26 August 2017

PERFECTED IN WEAKNESS

XXI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 22:19-23; romans 11:33-36; matthew 16:13-20

duke ellington—composer, pianist and conductor—composed with each musician of his band in mind. he said: «you keep their weaknesses in your head as you write, and that way you astonish them with their strengths.»


that’s the way GOD works with the leaders he chooses and with us: he keeps our weaknesses in mind and astonishes us with our strengths; he perfects us in weakness.
how else does one explain his choice of leaders? why does GOD choose people with faults and foibles as leaders?
we have a response in this sunday’s gospel. 

in response to jesus’ question about his identity, simon acknowledges jesus as the christ. jesus gives simon a new name—peter, and a mission—the rock on which jesus will build his church.

what kind of a rock was peter? 
soon after being named rock, peter misunderstood the nature of jesus’ mission. during jesus’ passion, peter denied him thrice. after the resurrection, peter left the LORD and went back to his boat and nets. twenty years later, peter withdrew from table fellowship with fellow christians merely because they were gentiles.
by nature, peter was not rock!

but the weak and human peter becomes rock when he is open to divine revelation («blessed are you, simon…»), and when jesus prays for him (peter, i have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail…»). after pentecost, peter fearlessly proclaimed the gospel. he was imprisoned, tried, tortured, forbidden to preach… he did not stop preaching! 
through grace, peter became rock.

there is something of simon in each of us. we misunderstand jesus’ mission and words, we deny him, we get engrossed in our own career and work.
yet GOD keeps choosing us, with and despite our weaknesses, and strengthens us to be his church. he perfects us in weakness.
will i open myself to his grace? will i allow him to perfect me?

#sundaysnippets #perfectedinweakness

19 August 2017

GOD’S LOVE… ACROSS BORDERS, BEYOND BARRIERS

XX SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 56:1, 6-7; romans 11:13-15, 29-32; matthew 15:21-28

for several years, dr devi shetty and his narayana hrudayalaya have been treating children from various countries. 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.» he says they are «doctors without frontiers.»
on 30 september 2009, fr davis chiramel donated his kidney to c. gopinathan in kochi. on 2 september 2016, anwar ahmed and vinod mehra stepped beyond religious boundaries, and donated their kidneys to each other’s wives in jaipur.
these attitudes and gestures—there are several similar heart-warming stories—have broken ethnic and religious barriers.


in the gospel, no barrier could keep the canaanite woman away from jesus… neither his indifferent silence nor his statement about his mission «only to the lost sheep of the house of israel» nor his apparent rebuke about not throwing children’s food to the dogs. further, she had several strikes against her: she was a woman, a widow (most likely), and a foreigner.
her persistent faith persuaded jesus to reach beyond gender/ ethnic/ geographical boundaries to cure her daughter.

the first and second readings set the stage for the drama in the gospel.
isaiah gives voice to GOD’s intention to extend israel’s privileges to all «foreigners who join themselves to the LORD.» GOD yearns to be in relationship with all peoples. 
paul emphasises that GOD’s mercy is intended for all, whether jew or gentile.

pope francis symbolises this aspect of GOD’s love when he washes the feet (on maundy thursday) of men and women of varied ethnicities and creeds, of the disabled, and of inmates of juvenile detention centres and prisons. 

do i reach out in love to all people irrespective of gender, caste, class, creed or ethnicity? how will i imitate GOD to go beyond borders and barriers?


12 August 2017

STEPPING OUT ON THE WORD OF GOD

XIX SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 
1 kings 19:9a, 11-13a; romans 9:1-5; matthew 14:22-33

during the floods in chennai in november 2015, 26-year-old mohammad yunus offered his two apartments to the people stranded in his area, and was instrumental in rescuing over 1500 people.
mamta rawat’s house was washed away in the 2013 flash floods in uttarakhand. this did not stop her from climbing dangerous terrains to save hundreds of stranded people. she was just 24, with no official status or government support for her rescue mission.
mohammad and mamta did not need to step out to help people. they did not need to risk their lives. they did.

today’s readings feature two heroes, who stepped out… on the strength of GOD’s word. 


the first reading presents elijah. 
he confronted the infidelity of the monarchy, and destroyed the false prophets of baal. overwhelmed by fatigue, he wanted to give up. but strengthened by GOD’s food and word, he journeyed to horeb where he encountered the LORD… in a still small voice. this encounter strengthened him to continue his mission.
elijah did not need to leave the comfort of his homeland. he obeyed GOD and stepped out on his word.

the gospel features peter and his walk upon the water.
amid the storm, the disciples encountered jesus, who calmed their fears. the impetuous peter dared to get out into the stormy seas.
peter did not need to get out of the boat. he did… on the strength of the LORD’s word.

elijah and peter (and mohammad and mamta) show us what happens when we respond to the LORD’s call: we triumph over the forces of chaos and meaninglessness; his power lifts us up and allows us to weather the storms of life.

which boats do i need to step out? on which stormy waters does the LORD call me to walk? will i risk stepping out on the word of GOD?
i can 
- risk, because i have a GOD who watches over me;
- trust, because i have a GOD who cares for me;
- step out because i have a GOD who saves me.

05 August 2017

A MOMENT OF GRACE

THE TRANSFIGURATION
daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 peter 1:16-19; matthew 17:1-9

eric carle is an author and illustrator of children’s books; the most popular of these is «the very hungry caterpillar». carle recalls that he was a painfully shy six-year-old when the world of story-telling opened for him:
«when i was six, the world seemed a cold and confusing place, except for one thing—a picture of a cityscape at night that faced my bed: red brick buildings with darkened windows, except for one exploding with the joyful colours of a christmas tree. every night i fell asleep comforted by the warmth of that bright tree in the dark night. the picture was the work of an art director at my father’s job.
once, my father took me to work. i was so shy i could barely speak. the art director smiled, opened the drawer of his drafting table… a treasure of coloured drawing pencils, and said: ‘you can use them all.’ 
i had no language for what i felt. today i would call it grace.»


for jesus and the three apostles, the transfiguration was a moment of grace.
the transfiguration confirmed for jesus his identity as son of GOD and his saving mission (through his death and resurrection); provided him another affirmation of his father’s love; gave him a foretaste of his glory; and strengthened him for his journey to jerusalem and calvary.
matthew’s account takes place six days after jesus’ first predicted his passion and stated his condition for discipleship—taking up their cross. the twelve had thought the glory days were coming. jesus had fed the five thousand and the four thousand. then came this downer. at jesus’ transfiguration, peter, james and john realise that this is no carpenter; this is no preacher or healer or miracle-worker; this is GOD! as the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the forthcoming events in jerusalem are indeed GOD’s will for his son.

we all have moments of grace: in prayer, in encounters with significant people, in key life events… GOD is present within us to enlighten and guide us, to affirm that we are his daughters and sons, to confirm his will for us. 
today, let me recall some of these! do i see these as «transfiguring» moments? do i allow GOD’s grace to transfigure sadness into joy, despair into hope, fear into faith and courage, alienation and isolation into communion?