corruption and insincerity?

My community life is filled with laughter & good words…

… but do I fail to be accepted and loved by anyone in the community?

My friendships are many & decked with parties and fun…

… but deep within, do I miss out on having a true and genuine friend?

If any of the above is true…

… then I need to really be wary

>> Is my life being a whitewashed tomb?

The world loves to enjoy and appreciate the great monuments and architectures like The Westminster Abbey, The Terracotta Army, The Great Pyramids of Giza,  The Taj Mahal etc…

No wonder they are beautiful and amazing.

>> But deep within, there are merely tombs…covering dead and decayed bodies!

Our lives may be a great structure…

… a wonderful edifice, in the eyes of the world…

But am I pure and holy…

… and seeking for authenticity and genuineness deep within my heart too?

The Saint of the Day….St Augustine, discovered that His life was seeming to be a mere whitewashed tomb….

But He was touched by the Lord…and he changed…

>> He was transformed, and today his life, is indeed a beautiful monument…

…not just externally, but also wonderful in the eyes of God and His people!

Let us seek his intercession…

>> Let us be inspired with his example

>> Let us be hopeful with his life!

Yes, Let us beautify our lives!

>>> Let us truly beautify our lives…

… but not just with an external show, but with an inner glow!

May the Lord look at our lives and not say, “WOE  TO YOU”…

… rather let Him declare and proclaim, “WOW TO YOU!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “We all colour devotion according to our own likings and dispositions.

One man sets great value on fasting, and believes himself to be leading a very devout life, so long as he fasts rigorously…

… although the while his heart is full of bitterness

>> And while he will not moisten his lips with wine, perhaps not even with water, in his great abstinence…

… he does not scruple to steep them in his neighbour’s blood, through slander and detraction!”

——————————–

Aug 27 (Mt 23:23-26)

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

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

>> Over the first door is carved a beautiful wreath of roses.

Underneath is written, “All that which pleases, is but for a moment”

>> Over the second door, is sculptured a cross.

Underneath is written, “All that which troubles, is but for a moment”

>> Over the third door – which is the great entrance to the main isle, is written:

“That only is important, which is eternal!”

Do thoughts of eternity, permeate us and cast its radical influence in our every belief and action?

… Or am I stuck to being busy with the affairs of external trifles and obsessed with being engaged in only the ‘peripherals’ of life?

Am I a person plagued with only the “external” fantasies of life…

… Or am I growing to be a person making the right ‘priorities’ in life and choosing to make choices for a hopeful eternity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This ‘produce of the earth’ was generally considered only to be limited to the common grains and items like corn, oil, wine etc.

>> Tiny garden herbs were not considered part of it.

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

Unfortunately, this over-zeal for the “peripheral and externals” of the law, made them to completely neglect the more important requirements of the law…

… the fragrant ‘mint’ of “justice” was denied to those in need

… the spiced ‘dill’ of “mercy” was not offered to those suffering

… the aromatic ‘cumin’ of “faith” was not displayed in situations where it mattered most

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

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

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

However, the religious leaders, in their “strict external observance” of the Law, completely missed in having also an internal purification…

… the washing of the ‘dirt’ on the outside failed to wash the ‘dirt’ of greed and avarice from their minds

… the cleaning of the ‘stains’ on the external were unable to cleanse the ‘stains’ of materialism and covetousness in their hearts

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

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

Theirs was a case of misplaced priorities of life

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

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

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

>> I may be a person who, perhaps, spends a lot of time on prayer, reading the Bible, engaging in devout activities etc

…. But do these pious actions also make me to become a person of “humility, service and grow in genuine relationships with one another?”

>> I may be a person who likes to participate in Church Fests and engaging in a lot of works for the Church and even contributing materially much

…. But do these ‘great actions of charity’ also help me to grow in my love for the Lord, personally and also help me to reach out to the poor and needy, in their craving for love and acceptance?

>> I may be a person who treasures having the statues and relics of saints, garlanding holy statues and offering them flowers, collecting exquisite rosaries, medals and other religious articles etc

…. But do these ‘external objects’ help me to look deeper into myself so that I too may grow deeper in serving the Lord with a spirit of self-sacrifice and dependence on God?

The Lord does not object to any of our “external” actions of piety or devotions.

>> But He certainly challenges and indisputably impels us to ‘grow beyond the peripherals’ and to focus on the ‘weightier aspects of our faith in Him’

This ‘focus on the greater essentials’ will definitely…

… cause inconvenience in our comforts

… and challenge us to be humbler

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

We celebrate today the Feast of St Monica, that exemplary mother-saint, who was ever-vigilant in interceding for her child, to get back to the ways of the Lord.

>> She becomes an example for us to be always be focused on the Lord, and wait in patience and hope!

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

May her intercession and example inspire us to live authentic and sincere Christian lives, realizing always…

… “That only is important, which is eternal!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “To be pleased at correction and reproofs shows…

… that one loves the virtues which are contrary to those faults for which he is corrected and reproved.

>> And, therefore, it is a great sign of advancement in perfection!”

——————————–

Aug 26 (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…and real…

…  that it’s hard to know that it’s all “make believe” and “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 them with my words and fail to appreciate them and even fail to pray for 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

>> Sin is hated…

… not the sinner!

>> 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 condemning 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!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “The world, which cannot or will not discriminate between real devotion and the indiscretion of those who fancy themselves devout…

… grumbles and finds fault with devotion, which is really nowise concerned in these errors.

No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing…

… but on the contrary it perfects everything.

>> And that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion!”

——————————–