Saturday, August 31, 2013

XXII.Sir. 3:17-20, 28-9; Heb. 12:18-9, 22-24; Lk. 14:1, 7-14

A pastor was having difficulty with his assigned parking space on the church parking lot. People parked in his spot whenever they pleased, even though there was a sign that clearly said, "This space reserved." He thought the sign needed to be clearer, so he had a different sign made, which read, "Reserved for Pastor Only." Still people ignored it and parked in his space. "May be the sign should be more forceful," he thought. So he devised a more intimidating one, which announced, "Thou shalt not park here." That sign didn't make any difference either. Finally, he hit upon the words that worked; in fact, nobody ever took his parking place again. The sign read, "The one who parks here has to preach the sermon next Sunday morning!" In Today’s gospel Jesus speaks against taking first positions and places of honor.

First reading from the Book of Sirach, places great emphasis on the virtue of humility and shows great sympathy to poor people and the oppressed. Jesus was humble, so his followers are expected to be humble, trying to imitate his humility. Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart says he.
All the great men praised the virtue of humility. “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues,” taught Confucius. Benjamin Franklin was convinced that “Humility makes great men twice honorable.”  When Jesus taught His disciples the meaning of true greatness, He called a child and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Children tend to remember more easily that they are not God. They know that they are dependent on their parents for food, shelter, and everything else, so it's natural for them to accept being dependent on God as well. Everything a child has is a gift from others and he takes pride in the gifts. Great men were able to see the gifts of God, and they always remained grateful to him. This attitude made them humble.  God fills the humble with his blessings.

Jesus is King and one of the most important law in Christ's Kingdom is the law of humility. This law says that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted". In other words, greatness in his Kingdom comes not from out-doing other people, out performing them, and out distancing them.
Greatness in Christ's eyes comes from serving other people, from elevating them, helping them advance, and keeping oneself in the background. In his very first sermon, Jesus had taught the same law with different words: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

Humility can be practiced by doing our daily duties with dedication and commitment. St Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourself. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.”  

Humility makes us instruments in the hands of God. It makes possible a relationship with God. “There is no room for God in him who is full of himself, “says Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher. God can work through us only when we offer a chance by keeping our pride aside.

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (without lunch), he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
"'Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
"'Sorry,” the woman told him. “I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person because you are going to get other food items also from other servers.”
"'But I'm starved and I love chicken,” the governor said.
"'Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "'Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state!”
"'Do you know who I am?” the woman retorted. “I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”

After the construction of the Titanic, a reporter asked the man who had built it how safe the ship would be. "Not even God can sink it," he answered.
Well, God didn't have to sink it; an iceberg was sufficient.
The Law of Humility simply means that we should remember that we are not God, that God is God, and we are dependent on him.

The instructions of Jesus remind us that we are not the center of the world.  God is.  Our value, our success comes from our relationship to our Center, our God.  That is humility.
We need to practice humility in personal and social life.  Humility is based on the psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God and, therefore, I have no reason to elevate myself above others.

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may come to our aid to free us from vanity, pride and false humility and to have the patience to wait under God’s mighty hand to be exalted at the proper time. Let’s seek the wisdom that will lead us to true and right judgment in all things and praise God at all times, humbly accepting everything gratefully and joyfully from his loving hands.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

XIX-Wisdom 18: 6–9; Hebrews 11: 1–2; 8–19; Luke 12: 32–48

Bishop Sheen tells us that we will have three surprises in heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. It is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven. Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace. In today’s Gospel Jesus answers the question who will be saved, when and how. 

The central theme of today’s readings is the necessity for trusting faith in God’s promises and remaining faithful as we wait for the return of the Lord. Jesus uses two parables to make the point. First there is the Parable of the Watchful Servants where Jesus encourages his disciples to be vigilant and ready for action as they wait for the coming of the Master. That he will come is certain, but when he will come no one knows. The Lord comes unexpectedly into our lives everyday through events and people we meet. But the ultimate, unexpected coming of the Lord in our lives is the moment of death. We should be watchful to recognize the Lord and be prepared to meet him in the little unexpected opportunities of everyday life. This is the best way to prepare for the ultimate encounter with the Lord at the hour of death.
In the second parable, the Parable of the Faithful or Unfaithful Servant, Jesus reiterates the lesson of the first parable under the heading of faithfulness. He portrays two different attitudes of disciples in the absence of the Master. The wise disciple remains steadfast at his duty post even in the master's absence. The foolish disciple takes to a complacent lifestyle and takes the law into his own hands. The day of reckoning comes with the master's return. The faithful servant receives a promotion, the unfaithful one is "cut to pieces" and given a place with the unbelievers.
Like we can't cram for life's final exam, we cannot receive the Lord with just a little immediate preparation. If we want to live in communion with God forever, to experience the fulfillment he promises in this life and the next, we need to make friendship with God as the number one priority of our lives. The good things of this earthly life, its pleasures, challenges, and occupations, will come to an end when the Master returns. To live as if they were going to last forever, therefore, is foolish. Christ wants to make sure we don't act like fools.

The Gospel ends with the admonition of Jesus: "from those to whom much has been given, much will be expected." We must value the fact that the Lord has given us much… he has died for us and given us new life in Christ, he has given us all the grace we need through the sacraments and the Church to live a life in accordance with our new dignity. He has blessed each one of us abundantly with his grace and love. He will expect a return on all he has given us.

So, how do we remain steadfast and faithful ? One of the traditional means for remaining alert is prayer. The most important element in prayer is listening to God – an attitude of attention to the "tiny whispering sound" of the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-12).   Such attentiveness demands that we set aside a quiet time every day during which we can tune our ears to the divine sounds of love, harmony and peace. Let us recall the words of the Book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me" (3:20). 

By prayer seeking to know the will of the Master and by taking care of the servants given in our charge, let’s keep ourselves ready for the return of the Master, who is already here going to serve us now with heavenly food.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

XVIII,O.T: Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21 

The common theme of today’s readings is that the greedy acquisition of wealth and power is futile, because everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow.” So the meaning of life cannot be found in selfishly hoarding wealth and possessions, but only in sharing these with the needy. 

Charles Dickens in his play “The Christmas Carol” gives the picture of a selfish man, Mr Scrooge, whose sole aim in life was acquiring as much wealth as possible at any cost. He considered Christmas celebrations as humbug, and hated charity. He weighed human relationship against material wealth.  He never bothered to care for his nephew or his employees.

One night, he saw an unusual figure in his bed room. It was a ghost in chains. The ghost introduced himself as the ghost of his deceased partner. He came to warn Mr. Scrooge about the futility of the life that he was leading. He told him that some spirits would come to him and he should listen to their message, to avoid the fate that Marley, his business partner faced by dying a dreadful death. 

First came the ghost of the past. He took Mr Scrooge to his past. He was presented as a young man who did not heed to the voice of his parents; who abandoned the love of a beautiful maiden to amass wealth. The second ghost, the ghost of the present, took him to the church where Christmas celebrations were being held; and to the house of   one of his employees. There he witnessed what others thought of him. Everyone hated him due to his over attachment to wealth. The third ghost took him to the future. He was taken to a house where a dead body lay unattended and unlamented by any one. He was curious to see the dead man. The ghost allowed him to see the corpse. Mr Scrooge was shocked it was his own death scene.
Mr Scrooge learned a great lesson that his frantic chase for wealth was meaningless. It would only lead him to eternal misery.  This is the message of today’s readings.

In the second reading, Paul directs our attention to lasting, heavenly treasures and warns that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry.  He advises, "Put to death, your parts that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry”(Colossians 3: 5).

 By telling the parable of the foolish rich man, Jesus warns us against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. Jesus says God calls the greedy rich man a fool because the man thought he would not die soon and was not accountable for the way he used his riches. He forgot that his wealth was loaned to him by God for sharing with the needy.
Dr. Carl Menninger, the world-renowned psychiatrist, was talking on one occasion to an unhappy but wealthy patient. He asked the patient what he was going to do with so much money. The patient replied, “Just worry about it, I suppose.” Menninger asked, “Well, do you get that much pleasure from worrying about it?” “No,” responded the patient, “but I get terrified when I think of giving some of it to somebody else.” Then Dr. Menninger went on to say something quite profound. He said, “Generous people are rarely mentally ill.”
People who cannot share with others have deep-seated problems. If your level of giving to the work of God and the service of others requires no sacrifice, then you have Jesus locked in a cupboard, and he is not really living in every part of your life. In today’s gospel Jesus calls such people “fools.”

The richer that man grew, the greedier he became, as suggested by the Roman proverb: “Money is like sea water; the more a man drinks the thirstier he becomes.” It is like children in a video arcade – no matter how many quarters or tokens you give them, when the last game’s over, they always ask for “just one more.” There’s no end to it.
The foolish rich man “never saw beyond this world.”   He was punished, not for anything wrong he did, but for the good he failed to do. It was his acts of omission rather than of commission that prompted God to cut short his life. He failed to become “rich in what matters to God.” He left God out of his gratitude. He was not thankful to God for His blessings; instead, he considered them as solely the fruit of his own labor.  He also failed in his stewardship duties – the returning to God of His portion in paying his tithe.  He did not recognize his possessions as loan from God, given to him to share with others.  He was taken up with worries or anxieties about his wealth.  He was starving to death spiritually in the midst of God’s abundance.  

What’s the answer or the balancing act against greed? The answer is that we need to get back to the basics and re-establish our priorities. In a word, we need to put God first. We need to follow the Great Commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt.22:37-39) It’s as simple as that: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6:33)

If we pray the prayer from the book of Proverbs in all sincerity, God will come to our aid: " God, Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30: 8-9).