28 January 2017

NOBODY’S CHILD? GOD’S!

IV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 corintians 1:26-31; matthew 5:1-12a

one of the saddest songs i have heard is «nobody’s child»: a song about a blind orphan, who feels he is nobody’s child because nobody wants him. many come to the orphanage to adopt children, but – because he is blind – they leave him behind. he feels strongly the absence of love.

there are moments in our lives when we feel like «nobody’s children»: we feel unwanted, unloved, misunderstood, and rejected; we consider ourselves failures.
today’s readings tell us that we have no cause for despair… because GOD has a preference for the nobodies of the world!


in the first reading, zephaniah speaks of and to «a people humble and lowly». these –the remnant of israel (anawim) – are a small group of people who, despite difficulties and trials, have been faithful to GOD. while others turn to worldly wealth and power, these know that their power lies in GOD alone. hence, they shall know true peace: «they shall pasture… with none to disturb them»! 
the anawim are a concrete sign of GOD’s power working among the nobodies of the world.  

this is the thrust of the gospel beatitudes!
«blessed are the poor in spirit…» the ‘poor in spirit’ do not have the resources to meet their needs, and recognise that they depend on GOD completely. jesus does not justify/extol economic poverty; he calls his disciples to recognise their powerlessness and complete dependence on GOD. «… for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.» he assures them that when they are ‘poor in spirit’ they will experience deep communion with GOD now.
the second to the seventh beatitudes spell out aspects of being ‘poor in spirit’.
in the eighth beatitude, those declared ‘blessed’ are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake. righteousness, for matthew, is doing GOD’s will always.

the readings assure us that – however painful the circumstances – the anawim or the poor in spirit experience the grace of GOD and intimate communion with him… here and now and always.
in my darkest hour, in moments of intense isolation, in moments when i feel like nobody’s child, can i be ‘poor in spirit’? can i acknowledge my nothingness before GOD and my utter dependence on him? if yes, mine is the kingdom of heaven!

21 January 2017

LIGHT TO THOSE IN DARKNESS

III SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 8:23 - 9:3; 1 corinthians 1:10-13, 17; matthew 4:12-23

on one of her trips to melbourne, mother teresa visited a poor and abandoned man. his room was dark and dirty. mother started cleaning the room. the man protested and asked her to leave it as it was. she kept cleaning. under a pile of rubbish, she found an oil lamp covered with dirt. she cleaned and polished it, and then asked him: «how come you never light this lamp?» he asked: «why should i light it? no one ever comes to see me. i never see anybody.» «will you light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?» «if i hear a human voice, i’ll light the lamp.»
two of mother teresa’s nuns began regularly visiting him. his situation and he gradually improved. then one day he told them: «sisters, i’ll manage on my own from now. but do me a favour. tell that first sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.»

what mother teresa did for that poor man (and countless others) was to continue the mission of jesus: to bring light to those in darkness.


the gospel announces the beginning of jesus’ ministry in galilee. it is significant that jesus begins his ministry in galilee, «in the region of zebulun and naphtali»:
for matthew, this is the fulfillment of isaiah’s oracle (first reading) concerning the messiah: the darkness of galilee’s assyrian captivity will end, and the «great light» of their deliverance will appear. 
further, galilee was home to jewish immigrants who, for centuries, were surrounded and influenced by gentiles. the judeans looked down on them. jesus begins his ministry among these outcasts, the «lost sheep of the house of israel».

jesus’ mission is to proclaim and establish the kingdom of GOD: a state of love, justice and peace, a reversal of darkness and oppression of every kind. he does this by teaching and healing people, and by calling them to «repent» (to change their attitude and behaviour to receive what GOD is offering them) and to follow him. 

we still live in darkness. we still face isolation and oppression. 
the LORD, who called simon and andrew, james and john, calls us to follow him to continue his mission to bring light to «the people who sit in darkness».
will i leave my «boat» and «nets» to follow him? what areas of my life need change? to whom and how will i bring light? 

14 January 2017

GO!

II SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 corinthians 1:1-3; john 1:29-34

someone asked a missionary whether he liked what he was doing. his response was shocking: «do i like this work? no! i do not like dirt. i have reasonable refined sensibilities. i do not like crawling into dirty huts through dung…» he listed all the difficulties he endured. 
he continued: «but is a person to do nothing for christ he/she does not like? liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. i have orders to ‘go’ and i go. love impels me.»


today’s liturgy emphasises that love impels every christian missionary.
the first reading (the second servant song from isaiah) states that GOD forms his servant to bring back jacob and israel to himself, and to be a light to the nations.
in the second reading, paul affirms that he is «called to be an apostle of christ jesus». reading through the acts of the apostles and paul’s letters, it is clear that paul feels impelled to be an apostle. he has orders to «go» and he does… despite hardships and tribulation.
in the gospel, john the baptist spells out his mission: to reveal jesus to israel and to testify that he is the son of GOD. the fact that he did not know jesus is irrelevant; he «had» to witness to him.

love impels us! 
do i allow love to impel me? or do my likes/dislikes prevent me from witnessing to GOD’s love?
how will i be a light to «the nations»? how will reveal jesus to people around me?

07 January 2017

ONE GOD – ONE FAMILY

THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
isaiah 60:1-6; ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; matthew 2:1-12

growing up as a fauji kid was an amazing experience of a life of communion! we hailed from different places and spoke different languages, professed different faiths and had different customs. despite our numerous differences, we shared a common bond. in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, in mourning and in celebration, we were one people… members of one fauji family.


we are members of one family. this is the thrust of the readings on the feast of the epiphany. in his letter to the ephesians, paul writes that the manifestation (or epiphany) of GOD’s glory in jesus reveals GOD’s plan to make all people «members of the same body». 
in the first reading, isaiah invites jerusalem to «rise up in splendour» because the exile is over. her sons and daughters return to jerusalem; and so will the gentiles bearing «the wealth of nations» to praise GOD who has done wonders for all his people.
what isaiah proclaims in verse, matthew narrates in word! bethlehem is the destination of the pilgrimage of the magi bearing gifts to honour the king of the jews. jews and gentiles are one in praising and adoring the one GOD.

in a world which increasingly emphasizes division on the basis of gender, race, religion, nationality, class… the feast of the epiphany is a powerful reminder that we are one people whom the one GOD has created.
do i see myself as a member of the one human family? how will i manifest and celebrate my oneness with all people in the week ahead?