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Sunday, June 28, 2020

St Paul - A Man of Reason and Knowledge

Statue of St Paul in Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
On the 29th of June every year the Catholic Church commemorates the solemnities of two formidable pillars of the nascent early Church Sts Peter and Paul. In our earlier post, I dealt with St Peter, and in this blogpost, I would like to describe St Paul briefly and compare both the Saints whose memories we celebrate together.

Unlike St Peter, St Paul was a man of his own making. We know by his own accounts in the New Testament especially from his accounts of his conversion in Acts (9:1-18; 22:3-16; 26: 4-23). These make 4 observations about his life. First, it is the God who takes the initiative. It was Jesus who knocked Paul from his horse: “I am Jesus” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). As Augustine insisted, if we but turn to God, that itself is a gift of God. We do not choose Him; He chooses us.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saint Peter: Pillar of Faith and Action

Statue of St Peter at the Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
The Month of June is liturgically rich one. On the 29th of June, the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnities of two important saints of the Church - St Peter and St Paul. According to St John Henry Newman their shared feast reflects the importance of organic development. Both the saints founded the churches and built the emerging communities of disciples incorporating the creative tension between tradition and creativity, dogma and praxis. In this blog post, I would like to concentrate on St Peter and in the next one on St Paul and do a bit of comparison. As Luke's Acts of the Apostles suggests both Peter and Paul are the central figures in the expansion of the church from Jerusalem into the Mediterranean world in spite of their flawed characters.

Jesus chose Simon Peter specifically to lead his Church, and at first glance this would seem an odd choice. Even though he may not appear to be our first choice but for Jesus he was his beloved, worthy and right choice. Jesus works out a strategy through Peter to continue the mission right up to our times through his successors. Being ever impulsive, ever withdrawing from his initial commitment, Peter could be compared to a candle in the wind. However, inflaming with the Spirit, Jesus, before and after his resurrection, makes Peter fisher of men. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Saint John the Baptist: A Prophet and more than a Prophet

Even though our Church celebrates in the month of June the feasts of St Justin the martyr, St Boniface, St Barnabas, St Anthony of Padua, St Aloysius Gonzaga, Sts Thomas More, John Fisher and other English saints, St Cyril of Alexandria, Sts Peter and Paul, among them St John the Baptist stands out as a man of great boldness and veracity. He is a prophet with difference.  He is one of the major figures of our Church whose feast we celebrate with solemnity not once but twice. First being his birthday on the 24th June another being his beheading on the 29th of August.

However, there are a number of lessons that we can draw from him.

The Virgin and Child with St John the
Baptist by Sandro Botticelli probably
about 1482-98
John the Baptist – the John the Baptizer. John was a figure of transition, precursor of the Lord “the caesura between the Period of Israel and the Period of Jesus.” He belongs to both: to the Period of Israel by circumcision and incorporation into the Israel of God; to the Period of Jesus because he inaugurates the age when salvation was to be accomplished.  John’s whole life, John’s short life, was spent going before Jesus to prepare his ways. 

Gabriel had told Zechariah to give his promised son the name John (Lk 1:13). An appropriate name, for in Hebrew it means “Yahweh is gracious.” This child would “filled with the Holy Sprit, even from his mother’s womb,” would become an ascetic of Israel, would walk “in the power and spirit of Elijah,” would turn many Israelites to their Lord. (1: 15-17)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Make Our Hearts unto Yours

                     Original painting on Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga, circa 1770, José de Páez, Mexico, 1727-1790
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Devotion from our Christian Tradition
Heart is the seat of emotions. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was encouraged by the mediaeval mystics and promoted by St Gertrude, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St John Eudes, St Claude de la Colombiere and others, represents a devotion to Jesus in his human nature. In recent times,  Jesuit theologian Father Karl Rahner and the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe had keen devotions to the Heart of Jesus. Moreover, they promoted the devotion to the Heart of Jesus post World War II  and post Vatican II through their roles as theologian and Superior General of the Jesuits.  All these people call out for us to reconcile our life with that of the Lord’s promises.  It is a symbol of God's perfect love for all humanity, which is part of the mystical tradition of the spiritual theology in our Christian Tradition. Even though the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus suffered cardiac arrest in recent decades still it is relevant and important to pump fresh life into our spiritual and mystical life. 

The Sacred Heart was a powerful devotion that combated against the French Revolution, Communism and threats to family life. Pope Pius IX made it a feast of the universal church in 1856, and Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart in 1899. The devotion reached its peak in Pius XII’s 1956 encyclical Haurietis Aquas (You Shall Draw Waters), which placed God’s passionate love for humanity at its center.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Corpus Christi: Cosmic Christ is All in All - Living and Sharing

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Readings - Deuteronomy 8:2–3, 14–16; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; John 6:51–58
The Disputation of the Blessed Sacrament, by Raphael (1583-1620)
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Human body as vulnerable, communicable and sacramental
The feast of the Corpus Christi enshrines our devotion to the Holy Eucharist. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ manifests our personal experience of that God-Man who gave himself to us wholly and totally. Moreover, it is the same Lord who gave us a reason to remember and celebrate that holy mystery of his life, passion, death and resurrection. Without the Eucharist, we have no Jesus; without the body and blood of Christ there is no Holy Eucharist. Therefore the feast of the Corpus Christi brings us one with him as a global Catholic Community. Our human bodies struggle with life and death. Nonetheless, God embraced the human body to bring salvation, thus became flesh and lived among us. Interestingly, God chose human vulnerability of the body as way of communing with us, communicating with us and finally that same body He gave us sacramentally that we integrate with him completely. By consuming Jesus who spoke words of Spirit and life, the words of eternal life, we too might inhale them. (John 6:63, 67).

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Blessed Trinity Labouring in Us with Love

The Most Holy Trinity Sunday - Readings: Exodus 34:4–6, 8–9; Daniel 3:52–56; 2 Corinthians 13:11–13;  John 3:16–18
(The vision of St Ignatius of Loyola of the Blessed Trinity at La Storta, Rome, painting by Arul Anthony, SJ, 2018)
Holy Trinity is our God
The God whom we Christians worship is Holy Trinity. When I say that I pray to God means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. When I say that I am praying to Jesus means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. When I tell others that I am praying to the Holy Spirit, that means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. The question of the Most Holy Trinity intrigues all of us because of the composition of this word "Trinity" itself: Three in One and One in Three. By virtue of its very difficult and complex composition often we find hard to grapple with this mystery. Fortunately, God is a mystery and not a puzzle or myth. Our scriptures give us ample evidences to tell us who that Triune God is. Jesus in the Gospel of St John speaks at length on God the Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus also speaks about his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John, Ch 14 -16). The very moment of his Baptism at river Jordan we see the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus in a form of dove and the voice of the Father from heaven speaking, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17).  Even  though intricacies are involved in understanding the concept of the Holy Trinity, however down the ages Christian faithful have grappled with this holy mystery. Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit who has helped in understanding the Triune God (Rom 8:26; 2 Cor 2:14).