25 January 2014

WHY AM I A DISCIPLE? TO DO OR TO BE WITH??

III SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 8:23-9:3; 1 corinthians 1:10-13, 17; matthew 4:12-23

in a talk to a group of salesian novices, their provincial asked them: «why do you want to become salesians?» he got many answers: to serve GOD, to work with youth, to reach out to the poor. the provincial stunned the novices when he said: «you can leave the novitiate! you don’t need to be a salesian to all these!»

so, why does one become a priest/religious? or perhaps one should ask a more fundamental question: why does one become a disciple of JESUS?


the answer is in today’s gospel: «he said to them, ‘follow me, and i will make you fishers of men.’»

almost always, we focus on the second part of this invitation. we focus on the mission; we focus on «doing».
we need to focus on the first part of the invitation: follow me. whenever JESUS called someone in the gospels, he said: «follow me.» and about the appointment of the apostles, mark writes: «he appointed twelve… to be with him and to be sent out…» first, to be with him!

i become a disciple for one reason: because JESUS calls me… to follow him, to a special relationship with him. st paul indicates this in the second reading when he exhorts the corinthians to be united because as christians they belong to CHRIST.
discipleship is not so much doing something; it is following and being with JESUS!

what do we need to do to follow him? 
«they left their nets and followed him… they left their boat… and followed him.» leaving nets and boats signifies leaving the past life; leaving what they knew and relied on, and moving out of their comfort zones… to embrace a new life with different values and goals.
moreover, JESUS begins his preaching with a call to «repent». repentance means renewal of life.

the LORD calls you and me to follow him. what would it mean for me to follow JESUS this week? what «nets and boat» do i need to leave? am i ready to just «be with» him or must i «do» something??

18 January 2014

QUO VADIS? TO WITNESS TO JESUS!

II SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 corinthians 1:1-3; john 1:29-34
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011914.cfm

in «alice in wonderland», alice stands at a crossroads and asks the cheshire cat which path she should take. he asks: «where are you going?» she answers that she doesn’t know. the cat replies: «well then, it doesn’t really matter which path you take.»

to know which path to take, we need to know where we are going! elementary, right? but how many of know where we are going? it’s vital for us to articulate our mission… so that we know where we are going and act accordingly!

today’s readings spell out for us the mission of GOD’s chosen.
the first reading is the second «servant song» from isaiah. it describes the mission of the GOD’s servant: to be «a light to the nations». in the second reading, paul states his mission: he is «called to be an apostle of CHRIST JESUS».
the gospel spells out the mission of john the baptist: «for this i came… that he (JESUS) may be revealed to israel» and «i have seen and testified that he is the son of GOD.» in john’s gospel, the baptist plays a special role: he is the first to witness to JESUS, the first to lead others to the light, to the lamb of GOD. and because he’s clear about his mission, john is content to play second-fiddle, to let the spotlight be on JESUS!

the mission of the servant, of paul, of john the baptist – in fact it’s one mission – is given to each one of us. we are called to be a light to the nations that GOD’s salvation may reach all peoples; to be apostles who witness to JESUS; to lead others to him.

do i know where i’m going? do i know and accept my mission? if yes, how will i witness to JESUS in the week ahead? how will i be «a light to the nations»?

11 January 2014

BELONGING TO GOD AND A NEW WAY OF LIVING

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; acts 10:34-38; matthew 3:13-17

ten year cameron walked into the pastor’s office with a request: «i’d like to be baptized.» he explained: «we are learning about JESUS’ baptism in sunday school. the teacher asked who was baptized, and all the other kids raised their hands. i want to be baptized too.» the pastor gently asked: «do you want to be baptized because everyone else is?» cameron replied: «no. i want to be baptized because it means i belong to GOD.»
the pastor was moved by the boy’s understanding and suggested that sunday for his baptism. cameron asked with a hint of concern: «do i have to be baptized in front of all those people in the church? can’t i just have a friend baptize me in the river?» the pastor asked where he got  that idea. «well, JESUS was baptized by his cousin john in a river, wasn’t he?»
conceding that the boy had a point the pastor: «but, if a friend baptized you in the river, how would the church recognize it?» and realizing this was a teachable moment, the pastor reached for ritual book. cameron responded: «i guess by my new way of living.»
the ritual book stayed on the shelf! cameron’s understanding of baptism was profound in its simplicity. 

baptism signifies that we belong to GOD, a belonging seen in a new way of living.

it was thus with JESUS’ baptism. the FATHER affirmed his sonship: «this is my beloved son…» and empowered by the SPIRIT, JESUS started proclaiming the kingdom, began teaching and healing, and restored broken lives instead of broken furniture. he, thus, fulfilled the mission of the servant of Yahweh about which isaiah prophesied (cf. first reading). the people—including his own—recognised this new way of living (recall their words when he returned to nazareth: «is this not the carpenter…»).

it is the same with us. through baptism we become sons and daughters of GOD; we belong to him. we are called to a new life… a life as GOD’s children, who love and care and serve. and we have the SPIRIT who empowers us.

is my baptism seen in my way of living? can people recognise that i belong to GOD?? 

04 January 2014

THEY SAW THE SIGN...

THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
isaiah 60:1-6; ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; matthew 2:1-12

almost everyone has seen water boiling; only james watt took in its significance and the power of steam. almost all of us have had things falling on our heads; only isaac newton took in the significance of the falling apple. 
they saw the sign and... took in its significance, acted on it and were transformed (and transformed our world): watt improved the newcomen steam engine and patented the steam locomotive; newton discovered the laws of gravity.

two millennia ago, perhaps, several people saw the «star at its rising» but only the magi took in its significance and travelled from the east to jerusalem, and onward to bethlehem. several people saw this child and his mother but only the magi understood the significance of the child; when they saw the child with his mother, «they prostrated themselves and did him homage. then they opened their treasures... and offered him gifts.»
they recognised this child as king, as GOD, and as suffering redeemer of all people (cf. st irenaeus’ interpretation, in «adversus haereses», of the meaning of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh). further, their encounter with JESUS transformed them; they returned to their country by a different route.

the LORD gives us signs—people, events, experiences...—to draw us to himself. we definitely see these. do we see the «sign», take in its significance, act on it and allow ourselves to be transformed? 
on the solemnity of the epiphany, let us «stat»... see - take in - act - (be) transformed... and do so stat!