Saturday, December 31, 2011

NEW YEAR -2012

NEW YEAR-2012.

Numbers 6: 22-27,Galatians 4:4-7;Gospel:Luke 2: 16-21

It is fortunate that New Year's Day falls on a Sunday. This brings us all together into the house of God. This, of course, is where we ought to begin a New Year. On a new year’s day a young man started out with a prayer: Dear Lord! So far this year I've done well. I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper, I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Amen. Though we feel to laugh on this, it tells us that we really need God’s help to keep us going in good track.
New year comes around with a lot of expectations, but behind them there may be some remorse too. The name "January" comes from the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This is indeed a time to look back at the year that has just ended and to look forward to the new year ahead of us. How did I spend this one year of my life that has just passed? Did I use it to advance my goals and objectives in life? Did I use it to enhance the purpose of my existence? Could I have done better last year in the way I invested my time between the demands of work, family, friends and society, and the demands of my spiritual life? What things did I achieve last year and what did I fail to achieve? How can I consolidate the achievements of last year while reversing the failures and losses in this new year? Through soul searching questions like these we find that a review of the past year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the new year. We do need to review our lives from year to year because, as Socrates says, the unexamined life is not worth living.
Today's newspapers are full of individual and collective new year resolutions. Most of those, however, are not resolutions at all but only wishes. What is the difference between a resolution and a wish? A wish identifies a goal one wants to reach, a resolution specifies the steps one will take to reach it.
A boy asked his father, "Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hangs over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?" The dad replied, "Two."

"No," the son replied. “Here is the question again: There are three frogs and one decided to jump, how many are left?"

The dad said, "Oh, I get the point! If one decided to jump, the others would too. So there are none left."

The boy said, "No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump."

Does that sound like our last year’s resolutions? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of do-nothing. Because, mostly they were wishes, not resolutions, involving the steps to achieve them.
Our lives are shaped much more by our attitude than by our circumstances. Everybody has struggles. My struggles are just more apparent than yours. That’s why I think my troubles are greater than yours.
The good news is what lies ahead is no surprise to God. In fact, He has already been where we are going. That reason alone empowers us to face every tomorrow with hope, knowing whatever touches us passes through His hands, with His permission.
Whatever the situation in which we find ourselves - a hardship, a disappointment, a decision to make - God has a solution, an answer that is right for us. We tell God about it in prayer but we also listen to what God has to tell us about it. Prayer is a conversation with God but sometimes all we do is pick up the phone, read out the list of our problems to God and drop the phone without listening to hear what God has to say to us. Let us today resolve to listen more to the voice of God, to treasure God's word and ponder it in our hearts. Then shall we be able to realize our new year resolution of a new life in union with God. Let us see this year as another chance given to us to get it right, to grow in familiarity with God our loving Father, and to grow in our awareness of ourselves as God’s beloved children.
Today’s Feast of "Mary, the Mother of God" is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. What better way to ring in the New Year than to celebrate the woman whose complete devotion to God played such a central role in our salvation? A Human woman is the mother of God, and God is the son of a human mother.
The gospel today presents Mary to us as a model of that new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in the new year. There we see that Mary was prepared to do something to realize this goal. What did she do? We read that the shepherds, when they went to adore the Child Jesus in the manger, told all that the angels had said to them. "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Again after the boy Jesus was found in the Temple, we are told that "His mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. It is true that the holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but this should not make us forget that she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with the grace of God. She pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God.
St Luke tells us that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." God did not tell Mary his entire plan. We know much more than she did about how everything was going to work out. She had to walk in the dim light of faith, one step at a time, trusting in God, witnessing his action, and seconding it whenever she could. But she paid attention. She pondered in her heart all of God's gifts to her, all of his words and deeds. Today in Holy Communion we will receive the Body of Christ, which was formed in the womb of Mary. When we do, let's ask our spiritual Mother, the Mother of God and of all Christians, to teach us how to take care of the precious faith we have received and renewed during these days, just as she took care of the baby Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011



After explaining childbirth the biology teacher asked her 4thgraders to write an essay on "childbirth" in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how her parents got her. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought me and my mother found me in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how her parents got her as a baby. “My mother picked me from a box found in the gooseberry bush”, said the surprised great-grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, "I really wonder why there was not even a single natural birth in our family for four generations... Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a non-normal birth never before seen or experienced because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.

Larry King on CNN was once asked by some one on Christmas Day and told if Jesus were to come now and you are given a chance to ask him one question, just one question, what would that question be ? He said: He would ask: Are you born of a Virgin?. That is the proof that he was God. Is there any thing that God could not perform by human beings? God could give power to human beings and make them do things, even great things. Samson in the O.T. was a great man, man of power. He could kill several lions in just one stroke.

When we make things for our use, we make them useful for our particular purpose, special use. If we make a spade that is meant to make holes in the ground. If we make a ship that is meant to travel in water and so it would be fitted to be able to travel in water. So is with anything we make for our need. If God created every human being in this world through the union of a man and a woman, and make just one man exempt from that order of creation, it is for a purpose. Otherwise he would be irrational God, creating things with no purpose. Why do you think Jesus was to be born of a virgin and not from the cooperation of a man in this process?
If God wanted to come to the earth and save man, he could have come down on Good Friday and do the work of salvation in three days and get back to heaven on the third day. Why did he come down to the earth as a weak human being ? First of all to save human beings from our sins. Sin became part of human nature. It is not something outside of us that we can get rid of it of ourselves. Man could not forgive his sins himself, because it is in himself. He had to be forgiven by God, because it is primarily a sin against God, a separation from God. So someone who is in human nature and at the same time is above human nature and is able to free the sins from the human nature has to be involved in this process. That is why God became man and at the same time he remained God too. Perfectly man and perfectly God. That is why he was born of a virgin. If he was born of a virgin he is surely God. Because no one ever was born that way.

No incarnations in other religions ever claimed that right. The Quran clearly mentions, and even more vehemently defends than the Bible does, that Jesus was born of a virgin. It also admits that no one was ever born that way. If the Quran admits so, that is the clear proof that Quran admits Jesus’ divinity, even though, it tells that Jesus is not God in other places. Why would God let someone be born in a unique way, without a human father and he is just a prophet like any body else ? Are you saying God does things without meaning and purpose ? If you have a Muslim friend and ask him this question and see what he answers.

It is popular nowadays to say that all religions are basically the same. You may have heard the example of people who say that God is like a mountain, and the different religions are the different paths up the mountain. But to say that all religions are the same is neither respectful nor tolerant - it is either arrogant or ignorant. Religions do have some things in common, but they also have substantial differences.

Theologian Karl Barth stood before students and faculty at Princeton in 1963 during his Princeton Lectures. A student asked: "Sir, don't you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity?" Barth stunned many who were present when he thundered, "No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son." Christianity is not a religion like all other religions of the world. The Church reveals the truth the Holy Spirit reveals to her. It is a complete manifestation of God for the humanity for the sake of building a living relationship with him.

No other religion can beat Christianity on two grounds both of which tell of Jesus’ divinity. First, is his Virgin birth. Even in the Hindu scriptures mentions are made about a man being born of a virgin bringing salvation for the humanity that prophesy has not been fulfilled in Hinduism yet, but only in Christianity. Secondly his resurrection of which the disciples were witnesses and for which they all died martyrs death. If it were a lie, none of the Apostles would not have given up their lives to defend that lie. You never hear people laying down life to defend lies, but only truth. No other religion can stand against this solid truths of Christianity.

Only we Christians have the privilege of saying, "The Word became flesh, and lived among us." God-with-us is a divine promise first to Israel, and through them to all of us, of God's unilateral faithfulness to humanity and God's eternal initiative toward all that is created. To put it even more plainly, Yahweh says I am going to be with you whether you know it or not, ask for it or not, or enjoy it or not. God is GIVEN once, and for all, and forever, to the human species and to the whole created world! That is the meaning of Incarnation, the meaning of Emmanuel, and the first and final meaning of Christmas. The other day I heard some one preaching on the word Emmanuel. Em-man-u-el- Man who knows you well. Though it is far fetched explanation, it sounds good to me.

The message of Christmas is that we are just travelers through this earthly life, and that God has come to travel with us, and that if we stay by his side, we are guaranteed to arrive safely at our final destination: the everlasting life of heaven, in the Father's house. That's why we can be joyful even in the midst of our tears and difficulties; because we know that our Redeemer lives and weeps at our side, and will never abandon us.

Our preparing for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives is to cultivate the spirit of sacrifice and humility. It was by sacrifice that the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi were able to find the Savior. They were humble enough to see God in the Child in the manger. We too can experience Jesus by sharing Him with others, just as God shared His Son with us. Let us remember that the angels wished peace on earth only to those able to receive that peace, those who possessed the good will and largeness of heart to receive and then to share Jesus our Savior with others in love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

Let’s all the blessings of the Manger Born Baby be yours at this Christmas and through out the New year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

III Sunday- Mass Changes

MASS CHANGES- continuation..

Advent is the time calling us for change. This advent we are called in a special way to accept some changes we almost never had it before- accepting the changes of the Mass.

Some of the Changes made in our Mass prayers are:
1. The most important one that unsettles us is the “And with your spirit.”. We are so used to saying “and also with you” that it is almost difficult to get it right all the time. It is currently foreign to the ear, but to the mind of the Church, it is infused with an unseen truth. It reflects the biblical language of St.Paul in his letters (Gal.6:18; Phil.4:23; 2 Tim.4:22) and recognizes the unique work of the Holy Spirit though the ordained priest to celebrate the Eucharist. When a man is ordained a priest, the Holy Spirit comes upon him in a unique way, enabling him to perform the sacred rites of the Mass and consecrate the Eucharist. By responding “And with your Spirit”, we acknowledge the Spirit’s activity through the priest during the sacred liturgy. It is Jesus Christ who is the head of the community gathered for Mass and it is his Spirit who is the primary actor in the liturgy, regardless who the particular priest celebrating Mass may be. That is why the priest is able to say this is My body, instead of His body.

2. The Confiteor ( I confess to almighty God…)
Instead of simply saying that I have sinned “through my own fault”, we now repeat it three times while striking our breasts in a sign of repentance saying: “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”. When we are at fault over something small, we might simply say to the person whom we have wronged, “I am sorry.” But if it is a more serious matter and we deeply feel sorrow over our actions, we sometimes apologize several times and in varying ways: “I am so sorry.. I really regret doing that.. please forgive me.” This prayer in the liturgy helps us recognize that sinning against God is no light matter. The gesture of making a fist and striking our breast three times, is not to be seen as an accusatory “finger pointing,” but should be seen as a rock crushing the sin within us — destroying those stumbling blocks that keep us from the Lord and His Altar.

3. The Gloria:

In the new translation Jesus is addressed as the “Only Begotten Son,”. This more closely follows the theological language used in the early Church to highlight how Jesus is uniquely God’s Son, sharing in the same divine nature as the Father. In studying the text closely one will notice that in addition to being a hymn of praise, it is also a basic creedal statement about the Church's belief in who God is and what He has done through the person of Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we believe in One God, who is a communion of three persons — the Almighty Father to whom the praise of the Sacred Liturgy is always directed; the Only Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has become the sacrificial Lamb of God and takes away the sins of the world; and the Holy Spirit who is alone holy with the Son while radiating the glory of the Father. Because the Gloria is more than a hymn, the rubrics or rules that govern the Sacred Liturgy mandate that "the text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text." (GIRM 53)

4.The Creed:
The opening words of the Nicene creed is changed from “We believe.. into I believe in one God”, a more personal expression of faith- as well as a more literal translation of the Latin text of the creed. After the Vat.II, English was the only Western language that translated the opening Latin word of the Creed (Credo, “I believe) with the plural “We believe”. The singular “I” however, makes the creed more personal and challenges each individual to interiorize the faith.

“One in being with the Father” is now “Consubstantial with the Father. This wording closely reflects the theological language of the bishops at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) who wanted to safeguard that Jesus was acknowledged as the eternal Son of God, equal to the Father. The council condemned the false teaching of a man named Arius who held that there was a time when the Son did not exist. According to Arius, God created the Son and then adopted him. He said the Son was “from another substance” than that of the Father (Ccc.465).

In opposition to this, the Council of Nicea taught that the Son is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God” and of the same substance (homoousios in Greek) as the Father. Homoousios was translated from Greek into English as “Consubstiantial”.
“Was born of the Virgin Mary” is now “Was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”. The Latin word “incarnatus (“incarnate”) means that Jesus was not just born but “took on human flesh”, the Word became flesh (Jn.1:14) as John’s gospel tells.

5. The Sanctus

The opening line of the Sanctus is not taken from a hymn book, but from the angels’ worship of God in heaven. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah was given a vision of the angels praising God, crying out, “Holy, Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is.6:3). The word “hosts” here refers to the heavenly army of angels. The previous translation of this prayer referred to the Lord as “God of power and might.” In the new translation we address him as “Lord God of hosts”. This underscores the infinite breadth of God’s power.

6. The words of Institution.
While the previous translation of the Words of Institution referred to the “cup” of Christ’s blood, the new translation renders it “chalice”. This is more accurate and more formal rendering of the Latin text of the Mass and one that underscores the liturgical nature of this vessel. This is no ordinary cup, but the Eucharistic cup (Lk.22:20; 1 Cor.11:25ff), that the Lord consecrated at the Last supper.

“For all” is now “For Many”. The previous translation of the Mass referred to Jesus’ blood having redemptive value “for all”. But the new translation replaces the words “for all” with “ for many”. This revision remains closer to Jesus’ actual words of institution in the gospels (Mt.26:28). It is also more harmonious with the Latin text of the Mass- and with wording that has been used in the liturgy for centuries. The new rending also has implications for understanding how Christ’s saving work is applied to our lives. Some hold that the new wording gives the impression that Jesus did not die on the cross for everyone- that he offered his blood on Calvary not “for all” but just for a group of people, “for many”. This is a misunderstanding of the text.

The new translation points to the reality that while Jesus died for all, not everyone chooses to accept this gift. Each individual must choose to welcome the gift of salvation in Christ and live according to that grace, so that they may be among “the many” who are described in this text.

Moreover, a number of Scripture scholars have observed that Jesus’ language at the Last supper about his blood being poured out “for many” recalls “the many” that are three times mentioned in Is.53:11-12. In this prophecy, Isaiah foretold that God one day would send his servant who would make himself “an offering for sin”, bearing the sin of “many” and making “many” righteous (Is.53:10-12). Jesus, by speaking at the last supper about his own blood bring poured out “for many”, was associating himself with this “suffering servant” figure prophesied by Isaiah. Jesus is the one who offers his life for the “many”. This should not be understood in opposition to the fact that Jesus died “for all” (1 Tim.2:6). The other prophecies of Isaiah about the Servant of the Lord make clear that he has a universal mission, one that announces salvation to all humanity (Is.42:1-10, 49:6,52:10).


The priest no longer would say :Let’s proclaim the mystery of faith, after the consecration. Instead he will simply announce: The mystery of faith”, equivalent to the Latin rendering “mysterium fidei”. Theological reason for this subtle change is that it is not a proclamation but an acclamation. The words “the mystery of faith” have been part of the institution narrative since the 7th century. Before the second Vatican council’s reform of the liturgy, they were said by the priest inaudibly as part of the consecration of the wine. With the liturgical revisions in 1969, the formula was moved to its present position and made audible. The purpose is not proclamation but the priest invite the people to make an acclamation. Unlike a proclamation, an acclamation is addressed directly to someone: it is spoken in the second person, not the third person. The present response “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is not an acclamation. So it is no longer going to be used.

8. Ecce Agnus Dei (“Behold the Lamb of God..”
“Happy are those who are called to his supper” is now “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb”.
This new translation highlights how this Eucharist is no ordinary meal. The new words more directly recall a climactic moment in the book of Revelation when Jesus comes to unite himself to his people in a great heavenly wedding feast. In this scene, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is depicted as a bridegroom intimately joining himself to his bride, the Church. An angel announces this loving union by saying, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev.19:9).

In this new translation, we see how the Eucharist we are about to receive involves an intimate, loving communion with our Lord Jesus- one that is likened to the union shared between a husband and a wife. Indeed, holy communion is a participation in that heavenly wedding supper of the Lamb, which celebrates the union of Jesus with his bride, the Church.

9. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you” is now “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”.
These new words reflect the humility and trust of the Roman centurion in the gospels who asked Jesus to heal his servant who is at his house, paralyzed and in distress. He believes Jesus can heal from afar, simply by speaking his word: “But only say the word, and my servant shall be healed” (Mt.8:8; Lk.7:6-7). Jesus praises this man for his faith.

Like the centurion, we at this moment in the Mass, recognizes our unworthiness to have Jesus come sacramentally under the “roof” of our souls in holy communion. Yet just as the centurion believed Jesus was able to heal his servant, so do we trust that Jesus can heal us as he becomes the most intimate guest of our souls in the Eucharist.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reflection on Mass Changes (IInd Sunday of Advent)


Last Sunday, after the Mass as I was shaking hands with people as usual, one gentle man came up to me and told, next time you will see me in the Protestant Church. Whether he meant it or not, one thing was clear to me, he did not like the new translation of the Mass. Change is never easy- even the small ones.

It may take a little time to move away from the pew cards. However, this is an historic move for the Church that strengthens our unity as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. All other languages, Spanish, French, German, Portugese, had their Mass translated to the original Latin nearly a decade ago, except the English speaking Latin rite Catholics.

Change is never easy, even when it is welcomed and necessary. French Journalist and Poet Anatole France once wrote, "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." It is said: In every seven years, all the cells in our body are totally changed. But that change being slow and gradual we don’t realize much of it. Change is part of growth, and only growing things change

The ability to adapt to change is a sign of strength and maturity. Charles Darwin said” It is neither the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Dinosaurs were strong, but did not survive, because they could not adapt themselves to the changing environment.

Why do we need a new translation ?

The Liturgy, the Church celebrates has undergone various changes though out the centuries, but the heart of the liturgy has remained the same. The Church makes sure that the Eucharist we celebrate always remains in continuity with the first Eucharist the Lord instituted. The new translation of the text are very close to the original Latin text that was used in 1545. In addition to new observances for recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic prayers, additional Masses for various needs and intentions, and updated instructions for the overall celebration of the Mass are added, making the Missal a large volume for the Mass servers to hold up to the priest.

The pope has dedicated next year as the year of Faith commemorating the 50th year of Vat.II’s beginning, (1962-65). After the Vat.II, the Liturgy was translated into the Vernacular of a given country to encourage more active participation by the people. When the first translation that was published in 1970, the approach to the translation was aimed at (known as “dynamic equivalence”), communicating the general meaning of the Latin text of the Mass, rather than providing a literal, or word for word, translation.

After 40 years of celebration, the Church has come to see certain areas where the English text could be improved. Further, when the Latin text was paraphrased, a number of rich spiritual metaphors and images were lost. Important theological concepts were not always clear, and several biblical allusions did not shine out as noticeably as they could. The new translation of the Mass preserves more fully the theological tradition captured through out the centuries in the liturgy. It also more clearly communicates the many biblical allusions and vital theological concepts that are expressed in the Latin original. This revised translation as a whole uses a more “heightened” style of English that is less conversational and nobler in tone. This style more closely parallels the Latin text and helps us express an even greater reverence and humility in praying to God in the Mass. All these changes are valuable.

The way we worship tells us a lot about what we believe and how we view our relationship with God. In other words the way we pray shapes our beliefs. And what we believe affects how we live our relationship with God. For example when we use more informal language while praying, we might tend to relate to God in a more casual manner. But when the Mass uses more heightened language that emphasizes God’s goodness, power and glory, we may be more disposed to recognize that we are encountering the presence of the all holy God in the sacred liturgy and to approach him with greater humility, reverence, and gratitude. Indeed, the words we use in worship express how we view ourselves in relationship to God. Thus, it was important for the Church to weigh carefully the translation of the Mass parts in this way.

Some of the Changes made are:
1. The Lord be with you. In place of the words “And also with you”,the congregation replies “And with your spirit”- wording that better reflects the biblical language of St.Paul in his letters (Gal.6:18;Phil.4:23; 2 Tim.4:22) and recognizes the unique work of the Holy Spirit though the ordained priest to celebrate the Eucharist. When a man is ordained a priest, the Holy Spirit comes upon him in a unique way, enabling him to perform the sacred rites of the Mass and consecrate the Eucharist. By responding “And with your Spirit”, we acknowledge the Spirit’s activity through the priest during the sacred liturgy. It is Jesus Christ who is the head of the community gathered for Mass and it is his Spirit who is the primary actor in the liturgy, regardless who the particular priest celebrating Mass may be. That is why the priest is able to say this is My body, instead of His body.

It is not a greeting…In the older translation, one might get the impression that our response was merely intended to express an exchange of personal greetings or reciprocal good will: “May the Lord be with you too, Father”.

2. The Confiteor ( I confess to almighty God…)
Instead of simply saying that I have sinned “through my own fault”, we now repeat it three times while striking our breasts in a sign of repentance saying: “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”. When we are at fault over something small, we might simply say to the person whom we have wronged, “I am sorry.” But if it is a more serious matter and we deeply feel sorrow over our actions, we sometimes apologize several times and in varying ways: “I am so sorry.. I really regret doing that.. please forgive me.” This prayer in the liturgy helps us recognize that sinning against God is no light matter. We must take responsibility for whatever wrong we have done and whatever good we failed to do.

The gesture of making a fist and striking our breast three times, is not to be seen as an accusatory “finger pointing,” but should be seen as a rock crushing the sin within us — destroying those stumbling blocks that keep us from the Lord and His Altar.

I will continue with the explanation of changes the next time we meet again. Let’s acknowledge that the Church knows better than we individuals know about the tradition and how it can help us develop a deep relationship with God. Primary thing is to start to love the changes, even though we don’t like it. Imagine the trouble of the priests, especially the older generation priests, and the retired priests who have to say mass any way, to adjust with the new changes. And if their eye sight is poor, how will they learn and say the Mass…? As Eucharistic liturgy is the root and centre of our worship let’s put our heart and soul in it to love it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ez 34:11-12,15-17; I Cor 15:20-26,28; MT 25:31-46

A second grade teacher tells her class that she's a big “Los Angeles Lakers” fan. She's really excited about it and asks the kids if they're Lakers fans too. Everyone wants to impress the teacher and says they're Lakers fans too, except one kid, named Josh. The teacher looks at Josh and says, "Josh, you're not a Lakers fan?" He says, "Nope, I’m a Christ the King fan!" She says, “I have never heard of a state basketball team by that name! Well why you are a ‘Christ the King’ fan, and not a Lakers fan?" Josh says, "Well, my mom is a Christ the King fan, and my dad is a Christ the King fan, so I'm a Christ the King fan." The teacher's not real happy. She's a little hot under the collar. She says, "Well, if your mom were an idiot, and your dad were a moron, then what would you be?!" Josh says, "Then I'd be a Lakers fan!"

Today is the feast of Christ the King. The Gospels assert that Jesus was of royal blood, descended from the House of David, the king. He was a king of a different order than all the other earthly kings. What king was ever like Jesus, born in a stable not a palace, with no place to lay his head, and buried in another man's tomb. His accession to the throne was his entry into Jerusalem, the royal capital, riding on a donkey rather than in a state coach. His royal robe was a spittle-covered purple rag, his crown was of thorns and his sceptre a reed. He made his royal progress weak and bleeding through the streets, to the jeers not the cheers of the populace. At Calvary he was enthroned on an executioner's gibbet.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1: 32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.” The magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt. 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.” During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk.19: 38) “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn.18: 37) “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus made his assertion, “You say that I am a king,” then went on, “For this I was born and came into this world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” Luke’s gospel tells us (19: 19), that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” and Jesus (Luke 23: 42-43), promised paradise to the repentant thief on the cross, who made the request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Today’s gospel on the Last Judgment presents Christ the King coming in his heavenly glory to judge us.

The Feast of Christ the King was established nearly 85 years ago by Pope Pius XI. After the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, the inhuman atrocities and untold misery, made people lose their hope and faith in the just world. Then, the Pope reasserted with the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King, that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus remains the King of all history, all time, and all creation and of the entire universe. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title, and he assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the kingdom. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14). In Christ's kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

There is only one king in the whole of history who had served his followers. Approximately 2 billion Christians in the world today declare him to be their king. His kingdom is everlasting, because it is built on the everlasting principles, of love and service.

Christ the King has nothing in common with earthly rulers, so his kingdom can be nothing like an earthly kingdom. In his realm there are no masters because everyone is a servant. Even the King came to serve and not to be served. Those who would be greatest in the Kingdom are those who make themselves the least. The reward for service is not promotion and financial gain but to be given further opportunities for service. To be his follower would mean hard work, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are very grand and out of this world.

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ, and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."

In the parable about the separation of sheep from goats in the Last Judgment, Jesus reminds us to get ready to answer “yes” to his six questions based on our corporal and spiritual acts of charity. “I was hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned; did you help Me?”
Blessed Mother Theresa explains that they are, "hungry, not only for bread, but hungry for love; naked not only for clothing, but for human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise." Jesus lives within these hurting people, behind their eyes, their tears, and their pain.
This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions or in the family to use it to serve Jesus. Let us examine our own consciences asking the following questions: Are we using our God-given authority in order to serve others? Are we using it to build a more just society rather than to boost our own egos? Are we using our power in any way that could help alleviate pain instead of causing pain? Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings to the best of our abilities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

XXXIII-Ordinary Sunday-A Cycle

XXXIII Sunday- A Cycle.
Prov. 31:10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Mt. 24:36, 25:14-30

This parable of the talents has a number of messages for us. First of all it tells us that God gives man differing gifts. One man received five talents, another two, and another one. It is not a man’s talent which matters; what matters is how he uses it. God never demands from a man ability which he has not got. He is not someone who gathers from where he did not scatter, as the man who got one talent was afraid of.

Men are not equal in talent; but men can be equal in effort. It is quite remarkable that the man simply entrusted the talents to the servants. He did not tell them what to do with them. Neither did he tell them that he would demand them back on his return. The servants drew conclusions for themselves. Two of them decided to take risk and put them to use. While the third decided to play safe, burying it. As the man expected his servants to be fruitful we are also expected to be fruitful. We are also expected to appreciate all of the gifts that we have received, not only appreciate them but also use them to their greatest potential.

Our history is the history of a few who put their talents to use, and who have applied effort for their realization. We remember Socrates, Hippocrates, Alexander the great, Julius Caesar, Helen Keller, Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Gandhiji, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and a few like them. Because they tried to do something. Gandhiji could not wipe out violence from the face of the earth, Martin Luther King could not wipe out apartheid, or Mother Theresa could not wipe out poverty, but they put their effort to realize their dreams. That made them different from others. Many people asked Mother Teresa, do you think you are able to save all the poor people ? She said I will do what I can.

There is a little story that comes from a book called the Star Fisher. An elderly man is walking along the edge of the water and stops occasionally, picks up something, and then tosses it into the ocean. He then walks a few steps more, picks up something, and tosses it into the ocean. A young jogger is running along and has been watching the man. Finally his curiosity gets the best of him and he stops and goes over to the old gentleman and asks: "Excuse me, what are you doing?"

The man answered: Well, I am saving the life of these star fish. The storm washed them ashore last night, the sun will be up in thirty minutes, and then they will all die. I am throwing them back into the water to save their lives.

The jogger was a bit astounded. Old man, he said, don't you know that you have thirty miles of beach ahead of you and that millions of those star fish were washed ashore last night. What possible difference do you think that you are going to make. The old man took another step picked up a star fish, and with all his might hurled it into the ocean, then turned to the jogger and said: "Well, son, I guess I made a difference in that one's life."

We are all gifted with some strength. The small size of the hummingbird, weighing only a tenth of an ounce, gives it the flexibility to perform complicated maneuvers, such as beating its wings 75 times a second. This enables the humming bird to drink nectar from flowers while hovering, but it cannot soar, glide or hop. The Ostrich, at 300 pounds, is the largest bird, but it can’t fly. However, its legs are so strong that it can run at up to 50 miles per hour, taking strides of12-15 feet.
Some people discover their unusual talents accidentally. Mohd Ali at the age of 12, discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. Ali started working with Martin to learn how to box, and soon began his boxing career.

Many of us in the church are like this third servant. Because we do not see ourselves as possessing outstanding gifts and talents, we conclude that there is nothing that we do. There was a woman who loved to sing but she would not join the choir because she was afraid she was not gifted with a golden voice. A young man would like to spread the gospel but was afraid he does not know enough Bible and theology. Imagine if only those birds sang who only sang very well, the woods would have been terribly silent.

This parable lays down a rule of life which is universally true. It tells us that to him who has more will be given, and he who has not will lose even what he has. Its meaning is simple. If a man has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. If he has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will inevitably lose it. It is the lesson of life. Talents – use them or lose them.

Some people don’t use their talents and abilities but just let God do everything for them, even the things that they can very well do themselves. A man got mad with God. "God," he said, I have been praying daily for three years that I should win the state lottery. You told us to ask and we shall receive. How come I never received all these three years I have been asking?" Then he heard the voice of God, loud and clear. "My dear son," says God. "Please do me a favor. Buy a lottery ticket."

The only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of our fellow men. Some of us are clearly very gifted with valuable abilities, but there is no one, absolutely no one, who can say he has been gifted with nothing. Stop crying about what you do not have, and start concentrating on what you do have.”
All of us in the church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of faith. Our responsibility as men and women of faith is not just to preserve and "keep" the faith. We need to trade with it. We need to sell it to the men and women of our times. We need to promote and add value to faith. This is a venture that brings with it much risk and inconvenience. But, unless we do this, we stand in danger of losing the faith just as the third servant lost his talent. The way to preserve the faith, or any other talent that God has given us, is to put it to work and make it bear fruit.
Let us discover our special talents. It may be to sing, to dance, to draw, to write, to do farming, to sympathize with others, to be a good listener, to teach or to serve. When we earnestly try to cultivate them and use them for the good of our brothers and sisters, God will tell us, “Well-done good and faithful servant, come and enter into the joy of your master.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

XXXII-Sunday in Ordinary TIme. (A)

First Reading: Wisdom 6: 12-16; 1 Thes 4: 13-18;Gospel: Matthew 25: 1-13

There is an old legend about a man who had a rather stupid servant. The master often got exasperated with his servant. One day in a fit of frustration he said to the servant, "You've got to be the stupidest man I've ever met. Look, I want you to take this staff and carry it with you. And if you ever meet a man stupider than you are, give him the staff." So the servant carried the staff. Often out in the marketplace he'd meet some pretty stupid people. But he was never sure they were worse off than he. Years passed with the servant carrying his staff. Then one day, he came back to the castle and was ushered into the bedroom of his master. His master was quite sick. In the course of their conversation, the master said, "I'm going on a long journey." The servant said, "When do you plan to be back?" The master said, "This is a journey from which I'll not return." The servant said, "Sir, have you made all the necessary preparations?" The master said, "No, I have not." The servant said, "Could you have made preparations?" The master said, "Yes, I guess I've had my life to make them, but I've been busy about other things." The servant said "Master, you're going on a journey from which you'll never return, you could've prepared for it, and you just didn't?" The master said, "Yes, I guess that's right." The servant took the staff he'd carried so long and said, "Master take this with you. At last I've met a man more stupid than myself."

Through the parable of the foolish maidens, Jesus emphasizes the fact that each and everyone of us should be prepared, stay awake, because we do not know the day or the hour when we will be summoned to answer before the Lord God. This parable, found only in Matthew's Gospel, probably served as a warning to early Christians who hoped for a speedy return of the Savior. Matthew is telling them that the return of the Lord may be delayed beyond their expectation and that they should, therefore, prepare for the long wait by providing enough oil for their lamps. Many details of the parable make good sense when seen against the framework of this principal theme.

The virgins represent the Church that is waiting for Christ’s Second Coming. The bridegroom is Christ. The wedding feast is the great and joyous occasion in which Christ comes for his Church (Rev. 19:9). The delay of the bridegroom corresponds to the delay of the Second Coming. The bridegroom's arrival in the dark of night is the Second Coming itself. The closing of the door is the final judgment.

This parable warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. It is far too late for a student to be preparing for the examination on the last day. It is too far late for a man to acquire a skill, or a character, when some task offers itself to him. To be prepared is half the victory and the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. Talent alone won't make us successful; neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless we are ready. The most important question is: 'Are we ready? Are we well prepared?' Remember, “Luck favors the mind that is prepared."

We go on living as if we think this earthly life will go on forever. Nothing is further from the truth. Death is not a distant point in the future, an endpoint of our lives. Rather, it accompanies us each step of the way and could come upon us at any time.
It’s possible to get this lesson wrong in two ways.
First, we can lull ourselves into thinking that “the day and the hour” won’t come for a long while yet. We can think we will have plenty of time to worry about our relationship with God later. That is the more common mistake, and Jesus is doing his best today to shake us out of that self-delusion. But there is another possible mistake too.
We can become so obsessed by the second coming that we start getting kind of superstitious, and we see signs everywhere that it will be such and such a day or such and such a year. This too is a mistake. Our Lord says plainly that we should always be ready because we know neither the day nor the hour. We simply need to live each moment as true, authentic Christians, and not get fixated on empty predictions and waste our time watching the clock.
If you tend to fall into this second category, take a lesson from Thomas Edison, the great inventor. Shortly after he opened his first plant, he noticed that his employees were in the habit of watching the lone factory clock. To the inventor, who was a tireless worker, this was incomprehensible. He did not indicate his disapproval verbally. Instead he had dozens of clocks placed around the plant, and he set them so that none were keeping the same time. From then on, clock-watching led to so much confusion that nobody cared what time it was.
If we are overly worried about the date and time of Christ’s Second Coming, we need to practice living fully in the present moment. There is absolutely no better way to prepare for the final call than to learn to spend each day in the company of Jesus, remembering his assurance, "I am with you always."

The second point in this parable is the symbolism of oil. Perhaps, the best explanation is that the oil stands for our personal relationship with God who is the source and power behind our good deeds or "fruit-bearing". It is not something that one can attain overnight or borrow from someone else, as the foolish virgins attempted to do. This “state of grace” is the gift God offers us which we must, personally and freely, accept and use. Oil stands for character and Christian values, which we cannot buy or borrow.

What matters is not the occasional or the last-minute burst of spiritual fervor but habitual attention to one’s responsibilities before God. At the final judgment, there will be no depending upon the resources of others, no begging or borrowing of grace.
A man was once in financial trouble. He could barely support himself and his family. Then he got an idea. He would go back to Church and ask for God’s help. He was a little nervous at first, but he finally made it through the doors. He knelt down in the back pew and prayed: “God, if you’re up there, please help me win the lottery so I can support my family.” He came back day after day and made the same prayer. But nothing seemed to happen. Weeks passed, then months. Finally, on a Friday, he was making his regular visit and praying his regular prayer: “God, if you’re up there, please help me win the lottery.” And much to his astonishment, the ceiling opened and a thunderous voice from heaven answered him: “OK, fine. But will you at least please buy a ticket?!”
How often we are like that! We want all that God promises he will give us, but we refuse to do our part; we are too lazy or fearful to take the little risk of learning to pray, or going to confession, or studying the faith with as much interest as we study the sports page.

We cannot depend on a Sunday morning service to provide for all our spiritual needs, nor on Christian fellowship to provide us with spiritual development. These things come through routine, mundane attention to ordinary spiritual disciplines, and ensure that we will have enough oil or spiritual fuel. We need to develop some holy habits in our life which take precedence over other interests and claims. As these habits become developed, they cease to be a struggle and begin to be a source of strength and blessing. They make our life powerful against the onslaught of the world. And the light of our lamp will keep burning without flickering or going out due to shortage of oil. Let’s keep vigilant and watchful, eyes fixed on the arrival of the Lord with a lamp burning with full of oil in it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

XXXI-Sunday in Ordinary Time. (A)

XXXI- Sunday- A
Mal.1:14-2:2, 8-10; 1 Thess. 2:7-9, 13; Mt. 23:1-12

A Texas rancher met up with a Wisconsin dairy farmer. The two men began talking about their land and the milkman told the cattleman that he operated his business on 125 acres. The Texan scoffed at such a small parcel of land. He said, "Yankee, that ain’t nothin’. On my ranch I can get in my truck at sunrise and I won’t reach the fence line of my property until sunset." The dairy farmer snorted, "Yeah, I used to have an old truck like that."

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

In the first reading, the prophet Malachi condemns the irresponsible, proud and lazy priests of his day. In today’s gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against contemporary religious leaders who are more concerned about self-promotion than service to others. Those leaders had the tendency to call attention to themselves instead of bringing people to God, they bring people's attention to themselves. In their misguided zeal for religion, they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God. They expressed their love of honor in several ways, thereby converting Judaism into a religion of ostentation.
Jesus castigated the proud hearted Pharisees. He told them: one who humbles himself will be exalted. Humility and self-denial are always admired, but rarely practiced. Pride is a cancerous, lethal, and destructive quality, which probably more than any other negative quality, has brought down more kingdoms, toppled more empires, caused more wars, destroyed more marriages, ruined more friendships, and made many criminals than all of the other negative qualities combined and put together.
The Bible has some pretty dire warnings about dealing with pride: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” – Proverbs 16: 18-20
Though pride is hated by most people, many still succumb to its enticing and seductive nature, and many end up losing everything as a result of the consequences of wallowing in it for too long a period of time.
Once pride starts to seep into someone’s personality to any significant degree it will start to seep into their emotions, actions, and behaviors. And once this negative quality starts to manifest into their actions and behaviors, then their judgment will start to cloud. And once their sense of proper judgment starts to cloud up, they will no longer be able to separate truth from error. They eventually end up becoming their own little god, thinking they have all of the answers to everything and that the entire world revolves around them. Hence, the scriptures emphasize the need to be humble. St. Peter wrote, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).

The proverbs teach us about the transitory nature of our existence. It says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:1)
Hawaii is the 50thstate of the United States. Before it became a part of the USA, there was a civil war in Hawaii between two rival chieftains. One of the generals in this war was a man named Kaiana. Kaiana was a seasoned warrior, and had gained a big advantage in the war by positioning his forces in some strategically well-defended areas. Kaiana was also a proud man, and he was known to display his rank among the soldiers by wearing bright clothing with many colors. Unfortunately, Kaiana failed to realize this would make him more noticeable on the battlefield, and the general met his end after being shot by a cannon.
Pride will always be one of the most difficult sins to guard against because it has a way of hiding behind the things we value. Perhaps you take pride in your athletic ability, but do you flaunt that ability over your teammates or use it to inspire them? Maybe you take pride in having a nice job with a high salary, but does that pride make you generous or arrogant? What about your appearance? Are you proud of the way you look, and if those looks were gone, would others still find you beautiful?
Take a lesson from Christ. He was the son of God, yet chose to lay down his infinite majesty to become a human. His followers could have been priests and princes, but he extended his hand in friendship to fishermen, foreigners and outcasts. He was the King of Kings, but the only crown he wore was made of thorns. Don’t allow pride to shape who we are. God made us to be an amazing person, and his work is always better.
One of the best stories of humility I know is that of a man who arrived in 1953 at the Chicago railroad station to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He stepped off the train, a tall man with bushy hair and a big mustache. As the cameras flashed and city officials approached with hands outstretched to meet him, he thanked them politely. Then he asked to be excused for a minute. He walked through the crowd to the side of an elderly black woman struggling with two large suitcases. He picked them up, smiled, and escorted her to the bus, helped her get on, and wished her a safe journey. Then Albert Schweitzer turned to the crowd and apologized for keeping them waiting. It is reported that one member of the reception committee told a reporter, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking."

We are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous. We are to be humble. One should wait until such time as God grants him a place of honor. He should not be creating his own place of honor. We need to become servant leaders in a serving community: The church is a servant community in which those who hunger are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless to receive shelter; the sick to be cared for; the distressed, consoled; and the oppressed, set free. Leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed. “The measure of a true Christian is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

XXIX-Ordinary Sunday- Cycle A

Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6; 1 Thess. 1: 1-5 ; Matthew 22: 15-21

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost?"

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest." To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!" But, God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam." The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt."

With the numerous and tremendous inventions we see today, man feels God is not necessary in this system; without ever realizing that it is God who set the foundation for all this when he said to the first human beings “Be fruitful and multiply, conquer the earth”. And therefore, God needs to be acknowledged and honored as the Supreme Being in this world.

Some people say: Let the church take care of its own business and keep their noses out of social and political issues. That would be fine if it worked. There are obligations we have to the governing authorities, such as paying taxes, exercising our right to vote, and obeying civil laws. But as followers of Jesus Christ, our ultimate obligation is to "seek first the kingdom of God," and all other obligations have to have a lower priority. There can only be one top priority.

Every Christian holds dual citizenship, each one of which has its own benefits and duties. Our birth made us citizens of an earthly nation; our baptism made us citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. Sometimes they overlap, but in the end, our earthly citizenship will finish, while our heavenly citizenship will last forever. It's obvious which one is more important. Through the centuries, the many Christian saints and martyrs have taught us that if we are ever forced to choose between the two, if ever Caesar tries to take what belongs to God, we must be faithful to our true, everlasting homeland, even if it means suffering painful consequences here on earth. We know about St Thomas More who gave his life for the sake of defending God’s right, to give what belonged to God, to give supremacy to God and his Church than to King Henry VIII of England. If we as Christian accept God's sovereignty over all creation including human activity and history, even what belongs to Caesar also belongs to God. Caesar ultimately is answerable to God. Caesar in a way ultimately pays his tax due to God.

Just as the Roman coin bore the image of the Emperor who made it, so the human soul bears the "image and likeness" of God our Creator and our Father. He called each one of us into existence; he wants each of us to exist, so that we can enter into and develop a personal relationship with him. This is the whole purpose of our lives: to live in communion with God, starting now and leading into everlasting life. As the Catechism puts it (#44): "Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God." Freely living by our bond with God means living as he created us to live.

There is no reason why the state and the Church cannot work together to improve the lives of their citizens. There is usually no conflict -- unless the government forces people to act in a way contrary to God’s law. Then we must act in accordance with God’s law and not man’s because, while the state only exists in this world, God’s law exists in this world and the next. This means that sometimes we have to refuse to obey our government. In South Africa's apartheid system, many Christians were forced to violate the immoral laws of their government. In the United States, both the black and the white people violated the segregation laws of many states. Wherever there is immoral or unjust behavior, there has to be conflict which paves the ground for society’s progress.

It is precisely our Catholic faith, full of God's revelation, that enables us to distinguish between foundational and secondary issues. Treating unborn children like a disease, as abortion does, is a foundational injustice - what good are any of the other human rights if those innocent people never even make it out of the womb? Treating homosexual unions like true marriages is a foundational injustice - true marriage between one man and one woman is the DNA of human society; would you like someone to mess around with your DNA? When we vote for political candidates and issues, we cannot pretend that those kinds of foundational issues are on the same level as other important but secondary issues like taxes, diplomacy, and alternative energy sources. These secondary issues are like the walls of a house: you can knock out a wall or rearrange a room without the house falling down, but if you mess with the foundation, you lose the whole structure. If foundational issues are at stake in an election, we must give them first priority. Foundational issues are things that belong to God, not to Caesar, and when Caesar tries to take them over, we who are God's children must defend them. When the state oversteps the mark and puts itself in the place of God, Christians are, in the last resort, absolved from obedience. We must give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and not the things that are God's. We must “obey God rather than human beings.”

We have the right and the responsibility to apply a moral litmus test to the dictates of our nation. The people of Germany did not do this in their own country during the last century and closed an eye to Nazi anti-Semitism. They now suffer the guilt imposed by their lack of action.

Jesus reminds His questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord. Do I pay to God what is His ? time, treasure, talent ? Do I love God with all my heart, all my soul and with all my mind ? OR do I steal from God and give to Ceasar?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

XXVIII-Sunday in Ordinary time -Cycle A.

XXVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Isaiah 25:6-10 / Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6 / Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 / Mt 22:1-14
At a church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased. If this experiment were repeated in our church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the service? Many of us think of God's house as a place for seriousness, a place to close one's eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place where we can have joy and jubilation. The parable of the Great Supper in today's gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord's party. In the Eucharist we say of ourselves, "Happy are those who are called to his supper." The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet?
The parable of today shows us three possible kinds of guests. There are the absentee guests who initially accepted the invitation, but when the time came to honor the invitation they drew back. Then there are the guests without wedding garments who attend the feast but do not take the trouble to prepare adequately for it, as the occasion deserves. And then there are the guests with wedding garments who make the necessary preparation to present themselves fit for the banquet of the King.

The scary thing about the absentee guests is that they are not sinners. They were not engaged in sinful activity. One went to his farm, another to his business. These are gainful and noble employments. Sometimes what keep us away from the joy of the kingdom is not sin but preoccupation with the necessities of life. To be serious with our job is a good thing, but when our job keeps us away from attending the Lord's Supper, then it becomes an obstacle that hinders us from experiencing the joy of the Lord in our life. Some people attend church service to fulfill a "Sunday obligation," otherwise it would be counted against them as sin. Though this kind of fear no longer motivates young people today.
The point of the parable is: if you must go to the dance, you must wear your dancing shoes. If you must go to a wedding, you must wear your wedding garment. By not wearing a wedding garment, the man in the parable was physically in the party, but his mind and spirit were not there. He was in the feast but he was not in the mood for feasting. Jesus hates this kind of hypocritical attitude. In fact, it is better not to attend at all than to be there and yet not there.
The kingdom of God is freely offered to us. Those of us on the way to the kingdom must spare no effort in acquiring the moral and spiritual character that is consonant with life in the kingdom. This parable warns us not to take God's grace for granted but to clean ourselves up and become the most beautiful person that we can be in God's sight.
There are only two possible reasons why a guest wouldn't have a wedding garment: either he sneaked in without being invited, or he didn't care about celebrating the wedding and just wanted enjoy the food and drink while doing his own thing. In either case, such a guest is not a guest at all - he has no relationship to the bride and bridegroom, and so he has no reason to be there. And so the king threw him out. When we try to follow Christ without accepting his will and the teaching of his Church, we are trying to get in to the wedding banquet while refusing to put on the wedding garment.
This is what so many public figures in our generation are doing when they say that they are Catholic, but then support things like abortion and homosexual marriage, which directly contradict God's plan for the human family. Christianity is not a self-help buffet where we can pick and choose according to personal preference; it's the revelation of God, and it requires humility, obedience, and trust. The important question before us is, whether we have a wedding garment. It was given to us on the day of our baptism. It stands for sanctifying grace. It is the garment essential for our salvation. Our entrance to the heavenly banquet table depends on our wedding garment.

We need to wear our wedding garment for the Eucharistic banquet: God incarnate waits for us in his house of worship, offering himself for us on our altars and inviting us for the sumptuous banquet of his own body and blood for the nourishment of our souls in the Holy Eucharist. According to St. Gregory, men and women who come to the wedding feast with hatred in their hearts do not wear the acceptable garment spoken of in the parable. Men and women whose faith and love are cold, who attend Church for social reasons, to show off their clothes and jewelry, or to visit with acquaintances are not dressed in a wedding garment pleasing to the King, Christ Jesus. Our wedding garment is made of our grace-assisted works of justice, charity and holiness. Let us examine whether we have fully accepted God’s invitation to the messianic banquet and remember that banqueting implies friendship and intimacy, trust and reconciliation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

XXV- Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55: 6-9; Philippians 1: 20-24; Matthew 20: 1-16
Imagine there are four houses on your street. Yours is valued at $400,000. The house next to you, at $300,000, The third, at $200,000. The last at $100,000. One day a realtor offers you $500,000 in cash for your house. You are delighted and you sell it. The next day you learn that the other three homeowners on your street got the same price by the same buyer that you did. How would you feel about their getting the same price even though their homes were not nearly a good as yours ?. The parable of the vineyard workers offends our sense of fairness. Why should everyone get equal pay for unequal work?

When the apples ripened, Tina, would sit all her seven children down, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit is reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. She never bothered keeping track of how many each one did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan etc. But when the job was done, the reward for everyone may be the same: sweet apple pie. A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom. God’s grace does not come to us depending on the amount of good works we do, but according to our need. If your six-year-old child misbehaved, you would not call the police, you would not subject her to the rigor of the law; your correction of her would be gentle and proportioned to her age - in other words it would be merciful. So is God’s mercy too.

In today's gospel we hear of a harvest in which some workers put in more work than others. When pay time comes, they are all treated equally and the early birds among them begin to complain and grumble. Why do the workers in the vineyard complain and grumble whereas the workers in the family do not? The answer is simple. One group of workers is made up of family members and the other of unrelated individuals drawn from the wider society. The norms of behavior, of contribution and reward, in a family are different from those in the wider society. The big question that the parable poses to us in the church today is, "Do we see ourselves as family with a common purpose or do we see ourselves as a bunch of individuals, each with their own agenda? We call ourselves brothers and sisters. Why then do we often see and treat one another as rivals and competitors?
For the early-bird workers who ended up being reprimanded by the landowner it was all a business affair. Their working in the vineyard was preceded by a well spelt-out contract regarding their wages: a full day's work for a full day's pay. The latecomers were less legalistic in their approach. They took the job trusting in the landowner's word of honor. "He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went" (Matt 20:4). In fact, those employed in the sixth, ninth and eleventh hours were told nothing whatsoever about payment. There is no employer-employee contract here. Everything is based on trust.

This parable is also a warning to us. We, cradle Catholics, belong to the kingdom of God. We feel we are entitled to more privileges and rewards than others, who have entered the Church recently. This wage-oriented attitude towards God is seen in our lives. We claim we have heard more masses, attended more novenas, visited more shrines and said more prayers, so God must be more generous to us. The result is that wage-oriented persons quit God and leave the Church, because God did not give them the wages and rewards they thought they deserved. God is love, and a lasting friendship with Him has to be based on love. God is like the compassionate landowner, who gave a day’s wage even to the man who worked for an hour. It was no fault of the worker that he was not employed till 5 in the evening. God also welcomes and rewards with a denarius, His heaven; the one who dies full of years and another who dies in the prime of life, and even those who turn to God at the hour of their death.

We need to follow God’s example and show grace to our neighbor. When someone else is more successful than we are, let us assume he needs it. When someone who does wrong fails to get caught, let us remember the many times we have done wrong and gotten off free. We must not wish pain on people for the sake of fairness. We become envious of others because of our lack of generosity of heart. Envy should have no place in our lives. We cannot control the way God blesses others.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways," says the Lord. If my ways of thinking and judging are truly far from the Lord's way, then I must have some adjusting to do! Perhaps I need to work harder in the areas of forgiveness, mercy, and generosity, to mention a few. St. Paul urges the Philippians today to conduct themselves in a way that is "worthy of the gospel of Christ."

Let us allow this parable to break open the narrowness of our own imagination and expectations. The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature (Ps 145:9). God is more than just to us; God is generous. If God were strictly just to us we would all be in a bad shape. Our hope lies in the fact that God is also merciful. In His sight the first may be last and the last, first. A repentant thief may enter heaven first than a righteous man. The repentant prodigal may be more close the heart of the Father than an obedient home staying older son.

Our call to God’s vineyard is a free gift from God for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. All our talents and blessings are freely given by God.
Jesus is the volcano of generosity. There is no better example and proof of this extraordinary generosity than the Eucharist, where he allows himself to be handled by him. During this Eucharist let’s pour out our hearts in gratitude for God’s generosity.

Friday, September 9, 2011

XXIV-Sunday .Cycle A.

Sirach 27: 30 – 28: 7; Romans 14: 7-9;Gospel Mathew 18: 21-35

There is a story about a judge in a middle-eastern country who was trying to resolve a difficult case. The wife of a deceased man was asking for the death sentence to be imposed upon the man who had killed her husband. It seems that while he was on a tree gathering dates, the man had fallen upon the woman’s husband and fatally injured him.
“Was the fall intentional?” the judge inquired. “Were these men enemies?”
“No,” the woman replied. “Even so,” she said, “I want my revenge.”
Despite the judge’s repeated attempts to dissuade her, the widow demanded the blood price to which the law entitled her. The judge even suggested that a sum of money would serve her better than vengeance. No dice. “It is your right to seek compensation,” the judge finally declared, “and it is your right to ask for this man’s life. And it is my right,” he continued, “to decree how he shall die. And so,” the judge declared, “you shall take this man with you immediately. He shall be tied to the foot of a palm tree; and you shall climb to the top of the tree and throw yourself down upon him from a great height. In this way you will take his life as he took your husband’s.” Only silence met the judge’s decree. Then the judge spoke: “Perhaps you would prefer after all to take the money?” She did.

Very often we feel like returning hurt with the same coin. But it is disastrous for us. Today is September 11, a date that Americans consider one of the most significant in the nation’s history. It has become one of the epic historic events equivalent to the founding of the United States, the ending of the conflict between the North and the South, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the ending of World War II and the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. September 11, 2001 is a date that challenged both the freedom of a free people and the grace of forgiveness that Americans are told by our Lord Jesus Christ to offer, even to their enemies. But forgiveness is not an easy gift to give.
All three readings today remind us and challenge us to continue on the path to forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation and peace. The Book of Sirach says. "The vengeful will suffer Yahweh's vengeance; for He remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven." Sirach reminds his listeners that if they don’t heal and forgive and show mercy to others, they can’t expect to receive much of that in return. This is what we pray in our “Our Father” not forgive our sins if we fail to forgive others’ sins too.
Peter knew Christ’s mind about the forgiveness of injuries. He had heard the Master say to them to turn the other cheek. But Christ had not said how many times to offer the other cheek; so for future action in exercising authority he wants a clear answer to the question. How many times must he forgive the transgressor? Peter was conversant with the teaching of his times on forgiveness. Rabbinic teaching, based on Amos, prescribed that God’s forgiveness extends to three offences and that He visits the sinner at the fourth offence. Now if God will not pardon at the fourth offence; what about us, mortals? Peter knowing that Jesus was a forgiving person expected him to be kinder than God. So Peter doubled God’s triple forgiveness and added an extra one for good measure.

Simon Peter was expecting Jesus to say: “Excellent Peter. You go to the head of the class. You get A+.” But Christ tells Peter to forgive: “Seventy times seven,” which means infinite times. Forgiveness is love’s might. Married love would be a sham without forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness destroys the best of friends. Parents, spouses and children who keep within their hearts petty injuries, will soon find their love destroyed.

A certain married couple had many sharp disagreements. Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected. One day her husband commented on his wife’s restraint. “When I get mad at you,” he said, “you never fight back. How do you control your anger?” The wife said: “I work it off by cleaning the toilet.” The husband asked: “How does that help?”
She said: “I use your toothbrush!”

In the light of eternity and the shortness of our span of life, harboring old grudges is pointless. Neighbors who remained hostile and unforgiving till their death are buried a short distance from one another in the same cemetery. Our ability to forgive is the measure of the depth of our Christianity. Let us remember St. Francis Assisi’s prayer: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Our failure to offer pardon means that we have forgotten God’s goodness or have not fully appreciated the unconditional forgiveness we have received from Him.

Forgiveness finally changes us from prisoners of our past to being liberated and at peace with our memories. Grudge-holders are grave-diggers and the only graves that they dig are their own. "The world's most miserable person is one who won't forgive. Real forgiveness keeps on leaving the sins of others and our hurts in the past. To keep on forgiving is a God-like characteristic. It is contrary to human nature. But we need to keep trying with God’s grace.

A story is told of two friends who were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand, “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from nearly drowning, he wrote on a stone, “Today my best friend saved my life.”
His friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
Where have I engraved the hurts I have taken, in stone or in sand ?
On this anniversary of 9/11 we are called to forgive. But it doesn't mean that we close our eyes to real threats and fail to defend ourselves, but that we remember that even those who conspire to hurt us, are like us, children of God and in need of redemption.

During this anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, let us pray for a change of heart for all who are contemplating acts of terror or hatred and for ourselves too, that in each and every action of our lives we may imitate Christ who knew both righteous anger, but infinite mercy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

XXIII Sunday -Cycle A


Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10;Mathew 18: 15-20

In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is a "watchman for the house of Israel,” obliged to warn Israel of moral dangers. If Ezekiel should refrain from speaking God’s word intended to convert the wicked, God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked. In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we should have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing the sinner. Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness. In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian not only to assist his neighbors in their temporal and spiritual needs by material help and by prayer, but also to correct an erring brother if his sins are public.

When one Christian has a case against another, the first step will be an attempt at private reconciliation. This protects both parties from humiliation, and from forming a public position they cannot back away from. Only when this fails are witnesses brought forward, and after that it is brought before the Church publicly. This is perhaps a mirror image of our world, where we rush to public conflict, and only resort to personal reconciliation when all else has failed.
It is difficult not to be overcome by the bitterness and feelings of revenge.
A pastor preached a wonderful sermon, saying we should love our enemies. And, when he got through he asked, “Is there anybody in the audience who can truthfully say that he or she has no enemies?” An old gentleman got up right underneath the pulpit, and he said, “Father, I ain’t got no enemies.” So the Pastor tells the congregation, “Let’s listen. This man has the secret. He can teach us something. Go ahead, sir, now tell us how we do that.” “Oh,” he said, “it ain’t hard. You see, I’ve outlived all those rascals.”

One New Year’s Eve a mother asked her two quarrelling daughters to reconcile one another and wish happy new year. The older daughter went over the younger one and said “I wish you a happy New Year,” and she added, “but only one.”

Nelson Mandela was freed from jail after 27 years and as he came out of the jail he was full of bitterness against those who put him in there. But then he thought to himself : "They've taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they're releasing you, but there's nothing left for you out there.' And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, "˜Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don't allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'". You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. There are many people who are imprisoned by their own anger, their own hurt, their own inability to let go of the past and move on.

One woman who was bitten by a rabid dog, and it looked as if she was going to die from rabies. The doctor told her to put her final affairs in order. So the woman took pen and paper, and began writing furiously. In fact she wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally the doctor said, "That sure is a long will you’re making." She snorted, "Will, nothing! I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!"

One of the wise folk sayings of the Russian people is this: Make peace with men, and make war with your sins." Unfortunately, we usually do the opposite!" It is said: The only people you should try to get even with should be the ones who have done some favors to you.

Let me conclude with this story: In one of the popular Chicken Soup volumes, Dennis E. Mannering tells about an assignment he once gave to a class he teaches for adults. He gave them the assignment, "Go to someone you love, and tell them that you love them." At the beginning of the next class, one of the students began by saying, "I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I didn't feel I had anyone to say those words to. But as I began driving home my conscience started talking. Then I knew exactly who I needed to say ‘I love you’ to. Five years ago, my father and I had a vicious disagreement and never really resolved it. We avoided seeing each other unless we absolutely had to at family gatherings. We hardly spoke. So by the time I got home, I had convinced myself I was going to tell my father I loved him. Just making that decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. At 5:30, I was at my parents' house ringing the doorbell, praying that Dad would answer the door. I was afraid if Mom answered, I would chicken out and tell her instead.

But as luck would have it, Dad did answer the door. I didn't waste any time. I took one step in the door and said, ‘Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.’ It was as if a transformation came over my dad. Before my eyes his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he began to cry. He reached out But that's not even my point. Two days after that visit, my dad had a heart attack So my message to all of you is this: Don't wait to do the things you know need to be done. What if I had waited to tell my dad? Take the time to do what you need to do and do it now!"
That's the advice that Jesus would give us. People hurt us, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without meaning to. But sometimes who is in the right and who is in the wrong is not as important as finding a common ground where the relationship can be maintained. Sometimes that means that we have to take the first step, even though we know that the other person is in the wrong. And the best time to take that step is today!

Friday, August 26, 2011

XXII-Sunday-Cycle A.


JEREMIAH 20: 7-9; ROM 12:1-2;Gospel: MT 16: 21-27

It is said that St. Augustine was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress some time after he had become a Christian. When he saw her he turned and walked the other way. Surprised, the woman called out, "Augustine, it is I". Augustine as he kept going the other way, answered her, "Yes, but it is not I."

It is an amusing story ,but when Christ calls a man to follow him, he calls him to die." Augustine was dead to his former self, and so he said, it is not I.

Today’s readings explain how we can truly follow Jesus. Jeremiah, in the first reading, is certainly a prototype of the suffering Christ. In the second reading, Paul advises the Romans and us (Rom 12:1-2):to ‘’offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God by explicitly rejecting the ungodly behavior of the world around us and by discerning and doing the will of God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus takes his disciples by surprise when, after Peter's great confession of faith, he announces that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised". After correcting Peter’s protest, Jesus announces the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”. Unless we constantly remind ourselves of the demands of this difficult vocation from God, we will fail to be the kind of disciples that Christ expects us to be.
Jesus realized that, although he had predicted his suffering and death three times, his disciples were still thinking in terms of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. That is why Peter could not tolerate the idea of a suffering messiah. It was then that Jesus rebuked him so sternly, "Get behind me, Satan,” in an attempt to nullify this temptation to shrink from the work for which He had come. It was the same kind of rebuke as those He had delivered to Satan in the wilderness. Origen suggests that Jesus was saying to Peter: "Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It's your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go." Like Peter, the church is often tempted to judge the success or failure of her ministry by the world’s standards. But Jesus teaches that worldly success is not always the Christian way.

Suffering, when we bear it with faith and unite it to Christ's suffering, is like the oven that cooks saints, the fire that purifies our hearts of selfishness. Gold is purified in fire. The cross, when we carry it with Christ, is like a stopwatch in the hands of an expert coach: it pushes us out of our comfort zone so that we can develop our spiritual potential to the full. Adversity helps develop endurance. A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.

All the sufferings are not God given sufferings. Some we create for ourselves. Some come from Satan as he knows that some people renounce God when they meet with sufferings in their life and leave their faith in God.
Bob Hodges, a Presbyterian minister in Rogersville, Tennessee, tells about duck hunting with a friend of his on Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee. His friend, Riley, who had just recently given his life to Christ, began to ask some serious questions about his Christian pilgrimage. Riley's old friends were making it very difficult for him to remain consistent in his obedience and commitment to Christ. They seemed to delight in trying to get him to fall back into the old patterns of life. They ridiculed him for spending so much time with "the preacher." Riley asked, "Why is it that I'm having more trouble since I became a Christian than I ever did when I was lost? Everything seems to go wrong. I'm having such a struggle!"

Bob Hodges spoke up, "I'll tell you why, Riley. A couple of ducks fly over and you shoot. You kill one and injure the other. They both fall into the lake. What do you do? You have to get out of the boat and go pick up the ducks, but which one do you go after first?"

"Well," Riley drawled, "that's easy. I go after the injured one first. The dead one ain't goin' nowhere!"

Hodges said, "And that's the way it is with the devil. He goes after injured Christians. He's not going to bother with the man dead in his sin. But the minute you give your life to Christ, you'd better get ready; the devil is going to come after you. He is going to chase you; he's going to make it hard on you."

Sometimes, when life's crosses are especially heavy, it is hard for us to remember that God is with us in our sufferings. At times, like Job, we find ourselves rebelling against the suffering that God permits to come our way, instead of finding its hidden meaning. Those can be lonely, dark times, full of temptation and sadness. But God promises that he will be faithful. St Paul wrote: "God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians10:13). St Augustine says: "There is more courage in a man who faces rather than flees the storms of life, and who holds cheap the opinion of men.

The Church has decreed that above each of her altars there should be a crucifix. Whenever we enter a Catholic Church, therefore, the crucifix will be the focus of our field of vision. The crucifix is a depiction of humiliation, torture, pain, and death. Why such pride of place given for such a cruel reality? Why not put scenes of Christ's birth above every altar, or of his resurrection, or ascension? Because, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Christ dying on the cross was the perfect sacrifice offered to God in loving atonement for our sins and the sins of all people (2 Cor. 5:15). Christ dying on the cross was the perfect, loving act of obedience that reversed the vile disobedience of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

To get any where in a mirror-image world, you must go in the opposite direction! If you walk in the forward direction you will reach only the mirror, not the destination. Christ's teaching is a bit like that: If you want to be a follower ... renounce yourself! And walk the opposite direction of where the world is walking. If you want to save your prepared to lose it! The Sermon on the Mount spells out the apparent contradictions.
Society tends to take the Peter approach: 'You can't do that!' To be a success, you must be strong, not weak; rich, not poor; aggressive, not meek.

We must follow the footsteps of our Lord: suffering, self-denial, opposition, humiliation, and difficulty. We may even have to lose the "whole world", like so many saints and martyrs, in order to gain the truly abundant "life."
Uninterrupted joy is reserved for heaven; the road to heaven is paved with crosses.

Jesus didn't let us suffer alone. He came and walked beside us through the incarnation, comforting, strengthening, and inspiring us with his example of self-sacrificial love.

Nothing stands in the way of our ultimate salvation as much as our own 'cosy' Christianity, the sort that wants to be a follower of Christ on our own terms, preferably without the 'nasty bits' of suffering, death and self-sacrifice.
Do I have enough faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ's sake? "Am I willing to sacrifice something for the kingdom?"

Friday, August 19, 2011

XXI-Sunday -Cycle A.

XXI: ISAIAH 22: 19-23; ROMANS 11: 33-36; MT 16: 13-20

The Gospel for our meditation today is very familiar passage. Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought who he was. All of us want to know who we are or what people think about us. A wife one day, after reading this Gospel passage, asked her husband to describe her. He said: 'You are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K'. She said, 'What does that mean?' He said, 'Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Fabulous, Gorgeous, Humble'. She said, 'Oh that's so lovely. What about I, J, K?' He said, ' I'm Just Kidding.'

Jesus was with his disciples for nearly three years teaching, preaching , healing and casting out demons, raising the dead and he wanted to make sure they understood him well. So he asked them what others thought he was.
"Who do people say I am?" was only a preliminary question; the real question was "Who do you say I am?" The first question is easily answered; one has only to be a reporter. But the second question is a searching one; and only a disciple can come anywhere within range of an answer.
When we recite the Creed at Mass we give the Church's answer. "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father…."
However, the mere repetition of a right answer is not the answer. We found out in primary school that the right answer given at the end of the arithmetic book was useless unless we reached it by valid steps ourselves. We don’t just repeat the Creed; we profess it. It is more than a set of theoretical statements; it is a commitment and a renewal of faith. This is more demanding. We cannot 'find' Jesus in the way you find some lost object, or a piece of information. In a sense, the seeking has to continue even when we have found him, and especially then.

When we Christians meet in his name we are responding to his question, "Who do you say that I am?" and sharing our experience of him with our brothers and sisters.
There's an old story about an innocent man fleeing soldiers. Some
villagers hid him. When the soldiers arrived, they threatened to destroy the village by noon, unless they turned the Innocent man over to them. Two villagers went to the cave of an old rabbi outside the village to seek his advice. When he opened his Bible for an answer, his eyes fell on the words, "It is better for one man to die than for all to perish." He told them to give the man to the soldiers. Later, an angel appeared to the rabbi and said, Why did you turn him in? He was the Messiah. The old rabbi wept, saying,"How was I to know?" The angel said, "You should have met with him and looked in to his eyes. Then you'd have known."
Only when we look into the eyes and seek to find who he is Jesus can be really known. Only by encountering Jesus we can know him, not just by hearing about him. When Peter gave the right answer to the question he was given power and authority over the church. He was given keys to the kingdom.
We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday” because the main theme is the handing over of the “keys” which open and shut, representing authority in the Church and in the kingdom. The first reading, from Isaiah, gives a detailed description of the investiture of a royal court official. The robe, the
sash, and the keys are insignia of this office. Isaiah tells of how the keys of authority were taken away from Shebna, the unfaithful and proud “master of the royal palace,” and given to the humble and faithful Eliakim.
Peter will receive the keys of the kingdom and be given the power to bind and to loose on earth that which will be ratified in heaven.
Keys can be a sign of “control” – especially car keys or house keys. Visiting dignitaries are often given an honorary "Key to the City" by the mayor.

Keys are meant for locking out or opening up. We are the Church, the called together. We have our structures based on tradition and Scripture with our Holy Father as chief key-holder.
We all need the keys to shut up whatever is destroying us. We need to turn the keys to open up "the floodgates of heaven" (see Mal 3:10) by opening up our hearts to God's love and truth. The Church is the only place where we can get the keys we need. So, if we're addicted, unforgiving, or guilt-ridden, we should go to Church. If we're looking for answers, hope, or peace, we should go to Church. Her preaching and praying are the keys we need. The Lord especially has made the Sacrament of Confession the key by which we are freed.

"Keys" refer to the divinely guaranteed guidance and authority that the papacy will steadily provide about what we should believe and how we should live - faith and morals. The Church teaches that Peter was given the keys which admit a man to heaven or exclude him from it, and that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve a man from his sins. In other words, Jesus gave to Peter the authority to determine what courses of action would be permitted or forbidden in the Church.

It is possible that God could take those Keys away from us, like He did to Shebna, and give them to others who would use them responsibly. So we need to be responsible Christians who hold the key faithfully for letting the grace of God flow into our lives and of others and locking out the power of evil and negative thoughts from our lives.

During this Mass, let's renew our commitment to him, confident that no matter what happens in this life, we will be victorious in the end, because, as he promised, the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against the rock and the keys.