Saturday, July 26, 2014

XVII.O.T. 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52 

There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the old men of the desert why it is that so many people came out to the desert to seek God and yet most of them gave up after a short time and returned to their lives in the city.
The old monk told him, "Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined in the chase, barking and running. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the wilderness was echoing the sounds of their pursuit but the chase went on into the night.
After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt. "Do you understand," the old man said, "what I have told you?"
"No," replied the young monk, "please tell me father."
"It is simple," said the desert father, "my dog saw the rabbit."
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that God’s Kingdom is something of extraordinary value, like a hidden treasure or costly pearl, and that its possession calls for total commitment. Only those who develop a searching mind and are willing to give up everything for the great treasure of God’s Kingdom will be rewarded. Through the first and second parables of the treasure and pearl Jesus teaches us identifying God’s will  with His help and living according to the Gospel are the most precious and worthwhile things in life.  Through Jesus and his Gospel we come to know and understand what the real meaning of life is and what are the most important things in life which would secure our eternal salvation. 

Getting to know Christ and experiencing his grace is a lifetime adventure."The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world, and from the most wise and prudent in it. He that finds this treasure, (perhaps when he thought it far from him,) hides it deep in his heart, and gives up all other happiness for it."
Stories of hidden treasure have been very common from the ancient times.  In times of war, enemy soldiers were always on the lookout for treasures to plunder. Hence, at the enemy’s approach, people would bury their treasure hoping to recover them once peace returned. But, often the owner would die, carrying to the tomb the secret of the place where the treasure had been hidden.
The man in this parable  stumbled upon the treasure unexpectedly, but he did so when he was going about his daily business. So, Jesus tells His hearers that the Kingdom of God is to be found while doing the daily routine of our life with efficiency and diligence.
True happiness, true  satisfaction, the sense of God, the presence of  the Kingdom of God are all to be found in the day’s work, when the day’s work is  honestly and conscientiously done.  
The second lesson of this parable is that it is worthy of any sacrifice to enter the kingdom. The relationship with Jesus is our treasure and pearl; it alone can give us the joy and satisfaction we yearn for in the depths of our hearts.
A rich young man asked Jesus, “What must I do to possess eternal life?”  Jesus replied, “Go sell what you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow me.”  The young man went away sad because he was very wealthy.  The sadness of Jesus must have been even greater.  There is no account in the gospels of the subsequent career of the rich young man; he is never mentioned again.  Not being open to the gift, he got only what he paid for.  Jesus said about the rich, “they have had their reward.”  The “pearl of great price” is there within our grasp, it is being held out to us free of charge.  It is free, but to take it we have to have empty hands. 
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ, and help us to sell everything we have to obtain that price of everlasting value.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

XVI-O.T. Wis. 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43 

Last week we talked about planting seeds. This week we’re talking about pulling weeds. The two go together. Every gardener knows that planting seeds is the easy part of having a successful garden; and it is much more time consuming to weed that same garden. As someone has said: “When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”

In the parable, Jesus assures us that there is a real difference between the weeds or darnel and the wheat. Darnel is a poisonous weed that, in its early stages of growth, looks almost exactly like wheat. It is only when they have grown taller that the difference becomes apparent. By that time, however, the roots are so intertwined that one cannot pull out the weeds without severely damaging the wheat. Only at the harvest can the separation be made safely.
In the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus presents a wise and patient God who allows the good and the evil to coexist in the world. God awaits repentant sinners, giving them the strength to acknowledge their weakness. Here Jesus calls us to be patient with those who fail to meet the high ethical standard expected of a Christian.

It is often impossible to know who may be for sure the true and faithful followers of Jesus since we can usually judge only by appearances. In Jesus' day, the Scribes and Pharisees seemed to be the most religious of all, yet he rejected them for lack of interior conversion. In particular, they thought they knew for sure who were the "weeds" and who were the "wheat." And they were sure that those whom they rejected were rejected by God also. The gospels tell us that Jesus thought otherwise. 

Some Christians today are like over-zealous servants who could not tolerate the evil weeds. In their zeal to serve God they go on a crusade against those they perceive as evil with the intention of cleaning up the church, the nation, or the world. In the end they discover they have made a big mistake.

A devout Christian said: I don't always know whether I am weed or wheat. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Which, I suppose, includes my heart. For all I know, I may even be the weed in somebody else's garden. Perhaps in your garden. And all of us struggling to keep the weed under control and help the wheat growing.
“An old Cherokee once told his grandson about a fight that was going on inside of him. He said it was between two wolves. One was evil: Anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, gossip, resentment, and false pride. The other was good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf do you think will win?’ The old Cherokee replied, ‘The one I feed.’”

We live in a fallen world, and it is hard for us to resist the tugs of selfishness and sin. We prefer to give in to them, at least a little bit - it's easier!
As the First Reading puts it, God governs us with lenience. He will use even the evil actions of his enemies to build up his Kingdom - omnipotence is like that. An omnipotent God can afford to be merciful, because in the end, he will be able to put all things right. In this context we can understand why there is evil in the world.
We say Jesus defeated Satan and his kingdom; then why do we still see Satanic forces working everywhere in the Church and the world? Did he not really defeat the Satan then? Is it just a mental concept? St.Peter says: Satan is roaring like a lion looking for someone to devour.  As the book of Revelation says, God will confine or chain the Satan only at the end of times and then he will have no freedom. Now Satan has to be allowed to roam free to let those who love God love him with freedom and true love. (Read the beginning of the book of Job. Satan comes into God’s court and asks about God’s servant Job and says Job loves God because he gets every good from you, take some of the good things away from him and he will not love you). Imagine there was no evil or Satan existing in the world, and everyone had to love God and do good by default, because there is no temptation to do evil, we would have no choice to make any mistake or sin. Our love for God would be a kind of automated love, not creative or passionate love. Imagine we get every day of our life the best food we like and no choice of any other food? We would get fed up with that same food. So is with God’s love too. So, God lets Satan allow his work so that we could choose to love him or keep him out of our life. But those who believe in Jesus’ name is a winner already; he is in Jesus. Because Jesus defeated the Satan, those who stand with Jesus the Captain of the winning army, also have won victory over Satan. That is why we need to enhance our faith by prayer and frequenting the sacraments.
Let’s ask God for the grace to practice patience and show mercy.  Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to heaven, especially by our good example and our fervent prayer for their conversion.
Our exemplary Christian lives will be a compelling challenge and a forceful invitation to evildoers to repent of their sinful lives and turn to God.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

XV- O.T : Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt  13:1-23
You remember, last week I expressed my desire to cultivate a kitchen garden and asked for some help in tilling the ground. One good young man came forward and tilled the ground for me. Then I got some plants and started to dig holes to plant them. Wherever I dug, only rocks appeared and even the soil underneath seemed very hardened. I realized that it is not the most suitable place to plant, but I have no option at this late time of the season for planting. So, I planted them, knowing fully well that I may not get a hundredfold harvest, unless I really work hard on the soil loosening it up by mixing some better soil and manure.
Jesus’ parable of the seed sown in various soil types was an attempt to boost the morale of his frustrated disciples. They were upset and discouraged because they realized that their master was facing opposition and hostility from the scribes, Pharisees and priests. The synagogues refused to admit him to preach. So Jesus had to go to beaches and hillsides. Some of the Pharisees were planning to trap him, and the common people were more interested in his ability to heal them than in his preaching.  Using the parable of the sower Jesus assured his confused disciples that the “Good News” he preached would produce the intended effect in spite of opposition and controversy.
This parable is a story of God's prodigality, sowing seeds right and left, in abundant measure so that we constantly receive the word in our hearts from a merciful and generous sower. God is always scattering the seeds of His kingdom around us whether we deserve them or not, so that when the soil of our hearts is ready for the seed to germinate, the seed is already there. Even the tiniest seed of God’s love can produce in us a harvest beyond our imagining. God’s Word is powerful – and, as we know, no power exists that can frustrate it.  God is in charge, He will bring the harvest, and it will be abundant. We need not despair if that harvest is not immediately visible. The parable tells us to do our part by preparing fertile soil in our hearts for the word of God to yield 60- and 100-fold.
The seed is the same, but the soils different. Rich soil doesn’t just happen. It needs effort, to loosen it up, remove stones, and weeds, to make it rich soil, ready and good for the seed. But then again do not miss the point. It isn’t all about our decision. But what has been revealed to us. We have been chosen. It is the seed that germinate and bring fruit.  It’s all God’s work. It’s not ours. But - we have to ‘come’ to it. We have to accept it in good soil disposition.
What kind of soil are we? This is something we need to be asking often ourselves. How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives? Do we allow the trials and tribulations of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us?  Do we pull back when people harass us because we are believers?   Do we allow the cares of this world, our ambitions or our desires for success and happiness, to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives? How we respond to the Word of God is the key to how fruitful the Gospel is going to be in our lives. Unlike the situation in nature, we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths, on the rocky ground and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit, that those things which impede growth will be removed and that the soil may be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places. We should pick up the seeds that landed on not so good soil and try to nurture and water them so that they will bear grains.
Meister Eckhart wrote:  A disciple of Jesus is one who receives the seed of God's word into good soil.  Soil is ‘humus’, which gives us the word ‘humility’. “God cannot work except in the ground of humility, for the deeper we are in humility, the more re­ceptive we are to God….The more a person is sunk in the ground of true humility, the more he or she is sunk in the ground of divine being.”
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to always open our ears and hearts in humility so that the Word of God will bear fruit a thousand fold.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year :  Zec 9: 9-10; Rom 8: 9, 11-13; Mt 11: 25-30 
Come to me, All you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest….. my yoke is easy and my burden  light.
This is an imagery taken from the daily association of a farmer who used the yoke, and the carpenter who made the yoke. There is no human being on earth who never had a burden to carry and a yoke to shoulder. It can be sickness, trials, difficulties, betrayals, break up of relationships and the like.
It is a human tendency to mourn over our inabilities and blame God. We look at others’ talents, blessings, wealth, health and achievements.  In this despair we fail to appreciate our abilities and talents. When we are tested with trials we ask God Why me? And we fail to count the innumerable blessings that we have received.
Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983.
From the world over, he received letters from his fans, one of them conveyed: "Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?".

To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over--50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach the Wimbledon, 4 to semi-finals, 2 to finals. When I was the one holding the cup, I never asked God "Why me?".
And today in pain, I should not be asking GOD "why me?"
If we can have this attitude   we will not feel that our life is overburdened with problems.  God has designed our life only according to our ability. When we compare our sufferings with that of others often we find ours problems are nothing. It is very good to remember the quote, "I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. Every heavy burden in our life will become light, if it is accepted in love.
There is an old story which tells how a man came upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy, who was lame, upon his back. "That's a heavy burden for you to carry," said the man. "That's not burden," came the answer. "That's my wee brother."
The burden which is accepted in love and carried in love is always light. A mother never feels bringing up a child a heavy burden.  A mother will never feel spending sleepless nights with the suffering child a burden. A mother will never feel teaching a little child to walk is a heavy burden. Because it is done out of love. So when we do things out of love what seems to be heavy burden for others will become joyful.  Modern culture, demands of the society and work pressure have turned little joys of family into a heavy burden.
We need to be freed from unnecessary burdens: Jesus lays the light burden of his commandment of love on us and yokes us with himself, giving us his strength through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is also interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that suck the life out of us, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke that brings to us and to others through us, new life, new energy, and new joy. We are called, not only to find peace, refreshment and rest for ourselves, but also to live the kind of life through which others, too, may find God's peace, God's refreshing grace, and the joy of placing their lives in God's hands.
How can we unload our burdens on the Lord. The main purpose of our personal and family prayers and Divine Worship in the Church is to help us learn to unload our burdens. During the Holy Mass in our parish church, we place our stress-filled lives on the altar and allow Jesus to cool down the overheated radiators of our hectic lives.  We also unload the burdens of our sins and worries on the altar and offer them and ourselves to God during the Holy Mass. 
In the second reading, Paul tells the first-century Roman Christian community about two yokes, namely, the “flesh” and the “Spirit,” and challenges them to reject the heavy and fatal yoke of the flesh and accept the light yoke of the Spirit of Jesus.
 Let us take a few minutes to reflect and see how the little burdens in family can be turned into acts of joy; how the little challenges at work can be made into joyful moments. These little acts will make our life happy and meaningful. But let’s without fail remember that Jesus is the only one who can lighten our burdens, because he took our burdens of sins.