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Friday, June 18, 2021

Be not be Afraid - God is with us

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 20th June 2021

Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

(Photo courtesy: Jan Brueghel the Elder, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee - 1596) 

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here (The link will appear soon)

1. Bold faith drives away fear

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4: 40). These words of Jesus addressed to his disciples on the rockinging boat in the Sea of Galilee must encourage us in this time of great turmoil. It is not always the statements or assertions that strengthen us but the right questions when we are afraid and frightful. The straightforward questions from authoritative figures reassure us to fall back on the right path. 

Storms can be scary. Storms rage suddenly without much of our notice. This natural phenomenon takes us off our guard. Often we are afraid even of silly things. Storms both in nature and personal life teach us a number of lessons. It is always a question of how we brace the storms of life and nature's fury. Natural storms cause a lot of damage to our properties like plantations, houses, factories, infrastructure, etc. Even though it's natural to have storms, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis due to the natural phenomena, yet when we see its destructive nature, we feel shattered. Never we miss a chance to call such forces as originating from the evil spirit, and even we conclude that it's a sign of God's wrath and the end of the world. Unfortunately, we can foolishly conclude such a phenomenon. 

2. We cling unto the strongest in times of fear

The experience of the disciples on the boat is of frightening nature. They see only death and destruction in front of the raging storm. Certainly, this might not have been the first experience to the disciples as they were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives fishing on this huge lake. They had experienced terrible storms in Jesus' absence. But this time, the storm was emphatically destructive in nature. Strangely, they feel now that in spite of the good company of Jesus the disciples thought that they are drowning. Often very fear itself drowns a person than the cause that might lead to.  It is natural to be afraid of something or someone when we do not have those persons who happen to be our bedrock. There are times that we feel, lost, afraid in spite of having a sure support in our backyard. This is what happens to the disciples of Jesus. He is there in their midst. Yet the disciples lose confidence in their ability to save themselves or in the reassuring presence of the Lord. However, the protection of the Lord is always there. As the Psalmist says, "the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord preserves the simplehearted; I was helpless, and He saved me" (Psalm 116:5-6).

3. Embracing a faith that is bigger than fear

Perhaps we need to have faith that is bigger than fears. We are in the ordinary times of the year and the liturgical readings on each day are helping us to journey with Jesus and his disciples. Thus allowing us to relive the experience of His words, and deeds, and coming to know and believe in Him as they did. As we pray and meditate upon the Word of God daily in our lives, Jesus should be our source of strength and inspiration. Jesus must be the guiding lamp and a signpost. 

Behind every storm there is power, energy and strength.  It is a power that is beyond our control. Perhaps we may not understand and may not be able to identify that force, certainly, a force beyond our human comprehension. In fact both in the first reading  Job 38:1, 8-11 and the Gospel reading Mark 4:35-41 we see there are storms and the storms are calmed by the power of God.  Bad weather is not the only storm or hurricane that we encounter in life. In our life, we have to withstand various types of storms of life. They might be personal illness or illness of close members of our family, bad medical reports, loss of job, unable to find proposal, failure to get promotions, lack of clarity in choosing a state of life, accidents, inability to secure a seat in a school or college or university, loss of pay due to pandemic, fear of the pandemic or anxious about ageing, etc. The list is endless. We must know that despite everything we are ultimately in God’s hands.

4. In faith, we are not alone
Both, the first reading and the Gospel speak about storms, and the storms are calmed by the power of the Lord. Jesus tells his disciples that they should have faith, that in their faith journey they are not alone. When the storms arise, Jesus will be there to help them. He calmed the waves and quieted the wind. Will he not calm the storms of our life? If even the wind and sea obey Him, shouldn’t we trust Him in the chaos and storms of our own lives?

We have to get used to all kinds of storms and difficulties in our lives. There’s illness, loss of loved ones, and actual storm damage. Things don’t always go the way we would like them to, but Jesus is there with us, through the good and the bad, calming the winds and helping us through. Just like he calmed the storm in that lake so too Jesus has the power to rebuke the wind and sea of our lives. The power of God is immense. The words of Prophet Isaiah are very pertinent here: 
When I came, why was there no one?
    When I called, why was there no one to answer?
Was my arm too short to deliver you?
    Do I lack the strength to rescue you?
By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea,
    I turn rivers into a desert;
their fish rot for lack of water
    and die of thirst. (Isaiah 50:2)

Jesus teaches us a number of things through the passage. We need to leave behind our old ways and travel with him in the little ship of the Church. As we see in St Mark's Gospel which is the first Gospel to be written in the New Testament addresses the pressing problem of its day. That is horrendous persecution on the First Christians. Therefore this passage is a comforting one as well as encouraging one to have that unflinching, unshakable, resolute and single-minded trust in the Lord. We should trust in Christ, and trust like Christ—who was able to sleep through the storm, confident that God was with Him. As Paul says to the Romans "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

5. Let's not give up come whatever

The context in which we are living today enables us to trust in the Lord evermore stronger. Many of us might have felt that the boats of our lives have been swamped or swept away by the waves. Some of us might have felt that Jesus is asleep, perhaps he must have been in deep sleep. We must have been unhappy the way he has been dealing with us, inattentive to our needs. However, we have those consoling words of Jesus calling us to have faith. All will not be on our side every time as we wish to be, yet, he is there watching us, giving us the courage to brace the storms of life. With a strong faith in Jesus all is not lost, for he is with us today and always. 

Along with a deep faith that can move mountains as Jesus reassures us we must cultivate to be a people of hope. Jesus’ eyes are fixed on each of us and especially those of us who feel overwhelmed by the destructive nature of the Corona pandemic. Being a friend of Jesus means having that great trust and hope that he will lift us up with his hands. Therefore we should hold on to him and he will do the rest for us. 

 Questions for reflections:

1. Have you ever felt unsettled by the power of a storm? 
2. How do you react to the vision of Jesus here? He’s not scared like the disciples, but calm and in control of the sea and storm – how does this image of Jesus rest with your own idea of what Jesus was like?
3. How do you react to the events in your own life that scare you as this storm scared the disciples? Do you go to Jesus for help, or do you try to figure things out on your own?
4. How did it feel to be in the boat with the disciples? What thoughts and feelings were stirred within you? Share these with the Lord now, and perhaps ask him to calm any storms in your own life.  

Prayer: 

Jesus my strength and hope, help me to be attentive to the needs of my sisters and brothers during these troubled times. Help me to advocate for calm conditions so that every person, wherever they are in the world, may sail the boat of their own lives without fear of the storm and be artisans of their own destiny. God, kindle in my heart within, a flame of love to my neighbour, to my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all; To the brave, to the coward, to the man and woman in the street. 

God, let your Holy Spirit be powerful to direct my thinking today. Inspire my thinking, decisions and intuitions. Help me to relax and take it easy. Free me from doubt and indecision.  God, show me what I need to do to take care of any problems. I ask all these things that I may be of maximum service to you and my fellow brothers and sisters. In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

18 June 2021

PS: If you feel like listening to a beautiful hymn written by Rev. Charles Albert Tindley "When the Storms of Life are Raging Stand by Me" please click to listen. 

- Karnataka Jesuits are doing Covid related relief work in those places where they are based within the territory of Karnataka. I have been updating a blog under the heading SPANDANA where all our activities are documented. Click here to know more: www.kjes-spandana.blogspot.com 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Even in Little Things being at Home with God

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time:13 June 2021

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

(Picture courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here 

1. Living in a liturgically rich month

In the liturgical calendar, the month of June is a significant one. In this month we celebrate a number of feasts either connected with the person of Jesus Christ - Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, or the saints of our Church, like Boniface, Anthony of Padua Aloysius Gonzaga, John Fisher, Thomas More, the birth of John the Baptist, Irenaeus, Peter, Paul, etc. These holy men who gave their lives totally to the service of faith and their fellow neighbour tell us a most essential thing, that they were in their earthly life were "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Corpus Christi - God's Abundance Made Visible in us

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi: 06 June 2021

Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

(Veneration of Corpus Christi by the Angels)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

    Along with a relentless news cycle and the various stresses and worries that find their way into each day, the Corona pandemic is ravaging our lives, families and communities. In the midst of this, we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a feast which so tangible and dear to us because of its symbolic and personal meaning. Hence, the feast comes as a soothing balm to us.  We can relate to this feast as closely as possible because of our utmost devotion and reverence to the body and blood of Christ which we venerate and receive at every Eucharist. The Feast of Corpus Christi – and every Mass – celebrates Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, which the Catechism calls “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The pandemic has meant that some of us have been long separated from the sacrament, which may make the meaning of today’s feast feel somewhat distant. 

1. Creation and Incarnation as God's loving acts

In our liturgies and other church practices, we often use a phrase referred to God’s unconditional love for humanity that is ‘He gave Himself to us’. God as our creator not only allowed us to be what we are but he gave himself freely to us. If creation marks the beginning of God’s first visible sign of his love, then God’s incarnation through the person of Jesus marks another witness of God’s presence amongst us. Today we celebrate in a specific manner both these two acts of God: creation and incarnation. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Holy Trinity - God in His Fullness

 Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity: 30 May 2021

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Psalm 33:4–6, 9, 18–20, 22; Romans 8:14–17; Matthew 28:16–20

(Picture courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian,  Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev) 

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

1. The powerful experience of the Holy Trinity in every day of our lives

We know things around us through our senses. The sense experience makes us understand the reality around us. In other words, we interpret things as we experience them through our senses. Each one might understand things differently based on one's earlier experiences. As we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we need to have clarity in place of confusion, faith in place of doubt to understand this complex reality of the Trinitarian God, which we hold so dear to us. The Holy Trinity Sunday is a reminder that God is but with Three. Our Christian faith says that God is a reality of our lives. Therefore the Church today celebrates this amazing feast which consists of a deep theological dimension to our faith and ecclesial life.  

Friday, May 21, 2021

Holy Spirit, the Breath of God Vivifier of All Things

Pentecost Sunday: 23 May 2021

Readings: Acts 2:1-11Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13; John 20:19-23 

(Picture courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

One of the post-resurrection promises of Jesus was to send the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, and it is fulfilled today.  The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a fascinating description of the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the fear-stricken disciples of Jesus. The Pentecost scene described here is a vivid and colourful one – tongues of fire, a powerful wind. When the disciples were together the Holy Spirit came upon them and fills them with a heart of Christ. In other words, Jesus appears to them again and the oneness is exemplified. The Father reunites Jesus with his followers in a new way through the Holy Spirit, so that they may continue to live the life of Jesus through their actions and words. The Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire. It made its way through a loud noise like a strong driving wind.   Then they began to speak in tongues, which means they began to speak in different languages.  This was a moment we generally call the establishment of the Church. 

1. Holy Spirit is the foundational experience of the first Chruch 

Pentecost was a foundational and defining moment in the life of the early Church. The Church would become an instrument of salvation, which will speak about the resurrection of the Lord. The Gospel reading tells us that Jesus breathed on the disciples the Holy Spirit. It has some similarities with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus.  

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Ascending to the Glory of God

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: 16 May 2021

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–7, 8–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Mark 16:15-20

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

1. Carrying with us Jesus' continuous presence

"Invisibility" and "departing" seem to be the two words, which we have been experiencing during this second wave of the Corona pandemic. Many of our dear and close relatives, friends, colleagues, collaborators, etc. are becoming so quickly invisible to our eyes as the savage illness mercilessly taking lives including the young ones. I believe that the mood of the disciples on that day of their master's ascension into heaven must be similar. Jesus who was physically present with them for many years is no more. Jesus returns to his Father in heaven, in other words, Jesus departs from the earth.  The reading does not tell us the mood of the disciples when they saw Jesus disappearing from their midst. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that two angels appeared to the disciples and assured of his Second Coming as the way he was taken up. They carried a promise along with them with the mission that was given by Jesus “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Only Love can Transcend

Sixth Sunday of Easter: 09 May 2021

 Readings: Acts 10:25–26, 34–35, 44–48; Psalm 98:1–4; 1 John 4:7–10; John 15:9–17

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian)

1. In love the mystery of salvation is revealed

For the last two weeks, we have been reading 5 chapters (10-15) from the Gospel of St John. The Evangelist is focusing his attention on the person of Jesus Christ. For him, Jesus is the true light whom we must follow; he is the good shepherd who gives us his pastures; he is the vine and we are the branches; he is our friend and will give his life for us; he is the life and the resurrection and we have to remain with him to rise again. “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.” These and many more beautiful sayings St John elucidates in the discourse of Jesus. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Jesus Christ, the Anchor of our Life

Fifth Sunday of Easter: 02 May 2021

Readings: Acts 9:26–31; Psalm 22:26–28, 30–32; 1 John 3:18–24; John 15:1–8 

(Christ the living vine: courtesy - creative commons)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

 

This week has been, once again, a very tough week for us. We cannot remain aloof from what is happening to our brothers and sisters, family members, friends, collaborators and colleagues at the surge of Corona infection.  It is almost twenty-four hours of the day, our mind is preoccupied with the devastations Corona pandemic causing. The familiar names and faces are vanishing away from our sight. As we raise our prayers and petitions to God our Good Shepherd, we have the beautiful words from St John's Gospel: “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine” (Jn 15:4). We are nothing if we are not with the Lord. 

1. Interconnectivity leads to Salvation

We live in a world of interconnectivity. The Gospel gives us an image of being linked to the source of our life as Christians, about being connected almost organically with Jesus. "I am the vine and you are the branches... Remain in me as I remain in you" (Jn 15:5). This passage is part of the Farewell Discourse that Jesus gives at the Last Supper. As the separations loom on the horizon, the friendship that has grown up these years together on the back roads and trails of Judea, and in the villages of Galilee is about to be shaken, Jesus will no longer be physically tangible, visibly present. St John the Evangelist depicts Jesus as a very affectionate and sensitive person. His humanity becomes very visible in the way he deals with his disciples so lovingly, and so delicately, and so poignantly, as St John paints this humanity of Jesus. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Being Shepherd by the Lord

Fourth Sunday of Easter: 25 April 2021

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

(The Good Shepherd, fresco, 3rd or 4th century, catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

This week has been quite tough for us. Our province buried two Jesuits in a gap of three days. One returned to the Lord due to Covid and the other young Jesuit due to Cancer. On the one hand, as India is experiencing an unprecedented surge in Covid infections, Bangalore city's health infrastructure is unable to cope up with the situation. People are running from one hospital to another to find beds and oxygen. On the other hand, the political leaders are busy hurling at each other such mean accusations and low talk in the election rallies telling lies one after the other. Moreover, they are conducting election campaigns flouting rules and regulations which they themselves have set and thus increasing the Covid infections. 

We are a country where our little achievements or failures are glorified to such an extent, efficiency and efficacy are not the standards that we value. We are a nation where we don't learn from history or past mistakes. Unfortunately, this is applied not just to politics, economics, scientific spectrum but also to our ecclesial or religious structures.  We cannot be numb to the reality that we are facing today when we read the scriptures especially the liturgical readings that we have on this Sunday on the Good Shepherd and Salvation. Paul Tillich, the well-known German theologian writes that we cannot be stopped from asking ultimate questions. In other words, they are questions about our life, our existence, like where do we come from and where do we go? What is the finality of our being here on earth, etc? These are very important questions that must shake us up. 

1. Shepherding to reach Salvation

The Christian principles teach us that the ultimate goal of our life here on earth is finding our salvation. The end for which we are created, in the words of St Ignatius of Loyola is "to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save our souls" (Sp. Ex 23). Therefore every activity of ours should have an end or finality. The finality is to attain eternal communion with God. The beautiful narration that we have in John's gospel on Good Shepherd after the heart of God must encourage us to believe that Jesus is our true shepherd. He came to take us back to God. He showed us a way to the Father. He is the eternity and the end. In him, we find our true freedom and happiness. His way of going about is that of the Father in heaven. There is nothing that can stop us from reaching that God of eternity as long as we keep our faith in Him.