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Friday, August 12, 2022

Holy Tension and the Spirit of Discipleship

 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 14, 2022

Readings: Jeremiah 38:4–68–10Psalm 40:2–418Hebrews 12:1–4Luke 12:49–53

To listen to the audio-video reflections on YOUTUBE please click on this link: https://youtu.be/9aLl2P2eHT0

We are in the midst of celebrating 75th anniversary of Indian independence. The words like freedom, liberation, peace, justice, harmony, integrity, love, multiculturality, diversity, progress, sacrifice, selfless service, collaboration, cooperation, identity, etc, are some of the words that will be heard in the speeches delivered on the 15th August. As we continue to enjoy the blessings of independence from foreign forces, we are becoming aware of how we are enslaved by the unfreedom because of our corrupt political and bureaucratic system, one-sided majoritism which wants to place minorities under its subjugation, ever-widening communal divide destroying the very fabric of Indian multiethnicity and religiosity, unstoppable price rise and pushing the poor into still deeper poverty and so forth. 

In the midst of this, we also celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of Mother Mary into heaven. Here is a person who showed us through her life what true freedom and liberation are. Mary overcomes all evils and sufferings of this world because of her deep faith in God. Her obedience to God's Will demolishes all that is not good and disappointing. In other words, Christian spirituality is nothing but living our lives with the tension of our daily lives with the call of Jesus. 

1. A right relationship with God through a right living

The liturgical readings on this 20th Sunday of the ordinary time are astonishing. We see Jeremiah, the prophet subjugated to all sorts of persecution including being made to die in a well because he spoke the truth. In the gospel reading, Jesus appears to us very puzzling and even alarming. He asks: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). Perhaps, we must do connecting the dots here.  Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands or the cost of discipleship. In the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray to our Father in heaven, we pray for God’s kingdom to come on this earth. That is a Kingdom of peace and justice which is more than we can think of (Matthew 6:10). In other words, Jesus wants no divisions but unification with God through a right living. 

During Jesus’ life on earth, Jesus did try to classify that which is good and bad. He said to his followers, “therefore, do whatever they (Pharisees) teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach” (Matthew 23:3). At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them peace, a peace that the world could not give, a peace that no one could take away from them (John 14:27). We call Jesus the Prince of Peace. In the Beatitudes we read, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). They are the ones who do the work of God - and of Jesus. In the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus is called our peace, breaking down the walls that divide peoples (Ephesians 2:17). “By this will all know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another” (John 13:35).

2. Religious culture and the culture of Christianity

The annals of history show us how the world has been divided over religions; often the wars have been fought over religion. Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University in his famous work “The Clash of Civilizations?” spoke about cultural wars. Unfortunately, according to him, they are mainly inspired by religion; because each religion cultivates and promotes a particular culture.  The critics of religion do make us believe that is exactly right when we look at the divisions. suffering and wars that have caused in the Middle East (Jews and Muslims), the former Yugoslavia (Orthodox and Muslims), India (Hindus and Muslims), and Northern Ireland (Catholics and Protestants).

In many countries, both Christian individuals and Christian communities are seen as a threat to governments, various power groups and other religious groups. We saw this in practically every Communist regime during the 20th century: the Soviet Union, the East European satellites, China and Vietnam. Yet it was the faith of Christians, who, without firing a shot were significantly instrumental in bringing down militant Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet, in the long history of the Church, how many families have suffered because members became Christians? Most of us - especially those who are living in non-Christian or anti-Christian societies - probably have met someone who was rejected by their family for becoming an active Christian. And, not infrequently, suspicion and mistrust come even from other Christians, from within the Church itself.

3. The Christian message of peace and harmony

In the First Reading of today, we see Jeremiah is dumped into a cistern (well) not by outsiders but by his own people who did not like the message from God that he was bringing. Those who are in the power and those who adhere to that power dislike prophetic voices. It is said that there have been more martyrs for the faith in Jesus Christ in the supposedly advanced and civilized 20th century than in all the preceding centuries! The Christian message is non-violent. It brings love, compassion, harmony, and peace. It brings people together so that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female... But it also of its nature challenges injustice, corruption, discrimination, abuse, dishonesty and all attacks on human dignity. The role of the evangelizer is "to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable." 

True religion does not divide but unites.  It is only a false Christianity or religion that deliberately creates division ("them" and "us"). It is not Christianity or any other religion as such which has brought so much suffering but certain people who call themselves "Christians" or "Muslims," or "Hindus" or Jews." At the same time, true Christianity in defending truth, justice, human dignity and freedom will inevitably meet opposition and be attacked. The passage which says that the peacemakers are blessed also says that those who are persecuted in the name of the Gospel are equally blessed. Strangely enough, both go together. 

    The Church is blessed with a large number of martyrs or persons who gave testimony passionately for their faith or believed in what Christ inspired them, who fought for truth, justice, human rights and basic freedom which is everyone's sacred right. It is these that the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks about: “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  The example of Jesus who was himself the object of the most terrible violence should be a source of inspiration. We must be inflamed with the love of God. It is to have that unceasing desire and Will to grow in holiness and zeal for the salvation of oneself and others. 

Questions for reflections:

  1. What images or feelings evoke in you when Jesus says that he has come to bring division? How do you find yourself wanting to respond?
  2. How do you react to someone when you are unnecessarily criticized, evaluated and made false opinions about you?
  3. As you think about the state of your own life or of the world right now, what praise or petition do you wish to offer our saving Lord?

Prayer:

Gracious and loving God, though I am afflicted and poor yet You think of me; You come to my aid in those moments of distress and suffering. You are indeed my help and deliverer. Grant me the grace and serenity in those times when I feel distressed, deceived and doubted. For You are my source of strength and pillar of my life. 

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live together in justice and peace; We make this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

August 12, 2022

Friday, August 5, 2022

Where Your Treasure is, There also will Your Heart be

 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 07, 2022

Readings: Wisdom 18:6–9Psalm 33:11218–22Hebrews 11:1–28–19Lk 12:32-48

Who does not like wealth or treasure? Probably the monks or ascetics! The gospel reading of today (Lk 12:32-48) speaks about treasure. It articulates two kinds of treasures. One that is stored on earth and the other stored in heaven. Perhaps, we can understand very easily the wealth stored on the earth. These are material goods, things that are dear to us for our daily use, things that give us comfort and solace, things that give us fame and name, and things that make us so-called civilized or cultured men or women.

1. Living in the City of God and the City of Man

Things that we own on this earth are essential for our daily living. We cannot say goodbye to them so easily. As we understand that these things are very essential, sometimes they might become our masters and in turn we, their slaves. Our internal freedom is either sold out or reconciled. Therefore the teaching of Jesus about material wealth has its relevance even today. As Christians, we are entrusted with a mission to act, following the example of Jesus, and through our actions to serve others and God. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

St Ignatius of Loyola: A Teacher of Mysticism of Everyday Life

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 31, 2022 - Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest and Founder of the Society of Jesus

Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21–23; Psalm 90:3–4, 5–6, 12–13, 14, 17; Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11Luke 12:13–21

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
To listen to the audio-video reflections on YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/62TEyff5DN8

July 31, 2022, in the Jesuit world marks the Feast of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus. In fact, today is the final day of the Ignatian Year, remembering the 500th Anniversary of Ignatius' being struck by a cannonball, and beginning his conversion. A brief bio of St. Ignatius can be found here.

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Jesuits, their collaborators and friends all over the world celebrate on this 18th Sunday of the Year the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus also known as Jesuits. One of the beautiful gifts of the Reformation period to the Church is the person of Ignatius of Loyola. In his own way, Ignatius of Loyola along with the newly formed Society of Jesus contributed immensely not only chiefly towards the propagation of the Christian faith in different nations and continents of the world but also assisted in cleansing the scandal-ridden Church at the Center. 

1. Mysticism of everyday life

Fr Hugo Rahner, SJ, the brother of Jesuit Fr Karl Rahner wrote a book "Ignatius the Theologian" detailing Ignatius' simple yet profound ways of perceiving God in prayer and everyday activities of life. In this book, we see a penetrating analysis which demonstrates the centrality of Christology in Ignatius. It is a theology born out of his direct mystical experience of God. Ignatius had not only a Master's degree in philosophy and theology from Sorbonne University in Paris in 1535, but he also articulated what he had experienced during his 11-month-long intense prayer sessions in the cave of Manresa in 1522. Combined with his intellectual studies, Ignatius’s personal experiences of finding God in everyday life activities from drinking a glass of water to preaching in the streets and squares of cities, he experienced profoundly God's presence and his guiding hand in his life. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Lord, Teach us to Pray!

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 24, 2022

ReadingsGenesis 18:20–32Psalm 138:1–36–8Colossians 2:12–14Luke 11:1–13

Jesus is teaching the prayer "Our Father"

To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click on this link: https://youtu.be/4rdyTSulA78

Often, we are at the crossroads of our lives. The paths in front of us happen to be narrow and unclear. In such moments of our lives,  what keeps us going is the tremendous trust in the Lord. When you have deep faith in the Lord, you may ask from the Lord whatever you are seeking with your hearts and hands open. Anything that is prayed with tremendous trust and confidence, God grants what we need in spite of our unworthiness. The liturgical readings of this Sunday overwhelmingly support this idea. 

1. Prayer of Jesus, prayer to God

The beautiful prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples "Our Father..." is the most widely used prayer by every Christian. Every day, we recite this prayer. It is so close to us as breath to our lungs. The prayer of Jesus puts us in peace and tranquillity, confidence and trust, love and compassion. Without the prayer of Jesus, we are nothing as Christians. It is a prayer that completes all our wants and needs, desires and longings. God draws us close through our desires. A short prayer but rich in meaning and deep in its content. With the prayer of Jesus, we go to our Triune God with our needs and aspirations. The mystery of prayer is living a loving relationship as beloved sons and daughters with their heavenly Father. Our prayer is a pure gift, made possible by the Father in heaven through the Holy Spirit of His Son.

Friday, July 8, 2022

In God, All Things Hold Together

 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 10, 2022

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10–14Psalm 69:141730–3133–3436–37Colossians 1:15–20Luke 10:25–37

The Good Samaritan
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click on this link: https://youtu.be/hqQmgHMCmJo

There are a few moments or incidents that occur in our lives and make a difference in the lives of others. Such incidents may seem to be ordinary yet they can change the lives of others because someone was able to enter into their lives at the right time. The liturgical readings of this Sunday could be read from this perspective.

1. Reaching out to others at the right time

The story of the Good Samaritan that we read today (Luke 10:25–37) from the Gospel of St Luke is really captivating. Everyone likes to have people around them when they are on their feet, healthy and doing well. The poor Jew who was stripped, beaten and half-dead on the roadside by the robbers was seen by the priest and the Levite. Yet they did not react. The wounded man was noticed only by a Samaritan. Even though the Samaritan came from another rival community, he not only had a soft corner for him but even went to the extent of taking care of him by giving him first aid and later putting on his carrier animal and treating him at the hospital at his own expense. What a generous, gentle, compassionate and caring that Samaritan might have been?

Friday, July 1, 2022

Rejoice Because Your Names are Written in Heaven

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 03, 2022

Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20Galatians 6:14-18Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

(Jesus sends his disciples on a mission of preaching and healing)
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click on this link: 
https://youtu.be/Pp6TPD0d058
We are on the threshold of the new academic year. A good number of our schools and colleges have already started their classes whereas others are still waiting for the results and the colleges are yet to open. For many, it's a time of new beginning while for others it's a time of waiting with anxiety and fear. Liturgically, we are in the ordinary time of the year where the readings from the Bible strengthen our faith journey with beautiful and apt readings. Many a time we may think that all the good things that happen in our lives are because of our striving and ability to perform. Probably it might be so. Yet, we must recognize this first that there is over pervading power of our Creator who gives us energy and strength to make every day a success story. 

1. Nothing will harm you
The gospel reading of today from St Luke (10:1-12, 17-20) illustrates a beautiful episode from the lives of 72 disciples that Jesus had chosen to carry forward his mission. They are sent on a mission of preaching and healing all those people whom they encounter on their way. The disciples are given special instructions on how to work out their missionary requisite and itinerary. Surprisingly they perform overwhelmingly and the disciples cannot believe in themselves that they could do so much because of the name of Jesus: "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name" (Luke 10:17). The fruit of their labour is tremendous and so joyful that they are ready for anything.

Friday, June 24, 2022

God - My Inheritance Forever

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C - June 26, 2022

Readings: 1 Kings 19:16–21Psalm 16:1–257–11Galatians 5:113–18Luke 9:51–62

(Jesus with his disciples passing through Samaria)
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click on this link: https://youtu.be/2hsAbLsUXQs
Often we want to do magnificent and incredible things, but there is something else which does not allow us to do. The pulls are everywhere. We live with these kinds of struggles. Sometimes these chronic struggles may tire us and make us disinterested to do even those things which we are called to do because of our job or the role that we have taken up. The liturgical readings of this Sunday enlighten us over this aspect of "to do and not to do," "to be and not to be." In fact, having celebrated two important feasts in this week, the Nativity of St John the Baptist and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, perhaps the righteousness and courage of Saint John the Baptist and the unending and enduring love of our Lord Jesus should encourage us in our path of Christian life of holiness.

1. Chosen from the Ordinary

We have an awesome vocation story of Prophet Elisha who was chosen by God to succeed Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:16–21). It all happens in the field while ploughing it.  The young Elisha was chosen while he was doing ordinary work on agricultural land. God recognizes his ability because he was following other ploughers. Perhaps Elisha had the genius of following the path trodden by others in an orderly and disciplined manner. In fact, that is what desired of the ploughers. Prophet Elijah recognizes in Elisha his successor, who would instruct his people to follow in the righteous of God. As a symbol of anointing, Prophet Elijah threw his cloak over young Elisha while ploughing. In fact, there was no time for waiting, discussion, consultation, seeking time and coming to an agreement. When God wants someone for his work, He does not wait. For there is no room for waiting. He chooses things to happen as he wishes and of course quickly and rightly. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Corpus Christi - Enlarging our Hearts unto Him

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ: June 19, 2022

Readings: Genesis 14:18–20Psalm 110:1–41 Corinthians 11:23–26Luke 9:11–17

The month of June is blessed with a number of feasts either connected to the person of Jesus or to saints who followed him. Today we commemorate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally called in its Latin version Corpus Christi. Having celebrated the feast of the Holy Trinity just a week ago, we are at the right time to celebrate this great feast which elevates us to the heavenly reality of our Lord. Every Eucharist is the feast of the body and blood of Christ. It is the gift of our Lord to nourish us, strengthen us and guide our Christian living.  However, by giving special emphasis to this feast we are once again invited to reflect and meditate on what Jesus' sacrifice means to us. The Corpus Christi feast is the sum of what we confess and celebrate at every paschal meal of our Lord. 

1. Whatever we have, it is of God
Food is one of the physiological needs. With Jesus' celebration of the paschal meal on the Holy Thursday, he gave us a heavenly meal which would satisfy our spiritual hunger.  He blesses, breaks and gives away (Lk 9:16). There is no other so precious a gift Jesus could give to us than his own body and blood. This heavenly reality is made to manifest in its earthly existence in a beautiful setting by Jesus. A gift that is given to his disciples is still commemorated in every nook and corner of the world. It is a mystery of our faith which continues to enthrall and surprise us. There is no opposition or negligence from those who have been accepted into the Church because they do not understand its meaning and significance. The institution of the Eucharist which happened two thousand years ago continues to be celebrated in the same manner with those same words uttered by Jesus.  

Friday, June 10, 2022

Holy Trinity - Hope of the Glory of God

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Sunday: June 12, 2022

Readings: Proverbs 8:22–31Psalms 8:4–9Romans 5:1–5John 16:12–15

(Holy Trinity in the Imagination of Andrei Rublev)
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click on this link: https://youtu.be/shLbPLdaxAM
During Easter and after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ the focus of our attention is more on the divinity of the person of Jesus Christ than his humanity. We have been celebrating one solemnity over the other in these Sunday liturgies, Ascension, Pentecost and today the Holy Trinity. One thing that is very common in these great feasts is how we look at the heavenly or divine things with our human reason, logic and faith. Perhaps when we celebrate on this Sunday the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity what we must inculcate within ourselves is a sense of wonder and awe as well as complete trust and confidence in our Lord. Because we might fail to understand or grasp the mystery of the Holy Trinity with our heads. Therefore, we must reach this mystery with our hearts. The liturgical readings of this Sunday help us immensely in this promising pursuit. 

1. We are little less than the angels and yet crowned with glory and honour.
The readings from the book Wisdom and Psalm which we read today are commonly called sapiential writings give us ample resources to understand who we are and what is our place here on earth. The famous existential assertion in theology which is profounded by many theologians how can know God if we do not know ourselves first could be the foundation in understanding God and ourselves. Unless and until we know ourselves we would not be able to understand divine things. Therefore, we must understand the human person as a whole, its relationality, cognitive reality and so on.