Friday, July 28, 2017

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

Dr. Williamson was a geologist doing some archeological excavation work in Tanzania. One day he found himself driving in a deserted area, slipping and sliding along a rain-soaked road. Suddenly his four-wheel drive vehicle sank up to its axles in the mud and got stuck. Pulling out his shovel, Dr. Williamson began the unpleasant task of digging the car out of a mud hole. He had been at it for a while when his shovel uncovered something strange. It was a pinkish stone of some sort. Being a geologist and naturally curious about rock formations, he picked it up and wiped away the mud. The more mud he removed, the more excited he became, and he could hardly believe what he saw. When the stone was finally clean, Dr. Williamson was beside himself with joy. He had discovered the diamond which became known as the famous Pink Diamond of Tanzania and is now set in the royal scepter of Great Britain. In today’s two parables, Jesus tells of two other men who unexpectedly discovered treasures

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that God’s Kingdom is something of extraordinary value, like a hidden treasure or costly pearl, and that safeguarding it within us calls for total commitment. The Kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. 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.

The "Kingdom of Heaven," synonymous in these parables with the "Kingdom of God,” is hidden, but it is of surpassing value. The parable of the pearl (45-46) makes the point that the sacrifice of everything must be made for this one thing of immense value. Those who have not sacrificed everything for it will not have this treasure and will come to know how much they have lost.

The first two parables in today’s Gospel are lessons in the total attachment to Christ and detachment from the things of the world demanded of the disciple to make the reign of God in himself, and in the world, a reality.  Frequent battles and foreign invasions encouraged the people of Palestine to bury their treasures like money and jewelry in their fields. For example, the great religious treasure – the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947 – was hidden there over 2,000 years ago. Sometimes unclaimed and forgotten, the hidden treasures awaited some lucky finder. Jesus tells the story of one such lucky treasure-finder who sold everything he had in order to get ownership of the field. According to the Palestinian laws of that time, the mere finding of buried treasure did not entitle the finder to possession unless he also owned the property in which it was found. In the parable of the treasure in the field and in the parable of the merchant who sought fine pearls, we see the image of one who recognizes the value of the kingdom of God and gives everything to possess it. Matthew, a tax-collector, might have experienced something like this when he discovered the eternal value of the Kingdom preached by Jesus of Nazareth.  When he discovered Jesus and his vision of life, everything else became secondary. Having a personal relationship with Christ, that is, making Christ’s view of life one's own, is the most beautiful, the most precious thing in the world. But most of the time, we are chasing false treasures like money, social status and pleasure. Jesus our true treasure may come to lives unexpectedly through some daily experience as he did with Mathew.  

Jesus wants us to know that the Kingdom of God is worth all we have.  He has come to offer us God's Kingdom, a unique pearl of the greatest price. The genuine disciples are those who respond to this opportunity with joy and selfless commitment, eagerly giving top priority to life in the Kingdom by doing God’s will, whatever it may be. The “treasures” and “pearls” of lasting value are the things of God. They are the love of family and friends, the support of community, and the sense of fulfillment that rises from serving and giving for the sake of others.  In order to attain such treasure, we must “sell off” our own interests, ambitions and agendas and thus free ourselves to embrace the lasting values of the compassion, love and mercy of God Who reconciles us to Himself.

when one discovers Jesus and his vision of life, everything else becomes secondary.  That is what St. Paul meant when he said: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8), and again "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 2:21). To have a personal experience of Christ and personal relationship with Him – in other words, to have made Christ’s view of life one's own – is the most precious thing in the world.  

Right now, it is for us to use the time given to us to go in search of the pearl of great price and to help others in their search. We are challenged to search and discern where the Lord is calling us so that we may know what path to take.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

In today’s parable, Jesus presents a wise and patient God who allows the good and the evil to coexist in the world, so that the evil ones may come to conversion before their time ends and God must punish them.  "Let the wheat and the weeds grow together till the harvest time.” God gives all of us sinners ample time to repent and change our lives. God calmly recognizes that there is evil in the world, but He sees that evil is no excuse for the good people not to do good with the power of God at their disposal. 
The weeds or darnel resemble wheat plants so closely that it is impossible to distinguish the one from the other until the ears of seed appear.  By that time, the wheat and darnel roots are so intertwined that the darnel cannot be weeded out without plucking the wheat out with them.  Another way to get rid of the weeds, as we know it now is to buy some weed killer. This stuff will really kill the weeds. The biggest problem with weed killer is that it doesn't know a tumble weed from a tomato plant. It kills every plant that it touches. Sometimes, it is best just to leave the weeds alone until it is time to harvest the crop. Then you can separate the weeds from the good plants.

The weeds in the parable stand for unrepentant sinners, people whose priority is themselves, who use others for their own advancement or pleasure, instead of serving them. These unrepentant sinners, unless they cooperate with God’s grace, repent and change their lives, will end up in Hell, "the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." The wheat stands for the righteous, those who have resisted the seductions of evil, repented of their sins, and battled against selfishness in order to follow Jesus Christ.

The parable hints at why we should not treat others as "weeds," i.e. evil or wicked.  Each one of us is a combination of wheat and weeds.  In each of us there are elements of the Kingdom of God and elements that are deeply opposed to it. 
Another reason we should avoid judgment is that we cannot draw a line which would neatly separate the good from the bad because everyone is a mixture of good and evil.  Here is Karl Rahner’s piece of advice to enthusiastic “weed”-gatherers: "The number-one cause of atheism is Christians themselves.  What an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable is the presence of those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles.  Perhaps, the best defense of God would be to just keep our mouths shut and to live as He told us to.  The Gospel would then have such a power and attraction that we wouldn't have to worry about defending it.”

Bishop Sheen said in one of his radio speeches: “The history of the world would have been different if the Christian authorities had shown compassion, patience and mercy instead of expelling Hitler and Mussolini from the schools and Stalin from the seminary in disgrace as ‘weeds.’”

It's better to have a wheat field with weeds in it than a field with nothing in it at all. There is a cost to the innocent as well as to the guilty in trying to weed the wheat. In an imperfect world, the innocent can be rooted up along with the evil when we choose to pass final judgment.

Instead of asking why God allows evil to exist let us ask what God expects from us.  God wants us to take a good look into the field of our own lives to see what is growing there.  Let us work with Him to pull out the “weeds" in our own personalities.  Then we need to start treating the so called "evil ones” as Christ did.  Why did he not weed out Judas who betrayed him, or Peter, who denied him?  Jesus saw the “weeds” in their lives, but he saw also saw the wheat.  He knew that with encouragement the wheat could prevail.  And often it did.  “Even the most honest man has stolen something in his life, but this doesn't mean that all people are thieves.” (Dostoyevsky)

Some are judged as being too radical and others as not being radical enough.  Some are judged for embracing doctrinal errors, others for appearing not to have any doctrine at all.  Some are condemned for not caring for the poor, others for caring too much for the poor. The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, including my heart. I may even be the weed in somebody else's garden.

 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.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

OT XV [A]: Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Mt  13:1-23

Jesus taught the good news for three years. The message of Jesus penetrated the heart of each of his listeners because he spoke with tenderness using the vocabulary of the common man. In order to make himself understood more easily he made abundant use of comparisons which he took from the everyday life of the people.

In his parable of the sower, Jesus uses four different soil-types to represent four separate responses people can give to God's saving word. The word “parable” comes from the Greek word parabole, which means putting two things side by side in order to confront or compare them.  And that is exactly how Jesus uses parables:  He places a simile from life or nature against the abstract idea of the reign of God. 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 in today’s Gospel, Jesus assured his confused disciples that the “Good News” he preached would produce the intended effect in spite of opposition and controversy. In fact, each one of us may display all four different types of soil at various times in our personal lives. Some time the seed or the word may remain dormant for some time before it produces the intended fruit.

Fred Craddock tells a story about the time he got a phone call from a woman whose father had died. She had been a teenager in one of the churches he had served as pastor twenty years before, and he would have sworn that if there was ever a person who never heard a word he said, that teenage girl was it. She was always giggling with her friends in the balcony, passing notes to boys, drawing pictures on the bulletin. But when her father died, she looked up her old pastor, the Rev. Fred Craddock, and gave him a call. "I don't know if you remember me," she started. Oh, yes, he remembered. "When my daddy died, I thought I was going to come apart," she continued. "I cried and cried and cried. I didn't know what to do. But then I remembered something you said in one of your sermons . . ." And Fred Craddock was stunned. She had remembered something he had said in one of his sermons?! It was proof enough to him that you can never tell how the seed will fall or where it might take root.

The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life. 
Good soil represents the company of the committed people who are determined to serve Christ to the best of their abilities, people who are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to see Christ's kingdom come, people who by their work and their witness bear fruit that does not perish. What kind of soil am I?

There has been a person who offered the best soil to God’s Word at all times. That is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is the perfect model as to how we should listen to the Word of God. Luke says, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)

She is also the perfect model of obedience to God’s word.  She submitted herself to the word of God and declared:  “I am the handmaid of the Lord let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
She also commanded others to follow the words of Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you.”(Jn2:5).

How do we respond to the Word of God and to the various Acts of God in our lives? The real hearer of the word has an open mind; he is prepared to listen; he understands; and finally he translates his hearing into action.

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 decide, because things are not working out the way we think they ought, that God doesn't care for us, or that He is powerless, weak and not to be heeded? Lets’ keep the soil of our hearts loose and fertile so that the word of God may take root and bring a 100 fold fruit.

Friday, July 7, 2017

 A farmer went to a government bureaucrat specializing in animal health. The farmer sought help from the “expert” because ten of his chickens had suddenly died. The government expert instructed the farmer to give aspirin to all the surviving chickens.
Two days later, however, the farmer returned. Twenty more chickens had died. What should he do now? The expert said quickly: Give all the rest castor oil.
Two days later, the farmer returned a third time and reported 30 more dead chickens. The government expert now strongly recommended penicillin.
Two days later a sad farmer showed up. All the rest of his chickens had now died. They were all gone.
“What a shame,” said the expert, “I have lots more remedies!”
The world offers many so-called remedies to the problem of stress, but the truth is most of them don’t work. The world offers many so-called solutions for the tensions and burdens that push us down and pull us apart… but the truth is there is only one Prince of Peace, who can soothe our jangled nerves and save our troubled souls.

In today's Gospel Jesus says, “Come to me. All who are exhausted and weighted down beneath your burdens, and I will give you rest….. my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

This is an imagery taken from the daily association of a farmer who used the yoke, and the carpenter who made the yoke.
It is a human tendency to mourn over our inabilities and blame God. It is common in everyone of us. 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 fan, 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 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.

We are burdened by many other things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age and a thousand other things.

To take the yoke of Christ is to enter into relationship with Christ as his loving servants and subjects and to conduct ourselves accordingly. The yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. A yoke is fashioned for a pair -- for a team working together. So we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power; we are yoked together with Christ to work with Him using His strength. By saying that his “yoke is easy” (11:30), Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.

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 will never feel spending sleepless night with the suffering child a burden. So when we do things out of love what seems to be heavy burden for others will become joyful.

One of the effects of Worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass.

During this holy Eucharist, let's renew our trust and faith in Jesus, and ask him to help us make the burdens of our life light and carry them with him.