Friday, September 26, 2014

26th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A, Mt 21: 28-32

We have been reflecting on the theme 'our faith confession and our life in faith'. We began from the faith confession of Peter (21st Sunday). The faith confession in itself does not make us better persons. It makes us better persons only when we live according to the will of our God whom we confessed. Many profess their faith but in practical life, they tend to follow their own thoughts and live out their faith in a way they want. So when Jesus reveals about his passion and death Peter rebukes Jesus (22nd Sunday). Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him that he sets his mind not on divine things but on human things. We reflected this situation as a major spiritual conflict as we live out our faith in day-to-day life. There is a spiritual conflict arising from our thoughts v/s God's thoughts. The spiritual life is an ongoing struggle to align ourselves more and more to the will of God. In the process, there is an abandoning of one's thoughts, which is narrow, nearsighted and blind.

We profess our faith in a community. So the following Sunday, we meditated upon the community nature of our life in faith (23rd Sunday). If our faith does not help us to live together then there is something wrong. If we do not have the capacity to forgive, join hands with two or three in prayer, then, we need to reflect again on the question of our Lord, ' who do you say that I am'.

Last Sunday (25th), we meditated upon the parable of the labourers in the Vineyard. Our narrow mindedness creates obstacles in experiencing God's generosity. When our happiness rest on the misery of others we are not living out our faith. Does the generosity of our God make us jealous? God gives without reservation, without boundaries, without discrimination. He forgives even the sinners and tax collectors. Do feel uneasy to understand such generosity?

Today: 26th Sunday

Faith confession is not an isolated one-time declaration but it is a dynamic process through which we are made anew. Since it is a process of growth, there is room for correction. We need to correct our ways, attitude and actions. One of the major obstacles in the way of living out our faith is our unwillingness to correct. Faith in God is to bring qualitative transformation in our lives. Qualitative transformation includes correction. Today's parable the Lord reminds us that he appreciates when we correct our ways to do the will of the father. We need not be ashamed of correcting our ways. Spiritual growth always includes the truth that God accepts correction. The word used in the bible is change of heart (Metanoia). Which means to turn way from sin and turn to God? A person who cannot correct his/her mistakes is not spiritual. He/she cannot live out true faith in Christ Jesus. The "today" that he has given us is to correct old ways that leads to death.

When the sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes correct their ways and return to do the will of God the angels rejoice in heaven. The Lord appreciates their humility to correct their ways and return to him.

One of the elements of the work of the Word of God is correction. "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Not hardening the heart when we hear the word of god is a sign that our relationship with God is still warm and tender. The first son who refused to go, later changes his mind and does according to the will of his father. Jesus appreciates such action. "Today", if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts" (Ps 95:7).

Many experience great fear when it comes to correct one's own ways. This fear keeps the soul in bondage of self-justification consequently deprives him/her a chance to repent and return.

God has given us 'today' to correct our mistakes, wrong decisions and do what is good. Are you afraid of correction, repentance? Then you need to answer the question again in your silence, "who do you say that I am''? There is nothing to lose but there is a whole lot of abundance of life out there to gain in Christ. Come left us be persons who hear the word and do it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Noah Factor and ten tips to observe the Advent 

"This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead." (Phil 3: 13). This scripture verse summaries the spirit of the advent season. Moving from one calendar year to the other does not bring newness or transformation. We cannot just brush aside the pains and struggles of yester days or years. However, the different seasons create occasions to see things from various perspectives. They present new opportunities to change and transform the present. Life moves on. We strive towards perfection.

Notes on Today’s Gospel Mt 24: 37-44

  • Today’s gospel functions like a hinge that links the end with the beginning. It reminds about the past in order to make a qualitative change in the present. Liturgically it links the end of the liturgical year with the new liturgical year.

The time of Noah

The comparison with the time of Noah brings out the lethargies and taken-for-granted attitudes of the present. We take for granted so many things: the environment, the other and God. It is only when such presumptions are disturbed that many look around with anger and irritation.

The world is in a mess but everyone goes on to peruse his/her own desires, plans and projects. There is a growing dissatisfaction with the way things are going, whether it is in the household matters, interrelationships and neighborhood or in the level of global disarmament, global warming, poverty, wars, and world peace, etc. Everyone looks for changes but not interested to take up the responsibility.

The Noah factor

The Noah factor brings out change. The Noah factor looks at things differently and enables to work for the change of the situation even though it may look like the most unlikely proposal. Noah was not better than the people of his time. He was a lover of wine. What made him unique was his courage to be progressive and his openness to the plan of God. He listened, worked and built relationship with God. In the process, he listened, worked and built relationship with his family, nature and all that is in it.

The ability to make a new beginning is the spirit of advent. The present situation may be a story of struggle in your life. You can make a difference and hold your dear ones together because the Lord comes to help you. Prepare to receive him. Be the "Noah" and prepare a crib to hold God's Love.

Let us cooperate with God to make a difference by making a spiritual ark; an ark that hold new relationships/ restoration of relationship. Advent season is all about being like Noah who listens, works and holds his family together.

Ten points to observe Advent

Today's second reading is full of instructions to observe a meaningful advent season. A closer reading gives us ten points to observe the advent season meaningfully.

Romans 13:11-14 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (NRSV).

  • 1. Know what time it is

An awareness of the time/season is very important. The awareness is the first preparation and ground of all that we observe. We change and adapt different life styles according to the seasons. Advent is the time for hope and time to look for better, brighter future. The whole world is in a period of preparation to receive the Lord. Hence, the season generates so much of goodness and grace. Be enthusiastic about the advent season.

  • 2. Wake up from the sleep

Awareness of the time gives us alertness. Advent is a time to wake up to perform something: to accomplish, restore, correct, learn, begin. Wake up from the spiritual sleep to get ready for the vigil. The silent night is going to be a very special day in your life.

  • 3. Lay aside the works of darkness

Wake up to receive the Light, light of the world. In him, you are the light of the world. Do not be hiding under the bushels of your petty differences. Come out, be on the lamp stand and let your light shine. Advent season is a time to lay aside the works of the darkness.

  • 4. Put on the armor of light

Col 3: 12 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (NRSV).

  • 5. Live honorably as in the day

The advent season is a time to examine and re-orient our lives to live with the dignity and honor of the children of God. It is a time to discard or correct the ways that make us as causes for dishonor. This is my favorite prayer during the advent.

Oh! My Jesus, "Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me; do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me” (cf. Ps 69: 6 NRSV).

  • 6. Avoid reveling and drunkenness

Traditionally, we observe 25 days of abstinence in view of Christmas. Such practices are gradually disappearing in the media-hyped-market- driven-Christmas culture. It is good if you can put certain restraint upon you. Such actions will give you spiritual alertness.

  • 7. Avoid debauchery and licentiousness

The season has so much spiritual dimensions attached to it. The pure in heart will see God. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, certain amount of purity for both mind and body will help us to experience the coming of the Lord.

  • 8. Avoid quarrelling and jealousy

Certain amount of inner silence is good for any preparation. Keep silence and avoid situations that will ignite quarreling and expressions of jealousy. We prepare to receive the king of Peace.

  • 9. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Christmas is a time to wear new clothes. Naturally advent becomes a season of hard work to earn little extra to do the shopping. May God give us prosperity. Remember, it is also a season to wear a new spiritual dress that is created in the image and likeness of his son.

10. Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires

Mortification is an outdated word. It still it has some relevance. Acts of mortification is to witness that we do not live by ‘bread’ alone. It is good to avoid excessive food and parties during this season of restoration.

1st Sunday of Advent Year  A -2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Advent Preparation

Many of you have send messages asking for few tips to observe Advent. Let me share with you three reflections. My diocese and my parishioners are yet to recover from the effect of the Phailin storm. We begin our advent season in the midst of the struggle to rebuild our shattered lives. I salute my parishioners for their determination to fight against the fury of nature and strive forward with hope. When I ask them how do they survive, with smile on their face, they say, "Prabhu ochina'', 'Lord is there know'. Friends, I believe that affirming our faith is a way to observe Advent.

Advent, a time to declare our faith in God

Advent season is a time to declare our faith in God. "Prabhu ochina" - the Lord is there. In our case, "there" has the devastating effect of the Phailin and the struggle that followed. The uprooted trees, broken electric poles, scattered houses and shops gave the “there” not so beautiful context. To declare our faith in God and able to say that the Lord is there is really a faith declaration that can ignite energy to transform the crushed bones to life (ref. Hab 3: 17-19).

"God is there" Jehovah - Shamma (Ezk 48: 35). This name of God was revealed to Prophet Ezekiel during the exile. Israel was trying to grip with the exilic situation and tried to rebuild their lives. God responds to his prophet giving him visions and says to him that the city's name will be "Yehovah- Shamma- the God is there. 'God is there' in their midst as they struggled to rebuild their shattered lives.

Advent, a time to develop deep conviction that nothing can separate us from God

After the Phailin, there were long queues for relief materials. Those stood in the queues were good people, respected people; the storm stripped them off not only their finances, their houses, but also their honour and dignity. It pained me to see the respected women who never came out of their houses standing in the queue for relief materials. What surprised me is that following Sunday my parish church was full? Believers came to the church which was  still leaking. They cleaned, wiped and dried the floor. They praised and worshiped their God. They listened to the Sunday sermon as if they heard it for the first time. When I asked about their coming to the church, they told me, "ei sobhu amoku prabhunko premoru alaka karibo ki?" Would these things separate us from the love for Jesus?

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom 8: 35). The words of St. Paul echoed in my ears as I sat at the corner of my leaking church. "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8: 38-39).

Advent season is a time to develop deep conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. Such conviction from our part will give meaning to the celebration of Christmas.

Advent, a time to bring out new life

I have already shared my sadness about the loss of trees, birds and squirrels. When I visited my bishop house after the Phailin, the workers were cleaning and removing the uprooted trees. They lifted a small mango tree, tied rope on three sides, and helped it to stand straight. They said, bhonjibho, it will live. A week later, when I visited the house again, I looked at it. One of the branches has brought forth tender leaves, declaring that it is alive.

"kichi iti huve nahi" - nothing actually ends. All around life begins to spring up. The birds started to come back and they made nest on those broken branches. The trees brought forth fresh leaves to give them shelter. Squirrel also returned. Life moves on.

As one more advent comes, I sit with deep feeling that nothing actually ends. Because love never ends (I Cor 13: 8). Love brings forth new life and celebrates. Is not love that transforms the cattle shed into a zone of peace and joy?

Advent is a time to think, have I loved enough. Have I brought life and healing in others and the nature? The discovery that you can love and serve much more than what you think makes a good advent preparation. When you put such discovery into reality celebration begins. Then the presents, gifts, greetings, lights, decorations are declaring that God still loves the world.

I remember you all in my prayers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Is 2: 1-5; Rom 13: 11-14; Mt 24: 37- 44

Introduction

Advent season fills us with an anticipation that transcends the earthly. It takes us to very special things; the awareness of the other, awareness that we are not alone. That is why the season is filled with so many gifts and greetings cards. It is also a very special season for its call to transcend our littleness and to show our generosity. For we are moved by God the Father who so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (Jn 3: 16).

1. A Call to Transcend the Past,

"Therefore you also must be ready, For the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour (Mt 24:44).

"Therefore you must be ready"

Advent season begins with a call to be ready to receive the Lord. It asks us to put away the former way of life (self centred thinking, feeling, attitude, behaviour) and calls us to adapt new way of life that is Christ centred. Leaving the former way of life and adapting a new way of life is not an easy task. Many just wish for it but seldom achieve. A question should be answered during the beginning of the advent season will be, ‘how long would you take to reach the now’ ?

Someone tells me, "I do not know father, I just do not know how long will it take, because I can't. I can't just forget the past and to be here in the now. It tortures me, haunts me?" I try to point out to her/him that the past is no more "there". The voices, feelings and pain that come from "there" do not exist. What exist is you. The voice that you hear now is what you hear. You hear that God accepts you as a wonderful person. You are healed and ready to begin anew as a loving person in the sight of God and the neighbour. ‘But you know, father I can't’. She/he moves away with down cast face. Is advent possible in their lives? Difficult, because such people are not ready. They do understand the need for change. They accept the fact that they have to leave behind the past but they cannot. Scripture says that people do understand the Light but they prefer to be in the darkness (ref Jn 3: 19).

Psalm 13 deals with this type of mental agony in the form of a cry, "how long". "How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? (Ps 13/3). How long? It is the question of the advent season. How long it takes to reach from "there" to "here" to celebrate the feast of light, wishes, gifts and love? Is it 25 days in the form of Advent; is it 40 days for a resurrection or six days to reach the mountain to experience a transfiguration?

For the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour

Does the advent season mean that the Lord will come on the 25th day? Definitely not. He does not come on an appointed day. He says he will come at an unexpected hour. Christmas is the celebration of his coming into one's life. It is the celebration of abandoning the "there" to be "here" because we celebrate the coming of our God who had come to give us life, life in fullness. Our readiness or live in the now makes the unexpected hour into an expected hour.

2. A Call to Walk in the Present

"Come; let us walk in the light of the LORD! (Is 2: 5).

The Advent season is a call to live in the present. It is call to enter into the advent season with a firm resolution to walk in the light of the LORD that we may be worthy to celebrate the birthday of our LORD.

Our readiness to receive the Lord is not an end but it is a beginning of a call to walk in his light. "Come; let us walk in the light of the LORD! (Is 2:5). We hear this call to walk in the light of the Lord from Prophet Isaiah (first reading).

The Prophet calls the people of God to enter into the now where the past is forgotten and new resolution and new spirit is created. It is also calling to one another, 'come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord'. For when we refuse to walk in his light or moved away from its path we drift into "there" "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"(Mt 8: 28). Can we think about a celebration with weeping and gnashing of teeth?

The Starlights remind us this candid call. The gifts and sweets remind us how wonderful it is to live as one community, as people of God.

3. A Call to Build up a Future...

"Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy (Rom 13: 12-13).

The call to build up a new future gives clarity to the 'call to walk in the light of the LORD' and gives content to the call to be ready. Observation of the Advent season should not be limited to the preparation to celebrate the Christmas. It also should be an occasion to build up a positive healthy future 'leaving aside the works of darkness'.

Reflect about these things. For we are called to walk and represent Jesus whose birthday we are going to celebrate. I like to bring to you two scripture passages for your spiritual reading and refection for this week. Col 3: 1-17; Phil 4: 4-9.