24 June 2017

PERSECUTED, BUT NOT ABANDONED

XII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
jeremiah 20:10-13; romans 5:12-15; matthew 10:26-33

in march this year, fr tomy mathew was stabbed at his church in melbourne while preparing for mass by a man who said he should not celebrate mass because he was indian. last july in northern france, two men (who said they were from the isis) slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest, fr jacques hamel, during morning mass.
christians, priests and laity, are facing increasing persecution. people who proclaim the values of the gospel, people who stand up for what is right are inevitably ill-treated and persecuted. some give up; many fight on.


today’s first reading tells us about jeremiah who had a difficult mission: to denounce the abominations of the people and to warn them of GOD’s wrath. his friends discredited and denounced him; the army council threw him into prison and threatened him with death. 
perhaps, human that he was, jeremiah was afraid… but he did not allow fear to write his script. he refused to be intimidated. what sustained jeremiah was the profound belief that GOD cared for him and was on his side: «the lord is with me as a dread warrior.»

the gospel is a continuation of jesus’ commissioning of the apostles. in the verses preceding today’s text, he has warned them about imminent persecution. 
now he tells them to preach without fear: «do not be afraid.» but how can the apostles not be afraid in the face of persecution? 
the antidote to fear is GOD’s loving care! jesus uses the example of a sparrow to emphasise that the father cares deeply. sparrows were sold two for a penny and five for two pennies. «not one will fall to the ground without your father’s will.» the apostles are worth much more than a sparrow (the one thrown in free?). 

jeremiah and the apostles could face their persecutors with courage because they were deeply aware of GOD’s love for them.
we are called to be fearless prophetic voices—people who denounce what is wrong and stand up for what is right—in our places of work, in our communities… everywhere. 
am i willing to acknowledge jesus despite intimidation? what are the fears which keep me from witnessing to jesus and his values? do i believe that GOD cares for me?

17 June 2017

WE BECOME WHAT WE EAT

THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 corinthians 10:16-17; john 6:51-58

there are two birds that fly over deserts: the vulture and the hummingbird. the vulture eats the rotting flesh of dead animals. the hummingbird feeds on the colourful blossoms of desert plants. 
the vulture lives on the past; it fills itself with what is dead. the hummingbird lives on the present; it fills itself with freshness and life. each bird finds what it is looking for. each bird becomes what it eats. 

so do we! if we eat only fast/junk food, will we be healthy? no! to be healthy, we need to eat nourishing food and drink wholesome beverages. 
what applies to the body applies also to the soul! if we want to be spiritually healthy, we need to be nourished with spiritual food and drink: the body and blood of jesus… the word made flesh.


the readings on the feast of the body and blood of christ highlight the importance of spiritual nourishment. 
jesus’ teaching in the gospel takes place at the beginning of the feast of unleavened bread, which recalled how GOD nourished the people with manna in the desert (and with his word).
jesus emphasizes that the bread he gives is different from the manna in the desert!
- the manna that was not eaten within the day had to be thrown away; it was no longer any good. however, after jesus multiplied bread and fed the five thousand, twelve baskets of fragments were gathered and saved. this means that this bread lasts. 
- the manna was limited and only for the jews. the bread which jesus gives is for always and for all people. 
- the manna nourished the people only during the journey to the promised land. the bread of life nourishes us with eternal life. 
- those who ate the manna in the desert died. those who eat the living bread will live forever. 

jesus—the word made flesh and the living bread—nourishes us for always by giving us his word, and his body and blood… in the eucharist.
am i like the vulture eating rubbish or am i like the hummingbird that eats fresh food? am i satisfied with the junk food the world offers or do i feast on jesus the word and the living bread? 

10 June 2017

GOD LOVES AND FORGIVES

TRINITY SUNDAY
exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 corinthians 13:11-13; john 3:16-18

thomas a. edison was working on his crazy contraption—the «light bulb». it took his team twenty-four hours to put together each bulb. once, after the team finished crafting a bulb, edison gave it to a young boy to carry up to the store-room. the youngster took each step with extreme and watchful caution. at the top of the stairs, the poor chap dropped the priceless piece of work. it took the team another twenty-four hours to make a second bulb. when they finished it, and it had to be carried upstairs to the store-room, edison gave it to the same boy.

why would edison forgive someone who destroyed his handiwork? it’s bizarre. it defies understanding.
so does the reality that our GOD always forgives us though we constantly and repeatedly destroy his handiwork.


the readings on the solemnity of the trinity (surprisingly) are not incomprehensible theology/ doctrine explaining the trinity. they emphasize something more incomprehensible yet deeply consoling and hope-filled:  GOD’s forgiving love! his love is not a sentimental love but a non-condemning and forgiving love.
the first reading describes the incident after the debacle of the golden calf. GOD is willing to renew the covenant with israel despite its incessant infidelity. why? he tells moses that he is «a merciful and gracious GOD, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.» this succinct poetic description of GOD is an oft-repeated statement of israel’s belief, and describes GOD’s relationship with his people.
the gospel is a summary and the core of the good news! JESUS tells nicodemus that GOD sent his son because he loved the world and wanted us to have eternal life… life with him.
in the second reading, paul gives us a program to imitate our trinitarian GOD: «encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace.»

do i forgive and love like GOD does? whom will i forgive and love in the week ahead?

03 June 2017

SHAPED BY THE WIND OF GOD

PENTECOST
acts 2:1-11; 1 corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; john 20:19-23

a parish priest narrates a conversation he had with a funeral director about the effect the wind has on things! the director said that, over time, trees that stand out in the open become shaped in the direction the wind is blowing. unless there are other trees around to block it, a tree will eventually be shaped by the force and direction of the wind. then, the funeral director began to point out tree after tree that had been shaped in this way… the cemetery was literally filled with them! all shaped by the wind!


something similar happened to the apostles on the day of pentecost. they were shaped by the wind of GOD—the holy spirit. 
the apostles were afraid after jesus’ crucifixion, and confused by his post-resurrection appearances; they shut themselves «in one place together». 
at pentecost, the spirit shaped them: from being fearfully behind closed doors, they moved with bold freedom into the open; from being silent spectators, they became vibrant and fearless preachers of the gospel; from being a cluster of individuals, they became a community and a church with a definite mission and mandate to be agents of peace and reconciliation.

the same spirit—which jesus «breathed on» the apostles and which descended on them «like a strong driving wind»—is with us. he helps us move from fear to freedom; from silence to proclamation; from being individuals to being community; from division to reconciliation… when we stand out in the open and allow ourselves to shaped by the wind of GOD.

do i as an individual, and we as a congregation, show any evidence of being shaped by the wind of GOD? if not, what blocks the action of the spirit in my life?