Friday, July 26, 2013

XVII Sunday.O.T.

XVII- O.T.: Gen18:20-32, Col 2: 12-14, Lk 11:1-13
It is a feature of Luke’s gospel that Jesus is often to be found praying. And, it is no surprise that having observed this frequent activity of Jesus, his disciples are moved to want to pray like him. So, Jesus takes the opportunity not only to teach them a prayer, but also to teach them the way to pray: persistently.
In this parable Jesus puts the granting of the man’s request down to his ‘persistence’, and it is a particular type of persistence, an impudent or shameless persistence. It seems as if the reward comes to the man because he is shameless in asking and not simply because he persevered.
We might be able to see what to make of this interpretation if we look at Abraham’s entreaty in the book of Genesis that God not destroy the city of Sodom. Abraham knows how impertinent he is being in this dialogue with God, for he uses such rhetoric as he perseveres in asking for more and more.
Abraham knows he is trying his luck with God, but he keeps going. He is shameless in his persistence. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls.
According to Jesus, prayer is a child-father affair. It is a family affair based on a relationship of familiarity and love. Jesus uses the imagery of father here in order to correct the dominant image of God as the boss or the king who is to be revered rather than loved.
Jesus has come to deepen our understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God. Jesus teaches us that prayer is about simply and confidently calling God, Father. And because he is our Father, we can be bold and persistent. When children speak to their parents, there is hardly a right or wrong way. They simply focus on one thing, to put into words and body language what they feel in the heart.
So prayer is an activity that flows out of a relationship. We do not learn how to pray better, we become better women and men of prayer when our relationship with God becomes more intimate like that of father and child. If you want to improve your prayer, focus on improving your personal relationship with God, our Father.
A colleague asked C.S. Lewis if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the cure of his wife’s cancer. Lewis replied: "Prayer doesn't change God; it changes me." William McGill summed it up this way. "The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God." Keep in mind that Jesus has taught us to address God as Father.  A loving Father listens to his child, but he does not blindly endorse every request.  Instead, the loving Father provides what is needed, including discipline. God always answers prayer, some times it may be a NO. Bishop Sheen has this comment on prayer: "The man who thinks only of himself says prayers of petition. He who thinks of his neighbor says prayers of intercession (like Abraham). He who thinks only of loving and serving God says prayers of abandonment to God's will, and that is the prayer of the saints." 
Prayer is the lifeblood of an intimate relationship with the Father. But believers often have questions about its power and effectiveness.
Will God’s plans fail if I don’t pray? God is not subservient to believers or dependent upon their prayers. The time we invest in speaking with Him involves us in the work that He is doing in our lives and in the world, but He will carry on without us. Laboring alongside the Lord is our privilege.
Does my prayer (or lack thereof) impact God’s work? Scripture indicates the answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon the situation. There are times when God’s purpose is set. He is in control and has determined the best course. In the Old Testament, the Lord often prophesied what He would do and then brought those events to pass.
In other cases, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). There are some good things that He holds back until we put out prayerful hands to receive them. But because God is a loving Father, He also pours our blessings that we wouldn’t even think to request.
A mother sent her fifth grade boy up to bed. In a few minutes she went to make sure that he was getting in bed. When she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying over and over again. "Let it be Tokyo! Please dear God, let it be Tokyo!"
When he finished his prayers, she asked him, "What did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?"
"Oh," the boy said with embarrassment, "we had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France."

Prayer is not a magical means by which we get God to do what we want. Prayer is an inner openness to God which allows his divine power to be released in us. Ultimately, the power of prayer is not that we succeed in changing God, but that God succeeds in changing us.

Prayer is essential for Christian family life. To remain faithful in marriage, the spouses need to pray, not only individually, but together.  They need to thank God and to offer intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones.    Daily prayer will help married couples to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and to honor life from conception to natural death.  Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple:  "Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day."

Let us not allow lame excuses to turn us away from prayer: Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. The deeper our dependence on him, the more genuine our prayer will be.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

XVI -O.T.Sunday: Gen 18:1-10; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42

The central theme of today’s readings is the necessity of listening to God before acting. The key to the Christian life is setting priorities: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. The only way really to learn that lesson is to spend some time every day, "sitting at the feet of Jesus." 
There have been many interpretations of this story of Mary and Martha over the years. It is obviously a story about contrasts between doing and being. Mark tells us that when Jesus called the apostles to follow him, he called them for a dual purpose: “to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message” (Mark 3:14). The need, on the one hand, to be with the Lord, to know him, to fellowship with him and be nourished by his word and, on the other hand, to do the Lord’s work, to serve the Lord in others, to proclaim his message of love in word and deed, brings us to a conflict.

Living in this competitive world we try to be more productive than others. We have to use as much of our time to produce results. Martha exhausts her time and energy to serve Jesus who is their special guest. We often judge what is better based on its monetary value or on the honor and prestige it can give us. We often fail to give importance to developing deeper relationships with God and with others. Indeed, there are times that it will be better for us simply to be with and to listen to other people. There are times when it will be better for us to rest and to re-charge than to be overly anxious about providing for our material needs. There are times when it will be better for us to be more reflective than to be productive.

It is a radical call to each and every one of us to set our priorities right. Jesus perhaps feels that it was not enough for Martha to welcome the guest, but that she should also pay attention to what he has to say first and then go ahead to take care of material things later. Being hospitable means not only providing refreshment for your guests but also includes conversing with them and listening to them. Otherwise the hospitality is the kind you get in hotels which has nothing personal about it. Mary recognizes that her guest is more than he appears to be. And so she sits at his feet, listening to him as a disciple would normally do.
Both the spiritual and temporal are good, but they are when attended to in their right order. Hence Jesus says: “It is Mary who has chosen the better part…” Jesus wanted her as he wants us today to set her priorities right by doing the first and most important things first.

There is a story about a man who was preparing his favorite breakfast of hot oatmeal when his daughter came rushing in with his little four-year-old grandson. "The babysitter has been delayed," she explained, "and I've got to go to work. Will you keep Bobby for a few hours?" Granddad said, "Sure," and his daughter left. Then Granddad scooped up two bowls of oatmeal. "Do you like sugar?" he asked. When Bobby nodded he asked, "How about some butter, too?" When his grandson nodded again he asked, "How about milk?" "Sure," the boy said. But when the grandfather placed the steaming bowl of oatmeal in front of Bobby, the boy made a face and pushed it away. "But when I asked you, you said you liked sugar, butter and milk," grandfather protested. "Yeah," Bobby answered, "but you didn't ask me if I like oatmeal." Granddad forgot to ask the most elemental question. Sometimes we forget to do that, too. We never set priorities. We never list in our own minds what those things are that matter most. We allow life to buffet us here and there and we never center in on those things that really matter. 

Much more important than what we can do for Christ is what we can be for him, and what he can be for us. Martha was doing all kinds of tasks, and that was good. But Mary was listening to him, letting him serve her, being his close, intimate friend, and that was even better, "the better part". Friendship with Christ is the one thing needed. Therefore, our task here on earth is to make a conscious choice to shape our lives accordingly, to keep Christ first, to live from his love and for his love. 

We should put aside the work we do for the Lord in serving others and just spend some time being with Him, talking to Him and listening to Him, fully aware of His holy presence in our souls. We may also recharge our spiritual energy by means of our personal and family prayers, our meditative reading of the Bible and our participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Do we have a program of daily fellowship with the Lord? Many people fulfill this by assisting daily in the Eucharist where they can also hear the word of God. Others schedule a holy hour or quiet time when they can pray and read the word of God.

We need listening Marthas and serving Marys: Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world and our parish churches need such dynamic and generous men, women, boys and girls. We need them for different services.  And also we need to train them to listen to God first.
We need to be good listeners like Mary at home and in the workplace. Active and busy as we are, we have to find time every day to listen to God, to our spouse, kids and neighbors. Listening and quiet caring are essential for the success of married life, of family life and of the rearing of children with love, affection and a sense of discipline. Human love begins at home, and it begins with listening.
It is through people and our interaction with them that God speaks to us and acts in the world. And so, the kind of our “being” is more important to God, our family, or even a stranger we meet than what we do for them. Our gracious presence to them is more important than a lot of works we do for them.

Like Martha, many of us are anxious and troubled with so many things. Let us pray and listen to Jesus to discover what is better for us.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

XIV- Ordinary Sunday-C

XIV- O.T. Is. 66:10-4; Gal. 6:14-18; Lk. 10:1-12, 17-20

Today’s scriptures remind us that announcing the good news of the kingdom by words, deeds  and life is not the task of only a few, but is rather a task for all baptized Christians.

Luke’s Gospel has two stories of Jesus sending out his followers to go and spread the Good News. In chapter 9 Jesus sends the Twelve apostles and in chapter 10 he sends seventy two disciples. Matthew’s Gospel has only one: the sending of the Twelve. Scholars believe that Luke’s story of the sending out of the Seventy two is his way of emphasizing the universal scope of the message of Christ, as well as the mandate of universal evangelization, that every one is obliged to spread the message of Christ. The mission of the Twelve, according to Matthew, was limited to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mat 10:6). The mission of the Seventy two has no such limitation. According to Jewish tradition there are twelve tribes of Israel and seventy two nations of the earth. The sending of the seventy two disciples, therefore, symbolizes the sending of the message of Christ to the whole world.

Every Christian is called to participate in the spreading of the message of Christ through a commitment to prayer and action. Jesus goes on to detail the disposition we should bring to the work of evangelization: a spirit of meekness and vulnerability, a spirit of politeness and adaptability to the changing and challenging local situations in which we find ourselves in the course of mission work.

The seventy two disciples were surprised to see that, acting in Jesus’ name, not only physical sicknesses healed but “even the demons” submit to them (verse 17). While they were preaching and healing, Satan's influence was rolling back wherever they spread the Good News.

They were told to travel light relying on the common people to feed and protect them. It is easy to get entangled in the things of this life. When we have too many things, they tend to possess us rather than we possess them. They make us their slaves. When we have too many modern apparatus with us we occupy most of our time playing with them. The less we possess the more we are free to devote our time in the service of the Lord.

Jesus commanded them never to stop or turn back; but to go ahead until they reached their destination. Not even greet any one on the way. It may sound a bit too impolite. But the urgency of the mission should keep one targeted and not tarry and get delayed on the way. With our anxiety and worries, we often tend to turn back and defy His command.

 “Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose direction and begin to bend.” Says, Walter Savage Landor. So it is of utmost importance that we should always be conscious of our goal.

When Lot and his family fled from the wicked men God commanded him to go forward and never turn back until they reached the mountain top. But Lot’s wife turned back to see what was happening behind her, and she became a salt statue.

Orpheus is a Greek mythical figure. His music was enchanting. One day he was shocked to see that his wife was dead. So he went to the underworld and played so mournfully that the god of the underworld, was moved by his music. Hades, the god of the underworld agreed to allow Eurydice, his wife to return with him to Earth on condition; he should walk in front and not look back until they both reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following him, and in his anxiety as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, and she vanished for the second time.
So the missionary should remain fully focused on the goal ahead, not to look back or around on anything that might distract the purpose of mission.

Jesus is saving the world, but not all by himself.
He wants to do it with our help. From the pope down to the most recently baptized believer, we all share the same mission: to help Christ build up his Kingdom. We are players on his team. And there are no bench warmers on his team.

It is worth noticing that Jesus sent them out two by two. Those two could be husband and wife of a family. So the first evangelizers started the mission in their own homes. A husband should evangelize the wife and wife should evangelize the husband and both together should evangelize their children and neighbors.

Let us start preaching the gospel in our families by leading exemplary Christian lives, in which spouses love and respect each other, raise their children in the spirit of obedience and service, discipline them with forgiving love and teach them by persistent example to pray, love and help others by sharing their blessings. (L-13).