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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: B

Deut 18.15-20; Ps 94(95); 1 Cor 7.17, 32-35; Mk 1.21-28

In the Cave of the Heart

A group of trekkers who were exploring a mountain chanced to come across a cave. They entered the cave only to discover a loin-clad yogi sitting in the serene silence. They shook him out of his deep meditation and asked him: “do you not feel the heat in summer and the cold in winter? Are you not troubled by insects and mosquitoes? How do you sleep on the bare floor without a mattress and a pillow and a sheet to cover you? Do you not feel the pain of loneliness?

The yogi patiently listened. Then, he said, “When you have travelled down to the depths and have experienced the Self in the cave of your heart, then there is no room for discomfort of any sort, no loneliness, and no pain. You experience no want. For, you have found lasting peace.

Jesus the Teacher

In today’s Gospel passage we are invited to see Jesus as the teacher. Throughout his life he taught. He taught to people and his very life was teaching through living his life. Teaching is a divine task. Teaching ensures future of humanity. Being a good teacher is a task of transmitting wisdom of God himself. Although the teaching ministry of Christ lasted only three and a half years, during that time He showed that He was the world's master teacher. He performed great miracles and taught a new way of life. His teaching was simple. He used words the common people could understand, and took His illustrations from the things with which His listeners were familiar. Many of His principles were set forth in parables. A parable is a true-to-life story with a special meaning.

The things Jesus taught are more important than His methods. He gave us a complete way of life, which He summed up in one sentence, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."(Mt 7.12)
God's Kingdom

One of the great themes of His teaching was God's kingdom. His claim was, "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news."(Mk 1.14-15).

This is a reminder to all of us that the world is not out of control. God is still in charge, but He has given us free-will. We are not like machines wound-up by God. Rather we are free, and yet ruled by a King, and that is God. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God it was to invite people to submit themselves to it. Jesus told parables to illustrate what He meant by God's kingdom.

The Parable of the Sower

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."(Mt 13.3-8).

Obviously the resulting crop depended on the kind of ground that the seed fell into. What Jesus meant here is that if our hearts are hard, bitter, and filled with pride and self sufficiency, then even if the good seed comes to us, even if we hear and learn about His kingdom, we won't accept it. However, if we accept God's will in our lives, the Kingdom of God will be within us.

A Hidden Treasure

On another occasion Jesus told of a treasure hidden in a field. A merchant found it "... and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field."[Mt 13.44] It is true that when we find the Kingdom of God, we receive much joy, but there is a price to be paid. Our becoming a member of the Kingdom of God, and following Jesus may offend many people. Our honesty may well make some people around us uncomfortable. We may lose friends, brothers and sisters. Our families may well turn against us. Joining this Kingdom of God may mean the loss of a job, imprisonment, or even death. Jesus recognizes that you may have to pay a high price to come into this Kingdom but it is still well-worthwhile.

Different Dimension of the Kingdom

Once some of the Jewish leaders from the sect of the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come (Lk 17.20-21); Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in you." Many people who were listening to Jesus were longing for a political revolution. They wanted Jesus to be their Messiah in a political sense, to overthrow the Roman rulers and release Palestine from its bondage. Jesus refused such a demand because that was not the real problem. Mankind’s fundamental problem is not political. It is sin. Jesus came to deal with sin (Jn 6.15) According to him God's kingdom was a universal kingdom, not restricted to any particular people. Therefore He taught them that this kingdom is within men's hearts. It was not something that was going to be established in the future, but something that was being established there and then. One can become a member of this kingdom by following Jesus and His commandments.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus did not tell this parable just to entertain the people who were around Him. He intended to show that God receives even the wicked person who repents and turns to Him, because He wants everyone to be saved and come to him through Jesus. In this parable we see how one may turn away from God to find his own way of adventure and folly. However God in his mercy and kindness awaits and leaves the door flung open for him expecting that one day this child of Adam may see a shaft of light and return to him.

Why Jesus?

Why should submission to Jesus be the only way to inherit the Kingdom of God? It is because He is the king of the kingdom. He did not act like worldly teachers. He introduced a totally different concept of leadership. He taught his disciples: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." [Mk 10.43-45] He demonstrated this concept by washing the feet of his disciples [Jn 13.4-17]. Later he gave his life for them and for us. On the other hand He did prove his authority and trustworthiness by the many signs he provided, and by the many prophecies he fulfilled particularly by getting out of the tomb [Rom 1.4; 10.9].

Blessed are You

Jesus gave his followers assurance about the future. At the day of Judgement he will say to those who have chosen to follow His way, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."(Mt 25.34)

Practical Conclusion

Have you ever wondered what makes a great special education teacher? What separates a mediocre teacher from a terrific teacher? It's not easy to define, however, here's a list of qualities:
• You love your role, you love being with your disciples/listeners and you couldn't imagine doing anything else. You were meant to teach special needs of your listeners; you know this in your heart.
• You have a great deal of patience and know that little steps in learning go a long way.
• You know the listeners well and they are comfortable and at ease with you, they enjoy having you as their teacher and look forward to teaching each day.
• You provide a non-threatening, welcoming environment that nurtures each of the listeners you work with.
• You understand your listeners, you know what motivates them and you know how to scaffold activities to ensure that maximum learning occurs.
• You take each person from where they are and provide experiences that will maximize success. You're always discovering new things among them.
• You are very comfortable working with exceptional learners and learners with diverse needs.
• You thrive on challenge; can easily build relationships with your listeners and their friends.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: B

Jn 3.1-5, 10; Ps 24(25);1 Cor 7.29-31; Mk 1.14-20

Shirt of a happy Man

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. (Pastor's Professional Research Service, "Happiness"). That is why Oscar Wilde wrote, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." He was trying to warn us no matter how hard we work at being successful, success will not satisfy us. By the time we get there, having sacrificed so much on the altar of being successful, we will realize that success was not what we wanted.

Disturbing statistics on stress

A few years ago, The Comprehensive Care Corporation of Tampa, Florida published a booklet about stress in our modern world. The facts are disturbing. (1) One out of four (that’s 25% of the American People) suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, loneliness and other painful symptoms which are attributed mainly to stress. (2) Four out of five adult family members see a need for less stress in their daily lives. (3) Approximately half of all diseases can be linked to stress-related origins, including ulcers, colitis, bronchial asthma, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. (4) Unmanaged stress is a leading factor in homicides, suicides, child abuse, spouse abuse and other aggravated assaults. (5) The problem of stress is taking a tremendous toll economically, also. In our nation alone, we Americans are now spending 64.9 billion dollars a year trying to deal with the issue of stress. That is why Jesus shared the “good news” with us a long time ago when He said: “Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28). Jesus’ call to be disciple is to care for the overburdened. The disciple is to carry his own cross and then help those who carry heavier burdens.


Discipleship is costly. Jesus’ call to follow him in turbulent times has been eloquently expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4). Karl Barth says of this book that it is “easily the best that has been written on this subject,” and that, “I cannot hope to say anything better on the subject than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was ready to achieve it in his own life, and did in his own way achieve it even to the point of death."

Pastor and Theologian

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the turbulent years 1930-45. His book on discipleship was written during the years 1935-37 when he was leading the illegal Confessing Church’s seminary at Finkenwalde. Until the Gestapo closed it down in late 1937, Bonhoeffer trained young men to shepherd the church, to preach, to do good theological thinking. His life would end in the concentration camp of Flossenberg where he was executed in April, 1945.

Passing through Fire

For Bonhoeffer, there is a very concrete spirituality manifested in the life of discipleship. It is spirituality gained by passing through the fire. “When Christ calls a person, He bids them come and die.” “And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to him, for only he knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us to follow him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy.”

Murder Plot against Hitler

During this period of his life, it is important to note that Bonhoeffer eschewed violence. He could be considered a ‘pacifist.’ Of course his later turn about to participation in the murder plot on Hitler does signal a very real change in him. Walter Wink raises this question: “If counter-violence appears to be the only responsible choice, this still does not make violence right. Bonhoeffer is a much-misunderstood case in point. He joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. But he insisted his act was a sin, and threw himself on the mercy of God. Two generations of Christians have held back from full commitment to non-violence, citing Bonhoeffer’s example. Had he known, both that his attempt would fail, and that it would have the effect of justifying redemptive violence in the eyes of so many Christians, I wonder if he would have done it.”

It was not easy for Bonhoeffer to go back on his commitment to non-violence seen in his book on Discipleship. His later writings indicate that he had spent some considerable time reflecting on the implications of this change. Bonhoeffer’s life and his book on Discipleship are important resources when considering the possibilities of the redemption.

Jesus is the Model

Today I would also want to emphasize that it is Jesus as the human model that is essential. That is, it is an aspect of Jesus’ priestly function: to model our spirituality for us, our relationship to God. Why? Because we are included in Him, Jesus is our corporate head, the Second Adam, the One who got it right.

I believe that Bonhoeffer was desperate, in the sense that, he was watching from the inside, the destruction of everything he held dear as a German, a Lutheran, a theologian, a Berliner. It must have been awful.

Luke 14.27: And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Cost of Discipleship in our Daily Life

Denying ourselves means being willing to renounce any so-called right to plan or choose, and to recognize His Lordship in every area of life. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life He lived. This involves:
• Coping with opposition of loved ones
• Coping with reproach from the world
• Forsaking all else for Him if need be, and the comforts of this life.
• Complete dependence on God.
• Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
• Proclaiming an unpopular message.
• Being alone
• Suffering for the sake of righteousness.
• Enduring slander and shame.
• Pouring out one’s life for others.
• Death to self and to the world, denial of self.

A Brand New Life

It also involves beginning a brand new life, real life in Jesus! It means finding out the real reason for our existence. And it means eternal reward. We so often run away from a life of cross-bearing. Our minds are reluctant to believe that this could be God’s will for us. Yet the words of Christ “If anyone desires to come after Me” mean that this is the cost of discipleship for each of us, but consider the blessings to follow, and the joy that comes from living close to the Lord.

When we meet the Lord on that day to we want Him to say "Well done my good and faithful servant.” So it is all or nothing. What a change is wrought in our lives when we surrender our all to the Lord.

Practical Conclusion

Becoming a disciple of Jesus often involves sacrifice...
• For Simon and Andrew, it meant leaving their business behind
• For James and John, it also meant leaving their family behind
• For all four, it meant lives of service that included hardship, ending in martyrdom or exile
Becoming a disciple of Jesus means to seek the lost...
• Jesus wants His disciples to become "fishers of men" - Mk 1.17
• Just as He come to "seek and save the lost" - Lk 19.10
As Disciples of Christ today...
• Are we willing to sacrifice for the Lord?
• Are we willing to seek the lost?
• If not, can we really claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ?
Jesus would have everyone become His disciple today (cf. Mt 28.19-20). May "The Call of Four Fishermen", and the service they rendered to the Lord, inspire us to greater dedication as disciples...

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: B

1 Sam 3.3-10, 19; Ps 39(40); 1Cor 6.13-15, 17-20; Jn 1.35-42

Life Example

I was travelling back from Bishop Bosco Penha’s office (2009). I got down from a taxi at Check Naka (Dahisar - Mumbai). I boarded another taxi to Mira Road. I travelled less than 100 yards, I could see a hand wave from the window of a car. I thought taxi driver must have done a mistake. Well, within minutes the car stopped right in front of our taxi. I was afraid. A gentleman came down from the car and wished me “good evening father”. I was surprised. He said, ‘father, come with me, I will take you to Mira Road’. He paid the taxi driver. When I was in the car the gentle man introduced himself to me and said, ‘father now I have kidnapped you’; I said ‘what do you want from me?’; ‘nothing father’, ‘I want my house to be blessed’. Okay I said. He drew the car towards his house, I went in. I found a big house, clean, beautiful. He went into the kitchen and prepared a tea for me and a few snacks. After a while he told me, ‘father I am sorry I took your precious time. Please bless my house’. I blessed the house and I told him that the tea was good. He told me that he is able to cook good food. I enquired about his family, he said that his wife is a manager in a bank, and he himself is the head of a company and his two children in Panchagini in a private school and they would go to meet them every weekend. He told me that he cooks, sometimes his wife cooks, he does all kinds of house work and there is plenty of good will and love in the family. I looked into his eyes full of love and understanding. I was surprised to know that a man with such status, prestige and wealth, lives a love-filled life. I was happy for the man and his family.

He was Amazed

Ravi had been blind all his life. He had never seen the sun, or the moon, or the stars. He did not know that the sky was blue, as that the grass was green. He did not know what a tree looked like, and could not even begin to imagine what shape and colours a bird might be.

His family and friends would say to him “The sun is shining brightly today,” or “There are thousands of stars in the sky tonight.” Ravi could not see them. He would become angry, he often said “There is no sun. There are no stars.” People felt sad because Ravi was so angry. They told him that even though he could not see them, the sun and stars were still there.

Sometimes people would talk to Ravi about the beautiful colours of nature, but he did not listen. One day his sisters were talking. They were trying to decide what colour saris they should wear for a wedding. One said she would wear red, the other preferred yellow.

“What does it matter,” shouted Ravi angrily, “There is no such thing as colour.” Everything is dark. The colours are only in your mind.”

Slowly people stopped talking to Ravi about the things they could see. They knew it would only make him cross. Then one day, when Ravi was twenty, his family and friends heard of a man who might be able to help Ravi. He was called The Buddha, and people who had met him said he could make people walked who had never walked before. And he could make blind people see.

His family and friends took Ravi to the Buddha. Ravi was not quite sure what was going to happen, but he was not afraid. The Buddha gently soothed Ravi’s eyes with four different lotions and suddenly, he was able to see. He knew that the sun and the stars shone in the sky. He saw how beautiful the colours of nature were. He marvelled at the trees and birds around him and he saw his sisters in their richly coloured saris. He was amazed.

Come and See

Jesus said to his followers, ‘come and see’ meaning, you need to open your eyes and see what you really want when you are with Jesus. Today we need to look closely Jesus who is calling us for an experience.

The Lamb of God

Who is Jesus for you? John calls Jesus the Lamb of God and thus signifies Jesus' mission as the One who redeems us from our sins. The blood of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) delivered the Israelites in Egypt from death. The blood of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5.7), delivers us from everlasting death and destruction. It is significant that John was the son of a priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (Exodus 29). In Jesus he saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin. How did John know the true identity of Jesus, as the Messiah? The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus' true nature, such that John bore witness that this is the Son of God. How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Son of the God? The Holy Spirit makes Christ known to us through the gift of faith. God gives us freely of his Spirit that we may comprehend the great mystery and plan of God to unite all things in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

What are You Looking For

John in his characteristic humility was eager to point beyond himself to the Christ. He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to the Lord Jesus. When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into his company. He did not wait for them to get his attention. Instead he met them halfway. He asked them one of the most fundamental questions of life: “What are you looking for?” What were they looking for in Jesus and what were they aiming to get out of life? Jesus asks each of us the same question: “What’s the goal of your life? What are you aiming for and trying to get out of life?”

Invitation for Fellowship

Jesus invites each of us to "come and see" for ourselves that his word is true and everlasting. "Come and see" is God's invitation for fellowship and communion with the One who made us in love for love. Augustine of Hippo tells us something very important about God and how he relates to us: “If you hadn’t been called by God, what could you have done to turn back? Didn’t the very One who called you when you were opposed to Him make it possible for you to turn back?” It is God who initiates and who draws us to himself. Without his grace, mercy, and help we could not find him.

Discover and Share

When we discover something very important and valuable it's natural to want to share it with those closest to us. Andrew immediately went to his brother Simon and told him the good news of his discovery of Jesus. And it didn't take much to get Simon to "come and see" who this Jesus was. Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier. He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but he gave him a new name which signified the call God had for him. "Cephas" or "Peter" literally means "rock". To call someone a "rock" was one of the greatest compliments. The ancient rabbis had a saying that when God saw Abraham, he exclaimed: "I have discovered a rock to found the world upon". Through Abraham God established a nation for himself. Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus truly was – the Anointed One (Messiah and Christ) and the only begotten Son of God. The New Testament describes the church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5). Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith to know Jesus personally, power to live the gospel faithfully, and courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the gospel. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to draw us near to himself. Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ?

Practical Conclusion

The grace of being with Jesus opens our eyes. We will see what we have never seen. We will be open to a new world of Jesus. There will be plenty of good will, forgiveness, love, presence, kindness and everyone will be happier. That is what happens when we meet Jesus. We need to heed his call. Change will happen.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

Baptism of the Lord Jesus : Year: B

Is 55.1-11; Ps 12; I Jn 5.1-9; Mk 1.7-11

We want to be Christians

Once I was in the parish office, there came a Hindu family wanting to become Christians. I told them, that it is a process by which they have to be introduced to Christianity. I asked them a simple question: “why do you want to become Christians?” They answered, “Father, we have wonderful Christian neighbors, their life is so great, they are charitable, helpful that we were deeply inspired by them. They helped us when one of our family members was seriously ill, and they even stayed with the member for a long time in the hospital. Now that we have this great experience we want to be like them. We also read Bible with them, and they instruct us. That is why we want to become Christians.” Then I said to them that they have to undergo one year of intense course. But they said, they were even ready for 2 years intense course to become Christians.

Baptism: The Door to the Church

The Sacrament of Baptism is often called "The door of the Church," because it is the first of the seven sacraments not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Once baptized, a person becomes a member of the Church. Traditionally, the rite (or ceremony) of baptism was held outside the doors of the main part of the church, to signify this fact.

The Necessity of Baptism

Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3.1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: "Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.

Types of Baptism

That doesn't mean that only those who have been formally baptized can be saved. From very early on, the Church recognized that there are two other types of baptism besides the baptism of water.

Baptism of Desire

The baptism of desire applies both to those who, while wishing to be baptized, die before receiving the sacrament and "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience" (Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council).

Baptism of Blood

The baptism of blood is similar to the baptism of desire. It refers to the martyrdom of those believers who were killed for the faith before they had a chance to be baptized. This was a common occurrence in the early centuries of the Church, but also in later times in missionary lands. The baptism of blood has the same effects as the baptism of water.

The Form of the Sacrament of Baptism

While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for both parents and godparents, the essentials of that rite are two: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The Minister of the Sacrament of Baptism

Since the form of baptism requires just the water and the words, the sacrament, like the Sacrament of Marriage, does not require a priest; any baptized person can baptize another. In fact, when the life of a person is in danger, even a non-baptized person—including someone who does not himself believe in Christ—can baptize, provided that the person performing the baptism follows the form of baptism and intends, by the baptism, to do what the Church does—in other words, to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church. In both cases, a priest may later perform a conditional baptism.

Infant Baptism

In the Catholic Church today, baptism is most commonly administered to infants. While some other Christians strenuously object to infant baptism, believing that baptism requires assent on the part of the person being baptized, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other mainline Protestants also practice infant baptism, and there is evidence that it was practiced from the earliest days of the Church.

Since baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to Original Sin, delaying baptism until a child can understand the sacrament may put the child's salvation in danger, should he die unbaptized.

Adult Baptism

Adult converts to Catholicism also receive the sacrament, unless they have already received a Christian baptism. (If there is any doubt about whether an adult has already been baptized, the priest will perform a conditional baptism.) A person can only be baptized once as a Christian—if, say, he was baptized as a Lutheran, he cannot be rebaptized when he converts to Catholicism.

While an adult can be baptized after proper instruction in the Faith, adult baptism normally occurs today as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and is immediately followed by Confirmation and Communion.

The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry and his mission entrusted to him by the Father. John, the forerunner, was preparing the way for Jesus by preaching repentance and baptizing people in the Jordan as they acknowledged their sins and received baptism of repentance. John also proclaimed that one greater than he would come and “baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1.8). With these things in mind, it is not surprising that John resisted when Jesus asked to be baptized by him. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Why would he submit to John in this way? There are a number of reasons worthy of exploration. First, Jesus certainly was not baptized for forgiveness of sins, since He was sinless. There was no need for Him to repent. Still, in this act, He showed His solidarity with sinful humanity and gave indication of His role as Savior. Second, as indicated in the second reading, this event expresses Christ’s anointing as the Messiah. It also reveals His identity as the Son of God through the voice coming from Heaven and brings to light the Trinity through the action of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seen at the baptism. Finally, Jesus’ baptism prefigures the Sacrament of Baptism that He would institute, in which we receive the Holy Spirit and are adopted as children of God, while also being cleansed of our sins.

Practical Conclusion
Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:

  • The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).

  • The remission of all punishment hat we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).

  • The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.

  • Becoming a part of Christ.

  • Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.

  • Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

Epiphany of the Lord : Year: B

Is 60.1-6; Ps 71(72); Eph 3.2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2.1-12

The Three Wise “Skulls”

If you ever visit Cologne (Köln) Cathedral in Germany you can walk around the sanctuary and behind the main altar there is a large reliquary said to contain the bones or at least the skulls of the three wise men. “How did they get to Cologne?” you might ask. If the relics of great saints have been travelling across the globe then that makes it easier for us to understand the explanation. The wise men’s bones are said to have been located in Persia and then brought to Constantinople by St. Helena. St. Helena was the mother of the emperor Constantine who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. The bones were transferred from Constantinople to Milan in the fifth century and to Cologne in 1163. So not only did the wise men journey during the lives but even after deaths their relics went on a journey. Although Matthew does not tell us the names of the wise men, in the West they have traditionally been given the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Matthew does not tell us the number of wise men, he simply states that they offered three gifts.

Journey to Heart

The journey the wise made to Bethlehem was not the only journey they made. They also made a journey in their hearts from paganism to worshipping Jesus. They were not Jews; scholars tell us they were priests of an Eastern religion who consulted the stars (Zoroastrian priests). One of them may have been a king (there is speculation that one of them was Azes II of Bactria who reigned from 35 BC to 10 AD). Therefore we could say they were followers of some kind of pagan religion. Before they set out on their journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus they were star-readers but they went on an interior journey from reading stars to worshipping Jesus as Savior. Their old way of life as astrologers when they consulted the stars before they came to belief in Jesus reminds us of those who look to horoscopes for guidance.

The Wrong Way

Those who follow horoscopes are called to journey like the wise men from reading stars to worshiping Jesus. Horoscope readers need to ask themselves who is in charge of their life, the stars or God? Believing that the stars control our lives contradicts believing that God is in charge of our lives. Remember that the first commandment asks us not to have any strange gods. Indeed the fact that God has sometimes revealed the future to prophets or saints (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2115) shows that it is God and not the stars that control our destiny. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate power. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (§2116)

The wise men journeyed from that kind of life to worshiping Jesus as the Savior. This is the true story of someone who converted from that life to faith in Jesus.

From Paganism to Faith

The wise men’s journey of a thousand miles or more westwards from Persia which could have taken three months is really a symbol of the inward journey they made in their hearts, a journey from paganism to belief in Jesus as the Savior of the world. Indeed not just the wise men but all of us are on a journey to get closer to Jesus our Savior. Our journey may not be from reading stars and consulting horoscopes but we each are called to allow Jesus be Lord of each part of our lives, not just when it suits us. We each have a journey to make to Jesus because none of us is yet fully converted and each of us has corners in our hearts and lives in need of Jesus’ healing and redemption. Like the wise men we too are relying on the grace of God to lead us to the light of Jesus our Savior.

Evangelization and Renewal

The wise men through the grace of God came to faith in Jesus. What about those who do not yet know that Jesus is the Savior? What about those who have not yet made that journey to Jesus? Can those who are not Christian get to heaven? Yes, they can. I think we can see part of the answer in the account of the wise men. By the grace of God the wise men were led to Jesus. Even though they did not know Jesus they had a desire to meet Jesus. In their own way, with their beliefs, they lived as best they could and this eventually led them to Jesus. Vatican II says, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (Lumen Gentium no. 16)

The Journey of the Church

Of course this does not mean that the Church does not have to spread the Gospel and can sit back and be lazy. The Church’s mission and vocation is to help people make the journey to Jesus, to come to know that Jesus is the one Savior of the world worth journeying towards. Jesus’ last command before his ascension was to baptize all nations, so we have the duty to preach the Gospel to those who have not yet heard of Jesus. Again we remember that the wise men were not members of the Chosen People, the Jews. Yet God revealed to them that Jesus was born. This is to show us that Jesus came not just for the Chosen People, the Jews, but Jesus came to save all people, Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Anecdote 1: The Fourth Wise man: Henry Van Dyke has a story about a fourth wise man. His name was Artaban. He had planned to travel along with his fellow kings. However, he got delayed because he had to assist a woman who was dying. So, he missed the march west. As gifts, he carried a precious sapphire, a rare ruby, and an exquisite pearl. He had to give up his sapphire to help a starving family. When finally he found the stable, it was deserted. Mary and Joseph had scooped up the Child and escaped into Egypt. Artaban gave the ruby to secure the life of a babe destined to be destroyed by the mad King Herod. His search for the King of kings continued for thirty-three long years. When he learned of the events on Calvary, he rushed there to ransom Jesus with the priceless pearl. But on the way he met a man about to be sold into slavery. To his master he gave his pearl as ransom. At that moment, the earthquake struck. He was critically wounded by falling debris. The man he had just rescued held his head in his lap. He whispered into his ear, "Because you did it for one of these, you did it for me." Artaban had found his King.

Practical Conclusion

The same spirit that prompted Artaban to help the dying woman, the family, the infant, and the slave should motivate us to move out of our underground bunkers and do something similar, transferring our Bibles from our dusty shelves into our hearts and spirits.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

4th Sunday in Advent : Year: B

2 Sam 7.1-5, 8-12, 14,16; Ps 88(89); Rom 16.25-27; Lk 1.26-38

Moses had led God's people out of Egypt around the year we now reckon as 1250 B.C.E. Joshua led them on an invasion of Palestine around 1220. Judges ruled them from 1200 to 1025. The last Judge, Samuel, anointed for them their first king, Saul, around 1030. David succeeded Saul in 1010. The "Ark of God" all this time was an ornate chest containing the stone tablets inscribed with the covenant that God struck with Moses on Mount Sinai (thus the chest's familiar title, "Ark of the Covenant"). (See Exodus, chapter 25 for the origin of the Ark.) It was the people's single most sacred object. The chest was quite portable, appropriate for nomadic people. When the nomads stopped for a while, they erected a special tent for the Ark. But now they were more settled, so much so that their king has a permanent house. He wants to make a permanent house for the Ark.

The great irony here is that God is too great to need a house, and, in a neat turn of phrase, promises a house of another kind for his would-be architect. God asks David "Should you be the one to build me a house? Come now, boy king. You are too big for your britches. You want to make a house? I will tell you about making a house."

Ordinary to Extraordinary

Oliver Napoleon Hill was born to a poor family in 1883.
He fought his way out of his backwoods Virginia town with a burning desire to be successful. He was always searching for ways to improve himself and was involved in numerous ventures, including managing a coal-mine, practicing law, and becoming a business journalist. His big break came when he had the opportunity of meeting Andrew Carnegie, the “Steel King”. Andrew Carnegie asked Napoleon Hill if he would take up the challenge of devoting 20 years of his life in order to prepare a formula of success for helping others to become successful. Andrew Carnegie would provide him with letters of reference to meet hundreds of successful people in the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, to name a few. Napoleon Hill made his decision to take up the challenge in less than 60 seconds. Later he came to know that Andrew Carnegie had given him 60 seconds to make up his mind, failing which he would have lost his chance of undertaking the important assignment.

After 20 years of dedicated research in 1937 he came out with his best seller, “Think And Grow Rich”, which has helped countless of people around the world to achieve success. One of his famous saying was, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.

So the next time you think your contributions, your acts of charity, your works for justice, your gifts of love, and your talents are nothing, or that they are small in comparison to those of others, remember that when one is added to another, and then to another and so forth, great things can happen from nothing. In the same way, what seems to be ordinary can be transformed into something extraordinary with just a little extra nothing.

Your mission is to create great things once again out of nothingness, to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The Humble Handmaid of God

Some years ago a vandal attacked Michelangelo’s Pietà with a hammer, seriously damaging the face and arm of the figure of Mary. A magazine article suggested that the act was a parable of the violence done to Mary by the church - by Roman Catholics who have idolized her and by Protestants who have ignored her. While Protestants have criticized Catholics for coming close to ascribing to Mary the lead role in God’s salvation drama. Protestants could be accused of making her into a prop. But we can be thankful that Luke’s witness to the annunciation (Luke 1.26-38) stands as a corrective.

One of the great delusions that goes with wealth, power and status is to think we are in control of our lives. The most difficult lesson for most people to realize is that God values the heart, not what we possess. Everything we have is on loan to us. We are only stewards of His possessions. He is really not interested in appearance, performance or status. Not even in the church.

How would you like to be on the board of trustees of the Kingdom of God telling God what to do and how to do it? Don't respond too hastily. Far too many of us in attitude and actions are that way.

God's timing is always perfect, and He really does know what He is doing.

The Fulfillment

As we look at Luke 1.26-38 let’s keep in mind that the central figure is Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are abundant in their testimony that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophetic promises of the coming of the Deliverer (Lk 4.16-21; Acts 2.16-21, 25-36; 3.12-18, 22-26; 7.2-53; 13.16ff). Luke and Matthew make it clear that the historical events they are reporting are seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The first coming of the Messiah was to be an advent of humiliation while the second is one of consummation and glory of the kingdom of God. The day draws near when Christ shall take His great power and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. His kingdom alone shall possess an everlasting kingdom and His dominion will not end. However, it must first come in deep humiliation. But even if the Son of God, the heir of all things, had come to reign on the earth as a king at the first advent even that would have been condescension to come on earth as king.

The Angel Gabriel Was Sent
When God chose to act in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy regarding salvation of man He did it at a specific place and time in the history of Israel with specific people and concerns the birth of a historical person. These are historical events that Luke is reporting. He does not say, “Once upon a time… ” He said just the opposite, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea. . . the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth” (1.5, 26). History is full of Herod and his evil family. The Jewish people hated him because he was an Edomite, not a Jew. Here was a king who did not have a drop of king David’s blood flowing in his veins, appointed by the power of Rome to the throne of a Jewish nation. Luke notes another significant historical marker in establishing the historicity of Jesus’ birth. In 2.1 he writes, “Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” No honest scholar can deny that Luke is asserting that these events took place as part of universally accepted history.

God Spotted Nazareth

In his search God passed over Imperial Rome, Jerusalem and the Temple and came to a village in Galilee of the Gentiles. What was Nazareth like in the days of Jesus? The town was located 70 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and sat on a hillside above the highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem. The population was 15,000. It was a hot bed of corruption with Roman soldiers passing by each day and spending the night there, Greek merchants and travelers were coming and going selling their wares. Dwellers were rude, violent and of evil repute. How significant that God passed over Jerusalem, the Temple, and the politicians and went to a town in Galilee. He went to the Galilee of the Gentiles. Even in this hotbed of corruption He had his chosen servants. In the darkest days of human history, God has always had His elect remnant ready to accomplish His will and purpose. He always has had on hand those who are available to Him. And our day is no exception.

Her name was Mary (1.27)

She was probably just a teenager between 13 and 15 years old. This was the normal age for the Jewish betrothal or formal engagement. We know that she was engaged to Joseph who was a descendent of King David (v. 27). It was important for Luke and Matthew to carefully note that Jesus descended from the lineage of King David (2.4; 3.23-38; Mat 1.1-17; Rom 1.3; 2 Tim 2.8).

On the Way to Marriage

It would seem very strange to us, but Mary and Joseph’s parents got together and arranged for the marriage of their children. The Jewish marriage consisted of two stages: one was the engagement which was followed a year later by the marriage proper. This engagement was a formal agreement initiated by the father seeking a bride for his son. The two mothers and two fathers got together and negotiated the marriage arrangement and then the qiddushin took place. This formal betrothal was binding like a marriage. The second most important person involved in the marriage contract was the father of the bride. Remember, he stood to lose the most in the deal because he was giving up his daughter and helper on the farm or in the family business. The couple was engaged when the father of the son paid the purchase price to the bride’s father and a written agreement and oath were signed. When the marriage contract was finalized by the parents of the couple, even though the marriage ceremony had not been celebrated, the bridegroom could not be rid of his betrothed except through divorce. If Joseph had died between the engagement and marriage, Mary would have been his legal widow. If, during the same period of time, another man had sexual intercourse with her, Mary would have been punished as an adulteress. This engagement period usually lasted for a year and was as binding as marriage. The legal aspect of the Jewish marriage was included in the betrothal; the wedding celebration was merely recognition of the agreement that had already been established. This is why Joseph had a perfect right to travel with Mary to Bethlehem. The engagement was taken a lot more seriously than in our day. Even though the engagement was legally binding, and the couple was considered husband and wife, they refrained from sexual contact until the second stage of the marriage ceremony was fulfilled.

Here we find Mary humble, ready to do God’s will with total surrender to him.

Mary an Example of Faith

Luke perceived Mary as a significant role model for all of us. We discover anew each day that we have trusted in people and things that can’t deliver and, like Luke’s original readers, we need direction and hope. Luke points us to Mary. He does not present her as a goddess, nor a stiff statue gathering cobwebs in a musty cathedral, nor a plastic figurine molded with a sweet and innocent countenance to stand lifeless in a coffee-table crèche. Luke’s Mary is a genuine example of faith acted out in discipleship and response to God’s word.

She Responded an Odd Call

If Mary’s ears had been less keen and her soul less willing, she might not have understood. If her eyes had been able to see only the broad, bold outlines of trial, tragedy, rejection and hardship, she might not have sensed the divine presence or heard God’s word of grace and favor. But she heard and responded, even to such an odd call in such a common hour of life. Her story reminds us that the oddest, most inglorious moments are packed with the annunciation of God’s presence and God’s call to serve.

Practical Conclusion

Your mission is to create great things once again out of the resources and talents given to you; to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Life is fullness. Life is movement. Life is joy and happiness, provided we become interested in what we are doing and are conscious of the time we use for it. Each day is a gift that is offered to us in time. When we get up, we tend to see the time and then we begin to check the time before and after each commitment or work. In our daily work we should never become a victim of the so-called monotonous routine. That is dangerous. We need to train ourselves to hold life as something precious like gold or silver and then work for bettering our performance in whatever we are involved. We look at Mary who considered everything as coming from the Lord and she said FIAT.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

3rd Sunday of Advent : Year: B

Is 61.1-2a, 10-11; Lk 1; 1 Thess 5.16-24; Jn 1.6-8, 19-28

"Rejoice: The Lord is nigh." As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us. When we give time to the Lord, we experience that joy in our hearts. The great joy of Christians is to see the day drawing nigh when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom. The oft-repeated Veni ("Come") of Advent is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of St. John: "Come, Lord Jesus," the last words of the New Testament. When the Lord draws near to us, we feel secure, happy, and joyful. But we need to give that time to the Lord that he may instruct us and make us ready for his arrival.

Today is known as Gaudete Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, "Rejoice". Rose vestments are worn to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on our Advent wreath.

The Appointment
Carl Jung tells the story of a man who was seeing him for counseling. The man wanted an appointment at a particular time on a particular day. "I'm sorry," said Jung, "but I have an appointment at that time." When the two met together the next time, the client was furious. "You told me that you had an appointment on Tuesday. But I happened to see you. I know exactly where you were and what you were doing. You were sitting on the bank of the river, doing nothing other than dangling your toes in the water!" "That's right," said Jung. "It was my appointment with myself and I never break it!"

Appointment with oneself is important and in the same way appointment with God is also important in our life. God is dwelling in our heart. The more you go deeper, closer you come to God. Today we do not have time for that. Too much of the world enters, instead we allowing ourselves to be alone with God. Carl Jung was correct when he said that it was an important appointment.

Time for God and Time for Others
Third Sunday in Advent invites us to have time for God. Of course when guests come to our home, we give all the time to them, so that they do not get upset with the things that are new around them. In order to get to know God better, we need to give time to him. When we want to develop relationships with our friends, with our husband or wife, with our parents or with our children, we set aside time to do so. Indeed we talk about spending "quality time" with someone when we want to work on our relationship with them: that is, time spent with someone alone with no hidden agenda and no distractions. God wants to spend quality time with us, time when He has our undivided attention.

Mary and Martha

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Wholehearted Attention

Mary chose to spend time with Jesus and refused to be distracted; Martha chose not to spend time with Him. And Jesus said that Mary had chosen better. (Later, we see Mary express her devotion to Jesus in a most extravagant way, pouring a bottle of extremely expensive perfume over Him. Again, Jesus commends her action.) Jesus invites us to learn from Mary and spend time with Him as she did, letting Him change us by the encounter.

Being with God

How much do we value spending time with the Lord? Does the idea of being with Him fill us with expectation and joy as it did Mary? Given how incredibly wonderful God is, it is somewhat astonishing how little time many of us spend on deepening our relationship with Him. When a young man and woman are in love they are on in spirit. If we let God captivate our heart with His love, then we too will desire to be with Him above anything else, and we become one with him.

Jesus’ Appointment

The gospel accounts record various occasions when Jesus Himself withdrew to places of solitude to spend time with His Father: Once, "very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Another time, "after he had dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone." Luke writes that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." If this was part of the rhythm of Jesus' life, how much more do we need to build it in to the rhythm of our lives too.

No Time

Are we willing to invest time in our relationship with God? Western ideals-filled society is so goal-oriented that we often find it hard enough for us to invest adequate time in developing deep human relationships, let alone in deepening our relationship with God. It seems ridiculous that we are so unwilling to invest more than an hour or so each week in meeting with God. The trouble is that giving time to just being with God, to just being in His presence, is in conflict with the values of the world we live in. Are we willing to 'waste time' in this way?

Tough Decisions

We may need to make some tough decisions to do this. Spending time with God is important - indeed it's of crucial importance to the way we live - but it never seems urgent. As a result we find it easy to postpone, delaying indefinitely until it never happens. But, the window of opportunity is now: "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on Him while He is near", says Isaiah. We need to "seize the day" before the years pass away and God misses out on the best part of our lives. Why let slip the opportunity of having a close relationship with him now? Most of us will need to plan in order to give time to communion and fellowship with God. We need to make practical decisions about how we use our time. We should all arrange to have a regular companionship with God.

We should have a similar attitude about meeting regularly with God. It should be an unbreakable appointment.

Forced Relationship

God is unlikely to force us to spend time with Him (though sometimes He may let us go through a time of illness or unemployment to help us see what is important. Do we believe we're too busy to find time for this? Our society seems to honour busyness, but we need to decide whether we can afford not to plan time alone with God into our timetable. Some of us work long hours irrespective of any real need to do so and many of us pursue unnecessary goals (perhaps most obviously greater wealth and a higher 'standard of living'). Probably all of us spend time on things that are neither urgent nor important. How we spend our time shows what we value. We can't do everything. We have to choose. Are we choosing not to spend time with God, in favour of other activities? Or are we willing to sacrifice the unimportant, saying "no" to some of the demands we or others place on us, in order to give time to God? How much is our relationship with God really worth to us?

Practical Ways

What this means in practice will vary widely according to our circumstances. For some, it may just be necessary to enter unbreakable appointments with God in a diary - and then keep those appointments. For others, it may be right to give up participation in Sunday outing in order to be able to attend church regularly. Others may decide that a change in employment is required. In pursuit of intimacy with the Lord, are we willing to reject the values of our culture? Are we willing to choose a lower 'standard of living' in order to pursue the higher 'quality of life' that we find as we live in close communion with our loving heavenly Father?

Practical Conclusion

In addition to our regular daily and weekly times spent with God, it is also good to plan some more extended periods of time for the sole purpose of deepening our relationship with our Father. Structuring a short meditation on God every few months is likely to be one of the most profitable things we ever do. If we give a day or weekend totally over to meeting with God, the benefits are likely to far outweigh any 'sacrifice' we make. We may feel we are too busy to do something like this, but we have no problem finding time for holidays, or to spend with family and friends, or for pursuing our hobbies or making progress in our work. No, the most difficult problem is not in finding time but in deciding that it is important enough to find the time. If we truly love the Lord with every part of our being, it should be evident in our diaries and calendars!

Time given to the Lord in prayer can be enormously beneficial to ourselves as it impacts our health; physical, psychological and spiritual. Let this be our Gaudete, a rejoicing when we give our time to the Lord who comes without delay.
He may find us waiting for him and we rejoice because he comes with gifts of peace and joy to us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

1st Sunday of Advent : Year: B

Is 63.16b-17; 64.1, 3-8; Ps 79(80); 1 Cor 1.3-9; Mk 13.31-37

The Cow Tongue
There once was a king who loved to eat. When the castle cook grew too old to prepare the meals anymore, the king looked for a new cook. A young man applied for the job. The king said to him, "I want you to cook me the best and most important dish in the whole world."

The night the king sat down at the table. When he looked at the special dish, he exclaimed, "Why, that’s cow tongue!"

The young man answered, "Yes, it is. Nothing is more important than the tongue if it is used correctly. The tongue is used to teach, to explain, to command, to defend, to calm. Tongues are used to sing to babies and to make bargains. Tongue has to be the most important thing for a king."

"I must say I didn’t realize that, young man. You’ve opened my eyes. Therefore, tomorrow night, I want you to fix me the worst dish you know."

The next night, the young man served the king cow tongue. The king said, "What goes on here? Last night, tongue was the best dish in the world. Tonight it’s the worst. How can this be?"

"The difference is what you do with it, Sir," said the young man. "Tongues make gossip, stir up trouble, and tell lies. Tongues are cruel and hypocritical. Therefore, tongue can be the worst dish in the world."

"Yes, I see. I also see that I need your wisdom in my court. I’ll get someone else to do the cooking."

Vatican forgave John Lenon on 23rd November in 2009. He is one of the members of the Beatles group. He had claimed that the Beatles group was greater than Jesus Christ. Now they have come to know that they are aging and dying and cannot compare themselves with Christ as they get less and less popular. Jesus did not organize concerts; he was just like a man like me and you. He came to save us all. Never did he work for his own popularity.

Blameless Before God
Today's readings reveal to us that God is faithful, His Word being unchanging. They teach us the end result of righteousness. They tell us that although we presently dwell in our present sinful physical bodies that seek to oppose what is spiritual, we can still be blameless before God on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are all very powerful statements that deserve to be reviewed so that they may be understood.

For those who turn their hearts away from the Lord, God treats them as children, disciplining them as a loving Father (Heb 12.8) Allowing all to enjoy their free will, the Lord permits them for some time to stray away from His ways, hardening their hearts so that they do not fear Him.

Be Awake
Jesus asked his disciples to keep awake, in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cockcrow, or at dawn. By this, he meant to be spiritually active and consistent. Do not take a break in your spiritual lives to relapse into sin. For that sinful moment may be the moment when you will be called and judged according to the actions of your heart at the moment of physical death.

Patience of God
When you buy a house on loan and have to make monthly payments you are vigilant with patience. What happens if you miss a monthly payment? You lose your house! In his infinite grace, God patiently awaits for all to live according to his Holy ways, not suddenly calling everyone who misses on a payment. If he did so, he would not have any children left because we are all sinners, weak in the human nature.

Be Conscious
Keeping awake, means we become conscious of ourselves. We need from time to time remind ourselves of the dangers that are around us. A lot of things happen. Someone dies of road accident, perhaps he/she never thought of it; someone discovers that he/she has a serious illness on a fine morning. Keeping awake in these times of uncertainty is necessary so that we do not lose ourselves in the valley of sadness.

Often when I hear talk about Christ's coming, it is presented as though it is something to fear. Images of death, guilt and sinfulness leading to the awesome Judgement throne of a righteous God come to our mind. Perhaps we very naturally think of it in terms of the days of our life having come to an end and the eternal night about to fall. But Paul's image is reversed. It is not the day that is about over - nor is it the darkness and evil of night that approaches. Rather, it is the night that is about over and the dawn will come with a glorious day ahead. Are you sleeping yet? Wake up - walk with Christ - for the glorious day of the Lord is coming.

He is Coming Soon
It reminds me of a favorite story: There was a young deacon that had recently entered the ministry and was trying hard to develop a style of preaching without notes that he liked. He had worked hard on preparing his Advent sermon and the time had come for delivering it. But shortly after he began he found that he had forgotten what he was planning to say. He knew that the main point was to emphasis that Christ was coming soon, so he decided that he would just repeat that line in hopes that it would stir his memory. So he said; “He is coming so.” But it didn’t help - so he tried again; “He is coming soon!!!” Nothing. So after a dramatic pause he tried again - but this time he put his all into it, slapping his hands down on the pulpit and really leaning into it. “HE IS COMING SOON!!” Unfortunately, the pulpit was old and a little weak in some spots and it broke free and the deacon was thrown forward into the front pew right into the lap of one of the members sitting there. The deacon picked himself up and apologized to the woman. But she simply said: “Oh, it’s my own fault. I should have moved back right away. After all you told us three times that you were coming soon,”

Watching and Waiting in Daily Life

I guess for most of us there have been times in our lives when we have wanted to stay awake all night. It might be because we wanted to read or study, maybe because we were excited about something happening the next day or because we were on a long journey and travelling at night was more convenient, maybe because we had to work. Whatever the reason it was sufficiently necessary or interesting to keep us wake. Yet as the night drew on tiredness sets in and often we awaken in the morning with a book fallen to the floor or if driving need to pull over and sleep. I have not worked at night very often but I found the hardest time was 3-4 am when my eyes wanted to close and concentration was at its worst.

Parable of 10 Virgins

We all remember the parable Jesus told about the 10 virgins, five of whom were wise and five who were foolish. All of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Though they all fell asleep the wise had at least prepared for the bridegroom coming, they had tried to remain alert and prepared before sleep (or death) overwhelmed them.

Now our primary goal in life must be to keep our eyes firmly fixed upon God’s Kingdom and the things that we so dearly believe in. Indeed he shall very soon come, as stated in the parable of the 10 virgins:

"Come out to meet him!”

Let us then daily fix our eyes upon his coming Kingdom, for it will generate zeal to stay alert and striving to develop a character pleasing to the Lord Jesus. It has been a long night, the ‘bridegroom’ has tarried long and it is now almost dawn. It is well worth just considering and meditating upon how to remain awake. Our Master will come, our hope is certain; as we read "Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and view a land that stretches far" Isaiah 33.17. At that time there will at last be peace when the earth is ruled by a righteous King, God's righteous and just law going forth from Jerusalem.

Practical Conclusion

If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child – they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal now; with no past and no future. So they are spared the guilt and the anxiety that so torment human beings and they are full of the sheer joy of living, taking delight not so much in persons or things as in life itself. As long as your happiness is caused or sustained by something or someone outside of you, you are still in the land of the dead. The day you are happy for no reason whatsoever, the day you find yourself taking delight in everything and in nothing, you will know that you have found the land of unending Joy called the kingdom.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

Christ the King : Year: A

Eze 34.11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15.20-26, 28; Mt 25.31-46

Who, who are you?
One stormy night many years ago an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk explained that because there were three conventions in town, the hotel was filled. He added, "But I can't send a nice couple like you out in the rain at 1 o'clock in the morning. Would you be willing to sleep in my room?" The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he told the clerk, "You're the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I'll build one for you." The clerk smiled, amused by the older man's "little joke." A few years passed. Then one day the clerk received a letter from the elderly man recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York for a visit. A round-trip ticket was enclosed. When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where a grand new building stood. "That," explained the elderly man, "is the hotel I have just built for you to manage." "You must be joking," the clerk said. "I most assuredly am not," came the reply. "Who, who are you?" stammered the clerk. The man answered, "My name is William Waldorf Astor." That hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria, one of the most magnificent hotels in New York. The young clerk who became its first manager was George C. Boldt. The story reinforces today’s gospel message: blessings come from prudent action as the King of the Universe is going to reward each one according to what we really deserve.

Gregory Peck
The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren't opening up very fast. They weren't even that close to the front of the line. Peck's friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, "Why don't you tell the maitre d' who you are?" Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. "No," he said, "if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren't."

The Kings
The history of mankind has witnessed various types of kings and rulers. There were rulers who involved themselves in all types of corruptive and destructive power of money, violence and lust, like the Roman kings who destroyed nations and enjoyed their life and lived lavishly. There were arrogant and violent rulers who were sporting war, violence, and hatred; for example Nero, Hitler, Idiamin and many others. Today we speak and celebrate the Kingship of Christ, who is the king of kings, but with a difference. He came into this world, son of God, made man, born of a woman, born poor, who came to die and to give life. He said, “I have come to give life, and life in abundance” (Jn 10.10). What a paradox. I have come to give life – that means sacrifice my own life – and give it to you – in abundance.

Only this kingdom…
An old hermit was once invited to visit the court of the most powerful king of those times.
• I envy such a saintly man, who is content with so little - said the ruler.
• I envy Your Majesty, because you are content with less than what I have - responded the hermit.
• How can you say such a thing, if this entire country belongs to me? - said the offended king.
• For precisely that reason. I have the music of the celestial spheres, I have the rivers and mountains of the whole world, I have the moon and the sun, because I have God in my soul. Your Majesty, on the other hand, has only this kingdom.

The Ancestor’s Bones
There was a king of Spain who was very proud of his ancestors, and who was known for his cruelty to the weak.

One time, he was walking with his advisers across a field in Aragon, where - years before - he had lost his father during a battle, when he found a holy man searching a large pile of bones.

What are you doing there? - asked the king.
Honored greetings, Your Majesty - said the holy man. - When I heard that the king of Spain was coming this way, I resolved to recover the bones of your late father and present them to you. But however hard I search, I cannot find them. they are exactly the same as the bones of country folk, the poor, beggars and slaves.

Word Meaning
The name is found in various forms in scripture. King Eternal (1 Tim 1.17), King of Israel (Jn 1.49), King of the Jews (Mt 27.11), King of kings (1 Tim 6.15; Rev 19.16), King of the Ages (Rev 15.3) and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Rev 1.5)

Those who fought against suppression of the Church in the French Revolution have vehemently noted the French words 'Dieu Le Roi' beneath the heart-and-cross, meaning 'God (is) the king'.

The ideological movement of Christ's Kingship was addressed in the encyclical Quas Primas of Pope Pius XI, published in 1925, which has been called "possibly one of the most misunderstood and ignored encyclicals of all time". The Pontiff's encyclical quotes with approval Cyril of Alexandria, noting that Jesus' Kingship is not obtained by violence. "'Christ,' he says, 'has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.'"

Not Just Human Power
Pope Benedict XVI has remarked, that Christ's Kingship is not based on "human power" but on loving and serving others. The prefect exemplar of that acceptance, he pointed out, is the Virgin Mary. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God's will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that "God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth.

On this Sunday which closes the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In the Gospel we listened to Pontius Pilate's question to Jesus. "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Jn 18.33). Jesus replies by asking in turn. "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" (Jn 18.34). And Pilate answers. "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?" (Jn 18.35).

Not of this World
At this point in the dialogue, Christ states. "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world" (Jn 18.36).

Everything is clear and transparent now. Faced with the priests' accusation, Jesus reveals that his is another kind of kingship, a divine and spiritual kingship. Pilate asks for confirmation. "So you are a king?" (Jn 18.37). At this point, excluding every erroneous interpretation of his royal dignity, Jesus indicates his true kingship. "I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice" (Jn 18.37).

To the sheep, those who have persevered in their living faith until the end, Jesus will say, come, you that are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For when I was hungry, you gave Me food. When I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed Me. When I was naked, you gave Me clothing. When I was sick, you took care of Me. When I was in prison, you visited Me. For as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me.

To the goats on His left, He will say, you that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire 0prepared for the devil and his angels. When I was hungry, you did not feed Me. When I was thirsty, you gave Me nothing to drink. Etc...

Today's Gospel echoes the eternal Divine love and justice of our beloved King. He will show His eternal love to those who have shown love in this world. He will show His eternal justice against those who have failed to live a righteous life. Divine justice shall favour those who have been persecuted because of their living faith in Christ.

He Made It
There was once a Catholic King’s son who went out into the world, and he was full of thought and sad. He looked at the sky, which was so beautifully pure and blue, then he sighed, and said, how well must all be with one up there in heaven. Then he saw a poor gray-haired man who was coming along the road towards him, and he spoke to him, and asked, how can I get to heaven. The man answered, by poverty and humility. Put on my ragged clothes, wander about the world for seven years, and get to know what misery is, take no money, but if you are hungry ask compassionate hearts for a bit of bread. In this way you will reach heaven.

Then the king’s son took off his magnificent coat, and wore in its place the beggar’s garment, went out into the wide world, and suffered great misery. He took nothing but a little food, said nothing, but prayed to the Lord to take him into his heaven. When the seven years were over, he returned to his father’s palace, but no one recognized him. He said to the servants, go and tell my parents that I have come back again. But the servants did not believe it, and laughed and left him standing there. Then said he, go and tell it to my brothers that they may come down, for I should so like to see them again. The servants would not do that either, but one of them went, and told it to the king’s children, but these did not believe it, and did not trouble themselves about it. Then he wrote a letter to his mother, and described to her all his misery, but he did not say that he was her son. So out of pity, the queen had a place under the stairs assigned to him, and food taken to him daily by two servants. But one of them was ill-natured and said, why should the beggar have the good food, and kept it for himself, or gave it to the dogs, and took the weak, emaciated beggar nothing but water. The other, however, was honest, and took the beggar what was sent to him. It was little, but he could live on it for a while, and all the time he was quite patient, but he grew continually weaker. As his illness increased, he desired to receive the last sacrament. When the mass was being celebrated, all the bells in the town and neighborhood began to ring of their own accord. After mass the priest went to the poor man under the stairs, and there he lay dead. In one hand he had a rose, in the other a lily, and beside him was a paper on which was written his history. All were surprised at his courage. Well, he really was a happy man. Being miserable, he had known the real world. He was content, in spite of being poor and miserable.

Yes, our King became poor, died a death of a criminal on the Cross and redeemed us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Prov 31.10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31; 1 Thes 5.1-6; Mt 24.36, 25.14-30

Freeing the Angel

One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, "What are you making?" He replied, "There is an angel in there and I must set it free."

The Last Good Morning
A talented young man by came in and wished all of us “good morning” and went to sea shore for spending time with his friends on a Sunday. Evening we received a shocking news that he got drowned in the sea and we could not digest this fact. We were all thrown in the dark. The young man had to join a new job after having finished his study just the following Monday. All this changed the entire life of the family. This incident has been the talk of the town for at least year now (2008). Life is precious and can never be substituted with anything else.

She has Cancer
The man came in tears. I had never seen him weeping ever. He was a jovial parishioner. He told me that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. He wept saying that she has to undergo chemotherapy and he was uncertain about her life. Yes, it is true what Jesus said. 'About the day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man, no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Hence I invite you to reflect your present state of your life, and deeply be thankful to God. Every moment you live be deeply grateful to God that he has been good to you. Your attitude is to add flavour to your life, so that God be praised through you.

Parable of the Talents
St. Matthew's Parable of the Talents, which is the name given by most Christians to the story we have just read, St. Matthew's Parable of the Talents is actually only one of a collection of three stories which our Lord taught on the subject of shrewd stewardship. The third is the tale recorded by St. Luke in chapter 16 of his Gospel that is known as the Parable of the Crafty Steward or the Parable of the Dishonest Manager or some similar wording of the same theme.

Do your Business
The two stories of our dynamic duo, the second one of which is also recorded by St. Luke in the 19th chapter of his Gospel, are quite enough to keep us occupied. This morning's reading is known as the Parable of Talents. The story recorded by St. Luke in chapter 19 is known as the Parable of the Ten Talents. In St. Luke's story, if you will remember, Jesus suggests not so much a landowner as a lord or crown prince who has to leave his kingdom and travel to a far country in order to be made king. Before he leaves for his coronation, the lord calls 10 of his slaves to him and gives each a mina, small fortune with which each is told to "do business" for the crown prince until he can himself return to them as king. Each of the selected slaves takes his mina and begins to deal with it. Meanwhile, however, many of the other citizens and slaves of that land become restive and begin to speak of rebellion against their absent lord. They go so far, in fact, as to in the end, actually plot out an insurrection.

When the King Returns
Well, of course, as we know, the lord does return and he does return as king, fully empowered and totally in command at last. Shortly thereafter, he calls the 10 slaves and asks of each of them a financial report about their success in using his trusts. We are, interestingly enough, only told about three of the reporting slaves. The other seven simply disappear in the ensuing action. We are told thus that the first slave reports to his master, rather proudly in fact, that he has made 10 additional minas out of the one entrusted to him. The king is deeply pleased, and as a reward, gives the profitable slave lordship over 10 cities, one city for each of the minas he has earned. The second slave reports, with equal pride and identical wording, that he had made five minas out of his one. He, too, is praised by the king and given the oversight of five cities, one for each of his earned minas.

He buried the Talent
The third slave is the last from whom we hear, for his story we are led to understand, is very sad indeed. Like the fearful slave of today's Gospel, this slave has also chosen to hide his mina away where it will be safe from theft and from corrupt usage until his master's return. He explains this decision, as does our fearful servant in St. Matthew, by saying, to quote one translation, "I was afraid of you, for you're a tough man; you collect what you didn't deposit and reap what you didn't sow." So far, our two stories are, in other words, pretty parallel, having only minor differences but the same point.
Lost Chance

But now the king of our second rendition responds to the overly fastidious and fearful slave rather differently and far more clearly and emphatically than does the landowner in St. Matthew's telling of the story. The king says, "I will judge you by what you have said, you evil slave! If you knew I was a tough man, collecting what I didn't deposit and reaping what I had not sown, why didn't you put my money in the bank? And when I returned, I would have collected it with interest." And then the king said to those standing nearby, "Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas."

Unjust Treatment
Understandably, here, as in the story of the talents itself, those who are standing there and hearing this judgment are outraged. Being moral subjects, they protest that giving another mina to a man who already had 10 is unfair - pretty much the same accusation against the king that the fearful slave had already made to his own undoing, but moral insurrectionists apparently learn very slowly. So the king turns to the protesters and delivers one of the most frequently quoted lines of Christian scripture. He says, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even that which he does have will be taken away." After that, the king summarily orders the slaughtering in his presence of those who had plotted his overthrow and the story is ended.

The End
If we never know what happened to the other slaves in St. Luke's story, we also never know what exactly happened to the fearful one beyond his being stripped of his one mina. In St. Matthew's story, as we have read, we find that the fastidious or anxious servant, and not a group of insurrectionists, is the one exiled to the outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Either way, however, the question - the central, the overriding, the compelling question still remains.

Reaping Without Sowing
If we are to understand, as obviously we are, that the Messiah is the king or lord or master in both stories, and if Jesus who is telling the tale, is Messiah, then what are we to make of these pictures of himself and of his nature that he has left us? What are we to make of a lord who rewards one of our own kind for using the ways of the world to enrich the king upon his return? More to the point, what are we to make of a lord who condemns, exiles, strips bare one of our own kind, for electing to not use the ways of the world to enrich the king upon his return? Usury, which is the word to translate what our more cautious, more socially correct contemporary translations refer to as "bearing interest," usury was and is a sin in Judaism, and in a lot of other places as well. And nowhere do nice people ever go around reaping crops they didn't sow? What's happening here?

Breaking Traditions
Well, for one thing, if we are honest with our texts, we have to say that the nature of sin and spiritual error is being defined in a very uncomfortable, unconventional, and un-codified way. If we are honest, we would also have to say that it is being defined in much the same way that Jesus was given to defining it during his teaching life. To the ongoing consternation of the religious, we know he ate on the Sabbath from the grain he and his disciples gathered along the roadside as they walked. He refused to stone an adulteress, as the law required, and then made it impossible for others to do so. He talked in depth and publicly to a Samaritan who, even more damning, was a Samaritan woman. He sat at table with flagrant sinners including tax collectors. Over and over again, by act as well as word, he pushed against the moralist and the derivative codes of religion, but never more clearly and incontrovertibly than here in our three parables.

The Total Fulfilment
Lest there might be any mistake in the minds of those around him about the difference between Torah - the law - and moralist and derivative codes, Jesus very explicitly tells his students and through them, us, that not one jot or little of the law as given by God at Sinai will pass into inefficacy until the kingdom itself comes. He says as well that anyone who teaches or empowers another to break Torah would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his or her neck than to do such a thing. But he just as clearly defines Torah by saying that all the Law and the prophets are summed up in this. "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself...for in this all the law and the prophets are indeed fulfilled."

We hear a great deal very frequently about Jesus' summary of the law and the prophets, but almost without exception, what we hear about is that second part, the part about loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is a good principle, a good summary of the divine imperative, a good compass for determining direction, but it is also only half of the Messiah's whole summary. It is, to be precise, the second half, the subordinate or secondary position. Love your neighbor, in other words, while it may be of great social good, is of no spiritual or religious use without its other and primary companion piece of "Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul."

To know God, as the moral slave knew, is to be afraid. To know God, really know God to the limits of human observation, is to concede that he does indeed make his rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike. To know God as far as observation will take us is to acknowledge, as the fearful slave acknowledged, that he's a tough man, playing by rules we can easily question and often find deplorable. Such knowledge would make almost any thinking person afraid, and thus it was that the unprofitable slave took up the shield of playing it safe in order to hold his fear at bay.

But what of the profitable servants in both our tales? Were they not also afraid? Of course they were! Common sense alone teaches us that no slave is without fear of the master. Moreover, the profitable servants were clearly thinking and observant folk who knew as surely as did the fearful one what was the nature of the king. Why then did they not likewise fall into heaps of terror, or at the very least, into heaps of paralyzing anxiety?

It would seem from both our stories, that they loved the master, the landowner, the king. Or if love be too weak and abused a word nowadays to be applicable here, and I suspect that the profitable servants yearned toward the master. They positively glowed in the light of him and his approval. They also yearned so completely that they gambled with his goods in pure blind faith that that was really what he meant for them to do. They yearned so completely, in other words, that they believed his intentions his spirit, if you will - as they understood it, and they gambled themselves on fulfilling it. They, in short, loved the master with all their hearts and souls and minds, for this is the first and great commandment, and all the others are secondary unto it.

And the only proper response to such stories as these, it seems to me, is to pray that God may give each of us such grace and faithfulness in our times as he gave to those faithful servants in their storied ones.

Practical Conclusion
• There is no point in brooding over lost opportunities
• Cash in on the present occasion and try to develop your talents
• Try to offer the fruit of your wok to God, and God alone
• This is the way you can pray and sanctify everything you do
• Such attitude will lead you to be thankful and you will be just before God.
• Try your best not to waste time and talents.
• Lost time will never be ours.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Wis 6.12-16; 1 Thes 4.13-18; Mt 25.1-13

I Never Lived
A woman in the hospital was weeping after being told she was terminally ill with cancer. When a friend sought to console her she replied, "I'm not weeping because I'm dying. I'm weeping because I never lived." The awareness of limits and wasted time means we can take up a conscious stance with regard to our own inevitable mortality. It is this mature insight that will protect us from slavishly following what the culture wants us to do and squandering our time in seeking the approval of others by conforming to their rules and values.

The Second Coming
In Warren Wiersbe's Meet Yourself in the Psalms, he tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon. The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced his plea: "Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged." One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, "During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!"

Intelligent Wood Chopper
One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did." "But you didn't notice," said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest."

The Bridegrooms Arrival
There are a number of obscure aspects about Matthew's story. The setting is the awaited arrival of the bridegroom, but it is not certain whether he is coming to meet his betrothed at her father's house or, as is more likely, he is returning to his own home with his bride (it is there the "wedding banquet" will take place, 25.10). The bride is not mentioned at all in the story (although a later scribe added a reference to the bride in v. 1). From what is known of first-century Palestinian marriage customs, after the period of betrothal was completed the groom would go to his bride's family home to conclude the dowry arrangements and bring her to his own house or that of his family where a celebration would take place. Also uncertain is the role of the ten "virgins" (the Greek refers to parthenoi; translation "bridesmaids" is not literal and assumes they are part of the bride's party). If the setting is the groom's house, they may be associated with his household or family. In any case, they are part of the wedding celebration and are to meet the groom with lighted lamps when he returns.

Different Attitudes
The parable wastes little time in illustrating the different attitudes among the ten virgins-five are "foolish" and five are "wise" (25.2). Matthew used these identical labels to contrast the wise man who built his home on rock and the foolish one who built on sand at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (7.24-27). In the parable of the virgins, the contrasting reactions are the preparations each group makes for the awaited return of the groom. The foolish take no oil for their lamps while the wise take flasks of oil with them. When the bridegroom is delayed, all of the virgins become drowsy and fall asleep. Suddenly at midnight the signal is given that the groom is arriving and the procession is to meet him. When the virgins begin to trim their oil lamps (replacing the burned wicks and adding new oil?), the foolish realize they have no more oil. They ask the wise virgins for some, but they in turn calculate that there is not enough for everyone. Improbable as it may seem at midnight, the foolish virgins must go off to try to purchase more oil for their lamps.

The Final Arrival
Meanwhile the groom arrives and "those who were ready" (see the same word used in 24:44, "you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour") entered into the wedding feast (25.10). Then the door was "shut" so that no one else could enter. The foolish virgins finally arrive but they are too late. They cry out, "Lord, lord, open to us" but the groom rebuffs their last-minute pleas-"Truly . . . I do not know you" (25.11-12). This exchange is nearly identical to the warnings of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Those who cry out "Lord, Lord" but fail to do the will of God are rejected by Jesus ("I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers") and therefore cannot "enter the kingdom of heaven" (see 7.21-23).

Keep Awake
Matthew drives home the lesson of the parable in its concluding verse: "Keep awake [gregoreite; see the same verb in 24.42, 43] therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (25.13). "Staying awake" is used metaphorically for a stance of thoughtful readiness in view of the certain but unknown hour of the parousia. All of the virgins "slept" (see 25.5), but the wise virgins had made preparations to be ready no matter when the bridegroom would arrive.

Who is the Bridegroom?
How far to push the allegorical dimensions of this parable have been debated, we are not pretty sure. Matthew himself signals some key allegorical features. The bridegroom is surely intended to represent the Son of Man. The Hebrew Scriptures refer to God as the bridegroom who takes away Israel's barrenness and shame (see, e.g., Isa 54.1-8; Jer 31.32; Hos 2.1-20). In the New Testament, the image takes on eschatological tones, probably due to the motif of the end time as a wedding feast (see Mark 2:19-20; John 3:29-30; and the similar image of the community as the "bride" of Christ: 2 Cor 11.2; Eph 5.21-33; Rev 19.7; 21.2, 9; 22.17).

The Parousia
That Matthew refers to the parousia of the Son of Man is clear from the overall context of the apocalyptic discourse where the parable functions as one of several exhortations to readiness in view of the parousia. Also, Matthew had already identified Jesus as the "bridegroom" earlier in the Gospel in a passage with strong eschatological tones (see 9.15). In the parable of the wedding feast (22.1-10), Matthew had also introduced wedding imagery as a way of speaking of the judgment that would befall not only those who violently rejected the original invitation by the king, but even those invited later who do not wear a wedding garment (22.11-14). In the story of the virgins, the "delay" of the bridegroom (25.5; see 24.48), the dramatic shout announcing his sudden arrival (25.6; see 24.31), and the address "Lord, lord" (25.11; see 7.21-23) all point to Jesus as the triumphant Son of Man coming at the parousia.

Practical Conclusion
Wisdom is something we ‘choose’ like the five bridesmaids did. Having chosen it wisdom becomes second nature to us.

We can also reject it like the other five bridesmaids did. And then we remain condemned to a foolishness we ourselves cannot see.

I don't know if there really is a door but I do know there really will be such a moment, such a moment of truth; I pray that when it comes, we may all find ourselves together in the wedding hall - for all eternity.
Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Ex 2.21-27; I Thes 1.5-10; Mt 22.39-40

Do you love me?

There is a very tender and moving scene in the play, Fiddler On The Roof. Tevye and his wife Golda are being forced to move from their home in Russia. One day Tevye comes into the house and asks his wife, "Golda, do you love me?" "Do I what?" "Do you love me?" Golda looks at him and then responds. "Do I love you? With our daughters getting married and this trouble in the town, you're upset, you're worn out, go inside, go lie down, maybe it's indigestion." Tevye interrupts and asks the question, "Golda, do you love me?" Golda sighs as she looked at him and says, "Do I love you? For 25 years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cows. After 25 years, why talk of love right now?" Tevye answers by saying, "Golda, the first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared, I was shy, I was nervous." "So was I," said Golda. "But my father and my mother said we'd learn to love each other, and now I'm asking, "Golda, do you love me?" "Do I love him?" Golda sighs. "For 25 years I've lived with him, fought with him, 25 years my bed is his! If that's not love, what is?" "Then you love me?" Tevye asks. "I suppose I do!" she says. "And I suppose I love you too!" he says. "It doesn't change a thing, but after 25 years it's nice to know." "Do you love me?".

Challenging Task
In today’s Gospel, Jesus leaves us his classic formulation of love, a teaching so simple that a child could grasp it, and yet so challenging that not even the saints quite live it. Christ clearly distinguishes between love of God and love of neighbor, calling love of God the first and greatest commandment and love of neighbor the second. But even though he distinguishes them in this way, Jesus does not separate them. He instead insists that the second is like the first, and uses the same Greek word for both God-love and neighbor-love.

First God then Neighbor
By ranking and relating God-love and neighbor-love in this way, Jesus establishes an order of loves—a hierarchy of first things and second things. There’s a certain rule that applies to everything arranged in this way, a rule that we’ll call the rule of “second things.” The rule goes like this. whenever we prefer the lower to the higher, the part to the whole, and—in general—“second things” to “first things”, we lose not only the first thing (which one would expect), but we lose the second thing as well.

Illustrations of this rule are everywhere. When we put our job before our families, for instance, not only do we hurt our relationship with our family, but we also quickly lose the true pleasure of working. Work uncoupled from community tends to become compulsive rather than rewarding. The same pattern holds for whole societies. The history of the 20th Century has shown that whenever countries violently suppress religion for the sake of human freedom (as they did in the heyday of atheist communism) the result was not only a forgetfulness of God, but a loss of human freedom as well. Whenever we put humanity before divinity, we get neither right.

Though this rule of “second things” holds quite generally, it applies in a special way to Christian marriage. For it is in this particular form of neighbor-love—the love between husbands and wives—that the second commandment is most “like” the first. “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love,” writes Pope Benedict, “becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love” (DCE 11). Because marriage is called to bear a special “likeness” to God’s love, our natural human love requires a special form of assistance to meet this standard. We need God to lend His own strength to our love, the seed of which strength he plants in every sacramental marriage.

Because of the special demands of marriage, putting first things takes on special urgency here. When husband and wife do not love each other for God’s sake, even their love for each ends up stunted. Why? We are made with an infinite longing, a yearning to love perfectly and to be loved perfectly. But there is no Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. No single person—no matter how compatible according to eHarmony—can bear the weight of our infinite expectations. After a smooth beginning, marriages almost always pass through a time of trial, even a phase of disillusionment—a time when the other’s faults and limitations become infuriating and when we realize, moreover, that he or she is unlikely to change. It’s then that the proverbial “seven-year itch” arises. And it’s then that our love is either matures into something deeper, or it dies.

Deeper Love
It is also then that we need to call upon the reserves of a love deeper than our natural affection. And our ability to tap into this reservoir depends on the degree to which we have cultivated friendship with God. Entering into friendship—any friendship—increases our ability to see things from that friend’s perspective, to appreciate the things he/she appreciates and to reject the things that he/she rejects. God’s friendship is like this too. By entering into friendship with Christ, then I “learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend”.

Prayer and the sacraments give us, little by little, the ability to look at our husband or wife (or any neighbor) through Christ’s eyes. We strengthen this vision when we meditate on Christ in the Gospels, when we receive him worthily in the Eucharist, and when we accept his forgiveness in confession. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Luther pastor killed for resistance to the Nazi party, used to exhort the couple in his wedding homilies, “Live in the forgiveness of one another’s sins.” So essential. But nearly impossible if we have not contemplated Christ’s indulgence toward our own sins.

Practical Conclusion
As Christ sees it, friendship with God is that first thing on which our love of neighbor depends. Hence, taking a moderate time apart to cultivate our friendship with God is not taking “quality time” away from our spouses and our children and our neighbors. It ensures instead that the time we spend with them is “quality;” for prayer changes the quality of our love, salting our love with divine fire. Do I want to be a better husband, wife, father, mother, and neighbor? I must put first things first. I must love God more ardently–with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

Remember that the persecution of Jesus and his followers was championed by well-meaning religious people motivated by what they believed to be zeal and love for God. The same people asking about the first commandment are the ones trying to entrap and kill Jesus. They are so conscious about love of God. Why then are they so insensitive when it comes to love of neighbour? Saul who later became St Paul is a good example of this kind of skewed religiosity. Jesus prophesied that "an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God" (Jn 16.2).

The error of the Pharisees is still here with us. There are still many Christians who try to separate love of fellow human beings from love of God. Their commitment to faith does not include commitment to human rights and to justice and peace issues. We shall do well to heed the message of Jesus in today's gospel: that true love of God and true love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin. Any attempt to separate them is a falsification of the message of Christ. "Those who say, 'I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen" (1 Jn 4.20).

Fr. Rudolf V. Dsouza OCD
Calgary - Canada

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 45.1, 4-6; I Thes 1.1-5; Mt 22.15-21

Alexander’s giving
The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, "Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar's need. Why give him gold?" Alexander responded in royal fashion, "Copper coins would suit the beggar's need, but gold coins suit Alexander's giving."

Five Bananas
I was having a wonderful time at the sea shore. The ceaseless waves beating the shore and the freshness of the surroundings just made me feel very happy and relaxed. Just at that moment, there comes a toddler with a sad face asking for alms. As usual I put my hand into my pocket and wanted to give him any coin I could get at that moment. Well, lucky I got 5 rupees coin to give. He was ecstatic and he ran away. After about 10 minutes he appears again, in his hands 5 bananas. He offered me one. I declined to take any and said that all was his. Well, he sat just there and started eating one after another. Then I saw him eating even the soft inside skin of the banana. I felt too sorry for him. I imagined this lad must have been hungry for more than a day.

The Saviour Coin
Jesus asks to see a coin used to pay the tax, a Roman denarius, which was imprinted with a bust of Tiberius Caesar and bore the inscription in Latin, "Tiberius Caesar, august son of the Divine High Priest Augustus." Both the image of the emperor and the inscription would be offensive to observant Jews. Jesus turns the tables on the leaders by asking them whose image and whose inscription is on the coin. When they concede that both belong to the emperor, Jesus renders his famous aphorism: "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." In a single brilliant stroke Jesus silences his enemies, and they go away amazed at his answer (22.22). He answers their provocative question about paying the tax with an oblique answer-if the coin belongs to Caesar then it can be given to him. But Jesus immediately lays alongside this concession another more profound and more encompassing requirement: "[Give] to God the things that are God's." The comprehensive scope of "what belongs to God" makes it not a parallel with the concession to Caesar but a principle of commitment that moves far beyond civic obligation and even overrides it. The hostility of the leaders and their efforts to best Jesus only serve, for Matthew's Gospel, as a foil to highlight the wisdom and authority of Jesus the Messiah.

Theology of Giving
Today giving has become difficult. We are living in a society that eats our income systematically. Go to malls and restaurants, and you come back empty. Whatever you take with you is not enough for yourself and your family. Difficult days are ahead as we have just witnessed the markets meltdown. Moreover, we hear families separated and people depressed.

Give to God what belongs to Him
Then why Jesus says “give to God what belongs to God”? Of course the Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in a religious-state dispute over the issue of taxes. The Jews resented their foreign rulers and despised paying taxes to Cesar. They posed a dilemma to test Jesus to see if he would make a statement they could use against him. If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish populace who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Cesar. If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested. Jesus avoided their trap by confronting them with the image of a coin. Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Since the Jews used the Roman currency, Jesus explained that what belonged to Caesar must be given to Caesar. This story has another deeper meaning as well. We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in his own likeness (Gen 1.26-27). We rightfully belong, not to ourselves, but to God who created us and redeemed us in the precious blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 6.19-20). Paul the Apostle says that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Rm 12.1).

Give to God what belongs to God." We should first give back to God our own selves upon which God's image is engraved. We don't bring back to God "what belongs to God" in a human being. Jesus went to the cross to do that. "Give to God what belongs to God" does not mean just lip service. Jesus spoke with the full realization that he was casting his life away so that humankind in sin would be pardoned for sin and handed over into God's hands as His. In order to bring that about, he had the conviction to sacrifice himself. He had the full intention to pay the full price. In fact, the Lord did pay the price. With his own life! Therefore, the Bible says it like this to us, "You are bought with a price." This is how it is written, "You are bought with a price. Therefore, show forth the glory of God by means of your bodies" (I Cor 6.20).

The Pharisees and Herodians were the local authorities who did not enjoy popular support in Galilee. They had decided that it was time to kill Jesus (Mt 12.14; Mk 3.6). Now, by order of the priests and elders, they want to know whether Jesus is in favor of or against paying tribute to the Romans. A deliberate question, full of malice! Under the guise of fidelity to the law of God, they seek reasons for accusing him. If Jesus were to say: “You must pay!” they would accuse him, together with the people, of being a friend of the Romans. Were he to say: “You must not pay!” they would accuse him, together with the Roman authorities, of being a subversive. A dead end!

Show me a coin
Jesus is aware of their hypocrisy. In his reply, he wastes no time in useless discussion and goes directly to the heart of the question: “Whose portrait is this? Whose title?” They answer: “Caesar’s!”

Jesus’ conclusion
Jesus then draws the conclusion: “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God!”. In fact, they already acknowledged Caesar’s authority. They already paid Caesar what belonged to Caesar since they used his money to buy and sell and even to pay the tribute to the Temple! Hence, the question was useless. Why ask something whose answer was clear in practice? They, who by their question pretended to be servants of God, were in fact forgetting the most important thing: they forgot to give God what belongs to God! What mattered to Jesus was that “they pay God what belongs to God”, that is, they mislead the people that they had lead away from God through their own fault, because through their teachings they prevented people from entering the Kingdom (Mt 23.13). Others say: “Pay God what belongs to God”, that is, practise justice and honesty according to the demands of the law of God, because by your hypocrisy your are denying God what is due to Him. The disciples must be aware of this! Because it was the hypocrisy of these Pharisees and Herodians that was blinding their eyes! (Mk 8.15).

Levies, tributes, taxes and tithes:
In Jesus’ time, the people of Palestine paid very many levies, taxes, tributes, fines, contributions, donations and tithes. Some scholars calculate that half of a family’s income went to pay levies. Here is a list that gives an idea of all that the people paid in levies:

Direct Taxes
Levy on property (tributum soli). The taxation officers of the government checked on properties, production, the number of slaves and then fixed the amount to be paid. Periodically, new taxation amounts were set in accordance with census taken. Levies on persons (tributum capitis). For the poor without land. This included women and men between the ages of 12 and 65 years. The levy on the workforce was 20% of the income of every individual.

Indirect Taxes
Golden crown: Originally this was a gift to the emperor, but then became a compulsory levy. It was paid on special occasions such as feasts or visits of the emperor.

Salt levy: Salt was the emperor’s monopoly. The tribute was paid on salt for commercial use. For instance, salt used by fishermen to salt fish. That is the origin of the word “salary”.

Levy on buying and selling: For each commercial transaction there was a levy of 1%. It was the taxation officers who collected this money. For instance, to buy a slave they asked for 2%.

Levy on professional practice: For anything at all one needed a permit. For instance, a shoemaker in Palmira paid one denarius per month. One denarius was equivalent to a day’s salary. Even prostitutes had to pay their taxes.

Levy on the use of public utilities: Emperor Vespasian introduced a levy on the use of public baths in Rome. He used to say, “Money has no smell!”

Other Taxes
Toll: This was a levy on the movement of merchandise, collected by Publicans. Toll was paid on the road. At certain points there were soldiers who forced those who were reluctant to pay.

Forced labour: Everyone could be forced to render some service to the State for five years, without remuneration. This is why Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.

Special subsidy for the armed forces: People were obliged to offer hospitality to soldiers. People also had to pay a certain amount of money for the nourishment and support of the troops.

Levy for the Temple and for Cult
Shekalim: This was the levy for the upkeep of the Temple.

Tithe: This was the levy for the upkeep of the priests. “Tithe” means the tenth part!
First fruits: This was the levy for the upkeep of the cult. That is, the first fruits of all land products.

Practical Conclusion
We will listen to this message spoken to the Jews and the people who have been bought with a price. "Give to God what belongs to God." Therefore, what we ought to do is to be God's own people by (his) grace and to offer ourselves up to God. First, we offer to God our bodies "as a holy living sacrifice for God's pleasure," (Rm 12.1). That's (true) worship from us (to Him). Everything we have comes from God. Naked I came and naked shall I return, blessed be the name of God (Job).

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Calgary - Canada

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 25.6-10a; Phil 4.12-14, 19-20; Mt 22.1-14

Lower your Bucket- Taste and See
More than a century ago, a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America. Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters with not a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate; the crew was dying of thirst. And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared, heading directly toward them. As it drew near, the captain called out, "We need water! Give us water!" The steamship replied, "Lower your buckets where you are." The captain was furious at this cavalier response but called out again, "Please, give us water." But the steamer gave the same reply, "Lower your buckets where you are!" And with that they sailed away! The captain was beside himself with anger and despair, and he went below. But a little later, when no one was looking, a yeoman lowered a bucket into the sea and then tasted what he brought up. It was perfectly sweet, fresh water! For you see, the ship was just out of sight of the mouth of the Amazon. And for all those weeks they had been sitting right on top of all the fresh water they needed! What we are really seeking is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced, the Holy Spirit of God who has been living within us from the moment of our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is saying to us at this very moment, "Lower your buckets where you are. Taste and see!" from deep in our heart. The Kingdom of God is right there.

Both this week and last week we heard Jesus reach out to the religious leaders of his time with an almost desperate voice, a desperate love. He saw where they were headed (he sees where some of us are headed). He knew how much they were entrenched in their sin and he longed to call them to conversion.

He loved them (sometimes you yell the most at the kid you love the most). Last week the religious leaders of his time were represented as the unfaithful tenants in God’s vineyard.

They were the ones who refused to listen to the prophets and even killed the Son. This week the religious leaders they were the invited guests to the wedding banquet. It was the custom of the time to send runners out with invitations informing the invited that there would be a wedding feast soon and to get prepared. When the meal was ready the runners would return to bring back the guests.

Apocalyptic Language
The western Catholic Church Tradition is not an apocalyptic tradition, but our prayers and scripture texts still very often make use of apocalyptic language (i.e., language describing the end of the world as punishment for evil-doers and as a time of vindication for committed Christians). Apocalyptic language originally served the purpose of consoling and encouraging ancient Jewish believers when the Assyrian Empire laid siege to the northern Kingdom of Israel in the late 8th Century BC. Apocalyptic language was used again when the southern Kingdom of Judah came under assault in the late 7th and early 6th Centuries by the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar II. Thereafter, major catastrophic Jewish societal crises saw apocalyptic language come into use by the likes of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 4th Isaiah, and Daniel. Sometimes the apocalyptic voice announced good news and hope. Today’s text is just such a hope-filled passage, from what is called the Apocalypse of (4th) Isaiah which is likely a 5th or 4th Century BC insertion into 1st Isaiah’s work, appearing as chapter 25. This text was written during the Persian era (539 to 325 BC). The prophet used the image of Mount Zion, on which Jerusalem rests and which served as the Jewish centre of the world. The top of Mount Zion was also therefore the vantage point from which to see through “the web that is woven over all nations,” i.e., to spiritually and metaphorically “see past” human death to a consoling afterlife. This passage is among the earliest of Old Testament texts which hint at or even assert that there is life after earthly death. Never before had that belief been an important theme for ancient Judaism. Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and not even 1st Isaiah had proposed an afterlife as an important component or motivating factor of faith in the God of Israel.

After Life
Indeed, we might have expected Moses to have mentioned such belief since he was born in Egypt and raised in the very household of a pharaoh. The Egyptian culture believed strongly in the idea of an afterlife as is evidenced by the pyramids and other tomb structures and their associated inscriptions, art, and artefacts. But, Judaism seems to have taken no notice until this 4th contributor to Isaiah (hence, our name for this anonymous hand, “4th Isaiah”). This text is a frequently chosen Old Testament text at Catholic funeral liturgies. It is the most primitive ancestor of theological speculation which eventually articulated faith in what Jesus labelled “the Kingdom of God,” in “resurrection from the dead,” and in “everlasting life.” This is a profoundly important message which was a significant theological platform for the very Gospel Message announced by Jesus of Nazareth. It would be, after all, in Jerusalem and on that very Mount Zion, that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise, thereby introducing a new, improved and expanded covenant to succeed that of Moses. And, this new covenant would be made open to all peoples and to all nations. This new covenant would come to be an offer of universal salvation, wisdom, justice, and peace. Even death would not impede this salvation. Death would be destroyed and reduced to a merely ordinary place in the process of life; it would no longer be seen to be the permanent end or annihilation of life.

The Kingdom of God
The early Christians embraced the hope of the Gospel Message most firmly and transmitted that hope by use of Jesus’ metaphorical images of “the kingdom of God.” The mystery of God’s Kingdom as proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospel texts was always described metaphorically precisely because it described a Mysterious Reality, beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Today’s Gospel parable is a kingdom parable. It asserts for those who claim to have faith in the God of Israel that their cooperation with that kingdom is important. They must behave appropriately as citizens of Heaven already, here and now in this life. It was to the chief priests and elders that Jesus addressed this parable. They were the noble citizens of Judaism of the early 1st Christian Century, and the others in Judaism assumed that they knew how to effectively cooperate with God. The parable hints, however, that merely the status of being invited and even admitted (admitted in and dressed up in a wedding garment) is not the same as full, conscious, and active participation. Being there is insufficient.

Jesus’ different View
Engaging the mystery of God’s Kingdom is much more important however imperfectly because remember Jesus’ references to the fact that “prostitutes and tax collectors” enter God’s Kingdom ahead of the Jewish leaders!). Perhaps we must reconsider with some self-criticism how easily we Christian believers can become passive and merely status conscious, while at the same time effectively “opting out” of active and committed Christian fellowship and life.

Our Participation
The cultural Catholics who (passively!) attend Mass only on Christmas and Easter, or even those who attend more frequently out of fear of the punishment of “mortal sin for missing Mass” – these indeed manage to take up space in the liturgical assembly without actively belonging. The parable used the metaphor of donning a wedding garment for the idea of participation in the feast. I hesitate to make passivity of membership a sufficient cause for eternal exclusion from God’s Kingdom (which, indeed, some in the Church have sometimes asserted!), but I will put forth that those who attend Mass for merely cultural reasons, or out of fear, genuinely miss the point of the very Gospel of Christ and of the profound wisdom, peace, fellowship, joy, and justice that comes to the committed, intelligent, and balanced participating Christian.

In our Times
Even in the modern society in which we live, in which so much is mere superficiality, people still like “dressing up” for occasions like weddings. They attend the wedding joyfully and enthusiastically partly because they understand something of what a wedding is about. Thus, might it be at Sunday liturgy. People would be there more appropriately if they genuinely understood that this was the weekly Gospel thanksgiving feast at which the baptized fellowship, hear God’s Word boldly and powerfully proclaimed, by which they are edified, and through which they give thanks to God for life, love, and faith. It is fully a festival occasion which ought to draw in, lift up, console, and challenge all who claim Christ and his Gospel!

We hear today for the final time from the imprisoned St. Paul in his message to the Philippians. He expressed his gratitude to them for the kindnesses they had shown him. He placed their kindness in the larger context of his life which had included everything from great blessings to great burdens. It was just such an attitude of gratitude that allowed his Gospel conviction and confidence that God’s Grace supplied a sufficiency for all believers in all circumstances. Paul had embraced the Cross of Christ, which became in early Christianity a metaphor for embracing reality in the fullest, most intelligent, and most prayerful manner. Paul had even been thankful for the sufferings that had come his way in life. His gratitude was without bounds.

Practical Conclusion
With hope in life even beyond human death, and with the knowledge that we too have indeed been invited and called to God’s Kingdom. If this is the case can we not make gratitude and kindness to God and to each other the public and private hallmark of our Gospel lives?! We are invited every day to live in God’s Kingdom because every day offers us many opportunities to experience God in His Kingdom here on earth. The Kingdom is right here. Just lower the buckets of our soul and tasted it. It does not cost us much. Just open our hearts to God’s grace and we are in His Kingdom enjoying the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 5.1-7; Phil 4.6-9; Mt 21.33-43

The Lighthouse
A guard in charge of a lighthouse along a dangerous coast was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Another needed some for an engine. The guard saw each as a worthy request and gave some oil to satisfy all. By the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse was dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than one hundred lives were lost. The lighthouse attendant explained what he had done and why. But the prosecutor replied, “You were given only one task. to keep the light burning. Every other thing was secondary. You have no excuse.”

It’s a Choice
Temptation is a choice between good and evil. But perhaps more insidious than temptation is conflict where one must choose between two good options. The lighthouse keeper in our story found himself in such a conflict situation. So also are the would-be disciples in today’s gospel story. In such cases the good easily becomes the enemy of the best One must then say no to a good thing in order to say yes to the one thing necessary. Today’s gospel is a sequence of four incidents and encounters with people who could have become followers of Jesus but who were held back by ulterior concerns and motives. Each encounter highlights a different concern.

God’s Vine
If you were a first-century Jew and heard for the first time that Jesus was the true vine and his people were the branches (Jn 15.1, 5), you would have mixed emotions. On one hand, we would be quite familiar with the idea of comparing people to vines and vineyards. Grapevines were a familiar sight in Palestine. The Bible, the Old Testament, frequently refers to Israel as being a vine that God planted. We may have recited Psalm 80 in your morning prayers. In verses 8-9 the Psalmist says to God, "You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land." We would know how God brought Israel out of Egypt and planted it in the promised land.

We have read the words of the Hebrew prophets who likened Israel to a vine or vineyard. You would recall the words of Hosea who said that "Israel was a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit" (10.1). Hosea meant that Israel increased in prosperity. But he went on to say that Israel's prosperity unfortunately led to increased idolatry. "The more his fruit increased the more altars he built."

We may have chanted these words of Isaiah. " . . . my beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill … He expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes" (5.1-2). No doubt, we were haunted time and again with the words of God spoken to his people through Jeremiah. "I planted you as a choice vine, from the purest stock. How then did you turn degenerate and become a wild vine?" (2.21). That would have reminded us of Ezekiel's chilling words spoken against Judah. "Therefore thus says the Lord God. Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (15.6).

Vine and Vineyard
As a first-century Jew we would be very familiar with the symbolic meaning of vine and vineyard. In fact, the idea was so prevalent in the first century that in one of his parables Jesus expressly made use of the vineyard motif as symbolism for Israel (Mk 12.1-12). Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. In response to the parable, the religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because "they realized that he had told this parable against them." The symbolism of vineyard was not lost on them.

When Jesus began to tell the parable that is the gospel of today he began with an image familiar to his listeners - including you and me. This image is the vineyard, and the word 'vineyard' usually symbolizes some kind of spiritual good.

But now Jesus took this image, surely dear to the hearts of the Galileans who listened, and turned it on sort of upside down. We know, it's not unusual for Jesus to take a word or an image associated with the holy and turn it around and associate it with the dark. He did it in the Parable of the Leaven for example.

Community vs Collection of People
As I understand this parable, it is Jesus' commentary about groups and about what happens when there was no real community, only collections of people, none of whom understands or cares about other each other. We have come thousands of years since Jesus told this parable, and in some ways we have made wonderful progress in community building - even our nation is one example, another our own Journeying Community. There have also been disasters too. Is this the way to fulfillment?

The Parable and its Plot
A landowner goes to a distant country and there he establishes a vineyard in imagination it is in Galilee and he rents or leases the vineyard to local people and agrees to accept a portion of the produce as payment. He then returns home probably some cosmopolitan city such as Caesarea Philippi, Jaffa or Jerusalem. Time passes; the harvest season comes and goes and so does the time when he is supposed to receive his payment. The grapes that the vineyard produced he might now be willing to accept as raisins, but he receives nothing. He is troubled, downright angry. He expects his payment when it is due, and nothing arrives, not even an explanation.
There is a total lack of moral involvement here; the landlord buys, leaves, and waits for his money. He is totally indifferent to what is happening back at "the farm." He probably lives like a king many miles away. The lives of the tenants are as nothing to him. He could be like present day C.E.O.; and millions of stock holders who have no clear idea to what use their investment are used.

The Rent Squad
This landlord sends his slaves, emissaries or the Rent Squad, as you will. A party of three goes to the vineyard, and being completely unprepared for a violent encounter, they suffer greatly. One is knocked in the head with a rock, another is beat up and a third one is actually killed. We can only guess at what the landowner makes of this situation. Perhaps he does not even know what has become of his rent collectors, so he sends a second deputation consisting this time of a more than three persons, a cadre now but they receive a similar rough reception of beatings and a killings; but still no rent. In this parable, there are potentially three communities. tenants, rent collectors, and landlords; they are totally separate from one another.

Community requires shared beliefs, and in this parable there are none. We could hear in this details the present day situation among Israelis - Palestinians; we hear Indians and our neighbours, Pakistanis. Enmity that never found a soothing relief.

He sends his Son
Eventually the owner in a truly idiotic fashion sends his own son who is, the owner thinks, able to protect himself by his status in society alone so it seems. When he shows up, the tenants perhaps miscalculate and presume that the owner is dead. So, believing the son to be the sole surviving heir, they kill him in the expectation of acquiring the vineyard for themselves. The plan is absurd and illegal, just as it would be today, but they are driven by their otherwise hopeless economic situation.

These tenants, probably decent, honest people in the beginning, have now become truly a dangerous band, and now they have gone beyond the law and are criminals. The reason is the desperate need for money to survive. Under these circumstances, their behavior is not surprising.

The Land is leased
One verse in Matthew 21.33 is very important. It says that the landowner leased the land to the tenants. It does not say that He gave it to them. He leased it. When something is leased, something is expected in return. Equally, those who qualify to become the children of God, are expected to become shining lights (Mt 4.16) in the world. They are expected to shine in the love of Christ towards all. They are expected to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual qualities are what the Heavenly Father expects His children to present to Him in return for His blessings in acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift of life that God has given them through the Blood of Christ.

Think about it this way for a moment. We are all tenants on borrowed land; none of us owns the earth. Do we care for this piece of 'land' we've been given? We are also landlords and might lord it over others. We need to see how we treat those who share the earth with us.

End of Tenants
Now near the end of the parable, Jesus asks "... when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" And the answer is that the owner will put those wretches to a miserable death and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his produce at the harvest time.

Tenants such as these become hard strapped for cash and simply try various strategies to avoid paying to the landlord fees or rent or a portion of the produce. The story is about to repeat itself until some saving insight develops on all sides. Half of the world's population lives even today on less than $ 3 a day! And a billion go to bed hungry every night.

Jesus' parable is provoking; it is a strong warning about the consequences of groups estranged from one another. In it, all are 'foreigners' to one another; nothing is in harmony; the world is out of order, and it was against that state of things that Jesus social teachings were directed.

Practical Conclusion
By way of contrast to so such negativity, the parable implies that we are the tenants of the new land where we are called by Jesus. We both cultivate and receive cultivation. We have been given a treasure within us and around us and asked to take good care of both.

Well then having spent these minutes dwelling with such awful disorder, shall we close with what are more happy, consoling words, lines from another source - from one who was a worker in the vineyard of the Lord; he truly was a worker, a true tenant.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Eze 18.1-4,25-32; Phil 2.1-11; Mt 21.28-32

Get yourself a Rifle and Fight

We have not been called to be pious saints sitting in the corner with hands folded in complacent contemplation. We are called to be soldiers in the army of Christ.

During the Revolutionary War a young man is reported to have come to George Washington and said: "General Washington, I want you to know that I believe in you and your cause. I fully support you." Washington graciously thanked him and asked the young man, "What regiment are you in? Under whose command do you serve? What uniform do you wear?" The young man answered, "Oh, I'm not in the army. I'm just a civilian." The general replied, "Young man, if you believe in me and my causes then you join the army. You put on a uniform. You get yourself a rifle and you fight."

That is Christ's summons to us. If we believe in him and the cause for which he died, then we are called to take up his cross and walk in his footsteps doing those good things that he would do if he were with us in the flesh today.

No one will steal Harry
A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.

"Where's Harry?" he was asked.

"Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail."
"You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?"
"Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."

First Catch the Rabbit
Haddon Robinson points out that one old recipe for rabbit started out with this injunction: "First catch the rabbit." Says Robinson: "The writer knew how to put first things first. That's what we do when we establish priorities - we put the things that should be in first place in their proper order.

The Gospel of today speaks of doing God’s will and not just having an intention. That means we need to put first things first; what is first in our life? It is of course God’s will. How does that will of God manifest in our daily lives? It is through surrendering to God’s will again.

They failed to Keep God’s Law
Ezekiel, for his part, relayed this message from God to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, many of whom had come from the royal, priestly and wealthy families. Only a few years before Jerusalem's destruction, King Josiah had urged them to devote themselves anew to following the Mosaic Law. But their capital and Solomon's Temple were both gone. Surely they thought God had unfairly punished them, they whined – for hadn't they done what had been asked of them?

Not exactly, Ezekiel replied. What Jesus said of first-century Jews also had been spoken by Isaiah about their immediate pre-exilic ancestors. “These people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Isa 29.13, Mk 7.6). When we exalt ourselves for this or that good deed or pious act, we risk developing the pride that can in fact turn us away from our fellow human beings. Such pride can lead us far away from God – farther away, in fact, than those who had the most sordid record of sin but have turned to God and turned their lives around. If they stay the course but the self-righteous remain blind to their own sins, who in the end will enter through Christ's narrow gate?

Be sure of My faithfulness, God says. But only those who fully realize that they don't deserve to enter heaven are most ready to trust in Me. And that is why the gate is narrow. Those who puff themselves up have a hard time getting through indeed.

He Humbled Himself
Now St. Paul enters our discussion. What proof do believers need that God wishes our attitude to be the opposite of pride? Look at “God-with-us” himself. Adam and Eve, giving in to the pride urged upon them by the serpent, literally tried to grasp equality with God in the Garden of Eden. But if anyone born of woman ever had the right to that equality, it was Jesus Christ – and, of course, He already possessed it as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity!

Instead, our Lord did the exact opposite. He who could have called for our absolute service at any moment on earth instead humbled Himself, served us and sacrificed Himself all the way to the cross. If God would so humble Himself for the sake of us lost and condemned humans, how can any of us ever be so proud as to think we deserve heaven?

Sacrifice for one another
With that in mind, Paul says, let us love each other as brothers and sisters (filios) and empty ourselves in self-sacrifice for each other (agape). Let us never think we are better than our neighbor. We are all lost and helpless before God – we all share the same sure and certain hope of heaven that He made possible for us. Only by living as Christ lived among us can we be exalted as He was.

The Two Sons
This brief parable is a favorite in children's religious-education classes, whether Catholic or Protestant. But we adults can fail to recognize ourselves in the vineyard. Do we obey our heavenly Father when we fail to follow through in answering His call? If we go to church, go through the motions and say the right things yet ignore our neighbor and serve ourselves first, how can we be sure of entering heaven before – or even after – those who wander for years but come to their senses and come back to Him in time?

The Warning
Jesus, who spoke this parable during Holy Week, was warning the Jewish leaders that they had fallen into the trap of pride. Like their ancestors in Ezekiel's time, they had forgotten that they were nothing without the God who had chosen them. John the Baptist, even as he announced the coming of the Messiah, had warned them that they had to repent. But now the Messiah had come and in fact was speaking to them – and still they allowed their pride to rule their hearts. Still they assumed that they had earned their way to heaven and those downtrodden wretches were doomed.

For God no one is far away
Guess what, Jesus is telling them – and us. Those “downtrodden wretches” are turning to Me! They are heeding their heavenly Father's call to work in his vineyard, tardy though they may be. They are humbling themselves. They recognize what you fail to recognize – that no human being born with Original Sin can ever hope to enter the narrow gate on his or her own. John tried to tell you.

For God it is never too Late
Now I'm telling you. It's not too late. But don't let your time run out. Humble yourselves. Learn from Me – and come to Me. Don't wait too long and find the gate closed forever.

Practical Conclusion
No matter how spiritual we may seem to be, if we are not sensitive to the needs of persons around us we are no better than the rich man at whose gate sat the beggar Lazarus. This is what St. Paul meant when he said, "If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing..." (I Cor 13.2) My guess is that St. Paul knew Christians who were so spiritual and yet so insensitive to the needs of others.

There is a story that comes out of the Second World War that will haunt you if you think about it. It is about a little Jewish boy who was living in a small Polish village when he and all the other Jews in the vicinity were rounded up by Nazi troops and sentenced to death. This boy joined his neighbors in digging a shallow ditch for their own graves. Then they were lined up against a wall and machine gunned. But none of the bullets hit the little boy. His naked body was splattered with the blood of his parents, and as he fell into the ditch he pretended to be dead. The grave was so shallow that the thin covering of dirt did not prevent him from breathing.

Several hours later, when darkness fell, this 10 year old boy crawled out of his grave. With blood and dirt caked to his little body, he made his way to the nearest home and begged for help. A woman answered the door and immediately recognized him as one of the Jewish boys marked for death by the Nazis. So she screamed at him to go away and slammed the door. Dirty, bloody, and shivering, this little boy limped from one house to the next begging for help. But he always got the same response. People were afraid to help.

Finally in desperation, he knocked on a door, and just before the lady of the house could tell him to leave, he cried out, "Don't you recognize me? I am the Jesus you say you love?" The lady froze in her tracks for what seemed like an eternity to the little boy. Then with tears streaming down her face she threw open her arms. She picked up the boy, and took him inside to safety.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that when we do it unto the least of these, we do it unto Him. Christian Discipleship is a call to availability. It is also a call to sensitivity.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 55.6-9; Phil 1.20-24, 27; Mt 20.1-16

The Law of the Seed
Take a look at an apple tree. There might be five hundred apples on the tree, each with ten seeds. That's a lot of seeds. We might ask, "Why would you need so many seeds to grow just a few more trees?"

Nature has something to teach us here. It's telling us. "Most seeds never grow. So if you really want to make something happen, you should better try more than once."

This might mean.
• You'll attend twenty interviews to get one job.
• You'll interview forty people to find one good employee.
• You'll talk to fifty people to sell one house, car, vacuum cleaner, insurance policy, or idea.
• And you might meet a hundred acquaintances to find one special friend.

When we understand the 'Law of the Seed', we don't get so disappointed. We stop feeling like victims. Laws of nature are not things to take personally. We just need to understand them - and work with them.

Successful people fail more often. They plant more seeds.

Is God Unjust?
Has God been unjust to us? To me? To my family? To my Country? To my community? These questions cannot be answered. But God’s grace is really great. It comes to us without any of our merits. Whatever we have today has been a gift of God’s grace.

That’s what the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is really about. God’s grace comes to different people at different times and in different ways. And that includes everyone here. Perhaps some of us may feel that we have not been the persons we could and should be. Maybe we are correct. But we haven’t missed our opportunity for salvation. God’s grace is amazing. There is still time for him to radically change our lives. The landowner has "hired" (misthoomai) the workers (ergates), which implies an offer to pay (misthos) them for their work. In contrast, Mt 21.28 has a father telling his son, "Go and work (ergazomai) in the vineyard today," which may not involve payment for work done.

An Agreement
"What do you pay your volunteers?" is a question raised by experts in volunteerism. We don't pay them with money, but what kind of recognition, self-fulfillment, joy, sense of accomplishment, etc. do they receive for their work? An agreement (symphoneo) is reached between the landowner and the first workers. (Symphoneo was used in 18.19: "if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.") A denarius for a day’s work does not indicate a generous landowner. It was the minimum wage a family in poverty could exist on. This agreement speaks against interpreting this parable primarily as an illustration of God's generosity. The wages aren't that great. The workers have barely enough to live on. They remain in poverty, but their needs for this day will be met. Thus it may be better to translate agathos (v. 15) as "good" than as "generous". It was good for the landowner to give the workers a minimum wage that was enough to live on for the day. It was not a generous wage.

An interesting picture can be created with the word "idle" (argos = lit. "not working" which can imply "doing nothing" or "being ineffective"). The "cure" for being unemployed (at least in the parable's picture) has to come from someone else being willing to invite you to come and work. This results in two benefits: the hiree is given what is needed (work & wages) and the hirer receives what is needed (work done).

We need to Work
Does God need us to work? That seems to be a theme in Matthew where Jesus says: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (9.37b-38). Perhaps our great emphasis against works-righteousness (which is centered on getting what one deserves, i.e. "What do I have to do to be saved?") has kept us from seeing the importance and necessity of good works (which is centered on responding to God's grace, i.e. "You are saved, what are you going to do?").

The "cure" for our unfulfilled and non-productive lives is not going out and finding something to do to fill up the time that benefits just me; but hearing our "owner's" invitation to work in his vineyard.

The Owner’s Fault
The whole problem at the end of the parable is the landowner's fault - not because he paid them all the same, but because he paid the last first. Remember, as I said near the beginning of these notes, this parable comes as an explanation of Jesus statement: "Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (Mt 19.30). Now we see what happens when this is acted out.

If he had paid a denarius to the first ones hired first, they would have gone home and not seen the last one's hired getting paid the same amount. The payment order allowed the first hired -- the long term workers (or church members?) to witness the last one's getting paid, which resulted in the first hires to think that they would get more (v. 10).

The word for "think" (nomizo) does not refer so much to a rational process (as logizomai), but "to assume," "to presume," "to suppose," based on what one expects to happen or what is "customary" or the "rule" (which are meanings for the root nomos). Usually such assumptions are wrong as in its other uses (Mt 5.17; 10.34).

God’s Ways
Look at some of the amazing ways that God has changed people we know. So often we have all encountered a person who has done serious damage to his or her life and family through alcohol or other chemical dependency. Then we marvel how God’s Grace not only led that person to recovery, but made him or her, a source of strength for others looking to recover. That is the amazing Grace of the Divine Employer.

John Paul II was very much aware of the working of God’s Mercy. He addressed women who had suffered through an abortion and empowered them with the determination to work for life and protect other women from going through what they went through. This is the amazing Grace of the Divine Employer.

Don’t Give Up
The Gospel encourages us not to give up on ourselves. God never gives up on us. We can always start new, whether we have just been lukewarm Christians or whether we have been at war with God. Not only does God refuse to hold us to our pasts, He forgives us through confession and transforms us to become vehicles of conversion for others. The Divine Employer does not want us wasting any more time. Even if we are pretty well advanced in age, and the day is drawing to a close, He still has work for us to do.

Pride of Performance does not represent ego. It represents pleasure with humility. "The quality of the work and the quality of the worker are inseparable." Half-hearted effort does not produce half results; it produces no results.

What are you Doing?
Three people were laying bricks. A passerby asked them what they were doing. The first one replied, "Don't you see I am making a living?" The second one said, "Don't you see I am lying bricks?" The third one said, "I am building a beautiful monument." Here were three people doing the same thing who had totally different perspective on what they were doing. They had three very different attitudes about their work. And would their attitude affect their performance? The answer is clearly yes.

The Traditional Symbol
The vineyard was a traditional symbol for Israel (see especially the classical text of Isa 5.1-7) and Matthew will present another vineyard story in 21.33-46. Although the story itself does not directly state this, the reader can presume it is the harvest time since the landowner hires a number of day laborers to work in the vineyard. The story begins reasonably enough. At dawn a "landowner" (literally, the "head of the household") goes into the village marketplace to hire laborers and offers them the usual daily wage of one denarius; see 18.28). The fact that the landowner himself hires the laborers (instead of his manager mentioned in 20.8) is somewhat unusual and begins to put the spotlight on the one who is the focus of this story. The landowner goes back to hire additional workers at different periods of the day (literally in the Greek "early in the morning," "noon," "the third hour" and, finally, "the eleventh hour"), tracking for the reader the long day of hard work. No specific wage is promised, only the landowner's word that he would pay "the usual wage" (literally, "what is just"; dikaios, the term so favored by Matthew; see, e.g., 1.19; 27.19). Curiously the laborers hired last, when asked why they are idle, reply that "no one has hired us"-an explanation that suggests they were willing to work but were ignored.

The parable breaks beyond the conventional pattern when at sundown the landowner sends his manager to gather the laborers and gives them their pay (payment was expected at the end of a day's labor; see Lev 19.13; Deut 24.14-15). The manager is instructed to give out the wages "beginning with the last and then going to the first"-words that alert the reader to the words of Jesus framing the parable. The laborers hired last receive a full day's pay of one denarius and when those hired first come for their wages, they expect to receive more and thus complain to the landowner when they receive pay equal to that of the other workers. The expression of their complaint is one of the keys to the parable's interpretation: "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat" (20.12).

The landowner's reply is gracious (he addresses the laborer as "friend," 20.13; see also 22.12) but firm. The laborer received exactly what was agreed and was not treated unjustly. More important, the landowner is supremely free to do what he wishes with what belongs to him and therefore the laborers should not look on his generosity with an "evil eye" (the literal expression behind the "envious"; see above 6.23). Therefore the parable ends with a firm emphasis not on conventional assumptions about a fair wage but on the sovereignty and generosity of the "lord of the vineyard" (the literal words of 20.8). He is the one who determines that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Practical Conclusion
Excellence comes when the performer takes pride in doing his best. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it, regardless of what the job is, whether washing cars, sweeping the floor or painting a house. Do it right the first time, every time. The best insurance for tomorrow is a job well done today.

Michelangelo had been working on a statue for many days. He was taking a long time to retouch every small detail. A bystander thought these improvements were insignificant and asked Michelangelo why he bothered with them. Michelangelo replied, "Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle."

Most people forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well it was done.

Fr Rudolf V.D’ Souza OCD

Triumph of the Cross : Year: A

Num 21.4-9 OR Phil 2.6-11; Jn 3.13-17

Trees Can Teach Us
“And that's the way it is with us." In his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, David Seamonds deals with people who have scars that nobody else can see. He uses the analogy of those beautiful giant sequoia and redwood trees in the far western part of our country. "In most of the parks," says Seamonds, "the naturalists can show you a cross section of a great tree they have cut, and point out that the rings of the tree reveal the developmental history, year by year. Here's a ring that represents a year when there was a terrible drought. Here are a couple of rings from years when there was too much rain. Here's where the tree was struck by lightning. Here are some normal years of growth. This ring shows a forest fire that almost destroyed the tree. Here's another of savage blight and disease. All of this lies embedded in the heart of the tree, representing the autobiography of its growth. "And that's the way it is with us," Seamonds continues. "Just a few minutes beneath the protective bark, the concealing, protective mask, are the recorded rings of our lives. "In the rings of our thoughts and emotions, the record is there; the memories are recorded, and all are alive. And they directly and deeply affect our concepts, our feelings, our relationships. They affect the way we look at life and God, at others and ourselves."

The Triumph
The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on 14th September commemorates the victory that Our Lord accomplished through his death and resurrection. The cross is a mark of great suffering and humiliation, but it is a horrific symbol which we adore because through it we have come to know the great love that Jesus has for us, and through the wounds that it inflicted, we have been healed. The Cross of Jesus Christ was found in the fourth century by St. Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. According to the legend, a goodly Jew named Judah was the only person who knew of the location of the cross. Under pressure from St. Helen, he revealed that it had been buried under the temple of Venus which had been built by Emperor Hadrian at Golgotha. As she found three crosses buried at the site, it seemed impossible to determine which one was the cross of Christ. Just then a funeral procession was passing by the place, and Helen had all three of the crosses brought to the side of the dead body. When the third cross was placed upon the dead man, he rose to life, confirming that this was indeed the life-giving cross of Jesus. There are probably hundreds of legends and stories that are attached to the finding and veneration of the cross (each with a hundred variations), and all of them seek to remind us of how dearly we value the sacrifice the Jesus made by carrying it. The cross is the burden that he lifted when he walked among us, it is the symbol of his suffering, it is the altar on which he as our high priest offered himself as the sweetest victim.

Reasons for Suffering
The Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep (Lk 15)

They suffer because they run away from home; they do not keep the Commandments, which are like the Laws of Traffic. If you pass the red light or you come out of the road, you may hurt others or yourself. God is after them, and waiting for them, for their repentance, their change of life, not to punish them, but to bring them home, to take them on His shoulders, and receive them with a great feast, organized in person by God! (Lk 15.5-6, 22-24).

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (Lk 15.4-7).

The Correction of God
They are like injections God gives to the ones He loves... I am a Medical Doctor and people even pay me to put them injections!.

"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5.17; Heb 12.5-11, Jas 1.12, Prov 3.11).
For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal (Job 5.18, Is.30.26, 1Sam 2.6, Hos 6.1).

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons (Heb 12.5-8)... The only place in the Bible where the word "bastard of God" is used... and you are not a "bastard son of God", because you are disciplined by the Lord.... God has not given up you and me!

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12.9-11).

A suffering, a cross, for a pagan is like heavy load that crushes him into the mud, with even desperation... for a Christian, sufferings are like wings that bring him closer to Heaven... on top of making him happier on earth.

If you ever feel that you are good for nothing, you are still good enough to be a Saint, and to be a Saint a person can be on earth... and in Heaven. And God Himself is with you and for you, He wants you to be a Saint, now, even if you feel to old or too sick or too weak or too abandoned... God is all away for you (Mt 5.48, 10.30, 1Thes 4.3).

The Sufferings
Because every Christian is another Christ... and every Christian has to be a co-redeemer, like Mary, an evangelist to help people to go to Heaven.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions (Col 1.24).

Every pain or sorrow is an "individual cross"... the best weapon to help relatives and friends to go to Heaven... Jesus did not redeem us with his wonderful sermons, nor with his miracles, but with his Cross!... and our daily cross is our best way to be evangelists, the best reason to rejoice,

For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil 1.29). These are the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross... and of all the Saints, starting with Virgin Mary in Egypt and Calvary, St. Peter crucified, St. Paul beheaded, the other apostles martyred... If you ever suffer, don't dismay, you are in good company!.

The Chastisements
The Flood of Genesis 6, Sodom and Gomorrah of Genesis 19, the 10 Plagues of Ex 7-12... the Hell of the New Testament!... they all come from God himself directly! If anyone tells you that God does not chastise, he doesn't know a thing about the Bible... God punishes, and with infinite power in his justice, He is God! And He is not a fool!, Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Gal 6.7).

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-for I am grieved that I have made them."8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 6.5-8).

Just for one man, Noah, mankind was not wipe out from the face of the earth... you and I have to be the Noah for our relatives and friends... Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah-from the Lord out of the heavens (Gen 19.24)... yes, directly from God Himself! In the New Testament it is directly from the mouth of Jesus Himself. He will say: 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels... "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Mt 25.31-46).

Practical Conclusion
Many reasons may be given to explain why we qualify to receive the gift of eternal life through the redemptive plan that was achieved in Christ. But there is only one reason. It is the incredible love of God for the world. God sent the Son into the world in order that it might be saved through Him. (Jn 3.17) I love a quotation and paraphrase of Martin Luther: "Can a rock that has been in the sun light all day not fail to give off warmth and heat at night?" Can a rock that has been in the warmth and heat of the sun light all day not fail to give off warmth and heat at night? Can a Christian who has lived in the sunlight of God's love not fail to give off warmth and love? No. That is why you have to have first things first. You don't say to others, "Start loving each other. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice." No, no, no. First, we need to live in the sunlight of God's love. We need to bake in the sunlight of God's compassion. We need to absorb God's light into us. And then...we start to give off the love. May your light shine on me, O Lord. May your love shine on us, God, so that there will be peace in our family and on the earth.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time :Year A

Sir 27.30-28.7; Rm 14.7-9; Mt 18.21-35

First Things First
It is rather comical when the primary things are made secondary. Victor Borge told about a couple going on vacation, standing in line waiting to check their bags at the airline counter.

The husband said to the wife, "I wish we had brought the piano."
The wife said, "Why? We've got sixteen bags already!"
The husband said, "Yes, I know - but the tickets are on the piano!"

Levis or Nothing
Long back there was an ad of Levis pants on TV. The words were magical: “Levis or Nothing”. I used to think of this ad and tried to find a sense in it in the following of Christ; I would coin the phrase as: “Forgiveness or Nothing”. In Christianity if there is lack of forgiveness; there is going to be nothing at all. Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.

Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of Christian faith. Not only that we can receive forgiveness from God, but that we must grant it to others too. And we are constantly confronted by the need to forgive people because we all have people sin against us, in big things and in little things. From injustice in the workplace, or some sort of abuse in a friendship or marriage, down to the daily little slights we receive from others, like people pushing in front of us in the checkout line at the supermarket.

And we know that we can allow these things to build up, to make us bitter, to nurse these grievances until all that is left in our heart is a nasty festering mess of hatred. All because of what OTHER people have done to us, not because we've gone out to do wrong to others. And often it doesn't seem fair. After all, sometimes we don't want to forgive, what we want is JUSTICE.

As C.S. Lewis put it, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you". As N.T. Wright puts it, "failing to forgive one another isn't a matter of failing to live up to a new bit of moral teaching"--to fail to forgive means to "cut off the branch we are sitting on". It is to deny the very basis of our own salvation - forgiveness of sin.

I will make all things New
Two peacemakers went to visit a group of Polish Christians ten years after the end of World War II. "Would you be willing to meet with other Christians from West Germany?" the peacemakers asked. "They want to ask forgiveness for what Germany did to Poland during the war and to begin to build a new relationship".

At first there was silence. Then one Pole spoke up. "What you are asking is impossible. Each stone of Warsaw is soaked in Polish blood! We cannot forgive!".

Before the group parted, however, they said the Lord's Prayer together. When they reached the words "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive . . . ", everyone stopped praying . Tension swelled in the room. The Pole who had spoken so vehemently said, "I must say yes to you. I could no more pray the Our Father, I could no longer call myself a Christian, if I refuse to forgive. Humanly speaking, I cannot do it, but God will give us strength!".

Eighteen months later the Polish and West German Christians met together in Vienna, establishing friendships that continue to this day.

Unique to Matthew
The concluding parable, one unique to Matthew, anchors the call for limitless forgiveness in a theological conviction (18.23-35). The story of the king who decides to settle his accounts has certain fantastic features that smack of popular storytelling. The monarch begins his accounting with a "slave," a member of the royal household, who owes a staggering amount, "ten thousand talents." Ten thousand was the highest denomination in ancient accounting and Josephus reports that the entire yearly revenue from the Jewish tax was only six hundred talents! When the slave is unable to pay this amount, the king threatens to punish the slave by having the hapless debtor and his entire family and possessions sold. The slave appeals for more time to pay off his debt even though this, too, seems an act of fruitless desperation. The king is deeply moved by the plight of the slave (the verb splangchnistheis-literally a stirring of one's intestines-implies a profound emotional reaction), and instead of simply giving him more time he decides to forgive the "loan" (curiously Matthew uses "loan" [Gk. daneion] rather than "debt" [Gk. opheilema] here).

Ungrateful Slave
Instead of being overwhelmed by his unbelievably good fortune, the slave goes out and acts brutally toward a fellow slave who owes him only "a hundred denarii" (by contrast, a single "talent" may have been equivalent to between six and ten thousand denarii!), by seizing the man by the throat, ignoring his plea for mercy, and casting him into prison. The rest of the slaves are greatly saddened by this display and report the merciless servant to the king. Judgment comes swiftly-the angry king condemns the slave for his lack of mercy and has him tortured and cast into prison until he should pay his original debt.

Reciprocal Act
This vivid story and its concluding saying illustrate Matthew's fundamental theology of reconciliation: "So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (18.35). The driving motivation for unlimited forgiveness within the community is imitation of God's own way of relating to humanity. Because the slave was already forgiven a staggering and un-payable debt by his king, he should have lived his life in memory of that inaugural grace. Matthew asserts an identical motivation in 5.43-48 where love of enemies is motivated by the realization that the Father in heaven "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (v. 45). Likewise, Matthew's emphasis on the threat of judgment for those who do not forgive echoes previous teaching in the Sermon: The disciple prays for forgiveness of debt "as we also have forgiven our debtors"-a codicil of the prayer amplified in the sayings that are appended to the prayer: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (6.14-15). For Matthew, the divine will remains the guiding ethical principle for the community, a divine will proclaimed in Jesus' teachings and embodied in his actions.

Reluctance to Forgive
Part of our reluctance to forgive, I suspect, is due to this misunderstanding that the purpose of forgiveness is for the benefit of the one who has wronged us. We don't want the person who hurt us to gain anything, so instead of forgiving them, we harbour bitterness. But as Lewis Smedes points out though, "the first and often only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness". The Christians in Poland found that out.

Forgiveness, like all of the other commands of Jesus, is not meant to burden us--it is meant to liberate us. Forgiving others is for our own good.

Forgiveness in the Community
Forgiveness is also for the good of the church. There are a lot of hurting people in this community we live in. Are people staying away from church because they suspect we will make them feel worse? What would happen if we gained a reputation for being a loving and forgiving church? A church full of people addicted to forgiving one another?

Jesus reduced the mark of a Christian to this: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another"(Jn 13.35). Look around the sanctuary. Do you love everyone that is here? Maybe you don't even know the name of everyone here! Maybe you know some people very well, but you still struggle to love them. Perhaps some of these people rub you the wrong way . . . perhaps you are insisting on harbouring bitterness toward them. Have you forgiven them? Or do you simply "tolerate" them?

If love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian, how do we get there? Forgiveness. We learn how to love by forgiving those who have wronged us.

Forgiving and Loving
Let us resolve today to be known as a forgiving and loving church. Where do we start? How about coffee hour. Be good to one another. Love one another. Forgive one another. And do it over and over and over again. Because the more you forgive, the more you will see the benefits of it for yourself, and most importantly, for the Church of Jesus Christ

We are reminded in today’s parable that if we demand justice from others, then we can only expect justice ourselves. And because we, ourselves, have sinned against God, if it is justice we demand, then the justice we will receive, is that we will be condemned and “handed over to the torturers”(Mt 18.34). Because God does not give us justice, He gives us mercy.

Mercy isn’t always easy. Most of us go through some time in our lives when we find it almost impossible to forgive. Sometimes every emotion in our heart, and every bit of logic in our head, screams out at us saying that this person does not deserve our forgiveness. And the truth is that they don't deserve our forgiveness. But we also do not deserve the forgiveness that our heavenly Father gives us. And if we accept forgiveness from Him, how can we refuse to give it others? As we will soon pray in the Our Father. the forgiveness we ask for from God, depends on us forgiving the trespasses of those who trespass against us. God puts forgiveness before us as a moral obligation. We must forgive, or else we will not be forgiven.

But we know that must also forgive for our own sakes, because it is the only way to heal the bitterness that can otherwise possess our hearts. Even though mercy is difficult, not having mercy brings us even more difficulty, it leaves us with a wound in our heart that can eventually destroy us.

When forgiveness is especially hard, we’d do well to remember that it wasn’t easy for Christ either -it led Him to the Cross.

Sometimes, when forgiveness is particularly difficult, and it only comes with time, it has to be the result of a long slow process, of a long way of the cross. Sometimes we need to carry our injuries as part of our own Cross, in union with Our Lord, as we walk the way of the Cross, until we are able to join Him in forgiving, just as He forgave His executioners from the Cross.

With the grace that comes to us from the Cross and the example of Jesus on the Cross, we can find the strength to forgive others.

There is no peace except in the cross, no peace except in forgiveness. So let us think today of those times when we have failed to forgive others, and ask the Lord for the help and grace to be able to forgive as generously as He has forgiven us.

Practical Conclusion
“Hate the sin; love the sinner.” Such a rule turns out to be the realistic response to sin and injustice. For only in this way do we renounce our claim to vengeance—both personally and nationally—without abandoning our claim to truth and justice. Yet putting this rule into practice depends on the experience of having been forgiven by Him to whom we owe everything. Hence, the more a culture loses contact with this experience, the more it separates itself from wellspring of forgiveness, and the more it makes itself unfit for the “real world.”

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Eze 33.7-9; Rm 13.8-10; Mt 18.15-20

Triple Doorways

Over the triple doorways of the cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath it is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment."

Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment."

But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important which is eternal."

If we always realize these three truths, we will not let trifles trouble us, not be interested so much in the passing pleasures of the hour. We should live for the permanent and the eternal.

Three Point Plan
In our Gospel text today, Jesus gives us a three-point plan for handling disagreements in the community known as church. Hear my phrasing there again while think about the horrid song “We Are the Church”: Jesus gives us a three-point plan for handling disagreements in the community known as church. This emphasis on community – and not individuality – is hammered home by the conclusion of the Gospel text today, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Community Standard
The post-resurrection writer of this Gospel ascribed to St. Matthew would have known about the various and sundry issues causing strife in the Matthian church – the church over which Matthew would’ve been leader. This manual for maintaining community standards was a way to keep the people of the community in harmony, and in addition to the levels of trying to reprove a sibling, these three steps dealt with the seriousness of issues – major schism making offenses would’ve almost certainly wound up before the whole of the community.

These instructions for, in plainest terms, church discipline – the maintenance of community standards for the good of the Church, and it doesn’t end very nicely, “If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew – the most Jewish of the Gospels – uses this language to say that when someone is in clear violation of the will, standards, and principles of the community the church community is to wash their hands and kick the dust of their feet. It’s harsh words that are meant to be harsh: the Church hearing this originally was young and schism was breaking various churches apart from the moment of the resurrection. The only way to preserve this new group of Jews and Gentiles following Jesus as Messiah was to keep the community together without personal petty conflicts – or heretical, schismatic ideas – was to have a form of discipline and way to expel people from the body.

Vending Machine
It is important to note, however, that it’s not a single member that calls for the expulsion of a member or two members or three members from the body. Before that step was taken, an individual, two additional individuals, and finally the whole church community must have first spoken to them. Before moving to the end of this text, I implore you not to hear that God is a vending machine whose buttons can be pressed if two people (or more) are pushing them. This requirement of more people is part and parcel of what is really the crux of this text: community. Jesus again underscores that in the conclusion of this selection from the Gospel, “For where two or tree are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Christ – and the early church mothers and fathers – didn’t intend for Christianity to be practiced in solitude. Full stop. Whether someone “believes in organized religion” or not, being together with others for the work and worship of Christ is part of this religion, and in the first century, it took the will of the community – bound together in tension of being human beings trying to do their best in the world – to expel members.

Blame Game
Students blame teachers for their poor results; children blame parents and parents blame children for family discord; while workers blame the management and the management blames the worker. Everyone is blaming each other, but nobody is prepared to shoulder the blame. Nobody is prepared to search within for their faults. And nobody is bold enough to admit their mistakes and do something about them. This is the reason for the misery which plagues our lives.

We speak of a thing as correct with reference to some rule or standard of comparison; as, a correct account, a correct likeness, a man of correct deportment. We speak of a thing as accurate with reference to the care bestowed upon its execution, and the increased correctness to be expected there from; as, an accurate statement, an accurate detail of particulars. We speak of a thing as exact with reference to that perfected state of a thing in which there is no defect and no redundance; as, an exact coincidence, the exact truth, an exact likeness. We speak of a thing as precise when we think of it as strictly conformed to some rule or model, as if cut down thereto; as a precise conformity instructions; precisely right; he was very precise in giving his directions.

Quality Control
In any industrial production process, a quality controller is on hand to ensure that the product being manufactured is up to standard. It is his responsibility to ensure that faulty goods are rejected and only the perfect products are packed for sale. Without this step, a company's reputation is likely to suffer. The same is true in life. By failing to assess our faults within, and by not taking appropriate measures to correct them, we are unable to live at peace with the world.

Hence, it is essential that we regularly pause and ask ourselves, "What are my faults? And what can I do to correct them." Only then can progress be made. This habit of introspection is important in every aspect of life. Consider a team - in football, cricket, baseball or any other sport - which performs below standard. Only by analysing and accepting their mistakes can individual players and the team as a whole improve. To help a player improve, the first necessity is for him to analyse his own performance and his own strengths and weaknesses. The second requirement is a good manager who gives constructive criticism.

The Selling Game
If real progress is desired, then introspection, admission of faults and steps for their correction are essential. In the intensely competitive consumer market, companies which adopt a self-critical review policy succeed and progress rapidly. Those who believe, "no consumer is wrong," or "if anything is wrong, it is wrong with me," or "you can always improve" will be more capable of meeting their customers' demands and so increase their profits.

Regular Review
Until one reflects within, the intensity with which baser instincts have taken a controlling grip in one's life will not be realised. If one does not stop to reflect, one's actions will lead one away from God.

The same attitude of indifference and acceptance of sinful ways can be said about other sins that have gradually become acceptable within society by most of the people. These are the sins of divorce, common-law relationships, the removal of prayer from the schools, the teaching of atheism etc... All of these are perversions of the truth that lead away from God's Holiness and holy ways.

While some may be hesitant to speak up against the sins of others, saying, "It is none of my business.", or "They are protected under the Charter of Rights.", this is not so according to God. As a Christian, we have an obligation to make it our responsibility and we have an obligation to contact our representatives of the Government to ask that the Charter of Rights and the laws be changed to reflect the ways of God. Until such time as it is done, God will condemn us alongside those who live in sin!

Regular review, regular check, regular correction, examination is a must to make progress in our life. First of all parents are invited to show the right path to children, teachers are expected to correct children so that they may really make progress and achieve their goal. Management must review the condition or workers, and workers must review their work performance, so that they work as per their commitment they had made on the day agreed to work in that firm.

Practical Conclusion
Being in community requires putting ourselves aside – and our passions and factions aside. As St. Paul directs, “I come with Christians far and near to find, as all are fed, the new community of love in Christ’s communion bread. As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends. The love that made us makes us one, and strangers now are friends…Together met, together bound, we’ll go our different ways, and as his people in the world, we’ll live and speak his praise.”

As we gather around this table – we practice an act of community in sharing a meal together. As we gather around this Altar we affirm our belief in Christ as Lord, who breaks bread with us and causes proud divisions to end. As we gather around this table we meet with one another to share in this feast. When we leave from this table, though, we remain bound, tied inexplicably with the entire body of the baptized. Whether we like them or not, we have to live in a community of love with them…or at least try. And as we go our separate ways – with those we like and don’t – we must do the work and the worship of the Holy and Triune God.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Jer 20.7-9; Rm 12.1-2; Mt 16.21-7

Life Experience
We have been visiting the families in our parish with the help of the Small Christian Community animators. It’s an experience that can teach us many more things than sermons and books. Once I met a pious woman, who shed tears in her home when I enquired her about the family situation. Her entire family was in Kuwait and they are now in India since 9 years. Times are very difficult for that family. But, she said to me, “father, where there is a will there is a way. I was always thinking that it is possible to have a good life only when we are abroad. Of course my husband was working and I was just doing the housewife. But when we came back from Kuwait, my husband went into depression and we found it difficult to adjust. I started going from house to house giving tuitions with the little knowledge of the subjects. But today after almost 7 years of my constant touch with the children, they are coming home and I have more than enough now. I feel energetic, healthy, and feel a sense of responsibility. We do not lack money, and we can go on with our life. Our children are growing and they will reach their destination”.

Friends, nothing in this world will improve unless we change! Unless we change our thoughts, our words and our actions according to the Divine Will of God, nothing will improve. Prayers are fruitless when there is no sincerity of heart. As Jesus said, "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).

Hard Work
Nothing can we obtain in this world without hard work. If people have made a mark, they have behind their success tireless efforts and constant hard work. Hence, it’s a hard reminder to all of us that we need to work, never give up and always look ahead with the hope that we can do it, we can achieve our goal and we are capable of reaching there.

Today’s passage reminds us that suffering is a fact of life, but not necessarily unfortunate fact of life. How big is our perspective? Is meaning compressed in the matter of our own existence, in which case suffering is the darkness of 'lights out'. Or is the matter of our own existence just a vignette on the cosmic stage of meaning, in which case suffering is but a temporary shadow in the corner of the stage?

God's loving goodness and omnipotence are so great as to encompass painful and unpleasant circumstances in serving His ultimate good of drawing all things to and in Himself (Rm 8.28).

Suffering Servant
The suffering of man has been taken up by the Divine Suffering Servant (cf. Is 52.13; 53.12). Jesus emptied Himself to become incarnated into suffering humanity (Phil 2.5-8). Denied His self; will to accept work of Suffering Servant (Lk 22.42). His resurrection reality is the victory over suffering (I Cor 15.57). Christians are incorporated into the suffering Person and work of Jesus Christ in the Body of Christ (Rm 8.17; II Cor 1.5; 4.7-12,17; Phil 3.10; Col 1.24; I Pet 4.13). Suffering has a beneficent purpose. Suffering is the birth pangs for the greater experience of life. In suffering life becomes more real than the superficialities of comfort. Suffering is analogous to the surgery required to heal the disease of our self-orientation (Mt 9.12. True love is strengthened and perfected by suffering.

Christian responses to "suffering" has a positive value. This does not mean that Christians should seek, desire, court, invite, or pursue suffering or claim proud badge of courage in "suffering for Jesus" or develop persecution-complex or martyr-complex

What is Needed
Mystery of Suffering

Acceptance of the situations of life and consider that suffering is not so much a problem to be solved rationally, but a mystery to be observed personally and spiritually. Only way to "see" the mystery is by the reception of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Thus we participate in the mystery of Christ (Col 1.27; 2.2).
Our sufferings, sicknesses and adversities are not happenings in themselves, but are defined by the effect we allow them to have on us. Entrust ourselves to God, His purposes and ways Recognize His sufficiency of grace in the situations (II Cor 3.5; 12.9).

Receptivity of God's activity – Faith
Persevere - Rm 5.3; 12.12; Jas 1.12
Endure - I Cor 4.12; II Tim 4.5; Jas 1.3,4
Entrust ourselves to God - I Pet 2.21-23; 4.19

Practical Conclusion
Embrace your difficulties and appreciate them for providing new ways to grow spiritually. Try to think of the positive benefits and spiritual lessons that troubles can almost certainly provide. Here are some of them:

  • Very few people begin a spiritual journey because they are blissful happy. In fact, men and women are typically drawn to the spiritual path because they want help in dealing with difficulties. Each challenge in our lives opens the possibility of awakening our heart.

  • When we are going through dark times, we are better able to let go of egotism and arrogance. Difficulties can help us grow in patience, understanding, and humility; they can help us seek out meaningful connection.

  • This is an ideal time for self-reflection and an examination of those ways in which we have contributed to our own problems—our own misery. Are any of our current difficulties, for example, caused by our own carelessness and lack of mindfulness?

  • When our troubles seem overwhelming, often we can use this as a way of growing our compassion for others. Reflect on the millions of others who—just like you—are going through tough rimes right now. Empathize with these brothers and sisters with whom you share so many emotions

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time :Year: A

Is 22.19-23; Ps 138.1-3, 6-8; Rom 11.33-36; Mt 16.13-20

“I don’t Care one Bit”

The bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the early part of the last century was a great evangelizer who tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics. He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship. He would call them fools and other insulting names. The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners. The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him. Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer, saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all. I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.” And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest. “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me. I want you to stare at the figure of Christ on His cross, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loudly as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” The priest said, “Very good. Now do it again.” And again the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” “You’re almost done now,” said the priest. “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the crucifix, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ and say those words any more. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That young man, that defiant young man was I. I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.”

The Context
The conversation between Jesus and Peter receives diverse interpretations and even opposite ones in the several Christian Churches. In the Catholic Church, this is the foundation for the primacy of Peter. This is why, without in fact, diminishing the significance of the text, it is convenient to place it in the context of the Gospel of Matthew, in which, in other texts, the same qualities conferred on Peter are almost all, attributed to other persons. They do not belong exclusively to Peter.

It is always well to keep in mind that the Gospel of Matthew was written at the end of the first century for the community of the converted Jews who lived in the Region of Galilee and Syria. They were communities which suffered and were victims of many doubts concerning their faith in Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tries to help them to overcome the crisis and to confirm them in the faith in Jesus, the Messiah, who came to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.

Who do People say that I am?
Jesus asks the opinion of the people and of his disciples concerning himself. The answers are quite varied. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets. When Jesus questions about the opinion of his own disciples, Peter becomes the spokesman and says. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”. Peter’s answer signifies that he recognizes in Jesus the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Old Testament and that in Jesus we have the definitive revelation of the Father for us. This confession of Peter is not new. First, after having walked on the water, the other disciples had already made the same profession of faith. “Truly You are the Son of God!” (Mt 14.33). In the Gospel of John, Martha makes this same profession of Peter. “You are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world” (Jn 11.27).

“Blessed are you, Peter!”
Jesus proclaims Peter as “Blessed!” because he has received a revelation from the Father. In this case also, the response of Jesus is not new. First Jesus had made an identical proclamation of joy to the disciples for having seen and heard things which before nobody knew (Mt 13.16), and had praised the Father for having revealed the Son to little ones and not to the wise (Mt 11.25). Peter is one of these little ones to whom the Father reveals himself. The perception of the presence of God in Jesus does not come “from the flesh nor from the blood”, that is, it is not the fruit of the merit of a human effort, but rather it is a gift which God grants to whom he wants.
Peter receives three attributions from Jesus. (i) To be a rock of support, (ii) to receive the keys of the Kingdom, and (iii) to be foundation of the Church.

i) To be Rock
Simon, the son of Jonah, receives from Jesus a new name which is Cephas, and that means, Rock. this is why he is called Peter. Peter has to be Rock, that is, he has to be a sure foundation for the Church so that the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. With these words from Jesus to Peter, Matthew encourages the communities of Syria and Palestine, which are suffering and are the victims of persecutions, to see in Peter a leader on whom to find support, to base themselves concerning their origin. In spite of being weak and persecuted communities, they had a secure basis, guaranteed by the word of Jesus. At that time, the communities had very strong affective bonds with the persons who had begun, who were at the origin of the community. Thus, the Community of Syria and Palestine fostered their bond of union with the person of Peter. The community of Greece with the person of Paul. Some communities of Asia, with the person of the Beloved disciple and others with the person of John of the Apocalypses. Identifying themselves with these leaders of their origin helped the communities to foster their identity and spirituality better. But this could also be a cause of dispute, like in the case of the community of Corinth (1 Cor 1.11-12).

To be rock as the basis of faith evokes the Word of God to the people who are in exile in Babylonia. “Listen to me you who pursue saying injustice, you who seek Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who gave you birth; when I called him, he was the only one, but I blessed him and made him numerous” (Is 51.1-2). Applied to Peter, this quality of peter-foundation indicates a new beginning of the people of God..

ii) The keys of the Kingdom
Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom to bind and to loosen, that is, to reconcile the persons among themselves and with God. Behold, that here again the same power to bind and to loosen, is given not only to Peter, but also to the other disciples (Jn 20.23) and to their own communities (Mt 18.18). One of the points on which the Gospel of Matthew insists more is the reconciliation and forgiveness (Mt 5.7.23-24.38-42-48; 6,14-15-35). In the years 80’s and 90’s, in Syria there were many tensions in the communities and there were divisions in the families. Some accepted Jesus as Messiah and others did not, and this was the cause for many tensions and conflicts. Matthew insists on reconciliation. Reconciliation was and continues to be one of the most important tasks of the coordinators of the communities at present. Imitating Peter, they have to bind and loosen, that is, do everything possible so that there be reconciliation, mutual acceptance, building up of the true fraternity “Seventy times seven!” (Mt 18.22).

iii) The Church
The word Church, in Greek eklésia, appears 105 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters. Only three times in the Gospels, and once only in the Gospel of Matthew. The word literally means “convoked” or “chosen”. It indicates the people who get together convoked by the Word of God, and who seek to live the message of the Kingdom which Jesus came to bring to us. The Church or the community is not the Kingdom, but an instrument or an indication of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is much greater. In the Church, in the community, what happens when a human group allows God to reign and allows God to be ‘Lord’ in one’s life, is rendered or should be rendered present to the eyes of all.

Fisherman Peter
Peter, who was a fisherman of fish, became fisherman of men (Mk 1.17). He was married (Mk 1. 30). He was a good man, very human. He was a natural leader among the twelve first disciples of Jesus. Jesus respects this leadership and makes Peter the animator of his first community (Jn 21.17). Before entering into the community of Jesus, Peter was called Simon Bar Jona (Mt 16, 17), that is, Simon, son of Jonah. Jesus calls him Cefas or Rock (Jn 1.42), who later becomes Peter (Lk 6.14).

By his nature and character, Peter could be everything, except pietra – rock. He was courageous in speaking, but in the moment of danger he allows himself to be dominated by fear and flees. For example, the time in which Jesus walked on the sea, Peter asks. “Jesus, allow me also to walk on the sea”. Jesus says. “You may come, Peter!” Peter got off from the boat and walked on the sea. But as soon as he saw a high wave, he was taken up with panic, lost trust, and began to sink and cry out. “Lord, save me!” Jesus assured him and saved him (Mt 14. 28-31).

In the Last Supper, Peter tells Jesus. “I will never deny you, Lord!” (Mk 14.31), but a few hours later, in the Palace of the High Priest, in front of a servant , when Jesus had already been arrested, Peter denied, swearing that he had nothing to do with Jesus (Mk 14. 66-72).

When Jesus was in the Garden of Olives, Peter takes out the sword (Jn 18.10), but ends fleeing, leaving Jesus alone (Mk 14.50). By nature, Peter was not rock!

But this Peter so weak and human, so similar to us, becomes rock, because Jesus prays for him and says. “Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers!” (Lk 22.31-32). This is why Jesus could say. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16.18). Jesus helps him to be rock. After the Resurrection, in Galilee, Jesus appears to Peter and asks him two times. “Peter, do you love me?” And Peter responds two times. “Lord, you know that I love you!” (Jn 21.15,16). When Jesus repeats the same question a third time, Peter became sad. Perhaps he remembered that he had denied Jesus three times. To this third question he answers. “Lord, you know all things! You know that I love you very much!” And it is then that Jesus entrusted to him the care of his sheep, saying. “Peter, feed my lambs!” (Jn 21.17). With the help of Jesus, the firmness of the rock grows in Peter and is revealed on the day of Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter opens the door of the room where all were meeting together, locked with a key because of fear of the Jews (Jn 20.19), he takes courage and began to announce to the people the Good News of Jesus (Acts 2. 14-40). And he did not stop doing it! Thanks to this courageous announcement of the Resurrection, he was imprisoned (Acts 4. 3). During the trial, he was forbidden to announce the Good News (Acts 4, 18), but Peter does not obey this prohibition. He said. “We know that we have to obey God more than men!” (Acts 4. 19; 5. 29). He was arrested again (Acts 5. 18-26). He was tortured (Acts 5. 40). But he said. “Thank you. But we shall continue!” (cf. Acts 5. 42).

Tradition says that, towards the end of his life, in Rome, Peter was arrested and condemned to death, and death on the cross. He asked to be crucified with the head down. He believed he was not worthy to die like Jesus. Peter was faithful to himself up to the end!.

Completing the context
Peter had confessed. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” He had imagined a glorious Messiah, and Jesus corrects him. “It is necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to die in Jerusalem”. By saying that “it is necessary”, he indicates that suffering has already been foreseen in the Prophecies (Is 53. 2-8). If Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, he has to accept him also as the servant Messiah who will be put to death. Not only the triumph of the glory, but also the journeys to the cross! But Peter does not accept the correction and seeks to dissuade him. The response of Jesus is surprising. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do”. Satan is the one who separates us from the path which God has traced for us. Literally, Jesus says. “Get behind me” (Get away!). Peter wanted to place himself in front and indicate the direction. Jesus says. “Get behind me!” He who indicates the course and direction is not Peter, but Jesus. The disciple has to follow the Master. He has to live in continuous conversion.

Practical Conclusion
The Word of Jesus is also a reminder for all those who guide or direct a community. They have “to follow” Jesus and not place themselves in front of him as Peter wanted to do. No, only they can indicate the direction or the route. Otherwise, like Peter, they are not rock of support, but they become a rock of obstacle. Thus, were some of the leaders of the communities at the time of Matthew, full of ambiguity. Thus, it also happens among us even today!

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 56.1, 6-7; Rm 11.13-15, 29-32; Mt 15.21-28

“Never give up!"
Years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling to his credit ran for an office in the legislature when he was 23 and was beaten. Next he entered business with a partner but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady and they became engaged, but she died. The next year he had a nervous breakdown. Relying on the power of prayer, he ran for the post of Speaker (at 29), of Elector (at 31) and for a seat in Congress (at 34). He was defeated each time. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office, but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in an election to the Senate (at 46). He ran for office once more and was elected the sixteenth President of the United States in 1860 when he was 51. That man was Abraham Lincoln who put his trust in the power of persistent prayer coupled with never-fading faith in God’s goodness. It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!" In today’s gospel after teaching the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us that we should never give up in our prayer life.

It was evening and a woman came to my office profusely shedding tears. She told me that her condition at home was miserable. She neglected her children and was living a careless life with another man out of wedlock and in the process of this relationship she aborted 4 babies. Her daughter threatened to commit suicide recently because she was feeling totally left out and felt no affection and love towards parents. This woman felt absolutely sorry for all that had been happening in her life. I could not give her a ready solution. I told her that she should go for a short retreat and then come to me for further counseling. She accepted this suggestion and went for a retreat and came back to speak to me after a few days. I saw her deep serenity and she told me that her daughter had been to a priest for counseling and now she wishes to change and live a peaceful life. This was the time I told her that she should rely on God, and change her life style. I told her that she should always say to herself that she needs God’s help.

Sinful Canaanites
What is unusual about the event in the Gospel is that the woman was a Canaanite. In Deuteronomic and post-Deuteronomic literature, the Canaanites were viewed as sinful race that embodied every possible evil and godlessness. The Canaanites were viewed as a nation that was to be exterminated. As it was not the general practice for the Jewish people to mix with the Samaritans, it was not the general practice for them to mix with the Canaanites. So what was Jesus to do when He was approached by a race that was avoided by the Jewish people?

- This woman refers to Jesus by the messianic title "son of David" (15.22).

- At first, Jesus ignores the woman's request and the disciples complain that she is badgering them (15.23).

- Jesus responds to them by saying that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, i.e., the Jews (15.24).

- After the clever repartee, Jesus responds by saying that her faith (or trust) is enormous and informs her directly that the exorcism is fulfilled (15.28).

We see here the great faith of the woman, extraordinary courage to approach Jesus, and her strong conviction that prayers will be heard.

The coasts of Tyre and Sidon
These cities were on the sea-coast or shore of the Mediterranean (Mt 11.21). He went there for the purpose of concealment; perhaps still to avoid Herod (Mk 7.24)..

A woman of Canaan
This woman is called also a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth (Mk 7.26). Anciently the whole land, including Tyre and Sidon, was in the possession of the Canaanites, and called Canaan. The Phoenicians were descended from the Canaanites. The country, including Tyre and Sidon, was called Phoenicia, or Syro-Phoenicia. That country was taken by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and those cities, in the time of Christ, were Greek cities. This woman was therefore a Gentile, living under the Greek government, and probably speaking the Greek language. She was by birth a Syro-Phoenician, born in that country, and descended, therefore, from the ancient Canaanites. All these names might with propriety be given to her.

He answered her not a word
This was done to test her faith, and that there might be exhibited to the apostles an example of the effect of persevering supplication. The result shows that it was not unwillingness to aid her, or neglect of her. It was proper that the strength of her faith should be fully tried. God does not answer our prayers immediately. Often we feel that there is great silence. Of course God answers in silence of our hearts.

I am not sent
This answer was made to the woman, not to the disciples. The lost sheep of the house of Israel were the Jews. He came first to them. He came as their expected Messiah. He came to preach the gospel himself to the Jews only. Afterwards it was preached to the Gentiles; but the ministry of Jesus was confined almost entirely to the Jews.

She worshipped
That is, bowed down to him, did him reverence. She saw in Jesus certainly a divine person. She believed in him and had the assurance that he would provide her whatever she wanted and the need would be provided. She said Lord, help me. This is a proper cry for a poor sinner, who needs the help of the Lord Jesus.

He answered
That is, it is not fit or proper. A stiff answer on the part of the Lord. We do not know why the Lord answered her so impolitely. But the circumstance shows that we need to become humble before God when we ask something for ourselves.

Children's bread
The Jews considered themselves as loving children of God. To all other nations they were accustomed to apply terms of contempt, of which dog was the most common. It is designed as an expression of the highest contempt. The Saviour means to say that he was sent to the Jews. The woman was a Gentile. He meant, that it did not comport with the design of his personal ministry to apply benefits intended for the Jews to others.

Our Saviour did not intend to justify or sanction the use of such terms, or calling names. He meant to try her faith. As if he had said, "You are a Gentile. I am a Jew. The Jews call themselves children of God. You they vilify, and abuse, calling you a dog. Are you willing to receive of a Jew, then, a favour? Are you willing to submit to these appellations, to receive a favour of one of that nation, and to acknowledge your dependence on a people that so despise you?" It was a trial of her faith, and not lending his sanction to the propriety of the abusive term. He regarded her with a different feeling.

Dogs eat the Crumbs
"What you say is true. Let it be that the best food should be given to the children. Let the Jews have the chief benefit of thy ministry. But the dogs, beneath the table, eat the crumbs. So let me be regarded as a dog, a heathen, as unworthy of everything. Yet grant one exertion of that almighty power, displayed so signally among the Jews, and heal the despised daughter of a despised heathen mother."

Great is thy faith
That is, thy trust, confidence. The word here seems to include, also, the humility and perseverance manifested in pressing her suit. The daughter was healed then. Going home, she found her well and composed (Mk 7.30).

Practical Conclusion
We heard in the first reading that "The House of Prayer for all peoples" (Is 56.7) formerly known as the Temple, is now called the Church, the Church being the physical building in which the faithful worship the Lord God. If you recall, Jesus made reference to the "House of Prayer for all the nations" (Mt 21.13; Mk 11.17; Jn 2.16) when He drove the money- changers from the Temple. In the Gospel of John (Jn 2.13-22) the application of the House of Prayer is developed to mean more than the physical building of gathering for worship. The House of Prayer, the Temple, is defined as consisting of Jesus' own body. Jesus offers himself in service to all nations and people. The woman in the Gospel of today is symbolic of our willingness to reach out to all kinds of people in service. Faith in God can make all such things happen.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

1 Kgs 19.9, 11-13; Rm 9.1-5; Mt 14.22-33

Door to successful living
Thousands upon thousands of young boys grow up bouncing basketballs and dreaming of a life in the National Basketball Association - the professional ranks. But only a handful are chosen each year. Woe to the young man or young woman who is talented at sports but neglects his or her education! Thousands upon thousands of new businesses are started each year, but only a small number of people in our society become super-successful in material terms. The higher you go up the scale, the smaller the numbers become. Thousands upon thousands of young couples each year stand at the altars of churches like this one and pledge their love to one another, but half these marriages will end in divorce. Many couples will stay together only for convenience, for appearances or for the children. Only an estimated 10% will find true fulfillment in their marriages. The door to any kind of successful living is a narrow one. That is why Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel: "Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Successful living requires making hard choices. It requires dedication and sacrifice. How can Christian faith demand any less?

The narrow gate
Someone once said to Padarewski, the great pianist, "Sir, you are a genius." He replied, "Madam, before I was a genius I was a drudge." He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it. It is reported that after one of Fritz Kreisler's concerts a young woman said to him, "I would give my life to be able to play like that." He replied, "That's what I gave.” The door is narrow. Why should we think we can "drift" into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down.

The Commitment
Robin and Wilma loved one another. They decided to marry. Kids were born. Wilma gave up working because she had to take care of kids. As months and years passed the stress of life and distance between Robin and Wilma due to work resulted a strain in their relationship and commitment. Both of them began blaming themselves. Then they started blaming one another and finally they blamed God. As the kids were growing, unhappiness became visible among the family members. Wilma stopped communicating with Robin, Robin began sinking in alcoholism. Wilma began sinking in depression and doubt against Robin. Children began sinking in irresponsible behaviour and addicted to bad friendships, smoking, and frustration.

Life is a Blend
Well, life is a blend of commitment, faith, patience, love, forgiveness and understanding. This blend can take a family a long way in spite of all the uncertainties and sufferings. But doubt can really sink us as it sank Peter, unless we call upon the Lord to help us we would drown all together in the ocean of insecurity and pain.
Just look at Peter. Over enthusiastic, and wants to walk towards the Lord on water. At the Lord’s word he jumps. Then he begins to doubt himself, “can I do it”? Then he looks at the deep sea, and doubts the environment, finally he might have doubted the Lord. Well, then comes the helpless cry, “Lord save me”.

To get into a boat
Either they were afraid to return into the jurisdiction of Herod, or they were unwilling to embark without their Lord and Protector, and would not enter their boat till Christ had commanded them to embark. From this verse it appears that Christ gave some advices to the multitudes after the departure of his disciples, which he did not wish them to hear and went towards Capernaum, Matthew 14.34. John 6.16,17, or Bethsaida, see Mark 6.45.

He went up to pray
He whom God has employed in a work of mercy had need to return, by prayer, as speedily, to his maker, as he can, lest he should be tempted to value himself on account of that in which he has no merit-for the good that is done upon earth, the Lord does it alone. Some make this part of our Lord's conduct emblematic of the spirit and practice of prayer, and observe that the proper dispositions and circumstances for praying well are.
Retirement from the world;
Elevation of the heart to God;
Solitude; and
The silence and quiet of the night

It is certain that in this Christ has left us an example that we should follow his steps. Retirement from the world is often a means of animating, supporting, and spiritualizing prayer. Other society should be shut out, when a soul comes to converse with God.

Tossed with waves
Grievously agitated. This is the proper meaning of the word plunged under the waves, frequently covered with them; the waves often breaking over the vessel.

The fourth watch
Anciently the Jews divided the night into three watches, consisting of four hours each. The first watch is mentioned, Lamentations 2.19. the second, Judges 7.19; and the third, Exodus 14.24; but a fourth watch is not mentioned in any part of the OLD Testament. This division the Romans had introduced in Judea, as also the custom of dividing the day into twelve hours. see John 11.9. The first watch began at six o'clock in the evening, and continued till nine; the second began at nine, and continued till twelve; the third began at twelve, and continued till three next morning; and the fourth began at three, and continued till six. It was therefore between the hours of three and six in the morning that Jesus made his appearance to his disciples.

Walking on the sea
Thus suspending the laws of gravitation was a proper manifestation of unlimited power. Jesus did this by his own power; therefore Jesus showed forth his Godhead. In this one miracle we may discover three.-1. Though at a distance from his disciples, he knew their distress. 2. He found them out on the lake, and probably in the midst of darkness. 3. He walked upon the water. Job, speaking of those things whereby the omnipotence of God was demonstrated, says particularly, Job 9.8, He walks upon the waves of the sea. intimating that this was impossible to any thing but Omnipotence.

“It is a spirit”
That the spirits of the dead might and did appear, was a doctrine held by the greatest and holiest of men that ever existed; and a doctrine which the cavaliers, free-thinkers and bound-thinkers, of different ages, have never been able to disprove.

“It is I; be not afraid”
Nothing but this voice of Christ could, in such circumstances, have given courage and comfort to his disciples. those who are grievously tossed with difficulties and temptations require a similar manifestation of his power and goodness. When he proclaims himself in the soul, all sorrow, and fear, and sin are at an end.

Bid me come on the water
A weak faith is always wishing for signs and miracles. To take Christ at his word, argues not only the perfection of faith, but also the highest exercise of sound reason. He is to be credited on his own word, because he is the TRUTH, and therefore can neither lie nor deceive.

Peter-walked on the water
However impossible the thing commanded by Christ may appear, it is certain he will give power to accomplish it to those who receive his word by faith; but we must take care never to put Christ's power to the proof for the gratification of a vain curiosity; or even for the strengthening of our faith, when the ordinary means for doing that are within our reach.

When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid

It was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder that those laws returned to their usual action, and that he began to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith.

Jesus stretched forth his hand
Every moment we stand in need of Christ. while we stand-we are upheld by his power; and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by which we are to be upheld; and then our faith is likely to stand strong.

The wind ceased
Jesus is the Prince of peace, and all is peace and calm where he condescends to enter and abide.

Thou art the Son of God
It is probable that these words were spoken either by the sailors or passengers, and not by the disciples. Critics have remarked that, when this phrase is used to denominate the Messiah, both the articles are used, and that the words without the articles mean, in the common Jewish phrase, a Divine person. It would have been a strange thing indeed, if the disciples, after all the miracles they had seen Jesus work, after their having left all to follow him, Messiah. That they had not as yet clear conceptions concerning his kingdom, is evident enough; but that they had any doubts concerning his being the promised Messiah is far from being clear.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 55.1-3; Rm 8.35, 37-39; Mt 14.13-21

The Lost Hand
I was watching a YouTube video of a man who had lost his right hand in an accident long back. He procured help from his friends and is now able to use an electronically managed artificial hand. I found the man extremely happy to use this hand and he attempts to operate it well. I could find on his face immense happiness and I felt a deep compassion for this man. I entered into myself and felt how fortunate I am having both hands. Whole day I spent praising God for the gift of hands and at the same time I felt deep compassion towards those who have lost one or the other physical faculty of their body due to accidents, sickness or by birth.

Today compassion is not there among people. Jesus felt compassion towards the flock that was poor, miserable, helpless, sick, down trodden. Today people have many things in their life, but we find people complaining for things they do not have. They are blind, and do not see what God has done to them. It is enough to visit some hospitals to discover how people suffer immensely due to multiple causes of sickness, accidents and other grave reasons.

Compassionate Jesus
"He had compassion for them and cured their sick!" (Mt 14.14) Jesus had compassion for His flock, the restless souls that followed Him wherever He went so that He could feed them with spiritual food that comes from the richness of the Word of God. By answering their calling, these hungry ones were enriched with spiritual food that healed their souls. Through the Lord Jesus, they received spiritual knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of God, inclining them to continue to desire more and more.

When facing suffering, pain, persecution, famine or even death, where do we turn? Do we do as Jesus did when He heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist? Do we turn to God through the Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of God? Jesus calls us, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Mt 27.11).

Multiplication of Bread
The mentioning of the loaves of bread and the fish in today's reading of the Gospel was symbolic. They foreshadowed what was to come after the death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The fish echoes the Words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people" (Mt 4.19). The bread echoes the ministry of the priesthood in the Holy Catholic Church. It echoes the calling of holy men to become holy priests as instruments of God. Through these holy men, the Church Sacraments are administered and souls are saved.

When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Jesus and the Crowd
Jesus doesn't see the crowd as being an ignorant bunch of fools who need proper teaching about the Bible or about the church or about the kingdom. Jesus sees the crowd as people with problems, people with illnesses, people, who are hungry. Perhaps we think too much and spend too much time and energy just trying to teach people. What about their other needs?

I've often used this quote from the course Witnesses for Christ, "You don't throw a drowning person a sandwich no matter how good the sandwich is." For news to be truly good, it has to meet some need of the hearer/receiver.

Jesus also suggests that prayers may be answered in different ways.

The sick are healed instantly by Jesus alone. They present their needs and Jesus responds.

The hungry are fed after a lot of work by the disciples.

The disciples don't actually present to Jesus the need of the crowd, but their solution: "Send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves" (v. 15). It seems like a reasonable request. Boring writes:

The disciples assume (or hope) that the village markets will be able to cope with crowds of five thousand plus. Contrary to Jesus' teaching, they look first to the imperial economy to supply the need, rather than to God (6.25-34)
How often are our prayers asking God to bless our plans, rather than putting ourselves at God's disposal?

Feed them
Jesus tells them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat" (v. 16). Note that the use of "you" is emphasized in Greek. Why does Jesus do this? Perhaps it was a word that the disciples needed to hear. When Jesus sees the sick, he heals. When he sees the ignorant, he teaches. When he sees the demon-possessed, he exorcises. When he sees the hungry, he provides food. When he sees disciples, he challenges them to go to work: "You do something." (Or, more specifically, "feed the hungry.")

Have you ever thought about how much work it would be to distribute food to 5000 men, besides women and children -- and then to clean up the mess? Could it be significant that there were 12 disciples and 12 baskets of garbage picked up at the end?

It would have been so much easier for the disciples if Jesus had done what they asked, "Send the people away." He will do that later in v. 22.

There certainly could have been other ways of feeding the hungry that didn't involve so much work by the disciples. Jesus could have miraculously made the people's hunger pains disappear. If Jesus was going to miraculously make food appear -- why not have it appear in the stomachs -- no work for the disciples and no garbage to clean up. Jesus could have waved his hand and the magic words, "Colonel Sanders," and every family would have their own bucket of chicken right in front of them.

As I suggested in other notes, Matthew has an emphasis that being disciples means more than just being learners. It also means being workers. This text also suggests that the disciples need to be stewards of the meager resources at their disposal.

Sometimes, for divine miracles to occur, disciples may have to do a lot of work. Perhaps that is a difference between disciples and the crowds. While all received the benefit of the miracle; the disciples were asked to work and work hard to make it happen -- and then to clean up the mess -- each had one of the twelve baskets to fill up.

Along this line Boring states: "However the story is interpreted, Jesus' charge to his disciples stands: 'You give them something to eat.' The source of the feeding is God, but the resources are human. The work of the disciples, the "bread" of human effort, is honored, used, and magnified by Jesus."

The First Temptation
One might also make a comparison/contrast between the first and the other two temptations. In Matthew's account, the Tempter's first request is to turn stones (plural) into loaves (plural) of bread (Mt 4.3). (In Luke's account stones and loaves are singular.) In Matthew, it does not seem to be a temptation just to feed himself, but to do some miracle where much bread is produced. This is perhaps a temptation to do something that brings glory to himself even though it may provide food for the hungry. In that wilderness it was neither the proper time nor motivation to miraculously provide food.

When he does miraculously feed the crowds, it seems unlikely to me that the crowds even knew about the miracle that produced the bread. They just received a portion from the disciples. Jesus did what was needed without drawing great attention to himself -- especially himself as a miracle worker. His act was not motivated by the Tempter. It was not motivated by his desire for personal glory. He just blessed the food before a meal as was usual in Jewish families. With such a large crowd, some probably didn't even hear his prayer or see him looking up into heaven.

Eucharist and Eschatology
Matthew has a stronger connection between this feeding and the Last Supper (Mt 26.20-29). The verbs "take, bless, broke, & give" are exactly the same in Greek (although their forms and tenses may differ) in both contexts. (There are slight differences of words in comparing these two texts in the other synoptics.) In addition, in Matthew, the fish disappear during distribution.

Also in Matthew there is a greater hint that this feast prefigures the end time feast. Matthew's other use of the Greek anaklino = "lie (sit) down" = "lie/sit at a table to eat" (v. 19) is in 8.11: "Many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac in the kingdom of heaven."

It's hard to tell where the crowd came from to meet Jesus on the beach (v. 14). Often trips in a boat signified going to a Gentile territory (8.28; 14.34) or back to Jewish lands (9.1). Whether they were Jews or Gentiles or both, it was a "great crowd" (v. 14), probably coming from east and west.

He was Alone
After John's death, Jesus seeks to be alone. The crowds don't allow it. But after caring for their needs, he dismisses the crowds, and he goes up the mountain by himself to pray (v. 23). We all struggle with dividing our time and energies caring for our own needs and caring for the needs of others - our time alone with God and our time together with the saints and the needy. According to family systems theory, this is a primary tension that each healthy person (or group) faces. Caring for self (as an individual and as a group) and caring for others are both important. An over-emphasis on either leads to unhealthy narcissism or enmeshment.

I think that we also need to struggle with "salvation by grace through faith" and the demand to bear good fruit. James 2.14-17 says: "What good is it my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' [same word as in Mt 14.20] and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

Get to do something
Theologically, I am aware of the heresies of Pelagius and his little brother Semi. We can't add anything to God's gift of salvation. However, practically speaking, we can't just pray that God would provide housing for the homeless or food to the hungry or money in the offering plate. We need to spend a week or more working for Habitat for Humanity. We need to send money to Hunger Appeals and food to food banks. We need to be generous with our regular giving to the church.

I wonder what might happen if at all our congregational potluck meals we invited the homeless and poor to come and eat; know that they couldn't bring a dish to share. Certainly, most of our congregations donate to food banks to feed the poor and hungry; but what about the fellowship that comes about by gathering in groups and eating together? Don't they also need that?

In our text the disciples express concern for the needs of the crowd. They bring those needs to Jesus. We need to pray for others. Sometimes Jesus' answer to our intercessions is, "You do something about it." We might push the answer even further, "I've provided you with food, and distribute it. I've provided you with money donate some. I've provided you with time and abilities, volunteer them."

Frequently the image of the church as a "hospital for sinners" is used. That is a good corrective to the impression that it is a "club for saints." However, as a "hospital for sinners," in order for the church to do its "healing" ministry, it will need dedicated, committed, and trained workers and volunteers, just like a hospital needs doctors, nurses, administrators, dieticians, housekeepers, volunteers, etc. Sometimes we come to church being more of a sinner in need of healing -- a consumer. (Especially using the image of Holy Communion where we consume Christ in bread and wine, consumerism may not be a bad image for the church). Sometimes we come to church being more of a volunteer to bring God's miracles to other sinners - a contributor.

From what I've read about the early church, primarily Hippolytus of Rome, they were more concerned about right living than they were about right theology. For example, he has a list of unacceptable occupations, which had to be given up in order to join the church, e.g., prostitution. Baptismal sponsors testified to the behaviors of the candidates, not the orthodoxy of their faith-statements. At the same time he also has the first clear reference to baptizing infants before they can speak or do anything. I also realize that Hippolytus is not scriptures or part of our confessions; but with our many consumer-minded church members' "serve me" attitudes, perhaps we need to stress the need for contributing-minded church members with a "serve others" attitude. Divine miracles can require a lot of human work.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

1 Kgs 3.5-12; Rm 8.28-30; Mt 13.44-52

What is then the Kingdom of Heaven?
There is an old fable in which the mighty oak tree which stood for over one hundred years finally was blown over by a storm. The tree fell into a river that floated it downstream until it came to rest among the reeds growing along the riverbank. The fallen giant asked the reeds in amazement, "How is it that you were able to weather the storm that was too powerful for me, an oak tree, to withstand?"

The reeds replied, "All these years you stubbornly resisted the winds that swept your way. You took such pride in your strength that you refused to yield, even a little bit. We, on the other hand, have not resisted the winds, but have always bent with them. We recognized the superior power of the wind and so, the harder the wind blew the more we humbled ourselves before it."

Compare the serene and simple splendour of a rose in bloom with the tensions and restlessness of your life. The rose has a gift that you lack. His perfectly content to be itself. It has not been programmed from birth as you have been, to be dissatisfied with itself, so it has not the slightest urge to be anything other than it is. That is why it possesses the artless grace and absence of inner conflict that among humans is only found in little children and mystics.

The Buried Treasures
The Gospel metaphors of a buried treasure and the pearl of great price speak as clearly today as they did long ago. However, the methods Jesus allowed of the wise individuals seeking such priceless items make less constructive sense in our era. Indeed, to discover buried treasure on someone else’s land (by trespassing?) and then to purchase that land keeping the rightful owner ignorant of what he or she has would be considered serious fraud today. And, the mere purchase of the greatest pearl by liquidating all of one’s assets might not actually bring any genuine advantage beyond simple status of ownership. It might well be considered excess and obsessive pride.

The Dragnet
The image of a fishing dragnet might strike modern believers as harsh, but it does point out the sad situation of being called and chosen even passively, only to be excluded when that passivity yields to apathy and ingratitude. I’ve pointed out before that the ancient Christians were quite apocalyptic in their appreciation of the created universe and in their expectation of how all creation might come to an end within a few human generations. Our modern appreciations and expectations have evolved and sophisticated commensurate with the modern sciences of cosmology and anthropology, so we can and must truly assert that ours is not an apocalyptic Church and we are far more sophisticated and nuanced than were believers in that original audience. We do not look forward to nor even expect God the Creator to eventually destroy the universe or the peoples of the planet. Rather, our understanding of God’s Salvation has evolved, expanded, and enlarged so that God’s gracious gift of life and the fullness of loving life might be lost on no one at all. This is a huge shift from ancient times and can irritate and destabilize the expectations and beliefs of some Christians who pretend to live in an out-of-date cosmology and in an out-of-date anthropology. Some simply cannot imagine what “infinite mercy” and “perfect love” of the Creator God might entail for the Created Universe. The kingdom metaphor of the dragnet is no longer about those who fail to believe, but rather it is about us who do actively believe. It exhorts us to be active, not passive, in our daily faith. We ought to cultivate sufficient appreciation of God’s goodness so as to appreciate our calling to Gospel life.

Change of Mind
Ultimately, all three metaphors (a buried treasure, a pearl of great price, and a dragnet) are fully appreciated only by the genuine “scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven.” You are that scribe! The Kingdom of Heaven was the very point of what Jesus preached in his Gospel. The imperative from Jesus upon the announcement of that Kingdom was that hearers must “repent” and “believe.” The Greek word which finds its way into our English translation as “repent” is “metanoia” which literally means “change your mind” or “go beyond your mind” or “think again” or “keep thinking” or “reconsider!” Each of us ought to be a scribe instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven who’s minds and imaginations are alive with ideas of how to live the Gospel of hope and justice!

Who finds a Hidden Treasure?
The traditional view is that the man who finds the hidden treasure is the Christian believer. We discover the kingdom of God, and it is so precious to us that we give all that we have to obtain it.

Imagine a field-buyer and the merchant as speaking of the believer, in a "count-the-cost" sort of admonition. I believe that this is the traditional and popular view on the passage.

There is, of course, nothing at all wrong with that attitude, indeed, we should all have it. But as commendable as the attitude might be, it’s not what the passage is about. The argument begins with the claim that Jesus speaks of the same thing in each of the parables. That seems pretty obvious. Now consider the last of the three kingdom parables – the one about the fisherman and the fish.

The Lessons
Consider your sad condition. You are always dissatisfied with yourself, always wanting to change yourself. So you are full of violence and self-intolerance, which only grows with every effort that you make to change yourself. So any change you achieve is always accompanied by inner conflict. And you suffer when you see others achieve what you have not and become what you are not.

Like the Rose?
Would you be tormented by jealousy and envy if, like the rose, you were content to be what you are and never aspired to what you are not? But you are driven are you not, to be like someone else who has more knowledge, better looks, more popularity or success than you? You want to become more virtuous, more loving, more meditative; you want to find God, to come closer to your ideals. Think of the sad history of your efforts at self-improvement, that either ended in disaster or succeeded only at the cost of struggle and pain.

Aim at the Kingdom
Now suppose you desisted from all efforts to change yourself, and from all self-dissatisfaction, would you then be doomed to go to sleep having passively accepted everything in you and around you? There is another way besides laborious self-pushing on the one hand and stagnant acceptance on the other. It is the way of self-understanding. This is far from easy because to understand what you are requires complete freedom from all desire to change what you are into something else. You will see this if you compare the attitude of a scientist who studies the habits of ants without the slightest desire to change them with the attitude of a dog trainer who studies the habits of a dog with a view to making it learn something. If what you attempt is not to change yourself but to observe yourself, to study every one of your reactions to people and things, without judgement or condemnation or desire to reform yourself, your observation will be non-selective, comprehensive, never fixed in rigid conclusions, always open and fresh from moment to moment. Then you will notice a marvellous thing happening within you. you will be flooded with the light of awareness, you will become transparent and transformed and you will certainly find the kingdom of God within you (Lk 17.21).

Is Change a Remedy?
Will change occur then? Oh, yes it will be in you and in your surroundings. But it will not be brought about by your cunning, restless ego that is forever competing, comparing, coercing, sermonizing, manipulating in its intolerance and its ambitions, thereby creating tension and conflict and resistance between you and Nature — an exhausting, self-defeating process like driving with your brakes on. No, the transforming light of awareness brushes aside your scheming, self-seeking ego to give nature full rein to bring about the kind of change that she produces in the rose; artless, graceful, unself-conscious, wholesome, untainted by inner conflict.

Since all change is violent she will be violent. But the marvellous quality of Nature-violence, unlike ego-violence, is that it does not spring from intolerance and self-hatred. So there is no anger in the rainstorm that carries everything before it, or the fish that devour their young in obedience to ecological laws we know not, or body cells when they destroy each other in the interest of a higher good. When Nature destroys, it is not from ambition or greed or self-aggrandisement, but in obedience to mysterious laws that seek the good of the whole universe above the survival and well-being of the parts.

Practical Conclusion
Kingdom of God is never attained by violence. It is this kind of violence that arises within mystics who storm against ideas and structures that have become entrenched in their societies and cultures when awareness awakens them to evils their contemporaries are blind to. It is this violence that causes the rose to come into being in the face of forces hostile to it. And it is to this violence that the rose, like the mystic, will sweetly succumb after it has opened its petals to the sun and lives in fragile, feeling loveliness, quite unconcerned to add a single extra minute to its allotted span of life. And so it lives in blessedness and beauty like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, with no trace of the restlessness and dissatisfaction, the jealousy and anxiety and competitiveness that characterize the world of human beings who seek to control and coerce rather than be content to flower into awareness, leaving all charge to the mighty force of God in nature.

This is the Kingdom Jesus preached through multiple parables to make us understand that the reality of God’s kingdom is here, now, around you and within you (Lk 17.21).

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time ; Year: A

Wis 12.13, 16-19; Rm 8.26-27; Mt 13.24-43

Weeds Grow
Lenon, a young man approached me saying that he was feeling totally lost in his life. He had no job, and was in to many types of addictions. I tried to guide him, help him. In the process I discovered that as soon as he finished his 10th, he was out with the youth, especially in the college. He was told that going for mass, visiting church and praying was the task of old ladies. So slowly he gave up all that he learnt from his childhood. All this happened over two years of his college life. He would never come for mass, never pray. Gradually he entered into the habit of drinking alcohol with his friends, wasted money and now he is weak, jobless, and suffers intensely. What made this young man lose all that he had learnt? Bad talk, bad thoughts, and bad friendship. Wheat grows, weeds also grow, but at times weeds out number wheat, and the entire crop is destroyed.

The Six Seashells
Many years ago, missionary Bob Roberts was a guest speaker in a church. In this service he was sharing his burden for hungry children in the Philippines. Afterwards a young boy, about seven years old, came up to him and said, “Jesus spoke to me tonight while you were telling us about the hungry children . . . When you said that for a quarter a day you could feed a child and give him a vitamin, I thought, I’ve got to help. But I didn’t know how I could. That’s when Jesus spoke to me.” The lad extended his hand and said, “This is my shell collection. I believe Jesus wants me to give these shells to help the children.” With those words, he placed the shells in Roberts’ hand. Roberts accepted the shells, but he wondered how they could help hungry children.

A few weeks later, Roberts spoke to another congregation. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the seashells and told about that boy and his desire to feed hungry children. At the end of the service, a man approached Roberts and said, “I would like to purchase those shells for $100!”

Bob Roberts added this comment, “My freckle-faced friend may never know that his sacrificial offering provided 400 meals for Filipino children. He may not have understood how the Lord would use this small gift to feed the hungry, but he knew God wanted him to give what he had…”

The Good Seed
Last Sunday we meditated on the parable of the sower. Jesus explained the parable to the disciples and they were satisfied. Today we meditate on the parable of the good seed that fell on the good ground and then the seed sprouted and the workers noticed that there were also weeds along with the good. Now the dilemma, what to do with the darnel, or the weed? Do they have to weed the weeds? Jesus cautions them. Let them grow, when the time for the harvest comes, you can pluck them first, bundle them and burn.

Modern Situation
My son and my daughter were very good. Now they are not. Modern world, school, market, malls, play stations, cyber cafés are the places where they gather good and evil. Bad seeds sown in school and college campuses must be rooted out and parents have greater role in weeding them gradually and slowly at the same velocity of getting them sown. Of course when the weed is already grown, some parents use humiliating language and violent means of facing such situations. Of course Jesus says you need to have patience.

Weeding the Weeds
How to weed the weeds? There is a method proposed. Leave the weed to grow. When both the wheat and weed have grown, it is easier to pluck the weed out. So what we should do? We need to allow all that is good to grow, and the evil will have a lesser chance to overpower the good. So, if you are good in some areas of your life, continue to be good, and let the evil be there, but be watchful, it will die out or it will be easier to pluck the evil through the power of the good. Do not allow the weed to grow and choke the good. Concentrate on good, and then you will see a marked change in your approach.

Find out the goodness you have. Just do not concentrate on the bad habits. For example, if you are good at listening music, go ahead, and monopolize this habit, and your habit at bad thoughts will disappear.

You are in the habit of watching bad movies, continue to watch movies that are good. The desire for bad movies will die eventually. Then try to overcome addiction to good movies too. That will help you get out of this vice.

Let us analyze the passage
• He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,
• the field is the world;
• and the good seed, these are the children of the kingdom;
• and the darnel are the children of the evil one.
• The enemy who sowed them is the devil.
• The harvest is the end of the age,
• and the reapers are angels.

Four parables in Matthew Chapter 13 deal with "Nominalism" in the visible church. Christ is not the only one sowing seed, the devil is also. But while Christ sows the Word of God, the devil sows lies. If one responds properly to the Word of God, he becomes a son of God. But if one responds to the devil instead, he becomes a son of the devil. There are only these two kinds and these are distinct. There are no "half weed, half wheat" hybrids. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1John 5.12 You are either one or the other.

However, this is not to say that it is necessarily easy to distinguish between the two. "Jesus was referring to a weed called a "darnel", which looks exactly like wheat in its young stages and, in fact, only the expert can distinguish some species of this darnel from true wheat. Later on, the differences are remarkable. The darnel has far smaller seeds than wheat, and it is claimed that these seeds, when ground to flour, are poisonous, due perhaps to a particular fungus which develops in the seed itself!" (from Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible.) An appropriate description of the devil's seed!

Examine the Fruits
It becomes easier to distinguish them when they grow to maturity and produce fruits. "Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them (Mt 7.20). Paul, disturbed at their behavior, even questioned the Corinthians. "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless, of course, you fail the test?" (II Cor 13.5) And how do you test yourself? By examining the out workings of your faith. "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother (1Jn 3.9,10). But though the distinctions may be subtle now, they will be clear in the judgment. A weed may be growing next to a stalk of wheat and think it has a common destiny with the wheat. But its end is destruction. The weed is also harmful to the wheat, its roots trying to starve the wheat from its source. False brethren can even become institutional leaders and bring much harm to the maturity of the believers. In his final farewell, Paul speaks to the elders of the church at Ephesus. "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20.29,30)

Hidden Leaven
Though it might seem counterintuitive, Jesus almost certain intended these parables of hiddenness as an encouragement to his disciples. There was no point denying what they could plainly see. The crowds following Jesus were a mixture of weeds and wheat: some were faithful and generous, to be sure, but there must have also been the merely curious, the insincere, and the traitorous. Christ’s words must have then appeared the smallest of seeds. They brought him ridicule from influential circles, from those that seemed most able to shape public opinion and determine “political correctness.” Christ’s healing ministry must likewise have come across as a very hidden leaven: Jesus healed somewhat at random, most often helping those who counted for little in the eyes of the world. The temptation to discouragement must have been strong.

Refusing the Oath of Supremacy
Nor was the age of the apostles unique in this regard. We might also think of how St. Thomas More, patron of this Church, experienced the Kingdom. More would have experienced firsthand the impossibility of discerning the weeds from the wheat in his own life. Even in 16th Century England, in a nation that considered itself Catholic to a person, More found himself one of only six citizens refusing the Oath of Supremacy. To all appearances, the true faith was everywhere in retreat, driven underground by the King, abandoned by the clergy. Its few defenders imprisoned. How strong the temptation to lose heart must have been! And doesn’t this same temptation to discouragement touch our lives too? The good wheat seems so hard to identify; scandals emerge precisely among those who presented themselves as most dependable. The impression grows that the Church is reverting to seed—her disciplines less appealing to the young, her message less influential in culture, her voice more marginalized in centers of policy and learning. The doubt begins to rise in our hearts—will His kingdom endure? Or is it a spent force, destined to lose ground indefinitely?

Practical Conclusion
Through today’s three parables, Christ speaks the same message to his disciples, to St. Thomas More, and to us: “Take heart!” My victory is slow and hidden, but it is sure. In every land and in every age, my good wheat is ripening, and is being gathered into the barns of eternal life. Though weeds temporarily obscure the growth, they cannot stop it. Though the worldly influence of the Church fall, still, the leaven of my life is rising in generous hearts. In the end, my truth will tower like a tree above all the lies and all the confusion arrayed against it. And those who have held fast to that truth will make their eternal home in its branches

Fr. Rudolf V.D’Souza OCD

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Is 55.10-1; Rm 8.18-23; Mt 13.1-23

You Reap what you Sow
There is a Chinese saying which carries the meaning that "A speech will either prosper or ruin a nation." Many relationships break off because of wrong speech. When a couple is too close with each other, we always forget mutual respect and courtesy. We may say anything without considering if it would hurt the other party.

Words Hurt
A friend and her millionaire husband visited their construction site. A worker who wore a helmet saw her and shouted, "Hi, Emily! Remember me? We used to date in the secondary school." On the way home, her millionaire husband teased her, "Luckily you married me. Otherwise you will be the wife of a construction worker." She answered ,"You should appreciate that you married me. Otherwise, he will be the millionaire and not you."

Frequently exchanging these remarks plants the seed for a bad relationship. It's like a broken egg - cannot be reversed.

Jesus Spoke
Jesus came out of a house along the Sea of Galilee. There was such large crowd that gathered to listen to Jesus that he is preaching from a boat to the people on the shore. The large crowd was there listening. But what kind of hearers were there? What kind of hearers are there today?

Jesus tells us about four ways people respond to the gospel. This is one of the parables that Jesus himself interprets. It tells how truth enters or fails to enter the hearts of men.

Jesus uses an everyday truth of farmer sowing seed. As Jesus spoke this he may have seen a farmer off in the distance scattering seed.

Here is what we find out about what Jesus really means when he tells.
The story of the farmer sowing seed.
The Sower is the one who preaches the gospel.
The Seed is the Gospel.
The Soils are the conditions of the hearts of men.

The main point of the parable is the effect of the Gospel is determined by the heart of the hearer. Because this is the main point some people like to call this the parable of the soils. But Jesus called this the parable of the sower in verse 18 when he says, listen then to what the parable of the sower means.

Why do preachers of the gospel get discouraged? It is because they have the most important message of all and yet so many people have little regard for it. If you had the cure to cancer, you would tell it to all. But it would be discouraging if no one acted on your message.

But there is encouragement to all who share the gospel from the parable of the sower. Not everyone will respond to your message, but some will. That is something to be encouraged about. You can expect people to respond in various ways.

Hard Hearted
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up (Mt 13.19). When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

We sometimes speak of someone as hard-hearted. You just can’t get a message into their hearts. This kind of person is represented by a trodden path. This is the person who is closed to the gospel. They may have a million different reasons but the bottom line is that this is a person that is not interested to receive the gospel. We find in vs 4 that some of the seed fell along the path. The path is hard and not easily penetrated so the birds came and ate the seeds sown along the path. Paths along the field become trampled by foot. Soon these paths become as hard as pavement. What if you planted a corn field in a paved parking lot? You would not get any crops. It is not the kind of soil that will support the seed to grow into a mature plant. The path is the hard heart of men. The bird is the devil that snatches away the Gospel. The heart often becomes hard over the years. After rejecting the gospel so many times they become hardened. I talked to a man saved at age of forty years. He said the odds of his being saved were one in three thousand.

There are so many people who have hardened their heart to the gospel. They have become too hard hearted to respond to Jesus message. They are the ones that make evangelization unpleasant. It is dangerous when the young person thinks; I am young so I will live my life according to the world’s ways and then in my later life receive Christ. They may come to find out the moment of opportunity is past for them and they have become hard hearted. Satan can snatch the gospel from them, as easy as a bird eats the seed that falls on the hard path.

Shallow Hearers
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Mt 13.20-21).The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Some seeds will fall on rocky soil where the earth covers the rock. The seeds can’t go deep. These seeds germinate quickly and spring up very fast. But when the sun comes out there is no substance. The plant withers and dies. The roots never really penetrated the soil. Do you know the impulsive person? First they take up jogging and buy jogging shoes, sweats, headband and a sports watch. They get up one morning drink a raw egg and jog five miles. Afterwards they get sore and tired and quit. Before you know it they have moved on to the next activity. They are enticed into something else. Jesus spoke of the spiritually impulsive person. Think of the crowds that were willing to follow Jesus until things got tough. Even he is talking about the shallow hearers to a massive crowd that gathered there at the Sea of Galilee. Many of them would prove to be shallow hearers.

Here is the one who hears the gospel and responds openly and emotionally. Troubles and trials come and that’s it for them. There are gone. Many people make spur of the moment decisions and they are gone. Others go from one great meeting to another with no real commitment. They are Spiritual gypsies. They are shallow hearers. The crowds are ready to gather and hear whoever is popular. But Jesus path led him to the cross. He calls us to take up our own cross and follow him. There are many superficial believers who will just wilt away when the trials and tribulations come. These trials work perseverance in true Christians.

The shallow hearers may be attracted to the blessings, abundant life and heaven. But they don’t count the cost of discipleship. Following Jesus is a call for obedience. After we have a negative experience with the hard hearted we get excited when someone shows a quick response to the gospel. But without really becoming rooted in Christ they wilt away.

Compromising Hearer
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants (Mt 13.22). We have the luxury in this parable of having the explanation of the meaning that Jesus gave in private to his disciples. He gives us this explanation in vs 22.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. For some who receive the gospel their spiritual life is choked out by the worries of life. We have three enemies to our spiritual life; the world, the flesh and the devil. The devil worked on the hard heated and snatched away the seed. The flesh got the best of the shallow hearer.

This time it is the cares of the world that choke out the sprouts soon after the seed has been sown and the shoots start to sprout. The deceitfulness of wealth is what ends the spiritual life of the seed that falls among the thorns, the compromising hearer.

The deceitfulness of wealth is not limited just to the rich. The poor who are working hard to get ahead can be snatched away spiritually by wealth too. For the rich the trap of pursuing luxuries and pleasures can choke out their spiritual life.

They may profess to follow Christ at one time. But now there is no evidence of spiritual fruit. They have no spiritual power. Their lives do not reflect the godliness of Jesus Christ. It is ironic what some call the “good things in life” may actually be the briers and thistles that choke out the gospel

Reproducing Disciple
Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (Mt 13.23).

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Don’t be discouraged because some people you work with are not continuing on in their walk with Christ. Some will produce spiritual fruit yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. We have a name for these kinds of people. We call them the super spreaders. When researchers track down the infectors of certain viruses they can sometimes point to a few who affected the masses.

You sow the gospel in the heart of one super spreader and they have started a spiritual movement. The few that do! It is exciting when someone responds and serves Jesus and reproduces.

Not everyone you share the gospel with will have hardened hearts. You should have hope. There are those who will receive the gospel for what it is, the words of eternal life. You don’t always know when seed has fallen on good soil. We sow in hope. We are anticipating the gospel seed to fall on good soil in a receptive heart. When it does we reap one hundred fold. We will have joy when we share the gospel. It is never easy to go out and share Christ with others but there is a joy in it. Psalm 126.6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

Practical Conclusion
There is a principle that when you sow abundantly you reap abundantly. “Remember this. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (II Cor 9.6).

This passage may be talking about your financial giving, but the laws of sowing and reaping apply to sharing the gospel. The more you share Jesus Christ, the more seed that will fall on good soil.

'As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall the word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it'" (Is 55.10-1).

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Zech 9.9-10; Rm 8.9,11-13 Mt 11.25-30

Captured and Crucified
At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against him that he thought it best to leave Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent almost 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them. The kidnappers were greatly amused, but when the ransom was paid and Caesar was freed, the first thing he did was gathering a fleet pursues the pirates. They were captured and crucified! Such was the Romans' attitude toward crucifixion. It was to be reserved for the worst of criminals, a means of showing extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled.

Nature’s Secrets
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its time crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Invitation
Jesus invites all who want rest, to come to Him, the source of rest. The invitation is not come to a religion and follow a program of rules and requirements. That is what many of the Jews experienced under the Pharisees. They had 613 commandments in addition to interpretations of how to fulfill these commandments. They took God’s Word and made it into a burden. We may not go to this extreme but there are many books offering a formula on how to have a blessed life. They give us the 7 keys, the 10 ways, the 4 steps to a happy, blessed, life. Many of these books can be helpful but to find rest we need to follow Jesus’ recipe who has the rest to give. Jesus invitation is not to a list of rules or a formula for success.

Come to Me
Jesus says if you want rest then come to Him. He invites us to have a relationship with Him but we have a problem and that is to be in relationship with God we must be righteous as God is righteous but we are not righteous; we are sinners. Sure there are people worse than us but that does not change the fact that we are still sinners and God cannot accept sin. We can do nothing to remove our sin and be righteous. No good work or religious rituals will do it. For this reason, Jesus died on the cross and rose again paying the consequences for sin so that when a person repents of their sin and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior they are forgiven and receive Jesus righteousness. When a person has Jesus’ righteousness they have relationship with Jesus.

Coming to Jesus begins with having a relationship and then to be close with Jesus. It is possible to have a relationship but not be close. We know if we do not spend time with our spouse and children we can drift apart. We have a relationship we are not close. Jesus’ ingredient to rest is get close to Jesus. Bring your cares, worries, troubles, concerns, problems, heartaches, guilt bring it to Jesus. Come to Him with it all, do not hold back, do go to the formulas, techniques, rules, first come to Jesus. Relate with Him.

1 Peter 5.7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Those struggling with life’s circumstances, those burdened with guilty and remorse, those who are self-critical feeling they have not achieved much compared to others, those who feel they have failed as parents or spouses, those who are heavy laden with struggles. Jesus invites you to come to Him and find rest. Come to Jesus and be refreshed, come and get the burden lifted.

Thomas Brooks explains Jesus’ words: “Christ says: ‘Come, and I will give you rest.’ I will not show you rest, nor merely tell you of rest, but I will give you rest. Jesus has the greatest power to give it, the greatest will to give it, and the greatest right to give it. Rest is the most desirable good, the most suitable good, and to you the greatest good. Christ gives peace with God, and peace with conscience. He will turn your storms into an everlasting calm, and will give such rest that the world cannot take from you.”

Transition: To be refreshed we need to follow the recipe to rest. The first ingredient is to come to Jesus. The second ingredient is to

Take my Yoke
In Jesus recipe for rest the yoke refers to the bar of wood which was placed over the shoulders of two animals, usually oxen enabling them to pull loads or farm instruments. But it is used metaphorically to illustrate having a commitment to Jesus. We come to Jesus and take His yoke. You may think that I want to rest not have a yoke of expectations.

Rest is not void of responsibility and commitment. Jesus is not offering a nap but rest as a way of life. Taking Jesus yoke is to submit to Him, follow Him, serve Him, have Him first in our lives. Take up our cross and follow Jesus, seek first the Kingdom of God, be a living sacrifice.

The Wisdom of the Simple
Our Lord Jesus thanks the Father for giving a greater enlightened wisdom to the simple than the worldly wise people. That is why simple people are able to dig deep into God’s kingdom. Most of the complex type of people does not really enjoy life, and that is a fact. They are too much worried about their wealth, beauty, power and all kind anxieties to keep themselves fit and never really reach to enjoy the simple joys of life.

Riding a Donkey
God has given each one of us the wisdom and strength to be what we are and to make the most of now than later. That is why we read the First Reading from the Book of Zechariah that promised the coming of our King who would arrive in Jerusalem, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. In fulfillment of what had been spoken through the prophet Zechariah, this event took place when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion (Mt 21.5; Jn 12.15). This event identified Jesus as the One who was to rule as the King of kings in the spiritual Jerusalem (Gal 4.25-6). His simplicity and humility should inspire us. He was not at all concerned what people would think and tell.

We hear Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we live our Christian life as a new creation, enjoying the gifts that we have received we are overwhelmed with gratitude.

To explain this, while those of a worldly heart seek to accumulate their treasures, those of a spiritual heart give freely what they own. While the worldly minded hold grudges, those of a spiritual mind forgive. While those of the worldly way avoid Church attendance, the spiritual minded person cherishes the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and continue to enjoy a richer presence of the divine in their daily activities.

So, let us, in all our daily thoughts, words and actions, let us remember to value our ongoing presence before the indwelling Spirit of God. Through Jesus, let us strive to worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him (Jn 4.23). May we always remember to place God first in our lives. May we always remember to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. To succeed in this goal, we must seek to walk hand-in-hand with the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our Guide in all things. By doing these things, Jesus will find rest in our hearts and our souls will find the true and perfect rest in the Heart of Jesus.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'"(Mt 11.25-30).

Practical Conclusion
"Little children live intensely in the present moment, neither in the past nor in the future. As the French writer La Bruyre once put it, ‘Children have neither past nor future, but they have something we seldom have—they rejoice in the present.’
This is the child-like trait which the New Testament would have us imitate. Age quod agis—literally, ‘do what you are doing’…The future does not yet exist and the past is gone forever. What we have is the present moment. By it we are fashioning our eternity.…"

God’s Children

One winter day, a little boy was standing on a grate next to a bakery trying to keep his shoeless feet warm. A woman passing by saw the frosty-toed child and her heart ached. He had on only a light-weight jacket and no shoes, and the air was chilly, the wind sharp.

"Where are your shoes, young man?" she asked. The boy reluctantly admitted he didn’t have any. "Why don’t you come with me and we’ll see what we can do about that?" the woman said. Taking his hand, she led him into a nearby department store and bought him a new pair of shoes and a warm jacket.

When they came back out onto the street, the little boy was so excited that he immediately started to run off to show his family his gifts. Suddenly he halted, turned around and ran back to the woman. He thanked her and then hesitated, "Ma’am, could I ask you a question? Ma’am, are you God’s wife?"

The woman smiled and said, "Oh, no, I’m not God’s wife, just one of God’s children."

The little boy grinned and nodded enthusiastically, "I knew it! I just knew you were related!"

'I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.'

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Year: A

Jer 20.7, 10-13; Rm 5.12-15; Mt 10.26-33

Then Die like a Man
Sitting majestically atop the highest hill in Toledo, Spain, is the Alcazar, a 16th-century fortress. In the civil war of the 1930s, the Alcazar became a battleground when the Loyalists tried to oust the Nationalists, who held the fortress. During one dramatic episode of the war, the Nationalist leader received a phone call while in his office at the Alcazar. It was from his son, who had been captured by the Loyalists. The ultimatum: If the father didn't surrender the Alcazar to them, they would kill his son. The father weighed his options. After a long pause and with a heavy heart, he said to his son, "Then die like a man." (Daily Walk, April 16, 1992).

The Struggle
When I hear my friends say they hope their children don't have to experience the hardships they went through--I don't agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle. William M. Batten, Fortune.

The Conversation
There was this museum laid with beautiful marble tiles, with a huge marble statue displayed in the middle of the lobby. Many people came from all over the world just to admire this beautiful marble statue.

One night, the marble tiles started talking to the marble statue.

Marble tile. "Marble statue, it's just not fair, it's just not fair! Why does everybody from all over the world come all the way here just to step on me while admiring you? Not fair!"

Marble statue. "My dear friend, marble tile. Do you still remember that we were actually from the same cave?"

Marble tile. "Yeah! That's why I feel it is even more unfair. We were born from the same cave and yet we receive different treatment now. Not fair!" he cried again.

Marble statue. "Then, do you still remember the day when the designer tried to work on you, but you resisted the tools?"

Marble tile. "Yes, of course I remember. I hate that guy! How could he use those tools on me, it hurt so badly."

Marble statue. "That's right! He couldn't work on you at all as you resisted being worked on."

Marble tile. "So???"
Marble statue. "When he decided to give up on you and start working on me instead, I knew at once that I would be something different after his efforts. I did not resist his tools, instead I bore all the painful tools he used on me.."

Marble tile. "Mmmmmm......."
Marble statue. "My friend, there is a price to everything in life. Since you decided to give up half way, you can't blame anybody who steps on you now."

Cross and Crown
Struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets, and don't forget the power in the struggle.

Suffering and pain is a part of life. No one can evade or escape such things in life. Jesus instructs his disciples that they should be ready for any eventuality.

Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt 10.28) This is a very powerful passage of the Holy Bible. In simple English, it means, "Bear your crosses and at the end, you shall be rewarded." Those who deny their crosses, they shall be disowned by the Lord.

Man’s Search for Meaning
While reading Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I was impressed by his insight into the mental suffering of human beings. After having himself suffered through some of the most torturous conditions known to mankind, he not only survived, but shared his newfound knowledge with the rest of the world. His greatest legacy is his impressive understanding of human nature and the valuable lessons he passed on.

While people often recommend this book, they rarely put into words what it is that so impressed them. I’d like to share some of what gave me those “Aha!” moments, where the light bulb went off in my head and I recognized the value of the lesson. One particular passage was related to the transitory nature of life and how his therapy “logotherapy,” is an active technique, rather than reactive. What struck me however, was how he points out a fundamentally sound view of old age that I believe is one we would all wish to emulate.

What a joyous and wonderful way to live! To live fully each day, so that you can end your days without regret, envy or loss. In his book, he repeatedly speaks of finding the meaning of life and meaning in suffering. The two are irrevocably intertwined. Suffering occurs in every human life. The ability to transform tragedy into a personal triumph is as unique to each person as it is necessary. Here is a great example from his book.

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?”

“Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering - to be sure, at the price that now you have to mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.”

Of course, Frankl himself found such meaning with memories of his wife’s love while enduring the torments of the Nazi camps in hopes of eventually reuniting with her. Since we cannot always avoid suffering in life, the idea of finding a meaning in it is immensely sound. Although I thoroughly support and believe in happiness and an optimistic view, I find great healing in the idea that if we suffer, we suffer for a reason.
I’ve known friends and family members who suffer in harsh, chaotic home situations, or work jobs they dislike. Far from wanting unhappiness, many of them simply suffer these problems for a greater good, or a greater meaning. They may be trying to pay for their children’s college funds, or they are working to heal an addicted person in their family.

Finding the meaning in our suffering helps us endure our pain with dignity and grace. It gives us endurance far beyond our usual capacity and fills us with hope and love. It is an inner freedom that not even the worst circumstances can remove from us. May we all be blessed to know the meaning that gives purpose to our lives. Therefore Jesus says, Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Do not Fear them
Three times in this short passage Jesus bids his disciples not to be afraid. In the King's messenger there must be a certain courageous fearlessness which marks him out from other men.

(i) The first commandment is in Mt 10.26-27, and it speaks of a double fearlessness.
(a) They are not to be afraid because there is nothing covered that will not be unveiled, and nothing hidden which will not be known. The meaning is that the truth will triumph. "Great is the truth," ran the Latin proverb, "and the truth will prevail." When James the Sixth threatened to hang or exile Andrew Melville, Melville's answer was: "You cannot hang or exile the truth." When the Christian is involved in suffering and sacrifice and even martyrdom for his faith, he must remember that the day will come when things will be seen as they really are; and then the power of the persecutor and the heroism of Christian witness will be seen at their true value, and each will have its true reward.

Speak the Truth
They are not to be afraid to speak with boldness the message they have received. What Jesus has told them, they must tell to men. Here in this one verse (Mt 10.27) we are given to understand the true function of a preacher.

First, the preacher must listen; he must he in the secret place with Christ, that in the dark hours Christ may speak to him, and that in the loneliness Christ may whisper in his ear. No man can speak for Christ unless Christ has spoken to him; no man can proclaim the truth unless he has listened to the truth; for no man can tell that which he does not know

Living the Truth
In the great days in which the Reformation was coming to birth, Colet invited Erasmus to come to Oxford to give a series of lectures on Moses or Isaiah; but Erasmus knew he was not ready. He wrote back: "But I who have learned to live with myself, and know how scanty my equipment is, can neither claim the learning required for such a task, nor do I think that I possess the strength of mind to sustain the jealousy of so many men, who would be eager to maintain their own ground. The campaign is one that demands, not a tyro, but a practiced general. Neither should you call me immodest in declining a position which it would be most immodest for me to accept. You are not acting wisely, Colet, in demanding water from a pumice stone, as Plautus said. With what effrontery shall I teach what I have never learned? How am I to warm the coldness of others, when I am shivering myself?" He who would teach and preach must first in the secret place listen and learn.

Listen and Learn
The preacher must speak what he has heard from Christ, and he must speak even if his speaking is to gain him the hatred of men, and even if, by speaking, he takes his life in his hands.

Men do not like the truth, for, as Diogenes said, truth is like the light to sore eyes. Once Latimer was preaching when Henry the king was present. He knew that he was about to say something which the king would not relish. So in the pulpit he soliloquized aloud with himself. "Latimer! Latimer! Latimer!" he said, "be careful what you say. Henry the king is here." He paused, and then he said, "Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! be careful what you say. The King of kings is here."

The man with a message speaks to men, but he speaks in the presence of God. It was said of John Knox, as they buried him, "Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man."

Without Fear
The Christian witness is the man who knows no fear, because he knows that the judgments of eternity will correct the judgments of time. The Christian preacher and teacher is the man who listens with reverence and who speaks with courage, because he knows that, whether he listens or speaks, he is in the presence of God.
Jesus invites his disciples not to fear those who kill the body. Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known - that is, there is no use, and no need, of concealing anything; right and wrong, truth and error, are about to come into open in deadly collision; and the day is coming when all hidden things shall be disclosed, everything seen as it is, and everyone have his due ( 1 Cor 4.5 ).

Practical Conclusion
We may deny him with our words. It is told of J. P. Mahaffy, the famous scholar and man of the world from Trinity College, Dublin, that when he was asked if he was a Christian, his answer was: "Yes, but not offensively so." He meant that he did not allow his Christianity to interfere with the society he kept and the pleasure he loved. Sometimes we say to other people, practically in so many words, that we are Church members, but not to worry about it too much; that we have no intention of being different; that we are prepared to take our full share in all the pleasures of the world; and that we do not expect people to take any special trouble to respect any vague principles that we may have. The Christian can never escape the duty of being different from the world. It is not our duty to be conformed to the world; it is our duty to be transformed from it.

We can deny him by our silence. A French writer tells of bringing a young wife into an old family. The old family had not approved of the marriage, although they were too conventionally polite ever to put their objections into actual words and criticisms. But the young wife afterwards said that her whole life was made a misery by "the menace of things unsaid." There can be a menace of things unsaid in the Christian life. Again and again life brings us the opportunity to speak some word for Christ, to utter some protest against evil, to take some stand, and to show what side we are on. Again and again on such occasions it is easier to keep silence than to speak. But such a silence is a denial of Jesus Christ. It is probably true that far more people deny Jesus Christ by cowardly silence than by deliberate words.

We can deny him by our actions. We can live in such a way that our life is a continuous denial of the faith which we profess. He who has given his allegiance to the gospel of purity may be guilty of all kinds of petty dishonesties, and breaches of strict honour. He who has undertaken to follow the Master who bade him take up a cross can live a life which is dominated by attention to his own ease and comfort. He who has entered the service of him who himself forgave and who bade his followers to forgive can live a life of bitterness and resentment and variance with his fellow-men. He whose eyes are meant to be on that Christ who died for love of men can live a life in which the idea of Christian service and Christian charity and Christian generosity are conspicuous by their absence.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Body and Blood of Christ : Year: A

Deut 8.2-3, 14-16; 1 Cor 10.16-17; Jn 6.51-52

In the year 1263 a priest from Prague was on route to Rome making a pilgrimage asking God for help to strengthen his faith since he was having doubts about his vocation. Along the way he stopped in Bolsena 70 miles north of Rome. While celebrating Mass there, as he raised the host during the consecration, the bread turned into flesh and began to bleed. The drops of blood fell onto the small white cloth on the altar, called the corporal. The following year, 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, today’s feast Corpus Christi. The Pope asked St Thomas Aquinas, living at that time, to write hymns for the feast and he wrote two, better known to the older members of our congregation, the Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris. That blood-stained corporal may still be seen in the Basilica of Orvieto north of Rome, and I had the privilege of seeing it during the time I lived in Italy.

The Sacrifice
Jesus offers his own body and blood for our nourishment. No human person could tell what Jesus told his disciples. For an ordinary person who is not enlightened by faith, this sounds unusual and practically abnormal. How can a person give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink?

Corpus Christi
During the Easter season, we have probably heard or said these words attributed to St. Augustine. "We are an Easter people…." As we gather on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called Corpus Christi, could we not, should we not, also proclaim. "We are a Eucharistic people!" As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us. "The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely, Christ himself, our Pasch’ (no. 1324). In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our Faith. ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking’" (no. 1327).

Do we really understand how central to our lives as Catholics is this core reality of our Christian Faith? The Eucharist, both sacrifice and sacrament? As we gather on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, let us ask ourselves some basic questions, the answers to which can serve as a barometer of our true understanding of the Eucharist.

How we prepare for the celebration of the Eucharist reveals what we understand about this central mystery of our Faith. So, how do we prepare? Are we aware that we will be reliving in this sacred ritual the Dying and Rising of Jesus? Are we eager to receive the spiritual food which will nourish us at the two-fold table of the Lord? His Living Word in the Liturgy of the Word and His very own Body and Blood in the Liturgy of the Eucharist? Admittedly, there are situations that ruin even our best plans, but do we try to arrive on time or, even better, try to arrive early in order to quiet our minds and hearts as we prepare to hear God’s Word and to receive Jesus in Communion? In our prayer during the week, do we reflect on the Scripture readings for the next Sunday, so as to allow the Holy Spirit to make us more receptive to its proclamation in the liturgy and to the lessons which God wishes to teach us? Yes, how we prepare reveals what we understand.

How we dress for Mass also reveals what we understand. Let me be as clear as I can. I am not referring to clothing that is fancy or expensive, but rather, I am stating that what we wear should be neat and clean and reflect our understanding that we are taking part in a sacred religious action. Therefore, our clothing should be appropriate to the celebration of the Eucharist as both sacrifice and sacrament. A note of caution was written by late Cardinal Ivan Dias for all the parishioners about the dress code for the Holy Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Bombay in 2006. What we might appropriately wear at the beach or at a picnic, for example, is not the appropriate style of dress in church. Let me repeat, our clothing need not be expensive or fancy, but it should reflect what we are doing in this sacred place as we celebrate the Eucharist.

How we participate likewise reveals what we understand about the Eucharist. Are we spiritually ready to receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion? Jesus Christ is "truly, really and substantially" (Council of Trent) present in the Eucharist. Therefore St. Paul writes in our second reading to the people in Corinth. "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" And, later in that same letter he reminds the people. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (I Cor 11.26-27).

We must constantly ask if we ourselves are guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord when we come to receive Communion at Mass. What are some practical ways by which we can ensure we are receiving the Lord in a worthy manner? We must examine our conscience and determine if we are in mortal sin. Have we sinned gravely against God in some area of our lives? If so, we must first be reconciled with God and the Church through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. By virtue of His divinity, He knows all things. By virtue of His humanity and His earthly life, He can relate to our human experiences. Jesus knows that we are not perfect. He knows that we were born with a fallen human nature, and that we struggle against that nature every day. He simply asks that we confess our sins when we fall so that He can forgive us, heal us with His grace and, thereby, begin to transform us into His image and likeness. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives, and Jesus asks us to recognize that and begin to live it.

Do we participate fully, consciously and actively in the celebration of the Eucharist, observing the gestures given to us by the Church for this reverent yet active participation, at times responding in spoken word or in song, at other times silently praying in union with the priest? Do we approach Holy Communion without fear, but with reverence? If we choose to receive Jesus on the tongue, do we do so reverently? If we choose to receive Jesus in our hand, do we make a throne of our hands and thereby receive Him reverently? Remember, the priest is to place the sacred host into your hands; the communicant is not to reach out for the host. Yes, how we participate reveals what we understand.

Our Daily Life
Finally, how we live reveals what we truly understand about this core reality of our faith. What we celebrate in sacred ritual here, we must live out in daily life out there. Here we are transformed by the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist to become the Body of Christ alive in the world, witnessing to His Gospel of life, of love, of forgiveness, of truth and of unity.

Practical Conclusion
Today we celebrate the source and summit of our Faith, Jesus Christ, truly, really and substantially present in what looks like a wafer of bread and ordinary wine. Jesus is absolutely clear in His statement. "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. … Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

May the same love which poured itself out from His Sacred Heart, pour itself into our hearts so that we may be fervent apostles of the Eucharist and, in turn, set the world ablaze with the love of Christ. Yes, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. We are a Eucharistic people.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Trinity Sunday : Year: A

Ex 34.4-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13.11-13; Jn 3.16-18

A New World
Imagine a world where all your best friends live in the same neighborhood, where everything they ever wanted to do or be is right there, waiting for them. You could all stay in the same location.

You could all travel together, to places you'd all enjoy. You might split off for a while here or there, but you'd always come back to each other. If you wanted to visit each other, imagine there being special meeting places for each of you, all in your neighborhood, and no more than a mile or so away. Not 5000 miles.

Imagine no wars. Imagine peace. No electronics. Always acoustic guitars, always singing, always gathering together each day.

Imagine everyone learning from everyone, teaching. Good things, always good things. Imagine if kindness, love, caring, honesty, gentleness, laughter, hugging, smiling, friendship, were the only things all people ever knew.

Teamwork. No government. When making a decision, people thrived on the virtue of fairness, and everyone, of one accord, chose what was really best for all.

Imagine immortality. No pain, grief, or suffering.
Imagine no racism, hate or greed.
Imagine saying, "What a wonderful world!" and truly meaning it.
Remember the warmest hug you've ever gotten, and you will have love.
The most genuine good thing someone has ever said to you, and you will have kindness.
Imagine sharing the spotlight with your friends, being in it together, and you will have fairness.
Remember that we are all human, and you will have equality.
Sing together, you'll have unity.
Keep doing good little things for someone, and you'll build trust.

"The secret to a genuinely peaceful world is within us.
We can make it so, if we all start now.
Right now, pledge to do acts of kindness each and every day
Be gentle, kind, caring, and loving
Always smile. Laugh!
Learn. Teach. Above all, be patient.
Share, be part of a team, and be fair.
Listen. Sing. Play. Be the music.
Hug someone.
Remember the ultimate goal of true unity...
And the world will live as one."

Unity and Eternity
Trinity signifies unity in eternity. This is what we all long. But our life, that is practical life does not seem to help this unity. The root of the word "Trinity" originates from the Latin word "trini" which means "three each," or "threefold." "The term has been used as early as the days of Tertullian (200 A.D.) to denote the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God, who is one and unique in His infinite substance or nature, or Godhead, is three really distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these Persons is truly the same God, and has all His infinite perfections, yet He is really distinct from each of the other Persons. The one and only God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; yet God the Father is not God the Son, but begets the Son eternally, as the Son is eternally begotten. The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct Person having His Divine nature from the Father and the Son by eternal procession."

In other words, in Jesus dwells the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the same can be said about the Father and the Holy Spirit. In each one dwells the other two Persons of God. This truth is supported by a verse in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians. "In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." (Col 1.19; 2.9) "All the fullness of God means the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Biblical Proof
The next question that some may ask is, "Are there any biblical passages to support that in the fullness of God, there are Three distinct Persons?" The answer to this is "Yes!" We can quote the closing of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus told His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt 28.18) And we can quote the closing words of St. Paul in the Second Letter to the Corinthians where He states, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." (2 Cor 13.13) These biblical passages affirm that while there is One God, there are Three distinct Persons in the Godhead.

God’s Love
God created us and loved us enough to give himself to us. He rejoices in seeing the world filled with his love working through us. The Father is the Creator. The Gift of Himself is the Son. The love that fills the world is the Spirit.

The theologian who best presented God as love was St. Augustine. St. Augustine put it this way. the Father is the One who Loves. The Son is the One who is Loved. The Spirit is the very act of Loving. The simplification of this for the young people and for us is that God is love in every possible use of the word. He is the Subject Love, he is the Object love, and he is the verb Love.

St. Augustine's Confessions
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new. late have I loved you. You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my un-loveliness (I guess he means selfishness), I plunged into the things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called. You shouted. You broke my deafness. You flashed. You shone. You dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me and I burned for your peace.” And the most famous passage from St. Augustine: “It is you who move us to delight in your praise. For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rest in you”.

The essence of God is Love. And we human beings are made in his image. We are integral, whole, when we give ourselves over to God's love. We reflect our very nature and are at peace with the world when we take a step away from our own selfish drives and trust ourselves into the hands of sacrificial love.

Can we describe God? Down through the ages preachers have asked this question; and ever more than on this Trinity Sunday, when we preachers have the task of explaining what it means to say that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A Little Girl Angel
A story beloved of preachers tells of how the great fifth-century North African bishop St. Augustine strolled along the shore of the Mediterranean wondering how to explain the Trinity. As he did so, he saw a little girl going back and forth into the sea, filling a small bucket with water which she poured into a hole she had dug in the sand. “What are you doing, dear?” St. Augustine asked. “I’m trying to empty the sea into this hole,” the child replied. “How do you think that with your little bucket you can possibly empty this immense ocean into this tiny hole?” Augustine countered. To which the girl replied. “And how do you, with your small head, think you can comprehend the immensity of God?” No sooner had the girl spoken these words than she disappeared.

The Shell
The story contains an important truth. God is a mystery. not in the sense that we can understand nothing about God; but that what we can understand is always less than what we cannot. Pope Benedict, who has a special love for St. Augustine, has put the little girl’s shell into his coat of arms as a reminder that God is always shrouded in mystery. One thing we can understand is how people have experienced God.

The Cloud
Our first reading shows us Moses experiencing God in a cloud — a symbol of mystery, for in a cloud we cannot see clearly. The same divine cloud appears at Jesus’ Transfiguration, when his clothes and face shone with heavenly light. A cloud enveloped Jesus at his Ascension. At the Transfiguration Peter, James, and John experienced fear, and bowed down in worship. Moses does the same in our first reading. The witnesses to Jesus’ Ascension also bowed down in worship. This is the first way people experience God in the Bible, as the utterly Other, whose presence inspires awe and worship.

At the very moment, however, in which Moses was worshiping the true God atop Mount Sinai, his people below were bowing down in worship to a golden calf. a deity of their own devising, who made no demands upon them; who symbolized a superhuman virility and power which, the people vainly imagined, they could harness to their own ends. This is idolatry — for the Bible one of the worst sins there is. We become guilty of idolatry whenever we suppose that prayer and other religious practices give us access to some supernatural power which we can turn on or off like the light switch; which we can use to get whatever we want. God always hears and answers prayer. But he does so in sovereign freedom. not at the time, or in the way that we want — or think we can dictate. God is never at our disposal. We are at his disposal.

God’s appearance to Moses at the very moment when Moses’ people were committing the ultimate sin of idolatry shows that God is not only mysterious and fearful. He is also tender and compassionate. He is a God of love. This is how Jesus experienced God. Our gospel reading reflects this experience. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”

Jesus devoted the whole of his early life to helping people experience God’s love. He demonstrated this love through deeds of compassion. He illustrated God’s love through stories still told and pondered twenty centuries later. And on Calvary he gave us the supreme example of love.

Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his friends came to realize that he had not left them. He was still with them, though the manner of his presence was different. They recalled that Jesus had foretold this. “I will not leave you orphans. I will come back to you” (Jn 14.18).

“I will ask the Father and he will give you another to be your Advocate, who will be with you forever — the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14.15).

“I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you” (Jn 16.22). This joy at Jesus’ continuing presence is the third way people experience God.

Sharing God’s Love
Pondering these three ways in which people experienced God, the Church developed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The God who is one is also three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the description, in formal religious language, of how we experience God. He is the utterly Other, who inspires awe and worship. But he is also a God of love, a love so amazing, so divine, so undeserved by sinners like ourselves that he kindles within us an answering love, love for God, love for our fellow humans. And whenever we experience God in either of these ways — as the Almighty creator and Father of the universe whose presence inspires awe, or in his Son Jesus in whom we see unconditional love in human form — we are experiencing God in and through the power of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God at work in our world, and in our hearts and minds, here and now. The Spirit is God’s love. the love exchanged between Father and Son, the love poured into our hearts — not just to give us a warm feeling inside, but to share with others.

Our second reading, finally, speaks about this sharing. “Encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Practical Conclusion
The little girl’s words to St. Augustine are true. God is too immense to get into our small heads. But the threefold experience of God is within the reach of all, even of children. God discloses himself to us in these three ways to lift our eyes from earth to heaven; to make us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, what Jesus was and is for us
The Trinity Sunday must evoke in us the sense of unity in our families and institutions. If there is no unity all that happens in and around us will not have any meaning for us. Hence, we must try to dialogue, set goals to promote love peace and joy and harmony.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Pentecost : Year: A

Acts 21-11; 1 Cor 12.3b-7, 12-13, Jn 20.19-23

Generous Father

I observed the father of a lad giving him a Dollar just before entering the Church. I asked him why he gave money to the lad before entering the Church? He told me that the child is trained to be generous towards God and people. I was impressed and was appreciative of the attitude of the father.

Toy and a Box of Manure
There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.

He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure."

The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results. When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer... I'll bet this calculator will break... I don't like the game... I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this..."

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the garden. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's got to be a Rose!"

Pessimist Disciples
The event of Pentecost was to fill the pessimist disciples with the Spirit of courage and joy. In our life there are so many things that happen. We tend to take them simply without analyzing their importance to us. At times we are so accustomed that we do not even think that they are from God. Are we filled with the hope of the Resurrected Lord? Or do we worry about things that matter only concerning our material life? Are joyful? Or do we make things sadder as we pass through them?

Full of Mystery
There are events so wonderful, and so full of mystery, that ordinary language cannot describe them. Such was the Pentecost event which we celebrate today. In our first reading Luke, the writer, uses symbols to describe something beyond the power of words to portray. The coming of God’s Spirit, he writes, was “like a strong driving wind.” “Tongues as of fire” rested on these first Christians, who suddenly received power “to speak in different tongues.” These three symbols – wind, fire, tongues – are not arbitrary. Each tells us something about God and his mysterious work in the world.

The word used by Luke is used elsewhere in Scripture to designate a person’s “breath” or “spirit.” (Cf. Gen 2.7; Acts 17.25) At birth breathing begins. At death it ceases. The coming of God’s Spirit is said to have been “like wind” because the Spirit is the Church’s breath. Before the coming of this Spirit-breath, the Church’s life was something like that of an unborn child in the womb. Only with the coming of this “strong driving wind” did the Church receive the fullness of divine life.

This divine breath gives the Church an astonishing power of self-renewal. Again and again in history the Church has become so corrupt through the sins of its members that people have predicted its imminent demise. Yet time and again the Church has risen, through the power of this divine Spirit-breath, renewed and purified. For this recurring phenomenon there is but one possible explanation the fact that the Church lives not from its own strength, and certainly not from the strength of its members, but from the continual in-breathing of God’s Spirit, who is the Church’s life-breath.

When breathing stops, so does body heat. Deep within the collective soul of this great family of God which we call the Catholic Church is the fire of the world’s greatest love. the unbounded love of God for all he has made. That is the secret of the Church’s magnetism. People in the Church who are cold, hard-hearted, always ready to criticize, to complain, and block the warmth of that love. They act not as heat conveyers, but as heat shields. Which are you about the Spirit’s fire? Are you a heat conveyer, or a heat shield?

Fire warms because it burns. If combustible material is nearby, fire spreads rapidly. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught. Are you burning with that fire? Are you handing it on to others?

Fire also gives light. God sent his Son into a dark world to be the world’s light. This light shines today through God’s continual gift of his Spirit to his Church and to each of its members. He wants us to serve as lenses or prisms of that light. “Your light must shine before others,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5.16). And in John’s gospel Jesus warns. “Bad people all hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their practices should be shown up. The honest person comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all he does” (Jn 3.20f).

When we fear God’s light, we need to ask God burns away whatever causes us to shun the light, whatever stands in the way of our spreading the light, fire, and warmth of his Holy Spirit.

The Tongues
The first Christians spoke different languages to symbolize the Church’s work through history. proclaiming to all peoples, in all languages, the wonderful truth of God.


  •  That God is, that he is real;

  • That he is a God of love, who looks for a response of love – for himself, and for our sisters and brothers;

  • That God has made us for himself, to serve, love, and praise him here on earth, to be happy with him forever in heaven;

  • That he is the God of the impossible, who can do for us what we can never do for ourselves. fit us for life with him, here and in eternity.


The Strength of the Spirit
That we are Christians in a land undreamed of by anyone on that first day of Pentecost is proof that the Spirit’s “strong driving wind” did not blow in vain. Those first touched by that wind were blown into places, and situations, they never dreamed of. Even those who never left Jerusalem found their lives utterly changed.

The Power of the Spirit
This same wind of the Spirit is blowing in the Church today. Is it blowing in your life? Or are you afraid of that wind – of what it might do to you, and where it might blow you? Cast aside fear. The wind of God’s Spirit, like the winds of the sky, blows from different directions. But in the end this wind blows all who are driven by it to the same place. The wind of God Spirit blows us home – home to God.

The Spirit of Love, Peace, Patience
The Spirit of the Lord has given us the spirit of love, truth, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, goodness, self-control and humility. We need to bear witness to them. Then perhaps we could say boldly that we are the children of God and children of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

“(The laity) works for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven … (making) Christ known to others especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity (Lumen gentium, 31). “The laity is called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.”

God won’t ask…
There are people here who are doing those things every day. Are you? One day the Lord will examine us about how we have responded to the call to be his messengers to others. Here, ahead of time, are some of the questions in that examination.

God won’t ask what kind of car you drove; he’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

God won’t ask the area and beauty of your house; he’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your cupboard; he’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won’t ask what your highest salary was; he’ll ask if you cut corners to obtain it.

God won’t ask what your job title was; he’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won’t ask how many friends you had; he’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; he’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won’t ask about the color of your skin; he’ll ask about the content of your character.

The testimony of deeds before words is powerful. You probably know the saying. “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” Words are cheap and our world is inundated by words. People today are more impressed by deeds than by words.

Practical Conclusion
Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in daily life is difficult. If you doubt that, it probably means that you have never seriously tried it for any extended period. With our own resources alone, the task is impossible. But we are not alone. We have an unseen companion in the missionary task, the same divine master and Lord who is saying to us right now, as he said to that little band of weak sinners and doubters on a Galilean hilltop two thousand years ago. “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Ascension of the Lord : Year: A

Acts 1.1-11; Eph 1.17-23; Mt 28.16-20

The Sea and the Desert
"The sea was much better," the traveler complained. "Whenever I got tired it at least had its currents to push me forward on my journey but you," he looked at the vast desert surrounding him, "you are of no help."

He went down on his knees, dead tired. When his breaths restored back to normalcy, a while later, he heard the desert's voice.

"I agree. I am of no help like the sea and thus I often depress people. But do you really think people will remember you for crossing the sea? Never! For the sea doesn't allow you to leave any mark. I, on the contrary, do. Thus, if you cross me, I swear, you will in turn immortalize yourself with the imprints you leave over me!"

The traveler got the essence and got up to walk on. "It's always about the imprints," his heart echoed.

Jesus Imprints

"He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight" (Acts 1.9). Jesus left lasting imprints on the lives of the Apostles. That is why they were all filled with enthusiasm for the message of Christ. He made an impression, not like other people, his impression made through his death and resurrection. His impression is a tough reality, but always helpful to all those who were with him and want to be with him.

God’s Traces

We always find difficult to find God’s traces. The best way to describe His existence is to say that God was "present." This nature of God echoes the Words of Yahweh and Jesus who both claimed to be, "I am." (Ex 3.14; Jn 8.58, 18.5; Rev 1.8, 22.13) "I am" means "I am present; I am here!" In the case of God the Father, it can also mean, "While you may not see Me, I am here. I am present."

Now a days it is so difficult to convince people of God’s presence, and it is so essential to their life yet the difficulty remains a stark reality.

Faith Experience

A girl approached me and said, father, please pray that I may not lose my faith. I said, “Dear, just pray and you will not lose it”. She said to me, “father, I am in great trouble. My boyfriend whom I loved has left me, and I feel it is not worth living in this world”. I told her that she might get a better boy. What else could I say? “Is it true father?” “Yes,” I said, “just pray and keep a watch and you will see God will help you.” It happened in a month. She was all happy, because she got another one, much better than the previous one.

The Promise

Faith works, but it makes us wait and always takes us through a tough path. The Gospel of John tells us, "As the Father has life in Himself, He has granted the Son (the Word) to have life in Himself." (Jn 5.26). "In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." (Col 1.19,2.9) Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his work. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me..." (Jn 14.9- 11)

St. Paul affirmed our capability of knowing the nature of God when he stated, "Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So they are without excuse." (Rm 1.20)

Looking Up

When we celebrate Ascension of our Blessed Lord into heaven, we need to look up, means we need to look for the things to come. This expectation should keep us always alive. Often in this modern world people always tend to look for the material things, that they need immediately. There is a strong tendency to get everything we need and we want them immediately. Not necessarily this should be our approach.

Forgetting the Roots

I was watching a programme on 27th April, conducted by Burkha Datt, in NDTV by name “affluence mania”. Leading industrialists and CEO’s was participating in this programme. They were responding to questions put by the viewers, who were convinced that they need to enjoy life, without much reference to their parents and grandparents. They were of the opinion that life is short and good and we need to make best of it with regard to spending the money one has earned. Then, what about the moral values? Of course some of them insisted that they were at terrible at stake.

Losing Ground

I am just reading today’s news paper (29/4/2004 – DNA) report of one Josef Fritzl, Austrian, 70 years old, who had 7 children from his own daughter Elizabeth. The neighbours of this man are hanging their heads in total shame. He had imprisoned his daughter in 1984, drugged her and kept her for almost 20 years in the basement of his home and molested her, abused her. What a shame and cruel reality of this modern world. She must have undergone the tortures of hell in the hands of her own father. This is what we say our morals are at stake when we do not see beyond the reality of the world.

Practical Conclusion

Ascension is looking forward with hope of great joy. Let us celebrate it with due reverence to life, to the neighbour and to the world to come where we will have our rooms as he has gone before us to prepare one for us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

5th Sunday of Easter : Year: A

Acts 6.1-7; 1Peter 2.4-9; Jn 14.1-12

I will Give Myself
It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you- -the one who was willing to give himself for me."

A woman, carrying her baby on her back, was trapped by a prairie fire. As she looked about, she realized there was no way of escape. Hurriedly she took the baby off her back and began digging a hole in the earth with her bare hands. She then placed her child into it and covered the child with her body. Later the woman was found dead, but the child was saved.

The Centre Holds

The gospel presents Jesus as the guide in life, as the ‘way, truth and life’. The Christian centre is the person of Christ. Our work for Jesus and our love for people, no matter what our calling in life, flow from this. Mother Teresa was once asked why she did what she did, and she simply said ‘for Jesus’. This centre always holds, it cannot be unhinged. It is a deeply personal relationship. we are led by Jesus ‘one by one’, known by name, not as just one of a group. We follow him as one we know, not a stranger. Studying his life and times, getting to know the places and events of his life, becoming familiar with the gospels and getting to know him in the heart in prayer is the way of keeping our centre of conviction and motivation strong. As this happens freedom grows and we begin to find him everywhere.

The Early Church

To the extent that the Acts of the Apostles relates an idealized memory of how the earliest Church was established and grew, it provides interesting milestones of ecclesiastical evolution. Only slightly less important to Church evolution than the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and disciples at Pentecost was the fairly quick evolution from a Jewish Church to a Gentile (i.e., Non-Jewish) Church over only a few decades. But the catalyst of that shift from Jewish to Gentile was the remarkable effectiveness with which the Gospel spread and the consequent Church membership increased. The small number of original disciples who knew Jesus well at his death, burial, and resurrection increased exponentially beginning with the Church’s public launch at Pentecost. In last Sunday’s text from Acts, the summary note was made that “about three thousand” were baptized on that Pentecost Day. Indeed, that number was merely an indicator of the Church’s growth rate not only then but consistently over the years, decades and centuries to come. Today’s text recalls the evolution of specialized ministries which the Gospel community found necessary because of great growth. The intimate fellowship which Jesus’ original disciples enjoyed would be challenged by sheer numbers. New needs arose in that expanding Church to what 20th Century Christians call “social ministries” which are indicated in Acts by the care for widows and “the daily distribution.” Remember that those most idealistic earliest Christians were said to have “held all property in common” (see Acts 2.44) in a very simple sort of communal socialism. Thus, each individual and household would have received daily rations of food and supplies. But, the primary task of the apostles since Pentecost had become the practical and urgent preaching of God’s Word. It fell to the Twelve to reorganize the community and to divide up ministries and tasks. The Church’s first major change was from being a very small community to becoming an ever-enlarging community, sort of like moving from a domestic family to a regional society. True then and true still today. “To live is to change; to live well is to change greatly!” (Attributed to John Henry Cardinal Newman, 19th Century British Churchman).

The Church is at her wisest when she learns how to change graciously, compassionately and intelligently. Many who embrace their religious faith actually forget how to change, and demonstrate that forgetfulness when they resist any and all good and healthy – and necessary! – change. The institution of the ministry of deacons was an example of effective and reasonable change. Note, too, that the setting of this change was in the Jerusalem Church, and that “even a large group of priests” had come to be involved in the Gospel community. These “priests” would have been Temple priests in Jerusalem for the Christian “presbyterate” would not be so visible until the apostles likewise needed assistance in presiding over the liturgical assembly.

Peter’s Guidance

Our weekly lesson from 1st Peter is a section which precedes last week’s lesson. It harkens back to the Old Testament rationale by which God’s Chosen People, the Israelites recently freed from Egyptian slavery, were instructed by God to be holy just as God was holy. Hence, their relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become a very, very different relationship from what all other Old Testament era ethnic groups and religions typically had with their divinities. (Note. the Hebrew word kadosh translates as “holy” which literally means “different from”). Peter reminded the Gentile Christians of Asia Minor that just as the ancient Israelites had been called to be holy, so too they as new Christians were likewise and just as much expected by God to live a vocation to holiness. Peter cited the text from Exodus 19.6 which was a practical, constitutional statement by God about God’s People. ‘You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own ...” These words are even used in the sacred Eucharistic liturgy to remind our assembly in our own day of the dignity of the Christian Vocation. Thus, for the audience of 1st Peter, in an era when persecution was not unusual but was often dangerous, the Gospel community was a veritable home for the homeless, i.e., a safe community of Gospel fellowship in a society which was very often and very easily intimidated by and hostile to the Gospel’s genuine and profound goodness and love, justice and peace.

The Last Supper

The Gospel narrative today is again not a Resurrection appearance of Jesus, but rather part of John’s Gospel memory of the short hours just at the end of the Last Supper. John seems to presume that we know the supper details (bread, wine, blessing) and supplies to us instead a memory of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After the example of foot-washing was explained as a metaphor for mutual service, he proceeded to teach and explain. These dozen verses show Jesus trying to encourage and support the Eleven and whoever is with them by first assuring them of “a place for you” in the kingdom. Thomas, famous a few days later for his scepticism about Jesus’ Resurrection, admitted the fearful but private worry in each of them with “We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Philip too was a disciple willing to risk embarrassment by suggesting that they have not really “seen” the Father but that they are willing to be shown.

Practical Conclusion

Jesus made significant use of metaphor as he provided them a glimpse of the profound mystery of the Divine Presence, of his Christological importance, and of the hope he had tried to instil in them. Jesus’ “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” was a huge summary of the reality of God’s Presence and of his essential oneness with God. “... no one comes to the Father except through me” seems addressed somewhat narrowly to those in the room with him. Thus, the “no one” becomes more strictly “on one among you” because they have already been given access to God, whether or not they appreciate it. Seemingly, Philip fails to the test of appreciation, at least that night. That line “no one comes to the Father except through me” has too often been used by literalist Christians to assert exclusion of non-Christians and even other Christians from eternal salvation. Jesus was more reasonably addressing only and principally that small group of the Eleven plus a small number more of disciples. He had no real reason to be talking explicitly to us today or against non-believers though history over the centuries. After all, he had just said that in his Father’s house there are many (!) dwelling places. Why would he assert the greatest hope only moments later to restrict that to the self-righteous? Logic should always paint Jesus as Saviour in the business of successfully saving every one and excluding no one! Let God be the judge! Let us be the best examples possible of the community which has experienced and embraced God’s love! Let us imitate Jesus’ generosity and love of others just as we profess and hope for his generosity and love for ourselves!

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

4th Sunday of Easter : Year: A

Acts 2.42-47; Ps 23; 1 Pet 2.19-25; Jn 10.1-10

The Shepherd saves them
It is said that in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. "Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked. "Ah!" He said, "they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!" And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have no friends and have lost everything. If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will bring you back the moment you have given up trying to save yourself and are willing to let Him save you His own way.

God is Shepherd

Today is the Good Shepherd Sunday; a day in which the church recalls the relationship between God and his people as described in the image of Shepherd and Sheep. In Ezekiel 34, God addresses the leaders of Israel as shepherd and took the responsibility of caring for the sheep, and became the shepherd of the flock of his people. In Psalm 23 David now addresses him as the Shepherd of his people. In John 10.11 Jesus addresses himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells his followers, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow.”

Jesus the Shepherd

Jesus is obviously our shepherd, there is no doubt about it but there can be a lot of doubt about whether we are the kind of sheep that we ought to be. In our reflection we are going to consider the two words Jesus uses to address the sheep of his flock – he hears me and follows me.

The Voice

Hearing the voice of the master or the leader is natural in parent-child relationship. It is a sign of loyalty. Our dogs and cats hear us more than any other person no matter their disposition, they can be silent to the voice of an outsider but the moment they hear the voice of their owner, they jump up. This kind of reaction is proper to the relationship of a father or mother and child. The same also should be true of our relationship with God. In the light of the gospel, if we reach close relationship with God, we would be able to distinguish His voice from the many voices that are urging us to follow them – parents, teachers, doctors, government, coaches, employers, advertisers and marketers – each trying to influence our values and behaviors with their voices.

The Other Voices

The problem with us is that we pay attention to these other voices than the voice of God. We can listen and believe the weather forecaster, the astronomer, the medical doctor and the economist, but when God speaks, we take it for granted. Look at the ease with which we make reference to the speeches of historians and politicians, but pay little or no attention to God’s. One of the signs of parental upbringing is the ability to recall and use the speeches of one’s parents or teachers to buttress speeches as Jesus did. He maintained the culture of his religion by always quoting it (Mt 5.43; 19.4).

They Follow

This brings us to the second thing demanded of the sheep in the gospel reading today, namely, following the Lord. The sheep does not only listen to its shepherd but followed him and his instructions. Listening to God is one thing, but following him is another. We can listen to God without following his words. The problem with Christianity today is that on Sunday so many people come Mass to listen to the voice of God but when the Mass is over, they go home and follow their own conscience, opinions and ways of life with the expression “I have my own life to live the way I want it. This mentality has done more harm than good. But no one who believes in God does things his or her own way. This is what it means to follow Him.

Practical Conclusion

So, it is in following him we prove that he is our shepherd. Believing in him is not enough if it cannot lead us to following him. As it were, the good news today demands of us. (a) ability to keep and practice the Lord’s teachings in the Bible and the teachings of the Church (b) ability to use the light of His teaching to assess the numerous voices trying to influence our values and numerous voices trying to influence our values and behaviors (c) and the ability to draw inference from his word and teachings to buttress our points and arguments.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 2.14, 22-28; 1 Pet 1.17-21; Lk 24.13-35

One Dead – Another Alive

Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. “Some of his friends asked him, 'Why have you become a Christian?' He answered, 'Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn't know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive--which one would you ask which way to go?”

Life After Death
As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.

Disturbed Disciples
During the weeks after Easter, the church puts us in touch with the first men and women who experienced the risen Jesus in an attempt to deepen our appreciation and understanding of this, the linchpin of our faith. In describing those early believers, Gunther Bornkamm once remarked, “The men and women who encounter the risen Christ in the Easter stories have come to an end of their wisdom. They are alarmed and disturbed by his death, mourners wandering about the grave of the Lord in their helpless love. . . like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, their last hopes are destroyed” (Jesus of Nazareth, Harper and Row, New York. 1960).

Therefore it is erroneous to think that the resurrection narratives can be explained away as a human invention or as a product of wish-fulfillment on the part of Jesus’ disciples. After Jesus’ death, they were at a loss; it was only through their revelatory experiences of the risen Lord that the disciples began to understand the Jesus event as a work of God which forever changed the course of human history. As the early believers explained in today’s first two readings, Jesus was sent according to the set plan and purpose of God; through his dying and his resurrection God has worked miracles, signs and wonders in our midst (Acts). All our faith and hope as believers are centered on this mystery (1 Peter).

The Presence of Christ

In his assessment of the resurrection appearances and of the gospel narratives which have preserved these experiences, Bas Van Jersel suggested that these texts were intended not only to inform would be believers concerning the fact of Jesus-risen but also as an interpretation of his resurrection for the life of the disciple (“The Resurrection of Jesus”, The New Concilium, Herder and herder, New York. 1965). In other words, accounts such as the one recorded in today’s gospel help us to understand that faith in the resurrection is not confined to a past event; nor is it relegated solely to a future moment when we also be raised by God from death. Rather, the resurrection appearances represent the church’s understanding concerning the permanent presence of the risen Lord with us now. How and in what manner do we experience him among us? What are the implications of his presence? How must it influence our faith? Our life style?

Experience of Resurrection

Matthew, in his gospel, told his readers that they would find and experience Jesus in the hungry when they fed them; in the thirsty when they gave a drink of water; in the stranger to whom they gave a welcome; in the naked whom they clothed, in the ill whom they cared for and in the prisoner whom they visited. In another passage, the evangelist assured his contemporaries of an experience of Jesus’ presence whenever and wherever two or three would gather together in prayer (Mt 25.35-36, 18.20). For his part, the fourth evangelist offered the assurance of Jesus’ abiding presence in the gift of the Spirit. Like Jesus, the Spirit would teach the disciples, remind them of his words and works, guide them to the truth and be with them always (Jn 14.16).

In today’s gospel, Luke reminds believers that the ultimate encounter with the permanent presence of the risen Jesus comes in the breaking open of the Word and in the Breaking of the Bread which is the Eucharist.

Proclaimer and Proclaimed

The book of Acts has sometimes been called the account of how the proclaimer became the proclaimed. In Acts, Luke builds a bridge between Jesus. who came in human flesh with a ministry of healing and reconciliation. . . who died on the cross for the salvation of all peoples. . . who rose in victory over death and sin to live forever. . . and the church. whose presence in the world continues to manifest the saving plan and purpose of God in human history. In this excerpted periscope, Peter and the Eleven are portrayed as empowered by the Spirit and intent upon proclaiming the good news of salvation just as Jesus had been endowed with the Spirit when he inaugurated his public ministry (see Lk 4.14-21). Among the Israelites, there was a widespread belief that God had “closed the heavens” and that the Holy Spirit had descended on no one, prophet or leader, since the last of the canonical prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jerome Crowe, The Acts, Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington. 1983). Aware of this belief, Luke made it clear in his account of Jesus (Luke) and of the church (Acts) that God rent the heavens and came down (Is 63.19) and has poured out his Spirit on all of humankind (Joel 2.1).

Like the other sermons or discourses in Acts, Peter’s reflects a Lucan hand. A literary technique, popular and well documented in Hellenistic literature, speeches or sermons attributed to key character in a story were actually a careful composition of the author and served a vehicle of the ideas he wished to convey to his readers. Constituting approximately one quarter of the book of Acts, the twenty-four discourses vary in form and content; by incorporating these sermons into Acts, Luke has addressed the missionary apologetic and ecclesial concerns of his readers.

The Sermon

In this particular section of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Luke defends the manner of Jesus’ ministry and death on the cross as a part of the “set purpose and plan of God” (vs. 23) for our salvation. As Joseph Fitzmyer has explained, Luke focuses on “the in-breaking of divine salvific activity into human history with the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth among mankind.” Everything that happened to Jesus, even his ignominious passion and death, as well as everything that will happen to the church because of its faith in Jesus “is a manifestation of a plan of God to bring about the salvation of human beings who recognize and accept the plan.” (The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol. 28, Doubleday and Co., New York. 1981). But God’s saving plan did not end on Calvary; indeed God raised Jesus to life thereby breaking the grip of sin and death upon believers.

By citing Psalm 16, Luke drew on the support of the Hebrew scriptures, as the other evangelists and Paul, particularly when the intended audience of the discourse was Jewish (vs. 22). This psalm and others like it (cfr. Ps 22,110,118) were used extensively by the early church in their efforts to present Jesus as the promised Savior and authentic fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hopes. Today its words continue to strike a chord in the hearts of those who understand Jesus as the center and culmination of the two testaments (Old Testament New Testament) of our faith.

Christian Vocation

Someone whose uniqueness distinguishes him/her from the mainstream of human society or whose ideas and values are unsynchronized with those of the general population is often said to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” In his letter to the Christians of Asia Minor the pseudonymous author of 1 Peter encouraged his readers to aspire to a similar description. Having been delivered by Christ from the futility of their former way of life, Christians should subsequently conduct themselves in a worthy manner. More often than not, this required that they cease or forego certain activities while dedicating themselves to a life-style which was consonant with the grace of their Christian vocation.

Abstract God of Plato

Earlier in his letter the author had characterized the life of a person before being redeemed as one dominated by ignorance and inordinate desire (vs. 14). As William Barclay (“Peter,” The Daily Study Bible, The St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh. 1975) explained, the pagan world was suffocated by ignorance, convinced by its philosophers that God was unknowable. “It is hard,” said Plato, “to investigate and find the framer and the father of the universe; and if one did find him, it would be impossible to express him in terms which all could understand.” Aristotle spoke of God as the “supreme cause, by all men dreamed of and by no men known.” Coupled with this burden of frustrated ignorance was an attitude of self-abandon with regard to the senses. Whereas “desperate poverty prevailed at the lower end of the social scale,” the higher echelons were notorious for their “sheer fleshliness.” By their own historians’ accounts, Romans and Greeks were shamelessly indulgent. At one banquet, Emperor Vitellius served two thousand fish, seven thousand birds and thousands of dollars’ worth of peacock’s brains and nightingales tongues. Martial tells of women who had reached their tenth husband; Jerome wrote of a woman married to her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-first wife. Homosexuality was so common that many no longer considered it aberrant. But believers in Jesus, having been rescued from such godlessness were to live otherwise!

Pilgrims on Earth

In terms reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, the author of 1 Peter called his readers to be reverent sojourners, faithful to their constant companion on their journey through life, viz. Jesus. By his blood they had been redeemed and through him they had the joy of knowing God. No longer simply the supreme cause who could not be known or understood but only dreamed of, God, the loving Father had revealed himself and his saving plan in the person and mission of Jesus.

Like the recipients of 1 Peter, believers on the brink of the twenty-first century live in societies which are often characterized by interests and values contrary to those of the gospel. This ancient Christian author reminds his readers that their baptismal commitment calls them to center their faith and hope in God (vs. 21) and to “march to the beat of his drum.”

Journey to Emmaus

Like the two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, contemporary believers of Jesus live after the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and in the interim between his two advents. Like Cleopas and his companion, we search for the daily experience of Jesus which sustains and strengthens our hope and which inspires our faithful discipleship. In their encounter with the risen Lord, we learn of the manner in which he remains present until his climactic appearance in glory.

Breaking of Bread

In this superb narrative, Luke has provided his readers with a treasure of christological and apologetic insights drawn from the different levels of gospel tradition. At the very basis of the story was the experience of the first witnesses of Jesus, vindicated by God and risen from death to glory. Surrounding that primitive core of gospel kerygma was the ongoing experience of the church in Syrian Antioch in the mid-80s AD. In the almost two generations following Jesus’ death on the cross, the Christians of Antioch had been encountering the risen Lord in the sacramental breaking of the bread. For his part, the evangelist had structured this narrative in a recognizable liturgical pattern. In both word (vs. 27) and sacrament (vs. 30) the risen Lord is made known and communicated to the believing community.

They did not Recognized Him

Notice the motif of delayed recognition which informed this and most of the other resurrection narratives. Initially, the disciples did not recognize Jesus because he was transformed by the glory of his resurrection. Nevertheless, Luke was careful (as were the other evangelists) to underscore the continuity between the Jesus whom the disciples had known during his ministry and the risen Lord whom they were now encountering. He taught them, ate with them and then opens their eyes to the knowledge of his presence.

As Jesus broke open the word for them (“he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him” (vs. 27) the disciples’ hearts began to burn within them (vs. 32). They implored him “Stay with us!” (vs. 29). Then, in a manner which recalled his last supper with them before his cross, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them; at that point, they came to know him. The searching, hoping fire in their hearts was transformed into recognition and faith.

Luke draws attention to the significance of this moment by declaring, “with that, their eyes were opened” (vs. 31). Opened eyes (a term mentioned eight times in the New Testament, six of which are in Luke-Acts) indicated a deepened understanding of revelation. In this instance, the disciples’ opened eyes meant that they had begun to comprehend the mystery of Jesus, dead, risen and ever present. Jesus’ disappearance at the point of recognition (“he vanished from their sight,” vs. 31) was not a disappointment but yet another signal that the risen Lord would remain forever with his disciples in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of his word.

Practical Conclusion

The experience of those early disciples is ours at every Eucharistic celebration. With fire in our hearts, the word reveals who he is; in the blessed and broken bread the paschal experience is renewed, We who hear the word and share the bread are nourished and sustained. Jesus lives; he stays with us. Hope and faith are not in vain.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

2nd Sunday of Easter : Year: A

Acts 2.42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Pet 1.3-9; Jn 20.19-31

Mikhail! Christ is Risen
It was May Day, 1990. The place was Moscow's Red Square. "Is it straight, Father?" one Orthodox priest asked another, shifting the heavy, eight-foot crucifix on his shoulder. "Yes," said the other. "It is straight." Together the two priests, along with a group of parishioners holding ropes that steadied the beams of the huge cross, walked the parade route. Before them was passed the official might of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: The usual May Day procession of tanks, missiles, troops, and salutes to the Communist party elite. Behind the tanks surged a giant crowd of protesters, shouting up at Mikhail Gorbachev. "Bread!...Freedom!...Truth!"

As the throng passed directly in front of the Soviet leader standing in his place of honor, the priests hoisted their heavy burden toward the sky. The cross emerged from the crowd. As it did, the figure of Jesus Christ obscured the giant poster faces of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin that provided the backdrop for Gorbachev's reviewing stand. "Mikhail Sergeyevich!" one of the priests shouted, his deep voice cleaving the clamor of the protesters and piercing straight toward the angry Soviet leader. "Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!"

Risen Christ and Fearful Disciples
Today’s Gospel narrates the impact of the Risen Christ’s presence on the fearful disciples. In symbolic language typical of St. John, the Gospel tells of Jesus’ greeting, his breathing on the disciples and his imparting of the Holy Spirit with the power to forgive and to retain sins. The story of Jesus’ later appearance to Thomas highlights the merit of those who will not have seen Jesus but will believe in his presence and his teaching. In this way Christians will experience “life” (v.31).

The Acts of the Apostles recalls the simple characteristics of Christian life. prayer and the Eucharistic sacrifice, instruction in the faith, life and possessions in common. This simple sincerity wins the admiration of others.

The Power of the Lord

Psalm 118 rejoices in the presence and the power of the Lord. The Lord protected and saved the just from persecutors. The rejection and apparent failure of the psalmist, comparing himself to a stone discarded by the builders, has been turned by the Lord into success and vindication, a cornerstone.
The Joy
The First Letter of St. Peter speaks of an inheritance that is guaranteed for those reborn as Christians. Even now Christians are filled with a joy that is “indescribable and glorious” (v.8). This joy is capable of bearing the trials of this life, which purify and strengthen faith in our future inheritance eternal life.

The Experience

What is evident from the Gospel text is the emotional impact on the disciples of Jesus’ appearance. “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (v20). Our faith is reflected not only in the intellectual content of our belief, but in the experience of the personal presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We do not see Jesus but we can, and should, experience his presence in our lives. Our faith is not just a guarantee of future happiness; it should also open our minds and hearts now to a real experience of Jesus’ presence.

The Christian way of living

The Acts of the Apostles describes the characteristics of Christian life. of living in and for a community. It is so strong that individual possessions are divided among all members according to need. Prayer, work necessary to sustain basic needs, and the giving and receiving of instruction in the faith are part of the Christian’s daily schedule.

A time of Trials

St. Peter reminds the scattered first Christian communities that they “may have to suffer through various trials” (v.6). The text suggests the durability of faith (which includes the experience of joy) even in the midst of suffering. In this sense the experience of faith is worth more than fire-tested gold. This is certainly the testimony of the first Christian martyrs who were sustained by the experience of a rock-solid faith. The text does not imply a “testing by fire” on the part of God, but the Christian’s sustaining experience of faith even though Christians may have to pass through earthly fire.

Resurrection and Trials

Christians today suffer from reduced expectations. We have come to regard the Christian faith as something like an ointment to be rubbed on in times of need. The faith is reduced to some words of comfort and consolation when there is nothing else to say or to do. It has become a theoretical doctrine, an abstract explanation of ideas.
The center of Christian life is the experience of Jesus Christ. This contact is real, personal and overwhelming. It gives ordinary people a courage and a conviction that they know is worth more than anything they have. It also gives them a real joy that nothing can undermine. We need, as Christians, to have greater expectations; there is a treasure to be found. Christianity is not a present-day palliative for the woes of life, a mere opium for the people; it is the experience of fire within, an unbreakable all-conquering spirit. It is a love that always gives more.

Practical Conclusion

When we consider the Acts of the Apostles’ description of Christian community life one may perhaps think it refers to some strange sect (of which there are many) with its cultish practices disconnected from normal life. We may also think that it is an impossible, impractical ideal of naïve simplicity. Have we become accustomed to a token form of Christian living? What do we think parish life is? Is it inspired by the desire to hold all things in common, to want to live together as Christian brothers and sisters, sharing a common experience of Jesus Christ? Our lives are certainly more complicated than the scattered Christian communities of the first century after Christ, but nothing should impede our desire to live and to build an authentically Christian life in community.

We have the desire to live in communion with others; we know how difficult real, intimate bonds are to achieve and to sustain. We need to re-examine the state of our Christian communion with others, starting with those nearest to us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Easter Sunday : Year: A
Acts 10.34a, 36-43; Col 3.1-4 (Or 1 Cor 5.6b-8);
Jn 20.1-18; in the afternoon Lk 24.13-35

He is Risen Indeed

Dr. George Sweeting tells of an incident in the early 1920s when Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally. For an hour he abused and ridiculed the Christian faith until it seemed as if the whole structure of belief was in ruins. Then questions were invited. An Orthodox church priest rose and asked to speak. He turned, faced the people, and gave the Easter greeting, "He is risen!" Instantly the assembly rose to its feet and the reply came back loud and clear, "He is risen indeed!"

Is there Life after Death?
Madonna the great singer, attempted to answer the question of, “Why am I here?” by becoming a diva, confessing, “There were many years when I thought fame, fortune, and public approval would bring me happiness. But one day you wake up and realize they don’t… I still felt something was missing… I wanted to know the meaning of true and lasting happiness and how I could go about finding it.”(The Oprah Magazine, “Oprah talks to Madonna,” January, 2004, 120.)

Others have given up on finding meaning. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, despaired of life at age 27 and committed suicide. Jazz-age cartoonist Ralph Barton also found life to be meaningless, leaving the following suicide note. “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours of the day.” Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA. Here’s Life Publ., 1981).

Pascal, the great French philosopher believed this inner void we all experience can only be filled by God. He states, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which only Jesus Christ can fill.” William R. Bright, Jesus and the Intellectual (San Bernardino, CA. Here’s Life Publ., 1968),If Pascal is right, then we would expect Jesus to not only answer the question of our identity and meaning in this life, but also to give us hope for life after we die.

Can there be meaning, without God? Not according to atheist Bertrand Russell, who wrote, “Unless you assume a god, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2002). Russell resigned himself to ultimately “rot” in the grave. In his book, Why I am not a Christian, Russell dismissed everything Jesus said about life’s meaning, including his promise of eternal life.

Jesus Triumphs
Jesus actually defeated death as eyewitnesses claim. He alone is able to tell us what life is all about, and answer, “Where am I going?” In order to understand how Jesus’ words, life, and death can establish our identities, give us meaning in life, and provide hope for the future, we need to understand what he said about God, about us, and about himself.

Summing up, I use the words of Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player as he was dying of AIDS, which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed. "Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease"?

To this Arthur Ashe replied. The world over 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakh learn to play tennis, 5 lakh learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi-final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD "Why me?".

And today in pain I should not be asking GOD "Why me?"
Life after death promise keeps us Sweet, Trials keep us Strong, Sorrow keeps us Human, Failure keeps us Humble, Success keeps us Glowing, But only GOD KEEPS US GOING..... EVER STRONG…

The Resurrection

The main sources which directly attest the fact of Christ’s Resurrection are the Four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul. Easter morning is so rich in incident, and so crowded with interested persons, that its complete history presents a rather complicated tableau. It is not surprising, therefore, that the partial accounts contained in each of the Four Gospels appear at first sight hard to harmonize. But whatever exegetic view as to the visit to the sepulcher by the pious women and the appearance of the angels we may defend, we cannot deny the Evangelists’ agreement as to the fact that the risen Christ appeared to one or more persons. According to St. Matthew, He appeared to the holy women, and again on a mountain in Galilee; according to St. Mark, He was seen by Mary Magdalene, by the two disciples at Emmaus, and the Eleven before his Ascension into heaven; according to St. Luke, He walked with the disciples to Emmaus, appeared to Peter and to the assembled disciples in Jerusalem; according to St. John, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the ten Apostles on Easter Sunday, to the Eleven a week later, and to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. St. Paul (1 Cor 15.3-8) enumerates another series of apparitions of Jesus after His Resurrection; he was seen by Cephas, by the Eleven, by more than 500 brethren, many of whom were still alive at the time of the Apostle’s writing, by James, by all the Apostles, and lastly by Paul himself.

An Outline
Here is an outline of a possible harmony of the Evangelists’ account concerning the principal events of Easter Sunday.

The holy women carrying the spices previously prepared start out for the sepulcher before dawn, and reach it after sunrise; they are anxious about the heavy stone, but know nothing of the official guard of the sepulcher (Mt 28.1-3; Mr 16.1-3; Lk 24.1; Jn 20.1).

The angel frightened the guards by his brightness, put them to flight, rolled away the stone, and seated himself not upon (ep autou), but above (epano autou) the stone (Mt 28.2-4).

Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome approach the sepulcher, and see the stone rolled back, whereupon Mary Magdalene immediately returns to inform the Apostles (Mk 16.4; Lk 24.2; Jn 20.1-2).

The other two holy women enter the sepulcher, find an angel seated in the vestibule, who shows them the empty sepulcher, announces the Resurrection, and commissions them to tell the disciples and Peter that they shall see Jesus in Galilee (Mt 28.5-7; Mk 16.5-7).

A second group of holy women, consisting of Joanna and her companions, arrive at the sepulcher, where they have probably agreed to meet the first group, enter the empty interior, and are admonished by two angels that Jesus has risen according to His prediction (Lk 24.10).

Not long after, Peter and John, who were notified by Mary Magdalen, arrive at the sepulchre and find the linen cloth in such a position as to exclude the supposition that the body was stolen; for they lay simply flat on the ground, showing that the sacred body had vanished out of them without touching them. When John notices this he believes (Jh 20.3-10).

Mary Magdalen returns to the sepulchre, sees first two angels within, and then Jesus Himself (Jn 20.11-l6; Mk 16.9).

The two groups of pious women, who probably met on their return to the city, are favored with the sight of Christ arisen, who commissions them to tell His brethren that they will see him in Galilee (Mt 28.8-10; Mk 16.8).

The holy women relate their experiences to the Apostles, but find no belief (Mk 16.10-11; Lk 24.9-11).

Jesus appears to the disciples, at Emmaus, and they return to Jerusalem; the Apostles appear to waver between doubt and belief (Mk 16.12-13; Lk 24.13-35).
Christ appears to Peter, and therefore Peter and John firmly believe in the Resurrection (Luke 24.34; Jn 20.8).

After the return of the disciples from Emmaus, Jesus appears to all the Apostles excepting Thomas (Mk 16.14; Lk 24.36-43; Jn 20.19-25).

The Apparitions
The harmony of the other apparitions of Christ after His Resurrection presents no special difficulties. Briefly, therefore, the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by more than 500 eyewitnesses, whose experience, simplicity, and uprightness of life rendered them incapable of inventing such a fable, who lived at a time when any attempt to deceive could have been easily discovered, who had nothing in this life to gain, but everything to lose by their testimony, whose moral courage exhibited in their apostolic life can be explained only by their intimate conviction of the objective truth of their message. Again the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by the eloquent silence of the Synagogue which had done everything to prevent deception, which could have easily discovered deception, if there had been any, which opposed only sleeping witnesses to the testimony of the Apostles, which did not punish the alleged carelessness of the official guard, and which could not answer the testimony of the Apostles except by threatening them “that they speak no more in this name to any man” (Acts 4.17). Finally the thousands and millions, both Jews and Gentiles, who believed the testimony of the Apostles in spite of all the disadvantages following from such a belief, in short the origin of the Church, requires for its explanation the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, for the rise of the Church without the Resurrection would have been a greater miracle than the Resurrection itself.

Opposing Theories
By what means can the evidence for Christ’s Resurrection by overthrown? Three theories of explanation have been advanced, though the first two have hardly any adherents in our day.

The Swoon Theory
There is the theory of those who assert that Christ did not really die upon the cross, that His supposed death was only a temporary swoon, and that His Resurrection was simply a return to consciousness. This was advocated by Paulus (“Exegetisches Handbuch”, 1842, II, p. 929) and in a modified form by Hase (“Gesch. Jesu”, n. 112), but it does not agree with the data furnished by the Gospels. The scourging and the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion, the three hours on the cross and the piercing of the Sufferer’s side cannot have brought on a mere swoon. His real death is attested by the centurion and the soldiers, by the friends of Jesus and by his most bitter enemies. His stay in a sealed sepulchre for thirty-six hours, in an atmosphere poisoned by the exhalations of a hundred pounds of spices, which would have of itself sufficed to cause death. Moreover, if Jesus had merely returned from a swoon, the feelings of Easter morning would have been those of sympathy rather than those of joy and triumph, the Apostles would have been roused to the duties of a sick chamber rather than to apostolic work, the life of the powerful wonderworker would have ended in ignoble solitude and inglorious obscurity, and His vaunted sinlessness would have changed into His silent approval of a lie as the foundation stone of His Church. No wonder that later critics of the Resurrection, like Strauss, have heaped contempt on the old theory of a swoon.

The Imposition Theory
The disciples, it is said, stole the body of Jesus from the grave, and then proclaimed to men that their Lord had risen. This theory was anticipated by the Jews who “gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, saying. Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep” (Mt 28.12). The same was urged by Celsus (Orig., “Contra Cels.”, II, 56) with some difference of detail. But to assume that the Apostles with a burden of this kind upon their consciences could have preached a kingdom of truth and righteousness as the one great effort of their lives, and that for the sake of that kingdom they could have suffered even unto death, is to assume one of those moral impossibilities which may pass for a moment in the heat of controversy, but must be dismissed without delay in the hour of good reflection.

The Vision Theory

This theory as generally understood by its advocates does not allow visions caused by a Divine intervention, but only such as are the product of human agencies. For if a Divine intervention be admitted, we may as well believe, as far as principles are concerned, that God raised Jesus from the dead. But where in the present instance are the human agencies which might cause these visions? The idea of a resurrection from the grave was familiar to the disciples from their Jewish faith; they had also vague intimations in the prophecies of the Old Testament; finally, Jesus Himself had always associated His Resurrection with the predictions of his death. On the other hand, the disciples’ state of mind was one of great excitement; they treasured the memory of Christ with a fondness which made it almost impossible for them to believe that He was gone. In short, their whole mental condition was such as needed only the application of a spark to kindle the flame. The spark was applied by Mary Magdalen, and the flame at once spread with the rapidity and force of a conflagration. What she believed that she had seen, others immediately believed that they must see. Their expectations were fulfilled, and the conviction seized the members of the early Church that the Lord had really risen from the dead.

Such is the vision theory commonly defended by recent critics of the Resurrection. But however ingeniously it may be devised, it is quite impossible from an historical point of view.

It is incompatible with the state of mind of the Apostles; the theory presupposes faith and expectancy on the part of the Apostles, while in point of fact the disciples’ faith and expectancy followed their vision of the risen Christ.

It is inconsistent with the nature of Christ’s manifestations; they ought to have been connected with heavenly glory, or they should have continued the former intimate relations of Jesus with His disciples, while actually and consistently they presented quite a new phase that could not have been expected.

It does not agree with the conditions of the early Christian community; after the first excitement of Easter Sunday, the disciples as a body are noted for their cool deliberation rather than the exalted enthusiasm of a community of visionaries.

It is incompatible with the length of time during which the apparitions lasted; visions such as the critics suppose have never been known to last long, while some of Christ’s manifestations lasted a considerable period.

It is not consistent with the fact that the manifestations were made to numbers at the same instant.

It does not agree with the place where most of the manifestations were made. visionary appearances would have been expected in Galilee, while most apparitions of Jesus occurred in Judea.

It is inconsistent with the fact that the visions came to a sudden end on the day of Ascension.

Keim admits that enthusiasm, nervousness, and mental excitement on the part of the disciples do not supply a rational explanation of the facts as related in the Gospels. According to him, the visions were directly granted by God and the glorified Christ; they may even include a “corporeal appearance” for those who fear that without this they would lose all. But Keim’s theory satisfies neither the Church, since it abandons all the proofs of a bodily Resurrection of Jesus, nor the enemies of the Church, since it admits many of the Church’s dogmas; nor again is it consistent with itself, since it grants God’s special intervention in proof of the Church’s faith, though it starts with the denial of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, which is one of the principal objects of that faith.

Modernist View
The Holy Office describes and condemns in the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh propositions of the Decree “Lamentabili”, the views advocated by a fourth class of opponents of the Resurrection. The former of these propositions reads. “The Resurrection of our Saviour is not properly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order neither proved nor provable, which Christian consciousness has little by little inferred from other facts.” This statement agrees with, and is further explained by the words of Loisy (“Autour d’un petit livre”, p. viii, 120-121, 169; “L’Evangile et l’Eglise”, pp. 74-78; 120-121; 171). According to Loisy, firstly, the entrance into life immortal of one risen from the dead is not subject to observation; it is a supernatural, hyper-historical fact, not capable of historical proof. The proofs alleged for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ are inadequate; the empty sepulchre is only an indirect argument, while the apparitions of the risen Christ are open to suspicion on a priori grounds, being sensible impressions of a supernatural reality; and they are doubtful evidence from a critical point of view, on account of the discrepancies in the various Scriptural narratives and the mixed character of the detail connected with the apparitions. Secondly, if one prescinds from the faith of the Apostles, the testimony of the New Testament does not furnish a certain argument for the fact of the Resurrection. This faith of the Apostles is concerned not so much with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as with His immortal life; being based on the apparitions, which are unsatisfactory evidence from an historical point of view, its force is appreciated only by faith itself; being a development of the idea of an immortal Messiah, it is an evolution of Christian consciousness, though it is at the same time a corrective of the scandal of the Cross. The Holy Office rejects this view of the Resurrection when it condemns the thirty-seventh proposition in the Decree “Lamentabili”. “The faith in the Resurrection of Christ pointed at the beginning no so much to the fact of the Resurrection, as to the immortal life of Christ with God.”

Practical Conclusion
Besides the authoritative rejection of the foregoing view, we may submit the following three considerations which render it untenable. First, the contention that the Resurrection of Christ cannot be proved historically is not in accord with science. Science does not know enough about the limitations and the properties of a body raised from the dead to immortal life to warrant the assertion that such a body cannot be perceived by the senses; again in the case of Christ, the empty sepulcher with all its concrete circumstances cannot be explained except by a miraculous Divine intervention as supernatural in its character as the Resurrection of Jesus. Secondly, history does not allow us to regard the belief in the Resurrection as the result of a gradual evolution in Christian consciousness. The apparitions were not a mere projection of the disciples’ Messianic hope and expectation; their Messianic hope and expectations had to be revived by the apparitions. Again, the Apostles did not begin with preaching the immortal life of Christ with God, but they preached Christ’s Resurrection from the very beginning, they insisted on it as a fundamental fact and they described even some of the details connected with this fact. Acts 2.24,31; 3.15,26; 4.10; 5.30; 10. 39-40; 13.30,37; 17.31-2; Rm 1.4; 4.25; 6.4,9; 8.11,34; 10. etc. Thirdly, the denial of the historical certainty of Christ’s Resurrection involves several historical blunders. it questions the objective reality of the apparitions without any historical grounds for such a doubt; it denies the fact of the empty sepulchre in spite of solid historical evidence to the contrary; it questions even the fact of Christ’s burial in Joseph’s sepulchre, though this fact is based on the clear and simply unimpeachable testimony of history.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Is 52.13 to 53.12; Heb 4.14-16, 5.7-9; Jn 18.1 to 19.42

Only God Knows
Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before - such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. "This horse is not a horse to me," he would tell them. "It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?" The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. The entire village came to see him. "You old fool," they scoffed, "we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you've been cursed with misfortune."

The old man responded, "Don't speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I've been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?"

The people contested, "Don't make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact is that your horse is gone is a curse."

The old man spoke again. "All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don't know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can't say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?"

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn't, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. he lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn't been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. "Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us."

The man responded, "Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don't judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

"Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don't say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don't."

"Maybe the old man is right," they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

"You were right," they said. "You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever."

The old man spoke again. "You people are obsessed with judging. Don't go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments."

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

"You were right, old man," they wept. "God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son's accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever."

The old man spoke again. "It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows."

Irreplaceable Damage

This is a true story which happened in the States. A man came out of his home to admire his new truck. To his puzzlement, his three-year-old son was happily hammering dents into the shiny paint of the truck. The man ran to his son, knocked him away, and hammered the little boy's hands into pulp as punishment. When the father calmed down, he rushed his son to the hospital.

Although the doctor tried desperately to save the crushed bones, he finally had to amputate the fingers from both the boy's hands. When the boy woke up from the surgery & saw his bandaged stubs, he innocently said, "Daddy, I'm sorry about your truck." Then he asked, "… but when are my fingers going to grow back?" The father went home and committed suicide.

Think about this story the next time someone steps on your feet or you wish to take revenge. Think first before you lose your patience with someone you love. Trucks can be repaired… Broken bones & hurt feelings often can't. Too often we fail to recognize the difference between the person and the performance. We forget that forgiveness is greater than revenge.

Damage will haunt us

People make mistakes. We are allowed to make mistakes. But the actions we take while in a rage will haunt us forever.

Do we remember the lies that were testified against Jesus? (Mk 14.56)
How about when some of the people spit on Jesus? (Mk 14.65)
When Jesus was repeatedly hit by the palms of hands? (Mk 14.65)
When He was whipped and He shed His Sacred Blood? (Mt 27.26)
When He had a Crown of Thorns placed on His head? (Jn 19.2)
Do we remember when that for our sake, Jesus was stripped of His clothing? (Mt 27.28) What embarrassment He endured for us!
Do we remember when Jesus was mocked as the King of the Jews? (Mt 27.29)
When He was hit on the head with a reed? (Mt 27.30)
When they mocked Jesus by bowing on their knees before Him? (Mk 19-20)
When they cast lots for His vesture? (Mt 27.35)
When He was beaten by the soldiers? (Jn 19.3)
When He had to carry the heavy wooden Cross of our sins while He was in such great pains? (Jn 19.17).

Preparing to be an Eagle

Though many of us have seen pictures of a huge eagle's nest high in the branches of a tree or in the crag of a cliff, few of us have gotten a glimpse inside. When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs. By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave. That's when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest." With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles. Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behavior.


Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Holy Thursday : Year: A

Is 61.1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; Rev 1.4-8; Lk 4.16-21

This day, Maundy Thursday (also "Holy Thursday" or "Shire Thursday") commemorates Christ's Last Supper and the initiation of the Eucharist. Its name of "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "command." This stems from Christ's words in John 13.34, "A new commandment I give unto you." It is the first of the three days known as the "Triduum," and after the Vigil tonight, and until the Vigil of Easter, a more profoundly somber attitude prevails (most especially during the hours between noon and 3.00 pm on Good Friday).

The Last Supper took place in "the upper room" of the house believed to have been owned by John Mark and his mother, Mary (Acts 12.12). This room, also the site of the Pentecost, is known as the "Coenaculum" or the "Cenacle" and is referred to as "Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches" in St. James' Liturgy. At the site of this place - our first Christian church a basilica was built in the 4th century. It was destroyed by Muslims and later re-built by the Crusaders. Underneath the place is the tomb of David.

Garden of Gethsemane

After the Supper, He went outside the Old City of Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley, and came to the Garden of Gethsemane, a place whose name means "Olive Press," and where olives still grow today. There He suffered in three ineffable ways. He knew exactly what would befall Him physically and mentally every stroke, every thorn in the crown He would wear, every labored breath He would try to take while hanging on the Cross, the pain in each glance at His mother; He knew that He was taking on all the sins of the world all the sins that had ever been or ever will be committed; and, finally, He knew that, for some people, this Sacrifice would not be fruitful because they would reject Him. Here He was let down by His Apostles when they fell asleep instead of keeping watch, here is where He was further betrayed by Judas with a kiss, and where He was seized by "a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief Priests and the ancients of the people" and taken before Caiphas, the high priest, where he was accused of blasphemy, beaten, spat upon, and prepared to be taken to Pontius Pilate tomorrow morning.

Chrism Mass

As for today's liturgies, in the morning, the local Bishop will offer a special Chrism Mass during which blesses the oils used in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Unction, and the consecration of Altars and churches.

The Procedure
At the evening Mass, after the bells ring during the Gloria, they are rung no more until the Easter Vigil (a wooden clapper called a "crotalus" is used instead). Parents explain this to their children by saying that the all bells fly to Rome after the Gloria of the Mass on Maundy Thursday to visit the Popes. Children are told that the bells sleep on the roof of St. Peter's Basilica, and, bringing Easter eggs with them, start their flight home at the Gloria at the Easter Vigil, when they peal wildly.

Washing of the Feet
Then comes the Washing of the Feet after the homily, a rite performed by Christ upon His disciples to prepare them for the priesthood and the marriage banquet they will offer, and which is rooted in the Old Testament practice of foot-washing in preparation for the marital embrace (II Kgs 11.8-11, Canticles 5.3) and in the ritual ablutions performed by the High Priest of the Old Covenant (contrast Leviticus 16.23-24 with John 13.3-5). The priest girds himself with a cloth and washes the feet of 12 men he's chosen to represent the Apostles for the ceremony.

After the Eucharist
The rest of the Mass after the Washing of the Feet has a special form, unlike all other Masses. After the Mass, the priest takes off his chasuble and vests in a white cope. He returns to the Altar, incenses the Sacred Hosts in the ciborium, and, preceded by the Crucifer and torchbearers, carries the Ciborium to the "Altar of Repose," also called the "Holy Sepulcher," where it will remain "entombed" until the Mass of the Pre-sanctified on Good Friday.

Stripping of the Altars
Then there follows the Stripping of the Altars, during which everything is removed as Antiphons and Psalms are recited. All the glorious symbols of Christ's Presence are removed to give us the sense of His entering most fully into His Passion. Christ enters the Garden of Gethsemane; His arrest is imminent. The joyful signs of His Presence won't return until Easter begins with the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.

As to customs, many families have a practice of visiting the tabernacles of three or seven nearby churches after the Mass on this day as a sort of "mini-pilgrimage" (any nearby Catholic churches will do). Some families visit the churches directly after the evening Mass; others go home and wake up in the middle of the night to make the visits (though since churches are rarely open all night these days, this would be hard to do). The spirit of the visits to the churches is keeping vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed before His arrest. Matthew 26.36 "Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples. Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray."

Green Thursday
In Germany, Maundy Thursday is known as "Green Thursday" (Grundonnerstag), and the traditional foods are green vegetables and green salad, especially a spinach salad. In Latin countries, Jordan almonds ("confetti") are eaten today and also throughout Eastertide.

Back when Kings and Queens of England were Catholic, they, too, would wash the feet of 12 subjects, seeing the foot washing rite also as an example of service and humility. They would also give money to the poor on this day, a practice is said to have begun with St. Augustine of Canterbury in A.D. 597, and performed by Kings since Edward II. Now the foot washing isn't done (it was given up in the 18th c.), but a special coin called "Maundy Money" is minted and given to the selected elderly of a representative town.

On this day, one may gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, by reciting the Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration).

Practical Conclusion

This ritual reminds of Jesus’ greatest gesture of service which no leader in the history of mankind was able to conceive in his mind. Here we see the son of man at the feet of his own disciples, washing and setting an example of loving one another, to show to the world that only love matters and nothing else.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Passion (Palm) Sunday : Year: A

Mt 21.1-11; Is 50.4-7; Phil 2.6-11, Mt 26.14-27;66

Congratulations dear Christians, Congrats, you are well appreciated, well accepted, you are sociable, you celebrate life, you run good institutions, schools, colleges, you are good at speaking good English, good at learning languages, but I am just warning you, you are not people of deep God-experience. One Hindu addressing Christians told this on a Centenary Celebration day. “I say I love you, but I am not convinced fully that you carry your cross.” He ended his reflection.

Our Celebrations
Look at the life of Jesus, fully equipped with humility and surrender to accept God’s will. The son of man must suffer. The son of man came to give life and not to take it. The son of man came to lay down his life. There is no greater love than laying down one’s life for friends. I want Christ for working miracles.

But I am not ready to carry my daily cross. He worked miracles, but he also strongly invited his disciples to carry their daily cross. We want Christ, but not his cross. We want a cross, but not a crucifix.

The Triumph

This event of Palm Sunday constitutes the one earthly triumph of Jesus' life and ministry. The crowd was following him because of the great miracle he had wrought in raising Lazarus from the dead. The sisters from Bethany and Lazarus were apparently well known. As the crowd grew in numbers, Jesus sensed that the Father was asking him to acquiesce to this acclamation. He sent ahead for a beast of burden. For the first time, as far as we know, he mounted. He was thus slightly above the crowd so that all could see him. The people started pulling down branches from the trees and throwing them in front of him. Their enthusiasm became contagious. The whole city was plunged into excitement. The crowd was waving palms, singing and proclaiming him to be the son of David, the king of Israel of times past and the father of the Messiah. The words clearly implied a divine visitation. That is why the Pharisees demanded, "Stop your disciples from crying out. They are making you equal to God." He replied, "If they are quiet, the stones will cry out." All creation was bearing witness to the coming to final term of the life of him who is the source of all that is.

Entry into Jerusalem

The thunderous shouts and applause of the immense crowd form the background for Jesus' amazing entry into Jerusalem. When he came to the brow of the Mount of Olives, the procession stopped and Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He wept because the city could not perceive the great opportunity that it was about to lose. He was fully aware that the authorities were plotting his death and that the adulation he was receiving would soon turn to condemnation. The superficial enthusiasm of the crowd had a hollow ring.

Jesus Wept
Nothing could be worse public relations than to have the celebrity of the moment burst into tears, especially when you are trying to turn him into a king or a god. Jesus wept because of, the deep tragedy that only he had eyes to perceive. "Jerusalem" he sobbed, "if only you had known the time of your visitation. Now it is too late." Thus, the city that he loved so much was fated to undergo total destruction. It did not know the time of its divine visitation.

Jesus is the paradigm of humanity, the universal human being, God's idea of human nature with its enormous potentialities. According to the great hymn of Paul to God's humility, the divine Person of the Word, source of everything that exists, did not cling to his divine dignity or prerogatives, but threw them all away. In God there seems to be the need not to be God. In creating, God, in a sense dies, because he is no longer alone; he is completely involved in the evolution of these creatures whom he has made so lovable.

God with Us
Christ emptied himself of the divine power that could have protected him and opened himself in total vulnerability as he stretched out his arms on the cross to embrace all human suffering. In the most real sense, we too are the body of God; we too are a new humanity in which the Word becomes flesh; we too can put ourselves in the service of the divine Word. Then God is experiencing human life through our senses, our emotions, and our thoughts. Each of us can give the eternal Word a new way in which he discovers his own infinite potentiality. Thus, God knows himself in us and experiences the human condition in all its ramifications. The Word lives in us, or more exactly, lives us. We are incorporated into the new creation that Christ has brought into the world by becoming a human being. We leave behind the false self and solidarity with Adam, which is solidarity in sin, death, and human misery Jesus invites us to experience his consciousness of the Father, the Abba of infinite concern, the God who transcends both suffering and joy and manifests equally in both.

Practical Conclusion
Christ on the donkey, waving aside the cheers of the crowd, is riding to his death. This is his way of revealing the heart of God once and for all in such a way that no one can ever doubt God's infinite mercy. The priest says over the bread and wine, "This is my Body " The power of those words extends to each of us as Christ awakens and celebrates his great sacrifice in our own hearts saying, "You are my body. You are my blood." You, with all of humanity, are a manifestation in the flesh of the new creation. Palm Sunday is a day of great awakening that the Lord Jesus came to redeem us and lead us to Eternal Jerusalem. We all will be triumphant with Him in the New Jerusalem.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

5th Sunday of Lent, Year: A

Ez 37.12-4; Rm 8.8-11; Jn 11.1-45

More Alive than Before

D.L. Moody was often heard to say during the closing days of his life, “Some fine morning, you will read in the newspapers that D.L. Moody is dead. But do not believe it, for I shall be more alive that morning than ever before!” If you have Christ in your life as your personal Saviour, you will be like D.L. Moody. If you do not know Christ, all you have to look forward to is fear and despair. If we believe in Jesus all that we experienced in the past three weeks will be an experience that has enhanced our life with Jesus.

A Strange Response

Here is the scene, the picture. Lazarus died in the town of Bethany, which is a village just east of Jerusalem. Jesus was not there, but was over in the town of Perea, which is over on the other side of the Jordan River, quite a long distance away. Perea is near where John the Baptist ministered (John 10.40-42). It is a long, hot, and dusty walk from there to where Lazarus died.

The Purpose

When Jesus heard the news that his friend was sick, his response was very unusual. Jesus said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God.” That answer sounds cold and harsh, and not at all sympathetic. How could God get glory from Lazarus being sick? Here are several possible answers to this.

The Miracle

Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and that people would glorify God when it happened since only God can raise the dead.

A Walking Advertisement

There are no words of Lazarus recorded in the Bible, but his whole life was a message after his resurrection. In fact, after he was brought back to life by Jesus we find the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus because so many Jews became believers in Jesus on account of Lazarus (Jn 12.10-11). Lazarus was a walking advertisement, a walking sign, that Jesus is God. When the established religion feels threatened, they believe they must kill the new religion...even when the established religion is a false religion.

Glorifying God

Jesus told his disciples that he was glad he had not been present when Lazarus died. Jesus said this so they would get a chance to witness the resurrection and increase their own faith. Jesus let his disciples go through difficult things in order to stretch and build their faith. Donald Gray Barnhouse once wrote, “I believe that God does this with everyone, with all of us all the time.” To teach us to trust Him, God puts us in a difficult spot. When God wants us to trust Him greatly, He puts us in an impossible spot. Think about that!

The Friends of Lazarus

Many of Mary and Martha’s friends came to console them in the loss of their brother. So Jesus knew that there would be a large number of people witnessing the miracle and that they would bring glory to God - and that many of them would be drawn to Jesus as a result of what they saw. Lives are often changed through the experience of another person’s death, and Jesus knew that would happen here.

The Glory of the Cross

In John 17.1 and 17.5, Jesus referred to the cross as His “Glorification”. Just days after Lazarus’ death and resurrection came His own death and resurrection. Jesus knew that what He was about to do for Lazarus would cause the Pharisees to put Him to death. His death would ultimately bring salvation to the world, and so in an indirect way, Lazarus’ death leads to God’s glory, by leading to the death of Christ.

The Delay

Jesus started by saying something unusual to the disciples and then continued by doing something unusual when he postponed His visit to see about his friend Lazarus’ condition. John says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, yet he stayed two more days in Perea without going to Bethany. No priest friend today would be able to get away with that!

When there is a crisis and the priest is called to offer support, there is no way he could wait two days and then show up at the hospital. Yet somehow Jesus did not go to be with his friend, even though Jesus loved Lazarus and the family.

The reason, of course, was that Jesus knew what He was going to do when He did arrive. By postponing an immediate answer to their need of the family, Jesus was able to arrange an even greater demonstration of His love.

Think about this. Sometimes the love of God is delayed for our own ultimate benefit. First, delays in expressions of God’s love can allow time for us to think things through more clearly. For example, we have asked God for something and the answer is delayed. Then we have time to reflect on the situation and by doing this we can gain more understanding and a more clear way to proceed.

Second, delays can help confirm our faith. It is easy to trust the Lord when we have everything we need. But when God’s answer is delayed it causes our faith to be stretched - and that is a good thing.

The Jews in the time of Jesus had a tradition, a belief that at death a person’s spirit remained close to the body for two days; after that it left. Jesus may have been allowing that two-day period to pass so there would be no question about Lazarus’ death. There is no Biblical support for that belief, of course. But perhaps Jesus did not want superstition or tradition to get in the way of what He was planning to do.

The Pronouncement

Another strange turn of events happened when Jesus tries to explain it to the disciples. He says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” The disciples were worried about Jesus going near Jerusalem since the Jews wanted to persecute Him.

They thought Lazarus would be fine by himself if he was just sleeping, so why risk a confrontation with the Jews? But then, after a discussion, Jesus puts it to them plainly. “Lazarus is dead.” He wanted the disciples to see the resurrection (vs 15) so off the Bethany they went.

A Sorrowful Response

In the middle section of this story, we see Jesus’ strange response to death replaced by a sorrowful response.

The Sorrow of the Sisters

Mary and Martha have very different personalities, and you can see that here as well as in Luke 10.38-42. Mary is relaxed, Martha is consumed with concern. She is nervous about everything. Martha accuses Jesus of letting Lazarus die needlessly - she says that if Jesus had come earlier He could have healed him before he died. But Jesus tells her that Lazarus will live. Martha then goes to call Mary, who has been waiting in their house. When Mary came to where Jesus was, she said the same thing Martha did - that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had come sooner. Mary is sounding like Martha, and Martha is sounding like Mary. The two sisters were consumed with grief, and they are very upset and confused as to why Jesus had not come sooner to care for their brother. They say that Jesus has let them down. Many people today say the same thing...That they called on Jesus but He did not do things the way they wanted Him to, so they were no longer going to believe in Him ...You have probably talked to people like that. As Mary and Martha said, and as many people today say, there would be no grief if Jesus would just come when I call Him. He should do what I tell Him to do.

He Wept

Now, the next thing that follows right after the sister’s grief, is a scene that can touch our hearts in a special way. What is it? Well, it is the sorrow of the Saviour. Jesus experienced sorrow, which is a very human feeling. One translation says that Jesus “groaned in the spirit”. This means He was deeply troubled. He was agitated, which is to say he shook with emotion. This is a picture of Jesus feeling intensely sorrowful because of the grief of Lazarus’ family and friends. It was their grief that prompted His own.

And verse 35 shows in the most direct way possible the sorrow Jesus felt over the whole situation. “Jesus wept”. Literally, the test implies that Jesus burst into tears. He identified with the loss of His friends and their extended family. The New Testament says we are to weep with those who weep (Rm 12.15), and bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6.2). Suffering of our own helps us identify with the suffering of others, which is another reason not to resist the troubles God brings into your life.
Jesus is called “the suffering Servant” because He had a heart easily broken by the needs of other people.

A Supernatural Response

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus displayed both that He was human and that He was God. His humanity was shown in His having the same emotion that His friends had. But He does some more human things. You see, He does things that any human could do, right up to the time He gets to the point where human power stopped. Jesus approaches the scene like you or I would. First, He tells the bystanders to take away the stone covering the tomb. Could He have moved it with a wave of His hand? Yes, but He did not. He does the same thing when He instructs those standing by to take the grave clothes off of Lazarus. Could He have raised Lazarus right through the grave clothes? Yes, but He didn’t. You see, Jesus’ miracles are never flashy or showy. They are always easy for us to understand.

In this Gospel, we learn that Jesus does not do for us what we can do for ourselves, but He does do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

So let us look for a moment at Martha, who is always the person who is concerned with details. Martha steps in to warn Jesus that there will be a stink if they take away the stone. She tells Jesus that Lazarus has been dead for four days. How often do we give God advice about things which He has exhaustive knowledge about? If we would just obey Him it would demonstrate greater faith than when we remind Him of this or that.

Martha has no idea what Jesus is doing. She probably thought Jesus just wanted to see His friend Lazarus one last time. In that sense, warning Him about the smell and condition of the body makes some sense. But she should have known by this time to trust Jesus and wait to see what He had in mind. Especially since Jesus tells her it is the glory of God that is about to be revealed (vs 40). In any event, Jesus tells the people to move the stone and they did.

Next, Jesus stands before the opened tomb and called Lazarus from death back to life. “Lazarus come out”. And the once-dead friend of Jesus walked out of the tomb. Some Bible scholars say that if Jesus had not mentioned Lazarus by name, all the people in the tomb would have come out!

This was a very great miracle - the miracle of resurrection. We know that in the time of Lazarus, dead people were “mummified”. That means that he was wrapped in strips of linen cloth all around his body, with embalming spices being enclosed within the wraps of the cloth. The body would be placed in the tomb on a shelf along with others buried in the same tomb. Lazarus would not even be able to see since his head was also covered with cloth wrapping. He somehow made it outside of the tomb still wrapped in the grave clothes - at this point Jesus gave instructions to unwrap him and “let him go”.

Someone once said two of the greatest things God gives Christians to do are:
To remove the stones from in front of the grave, and
To remove the grave clothes from those resurrected from death to new life.

Remove the Stone and Grave Clothes

Removing the stones is a symbolic way of saying to remove the obstacles to a person’s faith. For example, answering their questions, being their friend, and in all ways smoothing their path to Jesus.

And removing the grave clothes is helping that person; our friend or our family-member; to take off their old person and put on the new. God gives the new life, but our part is to help them as they move from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Practical Conclusion

Before closing our homily on the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, we need to look again at the part of this miracle that spans the centuries to our time today. This message is as valuable to us today as it was to those people standing right there and who saw Lazarus walk out of the grave. In verses 25 and 26, Jesus said.

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this?

Jesus originally asked that question to Martha. But right now, He is asking you the same question. This is the most important question in the Bible. It is the most important question you will ever be asked. It is true that we will die a physical death, but Jesus is talking about spiritual life and death. You will die physically, but if you believe in Jesus you will never die spiritually. You will live forever in heaven with Jesus.

If you have read this story and you want to live forever, then right now ask Jesus to come into your life; tell Him that you have sinned, and are sorry for your sins. In the best way you know how, ask Jesus to come into your life and give you the free gift of eternal life.

The miracle that will happen in your life is the greatest miracle of all...you will move from death to life, and you will be “born again in spirit” into eternal life with God. If you have never trusted Jesus, you can do it today.

Today's Gospel reading sends out two messages to those who hear it. First of all, through our living faith in Jesus, all our physical bodies will be raised in the final resurrection. Secondly, especially now with the approaching of Easter Sunday, we are called to symbolically resurrect from sin to grace by partaking in the Sacrament of Confession to cleanse our souls so they may be pleasing to God, now and forever. We need also to resurrect from the present situation of isolation and separation from one another due to Covid19. This promises us a greater reward for all the past days of suffering and pain especially those who lived through terrible illness caused by this virus. Therefore, let us march forward faithfully in our blessed hope, knowing that those who believe in Jesus, will live.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

4th Sunday of Lent : Year: A

1 Sam 16.1b, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5.8-14; Jn 9.1-41

Silence in the Cemetery
One day I visited our cemetery at Mira Road (Mumbai – India). I used to say to people that whenever they have troubles and problems disturbing them, they should make it a point to visit the cemetery. I would dramatize a whole lot of issues that can be meditated on the cemetery. Issues like when we are totally lost in a relationship, when we feel poor, miserable, rejected, disappointed, they would find an atmosphere there to reawaken a sense of uselessness, a sense of tranquility, a sense of total surrender to God. I used to ask our parishioners to meditate on these wonderful people who were with us one day in the parish, joking, smiling, shaking hands, at times protesting, criticizing etc. are now in the eternal calm of the Father. That day I meditated on one point, what is the will of my Father for me? I didn’t get an answer. But some sense of total peace flooded in my heart. I felt that in spite of my sins and mistakes, there is one who cares for me. Who gazes into my heart, the one who tenderly caresses me. I felt myself on the top of the world. I visited a couple of graves, especially the graves of the young ones who left us recently, through tragic deaths. A tear came to my eye, and a deep sense of sigh, that these young ones perhaps could have made a difference in their families, in their neighborhood etc. I thought for a while, and got convinced that it was the will of the Father for them. I came back with an experience to the parish house. I felt detached from many of my so called vicious thinking and petty attachments. I felt free at least for a while. Now I need to work at these things so that I can try to be free. I was holding this experience till today, and I have shared it with you now.

Born Blind
Today's Gospel reading reminds us of Jesus being the Light. (Jn 9.1-41) As we heard, it was the story of the man who was physically blind since birth. This reading reminds us that by nature, we are all born spiritually blind, blind to so many multimillion things around us. Our blindness ends when we were admitted into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. By remaining righteousness through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist, we have maintained our sight. Should we choose to neglect our blessed hope and shipwreck, surely, we will quickly find ourselves blinded by the darkness that surrounds us. The real blindness in our lives could be our attachments. Attachments to the way we think that others should be.

Children of the Light
Today's Second reading (Eph 5.8-14) reminded us to live as children of the Light. It presented the contrast between those who live a Christian life versus the pagans. The Christians were compared to the light versus the darkness. Why did Saint Paul feel it necessary to remind the Ephesians of this truth? It was because some men had a tendency of allowing themselves to be influenced by Gnostic teachings. These individuals considered themselves enlightened and above all considerations of good or evil. Surely, pride must have taken over their reasoning.

The lesson that we learn from the first reading of today is that God is free to elect whoever He chooses. Divine wisdom far surpasses human wisdom. Human wisdom is limited to what it sees and what it hears. Divine wisdom searches the soul, knowing every thoughts of the mind. Divine wisdom knows those who are fearful of the Lord, those who are humble, and those who will serve the Lord in obedience. It knows those who will live as children of the Light.

We are all called to be light to others. We should never become darkness. Hence, each one’s duty is to find out ways and means of becoming the light of Christ.

Blind Attachment
The blind man in the Gospel passage is attached, attached to his own thinking. Pharisees too are attached to their way of thinking. Now the tragedy of an attachment is that if its object is not attained it causes unhappiness. But if it is attained. It does not cause happiness — it merely causes a flash of pleasure followed by weariness. and It is always accompanied, of course, by the anxiety that you may lose the object of your attachment. You will say, "Can't I keep just one attachment?" Of course. You can keep as many as you want. But for each attachment you pay a price in lost happiness. Think of this. The nature of attachments is such, that even if you satisfy many of them in the course of a single day, the one attachment that was not satisfied will prey upon your mind and make you unhappy. There is no way to win the battle of attachments. As well search for water without wetness as for an attachment without unhappiness. No one has ever lived who has come up with a formula for keeping the objects of one's attachments without struggle, anxiety, fear and, sooner or later, defeat.

The Battle
There is only one-way to win the battle against blind attachments. Drop them. Contrary to popular belief, dropping attachments is easy. All you have to do is see; but really see, the following truths. First truth. You are holding on to a false belief, namely, the belief that without this particular person or thing you will not be happy. Take your attachments one at a time and see the falseness of this belief. You may encounter resistance from your heart, but the moment you do see, there will be an immediate emotional result. At that very instant the attachment loses its force. Second truth, if you just enjoy things, refusing to let yourself be attached to them, that is, refusing to hold the false belief that you will not be happy without them, you are spared all the struggle and emotional strain of protecting them and guarding them for yourself. Has it occurred to you that you can keep all the objects of your attachments without giving them up? Without renouncing a single one of them and you can enjoy them even more on a non-attachment, a non-clinging basis, because you are peaceful now and relaxed and unthreatened in your enjoyment of them? The third and final truth, if you learn to enjoy the scent of a thousand flowers you will not cling to one or suffer when you cannot get it. If you have a thousand favorites dishes, the loss of one will go unnoticed and leave your happiness unimpaired. But it is precisely your attachments that prevent you from developing a wider and more varied taste for things and people.

In the light of these three truths no attachment can survive. But the light must shine uninterruptedly if it is to be effective. Attachments can only thrive in the darkness of illusion. The rich man cannot enter the kingdom of joy not because he wants to be bad but because he chooses to be blind.

The Blind Man
When some Pharisees heard the words of Jesus, they said, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" (v. 40) To this, Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, 'We see, “your sin remains” (v. 41). In other words, he who is blind cannot be guilty of sin for not knowing the truth for he is unaware of the truth. But he who is aware of and rejects the truth, claiming that his way is the way, he is guilty of sin. It is only when one realizes the extent of his blindness that there is hope of seeing the light. But what makes a case hopeless is when a person possesses self-satisfaction.

Practical Conclusion
In conclusion, "We must work the works of him who sent (us) while it is day; night is coming when no one can work." (Jn 9.4) As the blind man confessed Christ before others, through our Baptism we were called to plead the cause of the Light. If we are rejected because of our spiritual calling, let us rejoice, for it is Christ Himself who is being rejected through our testimony. In the end, the words of Jesus shall be fulfilled, "For judgment I have come into the world." (Jn. 9.39). Casting out our petty attachments can make us children of light and make us salt of the earth and light so that we are capable of bringing some happiness, I mean light in the lives of those who suffer more than us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year: A

Ex 17.3-7; Rm 5.1-2, 5-8; Jn 4.5-42

I would be Your Slave
St. Francis of Assisi was an ardent advocate of the doctrine of the indwelling of God in man. It enabled him to love every one equally whatever his status in life. One day he met a fellow who had no love for God. As they walked along they met a man who was blind and paralyzed. St. Francis asked the sightless cripple. “Tell me if I were to restore your eyesight and the use of your limbs, would you love me?” “Ah,” replied the beggar, “I would not only love you but I would be your slave for the rest of my life.” “See,” said Francis to the man who maintained that he could not love God, “this man would love me if I gave him his sight and his health. Why don’t you love God Who created you with eyesight and strong limbs?” That is what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. If we love him because of the countless blessings he has given us by “keeping his words” he will start dwelling within us in the company of his Father and the Holy Spirit, making us the temples of the Triune God.

The Will of God
How can we do the will of the Father? Simple questions of this kind can disturb us. Don’t we all agree that the will of the Father has been revealed to us through all that happens to us around?

In his posthumously published book, Treasure in Clay, the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen writes. “No true vocation starts with ‘what I want’, or ‘what I would like to do,’ it starts with God.” I quote these words because the gospel reading we have just heard shows us Jesus entering publicly on his vocation. As he does so Jesus’ first concern is to show that he is a man under obedience.

My Food and Drink

“To fulfill all righteousness” meant, for Jesus, doing the will of his heavenly Father. That was all that ever mattered for Jesus. Later, he would say that doing his Father’s will was what kept him going. When his disciples told him he must eat something, Jesus said. “I have food to eat of which you do not know … Doing the will of him who sent me and bringing his work to completion is my food” (Jn 4. 31-34). Our religion is so centered on Jesus Christ that we may fail to realize how little he did to draw attention to himself. The theme of Jesus’ preaching was not himself, but God’s kingdom. He came, he said, not to do his will, but the will of another. to serve God by serving others.

This is My Beloved Son

As a devout Jew, Jesus knew by memory many passages from the scriptures of his people — what we call the Old Testament. The words Jesus heard as he emerged from the Jordan following his baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” would have reminded him of the words of our first reading, from the prophet Isaiah. “Here is my servant … my chosen one with whom I am pleased.” Remembering what followed in that Isaiah passage, Jesus knew that he was not called to be the powerful, royal Messiah people were expecting. He would not be a political leader. “not crying out, not shouting,” as Isaiah says in that first reading. He was called instead to a ministry of gentleness. “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,” to quote Isaiah’s words again.

Why is it important for us to know this? Because each one of us was given a similar task when we were baptized. Like Jesus, we are called “to fulfill all righteousness” by serving God and others. Responding to that call is the highest and best thing we can do with the one life that God has given us. Do we really believe that?

Our Designs

Many people do not. The ambition of many people is to “do their own thing,” as the popular modern phrase puts it. Actually, few of us succeed very well in doing our own thing. Rich or poor, female or male, black or white, young, middle-aged or old, all of us are limited by circumstances not of our own making. The poor wish they were rich; the rich think they still don’t have enough, and spend much of their time guarding what they do have from loss. No wonder that so many people feel they’re on a treadmill; or say. “Its war out there.”

The Happier Way

Part of the Gospel, the good news which Jesus Christ proclaims, is that it doesn’t have to be like that. There is another way to live. a better way, and certainly a happier one. It is the way Jesus lived. Jesus was never concerned with doing his own thing. He wanted one thing only; to do God’s thing. How many of Jesus’ sisters and brothers have discovered this key to a happy and fulfilled life we cannot know. Most of them are anonymous. Sometimes, however, God lets us identify some of them. Mother Teresa was such a person. So was Pope John XXIII — as those of us old enough to remember him know well.

Pope John Paul II was another person who found happiness in “fulfilling all righteousness” — in doing not his own thing but God’s thing. Weighed down in his closing years by infirmities, a physical wreck yet still mentally alert, Pope John Paul was a sign to the world that life is still worth living, even when one is old and infirm. On the eve of his eightieth birthday, the Pope wrote a letter “To my elderly brothers and sisters.” Here is some of what he said. “Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life. For this I thank the Lord. It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God!”

Bid me come to you

The concluding paragraphs of this beautiful letter have a message for all of us. whatever our age or circumstances. Let me conclude by reading them to you.After the words just quoted about his joy in giving himself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God, the Pope continues.

“At the same time, I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me. from life to life! And so I often find myself saying, with no trace of melancholy, a prayer recited by priests after the celebration of the Eucharist. ‘At the hour of my death call me and bid me come to you.’ This is the prayer of Christian hope, which in no way detracts from the joy of the present, while entrusting the future to God’s gracious and loving care. “Bid me come to you!”. this is the deepest yearning of the human heart, even in those who are not conscious of it.

The Words of Jesus echo our present short-term perseverance. Entering the third week in Lenten Season, we are making every effort to persevere in our fasting, our penances and our prayers so we may obtain the strength that we need to overcome our sinful tendencies. By the grace of God, we shall achieve our personal goals so we may be one with Jesus as He is one with the Father (Jn 17.11).

Water from Rock

Today's First Reading from the Book of Exodus (Ex 17.3-7) was a prophetic picture of what was to come through Jesus Christ. It consisted of one of the three events found in the Old Testament that speak of people thirsting for water.

The first event took place in Mirah (Ex 15.22-7) where Moses turned bitter water into sweet water. The second event, (Ex 17.3- 7) the one that was read today, took place at Rephidim. Being without water, Moses was commanded by God to take the elders with him and to strike the rock with the staff. Then, miraculously, water came out of the rock. The third event took place at Kadesh (Num 20.2-13) where once more Moses was commanded by God to assemble the congregation and to command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. As biblical history tell us, Moses did not trust in the Lord. {Num 20.12) Because he struck the rock twice, he was punished and not allowed to enter the promised land.

In view of the above events, Moses was a type of Christ, both providing water to the people. On this subject, Saint Paul tells us, "Our ancestors all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness." (1 Cor. 10.4-5)

Water is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. On this subject, the Catholic Church teaches us, "The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth. just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Cor 12.13) Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified (Jn 19.34; 1 Jn 5.8) as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." (Jn 4.10-14, 7.38; Ex 17.1-6; Is 55.1; Zech 14.8; 1 Cor 10.4; Rev 21.6; 22.17) (CCC 694)

God’s Love in the Heart
Today's Second Reading (Rm 5.1-2, 5-8) informs us that God's love was poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us through Christ. The Divine love of God assures salvation to those who are justified. Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rm 5.1). Through peace with God, our reconciliation replaces our alienation that was caused by the disobedience of Adam.

Jesus at the Well

Tired of His journey, Jesus sat on the ground by Jacob's well (Jn 4.6). (Jacob's well is located between "Tell el-Balatah" and "Askar.") During that time, while the disciples had gone to the city to buy food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water (Jn 4.7-8). Jesus asked her to give Him water. At this point, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jn 4.9). In those days, it was unheard of for a rabbi to speak to a woman in public, even worst for a Jew to request water from a Samaritan. The Jewish people considered the Samaritans to be unclean, this including their utensils for eating and drinking. Therefore it appears that Jesus was asking to drink from an unclean water jar? Yet, Jesus was not bothered a bit by such scruples.

The Hesitation

Knowing the Samaritan woman's hesitation, Jesus told her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (Jn 5.10) What is the gift of God that Jesus was speaking about? It was Jesus Himself! But who was Jesus to the Samaritan woman at that moment? All she could see was a thirsty Jewish man who had been travelling.

What is Living Water?
And what was this living water that the thirsty Traveller was offering her? The Samaritan woman must have understood "living water" to mean running water versus water from a well or cistern water. But is this what Jesus was telling her? In the Old Testament, when a reference was made to "living water," it meant "water of life." It meant Divine vitality, revelation and wisdom (Jer 2.13; Zech 14.8; Eze 47.9; Prov 13.14).

Literal Meaning

As Nicodemus literally took the Words of Jesus when he was told that he had to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (Jn 3.4- 6), the woman also literally took the Words of Jesus. Unable to logically understand Jesus, she said, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his children and his flocks drank from it?" (Jn 3.11-12).

How Could Jesus get Water?

Since Jesus had no means of getting water out of the well, where would He get his "living water" from? When considering how great Jacob was in the eyes of God and the people, and that he had no better source of water than the well that was present, how could Jesus offer to give better water?

Ordinary Water

To her question, Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (Jn 3.13-4).

Thirst of Wisdom

In Sirach 24.20-1, we read that he who drinks wisdom will thirst again. One could never satisfy the desire for wisdom. But, on the contrary, through the Sacrament of Baptism, the water that Jesus will give, will have the fountain of eternal life within him.

Understanding "living water" to mean never to thirst again, the Samaritan woman asked Jesus for some of it so she would never have to go back to the well to draw water. (Jn. 3.15) What followed was a conversion in which Jesus revealed to the woman that she had five husbands and that she was now living with another man (Jn 3.16- 8).

A Prophet

Jesus' reply to the request of the woman for living water was intended to show her that He possessed superhuman knowledge. This provided the woman with sufficient enlightenment to perceive that the Words of Jesus must have had a greater meaning. Surprised, the woman said to Jesus, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet" (Jn 3.19). Now, the woman no longer saw a Jewish man before her, but rather, a prophet.

Place of Worship

This provided the woman with a perfect opportunity to settle a long standing controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans regarding the proper place of sacrificial worship (Gen 12.7, 33.20; Deut 27.4). The woman said to Jesus, "Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem" (Jn 3.20).

The Hour is coming

To this, Jesus responded, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem" (Jn 3.21). The response from Jesus indicated that soon, it will make no difference who is right or who is wrong. For "the Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Dei Filius 3 DS 3008). Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries" (CCC 66).

Manner of Worship

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him" (Jn 3.21-22). In other words, in Judaism, God's revelation was safeguarded. But the Samaritans, although they had good faith, they preserved the truth in a distorted form. Salvation came through the Jewish people. The proof was Jesus Himself, He being Jewish. Through Jesus was the fulfillment of the expected Messiah.

When Jesus said that "the hour is coming," He was referring to His glorification, the "hour" when His Church would be instituted. The final sacrifice will have been made, the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

God is Spirit

Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn 3.24). These words are echoed in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. "The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15.45). Christ is the life-giving Spirit in the sense that His actions are life-giving. God is Spirit in the sense that He gives the Spirit. Equally, God is light and love (1 Jn 1.5, 4.8). That is why the believers must worship God in "spirit and truth," in the truth as thought by the Spirit who guides and teaches.

The Messiah

At that moment, the woman indicated that she knew that the Messiah was coming and that He would proclaim all things to the people (Jn 3.25). She remembered the Words of God, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command" (Deut 18.18). Having perceived that Jesus was a prophet over and above being Jewish, the woman now suspected that He might be the promised Messiah. To this, Jesus answered, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you" (Jn 3.26). Jesus affirmed the fulfillment of the words spoken through Isaiah, "Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore, in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I" (Is 52.6).

The Disciples

During the Gospel Reading, we then heard that the disciples returned and were astonished that Jesus was speaking to a woman. Following that, the woman left and returned to the city, leaving behind her water jar. For she had no more need for it because she had come to the source of living water. Once in the city, the woman invited the people to come and see Jesus who told her everything that she had done. Her words echoed the words of Philip to Nathanael, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote" (Jn 1.45).

My Food is…

In the meantime, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat some food (Jn 3.31).To this Jesus answered, "I have food to eat that you do not know about”.

So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat? My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work" (Jn 3.31-4). It is obvious that the disciples did not understand the full meaning of what Jesus was saying. The words of Jesus summed up His entire career. He came to do the will of His Father who sent Him, even to death on the Cross. In Jesus was found perfect obedience, to the last drop of blood.

The Gospel Reading ended by telling us that the people came from the city to hear Jesus. As they stated, "It is no longer because of what (the woman) said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world." (Jn 3.42) Not only did the Samaritans come to believe, they also recognized the fulfillment of the Messiah in Jesus.

Practical Conclusion
From today's readings, we are reminded that as children of God, as members of the Body of Christ, we too have been called to do the Divine Will of He who has called us to share in the life-giving Spirit through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism. As Jesus was called to complete His work, we too are called to complete our calling through our perseverance in the living faith. To persevere necessitates our ongoing reception of the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist as the means of maintaining our righteousness before the Lord God.

With the approach of Easter that commemorates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we now, more than ever, have an obligation to reinstate our holiness through the Holy Sacraments that have been given to us by Jesus Himself. Let us keep this in mind as we enter the Third Week in Lent.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

2nd Sunday of Lent-Year: A
Gen 12.1-4; 2 Tim 1.8b-10; Mt 17.1-9

Costly Cosmetic Surgeries
Today cosmetic surgeries are a normal procedure to enhance one’s personality. At times these expensive surgeries can also distort one’s appearance. I met a lady who had a plastic surgery and now she is fighting in the court for compensation for distorting her face. She claims Rs. 10,00,000 (CAD $ 20,000) as compensation because the doctor who had promised her that her face would be more beautiful had in fact disfigured it. She is suffering and is unable to come in public. Yet, I encouraged her to face the reality. Well, she has coped with the situation to a certain extent frequenting some counseling sessions.

What is Human Beauty?
Of course modern markets encourage us to transform ourselves into beautiful persons. What is being beautiful? Is it not being beautiful inside our being, in our soul than being beautiful in our appearance? There was recently a program in NDTV about appearances. Yes, majority were convinced that the external appearance gave them a sense of confidence and security. What about the inner assurance and confidence? Can we get that just being beautiful for a while? The truth is that when you live with a person or persons for a few days, don’t you reveal yourself fully who you are on the inside?

Lent invites us to be transfigured from inside out
The account of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ as recorded here in Mark (parallel passages are found in Matthew 17.1-3 and Luke 9.28-36) is a demonstration to three witnesses that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be. In all three accounts of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, we are given the names of the three disciples who accompanied Jesus and who stood as human witnesses to the glory that was Christ's. There were also three heavenly witnesses, Moses, Elijah, and the voice of God from heaven. Therefore, the Old Testament law of three witnesses required to attest to any fact (Deut 19.15) was satisfied both in earth and in heaven.

The word "transfigured" is a very interesting word. The Greek word is "metamorpho" and it means to transform, literally or figuratively to metamorphose, or to change. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. The prefix "meta" means to change and the "morphe" means form. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. To change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. Jesus' divine nature was "veiled" (Heb 10.20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the ‘Shekinah’ the glory of God incarnate in the Son. The voice of God attesting to the truth of Jesus' Sonship was the second time God's voice was heard. The first time was at Jesus' baptism into His public ministry in the presence of John the Baptist (Mt 3.7; Mk 1.11; Lk 3.22).

Glimpse of Glory
Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. This truth is emphasized for us in a passage in the Apostle Paul's letter to Philippians. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2.5-11).

The Son of God came to earth in the form of a man to be the true servant of God and to gift mankind with the greatest gift ever given, eternal life. The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a visible sign in the presence of reliable witnesses of the reality of the power of God and the glory, which is Christ Jesus

The Mountain
The traditional location of the Transfiguration is on Mount Tabor, which is about a six day walk from Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had been with His disciples prior to this event. In Caesarea Philippi, Peter had said to Jesus with faith believing, "You are the Christ, the Son the living God." (Mt 16.16) After this declaration Jesus confirmed its truth, and told His disciples that it was not yet the time for them to tell others that He was the Messiah and He began to share that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed and be raised again to life on the third day (see Mt 16.21). The disciples were saddened and somewhat disillusioned by this news. Peter even tried to rebuke Jesus and prevent Him from allowing such terrible things to happen, but Jesus rebuked Peter for his carnality. Peter and the other disciples expected that since Jesus was the Messiah, His glorious Kingdom would be imminent. But Jesus taught that first comes suffering, then comes the glory and the reward (Mt 17.24-27). Later, Peter finally learned this lesson and his epistle reflects it (see I Pet 1.6-8, 11; 4.12-5.11).

The Three Disciples
The disciples closest to Jesus, Peter, James and John, were likely the one’s most saddened by the news of His coming death, and they were the ones Jesus chose to come with Him to the mountain and witness His glory. It must have been a great encouragement to them. As Jesus was praying and having communion with God His Father, His appearance changed drastically. The three men watched with amazement and awe as Jesus shone with heavenly brightness, so much so, that there was no adequate earthly description for it. In Mark’s Gospel the brightness is compared to exceedingly white snow, or something cleaner than anything possible on earth. Luke’s description says Jesus was white and glistening, and we read from Matthew’s account, that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light. Many years later when the risen and glorified Lord Jesus appeared to John on Patmos he described that His "countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Rev 1.16b).

Prayer Transforms
On the Transfiguration mount, the drastic change in Jesus’ appearance occurred when He was praying and having communion with God. To a lesser degree the countenance of Moses had also changed when he had been in the presence of God (Ex 34.29, 30). What is on the inside shows on the outside, like when Stephen, the first Christian martyr was testifying to the truth, his face was like that of an angel (Acts 6.15).

As Jesus was praying in this glorious state, Moses and Elijah appeared in some visible form, talking with Jesus about His coming departure that He would accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9.31). God the Father had revealed to them what would happen to Jesus. Their words were surely meant to strengthen Jesus for the trials and suffering He willingly was soon to endure.

Peter’s Excitement
Peter was so excited to see these great men of old, that He inappropriately made the suggestion of making three tents, one for each of them, likely so they could stay longer, and undoubtedly so Peter could speak with them too. Peter may also have thought that this was the beginning of the Messiah’s earthly reign as king, but this was not God’s timing. God interrupted Peter by causing a bright, thick cloud to cover Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and saying very important words, similar to the words He spoke at Jesus’ baptism. "This is My beloved Son in whom I well pleased. Hear Him!" (Mt 17.5b; cf. 3.17) God desires that we listen to and obey Jesus, for He is far greater than Moses, the great Law-giver, or Elijah the great prophet. God wanted Peter to know that he could not put His Son on the same level of importance as Moses or Elijah. Also, the important thing is not just seeing wonderful sights and having great experiences, but what is more important is hearing the Word of the Lord. God emphatically commanded that we listen to Jesus!

Jesus Stands Alone
When the cloud lifted, Jesus stood alone. The three disciples had fallen in fear on their faces when they heard the voice of God, but Jesus touched them and told them not to be afraid. Then Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what had happened, until after He had arisen from the dead. Some people had already tried to forcibly make Jesus king, and if the people were told about what Peter, James and John witnessed, then they might once again try to do it, but it was not the plan of God at this time.

From the Transfiguration we see three great Testimonies about the Greatness and superiority of Jesus.

God the Father authenticated the Divinity of Jesus by His audible voice.

Moses and Elijah representing the Law and the Prophets testified by their presence that Jesus was from above and He was the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

The three disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ glorious state. This experience had a great effect on these disciples and their testimony of it had a great effect on all the others to strengthen their faith. Peter never forgot it. In his epistle he recalls the Transfiguration saying. “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet 1.16b). Likewise, when John wrote his Gospel, he recalled. "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." (Jn 1.14) In fact, John’s whole Gospel emphasizes the Deity of Jesus and the glory of His Person (Cfr. Jn 2.11; 7.39; 11.4; 12.23; 13.31-32; 20.31).

On the mount that day, we see represented and combined, the two Covenants of God. The New Covenant represented through Peter, James, and John who would enter into this covenant through the work of Jesus; and the Old Covenant was represented by Moses and Elijah. The Saints of old, must have looked with excited anticipation to Jesus - the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets (Lk 24.27; Heb 1.1) and the ushering in of the New Covenant of Grace through the work Jesus would accomplish.

Practical Conclusion
The Transfiguration revealed the plan of God for redemption and the importance and necessity of Jesus’ crucifixion. Moses and Elijah encouraged Jesus in the work He would accomplish for the salvation of the world. The Law of Moses could not save anyone, nor could prophecies, but Jesus alone, of whom the prophecies spoke, was the Redeemer of sinful mankind.

The Transfiguration revealed the superiority of Jesus over Moses and the prophets.
It served as a pledge or foretaste of the future glory that Jesus would attain by obediently suffering and going to the Cross.

It served as a dim picture of the glorious state awaiting the followers of Jesus, those who have been redeemed by His precious blood, will one day attain when our citizenship is in heaven. For Jesus Christ "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Phil 3.21).

In the Transfiguration we see the King of righteousness in His glory; we see the glory of His Person, the glory of His kingdom; the glory of His Nature; and even the glory of His submission to the will and plan of God that He go to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of evil men, yet we also see the glory of His power. Jesus had the power to prevent His crucifixion, but because of His great love for mankind, He willingly suffered and bore the sins of the world upon Himself that we might have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in heaven with Him.

The Transfiguration was a glorious revelation and a glorious experience for both Jesus and the three disciples to witness. It had a glorious outcome, for in it we see that, even though Jesus was to die, the outcome was predetermined, for He would be the Victor over death and even be glorified in death. Jesus is the glorious King indeed and He is worthy to be enthroned on our hearts and be King over our lives.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

First Sunday Of Lent : Year: A

Gen 2.7-9; 16-18, 2-5, 3.1-7; Rm 5.12-19; Mt 4.1-11

The Accident

Two employees of a soft wear company died on spot at Kashimira, close to our Parish at Mira Road St. Joseph’s (India) on 16th January 2008. People were shocked. All three didn’t wear helmet while riding the motorcycle. In spite of the warnings I used to give to young people in my parish, when such incidents occur our heart breaks. There is no way we can convince people. Were they tempted to travel with that velocity? Or were they overtaking a long vehicle? I am not here to judge. But my contention is that temptations just arise from nowhere. We need to be on our guard. Temptation to cross a road without attention to speeding vehicles, temptation to do things that are not healthy for our life, temptation to overdo certain things can really land us into greater troubles. This Sunday reminds us that even Jesus was tempted, but he faced all these temptations squarely with the power of prayer and fasting. Can we take a lesson at the inception of lent?

And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him (Mk 1.12-13).

The Temptation of Christ
So, begins and ends Mark's account of the wilderness temptations. Mark's concise summary helps establish the setting for the temptation of Jesus. The wilderness temptation is the first recorded event that follows the baptism of Jesus. It's important to review Christ's baptism to better understand the nature of Satan's attacks.

Baptism of Jesus
When Jesus was baptized God declared, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3.17; Mk 1.11). Satan challenged this declaration in the first two temptations.

The wilderness
Following the baptism, Mark indicated that the Spirit “immediately” led Jesus into the wilderness.

The word “wilderness” refers to deserted areas in the unpopulated wilds of Palestine. It is often translated as “desert.” Mark indicates Jesus was "with the wild beasts," presumably isolated from the distractions of humanity (Mk 1.13).

Jesus fasts 40 days
Jesus “ate nothing” for 40 days prior to the temptation (Lk 4.2). Moses and Elijah endured similar fasts before receiving divine revelations from God (Ex 34.28; I Kgs 19.8). And after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Mt 4.2-3).

The First Temptation
Satan tried to place doubt in the mind of Jesus with the words “If you are the Son of God.” Matthew shows that the devil came at the end of Jesus' fast.
The Trap
The danger of this temptation was not in making bread. Jesus was not under a prohibition from miraculously creating food. On two occasions Jesus used his power to create bread for a multitude of people (cfr. Mk 6.35-44; Mk 8.1-21). The real peril lay in Satan's proposed reason for creating bread. That reason is “If you are the Son of God”. Satan was challenging Christ's credentials.

Jesus quotes Moses
But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4.4). Jesus immediately perceived the real danger, and responded with a passage from Deuteronomy 8.3. In that passage, Moses reminded the Israelites that God humbled them in the wilderness when He provided manna from heaven.

His humble attitude
This quote gives insight into Christ's mindset during this ordeal. His reliance on God's will is contrasted with reliance on temporal things, like food. Jesus humbly relied on God. He rendered obedience by not doubting God's declaration, “This is my beloved Son.”

The Second Temptation
Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written, 'He will give His angels charge concerning you,' and, 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Mt 4.5-6).

Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem to stand on the temple. There Satan challenged Jesus to throw himself down. Although the exact spot is not given, Josephus recorded that Herod's royal portico towered 450 feet over the Kedron Valley.

Satan quotes scripture
Having lost the first challenge to Jesus, Satan appealed to scripture by quoting Psalm 91.11-12. When isolated from other passages, this proposal seems reasonable. If Jesus were God's Son, then scripture promised to save Him.

Jesus Responds
Deceptively, Satan tried inciting Jesus to test the scripture. Jesus addressed the real issue by quoting Deuteronomy 6.16. Jesus said to him, "On the other hand it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Mt 4.7).

Testing God
To commit this act would have tested God, not scripture. Putting God to the test does not refer to an exam. Rather, the idea of “experimenting with God” is contained in this phrase.

Had He fallen to this temptation, Jesus would have substituted humble faith in God's guidance with a blatant challenge to the Father's loving-kindness. God protects His children, but also expects them to exercise sound judgment.

Practical lessons
The contrast between the first and second temptations is instructive.
• The first challenged Jesus to doubt his position. Satan tried to undermine Christ's confidence.
• The second encouraged him to be over-confident in his standing with God. So confident that he would recklessly endanger himself to prove God would save him.

Personal Application
The two temptations of doubt and of recklessness are real today. A faithful Christian may doubt her salvation for lack of feeling or perceiving God's presence in her life. This is the danger of the first temptation.

The second is more sinister. A disobedient Christian may live in sin, recklessly presuming that God will forgive, regardless of his actions. Paul warned of this attitude when he wrote "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rm 6.1-2).

Jesus' method of Interpretation
The second temptation gives special insight into how Jesus interpreted scripture. Jesus interpreted scriptures in light of other passages, so that they harmonized.

Satan isolated a passage from Psalms 91.11-12, and suggested that it applied to the limited situation he presented Jesus with (throwing himself from the temple). When isolated from other passages Satan's suggested interpretation appears logical.

Jesus quickly showed that this perverted interpretation did not harmonize with scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy 6.16 which reads, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

Trends Today
The primary cause of church division today is improper interpretation of scripture. The first violation of Jesus' method of interpretation is to isolate a passage from other scriptures. The second violation of Christ's method is to interpret a passage outside it's proper context.

Read for yourself
Relying on another's interpretation is dangerous. Had Jesus relied on Satan's false interpretation, He would have failed. The Christians in Acts 17.11 were “examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Even though they had apostles teaching them, they took responsibility for verifying the accuracy of the things they were being taught. This responsibility falls on each Christian, not just church leaders.

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me" (Mt 4.8-9).

The Third Temptation
Since no mountain stands high enough to view all the world's kingdoms, it's likely that Satan exercised some supernatural power to show Christ “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (Lk 4.5).

Satan's authority
Jesus did not question Satan's authority to grant the world's kingdoms. Bear in mind, however, that Jesus did not directly address Satan's apparent deceptions in the first two temptations. Either Satan possessed this authority, or he was validating his reputation as “the father of lies” (Jn 8.44). In either case, Satan's authority was not the issue. His suggestion violated the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex 20.3).

Jesus Responds
Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Mt 4.10). Jesus quotes Moses; this time from Deuteronomy 6.13.

Gospel differences
The order of the 2nd and 3rd temptations is inverted in Matthew and Luke. Which account is chronological? Many commentators believe that Matthew's account is chronological, while Luke's is topical. This opinion is founded on two facts. Matthew 4.5 and 4.11 contain the word "then" when transitioning through this event. Luke connects the temptations with the word "and," which contains no chronological inference. Jesus' response to the third temptation strengthens this view. The words "Begone, Satan!" likely signal an end to this trial.

Angels Minister to Jesus
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (Mt 4.11).

When Satan left, angels attended to the needs of Jesus. The next angelic appearance during Christ's ministry occurred when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. An angel appeared in the garden to strengthen Him (Lk 22.43).

Was Jesus Tempted?
Some assert that Jesus could not be tempted by citing the following passage.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (Jas 1.13).

Two claims
Two claims are given to support the above conclusion.
1. Jesus was God in the flesh.
2. Since God cannot be tempted, Jesus was immune to temptation.

The True Claim
The first claim agrees with scripture. Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. See John 1.1-5, 14 and Colossians 2.15-18 for this evidence.

The False Claim
The second assertion does not agree with scripture. Twice the writer of Hebrews indicated that Jesus was tempted. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Heb 2.18). For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4.15).

Practical Conclusion
Jesus was tempted by Satan, and was in fact tempted in all the ways that we are tempted today. Yet He did not sin. One reason Jesus is our perfect high priest is because he can sympathize with us. He knows how it felt to be tempted.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Sirach 15:15–20; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10; Matthew 5:17–37

Jesus’s radical approach to the Ten Commandments not only to its essence but wants to present them in a perfect way giving a very clear explanation and referring to its innermost essential perfect sense. What Jesus says about what has been taught in the past is uncomfortably clear: those rules are not enough to achieve perfection of love. His followers are allowed no anger, no abusive language, no lustful thoughts, no divorce, no oaths. It is hard to avoid the demands of these teachings. We try to water them down at times, claiming they apply only to certain people or are meant as ideals. It doesn’t work. Jesus spoke them to the crowd, not to a specially chosen elite.
Jesus makes the claim that God’s law does not go far enough, that it is inadequate. His willingness to overrule the law of God is a sign of the divine power and authority with which Jesus taught. And that power and authority is the guarantee that somehow or other, I can, indeed, live as he calls me to do. The reason that I can is my Baptism. In Baptism, I am united with the Risen Lord, the One who has overcome death. Nothing, then, is truly impossible in living as he did. I can do it if I be willing to try.

The Pharisees considered the Mosaic law to be the summary of all wisdom, human and divine, a complete and sure guide of conduct, an assurance of good relations with God. This value of the law Jesus did not accept—as is evident from his own non-observance of the Sabbath rules and the laws of Levitical cleanliness. Yet in the beginning of our Gospel today, Jesus asserts that his mission is not to annul or destroy the Mosaic law but rather to fulfill it or bring the law to final perfection. He meant that his disciples were to follow exactly his complete and perfect understanding of the law. He explains what he means by six examples (four in this Gospel and two next Sunday). In each of these six examples, Jesus presents an antithesis between the old understanding of the law and his pronouncement of the perfect law. There is no easy, consistent pattern, however. What we understand here is that the law of Moses was good enough, but Jesus gave to this law a perfect interpretation.

In the first example, Jesus not only prohibits murder but even anger, which can lead to murder. Then he insists that fraternal relations are more important than cultic duties; that is, we must first be reconciled with our neighbor before we bring our offering to God’s altar. There must be extra effort on the part of one who gets angry to rectify this disorder in order that he can live peacefully with his family members or neighbours.

In the second example, Jesus not only prohibits adultery, but also lustful desires that can lead to adultery. Again, he insists on internal disposition not just external acts. This admonition server very well to all who are trying to trivialize the seriousness of this sin. In this modern world we know how people can get addicted to mass media junk that can invade our minds and hearts innumerable ways. Jesus wants wholehearted purity than just avoiding a big sin.

In the third example, he takes up the question of divorce. Regarding divorce, there were two governing views at the time: the conservative opinion (Shammai) which only permitted divorce in the case of adultery, or the liberal opinion (Hillel) which permitted divorce for lesser causes. Jesus rejects both views and does not permit divorce for any reason at all. Marriage is for life. There is no separation. Once married they both become one flesh.

In the fourth example, Jesus not only prohibits false oaths, but also implies that truthfulness should be secured by the inner integrity of the person, without the deceits and lack of trust surrounding some oaths and vows of the time. False oaths often make people believe, yet in reality more insistence on something would mean it contradicts its spirit.

In the fifth example—which will be read next week—our Lord rejects “an eye for an eye” retaliation of revenge and proposes non-resistance. In the last example, Jesus teaches not only love of neighbor but also love of enemies, after the example of God who sends rain on good as well as bad people.

The Lord said, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will not enter God’s Kingdom. This is because he is not concerned with negative legalisms but with positively doing the will of God. He is not concerned with carefully following complicated legalisms but with loving attitudes after Jesus’ own model. His first concern in not with the complexities of law but with the demanding ideal of love, generosity, kindness, patience and peace. In a word, his morality is internal, all encompassing and loving. This helps us understand the meaning of todays Gospel.

Paul did not try to use impressive words that showed great wisdom (2.1-4). But there was great wisdom in his words, although most people in the present age would not recognise that wisdom. That is why Paul called that wisdom a mystery, in other words, a secret. God had sent Paul to declare that secret knowledge, in public. And still people could not understand it.

Paul’s mystery is all about what true greatness really is. True greatness is called glory; it belongs to God alone. The mystery is that, at a future time, God has a plan to share his glory with all his people (1 Cor 15.51-52).

In Corinth there was a problem to understand what Paul was teaching them. This is what was happening with the church in Corinth. They were seeking wisdom, but they were doing so in the wrong way. Although they had committed to Christ and received the Holy Spirit, they were seeking generic or worldly wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. And because they were seeking generic wisdom, which in their day was made up of complicated philosophical ideals, they felt like the gospel message that Paul had delivered to them was too simple. Likely they were embarrassed about the seemingly weak idea of a crucified Messiah and they wanted something more, so they sought out the wisdom of their culture.

An example: we all know what it takes to lose weight – you must eat healthy and exercise. It’s very simple; we’re just not willing to do it. Exercising we maintain our health. In the same manner spiritual health is to be promoted with our constant efforts. This will turn out to be a great happiness and joyful experience to all who benefit from you. One thing is theory that in order to lose weight we need to do a set of exercises; the next most important thing is to do the exercise which is beneficial to us. Here is the most important part we need to play; that is leaving aside an ideal rule, we need to get into working out a suitable work out for our body; then the result will follow. This is what Jesus meant exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Isaiah 58.7–10; 1 Corinthians 2.1–5; Matthew 5.13–16

God wants a kind of fast that is accompanied by the loosing of the shackles of wickedness, lifting the yoke of oppression, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the poor, clothing the naked, and helping the needy neighbor. Those who thus practice social justice are assured of guidance, healing, and a protective escort. “Your righteousness” may mean the abovementioned acts of mercy or it may mean the righteousness of God which is imputed to those who believe.

Prophet Isaiah’s prediction that the godly one is assured that whenever he calls, the LORD will answer … “Here I am.” If he will eliminate oppression, stop pointing… the finger in accusation or in scoffing, and cease from mudslinging and slander, if he will alleviate human need, both spiritual and physical, then God promises that his night will turn to a bright day. He will enjoy guidance, abundant supply of good things, health and strength, beauty and fruitfulness, and national restoration.

There is a growing consensus of opinion that there is one . . . fundamental and essential need: a true and deep love of self, a genuine and joyful self-acceptance, an authentic self-esteem, which result in an interior sense of celebration: ‘It’s good to be me; I am very happy to be me.

What would Christ say about all this? Very simply, he tells us that self-love is not only good, it is also the starting point for following him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat 19.19).

When we are light within then that light shines outside of us. When we live in darkness, then there is no light within and no way to enlightenment.

Calling us to be the light and salt of the earth is a fundamental calling of Christ to be resourceful and lovable around us. Love and kindness can transform our lives and we are capable of shedding light on the dark corners of our life.

Today’s Gospel strongly affirms this attitude. Jesus himself cries out to all his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” The point we easily miss is that Jesus does not tell us to become the salt of the earth or to make ourselves the light of the world. Rather he affirms that we are salt and light already, because Jesus has called us, and we have responded to his call. Most of the world has not heard this call of Jesus or has not responded to it. Jesus wants us to know that by our faith in him, by his grace and new life, we are salt and light. So Jesus wants us to manifest what we are: “Your light must shine before others.”

Inner Strength
He begins with the assurance that our essential salvation and intrinsic goodness is from God. Through baptism and our faith, we are already given that wondrous relationship of love and acceptance by God as his sons and daughters. That relationship is constant and almost indestructible; it establishes our fundamental value and goodness by itself; it does not depend on our social position or our natural abilities. Then, in a dozen different ways, Paul urges us to deepen, to grow, to progress in that reality, to live according to our status as children of God. For example, Paul tells us that we are children of light; therefore, we should walk as children of light.

Our Mission

Well in the Gospel of today, Jesus calls us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. This great invitation turns out to be a great hope in the age of darkness and tastelessness. When we are capable of shedding light on darkness, then we see all that is inappropriate, and we correct ourselves. We can invite others into this light. It is Christ who is the light of the world makes us bright in our approach to the world and people. Only a changed man can change the world. This change could be brought about by creating a new man, a citizen of the world, by training the mind in moral and spiritual discipline.

This short gospel today must be an eye opener to all of us to be help to the other. Both salt and light have the ingredients of joy and happiness.

Paul on his part wanted the Corinthians to get back in touch with how the essence of his message had come alive among them. Paul saw how easy it was for them to slip into the values of a society that esteemed a person for learning or wealth, for status and fame. Paul wanted them to remember "the mystery," how they had experienced a love of God and community that had revealed the utter emptiness of those societal standards.

When we are too worldly in our approach to life the light within us dims and the salt loses its taste.

When Jesus taught his audience was composed of Israelites. As God's chosen people, they possessed the Word of God, and were supposed to be salt and light in the world. Gradually, throughout Jesus' teaching ministry, he refined this idea that each one who followed him was to have a spiritual impact on those around them. He sent them out to all the towns around them to preach repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Christ had made it clear at the end of his earthly ministry that the gospel was to have a universal application. He commanded his followers to go and teach all nations, to baptize them, and teach them everything he had taught. (Mat 28.18-20). This has properly been taken as a mandate for all Christians to spread the gospel of Christ to everyone. This includes both concepts of salt and light. We are to do as much good in the name of Christ as we can, and we are to share the light of the gospel with as many as we can.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

God will send His messenger, a promise that had an early and partial fulfillment in John the Baptist, but awaits a later and complete fulfillment when Elijah (4.5) will prepare the way of the Lord, . . . the Messenger of the covenant whom they desired. The irony here is that when He later arrived (His First Advent), the nation of Israel did not delight in Him but crucified Him instead. In verse 3.2–4 The day of His coming will be the Second Advent. The Lord will come in judgment on sin, and who will be able to stand? This purifying ministry, pictured by Christ’s cleansing of the temple, awaits final fulfillment at His Second Coming. The sons of Levi (priests) will be purified so that they can make offerings of holiness and righteousness that are pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old.

The Gospels proclaim it is the Precursor, St John the Baptist who was born 6 months before Jesus, that God sent to prepare His way. Putting these evangelical facts together, we can comprehend the words of the Prophet Malachi. The Lord God promised that He would send a Precursor to prepare His way. Since there is only 6 months between the birth of St John the Baptist and Jesus it is clear that the prophecy meant that suddenly after the Precursor, the Lord Himself will come. So, soon after the Baptist’s birth, God entered His temple.

The Glory of the Lord will appear in the temple, signifying the coming of Christ to the temple to clean it of all idolatry and corruption. But before he does this, he will come to fulfil the law. That is what we celebrate today, the coming of the Lord to the temple and presenting himself in the temple.

Mary comes to the temple with Joseph bring the baby Jesus. This feast is also regarded as the feast of the purification of Mary in the temple.

The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves. (Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3.1) The mother of God – the Theotokos, in no need of ritual purification – and her husband did not set themselves above the Law.

The Gospel of Luke speaks of Anna the Prophetess and Simeon who praise the coming of the Lord to the temple. In Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II wrote that Mary heard in Simeon’s words something akin to a second Annunciation, “for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”

After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendor in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy for one’s mind to drift and overlook the significance of the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth. The Catholic Church gives very significant importance to this feast.

What is the real significance of the presentation of the Lord in the Temple? According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) was over the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Lev12.2-8).
The "just and devout" man of Jerusalem who according to the narrative of St. Luke, greeted the infant Saviour on His presentation in the Temple (Lk 2. 25-35). He was one of the pious Jews who were waiting for the "consolation of Israel" and, though advanced in years, he had received a premonition from the Holy Ghost, Who was in him, that he would not die before he had seen the expected Messiah. This promise was fulfilled when through guidance of the Spirit he came to the Temple on the day of the Presentation, and taking the Child Jesus in his arms, he uttered the Canticle Nunc dimittis (Lk 2.29-32), and after blessing the Holy Family he prophesied concerning the Child, Who "is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel", and regarding the mother whose "soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed".

Practical Conclusion
Jesus is brought to the temple to fulfil the law. Later in his life Jesus spends lot of time in the temple and on one occasion purifies it of all sorts of worldliness that had entered the temple. On our part visiting a church or a sacred place must evoke in us the sentiments of love, devotion, adoration and prayer in us. This helps our soul to direct attention to heavenly things in spite of living in the midst of worldly affairs.

Jesus is the complete fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus once had asked his disciples, who do the people say that “I am?” Some say Elijah, Jonah and others says one of the prophets. Jesus fulfills in us a great role of the saviour. He leads us, guides us and inspires us in our daily tasks and works.

When we have Jesus with us, we have fulfilled the law. Jesus is above the law himself as he noted often during his life that “the son of man is the Lord of sabbath” (Mt 12.1-8).

This is day also is dedicated to the Religious men and women for their consecration through the vows. Candlemas Day is another name for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Forty days after His birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for the rites of purification and dedication as prescribed by the Torah. According to the Book of Leviticus (12.1-4), when a woman bore a male child, she was considered “unclean” for seven days. On the eighth day, the boy was circumcised. The mother continued to stay at home for 33 days for her blood to be purified. After the 40 days, the mother and the father came to the temple for the rite of purification, which included the offering of a sacrifice — a lamb for a holocaust (burnt offering) and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering, or for a poor couple who could not afford a lamb, two pigeons or two turtledoves. Note Joseph and Mary made the offering of the poor (Lk 2.24).

We also remember our parents presenting us at church for our baptism. We were dedicated to God, and given the name, “Christian.” We, too, received a lit candle from the paschal candle, at which the priest said, “You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom” (Rite of Christian Initiation). Therefore, as a light, each of us must bear witness to Our Lord.

Let this feast of the presentation of the Lord in the Temple enlighten us to be his servants and bearers of his kingdom.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Isaiah 9.1-4; I Corinthians 1.10-13, 17; Matthew 4.12-23

Now we are carried forward to the coming of the Messiah. The northern territory of Israel, called the land of Naphtali, which had been brought into contempt by the invaders, will be made glorious (Galilee of the Gentiles was the Savior’s boyhood home and the scene of part of His public ministry). Christ’s First Advent brought light to Galilee. His Second Coming will bring joy to the nation and put an end to slavery and war. A precise prediction about the Messiah who would bring respite to the land of Naphtali, that is the land Galilee of the Gentiles.

Great Light
Through the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that Jesus choosing his first disciples moves quickly to his ministry (Mt 4.12-23). The prophet Isaiah announced a future of liberation and great joy for all of Galilee, through the image of light that dispels the darkness in which the people walk. The Gospel, quoting verbatim the same passage of the prophet Isaiah, presents Jesus as the Light thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. He is the light that was promised to dispel the darkness of sin and to free man from the obscurity in which he is enclosed.

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, He realized that this was a move to His own rejection. In rejecting the King’s forerunner, the people were, for all practical purposes, rejecting the King also. But it was not fear that drove Him north to Galilee but was going right into the center of Herod’s kingdom—the same king who had just imprisoned John.

In moving to Galilee of the Gentiles, He was showing that His rejection by the Jews would result in the gospel going out to the Gentiles. Jesus never thought of rejecting any people around him. He invited them all to listen to him. Those who rejected him perhaps did not know him or were doing so out of jealousy.

He moved to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee, an area originally populated by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. From this time, Capernaum became His headquarters (Mat 4.14–16). Jesus’ move to Galilee was a fulfillment of Isaiah 9.1,2. The ignorant, superstitious Gentiles living in Galilee saw a great light—that is Christ, the Light of the world. From then on Jesus took up the message which John had preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was a further call for moral renewal in preparation for His kingdom. The kingdom was near in the sense that the King was present.

He Chooses his Disciples

After which we find in Matthew’s account the call of the disciples Peter and Andrew. This is the second time Jesus called them. In John 1.35–42 they were called to salvation; here they are called to service. The first took place in Judea; this one in Galilee. Peter and Andrew were fishermen, but Jesus called them to be fishers of men. Their responsibility was to follow Christ. His responsibility was to make them successful fishers of men. Their following of Christ involved more than physical nearness. It included their imitation of the character of Christ. Theirs was to be a ministry of character. What they were was more important than what they said or did. Just as with Peter and Andrew, we are to avoid the temptation to substitute eloquence, personality, or clever arguments for true spirituality. In following Christ, the disciple learns to go where the fish are swimming, to use the proper lure, to endure discomfort and inconvenience, to be patient, and to keep oneself out of popularity. In verse 4.20 Peter and Andrew heard the call and responded immediately. In true faith, they left their nets. In true commitment and devotion, they followed Jesus.

The call came next to James and John (Mt 4.21-22). They, too, became instant disciples. Leaving not only their means of livelihood but their father as well, they acknowledged the priority of Jesus over all earthly ties. By responding to the call of Christ, these fishermen became key figures in the evangelization of the world. Had they remained at their nets; we would never have heard of them. Recognition of the Lordship of Christ makes all the difference in the work we do. He is the King of everything we do.

What do we learn from these accounts of the call of these disciples? It is a radical following of Christ who calls us at any time. These disciples were at work and were busy. They could have clearly replied to Jesus saying, ‘well, we finish our work, and go home and bid farewell to our family members and then come and follow you.’ Nothing of this sort happened. They immediately followed Jesus without a second thought.

He calls us to “repent” or to reform our lives. He does not merely present a set of rules to follow; he does not demand a retreat from the world; he does not demand a monkish existence; he does not require a specific devotional life of prayer, sacrifices, and special practices. We cannot narrow down his call to any one of these forms. His call is more universal and demanding: a metanoia, a total change of heart, a complete transformation of one’s life, a radical decision for God. Most of Jesus’ parables are a challenge compelling his hearers to respond to his message. Such a radical decision means that the mystery of Jesus becomes our plan of life, our interpretation of life’s meaning. It means that all our deepest questions about human life—the source of it, the sense of it, the model for it, its purpose, direction, goal, and hope—all of these are answered in the person of Christ.

In verse 23 Matthew summarizes Jesus’ public life and work this way: he proclaimed, “the Gospel of the kingdom, and [cured] every disease and illness among the people.” He implies that the message of God’s kingdom that Jesus brought is aimed at all people in all their dimensions; not only at their soul, but at the whole person, body and soul, their whole concrete, suffering existence. For Jesus our Lord is not only a preacher and adviser; he is also a healer and helper. And he is for all people, not only for the strong, healthy, capable, and righteous, but also for the weak, sick, incapable, sinning, and outcast. He does not take away all human failure, illness, and tragedy; but he begins to transform the curse of human existence into blessing even now.

Mission Today
Today all over the world missionaries and followers of Christ do the same work. They proclaim and serve. They heal through their service and alleviate sufferings through their generosity.

Concretely today Jesus calls us when we are at work. He will see that we are his instruments of service and Gospel. Through this Gospel we learn how to respond to Jesus’ call. From the first disciples we come to know what real detachment for God’s kingdom is.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1.1-3; John 1.29-34

This first reding from Prophet Isaiah is a prediction about the suffering servant of God. These were prophecies uttered during the Babylonian exile to encourage the Jewish exiles to persevere in their trust in Yahweh, who would soon liberate them from Babylon, and consequently send them the long-expected Messiah, promised to Abraham.

The opening verses of this letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians have been chosen for the reading because they show the prophecy, read in the first reading, as fulfilled among the pagans, as well as emphasizing the purpose of the Messiah's coming: the sanctification and true enlightenment of all nations.

These verses from St. John’s Gospel present John the Baptist as a symbolic example of a ‘bridegroom’s friend’, as Christ’s excellent and exemplary witness. The Baptist’s pre-eminent witness was affirmed in two ways: firstly, regarding the content of his testimony and secondly with respect to its style.

After the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist and Christ the Lord, the liturgy shifts its focus on the mission of both. John the Baptist preaches the imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom and predicts about the one who is going to baptise them with fire and the Holy spirit and confesses that he is not worthy to carry his sandals. Jesus on his part just begins to prepare for his mission choosing his apostles and disciples. Both are fully engaged in their task and the path for God’s Kingdom is being prepared.
The preaching of John the Baptist was to reawaken in people the sense of urgency for something greater than what they have been seeking in their daily lives. There are a lot of ordinary longings in our lives, but there is one that is underlying all other longings. Ordinary longing signifies emptiness; it recognizes our limitations, our awareness of being incomplete.

John’s story of the baptism is considerably different from what we find in the other three gospels because John wants to refute the view held by some that John the Baptist was superior to Jesus. Thus, this writer does not give us an account of the particulars of Jesus’ baptism. Rather, he has John the Baptist give testimony to the meaning of the event. Almost the entire reading is composed of the Baptist’s words, which clearly say that the revelation of Jesus as the Lamb of God was the sole purpose of John’s mission. The gospel writer also concentrates on demonstrating that Jesus is indeed the servant of God described in the servant songs of Isaiah.

“Behold the Lamb of God”
This phrase “The Lamb of God,” John used twenty-nine times in the book of Revelation, and it has become one of the most precious titles of Christ. It sums up the love, sacrifice, suffering, triumph and final victory of Jesus Christ. While some think that John’s use of the term “Lamb of God” for Jesus may refer to the Passover lamb, the primary reference here is to the Suffering Servant who is described as like a lamb led to the slaughter. The Passover lamb had no connection to sin, yet for the sins of the people it was slaughtered; in the same way the Servant bore the guilt of us all and who takes away the sin of the world.

After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve faced a devastating future. Having opened the door to mortality and temporal life for us, they had closed the door to immortality and eternal life for themselves. Due to a transgression they had consciously chosen obeying the temptations of the evil one, they now faced physical death and spiritual banishment, separation from the presence of God forever. What were they to do? Would there be a way out of this plight?

Unfortunately, as a symbol of genuine repentance and faithful living, the ritualistic offering of unblemished little lambs didn’t work very well, as so much of the Old Testament reveals. The moral resolve that should have accompanied those sacrifices sometimes didn’t last long enough for the blood to dry upon the stones or on the temple altar. They did remember they were to regularly offer for a sacrifice unto God a pure, unblemished lamb, the first male born of their flock.

According to Old Testament law, animals were used as a blood sacrifice for sins. This ritual was used to demonstrate to the Israelites the seriousness of their sins. The blood was shed to pardon the sin. But the blood from animal sacrifices could not actually remove the sin. A lamb without defect was one of the acceptable animals that was used for this purpose (Lev 4.32). It was necessary for the Israelites to go to the priest time after time to sacrifice animals to pardon their sins.

The real Sacrificial Lamb
In Jesus we find the real sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He is the one who is going to redeem mankind from sinfulness. The real sacrifice offered on the Cross. That is why John boldly calls Jesus “the Lamb of God”, who takes away the sins of the world.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, John witnessed the Holy spirit descending on Jesus declaring Him to be the Son of God. John knew that Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied in the book of Isaiah 53.7, "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." There are over 100 prophecies in the Old Testament predicting the coming Messiah. The Jews were awaiting His arrival. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and the person that would fulfill the role as the lamb sent by God to be both the Passover Lamb and provide the blood sacrifice for sin.

During Jesus' 33 years of life on earth, living and experiencing everything that man experiences, He lived without sin. This made Him the pure and spotless lamb that was without defect - a perfect sacrifice. Heb 2.17 says, "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross, nailed all of our sins to the cross (Colo 2.14), cleansed us from a guilty conscience (Heb 10.22), freed us from condemnation and from the grip of sin over our lives (Rom 8.1-2), and assured those of us who believe in Him to have everlasting life with Him in heaven (Jn 3.16).

God sent Jesus into the world to be a one-time sacrifice for all sins. Heb 9.24 says, "For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence."

This is the Sunday that promises us that Christ is the one who comes to save us and is already here saving us always. The Sacraments are the very presence of Christ amidst us and who helps us to offer our daily lives to him so that he can purify us with his blood. The Holy Eucharist is what cleanses us from our sinfulness with his body and blood offered in the Holy Communion.

Takes Away the Sin of the World

Salvation doesn’t cost us anything; it’s free for all who believe the gospel. Discipleship, however, does cost us something. Following Jesus is often not easy. Being a disciple requires making choices—to love and honor God, to treat people for what they are—fellow imagers of God that he loves and wants to bring into his family through the gospel. Think about Jesus’s own life. It wasn’t easy. As St. Peter affirms, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2.21). Jesus lived a life of sacrifice. He put God first, followed by his “neighbor” (everyone else): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22.36-40) Jesus lived this way not so God would love him or be happy with him. God loved Jesus already, long before he ever came and “did works” (performed) to fulfill the covenant. He loved Jesus “before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17.24). Jesus came to liberate us from our sinfulness and take away that scar of the evil one.

During this week we need one thing on which to focus our attention, that is on Jesus. John the Baptist wants us to recognize Jesus is the only one who can lead us to God’s Kingdom. Mere repentance preached by John the Baptist allows us to accept Jesus; but it is Jesus who gives us that eternal kingdom through his own life and grace.

The suffering servant Jesus is beginning his journey of redemption of mankind. He begins to impact even John the Baptist’s disciples who come to him to see and find out all that is about true kingdom of God.

It's easier to think about our wishes and wants: our favorite food, a winning team, a good grade, a nice car or house, good clothes. Those things are fairly easy to attain, but they don't make any real difference in our life; they quickly prove their shallowness.

On a deeper level, we desire health and life, we long for loving relationships, and for the good of those whom we love. We might regard those as "natural sacramentals," signs or foretastes of the goodness God desires for us. As sacramentals, the objects of our longing can lead us to our depths. But they also bring the danger of becoming goals in themselves, even transforming themselves into idols by becoming the only things we strive for.

Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. That is what we call the fundamental and eternal longing that cannot be satisfied with the ordinary things of life. Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world gives us the real meaning of life and helps us to transcend the trivial things of this world so that we fix our attention and focus on God alone.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7; Acts 10:34–38; Matthew 3:13-17

The servant mentioned in the first reading in general is Israel, God’s chosen people. But there are many individualized characteristics in these servant songs that seem to indicate one individual who represents the collective Israel. Only in the New Testament do the scripture writers identify Jesus as the individual fulfillment of these servant prophecies. Jesus is the Son of God, and called servant of God. He is the one who brings liberation and freedom. Through out the advent season we reflected that the one who comes in the name of the Lord is going to bring prosperity and freedom to the house of Israel.

Good to note how the first reading begins: “Here is . . . / my chosen one with whom I am pleased, / Upon whom I have put my spirit.” The Hebrew word for spirit is ruah (that can also mean wind or breath). The image is that of a force or power of God enabling his servant to act in a manner beyond human capability. It is seen as the power given to the long-awaited Messiah.

It needs to be pointed out that Jesus did not need the baptism of John. John was baptizing as an external sign of interior repentance. Jesus had no need to repent. But, nonetheless, He comes to John. John resists at first but Jesus insists. Why did He receive baptism?

Accepting the baptism of John, Jesus affirms all that John had said and done and affirms his sacred role of preparing the way for Jesus and for a new era of grace. Therefore, the Baptism of Jesus acts as a bridge between the Old Testament prophets (of which John was the last) and the New Testament era of grace and truth, and John again we notice is the first prophet of the New Testament.

Second, it has been said that when Jesus entered the waters of baptism, He was not baptized by the waters, rather, His Baptism was one in which all the created waters of this world were, in a sense, “baptized” by Him. Entering into the waters, Jesus sanctified water and poured forth His grace making all water the future source of salvation.

Baptism of Jesus was an epiphany and was a moment of manifestation. As He emerged from the waters, “Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” This manifestation of the sonship and divinity of Jesus took place in a physical, audible and visible form so that all present would know, without question, that Jesus was the Son of the Father. Thus, His baptism is a way in which the Father introduced His Son and His Son’s mission to the world. This mission was to begin immediately and would culminate in the resurrection of the Lord.

Just when the Baptist's activity seems so successful, it is "then" that Jesus first appears on the scene in a surprising turnabout. John has said that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Instead, Jesus comes seeking to be baptized by John. Matthew alone seeks to address the problem by having John attempt to avoid Jesus' request. If, after all, baptism has to do with repentance and with bearing fruit that befits righteousness, why should Jesus have to be baptized? But the threefold reference to baptism in this passage and Jesus' response to John both serve to emphasize the importance of this event coming at the beginning of this narrative of the good news about Jesus.

Jesus says that this baptism must take place to "fulfill all righteousness," and with his words the reader begins to realize that righteousness has to do with much more than simply human ethical response, but rather has to do with the whole plan of God in this one who comes as savior, and thus is a sign of Jesus' obedient submission to God's marvelous grace. The unique reference to the opening of the heavens "to him" and the clear public announcement of God's good pleasure name Jesus as God's beloved Son (Mark says, "You are…"; Matthew writes, "This is…") and mark this event as revelatory of God's presence and approval.

What do we learn from this feast of the Baptism of the Lord? First truth is that we too are baptised with the same Spirit of the Lord.

We are baptized into his very life

We are grafted to Christ Our Lord. Remember the parable of the vine and the branches. We become the branches of Christ who is the vine. Unless we are one with Christ the Lord, we are not going to bear fruit that will last.

We become Children of God

In John 1.12 we find an excellent expression. All who receive Christ through faith become children of God. This is described using the Greek term exousia, often translated as a “right” or an entitlement. There are spiritual hounors given to all believers, simply based on being part of that family. However, this word also implies the power to do something. Becoming a child of God doesn’t simply result in privileges, but spiritual power. A name, legal documents, a conversation, is a symbol of that person. The “name” of Jesus is not a magical formula. “Faith in the name of Jesus” means trust in His person, His sacrifices, and his salvation. This is not for everyone, however. This verse specifies that this power or right is only extended to those who receive him especially through baptism.

We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit

In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul boldly confesses that we are the Temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6.19).

All of us become brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus

We are all related to one another through the sacrament of Baptism. This relationship is far beyond how we are related to one another within our families. This is a spiritual relationship that helps us understand the great mystery of God who has adopted us as his children and hence we are related to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord.

Moreover, we connect ourselves with the whole lot of holy people and Saints as our big family through the baptismal grace of Christ. Because of our baptism we are saved; yet like Jesus, we must live out that salvation now in this world like all those saints and holy people lived their grace sharing and helping people around them. This same Holy Spirit was given to us at our baptism; that Spirit empowers us to follow in the way of Jesus with great confidence as real children of God; that same Spirit urges us to fulfill our mission by submitting to the will of God as it comes to us naturally in our ordinary Christian lives and become holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Isaiah 60.1-6; Ps 72.1-7; 10-14; Eph 3.1-12; Mat 2.1-12

Epiphany is a wonderful feast that gives us an indication how God chooses his representative from all walks of life. These three kings traveling from far East come to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King. Their travel was harsh with all kinds of hurdles and the most difficult and concerning hurdle was King Herod. They over came all these hurdles to come and worship and present their gifts to the King. The star guided them to the place where Jesus was.

Why did God reveal Jesus to the Magi? We know the story of the Magi coming to worship Jesus very well. But have you ever stopped to wonder why God revealed Jesus to the Magi and not the “Evil and the Great” King Herod? God has his ways of revealing His greatness through insignificant ways to ordinary people.

Who were the Magi? Very little is known about the Magi. Matthew doesn’t even record how many of them there were. All the Bible tells us is that they came from the East to Jerusalem. The number is unknown.

It is accepted that the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia once a mighty country where modern Iran and Iraq are now located. They were probably astrologers. In the second century, church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship the Messiah. Tertullian also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It is in the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. And the term Magi is the base from which our modern words “magician” and “magistrate” are derived. The Magi, in the eyes of the Jewish people to whom St. Matthew wrote his Gospel, had two explanations against them.

The first explanation against the Magi was that they were Gentiles – Persians to be precise. After all weren’t the Jews alone God’s chosen people. But the second and more important explanation against them was that they were astrologers. And astrology was expressly forbidden – on pain of death – in the OT. (Dt 18.9-14) So why did God reveal himself to astrologers?

I can think of three reasons why God revealed Himself to the Magi because Christ came not only for the chosen ones, but to all nations to preach the Gospel for all nations

First of all, God revealed Jesus to the Magi to show us that the Gospel - that Jesus’ birth heralded - is for all nations. This was well predicted by Isaiah the prophet long ago.

It is not just to the select few righteous people in the world. We don’t have to wait until we are living a “morally good life” before God seeks us out. If moral perfection was God’s criteria, I doubt any of us would be sitting in church today.

God accepts us “sinners and saints alike” – and these Magi were perhaps not living a good life? Or had their own ambitions? Were they just rulers? Were they free from violence?

The Magi sought Jesus. The second reason - that I think God revealed Jesus to the Magi - was that the Magi were SEEKING God despite being not chosen people. The Magi sought Christ out to worship him. God honours a spirit within a person that SEEKS God. We have examples in the Gospels when Jesus met with the Siro Phoenician woman and Samaritans who confessed their full faith in him.

We won’t get everything right – but if we have a right heart God will honour us
And God reached out to the Magi by a Star.

But that wasn’t a chance Star – God had ordained and it had been prophesied over a millennium earlier by Balaam the prophet when he said – referring to Jesus: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A Star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel (Num 24.17)

The third reason is the very attitude of the Magi because they were docile, and they had several right moves in the direction of God. They obeyed the ordinary revelation of God manifested through a star. The first of these right attitudes was that they were obedient to the guidance of God. They weren’t too big to follow the star. As St. Matthew records them saying: They weren’t star gazers – they put their beliefs into action. And even though they didn’t know the destination they were prepared to step out in faith. Following the leading of the Lord can be quite risky and it can be time consuming. Their faith was so strong that they could overcome all kinds of hurdles and dangers on their way.

The Magi probably had to go from Persia to Jerusalem – a journey of a good 1000 miles – on foot and travelling with camels. Even though the Scripture narrative shows us that their arrival was quick, but then given the distance they had to travel and must have taken many weeks to arrive at Bethlehem.

Scriptural References
By this moral story Matthew shows how Christ is the fulfillment of these prophecies. Thus, in the Book of Numbers, Balaam prophesies: “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Num 24.17). Also, Isaiah prophesies: “Caravans of camels shall fill you . . . / All from Sheba shall come / bearing gold and frankincense” (Isaiah 60.6). Again, Psalm 72 (vv. 10–11) foresees: “The kings of Arabia . . . shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” Finally, Micah praises Bethlehem: “You, Bethlehem . . . From you shall come forth for me; one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5.1). In sum, Matthew uses this popular legend to show the fulfillment of all these prophecies. Also, this passage shows the mind of Matthew as proclaiming Christ the Savior of the Gentiles. Matthew’s Gospel was completed after 80 ad. At that time the infant church was growing fast in the Gentile world—in Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Asia Minor, and Greece. In this context the Magi were representatives of these people, who had come to believe and worship Christ.

Today this great narrative of Matthew must provoke us to take the Gospel to all nations through our lives lived in witness to Christ. The witnessing could happen in our neighbourhood families, in the place of work, in our society, during a celebration etc. There are multiple opportunities for us to evangelize and proclaim the life of Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

Life is a journey of faith. Faith is what makes us children of God. All are invited to this great experience of having an encounter with Christ our Lord, along with Mary and Joseph. Let us bring all our talents, time, resources, pains and sorrows to offer them to Christ. He will make us return to our daily life through another better way as did the Magi who got back to their country through a different route.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21

God gave to Mary a very special privilege be Theotokos- Mother of God Himself. Mary becomes the Tabernacle of God here on earth as she bears in her womb the Son of God. The Holy Trinity, the undivided unity becomes incarnate in the person of Jesus in the womb of Mary. That is why she is the Mother of God.

The Gospel today presents Mary as the mother of Jesus: The shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” Why did the shepherds find Jesus and not others? They were meek and humble of heart, we can hear the words of Christ himself “learn from me for am meek and humble of heart”. Shepherds worked hard to earn their living. Their task was to protect the sheep, lead them to pasture, accompany them in their perilous journey. Jesus would do the same to his own people, he would accompany them, lead them, pasture them, and protect them from predators.

And then adds: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” On this day as we begin the first day of the New Year, it should be a moment to reflect in our heart. Mary kept all these things in her heart. Its an invitation to all of us to keep all the things in our heart; that is being grateful to God for the past year and look forwards with courage and strength to the new year of challenges and difficulties.

This passage is an incisive choice for this feast of the Mother of God, for it includes the two outstanding reasons why Mary is our mother and our model. First, Mary is the mother of Jesus, by whom we are all made God’s children. As mother of Jesus, she is preeminent of all God’s creatures. As “Mother of God” she is the mother of God’s children. And secondly, Mary is the exemplar of faith. As she reflected on the all that happened, she slowly discovered the meaning of God’s way of salvation; as she continued to fulfill God’s will, she became “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”

As we are reflecting on the Gospel of Luke we find that throughout the Acts of the Apostles, Luke shows the early church behaving as Mary did, giving itself completely to Christ’s mission and making time for discernment and reflection as it carried Christ into the world. Luke presents Mary as a symbol of the church so skillfully that we can almost miss his emphasis. Her freedom to serve Christ’s mission, bring him into the world, and ponder the significance of his life became the pattern for both collective and individual discipleship. This is very well reflected in prayer and service of the faithful in the early church.

When we give ourselves over to Christ’s mission in big ways and small, we offer Christ to the world in new ways. Today evangelization has taken a renewed enthusiasm among many missionaries. It is to preach Christ through prayer and good works as Mary did in the early church.

World Day of Peace
Today is the world day of peace (and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God). And this story exemplifies well a Christian approach to peace and solving social problems. We have to admit that Jesus did not produce any program for the renewal and transformation of social structures; he did not outline any political or cultural ethics; he has no practical answers for modern social ills; he has no detailed solutions for the grievances of one country against another or for territorial disputes. He does not even give an entirely clear statement on the morality of war or revolution. Therefore, Christians—even Catholic leaders—can have very diverse opinions about civil disturbances and revolutions within countries, about border disputes between countries, about practical solutions in Israel, Ireland, Afghanistan, North Korea, and India and in many violently unjust situations in African or South American countries.
How can we create peace around us? It is through self sacrifice. If Mary and Joseph were peace loving couple, then those who love peace become like Mary and Joseph.

In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10.5-6). Jesus’ mission was to preach and teach the peace of God. When he was with the people, he always promoted peace among all types of people. He was friendly with the Samaritans, the Romans, the pagans etc. He never rejected anyone. This is a great example of Jesus Himself to all of us.

Christ, the Prince of Peace, does have an impact on peace in the world. One way is along the lines of the story we began with. For the whole thrust of Christ in the New Testament is toward the reformation of the individual. This reformation is accomplished not by law and order but by the free decision of the individual person. That is, Jesus does not set up social laws to bridle cruelty and injustice, for that achievement would still leave us with a cruel world. Rather Christ positively teaches justice, forgiveness and love, so that people and institutions might really be changed. The implication is that radical social action alone is not enough to cure our social ills; we also need compassionate and just human beings. What a change there would be in so many social and political crises if the values of Christ were taken seriously: his identification with the weak, poor, underprivileged, and oppressed; his teaching on forgiveness of enemies; removal of prejudice and superiority in political situations. Such is Jesus’ way of reforming the social order—not by specific social movements or political systems but by the reform of the individual members and promoting peace wherever there is a possibility. Through his Beatitudes Jesus invited a special world order that will promote peace if we begin to realize how rich are these teachings and practice them. In his parable of the last judgement Jesus forcefully affirms that those who love the weak and oppressed will share his kingdom of peace (Mat. 25).

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Holiness is the integration that places God unambiguously at the centre of one’s life and concern. Holy Family of Nazareth is a wonderful example for our daily life that placed God as their centre. Why this family is Holy? Because of holiness of all the three: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. God is Holy and He invites everyone to be holy as he is. The Holy Family lived a holy life bowing to God’s will in every detail of their life. Jesus’ whole concern was to do the will of the Father, Mary accepted God’s will as fiat. Joseph surrendered to God’s will because he was asked to take Mary as his wife and to take care of Jesus in the face of dangers the family faced right from the beginning of their family life.

Mary and Joseph are faithful disciples of Christ. He lived with them and they were transformed in life.

Ordinary life of Mary and Joseph transformed every bit of their intentions and experiences.

Celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the parents: "Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the 'material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'" The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.”(CCC #2223).

Joseph’s Docility
We have the gospel from Matthew. After the Magi had departed the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and instructed him to take the child and flee to Egypt.

It was such a difficult task for Joseph with all kinds of tensions surrounding he had leave for Egypt.

Joseph, acting with complete docility, rose up, took the Child and his Mother by night, and fled into Egypt (Mt 2:14). Thus, began the first of the persecutions that Christ Jesus would undergo on earth all throughout history, whether against Himself or against members of his Mystical Body.

It was the flight to Egypt that saved the little babe of Bethlehem. It was a very harsh journey and dangerous too. There were two main roads to Egypt. The easier road was also the more traveled one; it passed through Gaza and then ran south along the Mediterranean coast. The other road, less used and therefore the more prudent one, passed through Hebron and Bersabee before crossing the Idumean desert and entering the Sinai Peninsula. In either case, it would be a long trip of several hundred miles lasting from ten to fourteen days. This would be the safest route because of its rugged nature.

Before beginning this arduous journey, everything had to be done in haste. In Hebron or Bersabee (the latter about forty miles from Bethlehem), they could procure provisions before setting out across the desert. In that initial stage of the trip, they may very well have joined up with a small caravan, for it would have been almost impossible to travel that road alone. The oppressive heat, lack of water, and danger of bandits made it advisable not to cross the desert on their own. The historian Plutarch writes that, in 155 B.C., Roman soldiers making the same trip to fight in Egypt were more fearful of the hardships to be faced in the desert than of the battles to be fought ahead.

What we find here in this explanation the daring spirit of Mary and Joseph in taking this arduous journey to Egypt. It required strength, determination, courage, endurance and patience. Imagine a little baby had to travel a long distance with such a cold weather and uncertainly on the way because of robbers, violent people, dusty roads and at times no roads etc.

Let us compare all these situations to our own life. Today we have all kinds of comforts and conveniences in our surroundings. How can we celebrating the feast of Holy Family live a life of dedication discipline and detachment? How can we help our family members to understand that life is difficult, yet it is worth living?

Life is a journey and a challenge. Holy Family’s journey opens us a very powerful theme of difficulties we face along our spiritual journey. It is a journey every member of a family must undertake. Its going to be harsh, difficult, with all kinds of uncertainties and insecurities on the way. The virtues of Joseph and Mary will help us traverse this terrain of our family life’s journey.

Practical Conclusion
Today family life has become very difficult to live. In this modern world there are multiple concerns for the parents to take care of their children.

Work: Work has become the priority in every family as the modern society has pushed the members to earn more because they must spend more on their children, on food, clothing, home etc. Daily work also has made family members distance themselves as they must be away from home for their daily source of income.

Workload has created tensions between the children and parents as they must prepare for next days work. Hence, children feel neglected and abandoned. Parents scarcely get time to spend with their children and with one another. This becomes a vicious circle of activities and offers not enough time to relax and enjoy life.

Food: Family lives together must have at least one meal in common. The modern lifestyle does not allow most of the family members present for food in their families. Work and friends have taken all the time they have. If a family must be stronger it should have time to have food together. When preparing food and consuming food there is such a lot of reciprocal interaction that can bond the members together.

Prayer: Family that prays together lives and loves together. Prayer as we define it as recitation of psalms, Rosary, Angelus etc. All these prayers and many other types of vocal prayers including reading of the Holy Scripture can help members to understand life and all that comes with it.

Recreation: Today the word ‘recreation’ has become quite individualistic enjoyment. With our smart electronic gadgets recreation in common has lost its lustre and importance. We need to revive its sense especially in our families.

Let us ask the Holy Family to bless us with the grace and strength to live our lives united with our family members in happiness and pain; poverty and joy; sickness and health.

Let us end on a positive note. We can all find plenty of inspiration today for Christian families in the first part of this reading to the Colossians. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones . . . heartfelt compassion, kindness . . . gentleness, and patience.” These are critical virtues in any family; the motivation for doing so is that by baptism we have been clothed in Christ (cf. Galatians 3.27), and so should put on these virtues that correspond to our new life in Christ. And because we are all very human, we need forbearance and forgiveness: “Bearing with one another and forgiving one another . . . as the Lord has forgiven you.” I suspect husbands and wives know even more than I how necessary forgiveness is among spouses. Family life is such a close existence that it is bound to include offenses and human failures; it demands this Christian virtue again and again. “And over all these, put-on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” And for our children, parents know that love is not taught by words; it is caught by them—in the home, more than anywhere else. God bless our families. They are the fount of our personality and of all our Christian living.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


Christ is born. A long-awaited prophesy is fulfilled. Saviour has come, Emmanuel – God with us.

Each year when we celebrate this awesome Day and season of Christmas we are thrilled, and we expect something new will soon happen to us or something new is awaiting us. It has a very powerful message to all of us. The newborn King of the universe is among us brings always something new. A new initiative, new idea, new way to lead a better life, new person to meet who can enrich our life. But above all we need to know Jesus is the one who brings all things new to us. It’s a deeply spiritual season to bring us back from our boredoms and darkness. The king of the Light is with us and its time to rejoice. He is the one who is opening our eyes to see the real light, the one who will make us walk and will cure our diseases and infirmities.

In the process of the Birth of Christ our Lord, we find the spirituality of “a knock at the door”. Who is knocking at our door? Joseph seeking a place in the inn to make Mary comfortable as she is about to give birth to Jesus.

But there was a reply, no room in the inn. Very sad to know that there is no room in the inn for Jesus. He had to be born in a place, but there is nowhere to go.

Cold Night of indifference
Its indeed a cold night. We can just imagine if a newborn baby does not get enough warmth. The baby could become sick and weak. In the case of Baby Jesus, the animals must shelter this Royal little one. With their company to provide much needed warmth Mary and Joseph find great relief. Surely God stoops low to come from lightsome heaven to our war-torn, dark, cold, indifferent world. As He stoops, He stoops to the lowest place, being born not in a palace or even in a comfortable home. He stoops on to a manger. God will defeat Satan’s pride with humility. All who will find Him this fateful night must also stoop. True, God is non-competitive as Bishop Barron says often in his teachings.

Even to this day, when one visits Bethlehem and wants to see the place of Jesus’ birth, one must first enter the church through what is called the “Door of Humility.” For security reasons, this door was built to be only about four feet high. One must stoop greatly to enter through it. Yes, we must stoop to find our God. The site of the birth is at the other end of the basilica, under the altar area. Here again, more stooping is required; down steep stairs, through another low and narrow door, and into the cave. To touch the spot, one must kneel and reach forward into a narrower part of the cave. Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, says the inscription. The only way to get there is to stoop.

Finding God
One of the best lessons we can learn from this very situation of Jesus born on a manger is to understand how we can find God in ordinary events of life. The whole of the Scripture tells us how God found ordinary people to communicate His message. There is no need for highly qualified atmosphere for God to communicate what He wants us to know. He manifested himself to shepherds, fishermen, children, poor and the sinners, tax collectors, Zacchaeus, the blind, the deaf, the dumb etc.

The Knock
Christmas is a time to find out who needs some comfort. It is our duty to seek and find out those who are in need of our help.

Jesus knocks at the door of our souls. He may knock at dawn, during the day or at midnight. Scripture says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3.20). An old song says, “Somebody’s knocking at your door! Oh Sinner, why don’t you answer?”

At Christmas one unique truth we learn is that the Lord comes always and meets us on various occasions. It is up to us to let him in or tell him there is no room in our inn.

There is a beautiful Christmas custom in Ireland. The centre piece of Christmas holiday in Ireland is the dinner. After the often-lavish meal the kitchen table was again set and on it was placed some bread and milk and the table adorned with the welcoming candle. If Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller happened to pass by they could avail of the hospitality.

If you will receive the gift of Him tonight and make greater room for Him in your heart, you will have victory and transformation in Christ Jesus. There will come to you the increasing gift of transformation into the very likeness of God. Tonight, is a night of gifts and Jesus stoops low to give us a priceless gift: the power to become children of God. Is there room in the “inn” of your heart? If there is one you have become the child of God already.

Reaching out to Others
Let us celebrate this Christmas with a great desire to reach out to Christ who is homeless, poor, naked, stranger, wanderer. When we can help someone in need our Christmas will be brighter, and its joy will last longer.

What is Christmas many may ask especially when the world has commercialized this festive season. For those who do not recognize Christ as their Saviour, Christmas Solemnity will probably does not bring any other meaning than sharing gifts and receiving gifts, see some colourful lights and pass on to the next year.

There is much to learn from Christmas. It’s a gift, it shows us humility, manifests poverty, we learn from the shepherds, the ordinary people of village. That’s exactly is the strategy of God who cares for the weak, the widow, the stranger, the abandoned and the lost.

Why did the Lord Jesus need to come from Heaven to earth and to be born in Bethlehem’s manger? There was a three-fold purpose, and this is mentioned in Galatians 4.5, 6 and 7.

He came in order that we might be REDEEMED (verse 5). To redeem, in this case, means to deliver from the bondage and the curse of the Law. The curse of the Law is the penalty which comes because we have broken the Law, and we all have broken the Law, and therefore we are under the curse and are in danger of punishment. But Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the Law, and He did this by offering His life and shedding His blood on Calvary’s cross (1 Peter 1.18-19). Thank God, every believer can sing: “Free from the Law, O happy condition, Jesus had bled, and there is remission …”

He came that we might receive the FULL RIGHTS of sons (verse 5). God’s purpose in the incarnation is that we might become sons of God, and this sonship is based upon redemption - “to redeem……that we might receive…”. The Son of God became the Son of man that we, sons of men, might become sons of God. Who, then, are the sons of God? They are those who have the Spirit of adoption in their hearts - compare Galatians 4.6 with 1 John 3.1.

He came that we might become HEIRS of God through Christ (verse 7). Compare Romans 8.16-17, where we are told that we are co-heirs with Christ. Because He shared our humanity, with all the consequent sufferings which this involved, we, by His grace and through faith in Him, are to share His glory. In the parable of Luke 15, the father said to his elder son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15.31).

Practical Conclusion
Christmas is a time of rejoicing, sharing, and a time to become aware of all the spiritual riches we have through Jesus our Saviour. It’s a time too to know what we have; and what we can do, with what we have, for the glory and praise of God.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

The angel appearing to Joseph in his dream utters similar words of Isaiah Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel. Matthew wants to make it very clear to his community that God was acting in a very precise way to make people understand that he is the one who is directing the history of mankind. He will send His Son to liberate them from oppression and give them freedom from slavery.

It was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed throughout the whole of Sacred Scriptures that He would be the One who would fulfil and bring them to completion the promises made (II Sam 7). Our God will be Incarnated and born due to the generous willingness of the ‘Virgin’ who, from the very beginning of time, was chosen to be the Mother of the Savior.

What a prediction that has saved the world through the birth of Jesus the Son of God through the Blessed Virgin Mary.

During the reign of the evil King Ahaz, war broke out between Judah and Israel. Pekah, the king of Israel, entered into an alliance with the King of Syria (Rezin). The latter two went to Jerusalem to besiege it.
When Judah’s King Ahaz learned of the coalition against him, his heart sank along with his people. He was an evil king and could not reasonably expect God’s intervention for him or in fact doubted God could save him. God had not given up on Judah. God sent the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to give him a promise of the perpetuity of Judah.

The message from Isaiah was one of comfort. Even though the kings of Israel and Syria formed a confederacy against him, God will intervene. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign to authenticate the promise from God. He refused. So, Isaiah gave a sign from God, “a young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel”.

God did not want to abandon Judah. The word “Immanuel” means God with us. The virgin’s son was God manifest in the flesh. This sign was not fulfilled during the days of Ahaz. This is a promise that God will be true to the descendants of David. Judah will have a future. That future will be established through “Immanuel.” This was a sign for the perpetuity of the nation.

The New Testament clearly saw this passage fulfilled in Christ. At the end of the genealogy of Jesus Matthew makes this statement, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Mt 1.23).

Both the Old and New Testaments promise the coming of Jesus Christ. God keeps his word. God indeed came in flesh and was born of a virgin. He was supernaturally conceived without a human father, “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her (did not have sex with her) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus” (Mt 1.24-25).

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was like this” (v. 18a). Matthew began this Gospel by asserting that Jesus is “Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1.1). Now he reasserts that Jesus is the Messiah. In his description of Jesus’ birth, he gives none of the details about the manger or the shepherds that we find in Luke. His account of Jesus’ birth focuses primarily on Joseph, through whom Jesus is the son of David (1.1-16). Message for us is that the promise is fulfilled and we believe and welcome Jesus in our life. The birth of Jesus was in a village, on a manger; since there was no inn available, he was born among animals.

“For after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together” (v. 18b). Jewish marriage starts with an engagement arranged by parents, often while the boy and girl are still children. Prior to marriage, couples begin a yearlong betrothal like marriage except for sexual rights. Betrothal is binding and can be terminated only by death or divorce. A person whose betrothed dies is considered a widow or widower. Here we find the courage of Mary, who accepted the will of God. Joseph had to endure secretly great anxiety.

“She was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit” (v. 18c). There are numerous stories in Greek and Roman mythology of such conceptions, but “it is most important that we do not lapse into paganism by…presenting Jesus as a demigod, half human by virtue of birth from a human mother, half god since begotten by a god. Christian doctrine affirms Jesus’ full humanity and full divinity. A great challenge for both Mary and Joseph. Joseph’s faith had to be like that of Abraham who trusted in God and put all his faith in him.

“Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly” (v. 19).“But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (v. 20a). This is the first of three occasions in which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. Joseph’s silence. Matthew does not record one word that Joseph says. In this first appearance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In 2.13, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. In 2.19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. In a fourth obedience, after being warned in a dream (no angel this time), Joseph will go to Nazareth (2.23). There is total obedience on the part of Joseph. An obedience that demanded a lot of sacrifice on his part.

“Don’t be afraid” (v. 20b). The angel will repeat these exact words to the women at the tomb following Jesus’ resurrection (Mt. 28.5). Jesus will use the same words on several occasions (Mt. 10.31; 14.27; 17.7; 28.10). He is not to hesitate but is to wed Mary. Both of them are magnanimous accepting what God had planned for them.

“She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins” (v. 21a). Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name him. By naming him, Joseph will make Jesus his son and bring him into the house of David. Joseph in the Old Testament was the son of Jacob who rose to prominence in the kingdom of Pharaoh the king of Egypt. Joseph even though betrayed by his brothers becomes their rescuer.

The name, Jesus, “is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means ‘YHWH is salvation’. It is related to the name Joshua––Moses’ successor.

“For it is he who will save his people from their sins” (v. 21b). The first Joshua saved the people from their enemies; the second Joshua (Jesus) will save the people from their sins. Jesus was with the tax collectors and sinners most of the time and he said that he came to call back the sinners. It is therefore reassuring to see, at the outset, that Jesus has come to save us from our sins.

Practical Conclusion

How can we imitate the virtues of Joseph? : no complaint, no self importance, just obedience, fearlessness and silence.

One of the best things on this Sunday to learn to take courage in our lives no matter what comes and what goes away. Like Joseph we need to listen to God all the time. Joseph could have had a comfortable life if he wanted to do what he desired. But he obeyed God. To be sensitive to his message and promptings. One thing I repeat we learn from Joseph is silence. He accepts God’s word transmitted to him through the angel. He does not utter a word, rather obeys and takes this challenge gratefully. Advent is a time of silence of Mary and Joseph, which can help us reap rich spiritual benefits. Joseph’s obedience is remarkable in contrast with the disobedience of King Ahaz. Joseph’s reliance on God and King Ahaz’s reliance on worldly Assyrian Kingdom that destroyed him.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Isaiah 35:1-10 ; Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:46b-55 ; James 5:7-10 ; Matthew 11:2-11

This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing. “Rejoice with the joy of singing” says Isaiah. A true joy that is created when the Lord comes with recompense. He is the one who liberates and frees. What more? The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. All these things that happen to people and to the earth will bring joy and gladness unending.

Our Rejoicing
When we rejoice at something that we have or achieved, it lasts just for a while. There is another type of rejoicing that comes from the Lord, it is called the inner joy, spring of living water gushing from our heart because we are favoured by the Lord, that lasts forever. God is here. God will come. Isaiah offers assurance for present and for future. In the future, Isaiah asserts that God will act for the people to reverse oppression and deliver them. The prophet does not describe specific conditions of oppression but speaks in general terms in a direct address to the audience: God "will come and save you" (35:4b). When the Lord does something in our life it remains as a permanent mark throughout our life. It brings us joy unending.

God's arrival brings something more. When God comes, "the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf will be opened. Then a lame man will leap like the stag; a silent man's tongue will shout. Because waters will break open in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" (35:5-6). God's arrival transforms every inability into ability and every lack into miraculous abundance. God's coming brings the capacity to see and hear to those whose senses are starving for light and sound.

Can we see God in our lives? Is it possible that we are still blinded by the world and its temptations? When God brings us light and sound, it is our duty to offer our senses and our souls. Isaiah 35 invites us to reflect on this Advent season not only as God's coming in Christ, but also as our coming home. God comes. God is here. We leap and shout and sing. And together we walk home.

St. James invites us to be patient, like the farmer patiently waiting for the crop. It’s virtually a long wait until the crop can be filled in the barn. When we look around us today, literally people lose patience. They cannot wait a second or a minute just to help someone else in need. Our attention to mass media has dulled our minds towards our neighbours. That is precisely what St. James mentions in this reading that we should stop grumbling against our neighbours and stop judging them. The real judge is God himself who is practically at the door. We need to strengthen our hearts and wait in patience for the Lord’s coming.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find a question from John the Baptist. He was unable to see what Jesus was doing as he was in the prison. So, he sent his disciples to find out what’s happening.

Jesus comes on the scene as one who proclaims the kingdom of God, calls upon people to trust in God, heals the sick, and befriends tax collectors and persons labeled “sinners.” It is little wonder that John, now sitting in prison with time to think, questions whether Jesus is the one to come or not. Jesus fits neither John`s expectations nor those of Jewish messianism in general. John’s question in 11:3 is therefore totally understandable: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus speaks of his mission in one of the clearest statements in the gospels about it: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (11:5).

Gaudete Sunday must evoke in us a great love and devotion to Jesus who makes all things new. Never in the history of mankind such revolutionary acts were seen or performed. Jesus is the Lord and God making history quite interesting and new. He is God himself, fully human liberating people from their bondage.

It’s now our turn to imitate Christ in everything we do. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived the example of Christ during her life time showing light to those who were in darkness, helping the lame to walk, taking care of the lepers and making the deaf understand what others wanted to communicate and many who felt that they were dead, were raised to life through her prayers and hard work as a missionary.

This kind of mission in imitation of Christ our Lord will bring joy to the one who shares his/her life with those who are less fortunate and helpless.

The alternative hymn we have for our liturgy today is the Magnificat of Mary. She was filled with gratitude to God and sang this hymn in praise to Him. My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. When we help some one who is in need, we participate in the mission of God who is always keen on liberating his people from oppression. Mary went to help Elizabeth her cousin who was 6 months pregnant. It was a great joy for Mary to be of help to Elizabeth.

Let us rejoice then on this Sunday preparing for the coming of the Lord. May His love and mercy allow us to be stronger than ever in making others rejoice in what life offers them. At the same time, we keep our hearts open to God’s infinite mercy that it may flow within us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Mathew 3.1-12

Lot of people today are interested in predicting what will happen in a few years from now. Some predict how the present poorly maintained ecological system would impact our environment and the entire planet. Others predict what’s going to happen if there is a nuclear war among the nations. Many are interested to know what will happen in another 10 years from now. Most of these predictions may not be realized.
Today’s first reading entirely reflects on how Isaiah predicted that Jesus is the new stock of Jesse will bring justice, understand the weak and help the poor. He will be able to defeat the wicked and help the needy and the lost.

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; that is what we have seen in the Gospels, a spirit of counsel and of strength. He stood firmly against all injustice and corruption. His delight was to do the will of the Father, establishing His Kingdom here on earth.

In the Gospels we find Jesus judging the poor with justice, providing them everything they needed. He struck the wicked with the rod of his mouth and outwitted the Pharisees and Scribes.

Then Isaiah predicts that all animals will live in peace and harmony, that is going back to the very life of the garden of Eden. Wolf and the lamb, leopard with the kid, calf with the young lion and little child will guide them. There will be no harm done on the mountain of the Lord. All will be filled with the knowledge of God. Well, we have a fuller knowledge of all these prophesies fulfilled in the person of Christ the Lord because his kingdom was an everlasting kingdom for all, including the gentiles. Jesus invited all of people to listen to him and welcomed them with warmth and generosity.
Prophet Isaiah was optimistic of God’s deliverance and his rule. He encouraged people who were dismayed but hopeful of the realization of God’s kingdom.

In his letter to the Romans Paul affirms that whatever was written was for our instruction. He insists that the Sacred Scriptures help us to endure patiently all our trials and temptations. This in view of accepting Jesus Christ that we must live in harmony with one another. When we can accept Jesus our Saviour, we also show that Gentiles are called to fellowship with us. The invitation extends to all people to come to Jesus and be saved.

St. Paul reminds us that we have a history. It is the history of our salvation recorded in the Old and New Testaments – all of which was written for our instruction. It is there to encourage us and help us to endure the hardships we face. It also gives us a well-founded hope in what Jesus has promised!

Paul teaches us that we are a community of disciples who live lives of faith. We truly need the support of one another. And we must look beneath the appearances of others and discover the truth that lives within them.

John the Baptist appearing in the desert of Judah is a sign that his mission was to extend not only to the people of Jerusalem, but to the entire region. Most of the teachers and preachers appeared in Jerusalem, but John appeared in the desert. Jesus later appeared not only in Jerusalem but all over the entire Israel.

John’s apparel of camel’s hair and leather portrayed him as a prophetic figure like Elijah (2 Kgs 1.8) whom it was believed would return to herald the messiah (Mal 4.5). The diet of locusts and wild honey recalled the wilderness period when the newly escaped refugees from Egypt were being formed as a people by God in the Sinai. But locusts were also a symbol of divine judgment in scripture (Ex 10.12-20, Deut 28.42), as honey was a sign of promise and blessings (Ex 3.17). Perhaps John’s diet signaled that the coming reign and its emissary, Jesus, would bring both judgment and promise upon the earth, a fact that is borne out in the rest of the gospel, that he said he came to bring fire on earth.

John the Baptist urges us all to repent and to change – especially from the dishonesty within ourselves. Few of us are people of complete integrity. Most of us are hiding something – and most of us want to appear better or more than who we really are. However, we must become disciples who aspire to honesty and integrity. We cannot be like the Pharisees and the Sadducees of today’s Gospel. They came with everyone else to the Jordan – but their coming was only for the sake of appearances and to judge and to find fault with John. They were far from the conversion and repentance that John was urging. And, as such, they would not escape the wrath of God. For they would not be able to accept the truths, the gifts, and the salvation that Jesus came to bring!

John the Baptist affirms so strongly the power of God. He was convinced that God could raise children for Abraham from those very stones in the desert. He would not care the faithless pharisees and scribes who lived a life of luxury. What counts is not our appearance but the fruitful outcome of our life. Repentance requires that we be genuine in our approach to life and situations. If a tree refused to yield fruits, it will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

The readings of todays liturgy invite us:
To see in Jesus the saviour of mankind and the one who will not judge by our appearances. He will do justice to the poor and the weak. Jesus will gather the nations and that is what John says, ‘gathering wheat into the barn.’

However, John clearly affirms that Jesus who will baptise people with fire will be their real saviour. Humility of John is evident when he says that he is unworthy to carry Jesus’ sandals. John was a very powerful prophet and preacher. That is why people from Jerusalem, Judah and Jordan came to listen to him.

Let us celebrate this second Sunday in Advent with a resolution that will transform us. Looking at John the Baptist we must be inspired to repent and come back to Christ our Saviour. It is purely our decision, and no one can force it upon us.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

We are in this holy season of Advent. It’s a time for waiting for the Lord to come into our lives. We all wait for so many things to happen in our life. A little baby waits for her mother to come and feed her. Parents always wait for their children to return from school; a friend waits for another friend at home or at a location that they had decided to meet. Waiting for relatives to come; waiting for a bus, waiting in the airport for the flight, waiting patiently for our turn to meet a doctor etc.

But this waiting during Advent is a very special one for the chosen ones that their Lord will come to rule them. This is what Isaiah waited concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It was after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem a patient waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises to re establish the reign of God in Judah and Jerusalem was due.

The prophet elaborates stating that the people will climb the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. It will be the desire of the people then to be instructed by the Lord. They would not heed any other earthly king’s instruction.

The Psalm we sing during the Holy Eucharist will resonate the great happiness of people who long to go to the house of the Lord. The Psalmist then knew already that the city of Jerusalem was a well-built city by King David and he gathered all the nations together, all the tribes of Israel. But Isaiah’s prediction came after its destruction.

St. Paul in his letter to Romans very clearly mentions that its time to wake up from sleep. When we are in sound sleep, we practically forget what’s happening around us. We don’t even know if there is any imminent danger around us. St. Paul’s intention was to remind his listeners that they should wake up to their reality around them as he was preaching Christ the Lord of heaven and earth.

The Gospel of Mathew particularly attracts our attention. Jesus warns his disciples that it will be like those days of Noah when the Son of man comes. People will be busy with their worldly affairs, busy in their business, marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking and merry making. Well during the time of Noah people did not give heed to what Noah was doing. They perhaps mocked him for building that huge ark. Noah work was hard, first he had to build the ark, then gather all that was necessary to keep them alive during the predicted flood. Then he had to gather all kinds of animals and species in pairs to keep them alive on board.

The analogy of Christ's return being like a thief in the night is an important one, and we find it also used elsewhere (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:2). The imagery itself implies an arrival at an unexpected or surprising time, hence the exhortation to stay awake. As verse 44 says, he will come at an unexpected time.

Our waiting is manifested in our deep faith and hope we have. It is faith that instructs us to be awake.

What we should do then? Prepare our hearts, minds and our surroundings for the coming the Lord. He may come today, tomorrow or day after. It all depends on us how we prepare ourselves well for the day of the Lord.

Advent is a time to renew our spirit. We all know how tired we are because of our daily lifestyle. We tire ourselves working, spending time with our friends, earning, spending on things we desire, and gradually we get old without our awareness. What we need to do is to pause for a while and think of the real goal we have in our mind. What’s that goal? Some material achievements? They are good in themselves, but greater than these achievements we need to aim at our personal joy in the Lord’s coming to whom we need to give an account of what we have been doing.

We the faithful must stay vigilant and awake, knowing that Christ will return, though the timing remains unknown. The phrase "the day or hour," or even just the phrase "the hour," simply means the timing. It is not suggesting that the general time frame of Christ's return can be known in advance, but that the specific day or hour is obscure.
Judah and Jerusalem must be ready for the Lord’s coming. They must be encouraged to wait in hope.

Paul inform the Romans that they have to wait for the Lord fully awake. Jesus warning serves us better understand the uncertainly when the Lord will appear.

Jesus’ return sudden and unexpected
He shares several examples to illustrate, beginning with an allusion to the days of Noah in verses 38 and 39. Jesus doesn’t focus so much on the evil prevalent in that day, but instead focuses on the ordinariness of daily life: people are eating, drinking, and getting married. They have no concept that life as they know it is about to change radically, that their eternity is about to begin.

The scenario reminds me of Christmas time. We calendarize Christmas, or “Christ-Mass,” because of the birth of a Savior. But, for the most part, the holiday is completely overtaken by the commercialism of the season. Advent that is just before Christmas has become the mecca of consumerism. Instead of preparing our souls, all these activities save our economy. There is nothing wrong with a strong, family-oriented celebration centered around gift-giving. I love Christmas as much as anyone else. However, I am thankful that the Lectionary organizers always start off the church year, the first Sunday of Advent, with the second coming of Christ: Jesus came once; Jesus is coming daily in our lives and will come again on the final day. It takes us back to the basics.

So, Jesus talks about the extraordinary happening in the middle of ordinary, everyday life. Jesus’ return will be sudden; it will be unexpected. To illustrate, he gives a couple of examples from everyday life. Two farmers are working in the field; one is taken one is left behind. Two women are grinding wheat: again, one taken, one is left behind (vv. 40-41).

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (vv. 40-41)
In both settings, there seems to be little difference between the two men, or between the two women. They look the same on the outside. Yet, one heads to eternal life and one heads to destruction. In the blink of an eye. Everything changes. Without warning.

Our role is to be ready
Jesus says simply, “Keep watch...” (v. 42)
He gives an example involving home security. Back then they didn’t have police as we do today. The military might protect the upper crust of society. But if you were middle class or lower, you were on your own. Jesus said, “If you knew when the thief was coming, you would be ready to catch them in the act.” But since we don’t know, we must maintain a state of readiness around the clock. So many people today have perimeter cameras up around their homes. When they go on holidays, they check their phones several times a day if there is any intruder in their home property. This will alert them, and they can have a control over the situation. Yes, keeping awake is the right word for ADVENT.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Recent photos of ongoing construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall at Carmel Hill - Canada : September 18th 2019
Dear Friends,

Here we go with the latest photos of the ongoing construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall at Carmel Hill - Canada. As we are nearing the end of summer, we have observed considerable work being completed. You will notice through these photos the packing of the outer walls of the hall with anti fire and anti weather proof material. The outer walls of the hall must be layered with at least 3-4 types of material before it is tiled to perfection. There is an addition to the hall building; a small boiler room construction, where wood chips will be burnt into a system to heat up the hall during the wintertime. At the same time a lot of work is going on inside the building; plastering, tiling of the floor, plumbing, and work of the kitchen. During these months we had the visitation by Rev. Fr. Johannes Gorantla OCD, the Definitor General who was appreciative of the work done. Fr. Alexander Braganza and Fr. Rajesh Madtha have been working very diligently to keep the campus ready for visitors and groups who come to pray and spend their time in spiritual activities.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
A long awaited day dawned on July 1st (Canada Day), 2019 at Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre - Edmonton - Canada. Fr. Mario Fernandes and Fr. Ivan Sanctis celebrated the Holy Eucharist and invited people to pray for the success of the new building of the Spirituality Centre and also asked a special prayer for Helen Chua Tiampo and Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza for their great initiative of this new project that will consists of 40 self contained rooms, a Hall, a big chapel with a capacity for 250 people, a residence of the Carmelite Priests (Monastery) etc. After the mass Fr. Mario Fernandes superior of the Spirituality cum Monastery (recently this existing structure and community has been canonically erected by the Definitory) blessed the foundation. There will be an Open House of information session on July 19th. A lot of money has already been spent to clear the trees and the mountain that gave way to this level space for the building. Please click the link below for the photographs. We are grateful to Fr. Mario and Fr. Ivan for their initiative and for the solemn blessing of the foundation. We are also grateful to Steve Creighton (Helen's Secretary), Darrell Wickstrom (Helen's Lawyer - Fasken Martineau), Pam Prior (KPMG), Kent Elliot (KPMG), Emmet McGrath (KPMG) for their suggestions on finances and their wholehearted support for this new venture of the Carmelites.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
These are the photos clicked during March-April 2019, springtime in Canada. A lot of progress of the construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall can be witnessed through these photos. You will notice through this album that a lot of interior design work will be accomplished in the following months. Due to incessant rains and other technical hurdles the exterior work slowed down dramatically in February and March, yet the intensity of the work is continuing. Frs. Alexander and Melvin Pinto have been not only catering to the continuous groups that visit Carmel Hill, but also doing the extra work of monitoring the progress of the hall. Ms. Helen Tiampo visited the site on April 14th with Fr. Rudolf and was very satisfied with the progress done so far. Mr. Steve Creighton has been very helpful to fix a few problems at the site with the assistance of the architect and engineers. We hope to complete the work in the coming months, but the exact date of completion is yet to be confirmed. Now that Fr. Rajesh Madtha the new community member has just joined Little Flower Monastery on June 15th, he will be contributing his share in shaping this place.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
On May 14th Rev. Fr. Johannes Gorantla, Definitor General concluded his pastoral visitation in Canada with a fraternal gathering at St. Edmond's Church Rectory. During this concluding celebration Rev. Fr. Johannes encouraged all members to be faithful to Carmelite Charism and congratulated all for their selfless service and dedication. Fr. Jerald D'Souza, the Regional Superior made arrangements for a wonderful dinner and welcomed all members of Western Canada. We also remembered other members who could not be present for the occasion. The Definitor General highlighted some features of the Region especially focusing his attention on the two establishments; one at Carmel Hill-Little Flower Monastery that has been already canonically erected and the other where the process is on for canonically erecting the Mount Carmel Spirituality centre. He insisted that at all our places of pastoral ministry there should be minimum of 3 members present. This would be officially realized by April end 2020.
During this occasion Fr. Definitor General released the new book of Fr. Rudolf "Living in the Loving Castle" along with Helen Chua Tiampo.
Please click here for the photos.

click on the image for an enlarged view

LIVING IN THE LOVING CASTLE, Canadian Carmelite Publication, Deroche (Canada, 2019), pp. xiv+174.

Rev. Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD has completed his new book on the Interior Castle of St. Teresa of Avila titled: Living in the Loving Castle. This is his 35th literary product. The book contains 27 articles methodically written scanning through Mansion after Mansion browsing through every chapter. These articles partially appeared on the Karnataka Goa Carmelite Province’s Website during the V Birth Centenary Year of St. Teresa of Avila. Now this complete volume, can be termed as Commentary on the Interior Castle of St. Teresa is available in a book form Published under Canadian Carmelite Publication – Canada. The articles on the above-mentioned website received a lot of positive and encouraging feed back from many readers from all over the world. The book has 188 pages helping anyone for a smooth easy reading. Most Rev. Greg Homeming OCD, Bishop of Lismore – Australia has given his very positive short review printed on the back-cover page. Rev. Fr. Charles Serrao OCD (Provincial) has written a beautiful Foreword for the book. The book will be marketed mainly in North America and copies can be ordered from Little Flower Monastery – Deroche – Canada.

It was a great weekend beginning from Holy Thursday till Holy Saturday hundreds of pilgrims visited our Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre. Frs. Mario Fernandes and Ivan Sanctis organized the celebrations well and Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza presided over all the celebrations. On Good Friday there were approximately 1500 people visited the centre in batches beginning at 6.30 am till the early morning of the Holy Saturday for the Stations of the Cross devotion. The community members had to provide them all the facilities including arrangements for food and snacks. For the Holy Saturday vigil mass there were around 50 people present from the neighbourhood, as it is not a parish. People were also very curious to know the ongoing ground preparation works for the construction of our Spirituality centre.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
It has been a considerable time that we updated you on our ongoing construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall at North Deroche Road, Carmel Hill. The construction work slowed down during winter time especially in December 2018. Now that there the weather condition has improved, we see a lot of work in progress. You will notice over all construction work and in a very special way you see a small foundation has been put for the boiler. This facility is designed to cut the cost of heating system. It will work with chopped wood. The technology is simple, ecological, perennial and cost effective. It is enough that once in two months the chopped wood is loaded into the system and the boiler will work through without interruption and no need for any fuel or gas. The present system in the monastery works with propane gas and is expensive. This will be sorted out and both connections (wood and propane gas) will be in place in case there is an emergency. We had the pleasure of working with the community members especially Fr. Alexander Braganza, superior and director of the Institute, who has been monitoring the work as well as the security matters at the site throughout. We acknowledge special attention given by Steve Creighton whenever we ran into some trouble at the site. He has been very engaging in this process. More photos will be posted in the forthcoming album.
Please click here for the photos.

click on the image for an enlarged view

Dear Friends,
Here I enclose Tiampo Memorial Hall album no. 5. The work has continued even during this winter due to better weather conditions. The wooden beams of the hall are getting in place. The wood which is imported from Germany is called CLT (cross laminated technology) has the resistance to climate fluctuations and durable for 150-200 years. They are chemically processed and machine glued together. Each beam has approximately 8 layers of wood pressed together with a type of glue that does not allow moisture or heat penetration. With CLT wooden beams even 12 story buildings are erected in North American continent. This CLT technology is safe and fire resistant. Please click below this link for more information on the type of buildings built here in North American continent:

We had a rare visitor to our property, Fr. Ivan Sanctis from Edmonton community who was here for a few days for his annual retreat. The donor Ms. Helen Tiampo too visited the site and was very happy with the progress of the work. Please click the link below for photos. Its a huge album with photos taken on different occasions.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
With the Magic of Fr. Mario and Inspiration from Fr. Ivan Sanctis, Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre at Edmonton has become the talk of the Town. More and more people flocking at the centre has invigorated our friars. In 2019 we plan to organize multiple retreats, seminars and contemplative prayer sessions. With the work at the centre progressing and a number of people interested in spirituality is good news to all of us. Fr. Mario and Fr. Ivan arranged a short retreat recently.
Please click here for the photos.

Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre construction site
Dear Friends,
A lot of work is going on within Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre campus - Edmonton. The photos you will find in the album give a glimpse of the levelling of the site. This entire area was a mountain and they have almost levelled it for the construction of the Spirituality Centre. There is a lot of ground work to be completed before the construction starts. Before clearing this mountain, the district ordered to remove a lot of trees. This was a thick forest with huge trees. They were cleared during summer time. As you see snow around, it took almost three months to come to this stage. Well, work may halt within a few weeks from now for winter pause and Christmas time as movement of vehicles and machinery will be very difficult. During winter normal temperature is below zero, at times it can come down to (minus) -40 Celsius. Enjoy the photos.
Please click here for the photos.

Fr. Mario and Fr. Ivan organized a number of retreats at Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre at Edmonton and this centre is getting popular in the Archdiocese. The photos below are of one of such retreats. More albums and photos will follow. In spite of the work at site for the new building of the Centre, a number of people are eager to come to this place of silence and Contemplation. People for now try their best to stay in the wooden cabins until the fully furnished centre is ready. The community members meet from time to time to discuss the ongoing spirituality and retreat programs. There is also a great demand for retreats in the Archdiocesan parishes. Fr. Rudolf recently preached a retreat and he will be giving a series of retreats on Carmelite and Christian Spiritualty at the Centre. The next retreat will be held on February 1-2, 2019 at the centre: Theme - God Experience through the Holy Scripture. The next album will highlight the ongoing the construction site of Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
This is Album number 4 of Tiampo Memorial Hall under construction at Carmel Hill (Canada). The mounting of wooden walls has begun. The wood that is needed for the entire hall has already been stacked in the compound. A lot of space cleared around the hall is for parking lots approximately for 200 cars. We are grateful to Fr. Alexander Brangaza (Superior) and Fr. Melvin Pinto for sacrificing their time both in managing the programs at Little Flower Monastery and monitoring the work that is taking place at the construction site. Please click the link below for latest photos.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
Here are the latest photos of the ongoing construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall at Carmel Hill, Canada. We have obtained the basic necessary permissions from the Fraser Valley District and the foundation of the Hall is almost complete. We had the great privilege of having Helen visit the site on September 10th. Fr. Alexander Braganza and Fr. Melvin Pinto offered us their wonderful hospitality in the Monastery. The ground Engineer of Alfred Horie Constructions, Mr. Dennis Cardin showed us the site and explained in detail how this hall will be constructed. The next move of the construction of the Hall will be raising of the walls. The material for this second phase has already arrived from Germany. These photos clicked by Rev. Fr. Alexander Braganza OCD, Superior, Little Flower Monastery.
Please click here for the photos.

Dear Friends,
Jivitamruth series in Daijiworld 24X7 from Episode 219-269, a total of 50 Episodes on Christian Spirituality will be transmitted live twice a day from the second week of September till beginning of December. The hosts of this series are Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza (Canada) and Mr. Denis Mascarenhas (Oman - Muscat). The episodes will be relayed from Monday till Friday every week from 7 am till 7.30 am and evening 7 pm till 7.30 pm.

Please click here to watch the entire series of Jivitamrut on Daijiwork24X7

Dear Friends,
Here in Canada we have a wonderful hot summer. It's really great to have the Sun with his full force on us during this time of the year, especially this year. The work at Tiampo Memorial Hall at North Deroche Road is in full swing. With all the initial hurdles overcome we have a temporary building work permit thanks to the hard work of our Architect John Clarke, Darrell Wickstrom and Steve Creighton. The basic foundation work is almost complete. You can see the infrastructure being slowly in up word swing process. Due to summer holidays the work is a bit slowed down but will certainly pick up as soon as the summer holidays are over. A lot of underground work is complete and now we wait for the wooden structures to arrive from Germany. You can still see a lot of concrete work that is completed. Huge road work is in progress and a big parking lot is being constructed. You can see the huge pile of stones dug out of the foundation excavation which will be crushed on site and used for the construction of the hall. Please click the link below for the visuals of the work site of Tiampo Memorial Hall.
click here for the photographs

Guardian Angels Parishioners gave a solemn send off to Rev. Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza
On July 7th Guardian Angels Parishioners gave a solemn send off to Rev. Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD, after completing 8 years 11 months at the parish. Rev. Frs. Jerald D'Souza, John Alex Pinto, Fr. Alex Braganza, Fr. Melvin Pinto, Fr. Rajesh Madtha and Fr. Vincent D'Souza were present for the occasion. Solemn mass was celebrated at 4 pm and Fr. Rudolf preached during mass and thanked the parishioners for their support, friendship, love and warmth of fellowship. At the end of the Holy Eucharistic celebration the souvenir book of Guardian Angels Parish titled PEARL OF SPIRITUALITY was solemnly released by Helen Chua Tiampo and all parishioners were gifted with this book on Saturday and during all the masses on Sunday July 8th. This book contains a complete profile of the parish from its foundation till date. Special focus on the various upgrades that were accomplished during the time of Fr. Rudolf being Pastor have been exhaustively reported. In addition to this a complete report of all the projects realized in Canada and in India has been elaborately given with the appropriate photographs. Fr. Rudolf as he was very active in his preaching and writing, a section is dedicated to his mass media apostolate including an entire section on the kindle books recently uploaded on amazon. The last part of the book is dedicated to various parish activities, groups and apostolate with relevant photo albums. The book contains 222 pages and is well documented.
Please click the link below for more details on the book titled:

Dear Friends,
The work at Carmel Hill has begun with full force with the construction of Tiampo Memorial Hall progressing rapidly. The recent developments are the ground is cleared and the stones are crushed and removed. Infrastructure for the Hall construction is getting ready. The underground water and sewer equipment has been already installed like septic tank, pumps etc. Now the work will continue to erect concrete pillars and then the basic structure will be seen. For more details please click the link below.

Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society
Vancouver - Canada
Please click here for more details:

Tiampo Memorial Hall construction at Carmel Hill - Canada
Dear Friends,

Here I send you photos of the construction of the Tiampo Memorial Hall at Carmel Hill - Canada. We will be regularly updating you the progress of the work. The ground has been cleared of stones and rubble as on in the first week of March 2018. This work has been massive as practically the adjacent mountainous area had to be brought to the level of the existing Little Flower Monastery. We are yet to get permit from the District as some conditions are to be fulfilled. We are grateful to all the work force for this tremendous job. A very special thanks to Helen.
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Dear Fathers and Brothers,
Here is the link to the upgraded Grotto of our Lady engineered by Fr. Steny Mascarenhas OCD the Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church - Agassiz. Fr. Steny has proved himself to be an able, dedicated, hardworking pastor in the parish and in the neighborhood and has united the divided parish within this short period of time. We congratulate him for his great success. Fr. Steny has introduced apart from Carmelite Spirituality among the people; popular devotions to Mother Mary of Mount Carmel, St. Anthony of Padua, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Elijah. He has visited people in the parish and instilled in them desire for faithful following of Christ. His presence has enhanced the faith of people and has enhanced their desire for spirituality and contemplation. From time to time Fr. Steny conducts what we call Carmelite Medition and Contemplative sessions.
Hats off to you Fr. Steny.

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Ephphatha House changes hands

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News on www.mangalorean.com
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Dear Friends,
Here is a first shot at the on going progress of the external Stations of the Cross at Carmel Hill - Little Flower Monastery. The trail of the Stations of the Cross extends to more than a kilometer and goes right up to the adjacent mountain at the back of the monastery. We are happy to note that a lot of people have already paid a visit and many come to do the devotion of the Stations of the Cross. You can also see Rev. Fr. Alexander Braganza who has been recently appointed Superior at Carmel Hill. The Stations of the Cross will be officially inaugurated when Rev. Fr. Charles Serrao (Provincial) will make his pastoral visitation in September this year.

Enjoy the photos
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society
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Dear Friends,
This is to share the joy of the arrival of the Stations of the Cross statues from the USA (Dallas) and we have unpacked them and kept in our barn. When the winter is over we install them from the Monastery to Mountain top with a beautiful trail for the use of the faithful who will visit our Monastery. We are immensely grateful to Helen and her company and those involved in making this dream come true.

Thanking you
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society
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Snow at Carmel Hill

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The first step at Mount Carmel School at Kadaganchi!
The Ground Floor of the Mount Carmel School, Carmel Giri, Kadangachi, Kalaburagi was inaugurated on the 26th of January, 2017. Most Rev. Robert Miranda, Bishop of Gulbarga blessed the Crucifix that was unveiled by Rev. Fr Charles Serrao, Provincial Superior. After placing it at the entrance of the school, all venerated the Cross. Then the Provincial unveiled the plaque bearing the name of the Helen Chua Tiampo, the magnanimous sponsor of the project. Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza, the regional Superior of the Carmelites of the Canada Region inaugurated the completed building by cutting the ribbon. After a meaningful prayer service, the Bishop blessed the newly constructed building along with Fr Rudolf V. D’Souza.
There followed a small cultural programme organized by the staff and students of the school. Fr Arun Bennis the Head Master of the School spread a red carpet of roses to all the invitees. Fr Sylvester Pereira, the Superior and correspondent of the School presented a bird eye view of the project and the history of the venture. The Bishop addressed the gathering and appreciated the dedicated service of the Carmelites in the diocese of Gulbarga, especially in Kadaganchi Village. The LKG and UKG children of the school were exuberant as they sang and danced to the tune of music in an enchanting dance performance.
Fr Rudolf V. D’Souza who was present on behalf of the Sponsor expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the local team for their untiring job and committed work in realizing the venture. Quoting the Vedas he said our school is geared towards leading the people from falsehood to truth, darkness to light and death to life – a total transformation of life and appealed for the support and cooperation of the localites and the parents in leading the school to greater heights. Rev. Fr Charles Serrao expressed sentiments of gratitude to one and all especially the contribution and the hard work of Fr Rudolf V D’Souza without whom the project would have been a bed of thorns. The Bishop, Fr Rudolf V. D’Souza, Fr Sylvester Pereira and Fr Lawrence D’Cunha were honored by the provincial. The local community honored the Provincial for his support and encouragement. Rev. Fr Nelson Pinto compered the whole programme. The presence of many priests from the diocese of Gulbarga was commendable. The parents and many people from the village witnessed the historical event. After the programme all the invitees were served snacks and cold drinks.
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Canadian Carmelites' Regional meeting held at Kitchener - Hamilton (Ontario)
We the members of Canadian Carmelite Region of Karnataka-Goa Province met together at Kitchener-Hamilton from August 22nd to 25th for our annual meeting. after our arrival on n August 22nd, we had the solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist on August 23rd; Fr. Rajesh Madtha, the Birthday boy being the main celebrant and Fr. Jason Tellis the inspiring preacher. Fr. Rajesh Madtha was felicitated after the mass and people who gathered prayed for him and congratulated him. After the Holy Eucharistic celebration, we had morning prayer followed by a great breakfast. At 10 am we began the meeting by the reading the last meeting's report and election of the secretaries for registering the minutes of the meeting. Many issues connected with the region and its development were discussed. Fr. Jerald D'Souza presented the annual accounts to the members and Fr. Ranjan D'sa briefed the members the obligations all residents have towards CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) were elaborated. We also discussed the prospects the Carmelites have in Canada and the need for recruiting new vocations was also an important point that was thoroughly discussed.
After the meeting, we had a great lunch and thereafter we visited St Joseph's Cloistered Carmel at Agatha - Hamilton. We all the members are intensely grateful to Fr. Jerome Mascarenhas and Fr. Roshan D'Souza for making our stay comfortable and providing us with tempting banquets of great and delicious food. We also thank all the members especially Fr. Jerald D'Souza for organizing the event and Fr. Ranjan D'Sa for technical support. Frs. Jason Tellis, Fr. Mario Fernandes, Fr. Victor Fernandes have provided us with the logistical support and Fr. John Pinto for his great moral and spiritual support during this week. Fr. Steny Mascarenhas and Fr. Godwin were busy in contacting the local security to keep us safe during this great event. Fr. Alwyn Sequeira was entrusted with the work of liturgy and spirituality and was successful in keeping up the real Carmelite Spirit among us. We did not give any work given to Fr. Rajesh Madtha as he was celebrating his birthday. Fr. Alfredo was entrusted with the task of monitoring the situation and we thank him. Since Vijay Martin is new to Canada we kept him completely free; Frs. Melwin Pinto and Ronald Sequeira were also given total freedom as they looked tired and came from a missionary hard working region.
On August 24th we traveled to Niagara Falls to spend a day in fun, relaxation, and sightseeing. On August 25th most of the friars left back to their communities.
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD

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Dear Friends,
It is my pleasure to let you know that our Monastery in Canada: Little Flower Monastery (Carmel Hill) is getting stronger and bigger. Since May this year till the end of July we had approximately 11 groups ranging from Bible Study group, Neo Catecuminal group, Jesuits Students, Aspirant Deacons, Angelina's Prayer Group, Lay sisters, Lay people, Blessed Sacrament Parish prayer Group etc. have come and experienced God and our hospitality. We are excited that many more have booked our facility and it is growing stronger and bigger. We have heard reports of our Monastery from far East of Canada (Ontario) to Vancouver a distance of 7000 kms. We get many visitors and are excited to know that this facility is indeed growing. Bro. Frank Sharma a new aspirant is doing his pre-postulancy in our facility and Bro. Joseph Giroux is continuing his religious life with regular prayer and community life and Fr. Alwyn Sequiera is managing the whole campus with caliber and expertise with the help of the community members. Apart from the lay people many diocesan priests have been visiting the facility and getting to know what Carmelites can offer to their parishioners. With the Blessings of Archbishop Michael Miller CSB who has been the greatest support of this Monastery we are growing in our attempt at sharing our charism to the whole Vancouver Archdiocese. Moreover, many Christian denomination groups are interested in using our facility for Bible Study, prayer and spiritual-theological formation. This has been a great gift to Karnataka Goa Province and we are ever grateful to Helen Chua Tiampo and her team that supports her vision for the Carmelites in Canada.
With regards and prayers
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society

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The Canadian Carmelites of Karnataka Goa Province celebrated Mount Carmel Feast on July 16th at 10 am in St. Edmund's Church - North Vancouver. Fr. Jerald arranged a wonderful celebration with the Bishop Paul Terrio from St. Paul's Diocese (Alberta) was the main celebrant and Fr. Rudolf and Fr. Jerald were concelebrants with the Bishop. We had also the pleasure of the presence of Frs. Steny Mucarenhas, Fr. Alwyn Sequeira, Fr. Rajesh Madtha, Bro. Joseph Giroux and Bro Frank Sharma (aspirant to Carmelites). There were more than 250 people present along with a wonderful presence of Secular Carmelites. The liturgy was well organized and Bishop Terrio gave a great homily stressing the importance of Prayer, contemplation and devotion to Mother Mary of Mount Carmel. The celebration ended with the blessing of scapulars and distribution. At the end of the liturgical celebration Fr. Rudolf invited all people to go to Carmel Hill a place of prayer, contemplation and meditation. He also stressed that the facility available is not only for religious retreats but also for lay people to spend time in peace with God. The parishioners organized a grand luncheon in the School hall and all were happy and joyful to celebrate this great Carmelite event. We congratulate Fr. Jerry for organizing this great celebration with a wonderful choir and other liturgically creative moments during this event.

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St. Dominic Parish, Hamilton Diocese - Ontario, Canada
Dear Fathers,
This is a good news from Canada. We have a new parish in Hamilton Diocese - Ontario. The new parish priest is Fr. Ranjan D'sa. St. Dominic Parish Oakville was established in 1955. Now approximately 500 – 600 people attend the weekend masses. The parish takes care of two elementary schools and a high school. The parish has a small chapel and the weekdays masses are celebrated in the chapel. It also has a small parish hall only used for parish activities. The area is residential and very beautiful. It is on the shores of Lake Ontario. On the 16th and 17th for the first time in the history of St. Dominic parish, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - scapulars were distributed to all. Cudos to Fr. Ranjan D'sa for taking up this great responsibility as Pastor. Fr. Ranjan through his expertise as the Spiritual counsellor can do wonders in this parish and draw more vocations to Carmel. He has been a great pastor in St. Andrew the Apostle London Ontario for more than 6 years now and has transformed this parish as a centre of Spirituality and Contemplation. We wish him all the success and good time in this new venture.

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Dear Friends,
Here I present to you the latest Album no. 32, containing various snap shots of/at Carmel Hill. These photos were clicked at random from March 19th to May 15th (2016). You will find in the first section the furnishing of the commercial kitchen, visit by our Architect John Clark and Paul Ownes, a special Photo of our dear Archbishop Michael Miller CSB, valuable visit by our dear Fr. Johannes Gorantla (Definitor General from Rome), the photos of a few groups who spent time at Carmel Hill and are totally amazed at nature, surroundings and the beauty of the place; Fr. Alwyn and Bro. Joseph Giroux the community members who manage the facility beautifully and a few nuns who spent time at our facility for spiritual recollection. All looks good at Carmel Hill; and the preparations are on to accommodate new groups in the coming days and weeks. We thank again in a special way Helen Chua Tiampo who made all this possible through her team of advisors, estate planners, accountants, and lawyers; and a special remembrance of her dear parents: Jaime and Josephina Chua Tiampo and we pray for the repose of their souls.

For more details of the recent brochure and flyers please log on to: www.carmelhill.ca

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Thanking you for your prayerful support and encouragement.
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD

Dear Friends,
Here I send you the latest video of fully furnished Little Flower Monastery - Vancouver (British Columbia) Canada.
Enjoy the video. We have 10 groups booked already and we are going ahead with full swing massive advertisement blitz for the Little Flower Monastery programs.


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Dear Friends,
Here you have a 3 minutes short profile video of our Little Flower Monastery at Carmel Hill Canada. Enjoy the show.

Dear Friends,
Here I send you photos of the Blessing and Dedication of the Little Flower Monastery Chapel by Archbishop Michael Miller CSB on March 19th 2016 - Solemnity of St. Joseph, Patron of Canada. The weather was perfect and was the first day of Spring this year. Along with the Secular Carmelites there were 75 guests present for the celebration. Fr. Jerald D'Souza organized the liturgical celebration taking care of the meticulous details printed in the liturgical guide and distributed. Frs. Alwyn Sequeira, the Superior of the house, Bro. Joseph Giroux OCD, the bursar and Frs. Steyn Mascarenhas, Rajesh Madtha, Jason Tellis and Fr. Richard Francis D'Souza OCD were present on the occasion. Archbishop solemnly began the celebration blessing the Holy Water at the entrance of the Chapel and sprinkling on the faithful as he processed into the Chapel. After the readings Archbishop preached a spiritually enriching homily highlighting the importance of the blessing and dedication of a Chapel which has its roots in the Old and the New Testament. During the mass Solemn and long prayers of dedication were recited and sung; and the Litany of the Holy Saints was sung, after which the anointing of the Altar was held in a very solemn way; abundant oil was poured on the Altar Marble Slab and in a special way the Altar Relic was blessed and incense was burnt. After the celebration and before the final Blessing Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza thanked the Archbishop for all his help and guidance and thanked each and every one who was instrumental in making this Blessing ceremony a great spiritual nourishment and experience. We thank Molly Dias and Susan and Larry for their help.

Helen's parents Jaime and Josephine Chua Tiampo were specially remembered and gratefully acknowledged Helen's contribution towards this massive building of the Little Flower Monastery. On this occasion we thank all those involved in this project: Helen's Estate Planners, her lawyers Darrel Wickstrom, Leo Amighetti, Accounting department KPMG represented by Pam Prior, Kent, Emmet McGrath, Helen's secretary Steve Creighton, Francis Wong and others. May God bless them all for their time, efforts and their contribution. We also thank the Architect John Clark, Paul Owens, the Alfred Horie Constructions: Steve Paone, Dennis Cadrain and his helpers.

Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society
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Dear friends,
Here are the ariel shots or drone shots of our property and the monastery at Carmel Hill. These photos were clicked by Dennis Cadrain. We all thank him for this unique service to us. Enjoy the photos.
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society

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Dear Friends,
Good morning. Hope you had a wonderful week. Here I send you a comparative album of the photos clicked on February 24th in 2015 and on February 24th 2016. This comparison will certainly raise your eyebrows as to the work that is accomplished within one year from the moment we started cutting trees to the completion of the landscaping around the monastery. We will be posting the 31st album shortly. Thank you for your support and interest in this venture.
Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
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LITTLE FLOWER MONASTERY  ALBUM NO. 31 - First Visitors - Come and See
Dear Friends,
Here are the first visitors to our facility. When we met Archbishop Michael Miller CSB recently he said to us that a Diocesan Spirituality institute "Rosemary Heights" has been shut down due to maintenance costs as that building was old. He told us that there are many groups who would want to come and use our facility. Already a few groups have booked our facility after April this year. This is very encouraging to us. Well, we will make the best use of this opportunity to diffuse Carmelite Spirituality and to be a great service to the people of God and to the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
All the best

Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
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Grand celebration organized for Fr. Alwyn Sequeira ocd
Dear Friends,
We had a grand celebration organized for Fr. Alwyn Sequeira ocd. He arrived Vancouver on January 19th and successfully completed his procedures in getting all his initial documents for his stay in Canada. On February 16th he met Archbishop Michael Miller and the Vicar General Fr. Joseph Phung. Then he he was introduced to various administrative departments in the Diocesan Chancery. Then in the evening we had a grand welcoming celebration at St. Edmunds community with an introduction from Fr. Jeson Tellis and prayer by Bro. Joseph Giroux, sumptuous dinner arranged by Fr. Jerald D'Souza and Fr. Steny Mascarenhas. Fr. Rajesh Madtha offered him flower bouquet and welcomed him into Canadian Carmelite Community. After our wonderful meal we gave him a tearful sendoff praying that he will continue his stay at Carmel Hill with Bro. Joseph Giroux OCD.

Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD
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Canadian Carmelite Charitable Society (C.C.C.S.), formerly Rafiki Fundraising Society, was incorporated in 2006 with the purpose of fundraising to provide aids to alleviate poverty of children in Africa. Over the past few years, financial assistance was provided to projects in Kenya and Nigeria. In recent months, it has been providing sandwich lunches to the poor in the West-End in Vancouver. It is currently establishing a personal development institute, spiritual centre, retreat centre and educational institute in the Fraser Valley in mission to serve the Greater Vancouver area.

Our Mission & Services

Total Poverty Alleviation

Our Projects

Seminary Project in Mysore, India

The charity has assisted in partial financing of an addition to a seminary in Mysore, India for the training of young men to the priesthood.

Africa Mission

The charity has supported a village in Nigeria called Oforola, of a Catholic priest who is the pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Surrey