Thursday, March 31, 2016

A great means to preserve continual peace and tranquility of soul is to receive everything from the hands of God

'See, my children, a person who is in a state of sin is always sad. Whatever he does, he is weary and disgusted with every thing; while he who is at peace with God is always happy, always joyous. . . Oh, beautiful life! Oh, beautiful death!'--St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney: (1786 – 1859: was a French parish priest who is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as the patron saint of parish priests.)

Gospel Text: (LK 24:35-48)
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

The central point that stuck with me in today’s Gospel from Mass was the first words out of Jesus mouth to his disciples were “Peace be with you.” No fear. No scolding for their failure and betrayal of him on Good Friday. No turmoil. No doubt. Simply Peace. Those words Christians have said to one another ever since, perhaps without thinking: Peace be with you.

These same disciples cowered in fear behind locked doors when good news was waiting for them outside. Good news came to them anyway, even in their fear. They were seeking safety, and the truth came instead. Is it fear that makes us hide from the suffering of the world? Perhaps that’s a mystery of the heart, so easily turned to stone, so easily turned away from the pain of others.

Whenever we’re afraid and hiding out, all locked up, God comes to us in the midst of our fear and says, “Peace be with you.” Whatever doubts churn consciences, whatever pain and worry bind us up, whatever walls we have put up or doors we have locked securely, God comes to us and says, “Peace be with you.” Whatever hunger and need we feel deep in our souls, God calls us to the table, feeds us well, and sends us out into the world to be justice and peace, salt and light, hope for the world. We can do it, if we keep our eyes open, our minds limber, and our hearts soft and willing to love. As God sent Jesus, God sends us, today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The reason the world is not seeing Jesus is simply explained - People choose to not be filled with Jesus.

Gospel Text: (LK 24:13-35)
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Emmaus disciples saw their hopes and dreams dashed and crushed.  Theirs is a piercing cry: “We were hoping…” [24:21]  They were expecting this Jesus to be a mighty liberator or warrior.  They never imagined the outcome of that terrible Friday on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.

We know what happens when such feelings overtake us: we become despondent, indifferent, cynical and sad.  How many times have we been like the two on the road, uttering those same words: “We were hoping…” We were hoping that wars, violence and terrorism would have ceased. We were hoping that our children would have remained in the Church. We were hoping that the ravages of sickness and ageing would have spared a loved one or even ourselves much physical and mental anguish.  Like the two on the road to Emmaus, do we not feel that we are victims of time, fate, circumstance and external factors?

We cannot live without hope but we must be prudent and wise in our hoping.  Given the cultural and social context in which we live, there is a risk of reducing Christian hope to an ideology, to group slogans, to mere appearances and feelings.  Nothing could be more opposite to Jesus’ message! He does not want His disciples to simply recite a role of hope. He wants them “to be hope”.

To believe in the resurrection does not mean we embrace fleeting ideologies, secular strategies, cheap slogans and catchy themes.  It means that we fall in love again with God’s Envoy, the Risen Lord, and remain in an intimate relationship with him.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  We cannot afford to simply be people “who were hoping.”  Rather we must become hope, and we can be so only if we remain united to Him.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.”

Gospel Text: (JN 20:11-18)
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

How many times have we failed to recognize the presence of the Lord in our lives? 

More often than not, when things do not go our way, our immediate reaction is to think that God has abandoned us.  We let our emotions and anxiety take over.  We forget to pray.  We even blame God for what seems to be a setback.  We lose faith. Then, as our senses return and we are able to think better, we discover that it was actually a blessing in disguise.  We had to face the trial to enable us to become better people and to achieve a better ending.  Only then did we realize that "it was the Lord!"   

Monday, March 28, 2016

Once you choose hope, anything's possible!

Gospel Text: (MT 28:8-15)
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

Easter comes to us with a message of hope.  We know for a fact that the Gospel writers recorded their accounts from hindsight.  What is surprising though are the details and clarity of their recall.  As first-hand witnesses, their experiences with all the interplay of mixed emotions, feelings, insights, questions, etc. had created an indelible impression of the Jesus whom they knew personally.  The written accounts, although done by different writers, all agree in essence and truth about Jesus and his promises.  

When everything had seemed to be falling apart, the discovery of the empty tomb and the appearance of Jesus gave new hope.  Eventually, every piece of the puzzle came into place and doubts erased.  What made these witnesses go forth to share the message of love and hope is remarkable; even to the point of death they never denied what they believed in.  It is the ultimate truth that Jesus had come to tell, this can only be perfected in love.

In contrast, those who do not believe will challenge the truth and resort to underhanded tactics to discredit the message.  Today, this comes to us in many forms: intimidation and threat by persecution; peer pressures; deception and distractions towards the pursuit of materialistic desires of wealth, power and fame; moral relativism that obscures the truth by creating doubts with pseudo ideas; etc.

How do we assess our faithfulness to the truth?  Are we easily swayed by counter claims by popular public opinions that challenge the truth?  Do we seek to verify authenticity and truth by developing our love for God and our fellow men to build the Kingdom of God?  Is hope a factor in our Christian commitment?