Sunday, July 31, 2016

7 August, Sunday
Readings: Wis 18:6-9; Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20, 22; Heb 11:1-2, 8-19; Lk 12:32-48

JESUS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD

We have the words of assurance of the Kingdom of God: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Kingdom of God is the message of Jesus. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:14-15). Jesus never gives a definition to the Kingdom; it could not be defined.

Kingdom is the presence of God and love of God for men and communion of men with God. Jesus often speaks of the Kingdom in parables and metaphors. Jesus announces the Kingdom with word and action (miracles).

Kingdom of God has two aspects: it is a real in present, that is this life; and Kingdom is already present and future, that is, it will come in future; ‘Thy Kingdom come’ as we pray in ‘Our Father’; it is an eschatological aspect. Kingdom is attached to the person of JESUS; that is, JESUS is the KINGDOM. Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, and He answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (Lk 17:20-21). “The kingdom of God is among you” means it is now PRESENT here, that is, JESUS is the KINGDOM; presence of Jesus is the Kingdom of God.

The perspective of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of God is that the future is here; the salvation is here and will be in future too. This perspective scandalized the Jews, because they divide the time into two: the first half is the present and the second is future which is final and the end of the time.

In order to inherit this kingdom, Jesus tells, “Sell your possessions and give alms” (Lk 12:33), that is to become poor; for, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Lk 6:20). To the young rich man who asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus replied, “If you wish to be perfect , go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me” (Mt 19:16, 21).

We need to be vigilant (Lk 12:35-48).  Jesus explains about the vigilance for the coming of the Kingdom through three pericopes seen from the relationship between servants and master: Vigilance of servants and master (Lk 12:36-40); the attitude of the servants looking forward to their mater’s return (112:35-38); the attitude of the master who does not know the precise hour the thief would come (12:39-40); it is an eschatological vigilance that the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour. And the faithful and wise servant (Lk 12:41-46); the attitude of the faithful and wise servant who cares about his mission; again the emphasis is on the unexpected return of the master, and thus it is about the unexpected return of the day of the Lord or the kingdom. Are we prepared ourselves to receive this Kingdom in the person of Jesus, here and now?
We need to be accountable for the responsibility entrusted by God (Lk 12 47-48); those who receive a greater responsibility must fulfil their task with greater responsibility. We are all “strangers and pilgrims on this earth” (Heb 11:13). Let us not have attachments of the things of this world, but the things of the heavenly kingdom where our true treasures are. “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:34).

We need to have faith. The meaning of faith is expressed in today’s second reading. Faith is certainty, it is assurance and confidence. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is taking a step into the unknown and trusting in God. Faith of Abraham is the example for us; he trusted God leaving his ancestral land and went to the land where God would begin a new people (Promised Land). If our hope is the coming of the kingdom of God (New Promised Land), then we should wait it with assurance believing that we shall inherit the kingdom.

We need to be righteous; for the righteous shall be delivered (Wis 18:7). The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; to inherit the kingdom, we need to be washed, to be sanctified, to be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9-11; see also Eph 5:5; Gal 5:19-21); one is to be born in water and spirit to enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). Who else can enter the kingdom of God? Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21).


Promise: Let us trust in the assuring words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid, little flock”; let us be vigilant and be faithful to God to inherit the eternal promise of the kingdom of God, the New Promised Land.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

6 August, Saturday
Readings: Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; (or) 2 Pet 1:16-19; Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 9; Lk 9:28-36
Feast: The Transfiguration of the Lord

THIS IS MY SON, MY CHOSEN; LISTEN TO HIM

Today, the Church commemorates the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord. It is a celebration of Christ’s glory on mount Tabor in Galilee, which is an encounter with God. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. It was a revelation of Jesus’ divine nature: “while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Lk 9:29). Jesus is the ‘reflection of God’s glory and the exact print of God’s very being (Heb 1:3). For Jesus, it was a time of confirmation and affirmation of his ministry. For Peter, James, and John it was a brief glimpse of the transcendent, a peek at the reality that lies just beyond everyday life.

But notice that Jesus quickly led the disciples back down off that mountaintop – in spite of Peter’s desire to pitch a tent and camp there for a long while: “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Lk 9:33). But Jesus led them back into the daily routine of teaching and preaching and caring for the broken and hurting people of the world they lived in, back to the reality of life in the valley. With Jesus, they must come down from mount Tabor to the valley on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary.

As Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appear; the former represents the Law and the latter the prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets (cf. Mt 5:17). They appeared in glory and spoke of Jesus’ salvific act that he is going to accomplish at Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:31). While Peter was expressing his pleasure to stay there, from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Lk 9:35); the reassurance of God’s words that He spoke at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17; Lk 3:22); it is another affirmation of God’s love.

We must realize that we need to cling to Jesus always and in every moment of our life; not that we stay with him when everything is happy and going our way, like the three apostles desired to stay on mount Tabor pitching tents there; but the same apostle fled while Jesus was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane. We need to stay with Jesus even in our troubles and trails, in which Jesus is our strength and encouragement.

Promise: Let us promise today that we stay with Jesus forever as Jesus promised us to be with us till the end of the world, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 18:20).
5 August, Friday
Readings: Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7; (Ps) Deut 32:35-36, 39, 41; Mt 16:24-28
Dedication of Basilica of St. Mary Major

CALL TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE: CROSS AND SELF-DENIAL

The first reading is from the minor prophet, Nahum, the Elkoshite, that is, he is from Elkosh. Nahum is a small book with just three chapters and 47 verses. The main theme of this book is about the destruction of Nineveh, fortified capital of Assyria, expressed through the oracles about the siege and fall of Nineveh (2:4-3:19). Nahum means ‘Yahweh has consoled’ or ‘consolation of Yahweh’ or in other words ‘consolation’ or ‘comfort’. As the name fits, he comforted the people of Judah by telling of Nineveh’s destruction (612 B.C.).The message of the book is that God is sovereign over the world and history. He is just and who enforces justice while offering hope to the helpless. He will not justify the guilty or spare them (1:3). He destroys Nineveh because he is jealous (1:2) for the right, and he avenges the enemies of his people. The message of Nahum is a message of the power of God to overcome the power of evil. Nahum pictured God as faithful (1:7), merciful (1:3), good (1:7) and just (1:2-3). Nahum’s concern is to restore Judah. Nahum’s ultimate message was to God’s people: they would again celebrate their feasts… (1:15).

Jesus is inviting us today to be his followers saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). The Cross and the self-denial are the requirements to become a disciple of Christ. The cross is the dramatic symbol of our faith, hope, love, and forgiveness. It is the powerful reminder of God’s sacrificial and redemptive love for us. It is the constant signal to us of how God wants us to live and love today as sacrificial servants. We are not called to be served, but to serve and to be servants. We are called to take up the mission of Christ and to emulate the servant spirit of our Lord. Jesus called disciples to follow Him, to learn from Him, and ultimately to take up the torch of His self-giving and sacrificial love. And He taught His disciples that the way to do it, the way to be God’s servants is to not arrogantly grab for the crown, but rather to humbly choose the way of the cross.

When Jesus calls to be disciple, no crown offered here, only a cross. No throne offered here, only a task. No mantle offered here, only a ministry. No sceptre offered here, only sacrificial service. This is the message of the Christian faith. Jesus chose not the way of the crown, but rather the way of the cross. That is the spirit in which He wants us to live. He calls us to follow His lead and to choose the way of the cross - a cross, not a crown. First of all, to choose the way of the cross means to take up the cross of Christ-like values; and it means to take up the cross of Christ-like love, and finally, it means to take up the cross of Christ-like commitment.

Promise: Let us surrender totally to God and be ready to follow Jesus in every aspect of a servant role, even to carrying a cross. Let us take up the crosses of our daily life; our difficulties, struggles and problems of varied kind in our life.
4 August, Thursday
Readings: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 50:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; Mt 16:13-23
Memoria: St. John Mary Vianney - Priest

JESUS THE NEW COVENANT

We have one of the greatest messages of the Old Testament: God promises to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jer 31:31-34) because people had failed to keep the covenant which the Lord had with their ancestors; this new covenant is different from what He made earlier and which the people broke. In the new covenant, the law is within, that is the law written upon the hearts of the people, and all “from the least of them to the greatest” shall know God, and thus God becomes universal. The new covenant is permanent and final and which cannot be broken again; the Lord says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34). The new covenant establishes an everlasting relationship with the Lord.

Covenant is an ‘agreement’ between two parties. The new convent is an agreement between God and humans. Isaiah 42:6 says that the Messiah or Christ would be made a covenant. The promised ‘New Covenant’ is established by and realized in Jesus Christ, who is the ‘New Covenant’ himself: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:1-14; Heb 8:8-12; 10:16-17). Jesus is the covenant (mediator) between God and humans. Through the death of Christ, the humanity is justified before God, saved from punishment and reconciled to God (Rom 5:8-10); it is the relationship we have with God, a relationship based on faith and grace.

It is due to this relationship that Simon Peter the spokesperson or representative for the disciples (cf. Mt 19:27; 26:35, 40), declares about Jesus, “You are the Messiah (Christ), the son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) when Jesus puts the question to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15). Messiah or Christ means ‘Anointed One’. Jesus wanted to make sure that his disciples understood who really he is. As Son of God, he came to gather all into the kingdom of God and thus he is the promised ‘new covenant’, an agreement between God the Father and humanity.

And this covenant continues through the apostles and the Disciples of Christ: “You are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (Petra, Kepha in Aramaic) I will build my Church (eklesia)… and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). Church is the community of faithful or ‘the whole assembly of faithful’ (qahal). This assembly will stand forever against all the forces of death and evil (Mt 16:18) because God has made an everlasting covenant through his Son Jesus Christ and this assembly will remain with Him forever. The mission is entrusted to every baptized child to take forward the Church which Jesus himself founded; each of us given the responsibility (keys) with freedom to discern to make the Church live according to the will of God.


Promise: Let us realize, believe and accept Jesus, the Anointed One as the Lord and Savior and the new Covenant through whom a permanent relationship with God is made. Let us not become a stumbling block and let us set our minds on divine things rather than human things (Mt 16:23). May St. John Mary Vianney intercede for us!
3 August, Wednesday
Readings: Jer 31:1-7; (Ps) Jer 31:10, 11-12, 13; Mt 15:21-28

FAITH

Jesus was impressed by the faith of a pagan woman. He said, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mt 15:28). “You can do every little with faith, but you can do nothing without it” (Nicholas Murray Butler).

The meaning of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is the gift and mercy of God (cf. 1 Pet 1:3; Eph 2:8). We are protected by God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed. Faith is the foundation of Christian life; faith includes belief, acceptance and hoping. Faith is the belief in Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of God and as the risen Lord! Jesus began his public ministry saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1”15); the good news is Jesus himself. And Jesus demanded the similar by enquiring the belief of the apostles asking ‘who do you say that I am?’ (Mk 8:29). Our faith must flow from our hearts and believe in God and his Son Jesus. We must believe or have also faith in Christ’s resurrection which is the supernatural and historical foundation of Christianity and essential. Faith is accepting Jesus as Savior (Christ) and salvation.

Jesus is in the district of Tyre and Sidon, where he is confronted by a Gentile (Canaanite) woman. Canaanites (Greek settlers) were despised by Jews because of unethical practices. Her faith in Jesus is persistent (cf. Mt 15:23), which is a contrast to the blindness of the Jewish authorities of Jesus’ time. She believed that Jesus can heal her daughter tormented by a demon. At the beginning, Jesus did not answer her at all; this is a test of her faith. With the response of the woman, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters” (Mt 15:27) has passed every test. Jesus praised her great faith (Mt 15:28).

Faith heals; does miracles. The daughter of the woman was healed instantly (Mt 15:28) because of her faith.

The first reading expresses the covenantal relationship of Yahweh with Israel (Jer 31:1). He is the God of all the families of Israel. God says to Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3); God is ever faithful in this relationship. This love and faithfulness towards Israel brings them back from exile and restoration to the land of happiness.

Promise: Let us have childlike faith to experience the healing touch of Jesus and thus enter into the kingdom of God (cf. Mk 10:15). It is by faith we experience the forgiveness, mercy and compassion of God and healing.
2 August, Tuesday
Readings: Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; Ps 102:16-18, 19-21, 29, 22-23; Mt 14:22-36

PRAYER IS OUR STRENGTH

“To go up alone into the mountain and come back as an ambassador to the world, has ever been the method of humanity’s best friend” (Evelyn Underhill). “Jesus went up the mountain by himself to pray” (Mt 14:23). Prayer of Jesus was being in the presence of God. Prayer is having an intimate communion with the Father and total dependence. Prayer is not primarily speaking but listening; prayer is not primarily coercing God but submitting to God; Prayer is not doing something in God’s presence, but being present to him; it is a gravitational movement initiated by the Spirit towards the heart of God.

‘Mountain’ has a special significance in the Bible; it is a place said to be ‘closer to God’ in the Biblical cultures. God often reveals himself on the mountain. Mount Sinai is the symbol of God’s covenant, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Jesus gave the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.

However we are busy with our daily activities, we need to realize that our strength is from the Lord which comes to us in prayer. Let us find some time in a day to commune with God. “All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms” (Blaise Paschal). Let us cry ‘Lord, save me’ (Mt 14:30) in our difficulties, but without having doubts but always with full faith accepting Jesus and worship him as the ‘true Son of God’ (Mt 14:33). The Lord is always with us in our fears, terror, loneliness, family problems, broken relationships, rejections with his comforting words, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). Let us recognize him like the people who followed Jesus (Mt 14:35), his presence and have personal experience of him in our life. ‘When the apostles got into the boat, the wind ceased’ (Mt 14:32), everything was perfect because there was the presence of Jesus.

The word of God that came to Jeremiah offers the people of Israel hope and consolation in Babylonian exile, that the Lord would restore their fortunes and have compassion on them, and bring them back to the Promised Land. Our hope is in Jesus who leads our life.


Promise: Let us recognize Jesus in the persons and events in and around us, through which Jesus comes towards us and ask the Lord to deepen our faith in Him.
1 August, Monday
Readings: Jer 28:1-17; Ps 118:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102; Mt 14:13-21
Memoria: St. Alphonsus Liguori – Bishop and Doctor of the Church

WE ARE CALLED TO BE PROPHETS OF MERCY AND COMPASSION

True prophets are forth tellers and fearless; they are a tester of people, purifying them; they think differently with a prophetic insight; they give a new sense of purpose in crisis and decadence; they are unmaskers, and question and challenge; they are critics of kings and priests; they have a vision of the future, they dream of the future and visualize it; they have the memory of the past and are critical of the present; they are spokesmen appointed by God and above all they are men of the word of God. The false prophets follow their own spirit rather than God (Ezek 13:3); claim that God has spoken to them when He has not (Ezek 13:6-7); they are liars (Ezek 13:8).

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear about two prophets, one is identified and proved as a false prophet (Hananiah means ‘Yahweh is gracious’) and the other a true prophet, Jeremiah (means ‘Exalted of the Lord’). Hananiah prophesises lies in the name of Yahweh, saying that the Babylonian exile would end up in two years (28:3-4). He deliberately took the wooden yoke (symbol of slavery) from the neck of Jeremiah and broke it to assure his prophecy (28:10). Jeremiah silently went his way without responding to Hananiah (28:11), because he wanted to hear the word of the Lord. After hearing the word from Yahweh, Jeremiah confronts Hananiah, saying that he is not sent by Yahweh and he made the people trust in a lie (28:15). The death of Hananiah prophesied by Jeremiah is a proof that God will indeed punish the lying prophets.

Those who say lies have no truth in them; the truth does not exist in a liar (1 Jn 2:4). When one lies, one speaks according to one’s own nature (Jn 8:44) like Hananiah, the false prophet and in whom there is no truth.

The gospel passage is the miracle of Jesus ‘feeding the five thousand’ men, besides women and children. The death of John the Baptist leads Jesus to withdraw from the crowds and seek a private place for prayer and reflection, but the crowds follow Jesus. Jesus had compassion on them. Compassion is an attribute of God, but it is also a quality given in our nature. Jesus first fills them with the spiritual food and heals them. He then fills them physically too by feeding them; looking up to heaven, blesses God, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples for distribution. There is total dependency on God as Jesus prays, and there is sharing which is a Christian fellowship. It is a celebration of the reign of God, where there is a relation to God (Jesus) and to one another.

Promise: By baptism, we are all called to be true prophets to proclaim the word of God by our word and all the more by the example of our life. Let us assure ourselves not to say lies, but always speak the truth and stand for the Gospel values and to be merciful and compassionate towards those in need of our help and care. May St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us!