29 April 2017

GOD WALKS WITH US

III SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 peter 1:17-21; luke 24:13-35

the film «the miracle worker» is the story of helen keller and anne sullivan. it depicts how sullivan broke through keller’s isolation, confusion and anger imposed by a near complete lack of language. for 49 years she journeyed with keller… first as teacher, and then as companion. she showed keller the meaning of words, and helped keller blossom into a world-famous speaker, author, and advocate for people with disabilities. 


the two disciples on their way to emmaus had a journey similar to keller. they went from despair to hope, from looking downcast to having burning hearts… after the risen jesus journeyed with them as teacher—he explained the meaning of the word to them; and companion—he broke bread with them. after this walk, they became messengers of hope to the other disciples.
in the second reading (an excerpt from 1 peter written for christians in asia minor whose acceptance of the gospel alienated them from society), peter bolsters their faith. he tells them that during the time of their sojourning, the risen jesus sojourns with them.

«GOD walking with us» is a recurrent theme in the bible: he walked with adam and eve in the garden; he walked with the israelites in the desert; he walked with the exiles; he walked the shore of galilee healing the sick and comforting the anguished.

GOD still walks with us in our times of anguish and despair, confusion and pain.
do i recognise him? or do discouragement and despair prevent me from recognising him? does this walking transform me? do i walk with others?
may you and i be aware of GOD walking with us on our «emmaus» journeys! may opening the scriptures and breaking the bread strengthen us to walk with others to bring them hope.

22 April 2017

STILL BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?!

II SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 2:42-47; 1 peter 1:3-9; john 20:19-31

after a lecture on mental health, karl menninger—the famous psychiatrist—answered audience questions.  one person asked: «what would you advise a person to do if he/she felt a nervous breakdown coming on?»
duh! the obvious answer: see a psychiatrist.
menninger caught everyone off guard with his response:  «lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.»


brilliant advice! and it applies to all sorts of breakdowns: when you have problems of your own, get out of yourself.
that’s what the risen jesus advises and commissions his disciples to do when he finds them «on the evening of that first day of the week» behind closed doors «for fear of the jews»! he sends them out… with the spirit to proclaim GOD’s love and forgiveness.
a week later, he finds them still behind closed doors. little wonder, then, that thomas refused to believe that jesus was risen. they were—in pope francis’ idiom—the first «christian bats»!
they eventually do go out of the closed room. the result? they «suffer through various trials» (second reading). They also experience fellowship—sharing of material resources and spiritual moments—and growth (first reading).

a natural reaction when we are afraid is to lock doors and focus inward. sometimes the «unnatural» works better!
moreover, our closed doors do not stop jesus; he comes to us in our fear, doubts, confusion… with his peace and with his spirit. further, he keeps returning week after week... in the word, in the bread and the wine. and he keeps sending us out of our closed rooms into a world that needs his gifts of life and peace.

what are the fears that keep me behind closed doors? what makes me a christian bat?
may i live in the awareness that jesus is always with me. may i get out, help those in need, and proclaim GOD’s love and forgiveness


15 April 2017

TRANSFORMED!

EASTER SUNDAY
readings for the easter vigil
genesis 1:1—2:2; genesis 22:1-18; exodus 14:15—15:1; isaiah 54:5-14; isaiah 55:1-11; baruch 3:9-15, 32—4:4; ezekiel 36:16-28
romans 6:3-11; matthew 28:1-10

readings for mass during the day
acts 10:34a, 37-43; colossians 3:1-4 or 1 corinthians 5:6b-8; john 20:1-9

in one of his lighter moments, benjamin franklin penned his own epitaph: 
the body of b. franklin like the cover of an old book
its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here, food for worms.
but the work shall not be wholly lost:
for it will, as he believ’d, appear once more 
in a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the author.


franklin’s epitaph is a near-perfect summary of the transformation that the resurrection brings! 
recall the transformation that happened to jesus. his resurrected body was radically different from his earthly body! it was so radically different that his own disciples could not recognise him, and he was able to move about as he desired, and through closed doors.

we will experience this radical transformation of our bodies on the last day; our bodies will appear in a new and more perfect edition. 
there is another transformation that happens now… a transformation at the personal level. look at the transformation in the disciples!
- from fear to joy and bold proclamation
- from doubt to belief 
- from people who fought for position and greatness to people who were of one heart and one soul
after the resurrection, in the words of the second reading, they became «a fresh batch of dough»!

do i live like an easter person… with joy, with belief, and in solidarity with others? if not, what are my fears and doubts that keep me from living as an easter person and witnessing to the resurrection? what must i do to become «a fresh batch of dough»?

easter is a time of hope and new beginning, and a message that we are created not to die but to journey to the fullness of life. may you and i experience this new beginning, live transformed lives, and participate one day in the fullness of life. amen.

08 April 2017

THE CHEERING STOPPED…

PALM SUNDAY
matthew 21:1-11
isaiah 50:4-7; philippians 2:6-11; matthew 26:14-27:66

gene smith’s book «when the cheering stopped» tells the tale of us president woodrow wilson. after world war i, wilson was an international hero. on his first visit to europe after the war, cheering crowds greeted him everywhere.
after a year… at home, wilson ran into opposition; his league of nations was not ratified. his party was defeated in the elections. in europe, political leaders were more concerned with their own agenda than with lasting peace. as long as he «spoke» peace, woodrow wilson was heralded as the new messiah. when he called for change that would lead to peace, the cheering stopped. wilson became a broken man and a failure.


it’s a sad but not unfamiliar story. jesus faced something similar during his journey to jerusalem!
as long as jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick, he was popular. as long as the people saw him as a political messiah, they gave him a royal welcome. 
when jesus emphasised that he was a king of love-peace, and not a conquering military hero, when he showed that he would rule through humble obedience, when he broke social and religious barriers, when he became a threat to the religious authority and political standing of some people, when he loved all people unconditionally and challenged people to do the same, when he called people to change… the cheering stopped. it turned to jeering. on the cross, jesus became (literally) a broken man and a human failure. 

one who makes people feel good is popular. when one tries to translate ideals into reality, when one wants to change «feel good» to «do good», when one challenges people to amend attitudes and action… the cheering stops.
will i be the popular guy who makes people feel good or am i ready to be the unpopular guy who challenges people to be good? what will i do if/when the cheering stops?

the jesus «story» does not end on the cross; there is the empty tomb. it does not end on friday; it begins a new chapter on sunday. 

01 April 2017

LIFE-GIVER

V SUNDAY OF LENT
ezekiel 37:12-14; romans 8:8-11; john 11:1-45

in may 1988, we moved to jamnagar. the town had been facing a drought for three years. it was dismal when we arrived: the trees were charred; everything had a black or dark brown hue. two days after our arrival, it rained. and the trees began to sprout new leaves. it was an amazing sight: black with specks of green! what seemed dead soon came back to life.


today’s readings are a vivid description of how GOD transforms what is lifeless and a powerful reminder that he constantly does so. 

ezekiel tells the exiles—dead in heart and spirit—that GOD will open their graves, raise them, and put his life-giving spirit in them. it’s a message of hope: this maybe your «friday»; your «sunday» will come!
paul writes to the romans that GOD’s spirit gives life to our mortal bodies.
the gospel is the pathos-filled story of the death and raising of lazarus. the story tells us the kind of GOD we have: our GOD
- does not intervene every time to remove pain/suffering and death;
- is with us in the midst of our suffering; he is not only GOD-with-us but also one with us, all-compassionate and empathetic;
- gives us life.

GOD gives individuals and communities new life. 
do i believe that GOD enlivens my lifeless and listless self? am i ready to receive this new life? 
how can i give that life to others who are without hope and life? will i empathetically be with them?