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Friday, June 18, 2021

Be not be Afraid - God is with us

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 20th June 2021

Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

(Photo courtesy: Jan Brueghel the Elder, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee - 1596) 

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here (The link will appear soon)

1. Bold faith drives away fear

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4: 40). These words of Jesus addressed to his disciples on the rockinging boat in the Sea of Galilee must encourage us in this time of great turmoil. It is not always the statements or assertions that strengthen us but the right questions when we are afraid and frightful. The straightforward questions from authoritative figures reassure us to fall back on the right path. 

Storms can be scary. Storms rage suddenly without much of our notice. This natural phenomenon takes us off our guard. Often we are afraid even of silly things. Storms both in nature and personal life teach us a number of lessons. It is always a question of how we brace the storms of life and nature's fury. Natural storms cause a lot of damage to our properties like plantations, houses, factories, infrastructure, etc. Even though it's natural to have storms, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis due to the natural phenomena, yet when we see its destructive nature, we feel shattered. Never we miss a chance to call such forces as originating from the evil spirit, and even we conclude that it's a sign of God's wrath and the end of the world. Unfortunately, we can foolishly conclude such a phenomenon. 

2. We cling unto the strongest in times of fear

The experience of the disciples on the boat is of frightening nature. They see only death and destruction in front of the raging storm. Certainly, this might not have been the first experience to the disciples as they were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives fishing on this huge lake. They had experienced terrible storms in Jesus' absence. But this time, the storm was emphatically destructive in nature. Strangely, they feel now that in spite of the good company of Jesus the disciples thought that they are drowning. Often very fear itself drowns a person than the cause that might lead to.  It is natural to be afraid of something or someone when we do not have those persons who happen to be our bedrock. There are times that we feel, lost, afraid in spite of having a sure support in our backyard. This is what happens to the disciples of Jesus. He is there in their midst. Yet the disciples lose confidence in their ability to save themselves or in the reassuring presence of the Lord. However, the protection of the Lord is always there. As the Psalmist says, "the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord preserves the simplehearted; I was helpless, and He saved me" (Psalm 116:5-6).

3. Embracing a faith that is bigger than fear

Perhaps we need to have faith that is bigger than fears. We are in the ordinary times of the year and the liturgical readings on each day are helping us to journey with Jesus and his disciples. Thus allowing us to relive the experience of His words, and deeds, and coming to know and believe in Him as they did. As we pray and meditate upon the Word of God daily in our lives, Jesus should be our source of strength and inspiration. Jesus must be the guiding lamp and a signpost. 

Behind every storm there is power, energy and strength.  It is a power that is beyond our control. Perhaps we may not understand and may not be able to identify that force, certainly, a force beyond our human comprehension. In fact both in the first reading  Job 38:1, 8-11 and the Gospel reading Mark 4:35-41 we see there are storms and the storms are calmed by the power of God.  Bad weather is not the only storm or hurricane that we encounter in life. In our life, we have to withstand various types of storms of life. They might be personal illness or illness of close members of our family, bad medical reports, loss of job, unable to find proposal, failure to get promotions, lack of clarity in choosing a state of life, accidents, inability to secure a seat in a school or college or university, loss of pay due to pandemic, fear of the pandemic or anxious about ageing, etc. The list is endless. We must know that despite everything we are ultimately in God’s hands.

4. In faith, we are not alone
Both, the first reading and the Gospel speak about storms, and the storms are calmed by the power of the Lord. Jesus tells his disciples that they should have faith, that in their faith journey they are not alone. When the storms arise, Jesus will be there to help them. He calmed the waves and quieted the wind. Will he not calm the storms of our life? If even the wind and sea obey Him, shouldn’t we trust Him in the chaos and storms of our own lives?

We have to get used to all kinds of storms and difficulties in our lives. There’s illness, loss of loved ones, and actual storm damage. Things don’t always go the way we would like them to, but Jesus is there with us, through the good and the bad, calming the winds and helping us through. Just like he calmed the storm in that lake so too Jesus has the power to rebuke the wind and sea of our lives. The power of God is immense. The words of Prophet Isaiah are very pertinent here: 
When I came, why was there no one?
    When I called, why was there no one to answer?
Was my arm too short to deliver you?
    Do I lack the strength to rescue you?
By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea,
    I turn rivers into a desert;
their fish rot for lack of water
    and die of thirst. (Isaiah 50:2)

Jesus teaches us a number of things through the passage. We need to leave behind our old ways and travel with him in the little ship of the Church. As we see in St Mark's Gospel which is the first Gospel to be written in the New Testament addresses the pressing problem of its day. That is horrendous persecution on the First Christians. Therefore this passage is a comforting one as well as encouraging one to have that unflinching, unshakable, resolute and single-minded trust in the Lord. We should trust in Christ, and trust like Christ—who was able to sleep through the storm, confident that God was with Him. As Paul says to the Romans "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

5. Let's not give up come whatever

The context in which we are living today enables us to trust in the Lord evermore stronger. Many of us might have felt that the boats of our lives have been swamped or swept away by the waves. Some of us might have felt that Jesus is asleep, perhaps he must have been in deep sleep. We must have been unhappy the way he has been dealing with us, inattentive to our needs. However, we have those consoling words of Jesus calling us to have faith. All will not be on our side every time as we wish to be, yet, he is there watching us, giving us the courage to brace the storms of life. With a strong faith in Jesus all is not lost, for he is with us today and always. 

Along with a deep faith that can move mountains as Jesus reassures us we must cultivate to be a people of hope. Jesus’ eyes are fixed on each of us and especially those of us who feel overwhelmed by the destructive nature of the Corona pandemic. Being a friend of Jesus means having that great trust and hope that he will lift us up with his hands. Therefore we should hold on to him and he will do the rest for us. 

 Questions for reflections:

1. Have you ever felt unsettled by the power of a storm? 
2. How do you react to the vision of Jesus here? He’s not scared like the disciples, but calm and in control of the sea and storm – how does this image of Jesus rest with your own idea of what Jesus was like?
3. How do you react to the events in your own life that scare you as this storm scared the disciples? Do you go to Jesus for help, or do you try to figure things out on your own?
4. How did it feel to be in the boat with the disciples? What thoughts and feelings were stirred within you? Share these with the Lord now, and perhaps ask him to calm any storms in your own life.  

Prayer: 

Jesus my strength and hope, help me to be attentive to the needs of my sisters and brothers during these troubled times. Help me to advocate for calm conditions so that every person, wherever they are in the world, may sail the boat of their own lives without fear of the storm and be artisans of their own destiny. God, kindle in my heart within, a flame of love to my neighbour, to my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all; To the brave, to the coward, to the man and woman in the street. 

God, let your Holy Spirit be powerful to direct my thinking today. Inspire my thinking, decisions and intuitions. Help me to relax and take it easy. Free me from doubt and indecision.  God, show me what I need to do to take care of any problems. I ask all these things that I may be of maximum service to you and my fellow brothers and sisters. In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

18 June 2021

PS: If you feel like listening to a beautiful hymn written by Rev. Charles Albert Tindley "When the Storms of Life are Raging Stand by Me" please click to listen. 

- Karnataka Jesuits are doing Covid related relief work in those places where they are based within the territory of Karnataka. I have been updating a blog under the heading SPANDANA where all our activities are documented. Click here to know more: www.kjes-spandana.blogspot.com 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Even in Little Things being at Home with God

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time:13 June 2021

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

(Picture courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here 

1. Living in a liturgically rich month

In the liturgical calendar, the month of June is a significant one. In this month we celebrate a number of feasts either connected with the person of Jesus Christ - Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, or the saints of our Church, like Boniface, Anthony of Padua Aloysius Gonzaga, John Fisher, Thomas More, the birth of John the Baptist, Irenaeus, Peter, Paul, etc. These holy men who gave their lives totally to the service of faith and their fellow neighbour tell us a most essential thing, that they were in their earthly life were "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Corpus Christi - God's Abundance Made Visible in us

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi: 06 June 2021

Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

(Veneration of Corpus Christi by the Angels)

To listen to my audio reflections,  please click here

    Along with a relentless news cycle and the various stresses and worries that find their way into each day, the Corona pandemic is ravaging our lives, families and communities. In the midst of this, we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a feast which so tangible and dear to us because of its symbolic and personal meaning. Hence, the feast comes as a soothing balm to us.  We can relate to this feast as closely as possible because of our utmost devotion and reverence to the body and blood of Christ which we venerate and receive at every Eucharist. The Feast of Corpus Christi – and every Mass – celebrates Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, which the Catechism calls “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The pandemic has meant that some of us have been long separated from the sacrament, which may make the meaning of today’s feast feel somewhat distant. 

1. Creation and Incarnation as God's loving acts

In our liturgies and other church practices, we often use a phrase referred to God’s unconditional love for humanity that is ‘He gave Himself to us’. God as our creator not only allowed us to be what we are but he gave himself freely to us. If creation marks the beginning of God’s first visible sign of his love, then God’s incarnation through the person of Jesus marks another witness of God’s presence amongst us. Today we celebrate in a specific manner both these two acts of God: creation and incarnation.