Saturday, August 25, 2012

O. T. XXI –B- JOSH 24: 1-2, 15-17, 18; EPH 5: 21-32; JN 6: 60-69
A group of Christians gathered for a secret prayer meeting in Russia, at the height of the persecution of all Christian churches. Suddenly the door was broken by the boot of a soldier. He entered the room and faced the people with a gun in his hand. They all feared the worst. He spoke. "If there’s anyone who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then, get out now while you have a chance." There was a rush to the door. A small group remained - those who had committed themselves to Jesus, and who were never prepared to run from him. The soldier closed the door after the others, and once again, he stood in front of those who remained, gun poised. Finally, a smile appeared on his face, as he turned to leave the room, and he whispered "Actually, I believe in Jesus, too, and
you’re much better off without those others!"  

The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. The fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives, deciding whom we will serve.

The Israelites had just entered the Promised Land, and it was filled with pagans who worshipped many gods. So Joshua told them, "Decide today whom you will serve." The God who brought you from Egypt to this lush, fertile land, or the gods of the Amorites in whose territory you now dwell? The choice is up to you. And while still pondering the decision they must make, he added the now-famous statement, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Fortunately for themselves and their children, they responded, "We also will serve the one Lord God." Notice that Joshua did not just say: As for me I will serve the Lord, but he said, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. He as the head of his household took the decision to serve the Lord. It is a challenge and an invitation to the heads of the families today to take up the responsibility of making his family follow the Lord. Rather than just say when my children grow up to adulthood they will make the choice themselves.

In today's Gospel, Jesus also puts the choice to His apostles of following Him, or of leaving Him. Many of the Lord's followers had left Him because of His teaching that He Himself is the Bread of Life. If they were willing to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, they would live forever. Otherwise, they would die. Many were shocked and offended. Others thought the message was too good to be true. So they "walked with him no longer."
Jesus turns to the Twelve and says, "Do you also want to leave?" It's as though He had added, "It's your decision. I'm not going to make your minds up for you!" Fortunately for them and for the future Church, they have enough faith to reply, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
The Old Testament, the New Testament and the history of the Church tell the stories of brave men and women who heroically exercised their freedom of choice for God
and His commandments and courted martyrdom. II Maccabees 6: 18-31 describes how the 90 year old saintly Scribe, Eleazar, welcomed martyrdom instead of eating the flesh of pork. The same book describes another heroic
Jewish mother and seven of her brave children who lost their lives by resisting the order of the Greek commander to reject their Jewish faith. The martyrdom of St. Stephen is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The first three centuries saw
thousands of Christians heroically choosing Christ  and courting the cruel death inflicted by the pagan Roman Empire. St. Thomas More was the second in power in
England and St. John Fisher the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for choosing the teaching of the Church on marriage
and divorce instead of choosing their king’s view. Today’s readings challenge us to make a choice for God and His teachings or against God.

It is high time that we also reflected to find out where we stand, as his followers. Majority of us identify ourselves with the vast crowd that were not able to accept the challenges that Jesus placed before them. Like them we also disappear from the scene. We silently assent to the decisions and practices of the majority, even if there is a constant reminder from our conscience that what we do is not correct. Silently consent the injustice, exploitation and human right violations. Because, we do not want to risk our name; we do not want to risk our positions; we do not want to risk the comforts that we enjoy. Remember Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, but he also afflicted the comfortable in their conscience.

It's a hard teaching the people said to Jesus (Jn 6:60). This applies not only to Jesus' words on the Eucharist, but also to His words on many other things. The message of the cross is absurdity.  There are many former Catholics who find the message of the Church "too much for them." Some have left because of Church doctrine, others because of the stand of the Church on abortion, contraception or same sex marriage.

The heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to take a stand for Jesus, to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives.  That is what we mean by our “Amen” while receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours before we are able to say: as for me and my household I will serve the Lord. There were many things that Peter did not understand when he said yes to follow Jesus. But there was something in Jesus that held him fast to Jesus, that was his personal experience of Jesus. Christian life is not just adherence to a well set doctrine of dogmas, or a credible philosophy, but simply a personal relationship with Jesus. Let’s develop a deep personal relationship with Jesus, so that we will be able to respond to Jesus, Lord, whom shall I go, you have the worlds of eternal life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven was one of the last dogmas the Church formulated and declared. It was formally declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950, but the idea of it has been around for centuries.  As early as the 6th century we have writings of St. Gregory of Tours who spoke of Mary being taken up to heaven. It is one of those long-standing beliefs that has been codified into an essential teaching of the faith.
There is an ancient legend about today's feast. It seems that St. Thomas was not present at Mary's death. So when he finally arrived, possibly from far-off India, he asked to see her body one last time. But when her resting place was opened, there was nothing there - except beautiful, fresh flowers. One tradition tells that at the end of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven, even before death.

Many popular paintings exist which portray the Assumption, often using the description in the Book of Revelations of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,” (12:1) which we read in the first reading today.
The Assumption of Mary can be adequately explained by only one word: love. Based on our experience, love is overpowering. It is a force that moves us towards the object of love and be united with it. People who love money are always running after money and grasping it so tightly. Those who love cars are always with their cars. And couples who are in love tend to be together all the time, longing for physical and spiritual intimacy. There is some irresistible force in love that pulls the person towards the beloved. In the case of Mary, her love of God is so great that her whole being is pulled closer to God. It practically lifted her up to heaven, body and soul.  In Mary, the true meaning of love is clearly shown – love always leads to God. This is what St. John wrote: “No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us…God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:12,16).
Bishop Fulton Sheen expressed it beautifully: “If the distant moon moves all the surging tides of sea, then the love of Mary for Jesus and the love of Jesus for Mary should result in such an ecstasy as to ‘lift her out of this world’” (The World’s First Love, p. 134). He mentioned the example of the saints who, overfilled with love and deeply immersed in prayer, experienced the spiritual phenomenon of levitation, that is, they “are literally lifted off the earth.” This levitation would be very natural for Mary, for her whole being, body and soul, free from all sins and thereby free from all inner tensions and divisions caused by sin, has no opposing force that would pull her down. Everything in her is perfectly united and integrated, and moving only in one upward direction towards complete union with God. The Psalmist eloquently expressed this desire of the soul: “O God, you are my God – for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless and without water”(Ps 63:2).
The story of the Fall is not only the story of Adam but the story of Adam and Eve. If Jesus is the new Adam, Mary is the new Eve. Just as the full story of our Fall cannot be told without Eve, so also the full story of our Redemption cannot be told without Mary. There are many revealing parallels between the old Adam and Eve on the one hand and the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, on the other.

In the old order, Eve came from the body of Adam, but in the new order Jesus comes from the body of Mary.
In the old order, Eve first disobeyed God and led Adam to do the same, in the new order Mary first said "Yes" to God (Luke 1:38) and raised her son Jesus to do likewise.
Adam and Eve had a good time together disobeying God, Jesus and Mary suffered together doing God's will. The sword of sorrow pierced their hearts equally (John 19:34; Luke 2:35b).

In the old order Adam and Eve shared immediately in the resulting consequences and punishments of the Fall. In the new order, similarly, both Jesus and Mary share immediately in the resulting consequences and blessings of the Redemption, the fullness of life with God; Jesus through the Ascension and Mary through the Assumption.

The Assumption is the ultimate proof of the equality of man and woman before God. It also shows the sacredness and eternal destiny of the human body. The Assumption enables us to tell the full story, the full gospel that salvation is for all Men, male and female, and for the whole Man, body and soul.

There is a perfect harmony of wills and hearts between Mary and Jesus which we see most clearly in the Wedding Feast at Cana where Mary commands us: "Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you" (John 2:5).
This is a great feast of hope. Mary entering triumphantly into heaven gives all of us hope in our eventual entry as well. As we celebrate Mary’s assumption let’s live our lives magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord our Savior as Mary did all her life.

Friday, August 10, 2012

O. T.  XIX [B] I KGS 19:4-8, EPH. 4:30-5:2,  JN. 6:41-51

A hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, "We Sell Bread." He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, "I would like to buy some bread." The woman behind the counter replied, "We don’t sell bread." "The sign in the window says that you do," the hungry man said. The woman explained, "We make signs here like the one in the window that says ‘We Sell Bread.’" A hungry man can’t eat signs.

Life sometimes fools us too. What seems to be satisfying our hunger some times does not satisfy our hunger. That is why Jesus said: man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. To the Samaritan woman he said: One who drinks this water will thirst again, but those who drink the water I give will never thirst again. Today’s Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last week in John 6. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus.

Christ packs three momentous lessons into this discourse on the Eucharist in today's Gospel passage.
First, he points out the mystery of faith, that no one can believe in him "unless he is drawn by the Father."
Faith in Jesus Christ supplies us with life's only dependable fuel, and yet, faith in Christ is God's gift, no one can conjure it up on their own, in a chemistry lab. When we look at the small white Host, no scientific test can prove that Jesus Christ is truly present there, body, blood, soul, and divinity. And yet, we know that he is; we have been given the gift of faith. This is why the priest says, after the consecration at each Mass: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith." Second, this faith in Christ leads to "eternal life." Later in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that eternal life consists in knowing "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom God has sent" (John 17:3). In Biblical language, "knowing" implies deep interpersonal intimacy, the kind of relationship we all yearn for. That we can have a relationship like that with God himself, who is more lovable, more beautiful than any other person is or can be, is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Third, Jesus himself is the "bread" of this eternal life, its source and sustenance. Without bread, without food, physical life perishes. Without Jesus, without his "flesh for the life of the world" in the Eucharist, our life of intimate communion with God will perish. It's that simple - and it's that crucialEleven times in this discourse Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life; he's really hoping that we'll get the message. The gift of faith gives us access to eternal life, and the Eucharist makes that life grow within us.
When we receive Holy Communion, our natural desires will be transformed from within, just like the wafer is transformed from within at the words of consecration.
CCC 1377 teaches that: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.” Hence, it is clear that the whole Christ is real and truly and substantially present in even a small particle of a Host or in a small drop of the Precious Blood.

Here the Church emphasizes that there is no part of the Host which is not Christ Jesus. And, we further maintain, no part of the Host is a mere part of Christ, but each part of each Host is the whole Christ present in his entirety. Like if you stand before a big mirror, you find your one large image. But if you break that mirror into 4 pieces, you will see 4 images in all the four, full image.

Therefore, those who are not careful with the Eucharistic particles, or who outright deny that Jesus is present in even small pieces of the Host, either do not believe in the Eucharist at all or are very foolish (since their own reasoning is self-contradictory).

A piece of the Host which is visible to the human eye (under usual conditions and without assistance) as what appears to be a piece of bread, is surely Jesus. However, those particles which are so small as to be invisible to the human eye, or to be indistinguishable from a particle of dust – these cannot any longer be the Eucharist.

The Church teaches that the Eucharistic Presence remains “as long as the Eucharist species subsist”. This means that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, so long as the Eucharist retains the accidental properties of bread and wine. Hence, if a Host is dissolved in water (as is done when the Host has become putrefied, as through vomiting after the reception of Communion), upon being dissolved it is no longer the Eucharist. Likewise, the Precious Blood, when the Chalice is purified with water, is no longer the Eucharist.

The same must hold true for those particles which are so small as to be unrecognizable as “bread”. If the fragment is so small as to appear to be dust or a speck of some other substance, rather than a “crumb” of bread, it can no longer be the Eucharist. Likewise, those microscopic particles which fall from the Host are not the Eucharist, since they clearly do not retain the appearance of bread. Excessive scrupulosity about such things will only cause the true faith to be ridiculed.

In order to teach his disciples that the Eucharist is truly his own Flesh and Blood, he first instructed them to gather up the “fragments” which were left over from the multiplied loaves – if such care was taken for the mere symbol of the Eucharist, how much more must we care for the Real Presence! So,Jesus taught his disciples that the Eucharistic particles must be cared for, even after the conclusion of the Mass.

If the pastors of the Church do not care for these fragments, the people will soon lose their faith in the Eucharist. Indeed, this has already happened to a large extent in most of the western world.

It was really shocking to read that Communion was distributed to a dog on August 5 at a liturgical celebration of “Inclusive Catholics,” a Melbourne movement launched by Father Greg Reynolds, a suspended priest. After calling for women’s ordination in a 2010 homily, Father Reynolds had his faculties suspended. He currently organizes services for a varied group of disaffected Catholics. A woman led the service, while Father Reynolds "played as small a role as he could." So, it seems unlikely, therefore, that the ceremony was a valid Mass, or that the bread was actually consecrated. It goes beyond doubt that they don’t believe in the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Jesus clearly said that holy and precious things may not be thrown before dogs and pigs.

The Eucharist and the Sacraments are not any body’s personal right. No body can lay a claim to it. It is given to the Church by her Lord and so it belongs to the Church. A priest, a bishop or a Pope cannot say it is mine. If it is theirs as soon as that person is dead it would no longer exist. It belongs to the Church, the Church exercises it through her ministers. Minister is a servant, not the master. So he cannot decide how the sacraments should be celebrated. He has no right to. The Church does. The Church is the body of believers united in the Holy Spirit. That is why you and me are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the head of the Church. The head decides all the actions of the body. The head holds the mouth and the food that gives us eternal life. The holy Spirit, the breath of God and Eucharist the food from God come to us through Jesus the head of the Church. An individual member of the Church, like Fr.Reynold or me therefore, cannot make any claim on the sacraments and decide how the Mass should be celebrated.

Each time therefore when we attend the Mass or come up to receive the Holy Communion, let us call to mind that it is for holy people and it is God’s greatest desire to commune with me that he has given this privilege to receive him. So, let’s have the attitude of the woman who wanted to touch the fringe of his garment or the Centurion who admitted that he was not worthy to have Jesus under his roof.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

XVIIIth Sunday: Ex.16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35

In 1980 a missionary who was working in Zambia went on vacation to South Africa, then known for apartheid and racial segregation. He returned to Zambia after his vacation excited to tell everyone how much better South Africa was in comparison to Zambia. He told of the wonderful preaching he gave in South Africa, calling on the youth to give up their anti-apartheid struggle. His reasoning was that since Zambia had Black majority rule and its economy was in shambles, and since South Africa had White minority rule and its economy was doing much better, they should give up their struggle for Black majority rule unless they wanted to be poor like Zambia.

Another missionary working with him had a different idea. "Why don't we do this," suggested this other missionary. "We lock you up in prison and then give you everything you want to eat and drink, but still keep you locked up in prison." Immediately he got the point. The hunger of the human spirit goes beyond the hunger for food and drink. We may have all the material food in the world but if we lack such spiritual food as freedom, truth and love our hunger will ever be unsatisfied and our hearts ever restless.
Human beings need two basic kinds of food to attain perfect happiness and satisfaction: food for the body and food for the soul. Both are necessary. Which one of these ranks higher in the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ? It is spiritual food. That is why he says in Matthew 4:4 "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." And in John 4:34 he says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."

When he multiplied bread to feed the hungry he did not mean to say that the solution to the deep hunger of the human heart is to give people more bread. No. He multiplied bread only as a sign, a sign pointing to the higher spiritual food that he was providing for the human soul.
But the crowd we see in today's gospel mistake the sign for the substance. They clamor for Jesus because they want more bread. They want to make him king, a king who fills the human stomach with bread. "Sir, give us this bread always," they pray (John 6:34). But Jesus berates them for not seeing beyond their stomachs: "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you" (John 6:26-27). Because of this, Jesus hid away from them. Jesus did not want to be identified primarily with feeding stomachs. He wanted to be seen primarily as one who has come to nourish the human spirit with the food that satisfies every hunger of the human heart, the food that does not perish but stays good and gives life eternally.

This  echoes the words that are found in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. " [Is. 55:2-3].

The big problem that Jesus had with the crowds seeking him was that while Jesus spoke of spiritual reality they misunderstood him to be speaking of material things. Jesus had a similar problem when he met the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well. Jesus spoke to her about the spiritual water that he came to give: "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14). But the woman understood it in terms of ordinary water and replied, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water" (verse 15). Materialistic minds cannot comprehend spiritual truths.

The challenge for us today is to recognize that the false god of materialism, which promises satisfaction but leaves us ever more hungry, has seduced our society. We hear the spiritual truth of the word of God but we understand it in terms of satisfying our selfish desire for wealth and power.

When Jesus asks for their faith, they ask him for a sign, as if he hasn’t already given them one. They saw the miraculous feeding. But still they ask for more sign. This is what is wrong with seeking for material things. Even if you see as something satisfying at one point, the next moment that very same thing would turn out to be very unsatisfying.
Every day you really want something new: a new TV, a new car, a special pair of shoes, whatever. Then we buy it and we love having it for a few days. But over time we get bored or it wears out. You can see this pattern repeated constantly in our own life. For example, your parents and grandparents likely spent thousands and thousands of dollars on toys for you as you were growing up: Dump trucks and Barbie dolls and video games and electric cars and on and on and on. All of those toys got boring or broken or outgrown eventually. They brought happiness for a moment or a week, but over time they became worthless and your desire turned to a new object.

The cure is to follow the instruction of Jesus and flee the worldly allure and promises of materialism. This we can achieve as St.paul says today, only when we put away the old self corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth. Otherwise we would be seeking after Jesus only for material food and not for spiritual food that lasts for ever. And we will never be fully satisfied in our life. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase our spiritual hunger so that we may always look for food that never perishes.