Readings: Acts 12;24 – 13;5a / Jn. 12;44-50
The Judge or the Savior? In today’s gospel Jesus says; “For I did not come to Judge the world but to save the world” Jn. 12; 47
There are two comings of Christ. His first coming which has already taken place in history and his last coming which is yet to happen. The first one was a humble coming (God became Man) but the second one will be a glorious coming.
Both the comings are associated with a specific mission. At his first coming, Jesus came as a Savior to save us. But at His last coming, Jesus comes as a judge to judge the living and the dead. This is a future event which we wait for in hope. What Jesus is trying to convey in today’s gospel is that He has come (first coming) to save and not to judge. To judge he would come later (in the end times). Let us focus on the purpose of his first coming; to SAVE. Why to save? Because humanity had gone astray from God and was condemned in sin. But God in his great love did not want us to perish but to be saved.
From what? Jesus came to save us from sin and its consequences of eternal condemnation. He came to save us from the clutches of Satan’s power. How did he save us? Jesus by his passion, death and resurrection has saved us and has reconciled us to God and restored us to the glory of heaven.
If we accept Jesus as our Saviour and live according to his teachings, then we don’t’ have to fear when He comes as the Judge. Let us remember Jesus is not only the Merciful saviour but also the righteous judge. While we are alive the saviour will show his mercy and give us chance to repent but after our Death, the judge will show his righteousness. He will judge us according to the kind of life we have lived.
(By Fr. Paul Inashe OFM Cap., Capuchin House, Dimapur)
PROCLAIM THE LORD JESUS, WITNESS ENTHUSIASTICALLY AND REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE LORD AMIDST PERSECUTION
The contributions of Christians all over the world have been praiseworthy. Individual Christians and Christian institutions have done yeomen service in the field of education and health care. The Church has worked hard for the upliftment of the weaker sections and the care of the distressed. The Church has reached out to the most underprivileged and disadvantaged. Yet, there has been persecutions against Christians, the killing of missionaries and Christians in many countries, the spreading of hate by disinformation and terrorizing of Christian communities all over the world. We read in John 15:20 “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too.” Then how are we going to proclaim the Gospel today? How are we going to witness to Jesus in these times? How can you be another Jesus today?
We express our love for others in three ways: kindness, encouragement and challenge. When we really love another person, we offer all three of these love gifts. In the Gospel, we see Jesus loving in this way. Sometimes Jesus offers pure kindness. At other times Jesus encourages others to believe in their own God-given gifts. But always and to everyone he offers the love-gift of Challenge. As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew casting a net into the lake. He said to them, “Come, follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mathew 4:19). In John 5:8, Jesus says to the paralytic at the pool of Bethzatha, “Stand up, take up your mat and walk.” Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). After Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself to the Eleven, he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and always. Jesus enters into our lives in just the same way with challenges. What is the challenge that Jesus is offering us today? Jesus is challenging us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News.
How are we going to proclaim the Lord Jesus, witness enthusiastically, and remain faithful to the Lord in these challenging times? What should be our response amidst persecutions? (1) We need to show solidarity with all the victims especially with the poor, the Dalits & the tribals. (2) We ought to have the determination to continue with the mandate of love and service given by Jesus Christ. (3) We must unequivocally reject hatred & violence, even in the face of the worst provocation. (4) We have to grow stronger in faith. (5) We have to dialogue with people professing various religions, ideologies & doctrines. (6) We must foster values of brotherhood and live in unity & peace. (7) Above all, we have to live a life of virtue. When Agesilaus the great was asked, “How is that Sparta is not surrounded by walls to protect it from the enemies?”, he replied, “What makes a city strong is not timber and stone but the virtue of its citizens. As St. Paul exhorted the Christian community in Rome, let us “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 13:14).
(By Fr. Babu Varghese SDB, Delegate for Youth Ministry Department (INN), Delegate for Social Communication. (INN))
Easter Week 4: Monday 26 April 2021
Reading 1: Acts 11:1-18
Peter was criticized for eating with the uncircumcised believers. He shared with them a vision he had during his prayer at Joppa. In the vision he saw a large sheet coming down from the sky towards him. On it he saw four-legged animals, the wild beasts, the reptiles and the birds. He heard a voice which told him to slaughter them and eat. But, Peter refused as he did not want anything profane to enter his mouth. The voice told him that what God has made clean, no one shall call profane. This happened three times. Then everything was drawn up again into the sky. After his vision, 3 men appeared and he accompanied them to an uncircumcised believer’s house. The believer narrated that in his vision God told him to summon him (Peter), who will speak God’s word by which he and his household will be saved. The Holy Spirit came upon all those who were present there. Peter remembered the Lord’s words that he will baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Thus Peter clarified to the circumcised believers that if God does not discriminate, why should he discriminate then? Then circumcised believers changed their thoughts and accepted the uncircumcised believers.
Gospel: Jn 10:1-10
Jesus said that a person who enters the sheepfold by jumping the wall is a thief. But, if he enters through the gate, then he is the shepherd. The sheep hear his voice. The sheep follow him when they move out of the barn, as they recognize his voice. But, they will not follow the stranger. The Pharisees could not understand this parable. Jesus explained to them saying that he is the gate for the sheep. All who came before him were thieves and robbers. But, the sheep did not listen to them. But, whoever enters through him will be saved. He has come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
Jesus is both the gate of the barn as well as the shepherd. The sheep recognize his voice. Jesus is the shepherd who has come to give us life in abundance. But, the sheep do not follow a stranger. We have been baptized. We have accepted Christ. He did good to the world, but he suffered because of that. So, our shepherd is Jesus and we are his sheep. Now, a few questions could be raised: If we are the sheep of Jesus, are we hearing his voice? By chance, are we following strangers? Have we chosen a different way, instead of the way of our Shepherd? Have we chosen another shepherd or have the thieves and robbers become our new found shepherds? Do we know Jesus our Shepherd? Do we know that Jesus our Shepherd will guarantee us abundant life, even though following him will be difficult?
Actually, we need to examine, if true, as to why we have drifted away from our shepherd. There is a lot of distraction today with a lot of noise around us. In this background, the voice of Jesus our shepherd is drowned. The other shepherds are attracting us through their voice by giving us what we want; by tempting us to do what is easy, by making us an instant success. Amidst all these, Jesus our Shepherd comes to take us. He is bleeding, because the other shepherds have overpowered him and he is beaten up by them. Jesus too is attractive but his demands are difficult to implement. So, we are easily drawn towards the others, as we live in an instantaneous world. We have accepted values of these false shepherds. We are simply told, “I am OK, you are OK.” We are made to believe that what we are doing is just fine and nothing more is required of us. We are unable to wait patiently to see the fruits of our difficult but virtuous actions. Jesus, our Shepherd tells us, that the way to eternal life is narrow; therefore, we must enter through the narrow gate. Jesus is our gate, the narrow gate. Very few have entered through this gate. If we hear his voice and follow him, we are sure that we have found our life. If we are his disciples then we will not follow strangers. His way is difficult, but it is the only way to abundant life.
(By S Peter)
FROM OBLIGATION TO LOVING COMMITMENT
Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone and asked: “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send some men to join you.” Livingstone replied: “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
There is a big difference between those who seek the easy path and those who act out of love and commitment.
That is the point Jesus makes in the gospel. He contrasts the attitudes of a good shepherd and a false one:
A real shepherd is born to his task; it is a vocation. He loves his sheep and they love him; he knows them and calls them by name; he thinks of them before he thinks of himself; he does not abandon them even, and perhaps especially, in the face of danger.
For hired hands, to whom Jesus likens the Pharisees, it is a “job”; they are in it solely for the pay; they care nothing for the sheep and so they run away in the face of danger.
The bottom-line: One who works out of loving commitment thinks of the people one is serving. One who works out of a sense of obligation thinks chiefly about oneself and recompense.
Jesus was the good shepherd – when he had compassion on the crowds and satiated their hunger; when he reached out to the sick and the sinner, to the Samaritan woman, to the Canaanite woman, to the woman caught in adultery, to Zacchaeus, to Martha and Mary. As he moves towards the cross, Jesus holds up this model of the good shepherd.
Jesus, the good shepherd, invites us to be good shepherds. He challenges us to move from obligation to loving commitment, to be a faithful presence to people in need.
Who, in my life, needs “good shepherding”? How will I “be with” those in need?
May we be shepherds to one another, especially to those in need. May we move from obligation to loving commitment.
(By Fr Vinod, Rector and Secretary of Don Bosco Provincial House, Mumbai)
Easter Week 3: Saturday 24 April 2021
Reading 1 Acts 9:31-42
During the early years of Christianity, the Church was focused on God and number of believers was rising. Peter was in Lydda and there he healed a paralytic named Aenas bedridden for 8 years. The people there praised God and became believers. At Joppa, there was a virtuous disciple named Tabitha, who fell sick and died. Peter went there upon invitation. He prayed and asked Tabitha to rise up. Tabitha opened her eyes and sat up. Many who witnessed this became believers in the Lord.
Gospel Jn 6:60-69
Many of Jesus disciples’ left him because of what he was saying. They could not accept his teaching on the bread of life. Jesus told them that he will ascend to his Father in heaven and that his teaching was life and spirit. He knew that some of his disciples will not believe him and some would betray him too. He asked the 12 disciples whether they too wished to leave him. Peter replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
In the first reading today we observe that Peter performs miracles similar to that of Jesus. And this same person in the Gospel expresses his conviction that Jesus was the holy one of God and that Jesus has the words of eternal life. We need to ignore Peter’s denial of Jesus as an unfortunate incident. What we need to emphasize is his bouncing back to be an ardent disciple of Jesus. Not only this, he begins to do things like the Master. In life, many things demand our commitment. There are moments when we have a fall. What is important is the way we deal with our failures. What are we really doing to bounce back? Bouncing back is a very difficult experience. It involves a lot of suffering. First of all, we need to overcome the shame of falling. We need to back ourselves saying that it is fine to make mistakes and now we have the future ahead of us. We need to tell ourselves, “Let me now start again and pick the pieces of my brokenness.” Life is not all over just because we had a fall. There is always a Restart button available for us. There is no shut down button as long as God provides it to us on the day of our death. Peter is a striking example for each one of us. We are amazed at the miracles he performs – all after making a mistake. Interestingly, the Lord did not take it amiss. He understands that we are weak. He gives us strength to get back. He backs us up. With God, we shall do valiantly (Ps 60:12). An important lesson that we can take home today is, when we see someone downcast, crestfallen, let us help them to bounce back. And, when we have fallen due to our weaknesses, even if no one is there to encourage us, let us remember that God is 24×7 available to back us up. With God, we shall indeed do valiantly.
(By S Peter)
Easter Week 3: Friday, 23 April 2021
Reading I: – Acts 9:1-20
Saul continued to torture the believers who accepted Jesus. He was a zealous Jew, who wanted to arrest all who were preaching the Gospel in Damascus. He obtained a letter from the High Priest addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, so that he might bring the preachers of the Gospel in chains back to Jerusalem. But, on his journey a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He heard a voice, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked, “Who are you, Sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Then Jesus asked him to follow the instructions. Now, Saul became completely blind. His men led him by hand to Damascus. For 3 days he neither ate nor drank. Saul had a vision, in which he was told that a person called Ananias would restore him his sight. Now, Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, also had a vision, in which the Lord directed him to meet Saul and grant him his sight. Ananias was reluctant though because he had heard about the notorious activity of Saul, persecuting the believers in Jesus Christ. But, the Lord told him that Saul was his chosen instrument to carry his name before non-Christians. Saul will have to suffer a great deal in the bargain. Ananias met Saul and laid his hands on him and he regained his sight. He was baptized and he regained his strength after eating. He remained with the disciples in Damascus for a few days and began at once to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues.
Gospel: – Jn 6: 52-59
The Jews argued with Jesus as to how he would give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. Jesus clearly told them that unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood, they would not have any life in them. But if they eat his flesh and drink his blood then they will have eternal life and they will live in him and he will live in them. He told them that he was sent by the Father and his life is because of Him. Therefore, whoever comes to him will draw life from him. He is the bread come down from heaven. He is not the bread which their ancestors ate and died.
We are experiencing a situation where many people are without work. Many people are depressed and dejected because of lack of work. Work gives a sense of dignity to a person. Without work, the very meaning of our life is brought to question. When a person works he/she feels respected. Work reminds us that God is constantly working. Work enables us to carry forward the creative work of God. The ultimate objective of work is to find God in our lives. A person who does not want to work in all likelihood is a lazy person. Such a person has no clarity without regard to the meaning in his/her life. Work gives us a sense of vision and focus. COVID-19 has all of a sudden brought a halt to this aspect of many people’s lives. In our context, we must pray God that he may restore our life to its normalcy soon and that people may resume their work and eventually encounter him. Finally, work implies hard work. There is no short-cut to hard work. We must experience the struggle that work brings about. Perhaps, here we can see the hero of the first reading, namely St. Paul. He was converted, but his preaching of the Gospel meant that he will have to go through sufferings in his life. He was a tireless worker. While he preached the Gospel, he was also involved in tent making. He believed that no one had the right to eat unless they worked. Now, we are able to understand about the Bread of Life. The Bread of Life means hard work. The bread that Jesus gives us his own life. We are to become like him; persons who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Only hard work can bring us eternal life. Suffering which is part of work is essential for our salvation. May St. Joseph intercede for us.
(By S. Peter)
I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE
“I am the bread of life… I am the living bread which has come from heaven, whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
The background to this statement is the feeding of the 5000, which astounded the people. At the end of this feeding, they wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. Though Jesus had left them to go across Galilee, they followed him and came to the other side of the lake. The people were caught up in the day-to-day treadmill of getting their needs met and finding food for their hungry bellies. But Jesus was concerned with saving their souls. When Jesus realized that the people were following him only to satisfy their empty bellies, he refocused the conversation upon more spiritual matters.
Jesus used the occasion of physical hunger to lead them to a deeper understanding of who he is. It is within this context that this statement “I am the bread of life” is made. This is a first in a series of lessons on what Jesus said about himself in the book of John. These statements are known as the “I Am” statements. These statements are significant because they give us an understanding of the relationship we need to have with Jesus. Jesus wants everyone to know him as the ‘Bread of Life”. Jesus is the bread who nourishes and sustains all.
All of us experience a sense of incompleteness within us. We all desire for completeness within us, to get connected to God. As all of us are aware that God has a plan for us, we earnestly desire to make ourselves more and more according to the design of God. That makes us cry out every morning: “O God come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me.” God’s assistance is needed in our lives. We need him as the ‘Bread of Life’. Bread is a symbolic representation of God’s life-sustaining provision. When Jesus told the hungry crowds that he was the Bread of life, he was teaching his followers that He alone was their true source of spiritual life, both in this present world and in the everlasting life to come. The Bread of life that Jesus represents never perishes, spoils, or runs out.
As Jean Vanier says, “Somehow in each of us we are a mixture of light and darkness, love and hate, trust and fear.” But God is always present in the messes and struggles of life. Fr. Tom Alexander SJ in his book ‘God loves an unmade bed’ says that the unmade or unprepared bed in our house is symbolic of the messes and struggles we experience throughout our lives. How do we move forward from the confusion, mess and conflict we experience? He says that for this transformation, we need to be open to God’s love – a power greater than ourselves. Grace can turn our moments of discontentment into moments of peace and contentment. God’s grace is sufficient for us.
Just like bread which is associated with life, health, nourishment, and prosperity, Jesus is associated with life, health, nourishment and prosperity. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” and makes an exclusive claim when he says, “You can’t get this kind of bread anywhere else.” Jesus is the one who gives bread that leads to eternal life. He is the true bread from heaven. He is the one who came down from heaven. He is the bread that gives life to the world. He is the bread of life. He promises to quell our hunger and quench our thirst. He is the bread of which those who eat will not die. He is the living bread which came down from heaven. Jesus is the one who gives his flesh, which is the bread, for the life of the world. It is the teaching about Jesus which we must believe in order to be saved.
As mentioned in John 3:16, believing in Jesus Christ as the source of our spiritual existence will gain us eternal life. When we put our faith in Jesus, he gives us the spiritual bread that will not spoil and abundant life that will never end.
(By Fr. Babu Varghese SDB, Delegate for Youth Ministry Department (INN) and Delegate for Social Communication. (INN))
Easter Tide Week 3: Monday 19 April 2021
Readings: Acts. 6; 8-15 / Jn. 6; 22-29
Jesus answered them truly I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. John 6;26.
What we hear in today’s gospel is what happened after Jesus fed the 5000. Those same people, who were fed by him, came searching for him. Jesus immediately understands the motive of their coming.
They came in search of Jesus the “Bread-giver” and not Jesus the “Life-giver”. They came in search of Material nourishment and not for Spiritual satisfaction. They came in search of a Man who could feed their stomach and not in search of A God who could feed their Soul.
Like the people in the gospel, at times we too make Jesus, a God of our own reasoning. A God based on our interest, our needs and our benefits.
In the episode of feeding the 5000, the multiplication of the bread was not a demonstration of Magical power but a manifestation of Compassion, Jesus had towards the hungry crown. Instead of being touched by his compassion that he showed for them, they were attracted by satisfaction they had from him. They only saw the Hands that multiplied the bread for them but they failed to see the heart that melted with love for them.
Let’s seek God not merely because he gives us but let’s seek God because He loves us and forgives us. Jesus reminds them; ‘seek not for the food that perishes but for the food that endures’. No doubt we all need physical food to nourish our body but there is also spiritual food for the nourishment of our soul. The word of God and the Eucharist are the food for our soul. When we seek God for these foods, we are blessed. Because the psalmist says; “those who seek the Lord, lac no good things”. Ps. 34;10.
(By Fr. Paul Inashe OFM Cap., Capuchin House, Dimapur)
EASTER SUNDAY III
REPENT AND START AGAIN
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48
Frederick Charrington, the Charrington Brewery owner, was walking along a London street. Suddenly the door of a pub flew open. A man staggered out with a woman clinging to him and pleading: “The children haven’t eaten in two days! I’ve not eaten in a week! Please come home! Or… just give me a few coins so I can buy…” Her pleas were cut off as the man struck her.
As Charrington leaped forward to help her, he noticed a lighted sign on the pub: “Drink Charrington Ale.” He was stunned. He later wrote: “Here was the source of my wealth, and it was producing untold misery before my eyes. I pledged that not another penny of that money should come to me.”
Charrington spent the rest of his life striving to free people from alcoholism. He had the courage to repent and begin again.
This is thrust of today’s readings!
In the first reading, Peter moves from castigating the Jews for putting to death “the author of life” to calling them to conversion: “Repent, therefore, and be converted.”
Peter uses a Jewish historical form: reviewing the past and moving through the present to the future. The aim is not to condemn but to draw his listeners to action… to a change of mind and heart.
In this case, the medium is the message! Peter says: “You denied the Holy and Righteous One.” Peter, too, denied Jesus. But he repented and began again. It is never too late; no sin is too grave for one to repent. Peter knows that – as John writes in the second reading – we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus, the righteous one, who is the expiation for our sins.
Repentance is the content of Jesus’ message to his disciples. After giving them his peace, he commissions them to preach “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He calls them to proclaim his death and resurrection but also that through his death and resurrection, God has forgiven, accepts, and loves all people everywhere.
As human beings, we sin, we produce misery for others, we put people to “death”. The Lord calls us to have the courage to repent and to begin again. He is ready to forgive us; and it is then we will experience his peace. Let me start again…
(By Fr Dr Vinod SDB, Provincial Secretary of Mumbai Province)
JESUS’ LOVE AND COMPASSION – THE MULTIPLICATION OF LOAVES
Mother Teresa says: “The greatest disease in the world today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. Many in the world are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”
During a chat with the street children who are taken care of in Ashalayam, Kolkotta I asked them: “What is the biggest difference between your life in the streets and your life at Ashalayam?” One boy’s answer touched me deeply: “Here someone cares for me…”
What the world needs today is a word of encouragement, a word of appreciation, a whisper of recognition, a sign of friendship, a little companionship, a bit of tenderness, a bit of care, love and acceptance.
Hence the model of Jesus as the good shepherd is as relevant today as ever. The parallel of John 6:1-15 in Mark 6:30-34 mentions that the disciples had just returned from their first experience of missionary work. They were tired and needed a rest. Jesus knew this and showed his concern for them by inviting them to go off with him to a quiet place on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But it did not work out like that. Large crowds followed him. Jesus went up into the hills and sat down there with his disciples.
You might have expected Jesus to tell the people to go home so that his disciples could get a well-earned rest. Besides, he had done enough for them already. But when he took a look at the crowd, he had compassion for them. The gospel of Mark states that Jesus felt that they were leaderless like a flock of sheep without a Shepherd. Jesus knew well the attitude of the official teachers to such people. They despised them for not keeping to the letter of the law like they did. So, they simply abandoned them and gave them up as hopeless. Naturally, the people felt it. That is why they flocked to Jesus. They saw that he was different.
We sometimes see people in great need and our first reaction is to judge them. At times we tend to say that it is their own fault. Sometimes we do genuinely feel sorry for them. But it ends there, and we turn our backs and walk away. We do not want to get involved. Not so was Jesus. He felt sorry for them and immediately decided to do something for them. Jesus looked at them and seeing their plight, had pity on them. After making the people sit down, he took five barley loaves and two fish from a boy and asks the disciples to distribute them to the people. Jesus had taught them at length and gave them food for their minds. But after seeing that they were hungry he fed them with bread and fish. In doing these things he did something more important. He showed them that he cared for them. He made them feel that they were worthwhile. Catherine de Hueck Dorothy says: “The Corporal works of mercy should be done with great love, gentleness, understanding, compassion and delicacy.”
We are all in need. At times our minds are confused, our hearts are restless, and our souls are empty. At heart, we all yearn to love and to be loved. There’s a great hunger at the centre of our being for someone who will understand us and accept us. We all need the care of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Today there are lots of people in the world who are like sheep without a shepherd, those who are unable to think for themselves, those who are unloved and unwanted, those who have no goal or aim in life and for whom life is therefore meaningless. We think especially of certain young people who feel not loved, not wanted, not appreciated and not cared for. Such people will soon turn out to be anti-social, unless someone takes an interest in them. You and I should be alert to them and to their needs.
During my college days, I went to see a young man who was imprisoned in Shillong jail. Grieved to see him among criminals, I put my hand on his shoulder and with a loving look asked him: “My friend how is it that you are here too.” The young man deeply moved and with tears in his eyes replied in a low voice: “I wouldn’t have been here, if someone had really put his hand on my shoulder like this before.”
Lord, you looked at the people who followed you and had compassion for them. Lord, look upon us and take pity on us, for without you we are like sheep without a Shepherd. Help us to listen to your voice, to trust you and follow you. You carry all our hopes and dreams. You alone can give us what we hunger and thirst for – our heavenly Father’s love and eternal life in His Kingdom. Open our eyes to the needs of others. Help us show compassion towards others, care for one another and thus imitate you the Good Shepherd.
(By Fr. Babu Varghese SDB, Delegate for Youth Ministry Department (INN),Delegate for Social Communication. (INN))