28 November 2015

WAIT... WITH REALISTIC HOPE

I SUNDAY OF ADVENT
jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 thessalonians 3:12–4:2; luke 21:25-28, 34-36

when mike got cancer, his oncologist gave him a 50/50 chance of recovery after surgery and chemotherapy. his counsellor gave him an 80/20 chance. for him, the person who could accept the reality and have hope had a better chance of recovery. he believed that mike had a very good chance because after listening to his doctor about surgery and further therapy, he had set up a game of golf on the first reasonable date. he was looking to the future realistically, and with hope.


look at the future realistically and with hope! this is the message of the readings today.
jeremiah is preaching at a time of national and personal distress: jerusalem is under siege and he is in prison. he recognizes that the destruction of jerusalem and the exile are imminent. but there will be an advent of life. jeremiah foresees that a «shoot» will bud from the old stalk of david. this «shoot» will be someone who will bring about peace with justice. there will be a total recovery of national and religious stability. the present is bleak; jeremiah looks at it squarely and looks to the future with hope.
JESUS predicts the total collapse of jerusalem, which has been the symbol of GOD’s eternal fidelity. but he encourages his disciples to stand firm, because he is the «shoot of david» who will re-establish order and recovery of identity. JESUS paints a grim view of the future not to paralyse his listeners with fear but to call them to faith, prayer, and hopeful waiting; he invites them to be attentive to their disorders.
st paul urges the thessalonians to grow in love for another and to grow in holiness during this period of waiting.

how will i spend this season of advent: 
will i lament the present or will i look at it realistically and at the future with hope? what are the disorders and dissipation i need to remove from my life? how will i grow in love and holiness?
may this advent be a time of preparation for the coming of JESUS… a time of hope-filled and realistic waiting-action.

21 November 2015

AN «ORDINARY» KING

CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING
daniel 7:13-14; revelation 1:5-8; john 18:33b-37

arthur was the first-born son of king uther pendragon of england. since they lived in troubled times, merlin, his wise magician, advised that the baby arthur should be raised in a secret place without anyone knowing his true identity. merlin sent arthur away to be raised in the countryside. and so the boy arthur grew up as an «ordinary» lad; he lived among his people… unspoiled and unsullied by the grandeur of royalty. that experience stood him in good stead; when he became king, he was kind and loving, and embodied loyalty, strength, boldness and faithfulness.

arthur is, perhaps, a legendary figure! but his story is similar to the story of the king of the universe: JESUS. 


JESUS was born to a humble carpenter and a lowly maiden in an obscure hamlet of nazareth; he grew up as an ordinary lad, and perhaps did the ordinary things that other ordinary lads did. for much of his life, few knew his true identity.
JESUS grew up to be king… but a king unlike any other. in his conversation with pilate, he clearly states: «my kingdom is not here». his kingdom was not for the nobles and the holy; it was for all people, especially the downtrodden, the forgotten, and the sinner. his kingship was not of power and domination; it was the way of powerless and freedom. he had no palace; he was born in a manger, had no place to lay his head during his public ministry, and he was buried in a borrowed tomb. he did not have servants waiting on him; he put on a towel and became a slave to his apostles when he washed their feet. his crown was made of thorns, his throne was the cross.

we are subjects of this «ordinary» king who is extraordinary. to be subject to him is to experience love and acceptance, liberation and peace. will i be his true subject? if so, how will i imitate this ordinary and servant king?

14 November 2015

STAY IN THE RACE

XXXIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
daniel 12:1-3; hebrews 10:11-14, 18; mark 13:24-32

in the movie ben hur, director william wyler decided that, for the race at the end, charlton heston should drive the chariot himself rather than use a stunt double. heston agreed, and started chariot-driving lessons.
a week later, heston told wyler: «i think i can drive the chariot all right. but i’m not sure i can win the race.» wyler replied: «charlton, you just stay in the race, and i’ll make sure you win.» 


we can feel with heston! given the situation of our lives and our world, we are not sure whether we can get through the race of life… forget about winning! to each one, GOD says: «you just stay in the race, and i’ll make sure you win.» this is the message of hope and consolation in the sunday readings. 

but where is the message of hope? the first reading from the book of daniel and the gospel from mark predict disaster! 
these are «apocalyptic» writings… symbolic and graphic descriptions that must not be understood literally. 
further, the prophesied disasters signal the painful advent of a new age. after the catalogue of disaster comes the good news of hope: the book of daniel talks about a chosen group which will overcome the disaster, and lead many to justice; in the gospel, JESUS speaks about his coming in glory when he will «gather his elect» from all over. both readings see beyond suffering-persecution-distress to a future of peace, and disciples are to respond with faith and hope.

the LORD invites you and me to remain steadfast through the turmoil in our lives. will i stay in the race trusting that the LORD will stay with me and see me through? will i look beyond the tribulation, and respond with faith and hope?

07 November 2015

POSSESS LITTLE AND GIVE IT ALL

XXXII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
1 kings 17:10-16; hebrews 9:24-28; mark 12:38-44

in the late 70s, a young man walked into church one evening with his first salary… a thousand green. after communion, the parish priest announced a collection for the new parish school. when the ushers reached the man, he put his salary envelope into the collection!
sharing about the incident a few years ago, he said: «fr vinod, i didn’t know from where my next meal would come. but i put my entire salary into the collection. i was reckless! today i make several times that amount. but i’m sure i won’t repeat that action.» he added a very profound statement: «when we possess much, we find it difficult to give it all.»

perhaps, that is true. the reverse is certainly true in today’s readings!
the widow of zarephath gave everything she had for GOD’s work: she gave her son’s and her last meal to a foreigner, the prophet elijah (whose GOD she did not even worship). she possessed very little—only a handful of flour and a little oil»; she gave everything. and GOD provided for her!
the widow in the temple offered two of the smallest coins in circulation. but in the arithmetic of the kingdom, the widow’s mite is worth more than all the other contributions. while the others gave from their surplus, she «contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.» GOD must have provided for her.


the two widows possessed almost nothing but gave everything they had… implicitly trusting that GOD would provide for them. 
if these poor widows could give everything to GOD, if a young man could give his whole salary for GOD’s work, what about me: what am i going to put into the «temple treasury» this sunday morning? will i be recklessly generous trusting in divine providence?

true generosity is measured not by what we give, but by what we have left over after we give.