Saturday, November 17, 2018

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 18.11.2018

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 / Mark 13:24-32

It is said that the world is a stage and we are all actors.

That is of course just an analogy, because there is a big difference between the drama of the real world and the drama in the movie world.

If we were an actor in a movie, we will get to look at the script, the role we have to play, what the story is about and how it ends.

Generally speaking, a good movie is not just about action and romance and a happy ending. A good movie has a hopeful ending.

Because a good movie rekindles hope for a troubled humanity, hope in a dark reality, and hope for a glorious eternity.

We would like to act in those kind of movies, especially if we are acting the part of the good guys who initially had to go through a rough patch but persevered and overcame the odds and are victorious in the end. And maybe get to win Oscars and awards too.

But the drama of the real world is not like that of the movie world. In a movie, the action, the thrills and the spills last for about two hours and then in the end it is a happy ending.

But in reality, the troubles and the struggles of life don’t last for two hours. It can be anything from two months to two years or more.

In the gospel, Jesus described a scene that looks like something from an action movie or a science-fiction movie. He tells about a time of distress, a darkened sun as well as a darkened moon, falling stars and the heavens in some kind of turmoil.

These descriptions give an uneasiness to say the least, and on the other end, it may be frightening enough to make us look for some kind of religious security. 

But like in a movie, all these will pass and make way for the glorious and mighty coming of our Saviour and His angels, and everything will be made right and vindicated.

It will be a glorious and happy ending. All the evil and bad guys are destroyed and the good guys live on happily ever after.

All that sounds good, like a movie with a happy ending. But the drama of the real world is different from the drama of the movie world.

We all have tasted the bitterness of the troubles and struggles of life. Our faith gets shaken, our hope gets darkened, our love gets weakened. Illness and sickness ravage us physically, and worry and fear weigh us down emotionally and mentally.  

At times we wish we were like those superheroes in the movies who seem to be able to rise above and overcome the troubles and dangers that the world faces.

Talking about superheroes, last week saw the passing on of the comic book writer, Stan Lee, who created the Marvel superheroes Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man, the Avengers, Black Panther.

One interesting point in his superhero creations is that he created all his superheroes with some vulnerabilities in each of them.

He said this of his superheroes: 
I thought that it would be great to do superheroes that have some kind of life problems that anybody would have.
No one has a perfect life. Everybody has something that he wishes was not the way it is.
Just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean your love life will be perfect. I don’t think superpowers automatically means there can’t be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.

In that sense, Stan Lee made the connection between the real world and the movie world. So for all the action and the drama in movies like The Avengers, Spiderman, Hulk, Ironman there are those aspects of vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

And then we can understand that the movie superheroes are also just human beings with some kind of superpowers.

We too are human beings and we too have a kind of superpower. We have that superpower of prayer that keeps our faith firm, our hope alive and our love burning.

It is with that power of prayer that will keep us going in the troubles and turmoil of life, and keep us loving when evil and bad people seem to be overwhelming.

Yes, with the superpower of prayer we will endure and persevere till we see the saving power of Jesus. And we will also be able to help others to endure and persist and believe that the promise of Jesus to save us will never pass away.

Life is certainly not like a movie, but like a good and inspiring movie, the happy ending is that Jesus will be there waiting for us. 

So let us keep praying, let us keep loving, let us keep believing and let us keep hoping for that glorious and happy ending.

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-11-18

3 John 5-8 / Luke 18:1-8

There is no doubt that God listens to our prayers. And God would certainly pay attention to earnest and persevering prayers.

And if we think that God is not answering our prayers, then maybe we have to see what our prayers are all about.

In other words, we have to listen to our own prayers, for a change.

Prayer is not about trying to change God's mind or God's will.

It would be rather absurd to assume that if we say long and persistent prayers, God would finally give in and grant us what we want.

That would make prayer look like some kind of magical method that can make God do something.

Rather prayer is an act of faith and it is the source of strength which will empower us.

It is with prayer that we will continue to strive for justice and work for peace.

It may mean that we come to realize and accept that some things cannot be changed immediately.

It may also mean that we put our trust in God and believe that with God, nothing is impossible.

Whatever it may be, our earnest and persistent prayer should bring our wills to conform to God's will.

It is God's will "to see justice done, and done speedily".

Thursday, November 15, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 16-11-18

2 John 4-9 / Luke 17:26-37

Birds are generally nice to look at. Whether they are flying or perched on a branch, most birds look beautiful.

Except one species - the vultures. Short of saying that they are ugly, they look gruffy, like a bunch of uncombed feathers, they look a little hunched. Maybe when they are flying, they might look better.

But if looks are not good, then their diet is revolting. Vultures are scavenging birds of prey. But they don't hunt. Rather they eat anything that is dead or rotting.

In today's gospel, Jesus mentioned about these birds when He says: Where the body is, there too the vultures gather.

He was talking about the end times when the disciples interrupted Him and then He gave them this graphic image.

Putting it simply and directly, vultures gather where there is death and the dead are left in the open, and they feed on the dead.

But the vulture, as much as it may not be a pretty sight, but it is, at the same time, a symbol of God's judgement on evil. In the end, evil will be devoured by the vultures.

Yet, we also need to take this as a warning sign. If we don't repent of our sins, then we are dying spiritually and waiting to be consumed by the vultures of God's judgement.

So let us repent and do penance, and fly towards God with wings powered by love and good deeds.

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 15-11-18

Philemon 7-20 / Luke 17:20-25

We often look to the extraordinary for reassurance that God is in our present situation.

In other words, we wish that God would work a miracle to resolve a troubled and desperate situation.

And when we are in distress, whether in illness or in danger, our instinct will be to look here or look there for an immediate solution.

The Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God was to come. Their idea of the kingdom of God is not that different from our idea of a God of quick solutions.

We want God to show His power and might, to bring about retribution to the evil people, and protect us from harm and danger. After all if God is king, then He should be doing all this to show what His kingdom is about.

Yet God is more often found in the quiet: in quiet endurance, quiet joy, quiet kindness and goodness.

The kingdom of God is present when there is forgiveness and reconciliation and acceptance, like how St. Paul urged Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus, his former slave, to be his brother.

Yes, the kingdom of God is found in the ordinary and quiet, humble acts of love. May we have quiet and love-filled hearts to see it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 14-11-18

Titus 3:1-7 / Luke 17:11-19

A story has it that two angels were sent to collect the prayer petitions of the people.

One angel was given a basket to collect the people's needs and requests, and the other angel was given a basket to collect the thanksgivings.

On their way back to heaven, the angel carrying the basket of the people's needs and requests was full and over-flowing, whereas the the angel carrying the people's thanksgiving was light and there were few thanksgiving.

That is not surprising isn't it. By and large, people are more concerned with their needs rather than the need to give thanks.

In the gospel, even Jesus expressed disappointment that those who were healed of the dreaded disease of leprosy did not come to give thanks.

In the 1st reading St. Paul instructed Titus to remind his people that was their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government.

If that is considered a Christian duty, then all the more it is an obligation and also the very essence of being Christian to give thanks to God for His blessings and graces.

What more will God not give since He had already given His only Son?

We only need to give a basket-full of thanks and praise to God.

In turn we will receive blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace.

Monday, November 12, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 13-11-18

Titus 2:1-8, 11-14 / Luke 17:7-10

In a company where there are job positions, the job title is important. Generally speaking, the job title describes the position of the person in the company.

In our modern society, there are no slaves in the commercial or domestic sectors. After all we abhor slavery and the idea of being a slave or being treated like a slave is abhorrent to us.

Even the job title of a servant implies that it is low-class job position with a low pay and not much prospects.

The servant that Jesus was talking about in gospel passage was actually a slave (slavery was a fact of life at that time) and probably the only slave in this household,  and he got mostly hard labour - plowing, looking after livestock, as well as cooking and household chores. His was a pretty hard existence.

There are only two things that were required of him - duty and obedience. If these are not met and fulfilled, he will be punished by his master. There was no question of his master having to thank the slave for doing what he was supposed to do.

And that is the point of what Jesus is saying in the gospel. Since God is our Master, it is our duty to do what He wants of us and we must pledge our unconditional obedience to him.

So even if we adhere to the manner of life which flows from healthy doctrine as stated in the 1st reading, i.e. reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy, sensible and chaste, etc., there is nothing to boast about or to claim credit for.

Because it is God who gave us the grace to be faithful to our duty and the obedience to follow His instructions.

We will be happy just to hear Jesus say to us: Well done good and faithful servant, welcome into My Kingdom.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 12-11-18

Titus 1:1-9 / Luke 17:1-6

People who are given the responsibility of teaching and formation have an honorable as well as a tremendous task on their shoulders.

But the fundamental requirement is that they have to practise what they preach.

Whether as parents or teachers or priests, they form and teach others by their example, especially the young.

The young may not listen to words of wisdom but they will surely observe our actions and examples.

It is by our actions and examples that they form their character and habits in life.

So it is from us adults that the young learn how to forgive or how to be revengeful, how to love or how to hate, how to be generous or how to be selfish.

If the young learn from us either the good or the bad, then we as Christians can also be a source of inspiration or a source of scandal to others.

For that reason St. Paul urged Titus in the 1st reading to choose church leaders carefully.

It is by their life and example that they lead and teach.

In the gospel Jesus also told us to watch ourselves and to be aware of our actions and examples.

We also have to realize that our actions and examples flow from our hearts, and Jesus must be there, in our hearts.

So if Jesus is not there then our actions and examples are leading others nowhere.