August 14, 2020 – 19th Week of Ordinary Time

“Let’s say, Yeah to Jesus and His Kingdom… and Nay to Satan and the ways of the world!”

(Based on Ezek 16:1-15,60,63 and Mt 19:3-12 – Friday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time)

Henry Ford is the founder of the Ford Motor Company.

He manufactured the first automobile that was affordable even to the middle class – an object of expensive curiosity turned into a practical conveyance.

Ford had a happy married life with Clara Jane Bryant.

On their golden wedding anniversary, a reporter asked them:
“To what do you attribute your fifty years of successful married life?”
“The formula,” said Mr. Ford, “is the same formula I have always used in making cars – just stick to one model!”

Being faithful and loyal is undoubtedly the hallmarks of a successful relationship.

But we live in a world, where divorce is becoming an increasingly common term and phenomenon.

The Gospel of the Day presents Jesus engaged in a conversation with the Pharisees and clarifying and shedding light on the concept of faithfulness and fidelity in relationships.

When we hear the word Divorce, we primarily associate it…
…. with a man and woman, in marriage, seeking divorce.

But Divorce is not merely limited to spousal relations.

In fact, divorce is on the increase everywhere….

There is divorce…
… between the parents and the children
… between siblings and family relations…
… among the members of a religious community and congregation..
… among the members of the Church…
… within the society itself.

There is also a great divorce within one’s spiritual life…
… One is separated and torn apart between serving God and serving the World!

In all these cases of Divorce…
… the one basic factor that is lacking is that of Commitment and Faithfulness.

When there is a decrease in commitment and faithfulness, the gravity of divorce and separation, increases!

It could be…
… in the spousal relation
… in the family relation
… in the community relations
… in the societal relations
… or even in our personal spiritual relationship with God!

When we fail in faithfulness, we succeed in separation…

When we are complacent in commitment, we are in danger of divorce…!

Today, let us look into our personal spiritual relationship with God…and examine…

Are we separating ourselves from God?
Are we being divorced from God?

Apparently, we may feel that these questions are not for us…

But let’s go a little deeper into ourselves…
… Are we really serving God as our master? … as the Only Master?
… Or are there times, when we fail in our faithfulness, and become complacent in our commitment…?

We need to give the first place to God…
… in our personal lives, our family lives/ our religious and priestly consecration.

But are there occasions, when for some time at least, we keep God away…
… to satisfy our sinful pleasures?
… to answer our egoistic tendencies?
… to fulfill our worldly sinful desires?
… to gratify our evil personal agenda?

If the answer is yes…
… then we are not on God’s side!

The Lord demands a total commitment and dedication to Him.

God hates divorce!

In Baptism, we have entered into a covenant with Him.

Am I in danger of being divorced or separated from our Beloved Covenant Partner?

The little acts of unfaithfulness and infidelity are the ones that slowly shreds a relationship into pieces.

Lets tighten up our spiritual lives, and re-dedicate our commitment and faithfulness and consecration to the Lord.

He is a God who cares deeply for us

He is Loving parent who sees to all our needs
He is a lover who is intensely passionate about us

Shall we not remain in His loving affection by being more faithful and committed to Him and Him alone?!

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

May the words of this Heroic Saint, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, be an inspiration for us:
“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.

And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits.
Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him…
… to the greatest extent of our powers!”

Yes… let faithfulness and loyalty be the hallmarks of our successful relationship with the Lord.

Let’s say…

Yeah to Jesus and His Kingdom…
… and Nay to Satan and the ways of the world!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “The chaste heart is like the mother of pearl, which cannot receive a single drop of water that does not come from heaven

For it cannot receive any pleasure but those ordained to it from heaven…

… apart from that it is not permitted to dwell on voluptuous thoughts!”

August 13, 2020 – 19th Week of Ordinary Time

“Entrusting ourselves to the Lord and imitating Him, knowing that God’s Plan of Salvation (GPS) for human beings is His Mercy!”

(Based on Ezek 12:1-12 and Mt 18:21-19:1 – Thursday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time)

A tech-savvy young man was once explaining the functioning and usage of a smartphone to an elderly priest.

The use of GPS (Global Positioning System) was among the few things that he taught the senior priest.

Explaining GPS, the man told of how it can be used to quickly locate places, move from one place to another effortlessly…
… and adding, “You know Father, even if you lost your direction, the GPS will safely guide you

It will only give a message, ‘Re-routing’ and then guide you to your location, provided your destination is proper”.

Hearing this, the priest reflected a while and said, “Ah! So this is a beautiful reflection of the way God is, isn’t it?”
… and he continued: “Every time we stray, God safely guides us. Every time we miss the way, He prompts the right direction. He gives the message ‘re-routing’ and amazingly shows the way to proceed ahead. Of course, all we need to ensure is that our destination is Holiness!”

The priest concluded by saying, “I think GPS for me stands for God’s Plan of Salvation…
… and GPS for human beings is His Mercy!”

That’s truly beautiful, isn’t it?

God’s Plan of Salvation (GPS) for human beings is His Mercy!

The Gospel of the Day is the mighty message of the Lord to share in this Divine attitude of reaching out Mercy to everyone in our life.

To be merciful involves the aspect of forgiveness.

Many of us have our moments of grappling with the aspect of ‘forgiveness’.

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

Jesus today teaches us this necessary virtue of “forgiveness”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And our thought-process takes the following pattern:

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

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

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

What is the basis for Jesus to say this?

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

God abandons all mathematical calculations in extending His forgiveness to us

God lets go of every measure of computation in allowing us to receive His mercy

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

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

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

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

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

But do we realize that it contains a clause, whose condition, if not fulfilled, does not help us to receive the “unconditional forgiveness of God”?

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

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

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

So many are the moments we stray away from the path of the Lord.

But every time we stray, God safely guides us.
Every time we miss the way, He prompts the right direction.

He gives the message ‘re-routing’ and amazingly shows the way to proceed ahead.

Of course, all we need to ensure is that our destination is Holiness!”

Let us entrust ourselves to the GPS of our lives and imitating the Lord… knowing that
… God’s Plan of Salvation (GPS) for human beings is His Mercy!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others…

… and talk to God!”

August 12, 2020 – 19th Week of Ordinary Time

“Installing God as the Lightning Rod in our lives, in our homes, in our communities and in our Church and uniting ourselves, to find strength and meaning in Prayer

(Based on Ezek 9:1-7, 10:18-22 and Mt 18:15-21 – Feast of St Jane de Chantal – Wednesday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time)

“Where two are three are gathered in my name…there am I in the midst of them.”

This is perhaps one of the common verses that are familiar to many, memorized by many and quoted by many.

We often understand and assume and take for granted this verse to be a sure assurance that the Lord is with us, whenever a few of us, gather together in prayer or worship.

But let’s look at this verse a little more closely…
God, as the Lord of the Universe, is surely present everywhere…
… but to experience His Living Presence, there is a condition required on the part of the ones gathered.

What is that condition?

A unity of hearts!

Every assembly of prayer is not an assurance of spiritual power
… there needs to be a relationship of love!

Every coming together doesn’t assure a default presence of God
… there needs a communion of hearts!

Every gathering together does not mean that the Spirit of God reigns
… there needs a dispersion of hatred!

Every get-together for praise and worship need not grant divine renewal
…there needs a harmony of bonds!

We are familiar with the concept of a Lightning Rod.

A lightning rod is a metallic rod on the top of a building or some elevated structure
… which is used to protect the structure from a lightning strike.

If a lightning strikes, it hits the lightning rod, and the force is conducted to the ground, through a wire.

The structure or the building remains untouched and safe!

A lightning rod takes away all the energy and grounds it so that everything remains safe!

Our relationships need such a lightning rod
… God is to be that Lightning Rod!

When there is anger among us
… we need God, as the lightning rod, to diffuse away the tension!

When there is bitterness among us
… we need God as the lightning rod, to absorb the unpleasantness!

When there is unforgiveness among us
… we need God, as the lightning rod, to take in the ill feelings!

When there is a hateful feeling among us
… we need God, as the lightning rod, to scatter the repulsiveness!

The Gospel of the Day is a challenge to each one of us to examine the quality of our prayer life, especially our praying together in a family, or a community or a Church.

Let us not deceive ourselves or water down this grave matter!

Unless there is a unity of hearts
…there is no real prayer!

Unless there is an accordance of relationships
…there is no real worship of God!

Unless there is mutual unity and friendship
… there is no real Community of Prayer!

The Lord doesn’t demand perfection always, but He certainly does demand an effort towards perfection!

We need to examine…
We need to evaluate our lives…
We need to even fraternally correct others in this!

Let us truly recognize the meaning of Gathering together in the Lord’s name.

There is much meaning in coming together to pray.
There is great power in praying as a family, as a community and as a Church.

St John Marie Vianney would enlighten us – “Individual praying is like straw scattered over a field. If you set a straw alight, the flame is small. But if you gather up all the bits of straw, the flame fills out, rising high up in the sky, and it’s the same with communal prayer.”

The Lord loves to reign in our prayer

The Lord wishes to be enthroned in our praises
The Lord seeks to be crowned as the centre of our worship

May we purify our hearts of all our hatred and ill feelings, to make this happen when we come in prayer!

Let us install God as the Lightning Rod in our lives, in our homes, in our communities and in our Church.

Let us unite ourselves to find strength and meaning in Prayer!

Today we specially seek the intercession of St Jane de Chantal, in order to have greater strength in our personal relationships.

She is the patron saint of forgotten people, in-law problems, loss of parents, parents separated from children and widows.
She is the foundress of the Congregation of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary
… along with St Francis de Sales (the Doctor of Love)
(This is the Congregation to which St Margaret Mary Alacoque who promoted the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus belonged to

May the words of St Jane de Chantal words inspire us:
“If we truly love our neighbours, we refrain from saying anything prejudicial to them.

We support everyone as we would like to be supported.
We try to give the example that we would like to receive from others.
We excuse and forgive the blunders of others as we would like ours to be forgiven and excused.
We rejoice in the happiness of others and are sorrowful in their pains, just as we would like them to respond to us in ours.
We graciously help others in their needs both by prayer and actual service.

In this way we truly show our good-will and love.”

Happy Feast of St Jane de Chantal!
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.”

August 11, 2020 – 19th Week of Ordinary Time

“Being privileged to be graced with the gift of being ‘like children’ and thus be able to firmly trust and relax in the arms of our Caring and Loving Heavenly Father!”

(Based on Ezek 2:8-3:4 and Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 – Tuesday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time)

A little boy once came to his Daddy, one night.
He confessed a mistake that he had done during the course of the day.

Then kneeling at Daddy’s feet, the child, with hands folded, prayed with tears:
“Dear God, make me a man – like Daddy – wise and strong.
I know You can!”

This innocent gesture touched the father very much.

He had a profound realization of his deep limitations and the child’s high expectations

Then when the child had slept, the father knelt beside his bed.

Confessing his sins, and praying with a low-bowed head, made this prayer:
“O God, make me a child – like my sweet child here – pure, guileless, trusting in You with a faith sincere.
I know You can!”

We all grow up in life – physically, socially, psychologically etc
But sometimes this “growing up” fails to preserve the “growth” that is already witnessed in little children – openness, sincerity, trust and spontaneity.

Can we dare, as adults, to “grow” into being a Child?

The Gospel of the Day is an elegant presentation by Jesus on the “necessary attitude” that is required for a valid entry into the Kingdom of Heaven: a child-like nature.

Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18: 3)

One of the grave dangers in the process of “growing- up” is the tendency to lose our “natural child-like” traits.

A child is someone who is born with many inherent qualities.
But in the process of “becoming an adult”, we abandon many of those.

This ‘abandonment’ could be because…
… of the upbringing in the society or the culture we live
… or the various experiences that we go through as we grow up

As a child, we would be free to express our emotions
… but as we grow up, we tend to hold them up all within (only to burst out one day!)

As a child, we would trust and depend easily on those who care for us
.. but as we grow up, we become fearful or disbelieving towards those same persons

As a child, we would be eased to live in the present moment, enjoying and relaxing
… but as we grow up, we fall into the trap of the past and cringed with the fear of the future.

This “growth” process also affects our child-like faith and trust in God our Father.

Jesus presents the beautiful imagery of a Shepherd who goes behind the lost sheep.

The cry of that sheep which has been strayed pierces the heart of the shepherd
The dangers that the sheep which was lost is exposed to frightens the shepherd

Such is the deep longing and craving of our Heavenly Father towards us – we, who sometimes turn out to be the lost sheep by losing our child-like faith and confidence.

A popular song from the Hindi movie “Three Idiots” has the following line:
“… Give me another chance, I wanna grow up once again…”

The Lord invites us to have a “renewal of our minds” and to retrieve back the ‘lost’ child-like faith and trust.

It takes courage and dare to make efforts to let go of our “matured egoistic” tendencies in order to depend more on our Heavenly Father.

The process usually is encountered by resistance…

Why should I depend on someone… I am mature enough to think for myself
Why should I become humble… I have my own desires to be satisfied to

These could be some of the thought-patterns that one stumbles into, in giving heed to the call of the Lord to “be like a child”.

Our Lord Himself is the greatest model and example in learning to have a “child-like” faith…
St Paul tells in his letter to the Philippians, “…though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, a thing to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave…. becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8)

St Clare of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today, is an inspiration for us to firmly trust in God.

Let her words inspire us:
“Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation!
Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.”

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.
If we love things, we become a thing.

If we love nothing, we become nothing.
Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation.
This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.”

May we be privileged to be graced with the gift of being “like children” and thus be able to firmly trust and relax in the arms of our Caring and Loving Heavenly Father!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him…
… fix your inward gaze upon Him
… stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father
… clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant nosegay

… upraise Him in your soul…!”

August 10, 2020 – Feast of St Lawrence

“May our Crucified Lord – the greatest embodiment of Sacrifice – fill us with the grace and courage to live a committed Christian life, like St Lawrence!”

(Based on 2 Cor 9:6-10 and Jn 12:24-26 – Feast of St Lawrence)

The year 258 AD saw a massive killing campaign unleashed against the Christians by the Roman Emperor Valerian.

Popular lore has it that a young Deacon had been placed in charge of the Church’s riches.

These treasures included the Holy Grail which was supposed to be the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Emperor Valerian, who had just killed the Pope had set his eyes also on finishing off this young Deacon.

Having a good knowledge of the Church’s riches, the cruel Emperor commanded the Deacon to hand over all the “treasures of the Church” to him or that he too would suffer a dreadful death.

The deacon requested for a few days to collect together the vast amount of wealth.

Three days later, the Deacon, mustering immense courage, threw open the palace doors to deliver the “treasures”.

His hands were all empty – no silver nor gold nor any other precious ornaments.

Instead, flaunting behind him were the poor, the blind and the crippled of the town.

When he reached the throne, the Deacon daringly announced, “These are the true treasures of the Church”!

The Emperor was mightily enraged.
He sentenced the young fellow to a death by torturous grilling!

Literally, the executioners followed the command – barbecuing the Deacon to death on a gridiron.

However, the valour and the dare displayed by the faithful soldier of Christ was so great that, after a few minutes of being roasted, he said to his executioners, “This side is done… Turn me over on the other side!!”

That could be the height of boldness and courage, right?

And what’s more… call it Divine humour, the Church has named this Deacon as the Patron Saint of comedians, butchers, chefs and roasters!

Classic one, isn’t it?

The name of this Daring Deacon is St Lawrence, whose feast we celebrate today.

St Lawrence distributing alms, by Fra Angelico, Niccoline Chapel, Vatican City

His daring life goes on to prove…
… that a passionate love for Christ can overcome any pain and persecution – including death!
… that the worth of being a true disciple is total fidelity to the person of Christ and to His Kingdom, even if it means bearing hardships and difficulties

We are invited, as the Gospel of the day says, “to be the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies” (Jn 12: 24-26)

Our Blessed Lord expounds one of the most basic principles in nature:

New life emerges only when there is a sacrifice
Transformation in life happens only when a sacrifice is involved.

The vegetables, before being served at table…
… needs to be pulled up from the heart of the earth
… and passed through the torment of fire in being cooked

The meat, that comes with its tasty appeal, at the food table…
… needs to be first submitted to the slaying by the knife
… and passed through the flaming ordeal, in being rendered edible

Sacrifice, therefore, is nature’s way of passage to experience new life!

The Lord takes an appeal to this basic principle in saying that “unless a grain of wheat dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12: 24)

At the time of Jesus, farmers would drop one grain of wheat at a time, in its cultivation

The soil would be ploughed and shallow trenches dug out to create the bed for the seeds.
The wheat grains, one at a time, were dropped into the trench and covered with loosened soil

A little sneak into the wheat yielding statistics (roughly – since it varies from place to place, depending on the soil, seed variety and other factors) reveals the point that Jesus explicated about “a grain of wheat which dies, yields much fruit”

If we consider an acre of land…

Two bushels of grain would yield around 40 bushels of wheat
That translates to, around 150 kg of grain yielding around 3000 kg of wheat!

Simplifying it, gives an equation (very roughly): 1 kg of grain sown would yield around 20 kg of wheat!

That’s enormous, isn’t it?

This is the power of sacrifice that Jesus alludes to, with an example from nature.

As Christians, we are challenged to live a life of Sacrifice, in order to yield the harvest of God’s Kingdom.

Greater our sacrifice, greater would be the fruits that are yielded for the glory of God and His Kingdom!

The Gospel passage refers to two ways of making this sacrifice…

  1. Dying to the world
    “He who hates his love in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12: 25)
  2. Serving the Lord wholeheartedly by following Him
    “If anyone serves me, the Father will honour me” (Jn 12: 26)

Can we personalize these two dimensions of sacrifice….?

Dying to the worldly values which glorify the self – power, positions and honour- and instead seek to live in humility, self-discipline and selflessness!

Constantly making efforts to serve the Lord in every aspect of our life – words, deeds, thoughts – and leading a life that brings glory to God and serving His people in every little way possible

Giving up sins – both personal and social – and constantly rejecting alluring temptations to remain fixated by worldly standards; instead focussing on the transcendental dimensions of life

Prioritising the Lord and His Kingdom in every aspect of our life and remaining focussed on Him alone – even amidst persecutions or hardships to give up the Gospel Lifestyle

St Paul reminds us to become cheerful givers – offering ourselves totally to the Lord and His Kingdom: “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver!” (2 Cor 9:6-7)

St Lawrence, today stands as a beautiful model and example of total self-giving

The courageous and bold Deacon, St Lawrence is a powerful model for us to lead a life of Christian Sacrifice.

May our Crucified Lord, who is the greatest embodiment of Sacrifice, fill us with the grace and courage to live a committed Christian life!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Be ready then, my child, to bear great afflictions for your Lord, even to martyrdom itself; resolve to give up to Him all that you hold most precious, if He should require it of you. But so long as God’s Providence does not send you these great and heavy afflictions; so long as He does not ask your eyes, at least give Him your hair.

I mean, take patiently the petty annoyances, the trifling discomforts, the unimportant losses which come upon all of us daily; for by means of these little matters, lovingly and freely accepted, you will give Him your whole heart, and win His.

I mean the acts of daily forbearance, the headache, or toothache, or heavy cold; the tiresome peculiarities of husband or wife, the broken glass, the loss of a ring, a handkerchief, a glove; the sneer of a neighbour, the effort of going to bed early in order to rise early for prayer or Communion, the little shyness some people feel in openly performing religious duties; and be sure that all of these sufferings, small as they are, if accepted lovingly, are most pleasing to God’s Goodness!”

August 9, 2020 – 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“May we amend our attitude of ‘running away from silence by wanting noise always,’ and thus experience the Presence of the Divine!”

(Based on 1 Kgs 19:9,11-13, Rom 9:1-5 and Mt 14:22-33 – 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

A young man went to a sage, whom he had often seen going to a forest.

Curious to know what the sage did in the forest, he asked him:
“I wonder what you do in the noise of that forest, everyday!”

The sage replied: “Have you any time tried to hear the voice of the forest?”

“Voice?” queried the young man in surprise, “I never hear voice.
I only hear noise.

And the only noise I hear in the forest is when the woodcutter crashes the wood, or the leaves and the fallen branches break beneath his foot.”

“Ah, that’s the difference between you and me”, said the sage, as he continued:
“I still myself in silence, in the forest, and I hear clearly the voice…
… of one limb of a branch grinding against another
… of the fall of a nut
… of the flutter of the wings of birds
… of the scamper of a rabbit
… of the gentle stirring of the wind!

That’s the difference between you and me…
… You run away from silence by wanting noise always!

I seek for silence, by moving away from noise!”

What about us?

Do we also run away from silence by wanting noise always…
… or do we seek for silence, by moving away from noise?

We live in a world of noises.

Noise is everywhere.

Music. Talks. Discussions. Commentaries. Arguments….

Apparently, much of life’s beauty is drowned in this sea of noises.

The word “noise” apparently comes from the Latin root word of “nausea” which means a sensation of vomiting and uneasiness….

Are we surrounding ourselves with too much noise – too much of an uneasy environment….
…that we even fail to listen to the Voice of the Spirit of the Lord?

We need to quieten ourselves.
We need to hear… the still, soft, gentle voice of the Lord!

The first reading of the Day presents the remarkable experience of Prophet Elijah encountering the Lord in a tiny, whispering voice (1 Kings 19: 11-13)

The Gospel of the Day begins with Jesus spending quiet moments with His Heavenly Father (Mt 14:23)

What is our attitude to Prayer?

  1. Shopping-list Attitude

We reduce our prayer time to mere presenting to God all our various wants and demands and desires and requirements. Much of time is spent is considering God as a mere giver and granter of gifts and objects.

  1. Complaint-Box Attitude

We spend much of our prayer time in whining and cribbing about the various disturbances affecting our life. Prayer gets reduced to a time of only grumbling and protesting and raising many grievances.

  1. Character-Assassination Attitude

Though not much acknowledged, we may spend our prayer time in speaking the ill of others, in making comparisons to the lives of others and even wishing the negative of other people for our advantage.

Pleasure is found much in speaking of the faults and negatives of other people and prayer acquires an “other-centeredness”, but in a very negative sense!

  1. Recitation-competition Attitude

Prayer becomes reduced to a mere recitation of a fixed set of prayers, holy invocations and muttering of words. Sometimes, much of this mumbling of expressions go without any concentration, or even knowing and meaning the value of the words.

Of course… It is not necessary to get critical and too self-conscious of our style of prayer.

But we also need to know: Prayer is more of a relationship…
…Prayer is spending time with our Heavenly God…
…Prayer is just “being” with Him!

Prayer is more…
… of giving myself as I am to the Lord… than mere receiving!
… of experiencing the silence of the Lord….than mere babbling words!
… of a communion with the Lover of our Souls…than mere external expressions!

The readings of the day invite us to a Life of Prayer…
… to a Life of Discovering the Power of Silence
… to a Life of finding quiet moments with the Lord.

Am I able to discover silent moments in my working activities?

Am I able to feel God’s presence in the things and objects that I use and handle?
Am I able to realize the gentle charisma of the Lord in the din and noise of the day?

Storms in life are bound to happen…
Waves of hardships are sure to hit our boats of life…
… but if we are rooted in a true spirit of prayer and communion with the Lord, we will be firm & strong.

In true silence and serenity, we will be hear the words of the Lord:
“Take courage, it is I!

Do not be afraid!” (Mt 14: 27)

Let us seek the Lord…
… in true prayer
…in serene silence
… in the midst of life’s noises and clamour and clatters!!

Yes, may we amend our attitude of “running away from silence by wanting noise always…
… and instead seek for silence, by moving away from noise

And thus experiencing the Presence of the Divine!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Call to mind that God is not only present in the place where you are…

… but that He is very specially present in your heart and mind, which He kindles and inspires with His Holy Presence, abiding there as Heart of your heart, Spirit of your spirit!”

August 8, 2020 – 18th Week of Ordinary Time

“Pulling on ‘both the oars’ of faith and works, so that the ferry ‘of our lives’ may move across the river!”

(Based on Hab 1:12–2:4 and Mt 17:14-20 – Saturday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time)

Two men were once seriously disputing the relative importance of faith and works…
… when they came to a ferry (boat) over a river.

As they started across they asked the ferryman his opinion on the subject.

Was faith alone enough in life?
… or was also works of faith important for a good Christian life?

In answer…
… the boatman, who was a strong believer in God, pointed to his two oars.

“One,” he said, “I will call faith, the other, works.

If I pull only on this one oar – the right oar – I get nowhere, but go round in a circle.
Just so if I pull only on the left oar.

But when I pull on both oars, then the ferry moves across the river.”

That was indeed a very sensible explanation, describing the relationship of faith and works.

The Gospel of the day is the incident of how the disciples fail to heal the boy and how Jesus intervenes to cure and teaches the importance of possessing strong faith.

These two incidents show contrasting dimensions…
On one side, immense glory being revealed and the Divine splendour being manifested

On the other, lack of faith being exposed and the failure in the Kingdom ministry

On one side, the three disciples basking in the light of heightened faith and devotion

On the other, the other disciples being lost in the darkness of inability to put the faith to effectiveness

And how often is this the experience of our own lives too…
There are some moments when we experience the loftiness of God’s glory and power

There are other moments when we fail miserably to evoke His presence and are unable to feel His

There are some times when faith makes us to feel that everything is so glorious and wonderful

There are other times when our faith hits rock-bottom and our spiritual life loses its sheen and all seems so miserable

This is the reality of our lives – contrasting experiences of glorious faith at some instants and miserable lack of trust at other

But the Gospel of the day ends with an encouraging exhortation by Jesus to have a strong and sturdy faith – the faith the size of a mustard seed

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20)

When the disciples were unable to bring about a healing to the epileptic boy, the Lord sure did rebuke them for their “lack of faith”.

But after having healed the child, He does not linger with the reproaching or admonishing attitude…
…. instead as a loving friend and a caring master, gently but firmly encourages them to be stronger in their faith.

This is the approach that He has towards us too…

He knows that we have our weak moments and situations of disbelief and doubts
He knows that there are periods when our faith is merely on the lips and not really from the depths of our hearts
He knows that there are times when annoying circumstances encroach our faith-life and all our efforts in devotion meet with bitter conclusions

Yet, with firmness and fondness, Jesus invites us to keep seeking to grow in our trust in Him and have faith of the size of the mustard seed.

Let us pull on “both the oars” of faith and works…
… so that the ferry ‘of our lives’ may move across the river!

Today – August 08 – we celebrate the Feast of St Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).

St Dominic boldly followed this Call of the Gospel and lived an austere life in much humility and love of God….and who promoted the Devotion to the Holy Rosary.

He challenges us to “Arm ourselves with prayer rather than a sword; to wear humility rather than fine clothes”

On this First Saturday of the Month, as we renew our love for the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother, let us also empower ourselves, like St Dominic, with the armour of the Rosary.

Let us dwell, with Our Blessed Mamma, who perfectly lived the life of being a True Disciple of Jesus – and live with “faith and works” through the waters of life!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Simply surrender to the Power of God’s Love, which is always greater than our weakness!”

August 7, 2020 – 18th Week of Ordinary Time

“Being willing to request for a stop at Calvary – and to embrace the Cross of Christ!”

(Based on Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7 and Mt 16:24-28 – Friday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time)

Dayton Ohio in America has an elevated railway.

One of the stations of this railway was near a great Roman Catholic burial ground named Calvary Cemetery.

The name of this station was Calvary Station.

The unique aspect of this station was that the trains did not stop at this station, except on request.

The reason?
For several years, in that part of the town, there were many more dead than living people.

Therefore, just after leaving the nearest station, the train guard would open the door and shout:
“Next station is Calvary! Train stops on request only…
Anybody for Calvary?”

Perhaps this a parable of life’s train!

At all other stations, life’s train stops – market-street station, school-street station, church-street station, home-avenue station etc…

But only at one station, there is a stop only when someone chooses to: the Station of Calvary!

The Gospel of the Day has Jesus, the Guard of our Life’s Train echoing the invitatory words, “Anybody for Calvary?”

Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me, must deny Himself, take up His cross and follow Me” (Mt 16:24)

One of the finest aspects about Jesus, as a Person and as a Teacher, is the clarity and precision that He maintained in all His words and deeds.

He was clear and precise of what was His Mission on the earth
He is clear and precise also, of what is expected of His followers.

There is no pretense or deception in His talks.

There are no loopholes or strings attached in His demands

He makes it precisely clear that the one who follows Him must fulfil the three basic conditions:

  1. Denying Oneself
  2. Taking up the Cross
  3. Following Him
  4. Denying oneself – demands that one is willing to entrust the reins of one’s life totally to the Master.

It means a priority of the highest order that is reserved for the Lord and His Kingdom
It means a constant rejection of desires that cause the self to be greater than the Lord

  1. Taking Up the Cross – demands that one is wholeheartedly and readily willing to do one’s duty as a Christian, joyfully and steadily

It means an availability to be at the service of the Lord and His Kingdom at all times
It means a seeking and an acceptance of the Will of God at every moment of life

  1. Following Him – demands that one keeps a steadfast focus on the Lord alone and keeping away anything that would cause a distraction

It means a faithful and an unflinched commitment to walk only on the path that the Lord demands
It means a radical letting go of anything that can be contrary to the Gospel ways and the Kingdom values.

But very often we find that these things are easier said, than done…

We wish to deny ourselves. But too often….

Our selfish desires dominate over us and we get disillusioned
We give in to making excuses or dilute the seriousness of our call

We wish to take up our cross. But too often…

We feel ourselves overburdened with responsibilities
We fear the hardships of disciplining ourselves and shy away from it

We wish to follow Him. But too often…

Worldly distractions and human affairs preoccupy us and our hearts get divided in our loyalty to the Lord
Our enthusiastic hearts get weighed down by scandals or lack of motivations or even opposing forces

Prophet Nahum strongly reminds us of the danger of straying away from the known and revealed paths of the Lord – just like the city of Nin’evah had failed to have a ‘sustained turning away from sin’…
… “I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt, and make you a gazingstock. And all who look on you will shrink from you and say, Wasted is Nin′eveh; who will bemoan her? Whence shall I seek comforters for her?” (Nah 3:6-7)

Yes… the Lord, through today’s Gospel gives a call once again – to embrace a life of the Cross!

The way of the Cross is the only true path for a Christian.
That was the way of the Lord.

That is to be the way of each follower too.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian says, “To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ”.

A life embracing the cross is the hallmark of a Christian – in self-denial, in total commitment and with complete sincerity.

As our life-train chugs on, Jesus, the Guard echoes the call, “Anybody for Calvary?”

Calvary is “the offence of the cross”

None stops there except the one who chooses to
It’s a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor 1:23)
But to those who believe, it is the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1: 24)

Are we willing to request for a stop at Calvary – to embrace the Cross of Christ?

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).

St Dominic boldly followed this Call of the Gospel and lived an austere life in much humility and love of God….and who promoted the Devotion to the Holy Rosary.

He challenges us to “Arm ourselves with prayer rather than a sword; to wear humility rather than fine clothes”

On this First Friday of the Month, as we consecrate our lives to the Sacred Heard of Jesus, let us also empower ourselves, like St Dominic, with the armour of the Rosary.

Let us dwell, with Our Blessed Mamma, who perfectly lived the life of being a True Disciple of Jesus – who denied Herself…took up Her cross… and followed Him wholeheartedly!

God Bless! _Live Jesus!

  • Fr Jijo Jose Manjackal MSFS
    Bengaluru, India

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Let us walk joyously, dear souls, among the difficulties of this passing life…

These pains will have an end when our life ends, after which there will be only joy…

… only contentment, only eternal consolation!”

August 6, 2020 – 18th Week of Ordinary Time

“’Throwing’ our lives into the Hands of God and receiving what He gives to us, and thus ‘being transfigured, transformed and transcendent!”

(Based on Mt 17:1-19 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – Thursday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time)

A five year old boy was playing in the front yard of his house, by throwing a ball up in the air.

An elderly priest, who was passing that way, asked the boy what he was doing.

The little boy, with innocence answered:
“I am playing a game of ‘catching the ball’ with God!

I throw the ball up in the air…
… and He throws it back to me!”

The senior priest was pretty amused at the simple answer.

And as he moved ahead, he thought in his mind…
“Although, the boy in his innocence just said his experience of a law of nature…
… in that simple statement, he also expressed a religious reality:

Divine experience is this: Throwing of ourselves into the Hands of God…
… and receiving what He gives to us”

That’s very true isn’t it?

Divine experience is “throwing of ourselves into the Hands of God…
… and receiving what He gives to us”

When we throw ourselves into the Hands of God, and receive what He gives us…
… that is the experience of Transfiguration!

The Gospel of the Day presents before us the Lord undergoing the Transfiguration.

The Disciples shared in this joy.

You and me are invited today!

The Scene of the Transfiguration is one of the most captivating and thrilling scenes of the Gospels.

The Gospel of the Day presents to us the account of the Transfiguration through the eyes of St Matthew’s Gospel.

It’s interesting to see that this scene takes place on a high mountain.

Mountains play a key role in the Gospel of St Matthew.

Mountains of course, dot the landscape of the Biblical regions.

They are a great part of the physical reality of the Biblical world.
They are a symbolic of “being closer to God”.

St Matthew’s Gospel has a particular love for this “lofty symbol of God’s presence”

Jesus underwent a temptation by Satan on the Mount…
… the Mount of Temptations (Mt 4:8)

Jesus delivers His Sermon and Teachings on a Mount…
… the Mount of the Sermon (Mt 5:1)

Jesus performs many deeds of healings on a Mount…
… the Mount by the Sea of Galilee (Mt 15:29)

Jesus is transfigured on a Mount…
… the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1)

Jesus gives His final teaching and discourse on a Mount…
… the Mount of Olives (Mt 24:3)

Jesus gives up His life on a Mount…
… the Mount of Calvary (Mt 27:33)

Jesus delivers His Final Mission mandate on a Mount …
… the Mount of Galilee (Mt 28:16)

So in this Lofty and High Place of the Presence of God – a Mountain – Jesus undergoes His Transfiguration…
… and is joined by the presence of two other “Mountain” Figures – Moses and Elijah!

Moses is the Man of the Mount of Sinai and Mount Nebo – representing the Law of God!
Elijah is the Man of the Mount of Carmel – representing the Prophets of God!

Jesus is the God and Man of all the Mountains – the Fulfillment of all the Laws and the Prophets!

What is the purpose of the “many mountain settings” of the Transfiguration Scene?

To look further….to imagine deeper…to hear beyond.
To see the way God sees us.
To imagine the way God perceives us.
To hear the way God wants of us.

We all need a Transfiguration Moment in our lives…
… a Transfiguration Experience in our lives!

Vision that needs to be transfigured…
… into God’s representation!

Imagination that needs to be transfigured…
… into God’s resemblance!

Hearing that needs to be transfigured…
… into God’s resonance!

Let us take courage….and accompany the Lord….

Beyond the peripheral problems of life…away from the hardships and difficulties of our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional worries…
… to climb the Mountain of Spiritual Closeness and Presence of the Lord, and share in the joy of the Transfiguration!

Life has much more to offer.

Life has much more to be expected.
Life has much more to hope for….

Let us “throw” our lives into the Hands of God…
… and receive what He gives to us

And thus… Be transfigured! Be transformed! Be transcending!

Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Now, we know that our prayer is good and that we are advancing in it if, when we leave it, we have, in imitation of Our Lord, a face dazzling as the
sun and our habits white like the snow.

I mean to say, if our face dazzles with charity and our body with chastity.

Charity is the purity of the soul, for it cannot support in our hearts any impure affection or one which would be contrary to Him whom it loves (charity and love being only one and the same thing).

And chastity is the charity of the body, since it rejects all sorts of impurities.

If, on leaving prayer, you have a scowling and chagrined countenance, one readily sees that you have not meditated as you wished!”

August 5, 2020 – 18th Week of Ordinary Time

“Remaining ever-faithful to our Blessed Lord – the God of all peoples – with firmness in our faith, perseverance in our piety and courage in our convictions!

(Based on Jer 31:1-7 and Mt 15:21-28 – Wednesday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time)

Years back, in the late 1900’s, engineers were asked to give their opinions on a possible railroad through the Andes Mountains

(Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world; it passes through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina)

They concluded that the job would be an impossible one.

However, as a last resort, an engineer from Poland named Ernest Malinowski was called in.

Malinowski’s reputation as an engineer was famous, but he was in the aging sixtieth year of his life at that time.
The authorities feared to impose such a rigorous task on the old man.

Malinowski, however, assured the representatives that the job could be done.

The railway began to worm its way across the Andes from Peru with sixty-two tunnels and thirty bridges along its way.

One tunnel ran up to 4,000 feet in length, 15,000 feet above the level of the sea.
On two occasions, revolutions in some of the countries through which the railroad passed, held up construction.
Once Malinowski had to even flee to Peru and remain in exile for a time

But nothing could prevent the old man in completing the engineering feat.

By 1880, work was completed on what, till recent times (2006), was the highest railroad in the world.

Malinowski had many barriers towards the achievement of this grand feat…
… The problems arising out of old age
… The challenging mountainous terrains
… The impossibility expressed by many other engineers

However, nothing of it could deter his determination in achieving what he wanted!

Life rewards abundantly, those who are willing to challenge the barriers and be persistent in overcoming them!

The Gospel of the Day presents the beautiful story of a mother who dared to “break through” the mountainous terrains of religious prejudices, social ignominy and personal misery to bridge blessings from God for her precious daughter.

Jesus had withdrawn to the district of Tyre and Sidon (Mt 15:21)

In the Old Testament times, this region was better known as the area of the tribes of the Canaanites.

Over the years, the land had grown in paganism as well as corruption.

Their presence was a strong threat to the purity of Israel’s religion and morality.

Therefore, there was a long history of spiritual and military clashes between the Israelites and Canaanites.

It was in this place that Jesus meets one of them – a woman, whose daughter had been “severely possessed by a demon” (Mt 15:22b)

The presence of “that” woman, however, made the disciples of Jesus, to complain to their Master, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Mt 15: 23b)

At this juncture, we hear two cries…

One – the cry of the woman
The other – the cry of the disciples

The woman cried out of helplessness and out of deep misery – for the “unclean” demon to be cast away from her daughter

The disciples cried out in wretchedness and disgust – for the “unclean” woman to be cast away from their presence

It’s interesting to note the wordplay in Greek, in the words of the disciples and those of the woman…

The disciples uttered, “APOLYSON – send her away”
The woman cried, “KYRIE ELEISON – have mercy, Lord”

These two similar-sounding yet contradicting choruses were ringing in the air – “Apolyson – Kyrie Eleison… Apolyson – Kyrie Eleison”

The Master then stepped in to say, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel… It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Mt 15: 24, 26)

Perhaps the addressing of Jesus as a “dog” would have come as no surprise to the Canaanite woman.

It was a reminder of the sharp distinction that existed, historically, between the Blessed Israelites and the Cursed Canaanites.

The Jews “were” considered as the “children” and the Canaanites (Gentiles) “were” considered as “dogs”

And in every house, the children get fed first… not the dogs!

But the figurative tone set forth by Jesus, found its amazing reply in the words of the Canaanite woman, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (Mt 15: 27)

Here was a glorious acknowledgement by the woman…
“Yes, I am a Canaanite, and considered to be a dog.
I do acknowledge that Israelites have a special privilege in the order of God’s grace.

But we too, deserve the Grace of God that is due to all people, in general!”

I demand not the privileged bread that is reserved to the mighty….
But, just the crumbs of Your grace will suffice in healing my ailing daughter!”

That was an amazing reply of persistent faith!

The mountainous terrains had been broken!
No religious prejudices, no social ignominy or no personal misery could prevent the bold faith of the woman to bridge the blessings of God’s healing!

Yes, life rewards abundantly, those who are willing to challenge the barriers and be persistent in overcoming them!

With immense pride, the Lord proclaimed, “O Woman, great is your faith” (Mt 15: 28)

Do we also seek to possess such kind of a tremendous faith and unperturbed persistence?

Sometimes we hear – like the cries of the disciples – discouraging voices and refraining chants…
Sometimes we have to encounter the agonizingly painful and silent response of the Lord…
Sometimes we have to bear humiliating challenges to our prayers and even disturbing answers from the Divine..

Yet, like this wonderful mother, who was determined to break down every “mountain” of barrier, for the sake of a miracle for her daughter…
… do we remain courageous, firm and bold in our faith and trust in the Lord?

St Francis de Sales says, “when you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them; try to bend them with gentleness and time.”

Today we also celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Mary Major Basilica.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.
(The other three being St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran Basilica, and St. Paul’s Basilica, outside the Walls.)

Every Church building is an important symbol of Christianity…

from the grandest of basilicas, to the tiniest of chapels…
… they reflect the “Throne of God”, from which God administers his Love, Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing and Blessings upon his Beloved People.

It also signifies the Unity of the People of God, as One Church.

St. Mary Major Basilica is also the First Marian shrine for pilgrims…
… which set a pattern for countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honour our Blessed Mother throughout the world.

Let us today specially seek the intercession of our Blessed Mother…
… to remain ever-faithful to our Blessed Lord – the God of all peoples – with firmness in our faith, perseverance in our piety and courage in our convictions!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Always have the courage to pick yourself back up and begin again every day…

… for there is no better path to success in the spiritual life than always to begin again and never to think that you have done enough!”