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.

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.

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)

Please click here to listen to my audio reflections

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.