Important matters matter: 6th Tuesday of the year

The disciples were simple and practical people. There are fundamental things in life that we worry about. Fundamental things are always important because without them we cannot have other things. Life, health and food are fundamental goods. Without them, we cannot have true happiness. They are like the foundations of a building. The whole building is built upon the foundations.

But fundamental things are not the most important. The importance of the building lies in his purpose. It can be a hospital, a school, etc. Health and life is fundamental, but meaning of life, faith, hope, love are even more important.

In today’s gospel (Mk 8:14-21) the disciples worry about the fundamentals. They fear Jesus had noticed they forgot to provide for bread. Too much worry about the fundamentals distracts us from the most important issues. In the gospel, Jesus tries to talk to them about important matters, they misinterpret his message because they are worried about the fundamentals. If we keep thinking about breathing, which is fundamental, we will forget about all other important things in our life. How would Jesus move them from the fundamentals to the important matters?

Jesus tried hard to bring them out of that narrow frame of mind. He reminded them how He “broke the bread” at the multiplication of the loaves and fish. To have enough to eat is a fundamental matter; to learn how to “break bread” is an important one. If we worry about the important matters, God will take care of the fundamental ones. We focus, God provides. If we become obsessed with providing, we lose focus.

6th Monday of the year

The Pharisees asked for a sign. St. Paul tells us how Gentiles look for wisdom, Jews for miracles. But he preached neither, only Jesus Christ crucified, a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.

Are we also looking for the wrong thing? Aren’t our frustrations at times a sign that tell us that we have been barking up the wrong tree?

Our generation is still looking, at times, like the Jews, for signs of the Divine, at times for practical solutions that simplify our lives. It is still hard to preach a God that is human and not so practical. Jesus is still “sighing deeply” in our days.

Spiritual life is super-life: Pentecost

If we want to move a car one kilometre piece by piece, it would take us a lot of effort and time, with much desperation and complaints. But if we assemble the car first, needless to say, the car would take us beyond that one kilometre, perhaps even to hundreds of kilometres, quickly, easily and smoothly.

This is what the Holy Spirit does, It assembles the multiple pieces of ourselves so that we move smoothly, rapidly and effortlessly. How does that happen?

Understanding our life as a bunch of duties we have to cope with, brings much toil, stress, effort, hopelessness and tension into our lives. It all depends, we think, on our effort. We must fulfil the family duties first, then, and along with it, the demanding life at work, and on top of that, the church gives us another set of moral rules to fulfil and some more church activities to be involved in.

We try to cope with a limited understanding of what we are doing and at times, no sincere desire other than just having a feeling that we did what we were asked to do. This brings stress, and in the best scenario, a sense of fulfilment that proceeds from our efforts and runs the risk of falling into self-righteousness. After all, we like it when others recognize our great efforts in doing the work we are called to do.

Is this the best we can do? Perhaps there is an alternative — Understanding how the gift works. There is only one gift from God, the Holy Spirit. But this one gift produces an explosion of spiritual life in us. We must never forget that it is precisely a gift, and not the fruit of our efforts. There is no point in being proud about our achievements since we are only the instruments, the stage where the Holy Spirit is working.

Basically what this gift does, is turning what is merely human into something that is superhuman or divine. The gift produces seven gifts, twelve fruits, eight beautitudes and many charisms.

When we want to know how healthy our body is, we look for some indicators of biological life. We check the blood pressure, the heart-beat rate, level of cholesterol etc. Similarly, when we need to check how healthy our spiritual life is, we must not check for numbers of sins or hours of devotions or church activities. Rather, we must check for the indicators that show that the Holy Spirit is moving our bodies. We check for our gifts, our fruits and our charisms.

No place for jealousy in the Kingdom: 7th Saturday of Easter

Peter might be fully reconciled with Jesus but he still had much to learn. He still had an exclusive understanding of belonging to those who followed Jesus: When Peter saw that John was also following Jesus like him, “he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’” (Jn 21:21). Why do we think that our gift is a lesser gift if others also have it?

A similar case appears also in the gospel of Matthew when workers hired in the morning got the same pay as those were hired in the evening. The former complained because others had the same gift. Why did they think that their gift was unfair only because others enjoyed the same gift?

Why do we like to be the only ones, the special ones? Why can’t everyone be special? Why don’t we realize that enjoying the gift together is better than enjoying the gift alone?

7th Friday of Easter

At the end of Easter, the liturgy gives us a reading of profound Easter connotation. The three times Peter refused to acknowledge that he knew the Lord are now overcome and superseded by the three “I love you” that Jesus provokes from of Peter. The weakness, the inconsistency, the fear is overcome by grace, “Feed my sheep”, and followed by a call, “Follow me”.

This is in a nutshell what Easter is all about. Peter was the same person before and after Jesus’ resurrection. However, after the resurrection something had happened to him. He is reconciled by the only one who could reconcile him, Jesus himself.

This reconciliation is not ignoring Peter’s weakness or forgetting Peter’s denials. It is above all assuming and restoring. Assuming the consequences of the fault (Jesus accepted the consequences of this denial by dying on the cross) and also restoring the person by replacing betrayal with fidelity.

At the end of this one more Easter season we are still called by the Lord “to follow him” like Peter. Follow him to accept the consequences of our wrong choices and called to be effectively restored back to faithfulness.

7th Thursday of Easter

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” (Jn 17:20)

Chapter 17 of the gospel of John is traditionally called the “priestly prayer”. What is interesting about this prayer is that Jesus seems to pray from eternity. In this intimate moment with the Father, He prays as if He was not in the world anymore. Still, after experiencing that “the world preferred darkness to the light”, He is convinced that more will come to believe through the “word” of the believers.

The gospel of John opens with an impressive prologue on the Word that became flesh. It continues with the spreading of the “word” of Jesus. And at the end it presumes that this “word” does not leave the world but stays with the disciples who will use it to draw more people to believe and have eternal life.

Jesus went up to heaven, His word remains here on earth. We are those who received it, those who keep it, and those who communicate it.

Daily Wisdom

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

Antoine de St. Exupéry

Dwelling in the Trinity: 7th Tuesday of Easter

Very rarely the gospels give us a glimpse of the intimacy of Jesus with the Father. The gospel of John gives us a treat in today’s gospel:

“And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” (Jn 17:11)

What is remarkable is what we find in the middle of this intimacy: ourselves. The love that circulates between the Father and the Son is not a private exclusive affair but an inclusive centre of gravity that “draws all men” to Him.

In the moment when He is passing away from this world, He prays, and He prays mainly for those that were given to Him: “keep them in Your name… so that they may be one…” Jesus does not pray for the world, but He prays for them.

The condition to be included in this prayer is simply to believe that He came from the Father (Jn 17:8). We may suspect that this is an easy condition for us to fulfil because we have been believing it for years. But believing is not an exercise of the mind. It is a way of living. If we do not live according to our beliefs, we will end up believing according to our lives.

But if we do live according to the belief that Jesus came from and went to the Father and our lives are just a journey after His footsteps, then we have found our place in the intimacy of the Father and the Son. What else would we need?

St. Vincent Ferrer

St. Vincent Ferrer is a 14th century Dominican. Born in Valencia. He was an accomplished preacher that had a tremendous influence on both sides of the Pyrenees.

  • He is said to have converted 8,000 Muslims.
  • He had a group of disciples that some have estimated in 10,000.
  • Travelled for 20 years through Europe carrying a huge cross and calling sinners to repentance (the angel of penance).
  • Converted Rabbi Solomon Halevi who later became a bishop of Spanish Sees.
  • He was instrumental in putting down an uprising against the Jews in Spain, 1391.
  • Endowed with the gift of tongues, his preaching was understood by people of all nationalities.

…and we shall be satisfied! Feast of the apostles Philip and James

We do not know much about the apostles Philip and James. But today’s gospel shows Philip asking a very relevant question for us to day also: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8).

The problem Philip had is also our problem. He had the answer to his problem right there talking to Him in front of his face and yet he missed it. Likewise, our true satisfaction is at times closer than we think but we keep searching for it in unreachable places.

St. Athanasius

“One in being with the Father.” We repeat this sentence every time of profess our faith using the Nicene Creed. What we often forget is that because of that phrase, Bishop Athanasius suffered exile five times in his life and spent one third of his episcopate away from his see.

In his time, the problem was whether Jesus Christ was a creature created by God or does He share the same nature as God? Some people believed that Jesus was the most excellent of creatures, but just a man. His most ardent defendent was Arius and his position is known as Arianism.

Interestingly, this became the most accepted opinion in the higher political spheres and Bishop Athanasius suffered the consequences and was persecuted for his ideas.

Theological or Christological ideas are neither much debated nor popular today. We don’t find people having many theological discussions in the papers. But do we find anthropological discussions of practically the same nature as those St. Athanasius encountered.

Today the debate is whether we have bodies distinct from ourselves that we can use and dispose of. Whether my body is something I use for a purpose as the popular opinion holds, or, as the church upholds, the body is part of the “I” and not something extrinsic to it. And, yes, this discrepancy is also causing much persecution.

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