Sunday, February 9, 2020

God will Shine on You and Make You Bright

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: - Readings: Isaiah 58:7–10; 1 Corinthians 2:1–5; Matthew 5:13–16

The readings of today make us to reflect over who we are in this world. They also remind us that our faith can never be a private affair, something we can hide as if under a basket.

Taking the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we see that God has a special place for each one of us.  We are never alone. In general, the running theme in today's reading clarifies our identity and vocation as Christians. We are someone before the Lord when we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked and heal the sick. Because God is merciful, generous, and just. His arms are open, he gives without counting. God does not know our mathematics, our measures. He is unlimited in love. Hence, He invites us to be so.

The power of God is beyond telling, look at Paul, a person alien to our faith but turned completely upside down with his change of life’s direction. A man given himself completely to the ideology of his religion, opens up to the Spirit of the Lord. Once his life is offered to Jesus there is no looking back. He becomes the founder of many Christian communities. This Paul brought faith to more people than anyone else and helped to shape what we now call Christianity. People listen to him, non-Jews listen to him. He feels humbled by the power of God and how it is working in the lives of people and in his own life. Paul feels deep within that it is not his talent, intelligence that led the people to form communities in Christ but the power of the crucified Christ. He recounts his initial fear when he visited Corinth to proclaim Christ; he came with "fear and trembling". But with the power of God, he could bring so much fruit to the Corinthian community. Therefore, before the power of God human wisdom has no standing.

Paul doesn’t try to draw people by strength, confidence or even certainty. But instead shows who he really is to them – and so who Christ really is. To be Christian is to choose a God who became human, a God who chose to be vulnerable – a God who draws us to each other through our vulnerability. We are called to find ourselves- to be whole- to be as vulnerable as we are- and, in this vulnerability, this humanity, to find God. We could ask ourselves how we take our own vulnerability, limitedness before the pressures of this world. Often we are surrounded by a pressure to be strong and if to be weak is to be broken. How do you experience this pressure? Do you feel comfortable with it... or is it a strain?

Living in God is living in vulnerability. St Paul recognises that, in speaking to the Corinthians, he was weak and fearful yet he continues this great task of demonstrating power in faith. Think of those times and ways in which you have felt weak and fearful...perhaps times when you have been under pressure to perform – how did this feel? How did you deal with this? Did the pressure overcome you or did you overcome it?

To be Christian is to choose a God who chose to be vulnerable. God is almighty yet he chooses to be with us in our does it feel to choose a vulnerable God? Ours is a relationship of vulnerability. As people who choose this God of vulnerability we, like St. Paul, are drawn to follow Him in becoming fully human...becoming open, vulnerable and real. Pope John XXIII said that “Tenderness is strength at its fullest”.

In today's Gospel Jesus puts so beautifully how we should be: ‘You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world’ he says. Salt and light are metaphors about the world. Salt gives taste whereas light takes away the darkness. With these metaphors of salt and light, we might firmly affirm that we should be Christians whose life matter. We should affect others. We cannot be like a stagnate water but flowing fresh river water. There must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbors and fellow citizens, should see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths of the Gospel. If we live for Christ, we will glow like light. Thus we can be a beacon of hope for others.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

09th February 2020

Sunday, February 2, 2020

God has His Say in Everything

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Readings: Malachi 3:1–4; Hebrews 2:14–18; Luke 2:22–40
(The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Fra Angelico, 1440-1442)

Today’s feast marks the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, forty days after he was born. As the firstborn, he belonged to God. According to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph were required to take him to the Temple and “redeem” him by paying five shekels or a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. At the same time, the Law required the child’s mother to offer sacrifice in order to overcome the ritual impurity brought about by childbirth.

What is fascinating and prominently make their presence felt in this Scripture passage are two elderly people, Simeon and prophetess Anna. Both came to the temple where Jesus would be presented because of the promptings of the Holy Sprit. Interestingly, both were looking for something extraordinary in their peak of life or in their ripe age.  Finally they meet whom for so long they had prayed, read in the prophetic writings and heard from their Rabbis.

The senior Simeon astonishes both the parents of Jesus, especially the mother, Mary. She would be coming to know here first sorrow among the seven sorrows mentioned in the Gospels.  This will be a source of deep pain for the Mother, something she will not realize fully until she sees him die in agony before her eyes.  Simeon's words must have been very puzzling and even alarming to Mary and Joseph. I suppose no mother would like to hear such bad futuristic thoughts about their child.

Every parent would like to know the future of the child, what this child would become; what it would accomplish, etc.?  Parents have dreams for their children. It is rightly to have dreams for one's offsprings.

Simeon also gives us a very challenging prayer, which we do everyday Compline, Night Prayer, in other words, whenever we recite "Nunc dimittis" from  the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 29 through 32, meaning "Now you dismiss".
"Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace. You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness; the glory of your people Israel."

Both these elderly persons of the Lucan Gospel, Simeon and Anna remind us that God has His say in everything, even at the last moments of our life. It could be even when we have gone through rough sea's of life; in things which must have been really difficult and disappointing. Still we could give a chance to God to do his job for us. He will have his say and that would be the right one, promising one, and which we must have been waiting for so long.

The presence of Jesus must have been such an astonishing event in their long lives of Simeon and Anna. All the pain of being a widow, childless that she must must have been carrying on for more than 60 years of life must have vanished with that wink of seeing Jesus, the little baby in the arms his mother, Mary.

The presence of Jesus is must for every Christian where ever they are. The liturgy invites us to be the presence of Jesus in the world around us and to be able to recognize Jesus as revealed or made present by others.
Saint Teresa of Avila puts it so beautifully how and what it means to be the presence of Jesus in the world:
God of love, help us to remember 
That Christ has no body now on earth but ours 
No hands but ours, No feet but ours 
Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world. 
Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now. 
Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
And, to recognize Jesus made present by others, we perhaps need to, as Simeon and Anna did, rely on God’s grace.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

02nd February 2020