26 December 2015

INVEST IN FAMILY

THE HOLY FAMILY
1 samuel 1:20-22, 24-28 or sirach 3:2-6; 12-14; 1 john 3:1-2, 21-24 or colossians 3:12-21; luke 2:41-52

a little boy asks his father as he returns from work: «daddy, how much do you make an hour?» the father is surprised and says: «son, not even your mum asks that question!» the boy insists: «daddy, tell me please! how much do you make an hour?» the father gives up and replies: «about two hundred rupees.» the boys says: «daddy, could you loan me a hundred?» the father yells: «so that’s why you asked how much i earn! go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!» 
later, the father starts feeling guilty. maybe his son needed to buy something. finally, he goes to his son’s room and asks: «are you asleep, son?» «no, daddy. why?» replies the boy. the father gives his son a hundred rupees. «thanks, daddy!» replies the boy, and then he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. «now i have enough! daddy, here’s two hundred rupees! could you spend one hour with me?» 

the greatest threat facing families today is we don’t spend (enough) time together. we are busy working or watching our screens, and we have little time for each other. today’s feast challenges us to spend more time with our families.


the holy family spent time together doing religious things: «every year the parents of JESUS used to go to jerusalem for the feast of passover» and «when he was twelve years old they went up for the feast as usual.» the distance between nazareth and jerusalem was over a hundred kilometres; most of the travelling was done on foot and the journey was dangerous. despite hardships, mary and joseph observed the prescriptions of their religion.
the holy family was one that came together at mealtime: «in the evening they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances.» on pilgrimage, men travelled in one group and women in another, and children with either group. but joseph and mary were particular that they should come together for the meal. 
further, when we realize that for every one year of his public life, JESUS spent ten years in family, we understand the importance and priority he gave to family.

may our celebration of the holy family challenge us to value our families, to invest in them, and to spend time together. amen.

24 December 2015

MY GROWN-UP CHRISTMAS LIST

CHRISTMAS
mass during the night:
isaiah 9:1-6; titus 2:11-14; luke 2:1-14
mass during the day:
isaiah 52:7-10; hebrews 1:1-6; john 1:1-18

yesterday, i was listening to «grown-up christmas list», which natalie cole first sang in the 90s. in the song, cole reminisces about sitting on santa’s lap and telling him her childhood fantasies. she is grown up now. but she still has dreams… nothing material; nothing for herself! this is what she wants for christmas now:
no more lives torn apart;
that wars would never start 
and time would heal all hearts.
every man would have a friend;
that right would always win
and love would never end
this is my grown-up christmas list.
what is this illusion called?

these are not clich├ęs! more than fifty artists have covered the song… peace and love and justice are on almost every grown-up’s (and child’s) list!

at the end of another year, these seem a distant dream: genocide by the isis and boko haram; civil war in syria, yemen, somalia and sudan; mass shootings in the us; religious and ethnic intolerance in india; forest fires in siberia, indonesia and california; floods in chennai and cuddalore. will we get what’s on our christmas list or will it remain an illusion?
well, it has not been all bleak this year. world leaders have reached consensus at cop21 paris; democracy is reborn in myanmar; humanity won in chennai and cuddalore when people reached out to help without bothering about caste-class-creed…

things get better… when we bridge gaps among ourselves, and when we think «other». and we find the way to bridge gaps in the miracle of bethlehem. christmas is GOD bridging the gap between him and us… by putting us first; by emptying himself and embracing weakness; by getting involved in our chaos; by pitching his tent among us. 

we can help make our wishes come true when imitate the miracle of bethlehem! empty ourselves. be humble (remember the manger!). be present in people’s chaos. and more: be reconciled with others. stand up for the truth. help heal wounded hearts. be empathetic. befriend the friendless. become more eco-conscious: be at peace with all creation (the manger again!); keep surroundings clean; reduce-reuse-recycle…

i pray that you and i can tick off things on our grown-up christmas list… with more peace - love - joy all around. happy christmas!

19 December 2015

THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS

IV SUNDAY OF ADVENT
micah 5:1-4a; hebrews 10:5-10; luke1:39-45

the breaking news this week: in politics, a bitter spat and a war of words between the centre and the delhi government after the cbi searched the office of the chief minister’s principal secretary. in governance, ten smart cities in maharashtra to cost rupees 32000 crores. in sports, after a calamitous run of results which leave them in danger of relegation, chelsea sack manager jose mourinho seven months after he led them to their premier league title.
to deal with issues, humans have recourse to strong means – authority, power, money.

how does GOD deal with issues?
to save our world and us, he becomes human and joins us in our weakness. he is the GOD of small things. 


this is the emphasis of todays readings.
in the first reading, the prophet micah announces GOD’s intention to raise a king to bring peace to his people. this king would come not from jerusalem, the capital, but from bethlehem, a little obscure town. bethlehem is small and obscure; but GOD will work through its littleness to raise a shepherd whose greatness would span the ends of the earth.
little bethlehem had within it a still littler life: a humble virgin who would give birth to the worldsaviour. the gospel shifts focus to ain karen. mary hastens to her cousin’s house—a long four-day trip on foot, over dirt paths, under the hot sun. the mother of the saviour, humbly and at a great cost and inconvenience to herself, goes to serve her elderly cousin.
our GOD is not a powerful king but a fragile infant born in a lowly manger. our GOD brings salvation not through power, authority and money, but with humility, obedience and service by his death on a lowly cross… as the second reading from the letter to the hebrews stresses. 

our GOD is the GOD of small things and he chooses to come among us in small ways.
how do i deal with the issues and problems of life: do i use power and authority or do i choose GOD’s little ways? do i strive for influence and money or do i allow GOD to work through my littleness and defects? do i believe in the GOD of small things?

12 December 2015

GET GOING - GET PREPARED... TO REJOICE!

III SUNDAY OF ADVENT
zephaniah 3:14-18a; philippians 4:4-7; luke 3:10-18

on 17 october 1989, moments before the third game of the world series in san francisco, there was an interruption during the telecast. television screens blinked and went blank. the telecast resumed with a special news bulletin. san francisco had experienced a major earthquake. the telecast showed scenes of the devastation. in one place, in the midst of the destruction, there stood a group of people looking at the rubble and watching fire-fighters try to put out a blazing fire. suddenly a cop came and yelled out to the group: «what are you doing just standing there? getting going! go home and fill your bathtubs with water. be prepared to live without city services for 72 hours. your time is running out. get going and get prepared.» 


roll back the clock two thousand years  to the region around the river jordan… and we have a similar scene. instead of a cop, there is a dishevelled john the baptist. but the situation is the same: there was no geological earthquake in israel, but definitely a political and moral one. there was destruction caused by foreign occupation, and rubble caused by moral and religious corruption. the message is the same: «why are you just standing there? get going and get prepared!»

today’s gospel continues from last sunday and has the people’s response to john’s call; various groups ask him: «what should we do?» john’s response may be summed up thus:
-  be loving by sharing our resources
-  be just and honest 
-  be content 
and when we are LJC (loving-just-content), we will be ready for the coming of LJC (our LORD JESUS CHRIST)!
john announces the coming of the LORD as a judgement… but one we can joyfully meet if we have loved, and have faithfully done our daily work. 

we find this theme of «joy in unlikely situations» in the first two readings, also. 
the prophet zephaniah invites israel to «shout for joy» and «sing joyfully»… against the background of the «day of wrath»! 
paul calls the philippians to «rejoice in the LORD always»… and he writes to them from prison uncertain whether he will live or die.

can one be joyful in situations in which it seems impossible to be joyful?
one can… because joy is a fruit of the SPIRIT. it comes – as zephaniah prophecies – because «the LORD is in our midst»; and – as paul writes – because «the LORD is near». our task is to get moving and prepare ourselves for the LORD’s coming.

let each one of us ask and answer the question: «what must i do?»
with whom will i share myself and my resources this advent? are there areas in my life in which i need to be just and honest? will i be content with what the LORD has given me?
may each of us get going and get prepared… so that we may experience the joy that the coming of the LORD brings. amen.

05 December 2015

PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD

II SUNDAY OF ADVENT
baruch 5:1-9; philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; luke 3:1-6

during the christmas rush, a man caused quite a stir among the shoppers in a mall. he asked some why they spent so much on christmas, and why they stressed themselves out over this tinselled holiday. to some he said: «christmas is about hope and love, isn’t it? the best gifts we can give are to give kindness and compassion to each other;» to others: «why don’t you forgive or reconcile with family or friends you’ve lost over the years? the spirit of the christ child should embrace the entire year, not just christmas.»
many nodded in agreement. some quit shopping and went home to be with their families. others bought an extra toy or clothes for charity. some even left to find a quiet place for a few moments of prayer.
word got out to the store managers about this man. they had security escort him from the premises. he wasn’t really hurting anyone, but he had to go, they said; he was ruining everyone’s christmas.

were john the baptist to appear today, he probably would ruin everyone’s christmas! he would remind us of the same things… and tell us that the coming of GOD among us means more than cleaning and decorating, shopping and cooking. it means preparing the way for the saviour.


the readings of today invite us to prepare the way of the LORD.
in the first reading, to the exiles in babylon, baruch offers a song of hope in GOD who will one day lead them home. an image his song evokes is that of road construction! GOD orders that mountains be levelled and valleys filled up for the building of a royal road on which «israel may walk safely in the glory of GOD.»
luke takes up the same image to interpret the message of john the baptist to a people victimized by corrupt priests, and by the collusion of herod and the romans. john offers hope that «all flesh shall see the salvation of GOD.»

the salvation promised by baruch and john is GOD’s work. ours is to repair the road for GOD’s coming. our task is to repent. recognise and admit that «i’m going the wrong way»; and then «change direction». repentance is awareness-admission plus action.

what are the areas in my life that need «repair»?
what are the obstacles that have to be removed? 
- there are mountains that need to be levelled: individualism, racism/communalism, sexism… 
- there are valleys to be filled: despair, loneliness, pain…
- there are crooked places to be made straight: perversity, abuse, immorality, violence…
- there are rough places to be made smooth: oppression, injustice…
let’s bring on the equipment… and get to work on our hearts to prepare the way for the LORD!