Monday in the 3rd Week of Easter: Year A - John 6:22-29
The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into the unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving and waking up at every moment of our life. This will certainly help us get better each day and remain stronger in our aspirations. Maximizing our awareness to a total of highest percent can win us a great reward. There could be a question arising in our mind: Why Wake Up? A few life narratives will clarify this question.
A long time ago there was a great General who was faced with a situation which made it necessary for him to make a drastic decision to insure his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his army on shore to face a powerful enemy, whose men outnumbered his. He loaded his soldiers into boats, and sailed to face the enemies on shore. When they reached the shore, he ordered them to unload the soldiers and cargoes. He then ordered for all the ships and boats to be burnt.
Addressing his men before the battle, he said, “You see the ships and boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now, have no choice – either we win, or we perish.” They won!
Once a young boy came to me asking how he could study. I told him that he needs to work hard, read, memorize and then write. Well, the boy returend after his exams and said to me that his exams went on very well, and he wrote all the answers.
A fat man asked me how he could reduce weight, and I replied him saying that he needs to walk daily 45 minutes, and control his diet and then avoid fat filled food. What a transformation, he comes back after a month to show that he had lost more than 8 kilos.
Once a young man by name Norbert asked me how he could overcome the vice of anger. I told him that there is no medicine for anger. He needs to work at it. I told him that he will never succeed in changing the world. He needs to accept certain realities as they are and change wherever he can to bring a change without violence. I told him that he could not change certain of his own habits over night. So there are people around us who have certain habits that anger us, and we cannot change them either. He emails me that he is a better person now. He systematically worked at reducing his anger.
Failures should never deter us from going ahead in our life. In fact failures are mile stones of success. A baby never learns to walk if it does not fall several times. We are all trial and error beings to be perfected over a longer period of time.
Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, "All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing."
Edison replied very confidently, "Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We now know that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb."
A man once caught stealing was ordered by the king to be hanged. On the way to the gallows he said to the governor that he knew a wonderful secret and it would be a pity to allow it to die with him and he would like to disclose it to the king. He would put a seed of a pomegranate in the ground and through the secret taught to him by his father he would make it grow and bear fruit overnight. The thief was brought before the king and on the morrow the king, accompanied by the high officers of state, came to the place where the thief was waiting for them. There the thief dug a hole and said, “This seed must only be put in the ground by a man who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. I being a thief cannot do it.” So he turned to the Vizier who, frightened, said that in his younger days he had retained something which did not belong to him. The treasurer said that dealing with such large sums, he might have entered too much or too little and even the king owned that he had kept a necklace of his father’s. The thief then said, “You are all mighty and powerful and want nothing and yet you cannot plant the seed, whilst I who have stolen a little because I was starving am to be hanged.” The king, pleased with the ruse of the thief, pardoned him.
Watching and waking up seem to be very closely connected words. Only when awake we can watch anything and everything. Consciousness is another word that helps us to understand watching. Well, in that case "awakening" is a moment of clarity in which a new insight or understanding is gained. With this new awareness the experience of life is seen differently, and new possibilities are opened. Changes in patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior occur. An awakening allows the possibility of growth to new levels of psychological and spiritual maturity
Waking up is human. Many sleep walk. They just live for something that can give them a type of remote satisfaction. Well, that is their misery. They live by that thing, may be craving for power, desire for appreciation, longing for greatness, to be someone on top of the world. All these empty aspirations have made human person a real sleep walker.
If we persistently listen to the demands of ego, we move away from our real source of life. The ego insists on pursuing more: more stuff, accomplishments, status, triumphs, and money. More is the mantra of the ego, fuelling endless striving with a false promise of eventually arriving. However, every assured arrival point is seductively transformed into a desire to strive for even more, unless we choose to make a shift in the direction our life is taking. The shift begins in the process of halting the momentum and self-importance of the ego, but then we must proceed with the work of derailing and rerouting it in the opposite direction. This does not mean that we lose our drive; rather, it signifies that our drive is realigned with a life based on experiencing meaning and feeling purposeful.
Life is much more than achievements, recognition and being a celebrity. Life is beautiful when it is lived, lived to the fullest extent. This is waking up to fullness of life within us.
There once was a king who loved to eat. When the castle cook grew too old to prepare the meals anymore, the king looked for a new cook. A young man applied for the job. The king said to him, "I want you to cook me the best and most important dish in the whole world." The night the king sat down at the table. When he looked at the special dish, he exclaimed, "Why, that’s cow tongue!"
The young man answered, "Yes, it is. Nothing is more important then the tongue if it is used correctly. The tongue is used to teach, to explain, to command, to defend, to calm. Tongues are used to sing to babies and to make bargains. Tongue has to be the most important thing for a king."
"I must say I didn’t realize that, young man. You’ve opened my eyes. Therefore, tomorrow night, I want you to fix me the worst dish you know."
The next night, the young man served the king cow tongue. The king said, "What goes on here? Last night, tongue was the best dish in the world. Tonight it’s the worst. How can this be?" "The difference is what you do with it, sir," said the young man. "Tongues make gossip, stir up trouble, and tell lies. Tongues are cruel and hypocritical. Therefore, tongue can be the worst dish in the world."
"Yes, I see. I also see that I need your wisdom in my court. I’ll get someone else to do the cooking."
The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.
The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point-ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like what do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, and my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose. The contrary to what many popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won't discover your life's meaning by looking within yourself. You've probably tried that already. You didn't create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn't know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn't be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner's manual could reveal its purpose.
I once got lost in a town. I could not get to my destination. I was lost. Then one elderly man said to me to start a new from a corner of the town and walk straight and read the sign boards. Well, the solution worked. He just had an idea and it worked. In the same way, you cannot arrive at your life's purpose by starting with a focus on yourself, on becoming important, richer and famous. You must begin with God, your Creator, your Saviour and your redeemer. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God-and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning; our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.
I often think about myself. If my mother were not married to my father, I would not be born. Well, I tried in my thoughts to get back to my birth history. I asked my father why we all brothers and sisters; seven of us were born exactly at a 2 years gap. Papa answered me saying that he could come home to be with my mother only after each two years for his holidays. I got the point. In my case for example, if my father had postponed his coming by one more month, then I would not have been born into this world at all, this is my personal thinking. What a mystery when we go deep into the process of our birth.
Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not you using him for your own purpose. Every birth is a mystery that unfolds with every minute and hour we live our life. We try to use what God has given us and in such attempts the mystery of God is made a concrete reality of love and realization.
How, then, do you wake up to the purpose you were created for? It’s by constantly attuning to inspiration. Wake up to your goal of life. Do not copy others; do not look at others for inspiration that has driven them to achieve. Let them be models, but you look for your own inspiration. Often people live by the dreams of others, goals of others, look at others and want to be like others. No, you have to discover your own path, and that requires that you wake up from sleep, start walking on your own and be on your own, and you will discover your hearts’ desire, your heart’s pull and you are certain to enjoy every bit of your life.
You have only two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people choose. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize. When people say, "I've always thought life is ...," they mean, "This is the best guess I can come up with." For thousands of years, brilliant philosophers have discussed and speculated about the meaning of life. Philosophy is an important subject and has its uses, but when it comes to determining the purpose of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.
The second one is waking up to the meaning of life. This one is powerful way of living life. You wake up and live your life fully today. When you begin to find meaning in every detail of your life, your quality of life just becomes better and you become a person of great sensitivity to people, environment and to every bit of creation around you.
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.”He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. Now who still wants it?” Many more hands went up.
“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. It did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.”
Dr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Praying has always raised issues like, is it worth, not worth? useful, not useful? and so on and so forth in the lives of people. Nowadays there are so many experiments conducted on human brain trying to get useful results through silence, meditation, prayer, to over come stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and other such closely related psychological attacks. Therefore, all of us must be concerned regarding the real benefits of prayer.
Praying…does it really help? This is a million dollar question that has been around since the beginning of time. Some say yes and some say no. So, who is right? I guess it kind of depends on your faith in God and how convinced you are about God.
What do you pray for? You can pray for anything. People often pray for their loved ones who may be sick or going through a difficult time. You may ask for help on a problem at work, or help with passing a test for school. You may pray for yourself to be a better, more tolerant person, or you may be going through a personal crisis that you can’t handle on your own. You may pray for success. But keep in mind that the meaning of "success" to you may not be the same as what it is to God. You may pray for a Mercedes so you can go to church or take the kids to school. God will help get you to church and your kids to school, but not necessarily in a Mercedes.
The psychological benefits of prayer are obvious—focusing your emotions by praying can help to relieve stress, calm fears, reduce anxiety, and impart calm in the midst of a storm. Praying on a regular basis can have an enormous effect on your psyche by stabilizing your moods, giving you a feeling of well-being, both physical and psychological, improving how you interact with others, and positively changing how you conduct yourself.
But prayer can be a boon to physical health in addition to emotional health. The physiological benefits of praying can be very far-reaching. These benefits have been studied and fully documented in medical journals. There is also a wealth of information on the benefits of praying before risky medical surgery. In a number of important studies, patients who prayed before surgery came through their operations in much better shape than those who did not pray.
Some of the most powerful and successful political leaders all over the world have professed to praying on a regular basis. The power of prayer has helped them to overcome poverty in their countries, keep their people together, and stand up to their enemies with courage and resolve.
Does God answer all prayers? I believe that God does indeed answer every prayer. It may not be the answer we are looking for, but He does answer in His own way and in His own time. Often we become impatient and expect fast results. Sometimes it may take a lifetime to get an answer. Therefore, praying and patience must go hand in hand—praying on a regular basis teaches patience and strengthens faith in God, no matter who you think of as God. There are literally thousands of articles and stories published each year by publications such as Readers Digest, Times, Out Look, to name a few, about people from all walks of life who have used prayer to benefit themselves or loved ones, often with the unexpected result of receiving more than they asked for.
So does praying really help? The answer is a resounding yes. There is an enormous amount of evidential, testimonial, and scientific proof that prayer really does help us emotionally and physically, not only in our time of need, but also—and most importantly—in our everyday lives. Prayer has untold benefits and can be experienced when done faithfully.
Meditation can help most people feel less anxious and more in control. The awareness that meditation brings can also be a source of personal insight and self-understanding.
Martin Luther said, "The fewer words the better prayer." “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Rom 12:12). “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col 4:2). “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mat 6:7). “Pray continually” (Tess 5:17)
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, in The Practice of the Presence of God, has the resolution of the seeming difficulty in these two verses. He says that we should "establish ourselves in the presence of God, talking always with him" to "give ourselves entirely to God, whether in temporal or spiritual concerns" (30). He says that we "ought to act very simply towards God, speaking frankly to Him, and asking His help in things as they occurred . . ." (36). In other words, we should enter into God's presence and keep in it, as we would be in the presence of a friend at our side all day long, to whom we can talk in brief conversations throughout the day. Brother Lawrence goes on to say, "We need only to realize that God is close to us and to turn to Him at every moment, to ask for His help to learn His will in doubtful things, and to do gladly those which we clearly perceive He requires of us, offering them to Him before we begin, and giving Him thanks when they have been finished for His honour" (47). "You would think it rude to leave a friend, who came to visit you, alone; why then leave God alone?" (90).
Dr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
ACTS 2.14, 22-28
1 PETER 1.17-21
During the weeks after Easter, the church puts us in touch with the first men and women who experienced the risen Jesus in an attempt to deepen our appreciation and understanding of this, the linchpin of our faith. In describing those early believers, Gunther Bornkamm once remarked, “The men and women who encounter the risen Christ in the Easter stories have come to an end of their wisdom. They are alarmed and disturbed by his death, mourners wandering about the grave of the Lord in their helpless love. . . like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, their last hopes are destroyed” (Jesus of Nazareth, Harper and Row, New York. 1960). Therefore it is erroneous to think that the resurrection narratives can be explained away as a human invention or as a product of wish-fulfillment on the part of Jesus’ disciples. After Jesus’ death, they were at a loss; it was only through their revelatory experiences of the risen Lord that the disciples began to understand the Jesus event as a work of God which forever changed the course of human history. As the early believers explained in today’s first two readings, Jesus was sent according to the set plan and purpose of God; through his dying and his resurrection God has worked miracles, signs and wonders in our midst (Acts). All our faith and hope as believers are centered on this mystery (1 Peter).
In his assessment of the resurrection appearances and of the gospel narratives which have preserved these experiences, Bas Van Jersel suggested that these texts were intended not only to inform would be believers concerning the fact of Jesus-risen but also as an interpretation of his resurrection for the life of the disciple (“The Resurrection of Jesus”, The New Concilium, Herder and herder, New York. 1965). In other words, accounts such as the one recorded in today’s gospel help us to understand that faith in the resurrection is not confined to a past event; nor is it relegated solely to a future moment when we also be raised by God from death. Rather, the resurrection appearances represent the church’s understanding concerning the permanent presence of the risen Lord with us now. How and in what manner do we experience him among us? What are the implications of his presence? How must it influence our faith? our life style?
Matthew, in his gospel, told his readers that they would find and experience Jesus in the hungry when they fed them; in the thirsty when they gave a drink of water; in the stranger to whom they gave a welcome; in the naked whom they clothed, in the ill whom they cared for and in the prisoner whom they visited. In another passage, the evangelist assured his contemporaries of an experience of Jesus’ presence whenever and wherever two or three would gather together in prayer (Matthew 25.35-36, 18.20). For his part, the fourth evangelist offered the assurance of Jesus’ abiding presence in the gift of the Spirit. Like Jesus, the Spirit would teach the disciples, remind them of his words and works, guide them to the truth and be with them always (John 14.16).
In today’s gospel, Luke reminds believers that the ultimate encounter with the permanent presence of the risen Jesus comes in the breaking open of the Word and in the Breaking of the Bread which is the Eucharist.
ACTS 2.14, 22-28
The book of Acts has sometimes been called the account of how the proclaimer became the proclaimed. In Acts, Luke builds a bridge between Jesus. who came in human flesh with a ministry of healing and reconciliation. . . who died on the cross for the salvation of all peoples. . . who rose in victory over death and sin to live forever. . . and the church. whose presence in the world continues to manifest the saving plan and purpose of God in human history. In this excerpted pericope. Peter and the Eleven are portrayed as empowered by the Spirit and intent upon proclaiming the good news of salvation just as Jesus had been endowed with the Spirit when he inaugurated his public ministry (see Luke 4.14-21). Among the Israelites, there was a widespread belief that God had “closed the heavens” and that the Holy Spirit had descended on no one, prophet or leader, since the last of the canonical prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jerome Crowe, The Acts, Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington. 1983). Aware of this belief, Luke made it clear in his account of Jesus (Luke) and of the church (Acts) that God rent the heavens and came down (Isaiah 63.19) and has poured out his Spirit on all of humankind (Joel 2.1).
Like the other sermons or discourses in Acts, Peter’s reflects a Lucan hand. A literary technique, popular and well documented in Hellenistic literature, speeches or sermons attributed to key character in a story were actually a careful composition of the author and served a vehicle of the ideas he wished to convey to his readers. Constituting approximately one quarter of the book of Acts, the twenty-four discourses vary in form and content; by incorporating these sermons into Acts, Luke has addressed the missionary apologetic and ecclesial concerns of his readers.
In this particular section of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Luke defends the manner of Jesus’ ministry and death on the cross as a part of the “set purpose and plan of God” (vs. 23) for our salvation. As Joseph Fitzmyer has explained, Luke focuses on “the inbreaking of divine salvific activity into human history with the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth among mankind.” Everything that happened to Jesus, even his ignominious passion and death, as well as everything that will happen to the church because of its faith in Jesus “is a manifestation of a plan of God to bring about the salvation of human beings who recognize and accept the plan.” (The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol. 28, Doubleday and Co., New York. 1981). But God’s saving plan did not end on Calvary; indeed God raised Jesus to life thereby breaking the grip of sin and death upon believers.
By citing Psalm 16, Luke drew on the support of the Hebrew scriptures, as the other evangelists and Paul, particularly when the intended audience of the discourse was Jewish (vs. 22). This psalm and others like it (e.g. Pss. 22, 110, 118) were used extensively by the early church in their efforts to present Jesus as the promised Savior and authentic fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hopes. Today its words continue to strike a chord in the hearts of those who understand Jesus as the center and culmination of the two testaments (Old Testament New Testament) of our faith.
1 PETER 1.17-21
Someone whose uniqueness distinguishes him/her from the mainstream of human society or whose ideas and values are unsynchronized with those of the general population is often said to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” In his letter to the Christians of Asia Minor the pseudonymous author of 1 Peter encouraged his readers to aspire to a similar description. Having been delivered by Christ from the futility of their former way of life, Christians should subsequently conduct themselves in a worthy manner. More often than not, this required that they cease or forego certain activities while dedicating themselves to a life-style which was consonant with the grace of their Christian vocation.
Earlier in his letter the author had characterized the life of a person before being redeemed as one dominated by ignorance and inordinate desire (vs. 14). As William Barclay (“Peter,” The Daily Study Bible, The St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh. 1975) explained, the pagan world was suffocated by ignorance, convinced by its philosophers that God was unknowable. “It is hard,” said Plato, “to investigate and find the framer and the father of the universe; and if one did find him, it would be impossible to express him in terms which all could understand.” Aristotle spoke of God as the “supreme cause, by all men dreamed of and by no men known.” Coupled with this burden of frustrated ignorance was an attitude of self-abandon with regard to the senses. Whereas “desperate poverty prevailed at the lower end of the social scale,” the higher echelons were notorious for their “sheer fleshliness.” By their own historians’ accounts, Romans and Greeks were shamelessly indulgent. At one banquet, Emperor Vitellius served two thousand fish, seven thousand birds and thousands of dollars worth of peacock’s brains and nightingales tongues. Martial tells of women who had reached their tenth husband; Jerome wrote of a woman married to her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-first wife. But believers in Jesus, having been rescued from such godlessness were to live otherwise!
In terms reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, the author of 1 Peter called his readers to be reverent sojourners, faithful to their constant companion on their journey through life, viz. Jesus. By his blood they had been redeemed and through him they had the joy of knowing God. No longer simply the supreme cause who could not be known or understood but only dreamed of, God, the loving Father had revealed himself and his saving plan in the person and mission of Jesus.
Like the recipients of 1 Peter, believers on the brink of the twenty-first century live in societies that are often characterized by interests and values contrary to those of the gospel. This ancient Christian author reminds his readers that their baptismal commitment calls them to center their faith and hope in God (vs. 21) and to “march to the beat of his drum.”
Journey to Emmaus
Like the two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, contemporary believers of Jesus live after the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and in the interim between his two advents. Like Cleopas and his companion, we search for the daily experience of Jesus which sustains and strengthens our hope and which inspires our faithful discipleship. In their encounter with the risen Lord, we learn of the manner in which he remains present until his climactic appearance in glory.
In this superb narrative, Luke has provided his readers with a treasure of Christological and apologetic insights drawn from the different levels of gospel tradition. At the very basis of the story was the experience of the first witnesses of Jesus, vindicated by God and risen from death to glory. Surrounding that primitive core of gospel kerygma was the ongoing experience of the church in Syrian Antioch in the mid-80s C.E. In the almost two generations following Jesus’ death on the cross, the Antioch Christians had been encountering the risen Lord in the sacramental breaking of the bread. For his part, the evangelist had structured this narrative in a recognizable liturgical pattern. In both word (vs. 27) and sacrament (vs. 30) the risen Lord is made known and communicated to the believing community.
Notice the motif of delayed recognition which informed this and most of the other resurrection narratives. Initially, the disciples did not recognize Jesus because he was transformed by the glory of his resurrection. Nevertheless, Luke was careful (as were the other evangelists) to underscore the continuity between the Jesus whom the disciples had known during his ministry and the risen Lord whom they were now encountering. He taught them, ate with them and open their eyes to the knowledge of his presence.
As Jesus broke open the word for them (“he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him”, vs. 27) the disciples’ hearts began to burn within them (vs. 32). They implored him “Stay with us!” (vs. 29). Then, in a manner which recalled his last supper with them before his cross, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them; at that point, they came to know him. The searching, hoping fire in their hearts was transformed into recognition and faith.
Luke draws attention to the significance of this moment by declaring, “with that, their eyes were opened” (vs. 31). Opened eyes (a term mentioned eight times in the New Testament, six of which are in Luke-Acts) indicated a deepened understanding of revelation. In this instance, the disciples’ opened eyes meant that they had begun to comprehend the mystery of Jesus, dead, risen and ever present. Jesus’ disappearance at the point of recognition (“he vanished from their sight,” vs. 31) was not a disappointment but yet another signal that the risen Lord would remain forever with his disciples in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of his word.
The experience of those early disciples is ours at every Eucharistic celebration. With fire in our hearts, the word reveals who he is; in the blessed and broken bread the paschal experience is renewed, We who hear the word and share the bread are nourished and sustained. Jesus lives; he stays with us. Hope and faith are not in vain.