Friday, July 13, 2012

XV SUNDAY (AMOS 7:12-15, EPH1:3-14, MARK 6:7-13)

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn’t able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner’s home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his
prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once before it is consigned to silence?" he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector’s emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep this violin to myself," he exclaimed. "It’s yours,
Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it."

Jesus gives the same kind of instruction to the Apostles the collector gave Kreisler when He sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God is at hand.

The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be
rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos. He was ordered by Amaziah, the angry chief priest serving in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at Bethel, to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his choice but his God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree-dresser to a
prophet. He said he receives no payment like other prophets, it is not his job, it is his mission. Like Amos, each one of us is chosen by God, through the mystery of divine adoption in Jesus, to become missionaries and to preach the “good news” by Christian witnessing.  This witnessing is to be exercised in a unique way. They are to take nothing with them except the word of God. Everything they need for this mission will be provided by the Lord.

If we are called to teach something to a group of people today, what all things would we take with us on our trip ? A tape recorder, a microphone, amplifier, DVD player, iPhone, iPad, Projector, a lap top, and what not ?. Why ? Because we don’t trust our memory and our ability to present the message effectively by our mere word of mouth.

Mark writes of the power conferred by Jesus on those he sent out. But along with the power he gave them, he also instructed them on how important it was not to be restricted by unnecessary ‘baggage’. Nothing else is needed; no advertising; no TV commercials; no computerized back-ups; simply the Word”.
Money, a bag, an extra shirt are things for our future needs.  Luggage is always for the future.  In the present it’s only a burden; but we carry the burden for the sake of the future.  To carry luggage with me is to live, to some degree, in the future.  The same is true of money: my hunger may be satisfied now, but I take money with me so that I can satisfy it again tomorrow.
No sandals, no staff in the hand; in other words, nothing on your feet, nothing in your hands – just you, a mere human being, with no protections.  Take nothing but the WORD. With the Word, Jesus was present with them to empower them. The bible is the only book where the author sits down beside the reader when some one reads it. Having nothing with them will enable them to turn to Jesus for the success of their ministry.  
In the book of  Judges 6: 11-25),  Gideon, the fourth judge of the Israelites is instructed by God’s angel to fight the Midianites who were plundering them every harvest season. The angel told him to fight with just 300 soldiers of Israel against the 135,000 soldeirs of Midanites. Gideon trusted in the strength of the Lord and defeated and destroyed the mighty army of the Midianites by his surprise midnight attack. Gideon had a larger army than just 300, but the angel told him he needs only just 300. Today’s gospel tells us why they did not need anything but the Word in their heart.

There is another reason why Jesus asks the disciples to go with out taking things of comfort with them. When we live on mere basics, with out any surplus things to make life comfortable we learn to train our character. God is more committed to our character than He is to our comfort. Every storm is an opportunity to grow in Christ and trust Him more. The message of the Gospel is primarily to be assimilated in their life and conveyed through their life. That makes their life more appealing.
This week there was the news of a video footage on Egyptian TV of a Christian convert from Islam being martyred by cutting his throat. Even in the face of death he did not give up his faith, even though he was a new convert. He witnessed to his faith by his life. Such strong witnesses of the gospel will lead many others to faith.
Jesus also gave a warning: if there are those who refuse to listen, then we should not be afraid to shake off the dust from the feet, and leave the task to another, possibly at another time. Rejection of our message is highly possible. But we should not carry that load of defeat and rejection with us longer. As we wipe the dust off our feet, we should leave that feeling of rejection.
Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle to evangelize the world. We are called to share with others not just words, or ideas, or doctrines but our experience of God and His Son, Jesus. Like the apostles, like St. Francis Assisi, like Blessed Mother Teresa, we are all chosen and sent to proclaim the Gospel through our living. It is through our transparent Christian lives that we must show in our own actions the love, mercy and concern of Jesus for the people around us. An important part of evangelism is the simple act of inviting a friend or family member to join us in worship. This is where reconciliation between persons and God is most likely to take place. We do not have to commit verbal assault on someone with our convictions. A simple invitation offered out of a loving and joyful heart is the most powerful evangelistic message of all. Beginning of September we will begin our RCIA classes. As an evangelizing parish we should take the motto “ each one reach one” each family reach another family to this RCIA sessions. Our neighbor may be waiting for our invitation. But before approaching the family pray at least for one week for that particular family that they may be open to accept the faith. Then choose an opportune time and invite them.

Jesus sent the Apostles in pairs. Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth. I think there is also a hidden meaning to this point. A basic unit of the church is a family; and a family is of two: a husband and a wife. It is by their witnessing life that one should evangelize their neighbors, friends and their own children.

Is my family an evangelizing one ? If I appreciate my faith, I will be keen to share it with others. When I find a good restaurant or a good movie I share the news with others. The best definition of evangelization I ever heard is: A beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. Let’s share our bread of Good news with others who are hungry for bread.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

XIVth Sunday in Ordinary time.

EZ 2: 2-5; II COR12: 7-10; MARK 6: 1-6

In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is told that he will face rejection of his message. Ezekiel's mission was to speak the truth despite apathy and resistance. In the second reading, St. Paul speaks about his mission of preaching God's word despite his weakness, "a thorn in his flesh." This Gospel story is a kind of home coming for Jesus. The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus' words was one of astonishment.  Many who heard him were astonished.  And they said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
They knew him only as a carpenter from a poor family, with no formal training in Mosaic Law. They “knew” that he could not be the promised Messiah who would come from Bethlehem as a descendant of David’s royal family.  The town’s folk needed to see His diplomas, His credentials for getting up there like that. “Who does he think he is!”  Certainly, they thought, he had gone far beyond the point one of his status as a humble carpenter should go. Instead of accepting Jesus’ message because of the evidence, the people rejected Jesus because they knew Jesus’ background.

One of the dreams of Martin Luther King was that people "would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". Jesus’ neighbors could not understand how a mere carpenter could be their political Messiah who would liberate them from Roman rule and reestablish the Davidic kingdom of power and glory.
Very often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to and refuse to accept the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them, because they are too familiar with us. Hence, they are unable to see us as God's appointed instruments, the agents of God's healing and saving grace. And it happens in the reverse order too. We fail to see our friends and co-workers as God’s agents speaking to us. St. Paul teaches us that we don't have to be perfect to be instruments of God, like he had a thorn in his flesh, and he was not perfect. But we should never give up speaking the truth.

By our baptism, God calls us to share in Jesus’ prophetic mission. The task of a prophet is to speak God’s truth. We must never be afraid of this call. We may rely on Jesus to supply us with the courage to oppose the many evils in our society. Our society tells youngsters that promiscuous sex, drugs and alcohol are means by which they express their individuality. It is here that our country needs Christians with the prophetic courage of their convictions to fight against such moral evils.

The Jews rejected Jesus because they were relying on their knowledge but Jesus was inviting them to go beyond what they did know into the relationship of faith to which He was inviting them. What we’re dealing with here then is something much more serious than a mistake in reasoning. It’s the deliberate rejection of something one knows to be true. It’s the turning away from a good, one recognizes and accepts as desirable. In such negative attitude God cannot work with us.
“And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” (Mark 6:5). This is one of the most shocking statements in all the Gospels – that Jesus could not perform miracles. Not that he would not but that he simply could not. Is anything impossible with Jesus? Today’s gospel says yes. It is impossible for Jesus to perform miracles in a situation where there is no faith. Jesus could do all things and wants to do all things for his people. But he needs our faith to release his power. Remember last week’s gospel of the woman with the flow of blood. Many people were touching and pushing against Jesus. Nothing happened because they did not touch with faith. But as soon as the woman of faith touches him, healing power comes out of Jesus. As all-powerful as Jesus is, we have the capacity to disable him by our lack of faith. Faith is like a switch that turns God on, lack of faith turns God off.
Remember Jesus said to the Jews, looking at the stubborn, non accepting attitude that: all the sins will be forgiven but the sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven ? There is nothing that God cannot forgive, but the deliberate hiding of the truth is a sin which prevents God’s forgiveness. Because there is no openness towards God there. It is like: I am terribly thirsty, and you give me water and I say no, that is not water and don’t take it. What will happen, I will die of hunger. That is why Jesus told the Jews, I will go, but you will die in your sins. St.Augustine said the God who created us without our consent will not save us without our consent. So, God takes our consent in working his grace into us.

While Mark says: “he could work no miracles there,”   Matthew says, “He did not work many miracles there” (13:58), making it look more like a decision on Jesus' part.  It is a frightful thought that we have the ability to prevent miracles, to tie the Lord’s hands.... How many miracles have I prevented in my life?  Or this week?  Why are my wife and children so quiet?  Are they sinking into despair?  Or have I a way of making my husband feel so bad that everything he might do or say is condemned in advance? 

When we blame God for doing nothing while we suffer all things here below, does God perhaps blame us for our unbelief that has made it impossible for Him to act?

Let’s not try to place God or others in our boxes, trying to limit them by our limited understanding of them. Let’s be open to God for God to work in and through us.