Saturday, February 20, 2010


First Sunday in Lent. DEUT: 26: 4-10;: ROMANS 10:8-13; LUKE 4: 1-13
The Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent is always the story of the Temptation of Jesus. This story is included in the gospel not to show the human side of Jesus, rather to teach us how to handle temptations in our life. When the devil asked Jesus to turn a stone into bread he was not asking Jesus to perform some cheap circus trick. He was tempting Jesus to break his fast, to suggest that he could only be sustained by human food. That is why, quoting Deuteronomy, Jesus told the devil that man does not live by bread alone.
In each of these three temptations what the devil is saying to Jesus is, "Come on, use what you have, to get what you want." And in each case Jesus overcomes the temptation by replying, "No, we can only use godly means to satisfy our God-given needs or to pursue our goals in life."
Note that people are tempted only with what they need or want. After his fasting Jesus needed to eat. So the devil tempted him with food. It is not a sin for Jesus to eat after fasting. The sin may lie in how the food is obtained. Should he follow the normal way of obtaining bread or should he take the shortcut suggested by the devil to obtain instant bread? Jesus refuses to take the devil's shortcut. The means we employ to satisfy our needs must be in accordance with the word of God. Feeding on God's word is ultimately more important than feeding on bread.
The Holy Spirit, Who brought Jesus safely through the temptation and empowered him for his ministry, would later fill the disciples and empower the church (Acts 2:4). However, the temptation story ends with the ominous statement that the devil departed from him until a more opportune time. That “time” came at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. It came again whenever people demanded signs from him to prove who he was (Luke: 11:16, 29-32; 22:3, 54-62; 23:35-39). The same temptation challenging “if you are the Son of God” came on the cross again when he was weak , this time not directly by the Satan but through the chief priests “ If you are the son of God, come down from the cross and we will believe”. Here again Jesus kicked the Satan in the butt, he refused to come down to prove his divinity.
Temptation is real. It is all over. Every day we are bombarded with temptations. However, very seldom we are aware of them. Jesus discovered it when he was in the Desert. The Desert is a place of silence and solitude. When Jesus stood before God in silence, he discovered the different pushes and pulls that had the potentials to distract him from his mission.
First of all, to discover and deal with our temptations, we need a desert; a place of silence and time for silence. Since we are distracted with too many things, very often, we become aware of our temptations only when we become a victim of it. Try to find time and place for prayer and personal reflections during this lent. In His light we see our true self. In the prayer our Father, Jesus taught us to pray to lead us out of temptation. But sometimes the flesh over takes the spirit because our prayer is not sincere and not from the heart.

A little boy named Bobby desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10-speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed, "Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, don't let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow."

Some times even though we know we are in real temptation we try to circumvent even the clear indications that we need to pass this by.
Jim Grant in Reader's Digest told about someone who faced temptation. An overweight businessman decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he showed up at work with a gigantic coffee cake. Everyone in the office scolded him, but his smile remained nonetheless. "This is a special coffee cake," he explained. "I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, 'Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be a parking spot open right in front.' And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!"

An ancient rabbi said, “Sin begins as a spider’s web and becomes a ship’s rope.” You and I add those strands that change the spider’s web into a rope; but because we add just one strand at a time, and because each one is usually so small, we don’t realize what we’re constructing. Sometimes, on the other hand, the growth seems to happen almost of its own accord. It is as if we planted a seed in the soil of the soul by some small act of sin and, without our seeming to attend it or care for it, it develops into a full-grown tree. Sometimes, verily a forest! Jesus survived the temptations by using the Scripture. Each time he was tempted with other priorities, the Word of God reminded him of God’s plan for him. The best way to recognize, resist and overcome temptation is to turn to the Scripture, Teachings of the Church and its Sacred Traditions.
Temptations make us true warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. We are never tempted beyond our power. In his first letter, St. John assures us: "Greater is He who is in us, than the power of the world". Hence during Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies by prayer, by penance and by meditative reading of the Bible.
Sometimes we become angry with God when He fails to respond to tests we set up for Him. The test may be something like this: "If my husband is healed of cancer, then I'll know God loves me." "If my boy comes back safely from Iraq, I’ll know God is on my side." "If I get the job that I’ve been praying for, I’ll know that God cares about me." Jesus teaches us that the Spirit-filled life requires unconditional surrender to God's will. Until the end of our lives, we shall be tempted to act in a way that is contrary to God's will. What is consoling is that we have Jesus as our strength to somehow overcome such temptations. With practice and total trust in the Lord, we hope that we will eventually resist such temptations in life. Let’s try to examine and see Am I trying to live by "bread alone?"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

VIth Sunday- Beatitudes.

VIth Sunday : JER. 17: 5-8; ICOR. 15: 12, 16-20;: LK 6: 17, 20-26
A preacher began his preaching on today’s gospel by asking for a show of hands from all in the congregation who would love to be poor, starving, weeping and hated by everybody. No hands went up. Then he asked of those who, on the contrary, would love to be rich, well fed, laughing and well spoken of in the community. All hands went up. A similar survey in any church would probably yield similar results. Yet Jesus in Luke declares a blessing on those who are poor, hungry, weeping and hated. To make sure we get the point, he goes on and explicitly pronounces a woe on those who are rich, well fed, laughing and well spoken of. What is going on here? Does Luke want us to understand that material poverty in itself is a sign of divine approval and material prosperity a sign of divine disapproval? Certainly not!
Poverty in itself is not a blessing but a misfortune, a lack. In fact, all the qualifying factors mentioned in Luke's Beatitudes -- poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, exclusion, reviling, defamation -- are all misfortunes. These are things no good parents would want for their children. Neither would God want these things for us, His children. How are we then to understand Luke’s Beatitudes? The key to Luke's Beatitudes is to be found in an important clause which he adds at the end of the last beatitude, and the clause is “on account of the Son of Man.” What Luke is saying is this, those who accept these evil conditions as the price that they have to pay for following Christ, they are the blessed ones.
Jesus’ audience were people with broken hearts and broken hope. They were poor, victims of prejudice and victims of religious and political oppression. They were people with heavy burdens. The interesting thing about Jesus was that he found blessings in their seemingly desperate situation. Jesus did not condemn their situations. Instead, he showed them the possibility of using their situations as a means of blessings. He did so by helping them to relate their present day struggle with the cross that bridges to heaven. Jesus showed them how they could transform their poverty and other struggles as a means for achieving eternal happiness. No situation is hopeless for a person who places his trust in God. Such people may not always view riches as a blessing.

There was a farmer who lived a happy life spending most of the time taking care of his farm with the aid of his horse. One day his horse ran away. Neighbors came to sympathize with him. “What a shame”, they said. But he replied “Who knows? God Knows”. A week later this horse returned with another wild horse. The neighbors came to share his joy. “What a blessing”, they said. Again he replied “Who knows? God knows”. One day while taming the wild horse his son fell down from the horse and broke his leg. Again neighbors came to offer their sympathy. “What a shame”, they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. A week late a war broke out in their country. The king ordered all men over 18 years of age to join the military. They spared his son because of his broken leg. Once again neighbors rushed to his house. “What a blessing?” they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” the farmer replied.
God-bound people have the right attitude to life and the earth- bound people have the wrong and limited vision of life.Without seeing the deceptive nature of material offerings earth bound people make the worldly riches their final goal.
Jesus had no problem with the Rich. In fact he blessed the rich. So, he appreciated the gesture of the one who multiplied his talents and disapproved the behavior of the lazy man. He went to the extent of saying, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich. But from the one who has not, even what has will be taken away.” Jesus criticized only three categories of people: Those who put wealth in place of God; those who were unwilling to share; and those who amassed wealth through illegal means. If I do not fall in any of these categories, there is justification for my wealth. In the parable of the rich and Lazarus, he criticized the rich man because of his insensitivity to the needs of his neighbor and his unwillingness to share. The first reading praises those who place their trust in God and compares them to a tree planted near a stream and those who place their trust in anything less than God as cursed. If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room for joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible.
The needy and the poor are the Sacraments for the rich. When they approach the poor with their sharing hands they are administering the sacrament of their own salvation. Jesus said to the people who were sensitive to the needs of others “Enter the Kingdom of God, for you gave me food when I was hungry; You welcomed me when I was a stranger; you cared for me when I was sick…..” The rich have a better chance to please God as they have enough resources to serve the poor.
What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering , but living these in the context of our commitment to Jesus and His spirit of sharing. If the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the hated are all blessed, then why should anyone attempt to help them improve their lot? The answer is that there is a difference between choosing poverty and being plunged into it without one’s choice, due to an unjust socio-political situation. There are a few saints, like Francis of Assisi, who freely chose the sufferings and hardships that poverty brings. That is not what the Beatitudes suggest, nor what Jesus asks of most of us. It is true that we are unable to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth. But we can help, either directly or by working with others, our poor brothers and sisters to improve their living conditions so that they may choose to free themselves from the poverty thrust upon them by greedy exploiters. Luke’s account offers the rich the good news that their salvation lies in their concern for the poor and in the good stewardship of sharing their goods with others in need. But the rich among us remain cursed as long as they remain unwilling to share their surplus with the needy. In short, in the beatitudes, Jesus envisions a society where the resources which belong to all are divided among all according to need, making every one blessed and happy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vth Sunday. Lk.5:1-12

Vth Sunday. Lk.5:1-12 (Miraculous catch of fish and Peter’s call)
In a certain church there was a man in the choir who couldn't sing very well. The choir director suggested that he should leave the choir. Others felt he should be given more time to improve. The choir director then decided to go to the pastor and complain. "You've got to get that man out of the choir or else I'm going to resign." So the pastor went to the man and said to him, "Perhaps you should leave the choir." "Why should I leave the choir?" the man asked. "Well," said the pastor, "four or five people have told me you can't sing." "That's nothing," the man replied, "forty or fifty people have told me you can't preach!" Today's readings show us how God can make use of the most unlikely people to fulfill the divine purpose.
The first reading is on the call of Isaiah, the second on the call of Paul, and the Gospel on the call of Peter and his coworkers. How did these people feel when they realized that they were in the presence of God. They all felt unworthy of God. Isaiah said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Is. 6:5). Paul felt himself unfit to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor.15:9). And Peter fell down at Jesus' feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk.5:8). Initial feeling of personal unworthiness could be a sign that a soul has seen God. That is why humility is said to be the first and primary virtue in authentic spirituality.
When the soul confesses its sinfulness and inadequacy before God, God reaches out and absolves the sinner and renders him or her competent to serve Him. In the case of Isaiah, one of the seraphs touched his lips with a burning coal taken from the altar of the temple and said to him, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (Is.6:7). In the case of Simon Peter, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Lk.5:10). We see that their qualification for the work of God does not come from them but from God. It is not their personal achievement; it is God's grace. That is why Paul could say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor.15:10).
Beyond the feeling of personal unworthiness, there is another quality that these people have in common, and that is the availability to do God's will and the readiness to follow His directives. As soon as Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” his immediate response was: “Here am I; send me!” (Is.6:8). In the case of Peter and his partners, we are told that “they left everything and followed him” (Lk.15:11) without looking back. And Paul threw himself with so much zeal into God's work that he worked harder than all those who were called before him, though as he is quick to point out, “it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor.5:10). Merely feeling unworthy and incompetent does not make us into people that God can work with. We must add to that the availability and willingness to go out there and do as the Lord directs.
When we follow the guidance of the Lord in our lives, we achieve results that will blow our minds. This is what we see in Peter's miraculous catch of fish. Peter had fished
all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked him to let down his nets for a catch. It seemed foolish to do so, because Peter knew there were no fish to catch. "But at your word," he said, "I will let down the nets". And, like Mary before him, he consented to what seemed the impossible. He obeyed the word to put out into the deep and fish when his own senses told him to expect nothing. The huge catch of fish, almost bursting the nets, which followed was for him a sign of the presence of the holy God in Jesus.
One of the few creatures on earth that can out-jump Michael Jordon is the Impala. This is an African deer with a supercharged spring. It has a vertical leap of over 10 feet and can broad jump over 30 feet. You would think that the zoos of the world would find it impossible to keep such an animal enclosed. Not so! It's rather easy. Because the experts discovered something about the Impala. It will not jump unless it can see where it is going to land. Therefore, a solid wall even 6 feet tall is a sufficient enclosure. Lots of Christians have the Impala problem. They won't take a leap in faith unless they have all the answers in advance about where the leap will take them. But God is looking for some bold believers who, even in the face of the unknown, will leap when the Spirit says leap. And Peter did that.

When God calls someone for ministry, it is not their expertise but their willingness to serve that God counts. For it is not us but God working through us. Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not worry about what you are to say and how you are to say it; when the hour comes you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak but it will be the spirit of your Father in you” (Mt: 10:19-20). God spoke to Jeremiah, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.” God empowers whoever He commissions for ministry.
People who performed great things in the past were not always great from a worldly standpoint. For example, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, was below average in intellectual capacities. He struggled to complete his seminary studies. Jesus’ selection of the Twelve Disciples tells us the same truth. You may not be fit for a particular ministry but definitely there are ministries that are suited for you. It is not the power associated with a ministry but the manner in which you perform a ministry that makes you powerful.
Today, as always, the good Lord continues to ask: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The Lord still needs messengers, like Isaiah, will proclaim the Good News of God's love in the temple, or who, like Paul, will announce it in foreign lands to the ends of the earth, or who, like Peter, will speak up for God in the workplace and bring their coworkers and business partners to know and follow the Lord. If we feel unworthy and incompetent for the work of God, know that He renders you fit for the job He wants you to do for Him, as He did with Isaiah, with Paul, and with Peter. He invites us to put out into the deep wherever we are. Only by responding to his call and encountering his holy presence we will finally discover the true identity for which he created us.