Friday, April 9, 2021

Being Amazed at the Power of the Resurrection

Second Sunday of Easter: Sunday of Divine Mercy - 11 April 2021

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31 

(Mosaic by Fr Marko Rupnik, SJ)

To listen to my audio reflections please click here

The readings that we have for our liturgies during the Easter Season are centred around the resurrection of Jesus which contain not only what the Risen Lord did to those fear-stricken disciples but also to those who were around them. The beginning chapters of the Acts of the Apostles are full of life and vigour. The resurrection of Jesus brings together all his 11 disciples under a specific community with a particular task: To proclaim the resurrection of the Lord. 

1. Resurrection is courage in place of fear

And the effects of the event of the Resurrection are experienced by those people who follow the apostles of Jesus and see in them a new energy flowing. And it is aptly demonstrated by today's reading. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples are sent out to take God’s peace or “shalom” to the world. Peter becomes a significant figure within the early Christian Community in imitating Christ. If Christ proclaimed his Father’s mission, now Peter the disciple of Jesus proclaims Christ. Because those who have seen the Son have seen the Father, those who saw Jesus, have seen God. 

The healing power of Jesus manifests in Peter now, who is the leader of the group. Peter becomes the symbol of unity which Christ himself proclaimed: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there; if you ask anything in my name it will be bestowed upon you; be united with me as I am with my Father. These words of his master become much more meaningful now, as the effect of Jesus’ name is felt. "The community of believers was of one heart and mind... and great favor was accorded them all" (Acts 4: 32-33).

2. Resurrection is sharing the experience

The resurrection of Jesus brings all the disciples under one roof and one mission, i.e., sharing the peace that they themselves have experienced. Resurrection is possible only when there is death. Without death, there is no resurrection. Resurrection brings a new vision and a new creation in the lives of the disciples. It is quite difficult to grasp exactly the meaning and sense of resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus does not mean that his dead body gets its life back like Lazarus or getting back to the former business, rather it is the transformation of the body of Jesus. 

The resurrection of Jesus is an uncompromising experience where it is shared with all. It does remain in one’s heart or mind. However, it is shared. If this experience remains within you then it is not a resurrection. The resurrection is beyond space and time; it is beyond boundaries or limitations. It is a personal experience which is also an experience of the community. The resurrection narratives help us to understand to a large extent the meaning of resurrection. 

3. Resurrection is communion

The resurrection of Jesus brought together the disciples. It bestowed on them an incredible amount of peace; any kind of torture, pain or suffering that they have to undergo or endure meant nothing at all in the future. The resurrection of Jesus, in other words, the experience of Jesus himself. The experience of Thomas helps us to understand still better the experience of the Risen Lord. He experienced Jesus so much that he even could put his hands into the wounds of Jesus. 

Thomas the Apostle could participate very horrific experience of suffering and pain majestically. With the experience of Risen Jesus, Thomas finds new strength in Jesus. Venturing into any kind of painful experiences is no more fear but strength to proclaim Christ who was crucified. The Disciples of Christ are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ and not adding them. 

The case of Thomas presents to us a lesson that there are people who believe in Christ without experiencing him totally and comprehensively. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” The grace of the Risen Lord is always with us. Thomas is the one who went as far as India to preach the Gospel of Christ soon after his meeting with the Risen Lord. Even after the Resurrection of Jesus the cross never ceased to speak louder than before. 

God’s love for humanity still continues to speak to us through the disciples of Jesus. [Thomas dies a martyr’s death at the hands of a Hindu ruler for objecting to his moral life.] Then the question today that we need to ask is, how we can experience the Risen Jesus. At Easter, we not only commemorate that event of Christ’s resurrection but also we try to experience the Risen Jesus. This herculean task is part of our everyday faith. In faith, hope and love we strive to experience the Risen Jesus. 

4. Resurrection is being with and for others

One of the beautiful experiences of this week is our community outreach program of visiting the Asha Bhavan, a center for battered women and their children run by the Nuns of SCC congregation in a small town called Malur, just 45 kilometres from the city of Bangalore. The Sisters also run a mission hospital. Interacting with the Sisters and their collaborators and the inmates, what we gather is that many continue to live in endless passion week. Unfortunately, they happen to be women, children and widows. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse by the drunkard husbands, gang rapes by the inhuman men and the tale goes endlessly of these cruel, uncivil, evil and criminals in our society who continue to rob the dignity as a human person. The work done by the centers like Asha Bhavan is certainly a resurrection for many women and children as it gives them hope in times of despair, courage in times of fear, peace in times of distress. 

We are all Christians because of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrected Jesus continues to fill our void, emptiness, daily boredom and routine life, anxieties and fears, struggles and temptations. What we need is a faith that is convinced and content. We must believe so that our faith should move mountains as Jesus says.

Resurrected Jesus brings the disciples joy and serenity, happiness and hope. The disciples become builders of a community that shared the ideals of Jesus. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we offer ourselves to God, so that we become a community of true harmony and peace where resurrected Jesus resides amidst us. Amen.

Questions for Reflections 
1. How have you been living the resurrection experiences of the disciples during this Eastertide?
2. What are those captivating resurrection narratives from the scripture enthrall you when you hear them?
3. What kind of image you want to foster in your family or community when you read those passages from the early Christian communities?
4. In what ways can we take Christ’s peace into the world and cultivate the fullness of life, for all our sisters and brothers in need?

Prayer
 “My Lord and my God,” we believe you are risen from the dead. Empowered by the Holy Spirit may we take your peace into the world and build a better future for all. And awaken all criminals, whether convicted or free, to the light of conscience and self-knowledge, that they may learn to serve you and their fellow man and woman, and so find their place at your side when they leave this earth. In Christ’s name, I beseech you on their behalf. Amen.  

- Olvin Veigas, SJ
9th April 2021

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Empty Tomb and the Reality of the Resurrection

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord: 04 April 2021

Mass Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

(The Resurrection of Christ, 2006. Mosaic, by Fr Marko Rupnik, SJ, at St. Stanislaus College Chapel, Ljubljana, Slovenia.)


1. Empty tomb means entering into the mystery of God's life

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). These are the first words of Mary Magdeline to the two close disciples of Jesus, Peter and John which she must have uttered with utter disbelief, panic and fear when she did not find Jesus in the tomb. The first Easter day is filled with full of emotions. Horror or fear grips the disciples as they find that someone had carried away the body of Jesus. We also notice confusion as they saw the empty tomb and the clothes lying on the ground. “Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.” (John 20:8). As we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we praise him for his glory. Christ’s resurrection is something very special. It is rising from death and he will die no more. It’s about someone who has risen to an entirely new form of life, eternal life. It is a mystery of the reality of God's way of acting and perfecting us. So that we are not locked ourselves or to lie buried in the tomb of our own inadequacies of sin, evil habits, discouragement, doubt or to flee from what we fail to understand, or to close our eyes to problems or deny them.

We notice in wonder and awe, peace and joy as the disciples finally realized what all this meant – that Christ has risen from the dead. We can imagine the scene by ourselves and how both Peter and John must have accompanied Mary Magdeline hurriedly back to the tomb. The very physical absence of Jesus at the wake of his death put the disciples in utter confusion and powerlessness. All that they went through including Mary, the mother of Jesus must have been sufficient for the rest of their lives to recollect and to mourn. Fascinatingly, the very empty tomb will be a cause of their joy and a new vision for a new life in Christ Jesus. Encountering Jesus in the empty tomb is the experience of Easter. Since the crucifixion of Jesus, several incidents take place in quick succession. As we read the last chapters of all the four Gospels, the sequence of things happening especially the resurrection narratives call for amazement and wonder. Christ is risen and now things have to be moved quickly in order to keep face with the Risen Lord.

2. A new dawn is inevitable if we believe in Jesus

The Risen Lord speaks very little in the resurrection episodes. However, the resurrected Jesus begins to speak boldly in and through the words and actions in the lives of the disciples and those who believed in him. The resurrected Jesus does not manifest his glory either to the scribes or to the Pharisees or to the Roman rulers. The disciples begin to experience immense strength and power. This is what we see in today's first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10. Peter is now no more Peter that we see before the crucifixion of Jesus, betraying, confused, imprudent or hasty. After experiencing the Risen Lord Peter is bold, energetic and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus calls us in spite of our unworthiness and incapacities, the Master knows how to make us worthy and capable. In the physical absence of Jesus, a new era of Jesus movement begins. The empty tomb is no more a symbol of fear and helplessness. The very empty tomb becomes a sign and symbol of Jesus' very presence among them, in fact, bolder than before his death. Perhaps our Lord is teaching us an important lesson that is nothing is impossible for God. In fact, Jesus defeated death itself, we rejoice and are glad. We are filled with hope, and that we can make a difference.  

With the rising of Jesus from the dead, death is no more a barrier to the fullness of life. Death cannot put any more limits on human life. In fact, with this great episode, human life was overcome by the snare of death.  Here Christ’s humanity enjoyed a new and glorious existence, perfectly radiating the glory of his divinity with his new form of life. And that’s what God makes available to us, a share of his own life, a share of God’s own glory, which will glorify our bodies at the time of our own resurrection from death.

3. Easter is a once and for all event

With the resurrection, the short but robust public ministry of Jesus comes to an end in one sense but in another sense, it continues or renews with its complete vigour and energy as disciples become more and more Christ-centered. The Easter event puts an end to the timidity and unfocused life of the disciples. Easter makes the disciples new persons with special blessings and graces. There is no more denying, betraying, or looking for a place of power. Easter is more of reinvigorating experience and the disciples would gather more witnesses to Christ than he himself did during his public ministry. With the resurrection, Jesus would not be doing things of healing, preaching, and breaking of the bread by himself directly but in and through his disciples.  Jesus will continue to live in eternity with the Father. The salvation that is won by Jesus through his passion, death and resurrection will be continued to be celebrated with the breaking of the bread and sharing of wine at the Eucharist. The memory of Jesus will continue to be celebrated in the length and breadth of this world.  

A new dawn, a new morning is very important to make our life meaningful after such a long time of suffering or worn out lifestyle. Chaos and painful experiences could become opportunities for us to encounter the Risen Lord. Easter calls us for a life of renewal. The power of the resurrection makes all things new and fresh. All the more, Jesus gives us the strength as we move ahead in the life of light and love to chase away the dark moments of our lives when we meet evil and emptiness. May this Easter be a sure sign of hope, peace and joy. 

Christ is risen. Alleluia! 

Questions for Reflections:
1. How does the joy of this risen Jesus want to touch you this Easter Day?
2. What would have been your reaction if you had taken the place of Mary Magdeline and found the tomb empty?
3. Where will you place yourself in the experience of Risen Jesus?
4. How can you be an Easter person concretely in your family, community, parish or workplace?

Prayer: Risen Lord, as we celebrate your resurrection, we give you thanks for your glory. Fill our hearts with your love, so that we too may renew the face of the earth. Give us courage Lord, that this renewal may inspire us to do what we can to bring about a change for better in our own lives and in our world.   We make this prayer through our Risen Lord. Amen.  

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

03 March 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jesus at the Table - A Lasting Endless Meal

Holy (Maundy) Thursday: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: 01 April 2021

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples

To listen to my audio reflections click here

1. A lasting memory of Jesus at the Eucharist
One of the beautiful expressions of our Christian faith is participating in the Eucharist. This great sacrament was instituted on Holy Thursday evening when Jesus ate his last Passover meal with his 12  disciples. Incidentally, this last meal with his apostles on that very dramatic evening in Jerusalem is also solemnized and made as a memorial for the ages to come. This particular meal that Jesus ate with his close disciples is immortalized in the background of Jesus' imminent passion and death on the Cross. There is no other meal in the world that is remembered or repeated as that of Last Supper which took place 2000 years ago.

Today is not a day of preaching but a day of praying. It is not the words that matter to us but the silence and attention to what is happening on that evening. Lord's last supper is full of imageries, symbols and actions. The words of Jesus at that last supper add some sort of colour and aroma to what is taking place in that evening. With this Holy Week, we conclude our fasting, lamentation, and look for many gifts and lessons that Jesus reveals to us during the last Lenten days. 

Let us imagine ourselves on that very evening which is full of tension and vibrations. Put yourself in that evening with the disciples and imagine what is happening there. You sit in a corner and watch the scene which unfolds as a drama. As the scripture tells us that it was Jesus who wanted to eat the last Passover meal with his close-knit band of disciples. The whole meal and the evening gets ready almost in sequence as Jesus himself says to his two disciples “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there. The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover" (Mark 14:13-15).

2. Jesus' whole outlook including meal is communitarian

Jesus in his public ministry did not do any miracle either of healing or of binding alone or in the absence of people. Always his disciples or someone else accompanied him and witnessed it. It was an act of the community. The support and encouragement of the community or friends mattered a lot in Jesus' public ministry. We may assume that Jesus got some sort of assurance, encouragement and security with the presence of his disciples. Jesus never got tired to be with his apostles. The mission of Jesus is the mission of the community. The work of Jesus becomes the work of his disciples. Therefore, Jesus must have instituted the Eucharist that night with the sole purpose of making it a venture of the community, a community that well-knit in every way. We may ask why Jesus did not eat his Passover meal with other people. Why Jesus did not institute the Eucharist while healing those people or while the folk gathered together to listen to him? There is certainly something significant meaning we might be able to attach to it. 

Whenever the apostles gathered in Jesus' name, from that time on, the wine and bread would remind them of him and being present. It would, in fact, be his body and blood, our Eucharist. This is a reminder that we will never be without Jesus. Even the agony and episode of Good Friday that Jesus endured would tell us that we need not be in despair. Even in his agony he looks at us and gives us courage, strength and grace. And finally, the glory would be coming. Jesus, the Lord, and Our God humbled himself to serve all of us. What possible reason can we have for not loving and serving any person that God has created? Jesus underlined humility, love and service in the last hours with the disciples.

3. We need to celebrate the past graces

The depth dimension of Christ's act of the last supper is also a commemoration of that great incidence where the Israelites moved safely from the clutches of the Pharaoh and other Egyptians by passing through the dead sea. When Jesus celebrates the first Passover he makes a lasting Passover with our continuing link with this memorial many thousands of years later. As Yahweh said that the first Passover "shall be a memorial feast for you" (Ex 12:14) with Jesus we continue to mark every year with a new meaning and understanding. 

Eucharist becomes real when it is celebrated with a joyful and ever-ready witness. To celebrate Eucharist we do not need everyone. It is not a ritual to be performed but a love to be shared. Jesus was ever ready to put himself at the feet of his disciples. As Jesus himself said, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).  

Jesus' other act on that evening cannot go unnoticed: the washing of the feet of the disciples. Breaking the bread and washing the feet of others go hand in hand. Only when we wash the feet of others, I mean when I serve others, when others become part of my life only then Eucharist becomes meaningful. Jesus takes on himself the role of a slave and washes the disciples’ feet, provoking a protest from Peter. When Jesus washes the feet of his disciples he acts out a kind of prophetic sign or sacrament of his whole life and mission. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God. This is what it means to love ‘to the end’ – to show the incomprehensible love of God. The disciples of Jesus have to be identified as those who follow master's example and love to the end, despite their (and our) failures, fragilities, betrayals and denials. The Eucharistic meal makes sense only if it is linked to a passion, to redemption-your own and others'. It will bear the fruit for which Christ was lifted up only if you become Eucharists for the life of the world. 

Questions for your Reflections
1. As you imagine Jesus on that Holy Thursday what is in your heart as he acts and speaks?
2. How do you want to respond to the example Jesus is setting here?
3. What is it like for Jesus to know that one of his closest friends will betray him?

Prayer:
Father in Heaven, the light of your truth bestows sight to the darkness of sinful eyes. May this season of repentance bring me the blessing of Your forgiveness and the gift of Your light. We adore you O Christ, and we praise you; For by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

31 March 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Moved by the Lord on the Cross

 Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: 28 March 2021

Readings: Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1—15:47

(Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem)

To listen to my audio reflections click here

 

1. Context of the celebration

As we commemorate Palm Sunday we are exactly one year since we began to feel the heat of the corona pandemic and its consequences. We have spent a year of anxiety and dreadful fear as some of us lost our dear and near ones, others experienced what this Covid-19 actually is with its nasty symptoms of temperature going up and down, body ache, unending cough, and throat infection. And others those with comorbidities and other ailments or illnesses had to postpone the surgeries, wait for the senior consultants in the hospitals to return to work, and so on.  No other time in the history of humanity experienced such a worldwide phenomenon whereof the whole global world on its knees with illness. Currently, the world is carrying a cross; humanity is placed on its shoulder a cross which is undoubtedly heavy, unbearable, and uncomfortable. Only God knows how long this cross will be carried. In this context of having no respite of this global illness, we begin to commemorate this Palm Sunday which takes into the Holy Week where we will contemplate Christ’s last days on this earth as a human person. In fact, the Holy Week embodies one of the richest liturgical weeks in our Christian life. A lot of significance is attached to this special period called “Holy Week” with varied forms of symbols being expressed and our faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ is renewed and strengthened.

2. Voice of people turns from resounding joy to bitter betrayal

On this Palm Sunday, we are asked again to be moved by the Cross of Salvation. In other words, the Cross of Christ should move us to see a future in God.  Jesus is exalted as the readings of this Sunday liturgy tell us. Jesus is proclaimed as king by the voice of the people. Vox Populi, the voice of people becomes a popular sign in order place Jesus on the seat of power. This contrasts with the Passion story, which we also hear today. Unfortunately, this short-lived exaltation of Jesus by the people and his ride on a donkey on the streets of Jerusalem turns out to be a human drama of unfaithfulness, bigotry, and betrayal. Within a few days of the shouts of joy and the triumphant entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem, Jesus is betrayed by his own people. At the court of Pontius Pilate when the scribes and Pharisees shout at the top of their voice “crucify him” not a single soul who put the garments on the roads and held the palms in the hands to usher a new era of Kingship of Jesus was not present to say “release him”. The human witnesses fail, falter and flee.

While speaking about our weakness or woundedness or fragility or incompleteness in ourselves, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy in her book Now is the Time writes “we must accept the shadow side of ourselves. True self-knowledge lays bare the fact that each of us is part light and part darkness, part angel and part monster. It is precisely at the point of acceptance of our fragility and our brokenness that true development and growth can take place.” Often it is our brokenness that we project on others and make others as victims. Probably, the scribes and the Pharisees of the time were so much given to the dreaded and useless religious laws and bigotry of the time they projected brokenness of the system of truth and justice resulting in rejecting the person of Jesus as their own flesh and blood.

3. Memory of the people is short-lived

The Gospels record the bitter truth of the reality of life that is ungratefulness. There must have been hundreds and thousands of people who experienced healing through Jesus’ consoling words and his healing touch. His words of wisdom and courage must have strengthened them and must have brought the families together. Many of the Pharisees like Simon and those who came to dine in his house with Jesus, Nicodemus who came to see Jesus in the night, Roman soldiers like Centurion, and others must have benefited from the proximity and kindness of Jesus. However, when Jesus is on his way to condemnation, not a single soul came forward to rescue Jesus or give witness so that he would be released. The memory of the people is short-lived. Perhaps this point is very important for us to ponder at the wake of the persecution of Christians in our own country. The number of lies and bad press mounted on the Christians and on their good works is a book in itself. The majority of people who receive help from us are non-Christians – Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, tribals, etc. either through our educational institutions, hospitals and dispensaries, social work centers, mass media and communication systems like community radio’s, popular journals, newspapers, through pastoral work in our parishes and so on and so forth. 

Perhaps today is the day to see what is that makes people to forget the good that they received from us. With Jesus, we may have to ask "why did you strike Me?”  (John 18:12) because for a long time nobody has asked why Nuns and their convents are attacked? Why are our educational institutions attacked by its own students, why our churches and simple Christian folks' homes or properties in places like Kandhamal in Orissa are destroyed? Where are those people who received the help from Fr Stan Swamy now when at the age of 83 is caged in the prison? Perhaps the caged bird may be singing as he himself writes but why the uncaged birds are not singing? Even though Jesus would tell us we should not expect anything in return but he would condemn those who are ungrateful for the services one received (The healing of 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19). 

4. People continue to inspire us

Just a few days ago, on the 24th of March marked the 40th death anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvadore and now Saint Oscar Romero. He was a person of the people who spoke about the repression and oppression of the poor and the people by the government of the time. Just a day before his assassination, Archbishop Romero denounced the government of the time with these words: "The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'Thou shalt not kill’. In the name of God, and in the name of these suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!” Archbishop Romero was shot dead on 24 March 1980, aged 62, while celebrating Mass. In the ensuing decade, some 70,000 Salvadorans were killed in the civil war. Even in our own country persons like Sister Rani Maria, Fr A T Thomas, Dr Graham Steins and his two sons, Fr Stan Swamy, people of Kandhamal continue to inspire us not to give up our faith but to speak the truth.  

I am sure Palm Sunday and Good Friday have great lessons to teach us. Without Palm Sunday there is no Good Friday and no Good Friday without Palm Sunday. The reality of human existence is most often cruel and hostile. None of us is perfect, but this Holy Week, let’s try to be more like the joyful crowd on the way into Jerusalem. Let us be brave and speak out. Let us lift our voices and refuse to be quieted. As disciples of Jesus who have to follow the master not only in reading his life story through the lenses of history but also in actuality involving ourselves in his works of mercy and compassion whatever the consequences of such actions be. Because our gaze is always upon him, for we are moved by the Lord on the Cross. 

Questions for Reflections

1. Can you think of a time in life when you have fallen in with the crowd, even though it didn’t feel right? 

2. Or a time when you knew you should have stood up for someone or something, but like Peter, you just weren’t courageous enough?  

3. Palm  Sunday takes you to Jerusalem to be with Jesus in his final journey.  Jesus knows the danger he is in. What’s your sense of how he’s feeling as he journeys? What keeps him moving forward?

4. This, and all the events of the holy week are being done for you. Speak for a few moments to Jesus out of that awareness.

Prayer:

God our loving Father, forgive us for the times we have lost courage and been unable to speak up for what we know is right, or when we have been too easily led by others. Strengthen our voice to speak from my heart. May those whose voices are often silenced because of varied reasons or exclusion make themselves heard at last. You know well the dangers that threaten to overwhelm us. We feel at times powerless to stop them, and we find ourselves in great need of your protection. Deliver us from evil, God, not only temptation but also the very real dangers we face these days. Make us realize that our lives are fully in your hands and that we only need to trust you. We make this prayer in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

27th March 2021

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Annunciation of the Lord and Blessed Virgin Mary's Role

 Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord: 25 March 2021

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10; Psalms 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38

(Annunciation - Art by Fr Mark Rupnik, SJ)

The feast of St Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19th), and the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary (March 25th) is celebrated in close proximity. The days in between these feasts are very few. There is also a reason why the Annunciation of the Lord happens on the 25th of March and not any other day. Because according to the Gregorian calendar that we follow the timeline between the Annunciation and Christmas (December 25th) is exactly nine months! I suppose we get the point without much explanation.

1. God's divine action  plan begins with Mary's "Yes"

Many of the Catholic women religious congregations celebrate this feast of the Annunciation of the Lord with utmost devotion and as a titular feast. Mary's fiat voluntas tua, "Behold! I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:35) is celebrated on this day. On this beautiful day, God not only chooses Mary as the woman in whom the Second person of the Trinity will be born but also Mary becomes an integral part of divine life having conceived by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Church venerates her as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. In other words, it's a sign that God continues to journey with humanity, with his people. A few lines from the scriptures support the role of Mary strongly: "When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, to enable us to become his adopted sons and daughters" (Gal 4:4); Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called the Son of the Most High" (Luke 2:10). The event of Incarnation takes a definite shape in the world with Mary's 'yes' to the Lord of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Jesus the Source of Eternal Salvation

5th Sunday of Lent: 21 March 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

(Cross judges evil - Photo courtesy Jean Mark Arakelian)

The scriptural readings for the 5th Sunday of Lent are not only difficult but also challenging. The conversation that happens between Jesus and the Greeks speaks about Jesus' imminent passion, death and resurrection. Greeks are known for their knowledge and wisdom. They approach Jesus through Philip who must have known Greek as his name suggests. Interestingly, Jesus places before them a few very powerful statements which surely draw our attention as well. "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24); "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (Jn 12:25); "Whoever serves me must follow me;" "where I am, there also will my servant be;" "The Father will honor whoever serves me" (Jn 12:26); "Now is the time of judgment on this world" (Jn12:31); "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32). Drawing up from the above words of Jesus we might gather very significant reflections.

1. Life is like a grain of wheat

Our life here on earth is temporal, fragile, vulnerable, finite, limited, unfinished, short and uncertain. Prophet Job would say "man’s days are numbered" (Job 14:5-7).  He further says, "naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return" (Job 1:21). And the Psalmist would pray "So teach us to number our days," (Psalm 90:12) in other words, help us to remember that our days are numbered, and help us to interpret our lives correctly. Perhaps death is the ultimate test of who we are, the moment of our personal judgement, just because we have nowhere to hide, no masks that will hold, and no one to stand in our stead. For the Gospel writer John, the cross is the key to glory. Death is the threshold of life.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Silent yet Strong Saint Joseph

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 19 March 2021

Annunciation to Saint Joseph

When we mention the name of St Joseph, the very first thing that comes to our mind is a man in utter calm and silence. Joseph, the husband of Mary does not speak in the scriptures; he is a man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence. He is a listener moreover a doer. All the four dreams (Mt 2:20-21; 2:13; 2:18-21; 2:22) through which he comes to know the Will of God do not say anything about him except that he followed the voice. In fact, he followed the voice boldly.

1. Silence means attentive holy listening

When Virgin Mary hears the voice of God through the angel Gabriel her first reaction was "how can this be, since I am a virgin" (Lk 1:34) However, when Joseph hears the voice of God there was complete "yes." Probably that is why we can write a lot about Joseph. With Pope Francis's "Patris Corde" apostolic letter St Joseph is once again back in the Church to reflect and meditate during this difficult year of the pandemic. St Joseph is the model in every sense of the word. In the current times when the political leaders of our countries seem to be turning out to be just verbal monsters than the listening leaders, St Joseph is a person we need to look for intercession. The Gospel of Mathew, while giving us the genealogy of Jesus says "Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ" (Mt 1: 16). Interestingly we also read in the book of Genesis, the father of Joseph was Jacob who was called Israel (Gen 35:22-26).  Further, we hear a very fascinating story of Joseph of the Old Testament. "When extreme drought came to all the land of Egypt and the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you” (Gen 41:55). Joseph of the New Testament is a reminder for us that when we listen to Him, God will do everything for us.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Faith Brings Salvation

 4th Sunday of Lent: 14 March 2021

Readings: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 Psalm 137:1-6; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

(Pensive Jesus)

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1. Faith heals you

Faith is a very significant and dominant theme in Chrisitan spirituality either in theory or in practice. "Faith has set you free", "faith has healed you" Jesus would extol the person when he or she sought his healing and liberation. The history of salvation which begins with the Father of Faith Abraham is nothing but a journey of faith (Genesis chapter 12). For St Paul too faith is a pillar on which his whole corpus of writings is situated and founded. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

World is our Monastery

3rd Sunday of Lent: 07 March 2021 

Readings: Exodus 20:1–17; Psalm 19:8–11; 1 Corinthians 1:22–25; John 2:13–25

(Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple ca. 1570)

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I. Jesus takes the initiative

As Lent progresses, the readings that we have on this third Sunday of Lent invite us to move beyond our usual thinking. The Gospel says: "He [Jesus] made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15). Probably it might shock us to see Jesus in a hasty action, a bit in rage, angry at the people, full of emotions who were doing merchandise in the courtyard of the temple. In place of healing ministry, Jesus is busy with the cleansing ministry, that too a bit violent way - drove out animals, scattered the money of the moneychangers, flipped tables. What a sight that must have been in the temple square! Didn't he have other ways of chasing those people from the temple area? Why Jesus was so much annoyed, unhappy at the way things were going on there? By challenging the economic apparatus in that time and place, Jesus redirects us to avoid the distractions of earthly rewards and to instead focus on our relationship with Him.