26 Week: Thursday, 01 October 2020

Reading 1: Jb 19:21-27 and Gospel: Lk 10:1-12
Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Reading 1: Jb 19:21-27
Job lamented the fact that God struct him. He tells his friends not to mock him in his pitiable situation. He believes firmly that he shall personally experience that God will not abandon him. He says, “And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing.”

Gospel: Lk 10:1-12
While sending the 72 disciples in pairs, Jesus told them that the harvest is abundant, but the labourers are few. Therefore they need to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers for his harvest. They are like lambs among wolves. They were told not to carry money bag, sack, or sandals. They are not to greet anyone on the way. They are to share peace in the house they enter first. If they receive them, then their peace will remain in that house. The disciples are to eat and drink whatever they are offered in that house. They are to cure the sick and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. On the other hand, if the people do not receive them, they are to shake off the dust that clings to their feet. Jesus told them, “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

Today, the Church is celebrating the feast of St. Therese of Child Jesus. She is the official patroness of the missions. Interestingly, she spent all her life as a religious in the cloistered convent. Yet, she is chosen as the patron of the missions. Being in the cloistered convent, she reached to the entire world with her love. She bound the entire world to her heart. St. Therese is a direct reminder to all of us that we could be missionaries wherever we are. In the Gospel reading we have the narration of Jesus sending the disciples on a missionary expedition. He gives detailed instructions to them with regard to being missionaries. The first reading is all the more a reminder to us that the missionary activity is mainly to instill into the hearts of the people the hope that God will never abandon us. His love is everlasting. So, what do we want to take home from all these? We all are called to be missionaries. We need to be missionaries of love and hope in Jesus Christ. We could be missionaries either being in our homes or braving out into unknown lands. In any case, as missionaries, we need to be convinced like Job that our God will not abandon in us even in moments of vicissitudes. Today, we shall pray for all the missionaries in the world, who have taken the bold step of serving the people in far-off lands. We shall pray that God may strengthen them so that they may live their faith to the full and be effective instruments to communicate the love of God to the people for whom they are rendering their service. At the same time, let us pray for the majority of us, who are not technically missionaries, that we may realize that we too have this call to be missionaries by uniting ourselves with the entire world, wherein we communicate our love to others, even with those who are in far-off lands. May St. Theresa of Child Jesus intercede for us.
May God bless you
(By S. Peter)

26 Week: Wednesday 30 September 2020

Readings: Job 9, 1-16; Ps 88; Lk 9, 57-62     
Memory of St . Jerome

Today being the 30th September, the feast of St. Jerome, the exponent of Scripture, it is right that we reflect on the way the Word of God enters the human world! St Jerome is revered for his service of translating the Scripture into the common language of the time and for his commentaries and numerous writings explaining the Word of God for Christian life.

The book of Job from which we read this week takes us to the unfathomable ways of God. We are too finite and mortal to comprehend and far less to question God. We need to humbly surrender to God’s will and plan, praise and thank Him for His Mercy and Love. The three would-be or could-be followers of Jesus in the Gospel are told in no unclear terms as to what is entailed in following Jesus – a radical, total, detachment. Many from then down through the centuries have found it difficult: “this is more than we can stand! How can anyone listen to such talk?” (Jn6, 60). But there have been many also through the centuries “to whom it has been granted by the Father” (Jn6, 65), to come to Jesus.

This past month was observed as the Bible Month. The Word of God has been made known through the instrumentality of God’s chosen ones who humbly opened their hearts and minds to God’s Grace, inspiration, Mercy and Love. Jesus the Word made flesh is celebrated in listening to the Scriptures. St. Jerome was so humbled by what he learned that he devoted himself to a hermetical and penitential way of life, spending himself to make the Word of God easily available for all in the common language of the time. St Augustine is an example of one who embarked on an active apostolate of expounding God’s Grace, Mercy and Love while St Jerome chose the hermetical and penitential path of study, prayer and penance to expound the Word of God.

The relationship with God remains the one and only thing left and to which Job clung; so too the many sinners turned saints like St Jerome. We all have our own particularities that mark us out from another. But may our clinging to God’s Word and His Eucharist in Christ Jesus be our priority and strength helping us to live the radical response to God’s call.

Additional thought: [God’s Word was always transmitted for man’s understanding in the prevailing means of the time. And every now and then someone specially chosen by God is given the leadership. Initially God is pictured as speaking directly with mankind as with Adam, walking in the garden, visiting Abraham, confronting Jacob. Moses is in a way prepared with the literacy skills from the royal palace of the Pharaoh for the future role as leader and teacher which enables him to give in writing the ten commandments of God and perhaps more of the teaching contained in the Pentateuch; the Old Testament is written in the local language of the Jewish people and the teachings of Jesus gets written down in the languages in use at the time among the people; after a few centuries Latin having become the common prominent language the scriptures needed to be translated and made available to the public and St Jerome was the erudite scholar called by God for that ministry. It took many more centuries before the awakening from ‘elitism’ to the need to have the scriptures and liturgy again translated into the local languages widely in use across the world. Today we take pride in having the Word of God proclaimed and celebrated in almost all the languages across the world. We thank God for His call of and gift to the world of the many Scripture translators and scholars, on this day as we recall the 16th centenary of St Jerome who is honoured for the pioneering effort to bring the Scripture to the common man.]
(Fr. Joy Sebastian SDB)

26 Week: Tuesday 29 September 2020

Readings: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a
Jn 1:47-51

Stories and images of angels are interwoven with the history, culture, and art of humanity. In the Christian world Archangels are considered to be very powerful spiritual beings that have drawn our attention and we maintain our belief in them. In Greek context the prefix ‘arch’ means ruler or chief.  There are several stories that refer to the number of archangels, their role in celestial hierarchy and their intervention in human life. There are some references in the scriptures that tell of the archangels as healers, guides and intervening with assistance in life’s challenging situations.

Archangel Michael, whose name means ‘he who is as God’, is most often thought of as the angel of protection and the most powerful of all the angels. Some of the artwork depicts him as a warrior most often wearing a shield and carrying a sword, or on a horseback overpowering a dragon with a spear. Archangel Michael assists in situations where you are afraid, confused or concerned for your safety. He helps to release fear and doubt and supports us in making life changes. 

Archangel Raphael: In Hebrew the word “rophe” means ‘to heal’ and Raphael means ‘God heals’. Raphael is designated for physical and emotional healing. Archangel Raphael helps to clear away fears and stressors that maybe adversely affecting our health. He is the patron of physicians, healers and travellers.

Archangel Gabriel means ‘God is my strength’. One of the two archangels specifically named in the Bible in both the Old and New Testament.  Some portray Gabriel as a female. Images depict Gabriel with a trumpet or with Lilly flower in hand. Archangel Gabriel is the messenger angel, acting as a messenger of God. Gabriel announced the message to Mary. Gabriel is the patron of Journalists.

Archangels are considered extensions of God and are often ranked as being the 2nd highest spiritual beings. They are given the task of watching over humanity and the universe.
(By Fr. Sunil Orethel SDB)

26 Week: Monday 28 September 2020

Readings: Jb 1:6-22, Luke 9:46-50

Following on Jesus once again tells his disciples that he was going to be “handed over” to suffering and death, we were told in our previous reading that they did not understand what he meant. It did not make sense to them.

Now, almost as an indication of how far they were from Jesus’ thinking, they began arguing among themselves which one among them should be seen as the greatest. Why should they be arguing about this? Was it because, whatever difficulties they had in accepting what Jesus had said about his future, they were wondering what was going to happen after Jesus had been taken away from them? If they were to remain together as a group, which of them would be in charge?

Perhaps, Peter was already beginning to think that he should be the one. Perhaps some of the others felt it should be one of them. But Jesus, who, of course, was not present during these sensitive discussions, was well aware of what was going on. He took a child and put it in their midst. “Whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives him who sent me. For the one that is least among you all is the greatest.”

It is interesting that the greatness is to be seen in the child rather than in the one who receives it. The child represents all who are vulnerable and weak and powerless. To “receive” such persons is to treat them with the utmost dignity and respect and to accept them and lift them up. In Jesus’ eyes, such little people are truly great because, to those who have eyes to see, they are the ones in whom we can especially meet Jesus and love and serve him. St Francis of Assisi, who kissed the leper (a particularly daring thing to do in his time), or Mother Teresa, tenderly picking up a decaying, barely living body off the street knew this well. To find Jesus in such a person is to make direct contact with God himself.

Jesus himself will reach the peak of his own greatness when he hangs dying and helpless on the cross. This is the lesson the disciples will learn to see and accept in time. We have to keep working on it too because it does not come easily to any of us.

The second part of today’s gospel points to another area where the disciples have to change their outlook. John, the brother of James, who both come across in the Synoptics as somewhat hotheaded (they had the nickname “sons of thunder”), tells Jesus they saw someone driving out devils in Jesus’ name. They had told the man to stop because he was “not one of us”. (Was there an element of jealousy also? In Mark 9:14ff, we are told that the disciples failed to drive out an evil spirit from a boy.)

Here we have something of the arrogance of the insider, of the elitist. John and his companions felt that the exorcism of evil spirits in the name of Jesus was something only they were allowed to do. Jesus did not agree. “Leave him alone,” he told them. And he enunciates a principle for them to follow: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

It is a constant temptation among more devout religious people to set themselves apart from “the others”. It can happen to bishops or priests or religious. It can happen in a parish to members of the parish council or some parish group – a prayer group, charismatics, the liturgy committee or whatever.

We can find ourselves developing a two-tier community of “us” and “them”. We can find ourselves looking down on those who come in late for Mass and hang around the back door or who only come occasionally or maybe even only turn up at Christmas.

Even more, we can be tempted to set ourselves apart from non-Catholic and non-Christian groups. We can fail to see God working in all kinds of people, religious and non-religious, atheists, agnostics and people who apparently do not believe in anything.

Of course, as Christians, we do have a distinctive understanding of life and its meaning coming from the teaching and life of Jesus and it should not be compromised. But, at the same time, we do not have a monopoly of the truth. No one has. The full Truth is beyond all of us. We are all searching. Still less do we have a monopoly on good works. God can and does use any person to build the Kingdom. And it is our responsibility to work hand in hand with such people. Ultimately, our aim is not to promote our Church but God’s work and God’s plan for the whole world.

(By Fr Jerry VM SDB)

26 Week: Sunday 27 September 2020

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11 or 2:1-5; Matthew 21:28-32

May 07 last year saw one of the greatest comebacks in football history! Liverpool entered the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona with an imposing 0-3 deficit. Worse, they were without the injured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. The Reds pulled off an incredible 4-0 victory to advance to the League final; three of those goals came in the second half.
Barca were unbeaten for 11 games, in which they had scored 26 goals and conceded six. In this game, they scored none and conceded four. Their amazing display till then counted for nothing. The endgame mattered, and Barca did not deliver.
What is true of sport is true of life and the spiritual life: the endgame matters.

In the gospel parable of the two sons, Jesus compares “tax collectors and prostitutes” (whom the religious elders considered transgressors of the law) to the first son; they rebelled initially but heeded John’s exhortation and repented. Jesus is emphatic that they “are entering the kingdom of God”. The chief priests and elders are like the second son; they professed to do to do God’s will but did not. Jesus implies that they will be left out of the kingdom if they fail to repent.
This seem outrageous! But the first reading from Ezekiel emphasises that, for God, the end matters: A person may turn at any time from wickedness to righteousness and vice versa; s/he will be judged by the new life to which s/he has turned, not by his/her previous life.
God has a very short memory! He is concerned about our present relationship with him. Further, no matter how far we have strayed from him, it is never too late to turn back to a no-questions-asked welcome. Remember the prodigal son, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, the thief crucified with Jesus! God’s kingdom is for those who answer his call today; yesterday does not count.
Like which son am I? Do my actions indicate my obedience to God’s will? Am I ready to change my attitudes and behaviour?

The challenge is to be like the third son, Jesus, who was always faithful. St Paul reminds us: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, who… humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.”
(By Fr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB)

25 Week: Saturday 26 September 2020

Readings:  Eccl 11:9-12:8 and Lk 9:43b-45
“But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them…” (Lk 9:45).
 Students make noise in class not because they have nothing to do but there is no teacher to be with them.
There are many things that a person does not understand in this mundane world. This does not mean one will never understand it. Definitely there will be a time when one is able to grasp the meaning of events that occurred in one’s life.

In the first reading we read “Rejoice in your youth, you who are young let your heart give you joy in your young days”. This verse does not invite a young person to look at the youth and vigour of his youthful years from the perspective of mere enjoyment. What the youth of today require is constant and guiding presence of parents, elders, teachers etc. “I cannot hear what you say as your bad examples speak louder” is the constant cry of youth today to the elders and leaders of society. Don Bosco used to say, “A little piece of heaven makes things right”, meaning the thought of heaven makes our life more meaningful and sincere. The Psalmist reiterates the same “Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart”.

So, let us cling on to Jesus, leaving all our petty politics and selfishness, realising the fact that all these are ‘vanity of vanities’. Let us realize the fact that the Lord “have been our refuge from one generation to the next”. Our power, money, positions all will vanish one day. Some may not be able to grasp the words of Christ even at their old age as the power of darkness and the comforts of this world has enveloped their minds and hearts. Time has a way of revealing the mysteries of God’s Word. Let each day bring new knowledge of the Kingdom of God into our life and may we be able to see Christ in every person. 
(By M. Jose Thomas SDB)

Catholic Nun among 42 Awarded by Indian President

New Delhi, Sept 24, 2020: A Catholic nun, who has promoted “Clean India Campaign” in Manipur, was among 42 people who on September 24 were awarded by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The president conferred the National Services Scheme Awards for the year 2018-2019 on Sister William Parmar and others through virtual mode from the Rashtrapati Bhawan,
Federal Minister for Youth Affairs Kiren Reiju attended the ceremony from New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan.
The awards were given in three different categories like University and Plus Two, NSS units and their program officers and NSS volunteers.
Sister Parmar, a member of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity, or Vedruna Sisters, was given the prestigious awards in recognition of her exemplary and commendable social service, says a youth ministry press release.

The Department of Youth Affairs under the federal Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports confers the annual awards to recognize outstanding contributions to voluntary community service made by universities, colleges and secondary schools.
The National Service Scheme was inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and was launched in 1969, the centenary year of the Father of Nation’s birthday. The scheme aims to develop personality and character of young students through voluntary community service. It currently has 4 million volunteers spread throughout India.
President Kovind congratulated the winners and expressed his happiness to honor service-minded people. “Sevice is very much part of our value system,” he asserted.
Sister Parmar is the program officer of the NSS unit 1 of Don Bosco College Maram in the Senapati district of Manipur, a northeastern Indian state. She was selected for the award under Program Officer/NSS Unit Category.
The 39-year-old nun currently serves as assistant professor at the Salesian college with additional responsibility as NSS program officer.

She says she has tried to practice the NSS motto of “Not me but you” and help the downtrodden and needy in Ramlung, a village adopted by the college’s NSS unit. Supported by college principal Father K O Sebastian, the nun volunteered in building and repairing public toilets and water tanks as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign).
Sister Parmar has conducted literacy programs and planted 19,900 tree saplings in the village, some 85 km north of the Manipur state capital of Imphal.
She is also a registered organ donor and has donated blood eight times. She also strives to transform nearby villages through cleanliness drives, health-immunization programs, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, social awareness rallies, adult literacy programs and malaria eradication programs among others.
The nun has helped local people to build public toilets, urinals, waiting sheds, drainages, compost pits and water ponds.
Her volunteers have made around 300 dustbins from tins and bamboos and part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The nun has propagated the usage of biodegradable dustbins made of bamboo. She also undertook a massive fund-raising campaign in the aftermath of the Kerala floods.
In 2015, her NSS unit was awarded he best unit of Manipur. Sister Parmar was awarded the best NSS Programme Officer.
She had also participated in several national, regional and state level programs organized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs.

25 Week: Friday 25 September 2020

Reading: Eccl 3:1-11 and Luke 9: 18-22

There are two questions that Jesus poses today: The first one is “who do the crowds say I am?” This is an invitation to look into the popular notions of faith. The answer given by the Apostles are interesting: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the ancient prophets. John the Baptist was just executed by King Herod (Luke 9: 7-9) and the people believed that there could be the transmigration of the spirit of John the Baptist to Jesus. Elijah is considered an option because Elijah never died; he was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2). Jews even now leave a chair for Elijah during the Passover because they believe that Elijah would come again heralding the coming of the Messiah, “Behold! I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and the terrible day of the Lord comes.” (Malachi 4: 5) Jesus was considered as one of the ancient prophets. In the Gospel of Mathew that ancient prophet is Jeremiah. According to the Jewish belief Jeremiah would come again to give back the Ark of the Covenant (2 Esdras 2: 18), because according to 2 Maccabees 2: 5, Jeremiah is supposed to have hidden the ark during the Babylonian invasion. Before the day of the coming of the Messiah, Jeremiah would come and return the Ark. So, in all these answers we find the belief of the common people that Jesus is a special man, a forerunner of the Messiah but they never believed in the divinity of Jesus. But Jesus is not satisfied with any of these and he asks them, Who do you say that I am? It is then Peter speaks about the divinity of Jesus. You are not the forerunner of the Messiah, you are the Messiah. 

But more than an exegesis on the Divinity of Jesus, what Jesus is inviting us through his question is to develop a personalized faith. There are very many readymade answers that we have learnt about who Jesus is from our childhood onwards: Messiah, son of God, Redeemer and so on. But Jesus asks each one of us today, Whom do you say that I am. What is my answer? For Mary Magdalena, the answer was ‘Rabbouni.’ For St. Thomas it was, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Only when faith is made personalized it would become part of our life. One of the shocking things that I read recently was about the number of Christian girls moving on to non-Catholic faith and that too getting entangled with extremist groups and terrorists even going to the extent of moving to Gulf nations to support the terrorists. It is surprising that it would happen even after years of organized and systematic Catechism classes spanning for 12 years. But why is that people very easily go away from our Christian faith? My analysis of the situation is that we have failed to give them experiential knowledge of our faith. We have fed them with concepts, theories and dogmas but not Jesus who can touch their lives. This is what Jesus tells today: How have you experienced me? What is your subjective understanding of Jesus? When Pilate asked him if he was the king of the Jews, Jesus asked him, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18: 33-34). In the episode of the Samaritan woman in John 4, there is a beautiful statement that the people of that locality tell the Samaritan woman, “We believe not because you have told us but we have experienced him as the Saviour of the world.” (John 4: 42). Let us too be moved neither by the popular opinions of Christ however convincing they may be nor by the readymade answers that we have learnt in our faith sessions. Let us have an experiential knowledge about Christ which would keep us strong in our faith. 

(By Fr. Jerin Palatty SDB)

25 Week: Thursday 24 September 2020

Readings: Ecclesiastes 1: 2-11;  Luke 9: 7-9

Solomon one person in the Bible who had everything (wisdom, power, riches, honour, reputation, God’s favour) is the one who discussed the emptiness of all that this world has to offer. He tries to destroy the confidence people have in their own abilities, efforts and righteousness and direct them to commitment to God as the only reason for living.

Solomon at the end of his life, admits, the world and all in it is vanity. He had tried everything and achieved much to find that nothing apart from God made him happy. If we try to find meaning in our accomplishments rather than in God we will never be satisfied, and everything we pursue become wearisome. Solomon tests our faith, challenging us to find true and lasting meaning in God alone. The reading is inviting us to rethink our purpose and direction in life just as Solomon did.

Herod on the other hand, in his endeavor to silence the voice of God is haunted in his conscience. John the Baptist pointed to him righteous living and the way to heaven. Herod instead of heeding his voice, had him beheaded. The arrival of Jesus after Herod had beheaded John, perplexed him. Herod is confused. He is terribly anxious and worried who Jesus could be. He is asking to himself “who is this man?” The words and works of Jesus is haunting him more than before. Jesus disturbed his sleep. Jesus invaded his dreams. Herod has no peace.  Our hearts can never rest in peace until we rest in God.
(By Fr. Joseph Thettayil SDB)

25 Week: Wednesday 23 September 2020

Readings Prov. 30, 5-9; Ps 118; Lk 9, 1-6
St. Padre Pio

‘They set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere’. Contentment and joy in the daily little things (Poverty of Spirit) is a Gift of God and that is what Jesus exhorts for all who are disciples or apostles. Every Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle – sent to bear witness to God’s Love and Mercy. Material sufficiency for the daily needs is also to be surrendered to Divine Providence! The twelve were sent out for their practical training and were effective precisely because of their poverty and simplicity, relying on generosity of others and the name of Jesus.

One of my memorable experiences in missionary journey was at the Christmas of 1982. Fr Mathew Tharakan allowed me, on holiday experience in Tamenglong, to join the assistant priest Fr Sebastian Thottipatt and go to the Zemei area for the Christmas Sobha held at Mugulong. After the grand celebrations our return journey was a long shortcut on foot for two days through as yet not contacted villages; we were accompanied by a group of vibrant Young people and adults eager to evangelize others; the youngest member of the group was around five years old only! By dusk fall we reached a village and sought out the chief for hospitality for that night. After all the formalities and explanations we were all invited to his house and seated around his little fire, where his household was already ready to sleep. As we settled down, the women tried to prepare some food for these weary travellers! The chief pulled out some dried skin to add flavour to the meal being prepared. While thus seated around and chatting, with a few more people joining to see and know the visitors, I was struck by the zeal and enthusiasm of this little child in our group. She was interacting with the children of the family, who had woken up, telling them of Jesus more energetically than the rest of us adults and young people! She was inviting them to believe in Jesus and to baptism in the Church!

Jesus had a glow of confidence in the generosity of people as he send out his Apostles, empty handed but full of the Spirit and God’s living Word. Dependency on fellow beings – even strangers, is an act of trust both in the goodness of people and in the providence of God. We experienced the kindness and generosity of people in that missionary journey! The provident care of God accompanied us all through the tiring long journey. We felt happy, contented, loved, welcomed, and respected.

With the educational, technological, economic progress made over the many decades and generations, have we become more independent, self reliant and less generous and observant of the other, those on the periphery? Has easy mobility and media globalism enclosed us within our own secure walls and limited our availability and generosity for kindness, for hospitality? Even in the midst of post modernity can we find joy and contentment in the simplicity of life and providence of God? St. Padre Pio had three words of exhortation: pray, hope, don’t worry! Through his intercession and example, may we find the fulfilment of sharing God’s mercy and forgiveness with all people. The Eucharistic Jesus suffices for the true believer, as was for padre Pio. One of the blessings of the covid-19 pandemic is an openness to inter dependency. We need others and others need us. We have much to give and to receive. The humbling experience of being served strengthens us to serve others.
(By Fr. Joy Sebastian SDB)