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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010

Fourth Sunday,Advent,99

Wordsworth, one of the most famous poets of English Literature and whose poems most of us have read and studied wrote very magnificently about the Blessed Virgin Mary in one of his later poems, known as the Ecclesiastical sonnets. He speaks of Mary as “ our tainted nature’s solitary boast, purer than foam on central ocean tossed,” and “Brighter than Eastern skies at day break.” The Protestant writer and Professor of history at Yale University, Prof.Jaroslav Pelican writes: “ It is impossible to understand the history of Western spirituality and devotion without paying attention to the place of the Virgin Mary.”

Why has Mary captivated the imagination of poets, artists, writers and millions of ordinary people down through the centuries? The answer is given in today’s Gospel: “Hail Mary, full of Grace …you have found favor with God.” Mary is God’s favored daughter, unparalleled in spiritual and physical beauty, the recipient of all the beautiful blessings of God. That is why no century can diminish or stale her beauty or the love people have for her.

Advent is the time we bring to our mind all the great sages of the past who walked on the lane of human history leading to the coming of the Savior. Isaiah with his distant and sometimes immediate vision of the Savior, John the Baptist through his lonely voice crying in the desert inviting people to repent and to be prepared for the coming of the Savior are specially remembered during these days. But more than these prophets and sages , it is the Blessed Virgin Mary who looms large on the horizon of human history as the most significant person who climaxed the story of the Redemption by her “Yes” to the will of God.When she said “ Behold ,I am the handmaid of the Lord.May it be done to me according to your word,” the whole world might have gone into a cosmic dance.

Mary’s consent had ramifications beyond her own comprehension and the unfolding of the events in the life of Jesus has prompted her again and again to say Yes, as she saw her beloved Son taunted by the leaders of the people, at the foot of the Cross, at His death and finally at the glorious Resurrection.

Today Mary asks each one of us to say Yes to God’s will in our lives.We may not fully understand the implications of that Yes, as Mary did not.We may have to pass through very painful experiences, sometimes tragic and unendurable. We may even ask when caught in the pain of very tragic and mind-boggling moments, why should bad things happen to good people. We may wonder why we did Yes to God.

Mary has set the model for us. Her consent to the Heavenly Father did not end in tragedy , but in the majestic and magnificent witnessing to the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ establishing Himself as the Master of the Universe. Mary assures us of the same joy in our lives when we accept the pains and joys of life in a spirit of absolute surrender to God.

The words of the angel strengthening Mary’s resolve should always ring in our ears, when things seem to be difficult, when we feel drawn into the vortex of worries and anxieties , when dark clouds of depression try to take away the serenity of our hearts: “ Nothing is impossible with God.”

Within a few days we would be celebrating the birth of our Savior. Let this be an occasion for turning a new leaf in our lives, be an occasion forgiveness and reconciliation. Let it be an occasion for acts of kindness , of speaking a kind word to a stranger , of reaching out to someone with whom we are estranged , and of pure acts of generosity of the poor. Then we will realize the implication of what Mary has said: “ My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

December 15, 2010

Fourth Sunday,LentB,April2.jn.3:14-21

Speaking of the mercy and hope instilled into him by the Gospel, St.Augustine says: “ Jesus came to us captives as a Redeemer, not an oppressor. The Lord shed His blood for us, redeemed us, gave us new hope …. Even while we are being tossed about by the waves on the sea, we have the anchor of hope already fixed upon the land.” The mercy and compassion of Jesus makes St.Augustine say again: “I will hold fast to you, Lord, as you hold fast to me.”

As we are nearing the end of the period of Lent, we become more aware of the need of God’s mercy in our lives, in the context of our own sins and failures. All the readings from the Scriptures today speak to us about His great mercy and love.

The Book of Chronicles shows how in spite of the infidelities of Israel and their betrayal of their faith in the Lord, God offers them hope in their period of suffering, in their time of captivity. God makes them understand that their period of captivity will be over soon and they will be brought to their motherland to enjoy once again freedom and peace.

This paradigm of punishment-repentance-freedom and joy is more forcefully highlighted in the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. Jesus asks us to look up to Him for our slavation.The Cross is our symbol of hope. Looking up to Jesus on the Cross, the Risen Jesus, gives us strength and hope in our times of suffering , pain and hardships.

Jesus tells us that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that every one who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. Those words will always be a powerful challenge to all the prophets of doom who see only dark clouds in the world.

Whatever may be our difficulties, and problems in life, let us feel comforted and strengthened by the words of Jesus. He has shown what the love God the Father has for each one of us : God has sent His Son not to condemn us but to save us.

Just as for the Israelites, the snake, their mode of punishment, was transformed into a sign for their healing, so too the cross, the symbol of punishment and suffering was transformed by Our Lord into a symbol of victory and glory. No more does the Cross signify someone who was defeated and thrown into the dustbin of history but the one who conquered the forces of suffering and death and established himself as the Lord of the Universe.

Our sufferings, our defeats, our painful experiences, our tragedies are no more the low points in our lives, but are the high ways of our spiritual growth, of our union with the Lord our Savior. What the world thinks as our failures-- our sufferings, our pains, our lack luster performance in the financial or the professional world-- will be our achievements in the eyes of God.

We have to look at our crosses, our sufferings, our pains and see in them the outstretched hands of Jesus comforting and strengthening us. Never more can we say in our hour of agony that we are alone. For, Jesus assures us that He is with us until the end of our lives.

Today let our prayer may be: “Christ, radiant light of the world, lead us through the gloom of this world until the Father’s eternal light shines upon us.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday,Ord.A,Feb.3,02.Mt.5:1-12

4th Sund.Ord.A,Feb.3,02

All the readings in today’s Scriptures speak to us about the marvelous way in which God lifts up the poor and the humble to be carriers of his message and the symbols of His presence in the world.

In the first reading, the Prophet Zephaniah points out how God would choose a remnant of Israel, a most humble section of the people who would live out in their lives their absolute and irrevocable faith in the Lord to symbolize his presence in the world.

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians again highlights the same point. It is the humble and the foolish of the world that God has chosen to be the announcers of His kingdom. “ God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong."

These ideas get a clear focus when we come to Jesus as he begins to reveal the nature of His kingdom through the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is a radical call to a new way of life, a way of life that is so different from the ways that people are accustomed to. It is a call to take up the challenges of life in a direction opposite to the ways the world would teach us to adopt.

That is why commenting on these saying of Jesus, Bishop Sheen says that if any one puts into practice these Beatitudes, he would draw upon himself the wrath of the world. He further adds: “ The sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from His crucifixion….The day Our Lord taught the Beatitudes, he signed His own death warrant.”

In the Beatitudes, our Lord takes up all the catchwords of the world like, security, revenge, popularity, getting even, sex, armed might etc and reverses them. To those who want revenge, he says “Blessed are the patient”. To those who say , immediate enjoyment of the pleasures of life is everything, he says “Blessed are those who mourn and trust in the Lord”.To those who want to give unbridled expression to their sexual feelings, Jesus says, “Blessed are the clean of heart. To those who are bent upon becoming popular and yearning for the cheap crumbs of applause and congratulatory remarks, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely because of me”.

Let me quote Archbishop Sheen again : “ All false beatitudes which make happiness depend on self-expression, licence, having a good time , He scorns because they bring mental disorders, unhappiness, false hopes, fears and anxieties.”

Jesus wants us to conquer hatred with love. Jesus wants us to root out sin from the heart of man before it creates great storms and tempests in the lives of people. We have seen recently how hatred couched in a religious language and preached in distant lands has become a powerful force to shake the foundations of a civilized society, and how still it is a powerful force driving a lot of young people to engage in suicidal attacks. It is to counteract such acts of violence, hatred and greediness that Jesus wants us to adopt a new way of life.

The beatitudes are also a call to each one of us to rekindle hope in our lives and not to become victims of despair. Just because things turn out to be bad, because we have lost our financial insecurity, or something tragic or painful has happened in our family or because we are suffering from pain, it does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be victims of hopelessness or despair. To all of us suffering from one problem or another experiencing hardships or worries, Jesus reveals that those sources of pain are also sources of grace for us. We can use them to transform the nature of our lives because those are the crosses that will align themselves with the Cross of Christ to end in victory and glory. As St. Paul reminds us, when Jesus is with us, who can be against us.

December 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent,C.March 25,2001.Lk.15:1-3,11-32

4th Sunday of Lent,C,Mar.25,2001

Near the end of his life, Russian writer Dostoyevsky called his family to his bedside and asked his wife to read to their children the parable of the Prodigal Son. Then he told his children: “My children, never forget what you have heard. Have absolute faith in God and never despair of his pardon. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing compared with the love of God for you.” Today all the readings from the Scriptures including the parable of the Prodigal Son speak to us about the unparalleled love of God.

The first reading from the Old Testament speaks of a new beginning in the life of Israel. The old days of God taking care of all their needs was over. They are now brought to a new land that was promised to their forefathers. They have to be ready for a new beginning in their lives.

It is in a way an inspiring call to every one who believes in God that there is a new opportunity, a new chance to begin anew their lives. Failures, weaknesses and sins should not deter one from the effort for a new beginning. As St. Paul reminds us in today’s reading: “ Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; new things have come.” For us, this Lent gives a new opportunity to start again. We may have failed in our commitments, we may have offended God grievously, but it is not too late for us to come back to God and deepen our closeness to Him.

In today’s reading from the Gospel Jesus very beautifully explains what God’s attitude to sinners is through a parable the loveliness and the power of which have never been lost though innumerable retellings.

Jesus was accused of moving with sinners, dining with them and conversing with them. The attitude of the society was to ostracize the sinners and never to have any dealings with them. There is no chance for those who were considered sinners to come back and regain their lost honor. Their company was avoided or they were stoned to death. Into that brutal world, Jesus brings in rivers of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

Through the parable of the Prodigal Son which in fact reveals the unbounded prodigality of God’s love, Jesus shows how God looks at sinners.

The Father waits for his prodigal son to return and to accept His unconditional love. The son returns with his voice choked with apologies and expressions of deep repentance. But the Father does not wait to hear the end of the story nor does he want his son to grovel in the misery of expressing his apologies and excuses. The Father’s heart was moved with love and compassion as he felt how much his son was deprived of his love in those years. He wants to bring his son to the same level of enjoying his unconditional love that he had enjoyed before.

Jesus wants to show us that God our father will treat us with much more love than was shown by the human father in this parable. As one spiritual writer has put it: “This parable distills and sums up the whole meaning of the Gospel….. It tells us more about God, about the real meaning of God, than an entire course in theology”.

What does, then, this parable tells us? It does not mean that our sins are frivolous and will have no consequence. No. The burden of the sin is shown by the repentance expressed by the son, but what Jesus reveals here is that God’s love is overwhelming and limitless.

All of us are sinners. We fail, fall and stumble. Instead of remaining where we are, instead of keeping the wounds of sin in our hearts, we have to return to the great healer, the consoler of human hearts and receive his love in our lives. Some of us carry the burden of sin our hearts, some of us are unwilling to give up the path of sin, some of us may try to justify our actions that have hurt God as well as our neighbor. But that should not deter us from coming to the Lord. Unseen by us, he is waiting for us, watching every tremulous step that we take in his direction.

Today we shall say to the Lord: “ Jesus, I believe in you. I repent of all the ways that I have hurt you and those around me. Wipe away my sins and fill me with your love.”

December 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday ,Advent,Dec.24,2000C.Lk.1:39-45

4th Sun.of Adv.Dec.24,2000, C

Within a short time, we will be celebrating Christmas and enjoying all the joys of that magnificent event. Christmas, although celebrated in a month of cold and snow is spiritually an experience of inner warmth, an experience of a warm Sun-rise in our hearts. One of our great poets, Wordsworth who was a great lover of the glories of nature’s beauty would go into raptures at the slightest experience of the tiniest forms of natural beauty. Clouds, daffodils, rivers, humble village folks would all arouse in him intense feelings of joy. Remembering his visit to the river Wye, he speaks of the intense emotions it has aroused in him and calls the nature, the mother of these beauteous forms, the nurse, the guide and the guardian of his heart and soul. All these poetic expressions of Wordsworth are incapable of describing one of the most beautiful events that happened in human history, the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ—God becoming man.

In today’s Gospel we come across two participants in that great drama of Revelation, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. Mary cannot keep the joy of being the Mother of God within herself. She wanted to share that joy. She walks all that distance to meet Elizabeth to share her joy with her. But there Elizabeth greets her as a prophetess announcing right away that Mary is the mother of the Lord and praises her for believing in the word of God.

Today Elizabeth asks each one of us to follow the path of Mary –of total trust in God’s providence. Mary had her crises and tragedies to experience. But she was not upset or disturbed. She saw the hand of God guiding her, and fully believed in God’s power in protecting her. As we go along the road of our lives, we too should experience the peace and joy that Mary enjoyed by putting our trust in God.

The late Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume once said: “ I think of myself as a pilgrim through life. I came from nothing, I shall be here some sixty, seventy or possibly more years, and then I shall no longer be here. My stay here has a clear beginning and a definite end. …. But there is one who is on the look-out to guide us: it is the Son of God who is the way, the truth and the life.”

That is what our Blessed virgin reminds us today: there is one on the look out for us. Trust in him and have no fear.

Christmas is a time for each one of us to renew our hope and peace. Never more should we allow the dark clouds of our lives to take away the inner joy of our heart. We know the great secret of the Universe. That the Lord of the Universe is not a distant figure uninterested in what is going on in our lives. He is deeply concerned about us: He has taken a dominant role in our lives: He became one of us. “ God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

We may experience tensions and difficulties; tragedies may haunt us and life may bring a lot of problems creating worry and fear in our lives. But the joy of the knowledge that God is with us will help us to tide over all these problems and keep our feet firmly rooted on this earth. Today as we listened to the words of Elizabeth, let us trust in the power of the word of god and feel comforted like the Blessed Virgin Mary that our Loving God will never forsake us, however powerful the tempests of our lives may be.

December 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday,Lent,A,March.10.02.Jn.9:1-41

When Pope Paul V1 landed in Bombay, to participate in the First International Eucharistic Congress in India , he addressed the people with the following words from the Indian Scriptures: “Lord, lead me from falsehood to Truth, from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality.” Struggling with religious doubts and anxieties, Cardinal Newman, composed the following prayer: “Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on. The night is dark, and I am far from home, lead Thou me on.”

Light is the most perennial symbol of wisdom, of awareness, of spirituality, of God himself. It is this symbol of Light that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel to move his listeners from the world of their spiritual blindness to the light of Eternal Love through the vision given to the blind man.

The whole miracle of the sight being given to the blind man is an unbelievably gripping story of an illiterate person teaching the wise men of the society the first lessons in logic. The Pharisees could not accept the fact that the man born blind could get his sight back. Instead of rejoicing in this great blessing, they tried to persuade him to say that the One who gave him sight was a charlatan, a violator of the law, and a man “not of God.” Even the blind man tried to teach them a few lessons in logic: “ We know God does not listen to sinners. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

Instead of rejoicing at the great miracle of healing done for a man born blind from his birth, they strained every nerve to accuse Jesus of employing some kind of magic. The vision of the blind man reached its full restoration when he confessed: “I do believe.” The movement of the man from the darkness of the blindness to the dazzling spectacle of faith should make us reflect on the nature and depth of our faith: how our faith is a transforming force in our lives. .

The blind man had gone to the pool of Siloam= “the one who is sent”. It was his baptism-of immersion -in the Grace of God. It opened the eyes of his mind and he confessed his faith in the Lord. We too made a confession at our baptism and that has to be renewed again and again in our lives: I do believe”.Whatever may the nature of our experiences that we encounter in our lives,we have to see them throughthe vision of our faith.That is what Samuel did .It was not through this physical vision and understanding that he chose David, but through his listening to the voice of God—through God’s eyes—through his faith.It is that spiritual vision that is required from each one of us as we confront the problems and challenges of our lives.We may lose our jobs, our dear ones my be suffering, we may be misunderstood—all these things happen to us –but these experiences will not have the power to take away the peace from our lives, as long as the we have the spirtual vision of our faith.We can see these dark experiences of our lives the shadow of the Cross of our dear Lord who will take us to victory, hope and happiness.

One of our novelists, Walker Percy has once said: “ Never has there been such loneliness in the midst of crowds, never such hunger in the face of satiation….All that is needed is a bearer of Good News who speaks it with such authority that it can penetrate the most jaded language.” We have to become the new Siloam”, the new pool of evangelization for others –for our families, neighbors and colleagues. They should revive their faith by seeing our commitment to the Lord.

The Holy Father, in his address to the people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square on March 3, said: “It is necessary that people rediscover their baptism, approaching the inexhaustible spiritual vigor of the sanctifying grace received in it, in order to transmit it to every realm of personal and social life.”

The blind man in today’s Gospel is asking us to reassert our faith daily and never to lose hope whatever may be the nature of the difficulties, sicknesses, tragedies we experience in our lives. As we move through the dark events of our lives we begin to realize more and more the immense love of Jesus for us and Jesus becomes revealed brighter and brighter as the Light of the world. There is no other person who can shed light on our lives or the world than Jesus. Like the blind man, with the vision that we have attained through our faith, we shall say, “Lord, I believe you are the Light of my life, my Savior.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010

Third Sunday,Easter

Third Sunday after Easter

All the readings in today’s Scriptures speak to us about the different appearances of Our Lord after his resurrection and their impact on the lives of the apostles and disciples.

In the first reading , we see with total amazement the bold and unflinching courage with which Peter addresses the crowd who was there. A few days before this event, Peter did not have enough courage even to mention that he was even in a casual way associated with Jesus. After the events of the death and crucifixion of Jesus, he even tries to forget the whole drama of Jesus’ life by going for fishing with the other apostles. But all of a sudden things begin to change. The impact of the Resurrection and the reception of the Holy Spirit make him one of the boldest and powerful witnesses to Jesus Christ. He asks the same crowd to change their obstinate minds and become followers of Jesus in whom only they can find their salvation.

The transformation that happened in the lives of the apostles begin to appear in the lives of others too. Today’s Gospel describes how dispirited and hopeless the two disciples feel after the events in Jerusalem. All their hopes are dashed to the ground and they are searching for an answer to the events they experienced recently.

These feelings of confusion, fear and uncertainty they share with the companion who joins them on their journey. But Jesus takes time to explain the meaning of all the events that happened and how necessary it is for Jesus to die and then to rise after death. Their hearts begin to be stirred and excited and they ask Jesus to stay with them. They begin to realize who the stranger is when he breaks the bread with them .

The same Jesus who inflamed the hearts of the disciples and emboldened Peter and his friends is with us every day, everywhere. He is present in the Eucharist, in His words, in the kindness and love of people around us, in every experience, bitter or joyful that we encounter in our lives. But we don’t see Him nor experience him because our eyes remain always closed. We are selfish and close-hearted that we don’t have the generosity that the disciples had when they said “ Stay with us.”

We have to ask Jesus to stay with us in our moments of failure and triumph. We have to ask Him to stay with us when things go wrong for us, when children become rebellious, when we experience lack of sharing and caring in our families, when we are Ill-treated, when we experience hostility in our work places, when we experience financial problems, when we feel lonely. Instead of cursing and getting angry, we have to say, Stay with us Jesus.

He will transform those bitter moments into opportunities of grace for us; He will instill confidence and hope in our lives; He will give us the courage to walk those lonely paths in our lives. Only thing that is required is our willingness to accept Him and to be receptive to His presence. We have to reach out in love to one another, extend forgiveness and be patient with the weaknesses and foibles of others. Then , our daily experiences and encounters will become eucharistic experiences, moments of the presence of Jesus in our lives.

We shall say with the disciples, Stay with us Jesus all the time in our lives, when we are happy and sad, when we are hurting and bleeding , in times of peace as well as in grief.