29 November 2014

WAITING… IN HOPE

I SUNDAY OF ADVENT
isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; 1 corinthians 1:3-9; mark 13:33-37
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/113014.cfm

waiting is part of life. outside schools, parents wait to pick up their children. at bus stops and railway stations, people wait for their loved ones; in hospitals, patients wait for their families. all waiting for someone to come. all they can do is wait… in hope!
waiting is part of life. all of us waited to be born, waited to be nourished, waited to be loved. we learned, soon enough, that not everything is available «instant». and so we have to wait.

advent is a time and season of a more profound waiting… a waiting for GOD… to reveal himself; to come to us.
the first reading graphically portrays a people waiting for GOD. recently returned from captivity in babylon, they hope that GOD will again adopt them as his children. but jerusalem is a heap of ruins; there is no sign to confirm their hope.
the people remember what GOD did for them in the past: «you, LORD, are our father… no ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any GOD but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.» this memory makes the people pray to GOD to come among them as he did on mount sinai. this memory gives the people hope as they wait.

the gospel and the second reading give us attitudes for this waiting period: be responsible and dutiful servants; stay awake to the signs of the kingdom around us and to the opportunities to serve others; stay firm to the end though GOD’s grace and gifts.

like the newly-returned exiles, we are between the first and second comings of JESUS; we sometimes feel anguish and frustration when GOD seems absent from our lives.
what is the attitude which characterizes my waiting: optimism or desolation? joy or anguish? hope-filled service or despairing passivity? what are the gifts GOD has given me? how can i use them as a responsible servant for the task he has given me?

an anecdote to end!
while on a south pole expedition, sir ernest shackleton left a few men on elephant island, and promised them he would return. each time he tried to return, huge icebergs blocked his way. one day, an avenue opened in the ice, and shackleton got through. his men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. no sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. shackleton said: «it was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!» they replied: «we never gave up hope. whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and said, ‘he may come today.’»

like shackelton’s men, may we be ready for the coming of the LORD; may we be alert to the signs of his presence everywhere: in every checkout counter, every bus/train station, every waiting room…

22 November 2014

REACHING OUT TO AND IDENTIFYING WITH THE LEAST

JESUS CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING
ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 corinthians 15:20-26, 28; matthew 25:31-46
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112314.cfm

according to a jewish legend,  a man went to heaven in a dream and watched at the gates.
a rabbi came and made his claim to enter: «day and night i studied the torah.» the angel at the gate said: «wait! we will investigate whether your study was for its own sake or for the sake of honours.»
a zaddik next approached: «i fasted much; i underwent many ritual cleansings; i studied the mystical commentary on the torah day and night.» the angel said: «wait until we have completed investigating your motives.»
then a tavern-keeper drew near and said: «i kept an open door and fed without charge every poor man who came into my inn.» the angel opened the gates for him.

the jewish legend has the same thrust as the gospel parable of the final judgment: GOD judges us not upon our acts of religiosity but upon the little acts of mercy we show (or do not show) to the least—the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. more important, whenever we serve these least ones, we serve him, who identifies himself with them.
in the first reading, through ezekiel, GOD promises that he will reach out to the lost, the strayed, the injured, and the sick, and he will shepherd them. in the gospel, he challenges us—who have experienced his shepherding love—to be the shepherds and to do the reaching out to the least.

we come to the end of another liturgical year.  today’s solemnity of CHRIST the universal king invites us to examine how the LORD has loved and cared for us in the past year, and how we have reached out to «the least brothers and sisters» of his.
am i aware of the numerous ways in which GOD has reached out to me and shepherded me? how will i reach out to and identify with the least of his brothers and sisters?



15 November 2014

BE HI-FI CHRISTIANS WHO SPREAD HIS «TALENTS»

XXXIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 
proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 thessalonians 5:1-6; matthew 25:14-30
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111614.cfm

as a child, norman geisler—the famous apologist, theologian and author—went to a vacation bible school because some neighbourhood children invited him. he returned to the same church for sunday school. each week a bus driver picked him up. week after week, for eight years, he attended church, but never committed his life to GOD. finally, during his senior year in high school, after being picked up for church over 400 times, he committed his life to CHRIST. what if the bus driver had given up on geisler at 395? what if the bus driver had said: «this kid is going nowhere spiritually, why waste any more time on him?» (cf. max lucado, GOD came near)

that unknown and unsung bus driver (or drivers) was a hi-fi (high-fidelity) christian! he stuck to the task entrusted to him; he was faithful to his responsibility!

that’s the challenge JESUS puts before us in this sunday’s gospel: fidelity to our GOD-given mission.
the parable of the talents is NOT about using/multiplying our skills and gifts (though we need these for the mission, and GOD gives us a mission based on our capacities)!
a talent was about fifteen years’ wages, and—in the parable—symbolises something of great value to the LORD, something that belonged to him, and that he entrusted to his servants.
the talents represent his word (also: his love, forgiveness, sacraments…). those who transmit it find that it multiplies; those who study it find their understanding of it deepens (recall that isaiah 55:10-12 tells us that GOD’s word, when invested, always brings a return!)… and those who bury it find its value diminishes.

the first reading has a similar thrust: it glorifies «a worthy wife» not for her talents and gifts but for her fidelity to her responsibility.

the gospel and the first reading promise a reward for such fidelity: «enter into the joy of your master» and «give her a reward for her labours».

am i faithful to my GOD-given mission of doing my daily duty and of proclaiming his word? or does fear (of failure, rejection, judgement…) prevent me from being faithful?
on world communications day, may i be a hi-fi christian and faithfully communicate GOD’s love, word and forgiveness to all people. amen.

08 November 2014

BE A LIVE CHURCH AND A CHURCH THAT IS ALIVE

THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA
ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17; john 2:13-22
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110914.cfm

in 1953 reporters gathered at a chicago railway station waiting to meet the 1952 nobel peace prize winner… a big man, six-feet-four tall with bushy hair and a large moustache. reporters were excited to see him; cameras flashed; compliments were expressed.
suddenly, the man excused himself, and walked up to an elderly afro-american woman struggling to carry two large suitcases. he picked up her cases, escorted her to a bus, and then returned to the waiting reporters and apologised for keeping them waiting.
that was dr albert schweitzer, the famous missionary-doctor who had invested his life helping the poor and the sick in africa.
a member of the reception committee remarked: «that’s the first time i ever saw a sermon walking.»

dr schweitzer understood the meaning of being church: being live and alive! he was also alive to the reality around him!
on the feast of the dedication of the lateran basilica, (pope-emeritus) benedict xvi reminds us that «the temple of stones is a symbol of the living church, the christian community, which… is a ‘spiritual edifice,’ built by GOD with ‘living stones,’ namely, christians themselves.»

the readings highlight this fact.
in the first reading, ezekiel emphasises that the temple is the source of life-giving water.
through the cleansing of the temple, JESUS indicates that he is the new temple… the source of life and love.
st paul reminds the corinthians that they are GOD’s holy building with CHRIST as their foundation. and therefore, they need to build their lives carefully… and live lives worthy of their calling.

do i see myself—and other christians—as church? am i—and the community of believers to which i belong—a live church and a church that is alive to the realities around me? am i a source of life and love?

01 November 2014

WHAT LIES BEYOND…

THE COMMEMORATION OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS)
wisdom 3:1-9; romans 5:5-11; john 6:37-40

a dying man was scared about death. he asked his doctor—a christian—about what lay beyond. just then the doctor heard a scratching at the door. he paused and said: «do you hear that? it’s my dog. i left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up. he has no idea what lies beyond the door, but he knows that his master is here. it is the same with me! i don’t know what lies beyond the door of death, but i know my master is there» (cf. bruce shelley, «christian theology in plain language»).


this is what christian faith and the readings for all souls’ day affirm: beyond the tomb, lies our master waiting to welcome us to our eternal dwelling.
the first reading from the book of wisdom is emphatic: «the souls of the just are in the hand of GOD… they are in peace.»
st paul assures the romans: «since we are now justified by his blood, we will be saved through him from the wrath» and «we shall… be united with him in the resurrection.»
in the gospel, JESUS promises the crowds: «everyone who sees the SON and believes in him
will have eternal life, and i shall raise him on the last day.»

shortly before he died, jean-paul sartre—the atheist philosopher—declared he had strong feelings of despair and he would say to himself: «i know i shall die in hope.» then in profound sadness, he would add: «but hope needs a foundation.»
christian hope has a foundation: the death and resurrection of JESUS. 

does my hope have this strong foundation? do i believe that my dear departed are at peace in the hand of GOD and will be raised on the last day?
eternal rest grant unto them, o LORD; and let perpetual light shine upon them. may they rest in peace. amen.