Friday, September 29, 2023

Living a Life of Purpose: Aligning Words and Deeds in Daily Life

 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: October 01, 2023

Readings: Ezekiel 18:25–28Psalm 25:4–9Philippians 2:1–11Matthew 21:28–32

It is often stated: "If you wish to plan for a year, cultivate flowers; if you wish to plan for ten years, plant trees; if you wish to plan for eternity, develop men and women." Cultivating good habits and nurturing human values take time. In spite of education, experience, intelligence, knowledge, and past history, still we fall short of becoming perfect human beings. There is always something lacking in us. This void in our lives could be filled only by that God who created us and brought us forth into this universe. The liturgical readings for this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time invite us to cultivate good human values based on divine wisdom so that we may live in God continuously.

1. Personal responsibility with a sense of integrity and consistency.

In the last few Sundays, the writings from the Prophets continue to admonish us why we must choose life and avoid wickedness and evil. Today Prophet Ezekiel 18:25–28 in the Bible offers profound spiritual insights on personal responsibility and the importance of aligning our lives with divine values. These verses prompt us to reflect deeply on how we can cultivate human values, become better individuals, and maintain God as our guiding light in our journey of self-improvement. God's message through Ezekiel underscores the potential for transformation and redemption. We are not bound by our past mistakes. By turning away from wrongdoing and embracing justice and righteousness, we can experience a spiritual rebirth and growth.

Interestingly, Prophet Ezekiel emphasizes personal responsibility for our actions. We are called to examine our own ways and not blame God for the consequences of our choices. To cultivate human values, we must first recognize our capacity to choose righteousness and turn away from wickedness. This means we must develop a sense of consistency in our moral and ethical conduct. Cultivating human values involves living by those values consistently, not just when it is convenient. God calls us to be steadfast in our commitment to righteousness for He is just and merciful. As we navigate through life's complexities, prayer, reflection, critical thinking and study are essential to live in integrity. 

2. Union with Christ Jesus with humility and selflessness.

St Paul writing this beautiful Christological hymn to Philippians 2:1–11, offers the profound idea of how we are united in Christ Jesus. Thanks to this bond in Christ, we are blessed abundantly. To cultivate the human virtues in our lives, we must recognize our source of encouragement, comfort, and compassion that is rooted in our relationship with Christ. This unity provides a foundation for personal growth and ethical living.  St Paul invites us saying "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4).  Humility and selflessness are central virtues to be integrated, if we want to be true disciples of Christ Jesus. 

Taking the example of Christ means having the mindset of Christ. Because Jesus exemplified the ultimate humility and selflessness by willingly becoming a servant and even sacrificing His life on the cross for the sake of humanity. This act of Jesus did not diminish his divinity or honour instead He was exalted above everything. This divine recognition and honor highlight the rewards of living a life in alignment with God's values. God glorifies our actions if we live by the divine virtues. Therefore, we must keep God as our guide, we must continually acknowledge His sovereignty and submit to His lordship in our lives.

3. Match our actions with words 

The Gospel of St Matthew 21:28–32 presents a parable on how one should become a better individual and keep God as our guide. In the parable, we see the first son initially refused his father's request but later changed his mind and followed through, while the second son gave a positive response but did not fulfill the request. Cultivating human values and becoming better individuals require consistent alignment between our words and actions. The first son's change of heart and willingness to obey reflects the concept of repentance and transformation. We, too, have the capacity to change our ways, seeking forgiveness and embracing God's guidance when we have strayed. True repentance leads to personal growth and alignment with godly values.

The parable highlights the contrast between sincerity and hypocrisy. The second son's initial willingness was insincere, whereas the first son's initial refusal was followed by genuine action. To cultivate human values, we should aim for sincerity and authenticity in our actions, reflecting our commitment to God's guidance. This parable serves as a reminder that God is the ultimate authority and guide in our lives. Both sons ultimately answered to their father's authority. Similarly, we are called to submit ourselves to God's guidance, obey His commandments, and live according to His values. God is, indeed, merciful and forgiving, welcoming us back when we turn toward Him and live in accordance with His will.

Questions for self-reflection:

  1. Am I consistently obedient to God's will and commands, or do I sometimes say "yes" to Him but fail to follow through with my actions?
  2. How often do I take the time to reflect on my actions and consider whether they align with God's expectations and teachings?
  3. In my interactions with others, am I quick to judge them based on their outward appearances and actions, or do I recognize the potential for transformation and redemption in everyone, as Jesus did with tax collectors and sinners?

Prayer based on Psalm 25

Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you with humble hearts, seeking your guidance and wisdom. Teach us your ways, O Lord, and lead us in your truth. We trust in your unfailing love and grace. Help us to remember your mercy and compassion, forgiving our shortcomings and guiding us on the right path. May we walk in integrity and righteousness, for your name's sake.

Lord, we lift up our concerns and burdens to you, knowing that you are our refuge. Please show us the way, and grant us your peace and understanding. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

September 29, 2023

Friday, September 22, 2023

Caught Between the Two: Life with Christ and Life without Christ

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 24, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 55:6–9Psalm 145:2–38–917–18Philippians 1:20–2427Matthew 20:1–16

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/L8Fn5aLWxeE

Our life is full of dilemmas. Often we are caught between two divergent views or opinions, circumstances or events. It becomes difficult to decide what is the best option before us. Choosing becomes extremely difficult. We feel we are left in the middle of the river. Making proper decisions for the present and future becomes a headache. Loneliness sets in and we look for some comfort or angels of good time to come and advise us and help us to get out of this mess. In this context, we have beautiful liturgical readings including Psalm 145 on this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which extols us that "the Lord is near to all who call upon him." The God who created us knows best how to lead us in such moments, giving us wisdom and knowledge to walk in the path of righteousness and peace.

1. Self-righteousness vs generosity

The Gospel reading from Matthew 20:1–16 is a parable that speaks to the profound nature of God's grace and the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gives this intriguingly fascinating story of a landowner who hires laborers to work in his vineyard at different times throughout the day. When it comes time to pay the workers, he gives each of them the same wage, regardless of how long they worked. This attitude of the landowner not only perplexes the workers but also they to begin to grumble and criticize him for his self-righteous way of acting. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Healing Power of Wholesome Forgiving

 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 17, 2023

Readings: Sirach 27:30–28:7Psalm 103:1–49–12Romans 14:7–9Matthew 18:21–35

"Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight" (Sirach 27:30). With these beautiful but courageous words, we begin to read the Word of God on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our globalized world even though it looks united and open to each other, yet the deep-down there is so much distrust, frustration, jealousy and wickedness. This was very visible at the recently concluded G-20 summit in New Delhi, India where two major nations of the world did not send their presidents for this meeting. They did not attend the meeting not because they had some pressing work or health issue they had to attend to, rather it was all a political game to diminish the influence of the other and unready to settle the issues, which are threatening world peace. Both Russian and Chinese Presidents stayed out from this crucial meeting which saw for the first time the African Union getting its membership. How exclusive this world can be and this gang of G 20 countries in a world of 197 nations! Until now none of the African Nations could be a member of the so-called G-20 Nations. This is called the globalization of exclusivity! In this context, when we meditate on the Word of God, the words Sirach must touch us and transform us. 

1. No to evil but yes to forgiveness

Unlike many of the episodes in the book of Old Testament which call for vengeance, wrath, and punishment, here the book of Sirach invites us to reflect on our relationships with others and the power of forgiveness. Wrath and anger, hate and revenge are really bad things yet they are very close to our hearts. The human person is basically a selfish creature and that's why there is no end to enmity, war, and strife. In spite of the lessons from history, still wars are fought even using artificial intelligence which is more destructive than in earlier times of history. The cluster drones that are being used in the war against Ukraine is a very sad reality which is just before our eyes. There is so much destructive nature because we hold on to anger and grudges. When we allow resentment to fester within us, it can consume our thoughts and lead us away from the path of inner peace and spiritual growth. The first step towards healing is recognizing the weight of these negative emotions.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Whatever you Bind on Earth Shall be Bound in Heaven

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 10, 2023

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7–9Psalm 95:1–2, 6–9Romans 13:8–10Matthew 18:15–20

Somehow or the other, conflict resolution seems to be one of the important topics in both Old and New Testaments. Conflict management is a recurring theme in the Bible. In fact, it deals extensively with this idea in different places and circumstances. The Word of God gives a number of ways of fixing the issues with one another. As all of us are called by God as His children, He invites us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving and adjusting. However, God does not tolerate evil and wickedness, yet there is salvation for such people if they show remorse and are ready to change for good.  On this 23rd Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the year, the liturgical readings for the day invite each one to follow the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ, especially in fixing our relations with one another. So that we may truly be called the children of God. 

1. Power of Reconciliation and the value of the community
In Matthew Chapter 18, Jesus addresses the issue of conflict resolution within the community of believers. He provides a step-by-step process for addressing grievances and reconciling with one another. This passage emphasizes the importance of maintaining unity, forgiveness, and love within the body of Christ, that is the community of Christians. The essence of Christian faith is love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. In these verses, Jesus teaches us that reconciliation is an essential aspect of our Christian walk. When we have conflicts or grievances with fellow believers, we should seek reconciliation rather than harboring bitterness or resentment. This mirrors Christ's ultimate act of reconciliation with humanity through His sacrifice on the cross.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Thinking as God Does

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 03, 2023

Readings: Jeremiah 20:7–9Psalm 63:2–68–9Romans 12:1–2Matthew 16:21–27

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/4brVHye4m74?si=JWnRltkJY1KHoJWP

Doubts and fear seem to be part of our lives. Both doubt and fear go together. Even though, we may believe in the ability of others, still when the actual moment of doing about to take place doubt and fear set in. If someone has low self-esteem or low self-image, many others have low opinions, wrong and ill perceptions of others. Both are not good in themselves as they can destroy oneself and others. Therefore the reality check is essential. The liturgical readings for this 22nd Sunday in ordinary time tell us that both Prophet Jeremiah and Apostle Peter are full of fear and wrong perceptions of themselves and others. Both of them don't believe in the abilities and strengths of Yahweh and Jesus. The scripture admonishes that such fear, doubt, and wrong perception of oneself and others are nothing but traits of Satan. 

1. Following Jesus and getting behind Satan

We have a fascinating Gospel passage Matthew 16:21-27, presenting us a profound lesson on discipleship and the Christian journey. Jesus reveals to His disciples the impending suffering, rejection, and death that awaits Him in Jerusalem. When Jesus begins to speak about this revelation the disciples may have stunned and bewildered. Because they were following Jesus with great expectations of a victorious Messiah. The perception of the disciples of Jesus was indeed faulty. They never realized who exactly Jesus was. Healing and miracles that Jesus performed gave them a different picture of Jesus.  

Friday, August 25, 2023

Who is Jesus for Me?

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 27, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 22:1519–23Psalm 138:1–368Romans 11:33–36Matthew 16:13–20

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/2mYgeJ0nUPc

We develop a relationship with the person based on the person's characteristics. If the person's way of thinking and acting pleases us or is in close connection with us then we might develop a friendship with that person. Friendship or acquaintance is not cultivated overnight. It takes time and energy. It needs patience and witness. The liturgical readings for this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year invite us to look at the aspect of our relationship with Jesus. Having lived with his 12 disciples day in and day out, Jesus asks them who he is for them? What does it mean for them to have Jesus amidst them? Perhaps the answer of Peter the Apostle should be ours too. Peter's declaration of faith in Jesus also entails a great responsibility of guiding the Church. 

1. Identity determines the relationship

Let's begin with the Gospel of Matthew 16:13–20. Jesus poses a question about his identity to his disciples. This question is not only crucial for the disciples at that time but continues to be relevant for all believers today. It challenges us to reflect on who Jesus is in our lives. The question is simple but straightforward: “But who do you say that I am?” Perhaps it might have been easy for the disciples to answer as Jesus lived with them with flesh and blood. They had seen his miracles and his rhetoric had mesmerized them. Still, Jesus wanted to know the perception of his disciples. Jesus is extremely happy with the answer from his disciples. The familiarity of his disciples had made them his beloved disciples. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Allowing Ourselves be Touched by the Divine Interventions

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 13, 2023

Readings: 1 Kings 19:911–13Psalm 85:9–14Romans 9:1–5Matthew 14:22–33

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here:https://youtu.be/1GFlt_UFETE

In our ordinary everyday lives often life becomes monotonous. As a result, we lose interest in a number of things that we usually do either in the workplace or in our private lives. As a result, it affects terribly in our relationships. Often this sort of lethargy sets into our lives very deeply causing a lot of anguish and fear, a sense of loss and disinterestedness. If one does not pay attention to such symptoms, this would lead to disastrous consequences including loss of health or life itself. The Economic Times newspaper (Aug 11, 2023) carries a short news report saying that 50 years ago the word "burnout" entered the corporate lexicon when Herbert Freudenbeger, a New York psychologist, first identified it. The newspaper report says that burnout is back with a vengeance today. The recent data from Deloitte and the research firm Workplace Intelligence cites half of the workers in the US saying they are either exhausted or stressed and 60 percent of employees say they would consider changing jobs to find better well-being provisions. This situation is no better in India either. Burnout phenomenon can set even in the practice of our faith, family, monastic, religious, priest or in a couple's life as well. The liturgical readings on this 19th Sunday in Ordinary time speak in similar lines, especially in the person of the prophet Elijah suffering a sense of loss of purpose in life. 

1. Divine interventions are unique and special 

In our first reading 1 Kings 19:911–13 we see Prophet Elijah taking shelter on the Mountain of God, Horeb or better-known Mount Sinai. He is running away from the murderer King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. Because these two murdered all the prophets by the sword and now looking for the prophet Elijah to be killed. So Elijah is running for cover. He is tired of doing God's work and finds no meaning as his very life is threatened.  Now he is not only disgusted with what is happening around him moreover, prays for death “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah had walked for forty days and forty nights to escape from the jaws of death, but now tired and burnt out. At this point at Mount Horeb, Elijah experiences God so closely and intensely in the form of a "tiny whispering sound."

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Witnessing the Glory of God to Embrace Transformation

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: August 06, 2023

Readings: Daniel 7:9-1013-14Psalm 97:1-25-692 Peter 1:16-19Matthew 17:1-9

(The Transfiguration by Raphael, c. 1520)

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/dupDhxqFEWA

In every day of our lives, we do not bother to give much attention to minute details. The days and weeks pass by without much of our attention. However, there are sometimes unexpected moments that occur at a particular time and particular place. They will be defining moments in one's life. Three of Jesus' disciples experienced such tremendous moments which left an indelible mark in their lives. On this feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the liturgical readings invite us to look for such momentous and defining events in our life so that we can fall back on them and relive such transformative experiences.

1. The glory of God in the person of Jesus

Let us begin with Matthew 17:1-9 which describes a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus, known as the Transfiguration. This event takes place after Jesus had foretold His death and resurrection to His disciples. The context of this passage is essential to understand the significance of what happens on the mountaintop. The Transfiguration serves as a powerful confirmation of Jesus' identity as the Son of God and a preparation for the disciples to face the challenges that lie ahead. The Transfiguration is a mysterious and awe-inspiring event where Jesus takes three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, up to a high mountain. There, His appearance changes, and He becomes radiant, with His face shining like the sun, and His clothes becoming as white as light. Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets, talking with Jesus.

Monday, July 31, 2023

St Ignatius of Loyola: An Entrepreneur with a Difference

   To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/f4BxLJVXAhM

 St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the global order, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), was a remarkable spiritual leader who exemplified unique entrepreneurial qualities that set him apart from others. His life and work were guided by divine ambition and wisdom, inspiring countless individuals to lead meaningful lives. In this essay, we will explore the distinct qualities of St. Ignatius that made him an exceptional entrepreneur in the realm of spirituality and leadership.

1. Spiritual and Visionary Leader:

St. Ignatius demonstrated unwavering devotion to his faith and a profound understanding of spirituality. His commitment to following the path of Christ and living a life of virtue inspired countless followers. As a spiritual leader, he emphasized the importance of self-reflection, critical thinking, prayer, asceticism and discernment to cultivate a deeper relationship with God. His exemplary life of service and devotion became a source of inspiration for many who sought to emulate his principles. He possessed visionary leadership. St. Ignatius had a clear and inspiring vision for the Society of Jesus, centered on serving God and humanity. His ability to articulate this vision and convey it to others motivated those who came in contact with him to join him in his mission and work towards its realization.