30 July 2016

WHEN THE DOLLARS ARE IN THE WAY…

XVIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 
ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; luke 12:13-21

henry ford asked an associate about his life goals. the man replied that his goal was to make a million dollars. a few days later ford gave him a pair of specs made out of two dollar coins. he told the man to put them on and asked what he could see. «nothing,» the man said, «the dollars are in the way.» ford told him that if his only goal was making money, he would miss many opportunities. he should invest in reaching out to others, not simply in making money.

money is important; heck, it is necessary! but money is only a means to higher ends. when the «dollars» get in the way of our seeing GOD, others and the world, we are in trouble! 


in the gospel, when called to arbitrate in a property dispute, JESUS warns his listeners—through the parable of the rich fool—not to focus on possessions. 
the rich man of the parable is a «fool» not because he is rich; but because he trusts inordinately in his riches, he is totally focused on them... to the extent that he cannot see beyond himself. three issues!
a) he is totally self-centred: when he has a problem, he talks it over with himself, with his «soul».
b) all his planning is only for his benefit and comfort. he does not share his abundant resources.
c) he places all his trust in these resources. he has room only for grain, not for GOD.
the man is rich; but extremely poor in his relationships. his focus is his wealth; there is no room for anyone or anything else in his life. 
this is why st paul, in the second reading, cautions the colossians: «put to death… the greed that is idolatry.» the first reading, from the book of ecclesiastes, sums up jesus’ teaching!

few of us are as rich as the man in the story; but each of us has riches: talents, time, resources, families…
do my «riches» isolate me from others; or do i share my riches with others and use these to build my relationships? where does my security lie: in the bank or in GOD? on what do i focus: grain/ green/ GOD?
are the «dollars» in the way??

23 July 2016

NEVER GIVE UP

XVII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
genesis 18:20-32; colossians 2:12-14; luke 11:1-13

winston churchill took three years to get through the eighth grade; he couldn’t pass english!  many years later, on 29 october 1941, he was asked to address the boys at his alma mater. his famous speech supposedly consisted of five words: «never, never, never give up!»


this may be a legend! legend or not, these words sum up the thrust of today’s readings: «never give up» on GOD and on prayer.
in the first reading, abraham asks GOD repeatedly, and even negotiates with him to save the immoral cities of sodom and gomorrah. in the words of one prayer-master, this is the APU program: aggressive, persistent and unreasonable!
in today’s gospel, after teaching his disciples to pray, jesus urges them to be persistent in prayer: ask repeatedly, seek untiringly and knock loudly… and they will receive, find and have the door opened.

but for what do we ask, seek and knock? 
we ought to pray, first, for GOD’s name to be made holy, for his kingdom to be established and for his will to be done… we pray «for his own sake: thy name, thy kingdom, thy will» (CCC 2804). we, then,  pray for ourselves: for daily food, forgiveness (in the measure that we forgive!) and freedom from temptation/evil.
when we pray according to this «pattern», GOD—like and much more than a good parent—will answer our prayer (for the record, «no» is also an answer!) with all that we need… the holy spirit! 

may you and i never give up on GOD and on prayer. may we remember that prayer is «to be in harmony with GOD… to feel the assurance that GOD is in, around and greater than any circumstance; that, come what may, we belong to him and underneath are the everlasting arms… that prayer is not a trading post, but a line of communication» (carveth mitchell, «the sign in the subway»).

16 July 2016

BEING WITH AND DOING FOR

XVI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
genesis 18:1-10a; colossians 1:24-28; luke 10:38-42

parents complain about their children: «i slog from morning till night working for my kids to give them the best. they don’t care. for whom am i working … if not for them?» children also complain: «dad and mum never spend time with me.» a dilemma! be with the children or do things for them?


this dilemma finds an echo in today’s gospel: martha and mary respond to JESUS’ presence… one by serving him, the other by sitting with him. both responses are good, yet seem to contradict each other.
to understand the thrust of the incident, we need to look at its context. today’s incident comes after the parable of the good samaritan, which JESUS concludes with the exhortation «go and do likewise.» the passage that appears after this incident concerns prayer in the disciple’s life. in between we have a real-life situation: martha serves JESUS, and mary sits with him. who is neighbour to him?

reginald fuller—a biblical scholar—suggests that the martha-mary incident is a corrective to the activism of the parable of the good samaritan: the exhortation «go and do likewise» is meaningful only when it flows from being with the LORD. for martha’s service to be a genuine expression of love of neighbour, it would need to flow out of being with JESUS.
further, it’s about discerning what a person needs in a particular situation and at a given moment. JESUS is on his way to jerusalem to his passion and death. his greatest need is not «many things» but an empathetic and silent presence. that is what mary gives him.
finally, it’s about balance. we need to combine being and doing—without being with people, we cannot discern their need, and our doing could lead to anxiety and angst; without doing, our being could be passive. someone said: «there is a need occasionally to get the visionaries in the kitchen and the kitchenaries in the vision.»

will my love of neighbour flow from my being with the LORD? will i discern a person’s need and then meet that need? will i strike a balance between being with people and doing things for them?

09 July 2016

LOVE KNOWS NO BARRIERS

XV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
deuteronomy 30:10-14; colossians 1:15-20; luke 10:25-37

last weekend, dhaka witnessed a savage terror attack which claimed the lives of 20 people. one of those was faraaz hossain, a bangladeshi muslim. the terrorists gave the 20-year-old the option of leaving the holey artisan bakery; he refused after the terrorists denied his friends—abinta kabir, a bangladeshi-american, and tarishi jain, an indian—the same opportunity. he stayed to be with his friends, and injuries on his body suggest he fought back to protect them. hossain’s love knew no barriers.
cut to bangalore, and to dr devi shetty and narayana hrudayalaya. patients come from several countries; three/four children from bangladesh every day, and one child a week from pakistan. dr shetty says: «pain has no language… reaction to pain and suffering is the same, so our reaction to the problem is also the same.» 


in essence, through the parable of the good samaritan, this is what JESUS tells the scholar of the law who asked him: «who is my neighbour?» 
love knows no barriers. love reaches out to anyone in need. it doesn’t walk on by. it stops to help. it gets involved, regardless of who the person is, and regardless of the cost. this is exactly what the unlikely hero of the parable does. the samaritan goes beyond the boundaries of religion and nationality; he reaches out to the wounded man in need. he stops to help, gets involved in the life of the «man», and spends time with him.
it is striking that JESUS gives the «man» no name, no religion, no nationality… in times of need, these are irrelevant. further, he reverses the question: it is not important who my neighbour is, but to whom am i a neighbour! 

how do we respond to people in need: are we moved with compassion and do we reach out to help… or do we walk on pretending they don’t exist?
in an era when we build «gated communities» with religious, ethnic and racial, social and economic fences, JESUS challenges me to live the commandment of love by going beyond all barriers… and to build his kingdom as a neighbourhood with no frontiers.
who is my «neighbour» in the week ahead?

02 July 2016

FAITH: A FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE

ST THOMAS
acts 10:24-25; hebrews 1:2-3 or 1 peter 1:3-9; john 20:24-29

close your eyes. imagine the buzz of bungee jumping or the thrill paragliding… not happening, right? if we have never bungee jumped or paraglided, we’d find it almost impossible to imagine the experience! someone may describe the raw excitement of the adventure, but we can feel the buzz only when we experience it first-hand!

what is true of adventure sport is true of life and of faith. faith is not second-hand knowledge. faith is first-hand experience; it comes from an encounter with GOD.


this is the thrust of today’s gospel and solemnity! 
thomas is not with the other apostles when JESUS appears to them. they testify that they have seen the LORD, but thomas refuses to believe: «unless i see… and place my finger… and place my hand… i will not believe.» he is not content with second-hand knowledge. he wants to see JESUS himself; he desires to experience the risen LORD first-hand. 
what brings thomas to belief is not the proof he demanded; thomas does not touch the LORD. he believes after an encounter with the risen JESUS. and this experience leads him to acknowledge JESUS as his personal saviour: «my LORD and my GOD.»

we are like thomas! 
we do not want to learn from others; we want to and have a right to experience life for ourselves. the same should be true of our faith-life. will i be content with a second-hand knowledge of GOD or will i experience the thrill of encountering GOD myself?
when we use our GOD-given intelligence, like thomas, we will have doubts about faith and religion. like thomas, we need to be honest about our doubts. will i boldly face and express my doubts, and seek a response to them? or will i push aside my unanswered and, perhaps, unasked questions? 

thomas recognized the broken and wounded body of JESUS! may we encounter JESUS first-hand in our woundedness and in the brokenness of others, and proclaim him as our LORD and GOD!