31 January 2015

WHITHER AUTHORITY: FROM POWER OR FROM RELATIONSHIP?

IV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 corinthians 7:32-35; mark 1:21-28

queen victoria and her husband, prince albert, quarrelled about something early in their marriage. albert walked out and went to his room. victoria followed, found the door locked, and began pounding on it. «who’s there?» prince albert asked. «the queen of england,» was the reply. the door remained locked.
more pounding followed. then there was a pause. and then a gently tap. «who’s there?» albert inquired. victoria replied: «your wife, albert.» albert opened the door immediately.

what opened albert’s door and heart was not the authority (the word comes from the latin «auctor» which means promoter!) that came from power and status, but the authority that came from an intimate relationship.
that is the kind of authority that JESUS had… which impressed and amazed people.

JESUS begins his public ministry by teaching in the synagogue, and by casting out an «unclean spirit» from a man. the people are astonished because he taught and healed as one having personal authority… unlike the scribes who derived their authority from their role and status.
however, the crowd cannot identify the source of this authority. the unlikely voice of the possessed man identifies the source: «i know who you are—the holy one of GOD!» after his death on the cross, another unlikely voice (the roman centurion) identifies JESUS: «this man was the SON of GOD!»
JESUS derived his authority from his intimate and personal relationship with his father.

how do i relate with others: from power or through relationship? from where do i derive my authority: from my role/status and power/prestige or from my relationship with my GOD?

24 January 2015

«U TURN» TO GOD

III SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 corinthians 7:29-31; mark 1:14-21
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012515.cfm

wabush, a town in a remote part of labrador, canada, was completely isolated for some time. then workers cut a road through the wilderness to reach it. wabush now has only one road leading into it, and thus, only one road leading out. if someone were to travel the unpaved road to get to wabush, there is only one way he/she could leave: by turning around.

there comes a moment in our lives when we realise we are on the wrong road. as in wabush, there is only one way out… we must turn around. the bible calls that u-turn «repentance», and that’s the thrust of today’s liturgy.
in the first reading, GOD sends jonah to call the people of nineveh to repentance.
in the gospel, JESUS begins his mission by calling people to make a u-turn: «the kingdom of GOD is at hand.  repent and believe the good news!»
what is that good news? it is the news found upon jonah’s lips as an accusation against GOD: that GOD is gracious and compassionate, even to those who do not deserve his grace and compassion.

for some, repentance is a radical turnaround from total evil to accept GOD’s compassion, as it was in the case of the ninevites.
for others, it is a turnaround from their way of doing things to doing what GOD wants them to do; it involves abandoning their nets and boats to follow the LORD, as it was in the case of simon and andrew, james and john.
for me, what will a u-turn to GOD involve? what are the «boats and nets» i need to abandon to follow the LORD?

i pray with the psalmist: «your ways, o LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are GOD my saviour.»

17 January 2015

HEEDING GOD’S CALL

II SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
1 samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 1 corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; john 1:35-43

one evening a professor sat at his desk to sort his mail. as he began to discard unwanted stuff, a magazine—delivered to him by mistake—fell open to an article titled: «the needs of the congo mission.»
he began reading it; and these words gripped him: «the need is great here. we have no one to work in the northern province of gabon in the congo. it is my prayer that GOD will lay his hand on one—on whom the master’s eyes already rest—and that he or she will answer the call to help us.»
the professor closed the magazine and wrote in his diary: «my search is over.» and albert schweitzer gave himself to the congo. 

schweitzer got his life’s calling after he «happened» to read an article which was not even his! people get their call in unique ways… as today’s readings attest.
GOD called samuel directly. john the baptist pointed out JESUS to two of his disciples, and JESUS invited them to «come and see». andrew told simon that they had found the messiah. samuel, andrew, simon. three unique people. three unique call stories.

there are, however, elements common to each call story: 
- listening: GOD has a plan for each of us, and he calls us. we need to listen for his call which comes through people; through books/articles and talks; through life-events… we do not know how he will call us. one thing is certain: he will surprise us!
- understanding: we need to understand what we have heard. we need guidance. eli helped samuel to understand that the voice he heard was GOD’s; john indicated the way to his two disciples.
- responding: we need to put our hands up and say: «here i am…» 
- abiding: samuel remained in the LORD’s temple; andrew and the other disciple remained with JESUS two days. discipleship is primarily remaining with the master.

GOD continues to call people.
can i hear GOD calling me? am i open to his unexpected ways of calling? will i listen to his call, seek guidance to understand it, respond to it and abide with him?

10 January 2015

ONE-WITH-US TO GIVE US NEW LIFE

THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD
isaiah 55:1-11 (or isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7); 1 john 5:1-9 (or acts 10:34-38); mark 1:7-11

when nazism was spreading across europe, hitler ordered the king of denmark to issue a decree requiring all jews in the country to wear a yellow arm-band with a star of david. the king knew that all who wore the arm-band would be rounded up and sent to the death camps; he also knew the danger of disobeying hitler.
he issued his decree, and—although he was not jewish—he was the first to wear a yellow arm band. the next day, every danish citizen—jew and gentile—wore the required arm band. 
the king and his subjects showed solidarity with the jews, and gave them a lease of life.

JESUS’ baptism was an act of solidarity of the king with all his subjects.
he did not need john’s baptism of repentance because he was sinless (in matthew’s account, john tried to prevent him!). but he chose to be baptised to become one with us. having pitched his tent among us, he made an act of complete solidarity: he became immersed in our reality, and truly became one-with-us. 
however, JESUS did not become one-with-us to leave us in our state. with his baptism, he began his mission to show us that we are—in the words of st john in the second reading—«begotten by GOD». JESUS’ solidarity with us gives us new life as GOD’s beloved children.
children of GOD is our identity, and the messianic banquet—about which isaiah prophecies in the first reading—is our destiny. 

our baptism is not merely a baptism of repentance and a washing away of original sin. it is also—and especially— an entry into GOD’s family, and the beginning of a new life of grace through an empowerment/anointing with the SPIRIT.

how will i live as my new life as GOD’s beloved child? how will i show solidarity with his other children?

03 January 2015

STEADFAST SEEKERS

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

on a fog-shrouded 04 july 1952 morning, florence chadwick attempted to swim from catalina island to the california coast. the circs were awful: the water was numbing cold; there were sharks in the vicinity; the fog was so thick she couldn’t see the boats in her party. after 15 hours in the water, chadwick asked to be taken out of the water. her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on because she was within a half mile of the shore, but chadwick quit. later she told a reporter: «i'm not excusing myself. but if i could have seen land, i might have made it.» 
two months later chadwick re-attempted the swim. again mist obscured the coastline and she couldn’t see the shore. but she kept reminding herself that land was there. she steadfastly sought her goal and succeeded.


the magi, who journeyed from «the east» to jerusalem to pay homage to the newborn king of the jews, did something similar! 
they faced tremendous odds: a long and arduous journey; cold weather; lack of shelter; having to seek directions from a sinister herod... but they steadfastly sought their goal. they kept reminding themselves that the newborn king was somewhere ahead; allowed themselves to be guided by the star; were humble enough to seek direction; were open to learning from religious leaders; and had faith to recognize the king «when they saw the child with mary his mother.» 
and after their encounter with the newborn king they were transformed: they resisted herod and «departed for their country by another way» 

our life’s journey, too, is long and arduous. we face fearsome challenges and difficulties. we will not fail if we keep sight of our goal, allow ourselves to be guided by the light of CHRIST, seek direction from spiritual leaders, and have faith to recognize our king in the mundane. our encounters with the king ought to transform us and make us courageous to resist the herods of today.
will i steadfastly seek CHRIST despite the challenges i face? will i allow myself to be transformed after my encounters with him?