Friday, March 24, 2023

Spirit of God Dwells in You

 5th Sunday of Lent: March 26, 2023

Readings: Ezekiel 37:12–14; Psalm 130:1–8Romans 8:8–11John 11:1–45

Jesus raises Lazarus from the tomb
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here:https://youtu.be/IfApsZlYZFE 

We are inching closer to the Holy Week, where we recall Christ's passion, suffering, death, and resurrection. The fifth Sunday of Lent reminds us of the promise of new life. Even in the face of death, there is hope for new beginnings. As we approach Easter, we are reminded that we too can experience new life, both in this world and in the next. The liturgical readings of this Sunday lead us to deeper reflection on the meaning of sacrifice, surrender, forgiveness, and new life. It is a time to draw closer to God, and to allow his love and grace to transform us from the inside out.

1. Amazing testimony of God's presence in Jesus 

The story of Lazarus' resurrection in John 11:1-45 is a powerful example of God's ability to bring life out of death. As we reflect on this story, we can draw several spiritual insights that are relevant to our lives today:

a. The power of prayer: In this story, Jesus responds to the urgent prayer of Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha. They had faith that Jesus could heal their brother. However, Jesus wanted to bring novelty into their lives and allows himself to be called for a greater sign of wonder. Jesus responds to their faith by raising Lazarus from the dead. It is indeed a sign of the importance of prayer in our own lives. When we pray with faith and sincerity, we open ourselves up to God's grace and power.

b. The reality of grief: Lazarus' death was a source of deep grief for his sisters and the community. Jesus himself was moved to tears by their pain. This, in fact, tells us that grief is a natural and necessary part of the human experience. When we experience loss and pain, we can turn to Jesus, who understands our pain and offers comfort and hope. Pope Francis says “certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears. The tears of Jesus teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations.”

c. The power of belief: Throughout this story of raising Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus emphasizes the importance of belief. He tells Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (John 11:25). This reminds us that our belief in Jesus is essential for experiencing the fullness of life that he offers. When we believe in him and trust in his power, we can experience new life and hope.

d. The call to serve: After Lazarus is raised from the dead, Jesus commands the community to unbind him and let him go. What does it mean to us? This tells us that we are called to serve others and to help them experience the freedom and new life that Jesus offers. When we use our gifts and talents to serve others, we participate in the work of resurrection and renewal.

Overall, the story of Lazarus' resurrection is a powerful reminder of God's power to bring life out of death. It challenges us to deepen our faith in Jesus, to trust in his power, and to use our lives to serve others and bring hope and healing to the world.

2. The accompaniment of the Holy Spirit in our lives

St Paul gives us a rich theology of the Holy Spirit. No other writer in the whole of the Bible has written so much on the Holy Spirit as St Paul. In Romans 8:8-11, St Paul writes about the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Perhaps, we can delve deeper into this passage here. 

a. The power of the Spirit to transform: St Paul emphasizes that those who are in the flesh cannot please God, but those who are in the Spirit can live in accordance with God's will. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us from the inside out. When we open ourselves up to the Spirit's work in our lives, we can experience deep transformation and growth.

b. The promise of new life: St Paul writes that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies. Moreover, Spirit offers us the promise of new life, not only in the next life but also in this one. When we surrender to the Spirit's work in our lives, we can experience a new sense of vitality, purpose, and joy.

c. The importance of surrender: St Paul emphasizes that those who live according to the flesh are hostile to God, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. This reminds us that surrender is essential for experiencing the transformative power of the Spirit. When we let go of our own desires and agendas and surrender to the Spirit's leading, we can live in accordance with God's will and experience his love and grace.

d. The gift of belonging: St Paul writes that those who have the Spirit of Christ belong to him. This reminds us that the Spirit is a gift of belonging, a sign of our adoption into God's family. When we have the Spirit, we have the assurance that we are loved, accepted, and valued by God.

Overall, Romans 8:8-11 is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. It challenges us to surrender to the Spirit's work in our lives, to trust in the promise of new life, and to live in accordance with God's will. Perhaps, it is time for us to trust in God and ourselves. The Spirit of the Lord always accompanies us. Often it is because of our carelessness and not being ready to embrace the power of God in our lives, we get into depression, desolation, anxiety, fear and loss. When we trust in the Lord deeply, He can move mountains. Often instead of owning God and His Spirit in our lives, we end up trusting in Satan and the powers of evil. Let this Sunday of Lent help us to reckon to get back to our roots to the God of love, compassion, courage, strength, perseverance, faith, perspective, and life.

Questions for self-reflection:

  1. How do I respond to loss and grief? Do I turn to Jesus in prayer and trust that he can bring hope and healing?
  2. Do I believe that Jesus has the power to bring new life out of death? How can I deepen my faith and trust in him?
  3. Am I open to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in my life? How can I surrender more fully to the Spirit's work?
  4. How do I use my gifts and talents to serve others and bring hope and healing to the world? How can I be more intentional about participating in the work of resurrection and renewal?

As we reflect on these questions, we can deepen our relationship with God and grow in our faith and trust in him.

Prayer: (based on Psalm 130)

Gracious God,

From the depths of our souls, we cry out to you, our hope and our salvation. Hear our voices and be attentive to our prayers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short, and lead us in the path of righteousness. We wait patiently for you, knowing that in you alone can we find redemption and grace. May our hearts be steadfast in your love, and may we always seek your face. We put our hope in you, and trust in your unfailing love and mercy. 

Lord, we long for your presence, and we wait for your deliverance. May your Spirit fill us with peace, and may your light shine upon us always. We praise you, O God, for you are our refuge and our strength. You are our rock and our fortress, and in you we find true peace and rest. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

24 March 2023

Friday, March 17, 2023

Lord's Anointed One Heals Definitely

 4th Sunday of Lent: March 19, 2023

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:16–710–13Psalm 23:1–6Ephesians 5:8–14John 9:1–41

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind 
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/jNxb_TkliqY 
The fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, which means "rejoice" in Latin. This day serves as a midpoint of the Lenten season and offers a brief respite from the penitential tone of the previous three weeks. On this Laetare Sunday, we are reminded that even in the midst of our struggles and difficulties, there is always a reason to rejoice; because of the promise of new life and the hope of Easter, which is just a few short weeks away. The liturgical readings of this Sunday capture the essence of this joy and hope as we delve deeper.

1. Jesus heals those who have faith
The Gospel reading John 9:1-41 tells the story of a man born blind who is healed by Jesus. God’s ways of seeing are not our ways. The born blind man comes to see where as Pharisees are made blind. Jesus is the new source of life-giving to those who are blind. The passage is rich with spiritual and theological implications, and here are some points to take home.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Creating a Space to the Divine within Ourselves

3rd Sunday of Lent: March 12, 2023

Readings: Exodus 17:3–7Psalm 95:1–26–9Romans 5:1–25–8John 4:5–1519–2639–42

Jesus with the Samaritan Woman at the well (John 4:5-42)
To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/FLf6ZNlz_5E 

We are in the midpoint of the Lenten Season. As we journey towards Easter, the Third Sunday of Lent is inviting us to look at a number of things that we do in our daily lives. Our journey of life is a constant struggle of forward and backward movement. However, we must take our life at our stride, hoping in the Lord, that He will guide and protect us always. On this Sunday, we are invited to take time off to reflect on repentance, the call for deeper faith, the importance of perseverance, and the power of God's mercy.

1. Becoming a person of life-giving

The story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:5-42 is a rich narrative that offers many insights and lessons for our spiritual lives. Jesus is thirsty. He is thirsts for souls. Here are a few thoughts on this passage:

Friday, March 3, 2023

Being Pleased with the Son

 2nd Sunday of Lent: March 05, 2023

Readings: Genesis 12:1-4Psalm 33:4-5,18-20222 Timothy 1:8-10Matthew 17:1-9

To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/8wXT7Pxis0Q

The death toll from the recent Turkey-Syria earthquake has risen to 51,000.  This incident tells us that we are not in control of nature. We may make use of intelligence, and better engineering knowledge to withstand our buildings to such natural disasters, but our expertise fails and there are limits to human wisdom. In our country, the tragedy surrounding the sinking of the town Joshimath in Uttarakhand shows that if we do not follow the laws of nature, we are bringing upon us disaster after disaster, death after death. The year-long war in Ukraine bringing death and destruction to our so-called civilized world is another sad story of our uncontrollable greed, self-interest and jealousy. In the context of such horrendous incidents of human fatalities and bringing curses upon ourselves because of our stupidity, we are called to look at the transfiguration of our Lord which took place 2000 years ago on that Holy Mountain in Palestine.   

1. Called to transform our lives for the better

The Second Sunday of Lent focuses on the theme of transformation, as we reflect on the journey of faith and the ways in which we are called to grow and change in our relationship with God. One of the key readings for this Sunday is the story of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus is revealed in his glory to his disciples Peter, James, and John. This event marks a turning point in Jesus' ministry, as he begins to prepare for his eventual death and resurrection.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Abundance of Grace over the Weakness of Satan

 1st Sunday of Lent: February 26, 2023

Readings: Genesis 2:7–9; 3:1–7;Psalm 51:3–6; 12–14, 17Romans 5:12–19Matthew 4:1–11

We have just begun the Holy Season of Lent. This 40 days long of preparation for the commemoration of Christ's passion, death and resurrection is, indeed, a spiritual experience of renewal, reconnecting, and retransformation. It is our choice whether to make that story of our Lord as our story. It is a time to recognize our finiteness, our brokenness, and our sinfulness. Thus realize that God is the foundation of our lives. The liturgical readings on this First Sunday of Lent invite us to be part of God's story of salvation which embraces both suffering and salvation. 

1. Temptations around but grace abounds
Matthew 4:1–11 tells the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. As we begin our journey through Lent, this story offers us important and practical lessons.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Be Holy, for I, the LORD, Your God, am Holy

 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time: February 19, 2023

Readings: Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Corinthians 3:16–23Matthew 5:38–48

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Marc Arkelian)

To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/rsbOidv2x3I

As we move closer to the Lenten Season, the liturgical readings on this Sunday invite us to ponder over a number of things, namely, forgiveness and reconciliation, love and mercy, holiness and steadfastness in the love of God. The Word of God emphasizes how essenential for us Christians to strive for holiness and imitate the example of Christ in our daily lives, particularly in our relationships with others.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Spirit Scrutinizes Everything, even the Depths of God

 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: February 12, 2023

Readings: Sirach 15:15–20Psalm 119:1–24–517–1833–341 Corinthians 2:6–10Matthew 5:17–37

To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here: https://youtu.be/gOcRmVfs7-o

We realize the need for God or the higher form of Order in our lives because of our understanding that we are finite and imperfect beings. We strive to become better versions of ourselves by assimilating the virtues in our lives or those things which we consider holy and extraordinary. The sixth Sunday in ordinary time invites us to reflect in our daily lives on the importance of forgiveness, humility, compassion, and those things which are dear to God.  

1. People in communion with God and others

As spiritual beings, deep within us, there is a longing in our hearts to see God and to be part of God's life. Even though none of us have seen God yet we have some idea of God because of our religious upbringing and reasoning capacity. In spite of our limitedness, we have the capacity to know God. A week ago, Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon (1931-2023), one of the finest Greek Orthodox theologians of this century died. His celebrated work, "Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church" had a profound impact on our understanding of God and the Church.  He reflected upon the communal nature of God. He believed that God is not an isolated individual, but a communion of persons who exist in relationship with each other in the form of Trinity. He also thought that Church is not just an organization, but a community of persons who share in the life of God through the Holy Spirit. Hence all of us belong to a  community of persons who are united in their shared relationship with God.

Friday, February 3, 2023

The Enduring Power of God

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: February 05, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 58:7–10Psalm 112:4–91 Corinthians 2:1–5Matthew 5:13–16

As we reflect upon our spiritual journey and seek a deeper connection with God during this ordinary time of the year, the liturgical readings of this Sunday invite us to trust in the enduring power of God. This is possible when we become the salt of the earth and light of the world.

1. Our commitment to the call of our Lord
On the 2nd of February, the Church celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, a day specially dedicated for all the consecrated people.  It's a day when we recalled how precious and significant our call is especially being called to be the partakers of the mission of the Lord. Just like Jesus called the first disciples and their immediate response to leave everything and follow him, we too are in his team. This reminds us of the importance of putting our faith in action and being willing to let go of our old ways and commitments in order to follow Jesus more fully. In the First Reading of today, we hear about the prophet Isaiah being called by God to be a light to the nations. This is a reminder of our own call to share the light of the gospel and bring hope and comfort to those around us.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Called to be Holy

 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time: January 29, 2023

Readings: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13Psalm 146:6-101 Corinthians 1:26-31Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus preaches the "Sermon on the Mount"

We are living in an ever-changing world.  In recent years, we have been noticing this change happening in a very fast and rapid space. This is both positive and negative. With the arrival of Covid -19, a lot of things have changed in our lifestyle and well-being. Even though constant change has been a permanent feature of our life in this world, yet it is challenging to adapt to such sudden changes. In the midst of such dramatic changes, there are certain things like values, and ideals that are permanent and eternal. They have a future with a sense of universal applications. On the Fourth Sunday of the Ordinary Time, the readings focus on certain such values which we must imbibe and integrate in our lives particularly, humility, mercy, kindness, righteousness, blessedness, peace and purity of heart. 

1. Called to be blessed at all times

The Gospel writer St Matthew (5:1-12a,gives us Jesus' well-known "Sermon on the Mount." This rich sermon of Jesus speaks about the importance of humility, meekness, peacemaking, righteousness, mourning, mercy, purity, and perseverance in the face of persecution as the path towards spiritual fulfillment. These teachings, known as the "Beatitudes," are considered by many to be a cornerstone of Christian spiritual reflection and practice. "Blessed" means spiritually fortunate and prosperous, blissful, delighted, and content.  In verse 3, Jesus teaches that the spiritually poor, or those who recognize their spiritual poverty and recognize their own limitations, rely completely on God.  In verse 4, those who mourn, or who grieve over their sins and the sins of the world, will be comforted by God.