Sunday, September 22, 2019

Holy Dishonesty: A Kingdom for the Shrewd

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings: Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
(Parable of the Unjust Steward, Jan Luyken)

Perhaps, you are puzzled, confused, disturbed, or shocked after listening to this Gospel reading; and especially the praise of this bad steward.  How can an employee cheat his employer, manager cheat his master and still get appreciation for his cunning dealings. 

Luke 16:10 “Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.”

Jesus is speaking about practical things, things that happen in our everyday life.  Each one of us deal with money, make financial transactions, either big or small.  We own things of others and make our life.

What is the mind of Jesus while he gives us this parable: The parable of the dishonest manager?

Amendments and corrections in one’s life are very important.  Even if they come towards the end of one’s life still they are very significant. 

Just like that thief who at the last minutes of his life on the cross realised his mistake and asks Jesus in saving his life (Luke 23:43).

The master praises not the way his steward managed his things, not his earlier dealings but in order to save himself at the last moment at his job, he makes amendments, becomes gentler to his debtors. Begins to build relationships.   That is what catches the eye of the master. 

What must have felt early Christians reading this parable?
Dismay!  The path early Christians have chosen is important, now is the time to be part of the new Creation.

What is the meaning for us today the Christians of 21st Century?
We are not masters of ourselves, interdependency is the hall mark of our Christian life.  Relationships matter in our everyday life.  We make best use of the things for the greater good.  We should ensure our future, our future in God

Jesus also tells us how to utilize of our material goods for the greater glory of God.

Christ talks of two realms in the Gospel: the realm of the “children of this world” and that of the “children of light”.  The parable, while using what is an extraordinary image in the setting of the realm of the children of this world, is really about how God acts for his purposes in us, who are “children of light” and how we should act for his purposes in that realm.  If the wicked of the children of this world can use the resources at their disposal for their selfish ends, how much more should the children of light should be able to use the resources at their disposal for the purposes of the God whose resources they are.

Children of light are those who are spiritually enlightened contrasted with children of darkness. 
The New Testament speaks of light and darkness. 

Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel (5:14) “You are the light of the world.”  Again, Matthew 8:12 “but the children of the kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” 

In John 12:36, Jesus says “while you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

These week days we have been reading Epistle to the Ephesians.  St Paul writes to Ephesians 5:8 “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light,”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5, St Pauls says, “but you, brothers, do not live in the dark, that the Day should take you unawares like a thief.  No, you are all children of light and children of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness,

There is so much criminality in business and corruption is rampant.  In spite of social welfare, the poor and the needy continue to be exploited and trampled on. It’s reminder that there is a judgment. The very existence of social welfare is the result of social imbalances in the distribution of a community’s wealth.

Prophet Amos who lived in the 8th Century BC speaks about justice and justice of God in the first reading that we heard.

And yet some are even critical of the existence of social welfare.  “Let them work hard like the rest of us!”  One is reminded of the late Bishop Helder Camara of Recife in Brazil.  He was an outspoken critic of injustice in his society.  He used to say: “When I give money to the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.”

Any diminution of human dignity (which demands a certain minimum material standard of living) cannot be tolerated by the conscientious and loving Christian.  Some have been given more talents than others (and the Gospel clearly recognises this) but these gifts are to be used not to get more for oneself but to offer more for the building up of the Kingdom community.  The greater our gifts, the greater our responsibility to share them with those who have less.

We need to be constantly reminded that we are the stewards and never the owners of what we possess.  We have no absolute right to anything we have.  “I can do what I like with my money and property because it’s mine” is not a statement any committed Christian can make.

But what is that message here?  We are stewards of God’s creation. Everything we have, be it material wealth, or the gifts and talents that God has given us, or even our life itself, everything belongs ultimately to God.  Just as we count money, God too counts, but he counts us how much good we do, how sincere, honest we are.  He will, one day, call each of us to himself and require from us an account of our stewardship, and so we must be astute stewards.

God wants everyone to be saved and at the judgment what counts is our sincerity, honesty and goodness (see Luke 16:14).  We have to count on our Lord, be the imitators of Him.  Only then God will also count us and allow us to be part of His life, part of eternity (see John 14:2).

- Olvin Veigas, SJ


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Keeping Face with Life

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Mark Arkalian)
We would like to keep face with life.  Hurdles and difficulties are part and parcel of this destiny of keeping face with life.  We would like to move things the way we would like to, but rarely it happens the way we think.  There are short moments in our life which come as a calm breeze.  They are very essential because they give new impetus to our life in moments of darkness.   

In the last week, I spent quite a good number of hours and days in a hospital.  Having myself made part of hospital life during my illness, interestingly, I feel at home being in the hospital.  I have been given the charge of looking after the old and infirm of our community.  This has made me to make my way to the hospital as often as possible. 

One thought that struck me very strong when I was in the ICU recently is this: People who serve in this precious and sacred place should have incredible generosity.  You need to have a lot patience and resilience to be part of the ICU staff.  With noise of machines tottering every moment without a stop, groaning of those undergoing treatment - a good number of them make their way  UP - the mood in the ICU is not very encouraging.  Since the ICU's are specially arranged, organized and constructed, spending 8-12 hours a day is certainly a tough job.  Moreover, the nursing staff has to be ready to accompany the last moments of those ill and those painful moments, who are lying in a state of "let me go" or let me at least get back to the Ward.

This week, I have to be in the hospital in one way or the other accompanying three of my brother Jesuits, who have to go though the loneliness of hospital life; if one had to go through an operation, other had his kidneys failing and the third found hospital is a better place than a home as old age creeping very powerfully on him.  Being in the hospital, I did a number of things, including encouraging the lay attenders that I have to make adjustments in seeing two patients at once, meeting the doctors who make to the hospital in their own particular time allotted to them, meeting the staff nurses who take care of our patients, who, in fact, give a bitter picture of the person who is under their care than the doctors, consulting the hospital administrative staff to see that insurance and other financial details are settled in good time.
One thing has become clearer to me.  Once you go to the hospital, you are not sure when you will return home.  But there is always joy in being with one's patients.  There is ample time and opportunity to instil hope and positivity in them.  Say a word of appreciation to those nurses, security guards and supporting staff for their incredible and life saving work.  As well as instilling some faith and patience with those other patients, who some times feel left out from this healing grace.  

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

15 September 2019

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ: Life and Legacy

As part of the Diamond Jubilee of Mount St Joseph, 22 August 2019, an exhibition on the life and legacy of Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ was held in the house Aula.  In the following short video we have tried to communicate on this great man of the Church and the Society of Jesus, Fr Pedro Arrupe, whose cause for sainthood is opened recently by declaring him the Servant of God. 

Personally, I am very much inspired by Fr Arrupe a Basque Jesuit.  I came to know him through his writings during my Novitiate training between 1993-95 in Bangalore.  I read a number of articles, talks etc, which were published in book forms.   His life fascinated me passionately because of his experiences in Japan as a missionary and his incredible passion for Christ and the Eucharist.  

During my Roman studies at the Gregorian University between 2003-06, I was living at Collegio Internazionle del Gesù, adjacent to Gesù Church. His remains are buried in this Gesù Church, Rome.  Often, I used to spend a few moments, where a small red electric bulb would ignite a devotion to him.

Interestingly, many Jesuits prayed for my speedy recovering through the intercession of Fr Pedro Arrupe, while I was recovering from severe ulcerative colitis at the Canisio Jesuit Infirmary, Rome in 2015.  I felt that because I was working in Russia, probably Arrupe would be kind enough to intercede for me since I too in some way followed in his footsteps, leaving my home country.

I tried to put together this following video.

Have a nice viewing!

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

10 September 2019

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Let God’s Standard be the Measuring Rod

22nd Sunday in ordinary time. Readings:  Sirach 3:17–18, 20, 28–29; Psalm 68:4–7,10–11; Hebrews 12:18–19, 22–24; Luke 14:1, 7–14
Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Philippe de Champaigne, 1656
The Word of God of today’s liturgy is really enriching and challenging.  Enriching because it gives us new insights and directions for life, challenging because it is quite difficult to practice in our daily life.  In other words, God should be the measuring rod of our life.

The first reading from the Book of Sirach, Ch. 3 and the Gospel reading from Luke ,Ch. 14  point to us three things:

1. What kind of person you are and this will determine your life, your relationships with others.
2. Your life with others will determine the way you share your meals with others.
3. The above two will determine your life in God

1. The first one is your relationships will determine what kind of person you are.

The book of Sirach is full of human experiences and wisdom.  It speaks about your life and my life. The book says be a gentleman and a humble man.  Sirach 3:17–18 (Mt 20:26–28; Phil 2:3–8) “My child, perform your tasks with humility; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.” 

God measures us by our gentleness and meekness. A person with humility will find God’s blessings and God will be with him/her. 

We also see in the book of Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We see a number of references in the New Testament where Jesus emphasises the importance of being humble and kind. 

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Matthew 10:16  “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent/humble as doves.”

Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus makes a special reference to children as the ones who are more humble than anyone else in the world. Matthew 18:4 “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Mary in her magnificat speaks about God’s providential care for those who are lowly and meek.  Luke 1:48 “for he [God] has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” Again in Luke 1:52 “He [God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

Even St James speaks about God’s blessing upon those who are humble; 4:5–6 But he [God] gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

2. The second aspect is your life with others, which has to do with sharing your meals or food with others. “Hungry stomach does not listen” people say.  The very first book of the Bible, Genesis 2:15–16 speaks “and the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.” In fact, God gave the freedom to eat whatever the human person wanted.  Further we see how Abraham was blessed by God for showing his incredible hospitality and sharing a meal with the unknown three strangers who visited him on a very tiring day. 

Genesis 18:2 “He [Abraham] looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.” Sharing a meal with others who are strangers would make God to duly reward them by satisfying their hearts desires. 

In the New Testament, it is Jesus who is the centre of hospitality and kindness.  Jesus often appears to be as a party man.  He enjoyed eating with his people, with his disciples, and with his friends.  He took that opportunity to teach them something very significant.  He taught them important lessons and lessons of life at the table.  This determined his relationship with them. 

Often the opposition front of Jesus, which included Pharisees, saw in him something basically wrong with the way he is going about in his work.  Matthew 9:11  speaks “When the Pharisees saw this [eating], they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus knew the significance of eating a meal with the strangers. When the disciples were sent on a missionary work he tells them, “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you” [Luke 10:8].

Jesus also gives the futurity of the Kingdom of God and what it would be like.  He says “Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God” [Luke 13:29].

Jesus also dined often in the house of Martha and Mary.  He was like their close family friend. When Lazarus died Jesus felt for these two of his sisters.  He raises their brother from death.  Jesus always had a kind heart for those who shared meals with him. 

Finally Jesus completed his preaching ministry very beautifully by sharing of the Passover Meal with his close-knit disciples. “So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal” [Matthew 26:18–19].  Thus through this establishment of Eucharist he gave himself, his Body as our food and his Blood as our drink.  Hence, he could continue to sustain us throughout our earthly life.  This is how Jesus continues to show his unity among us.  

3. Thirdly, our life in God
Therefore to live in a community we too need to have good relationships and meals.  We also need to be humble and meek, kind and generous in our dealings.  We shouldn’t put our standards, standards of this world in the forefront. This will deny the place not only for others but also for us. St. Augustine put it so beautifully how we should deal among ourselves even when the issues of confrontation and arguments come up.  He said, "In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis (or, dubiis) libertas, in utrisque (omnibus) caritas," which means “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."

There is a saying in Russian, “Ребёнок родится голодный и головы.”  It means “a child is born hungry and naked.” Very often we eat the stuff that we don’t need. We put on ourselves things that we don’t need to breath God.  They are seldom either defile us or malnourish us.  

We pray that in everyway let us put God’s standard as the measuring rod. Thus we will be able to see every person and every action that we do through the eyes of God. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ