Living Flame

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ARTICLE: Ascension of the Lord Year: B

 

Ascension of the Lord

Year: B

Acts 1.1-11; Ps 47; Eph 4.1-13; Mk 16.15-20

Marathon of Hope

Terry Scott born in Winnipeg (Canada) in 1958 and was raised in Port Coquitlam. A top athlete as a youth, at 18 he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg and it was amputated above the knee. In hospital moved by the suffering of other patients Fox wrote the Canadian Cancer Society, asking for support to a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. It would be called the Marathon of Hope. In April 1980 he launched his run in St. John’s N.L., by dipping his artificial leg in the ocean. After running for 143 days, covering more than 5000 kilometres, Fox stopped his trek in Thunder Bay Ontario, because the cancer had spread to his lungs. In 1981, his dream of raising $ 1 from every Canadian was realized when the Marathon of Hope raised $ 24 million. Shortly after, he died on June 28th at the age of 22.

In 1999, Fox was voted Canada’s greatest hero in a national survey. To date, more than $ 550 million has been raised for cancer research in Fox’s name.

The name Terry Fox reminds many, of his determination to achieve something to save before he knew that he is going to be the victim of cancer.

Final Instructions

After giving his final instructions to his apostles, the risen Christ is taken from their sight – "taken up", "hidden by a cloud", "into heaven", "exalted" and "seated at God´s right hand". The very multiplicity of the ways the sacred authors strive to describe the indescribable warns us that the way the mystery is too readily visualized – a rocket - like Jesus lifting off from a launching pad in the Holy Land, as the curtains come down on his earthly sojourn – is inadequate and fails to do justice to its rich content. The second reading already begins to spell out the early understanding of the Church, that will develop over time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of an event that is at once "historical and transcendent" (CCC 659).

Christ is with Us Always

Christ remains with us. Paradoxically, when Jesus takes his place beside the Father, his presence among us is perpetuated and confirmed. For by being glorified, Jesus´ humanity is no longer subject to any created power (it is "high above every principality, power…") – including space and time. During the days of his earthly existence, he remained confined to a small corner of the earth, a brief span of thirty some years. But now, "he fills the universe in all its parts", so that Christians of all times and all places can enter into living contact with him.

Human Experience

At the moment of his Resurrection Christ’s body was glorified, and moved beyond human experience. But for the forty days God allowed the appearance of ordinary humanity to veil his glory, so that he can eat and drink familiarly with his disciples What for? To leave the disciples in no doubt that Christ is "truly risen"; that he is alive; that he is "always with them". Even now that he has been glorified. Even more than before.

Faith must Mature

Throughout those forty days, Jesus, now present now absent, was training his apostles to discover his presence even when their corporal senses would no longer help them do so, but only their faith. In fact, even when they "saw" him they had difficulty being sure it was he; they always had to "believe" as well. The "seeing" ceases with his ascension; now they must depend on faith alone. With his training, they became models and teachers for all those who would be "blessed" because they "would believe without seeing" (John 20:29). A necessity for us, for the Ascension is the irreversible entry of Jesus´ humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud –which hides him from our sight. From now on his glory veils his humanity. And therefore the Christian must live in faith.

Heaven is a State of Life

Christ is in heaven. Heaven, of course, is also a fundamental part of the message of the Ascension. That he has gone before us as our head is the foundation of the "great hope to which God has called us". But where is heaven? Pope John Paul II once said that heaven is not, as many people imagine, "a place in the clouds". Certain representatives of the secular media, predictably, got in a tizzy, and would have had us believe that heaven had been abolished. Fortunately for all of us, it’s still there. Of course, it´s not a "place" peopled by a benign, bearded Grandfather on a throne in the clouds, surrounded by plump babies with wings and larger ones in their nighties blowing trumpets: an image that is not only difficult to place in the cosmos but also singularly unattractive to most of us. 

 

Heaven is an Unending Experience

Heaven is much more than a "place". It’s a state of total happiness that transcends anything we are familiar with. The Holy Father described heaven as "the fullness of communion with God which awaits all those who have welcomed him into their lives and who have sincerely opened themselves to him. Divine revelation teaches us that heaven is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living and personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity. Heaven is our definitive meeting with the Father which takes place in the Risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit". If we were to say that heaven is the most dizzying love affair with the most marvelous Person we will ever know, in its most exhilarating expression and with the certainty that it will go on forever, or to say, with the Catechism, that it is "definitive, supreme happiness," we would still come up very short. Because "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Cor 2.9). 

Proclaim the Kingdom

With Jesus departure, the mission of the Church begins. The apostles are not to stand around looking up into the heavens; before his return in glory at the end of time, but "go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all". Essential: because the Church is Christ´s body through which alone he is present throughout the universe (Second Reading). In this work they, and we, were not left alone: "the Lord continued to work with them throughout…". And a new "power" is given to us.

Faith is What Keeps Us Alive

The mystery of the Ascension is a celebration of the maturity of Christians in the faith. A faith that can believe "without seeing", or feeling, or touching… - such a Christian acts constantly in the firm conviction that Jesus is not "absent" but in fact is always with us (Matthew 28.20). And a faith that seeks the Lord where he is to be found: in and through his Church, the guardian of his word, celebrant of his sacraments, home of his Spirit, stadium of his commandment of love.

Jesus is Heaven

Heaven is wherever Jesus is. If Jesus is on earth, heaven is to be found on earth too, even if veiled, without a doubt, and so far from its full realization to be difficult to compare. But the first intimations of the fullness of joy that heaven offers is already on offer here, to those who do seek him out, and remain in him by being where he is: wherever his Father’s will is done.

Practical Conclusion

The paradox is this: if you want to live, you must die. Dying you live. What does this mean? Simply this; as long as there is a lack of the inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no matter what external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that you seek. On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality, a calmness of mind, a degree of stability within, then even if you lack various external facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible to live a happy and joyful life. The seed has life within and that life must be healthy. If not, external factors cannot make it live. Death is to the external world, and life then springs from within. Hence, never do to anyone what you would not want done to you.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

ARTICLE: 6th Sunday of Easter Year: B

6th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

 Acts 10.25-27, 34-35, 44-48; Ps 98; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

 

"Jim...I knew You'd come."

 

Horror gripped the heart of a World War-I soldier, as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. The soldier asked his Lieutenant if he could go out to bring his fallen comrade back.

 

"You can go," said the Lieutenant," but don't think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away. "The Lieutenant's words didn't matter, and the soldier went anyway.

 

Miraculously, he managed to reach his friend, hoisted him onto his shoulder and brought him back to their company's trench. The officer checked the wounded soldier, then looked kindly at his friend.

 

" I told you it wouldn't be worth it," he said. "Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded." "It was worth it, Sir," said the soldier. "What do you mean by worth it?" responded the Lieutenant.

 

"Your friend is dead." "Yes Sir," the soldier answered, "but it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him say...."Jim...I knew you'd come."

 

When we speak of the law of gravity, it simply happens without our knowledge. So when we speak of the law of love, it also happens spontaneously whenever we feel the inner pull in our hearts for love.

 

The Law of Love

The New Law is a law of love (Gospel) that is valid for everyone. It is universal and requires universal love, for theological love, by nature, cannot exclude. This is made manifest in the opening of the doors of the Church to non Jews (First Reading), in which Peter discovers that “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Responsorial Psalm). Knowledge of God through faith leads to an all-giving love for God (Second Reading), and here we see that the fulfillment of the New Law is tantamount to a life of the theological virtues.

God is Love

“God is love.” Such an affirmation is simple and absolute. Nonetheless, to enter into this mystery and truly understand it requires more than intellectual knowledge. To know that God is love requires our participation in his divine love. Authentic knowledge of God is only born in a simple heart that is open and attentive to him. Ultimately, this knowledge of God, of divine Love, is a personal experience.

Love is the Source of Life

Initial knowledge of divine Love might begin with opening Sacred Scripture and discovering the Creator who finds joy in his creation. In the beginning, creation was in harmony, a sort of silent dialogue between the Creator who contemplates the goodness of his handiwork, and creation’s loving response to God (see Genesis 1; Proverbs 8.22-36; Job 38-39; Daniel 3.52-90). Divine Love is the source of all life. It is an inexhaustible life whose characteristics are gratuitousness and gift: bonum diffusivum sui (by its nature, goodness is expansive), as the Scholastics said. This self-generating love brings about a beloved with the capacity to love in return, because Love is not satisfied in loving. It desires love in return. Man’s response to divine Love establishes a communion between Lover and beloved that results in peace and mutual benevolence. Nonetheless, the mystery of evil has ruptured this communion through original sin. “Man”, says late John Paul II, “is constantly tempted to distance himself from the source of love” (Veritatis Splendor). The harmony is broken, and man still searches for peace, life, and a solution to this tragedy.

Love Revealed in the Son

 

Beyond man’s own grasp, God turns to the world once again with his immeasurable love, revealed in his Son as an authentic passion. The whole life of Christ is “passion”: the ability to suffer. His whole life was a progressive and ever-increasing revelation of the love of the Father which peaked on Calvary: the ultimate act of self-giving and expansion of goodness in the form of shedding his Blood. His self-oblation is his gift and gratuitousness. “It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was” (John 13.1). Out of love Christ offers himself to the Father as innocent, expiatory victim for the sins of the world: “Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies the punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5). Upon giving his life, he not only re-opens the gates of heaven, but he gives us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15.12).

 
This is the New Law

 

This new commandment is a compendium of the New Law, which, like goodness itself, is given to creatures. And it is in living this new commandment that man rediscovers his happiness and peace, his very life. “Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren … to the end.” Nonetheless, “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being…. To imitate and live out the love of Christ is not possible for man by his own strength alone. He becomes capable of this love only by virtue of a gift received. As the Lord Jesus receives the love of his Father, so he in turn freely communicates that love to his disciples” (Veritatis Splendor 20-22).

Gift Given to Us

 

This gift is the Holy Spirit. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the cenacle and breathed on them saying: “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22). The reception of the Holy Spirit regenerates the human person and, in putting him in a state of grace, makes him a bearer of the Blessed Trinity, of divine Love itself.


God is Dwelling in our Heart

The danger of love becoming a nebulous term, or remaining on the level of a platitude, is overcome by the fact of the divine indwelling: the real presence of God dwelling in the human soul. Regardless of the fact of God’s presence in some souls and his potential to dwell in all souls, experience has shown us that his loving presence is not enough for us to fulfill his commandment of love. It is only the condition. Each one of us has experienced how there is an interior struggle if God’s law is to come to fruition in us: “in my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates” (Romans 7.22).

Real Love is Sacrificial

 

If God’s presence is the prerequisite for the fulfillment of the commandment of love, our will is not far behind in this common enterprise of love. There are two principles of growing in the love of God:

 

  1. Learning when to give in to God, what to give to God, and what to give up for God. Weaning ourselves from self-love will require the surrender of our hearts to him.
  2. Showing this in deeds. Such a love becomes more sacrificial in its relationship to goods and more enduring in trials.

 

Growth is the Proof of Love

In the spiritual life there is a law of continual growth: If we are not advancing we can be assured that we are falling behind. God demands such growth of us, with our whole heart, mind, and strength. On the one hand, outside of God’s grace there can be no merit and no growth. On the other, the more profound our love in our actions, the more meritorious they will be. Divine Love in our souls is a measure of holiness: God’s grace in our soul increases to the degree in which we let God live and love in us and through us.

The Path of Love is Strenuous

Since our love for God determines how much we love our neighbor, nowhere else in Christian spirituality is God’s grace more necessary to continue to love one another. God makes sure to place unlovable people in our path so that we can exercise the supernatural and theological virtue of charity and imitate his Son Jesus Christ in all his works and relationships. The love of God in our soul makes us love those unlovable, humanly speaking possible only when we open our hearts to the grace of God. In this case it is God’s love that propels us to love in a virtuous, selfless way. It is God himself, together with our cooperative will, who loves those souls through us.

Practical Conclusions

An act of love can transform our environment. It can be accomplished through hidden acts of love in our homes, communities, and in our society. It could be paying a visit to a sick person, consoling someone who is desperate and in pain; or caring the elderly in our neighbourhood.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

ARTICLE: 5th Sunday of Easter Year: B

5th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 9.26-31; Ps 21(22); 1 Jn 3.18-24; Jn 15.1-8

Do You Know Who I am?

The Los Angeles Times published the story of a commercial airline flight cancellation which resulted in a long line of travelers trying to get bookings on another flight. One man in the line grew increasingly impatient with the slow-moving line. At last, he pushed his way to the front and angrily demanded a first-class ticket on the next available flight. "I’m sorry," said the ticket agent, “First I’ll have to take care of the people who were ahead of you in the line." The irate man then pounded his fist on the ticket counter, saying, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Whereupon, the ticket agent picked up the public address microphone and said, "Attention, please! There is a gentleman at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. If there is anyone in the airport who can identify him, please come to the counter." Hearing this, the man retreated, and the people waiting in line burst into applause. We are like this man. We have forgotten how to wait patiently. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to learn his meekness and humility because he compares himself to be the true vine and we are the branches. He does not boast about himself to the supreme, but he says he is one who gives life to us.

Marriage Vows of Convenience

Once I blest a marriage and the couple had come earlier to allow me to slightly change the wordings of the wedding vows. According to them “to love and honor, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part” has been replaced by, “for as long as our love shall last.” It sounded pretty, but what are they really saying? “I promise to do whatever I feel like.” This shows that people’s view of commitment is only commitment to themselves, and their view of remaining is only to remain selfish. But that is not remaining and that is not love and that is not friendship. Jesus is calling us to remain in him, to the end! As he promised to remain in us to the end, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28.20)

I am the True Wine

I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener; he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.... I am the vine, you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

 

You are the Branches

 

I do not think that there is any better image of the Christian life and of what is supposed be like than this. I want to dwell on this image today and on the promise that is made with it, the promise that says: "If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit". I find this image of what it means to be a Christian tremendously reassuring.

 

What We Are and Where We Are

 

There is so much grace in these words for people who are tired out from all their work or discouraged by the fact that they do not feel they are good enough for God or that they have not done enough for Him. The image of Jesus as the vine and ourselves as branches reminds that salvation and wholeness, and indeed all good things that we experience and produce, come not because of what we do, but because of what we are and where we are.

 

Abundant Fruits

 

Even obedience to the Law of God, that obedience which, as we were told in the Book of Deuteronomy leads to abundant prosperity and blessings upon the land, even this necessary obedience is transformed by the image of the vine and the branches from being something that we strive to do by our own power and might and effort to something that God produces in us when we are attached to him as a branch is attached to a vine.

 

The Plant Dying

 

An avid gardener told me one time about a plot he had planted: He had been very careful to select the best seeds, and plant each one at its proper depth. He fertilized and watered the plants, he worked the soil faithfully each week to prevent weeds from encroaching and he sprayed to prevent bugs and blights from afflicting the young plants. The season was a good one - just the right amount of rain and sunshine, and on the vines appeared broad green leaves and in due course the blooms. It looked magnificent. One day he noticed that here and there certain leaves were dying, certain blooms fading. Most of the leaves remained a healthy glossy green, but scattered among them were those turning brown. Why, he wondered, would some die in the midst of all the living? So he investigated.

 

Stepping carefully among the tangled mass of vines he traced the ones on which the leaves and blooms were dying, until he found that they were all connected to a single stem. There, just above the ground, cut-worms had severed the stalk. The entire vine above that point was dying because it was no longer attached to the roots and the stem that had produced it.

 

How We die Spiritually

 

It reminds us that we die spiritually, that we are incapable of producing fruit, when we are not attached to the vine, or when we are not connected to the roots which nourish us. It also reminds us that when we are attached that the fruit that we produce - indeed the prosperity of the land itself, comes to us naturally, as a gift of God.

 

The gardener does the work and the vine he plants carries the sap and all its nutrition to us, and we, because we are in the right place, prosper and produce for the world the fruit that it needs. All of us want to do good things, we want to produce good fruit, but many of us - in trying to do good things, end up feeling burned out, exhausted and even despairing. This particularly happens to many people in the so-called caring professions - to doctors, social workers, nurses, and the like. They do much good - but many get frustrated, angry, and tired, their ability to help others decreases, and some end up giving up entirely on their professions.

 

How We Live Spiritually

 

There are others - others who do as much if not more, others who are full of hope and of life, full of care and love for their neighbours and their world, who never fall prey to this plague, but rather go and on, touching and healing those around them by what they do.

 

I believe it is because they are connected to the source of hope, to the source of life, to the source of care and love, for their neighbours and their world. The cup of water to those who thirst, the word of assurance to those who are in doubt, the comforting hug to those who are in pain, the gift to those who do not know if they are loved, and the deed of kindness to the one who is in need, all these things are things that God wants us to do, they are part of what Jesus calls the fruit of being in him. They are also the evidence and the badge of the Christian life, proof that we are who we say we are.

 

What is the Fruit like?

 

Let me remind you of what fruit is. Fruit is the excess, the overflow of the life that a plant has taken into itself. The more life that a plant takes into itself the more life it produces.

 

When there is an abundance of sunshine to fuel photosynthesis, and when there is adequate water and nutrient in the soil to be passed up the trunk and into the branches those branches thrive, and grow, and produce, and grow again. The plant and its branches don't have to force themselves to grow, they do not have to make a resolution to bring forth sweeter and more succulent fruit, nor do they need to remind themselves to be more abundant in their production. They simply need to be in the right place, the place that the gardener has prepared for it, the place where the conditions for growth and fruit bearing are to be found.

 

We are Planted by God

 

For us the right place to be is in the vine that has been planted by God and which is tended by God - the vine which we call Christ. My friends, each one of us here today, as people who profess that Jesus is our Lord and believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, are part of the vine of Christ. We are able to produce tremendous quantities of fruit, conditions are perfect for our growth - because God himself tends us and ensures that those conditions are perfect.

 

Two Tasks

 

All we need do to be fruitful is remain a part of the vine, and perform the simple tasks that every branch performs as a means of maintaining a fruitful life in the vine. Basically there are only two tasks that we need to do, just as there are only two tasks that a branch in a vine does.

 

First - the branch, through its twigs and leaves, receives energy from the sun to fuel its growth. The leaves, by the miraculous process of photosynthesis, convert light into plant energy which helps to drive the system that produces fruit as its end result.

 

Secondly - the branch, through its connections to the stem of the plant receives moisture and nutrients from the soil, it receives the life giving sap that makes its grow.

 

I realize that this description lacks a little in botanical terms, but in theological terms it reminds us of all that we need to do to be pleasing to God.

 

First - the branch receives energy from the sun through its leaves.

 

So we too receive energy when we unfold ourselves before God and accept from him the light he offers to us in his Word, both the written word of scripture, and the living word of Jesus Christ. I am sure you have all noticed how plants track the sun, how they focus on it, how they lean towards its light and turn towards where ever it is. Owners of houseplants know this very well.

 

If they do not want a plant with a permanent lean to it, they must periodically turn the pot it is in so that it begins to lean in the opposite direction, and hopefully, if they catch it at the right time in its leaning, it remains in a nice upright position.

 

They also know that if you take a plant and you lock in a cupboard for even one day its leaves pale and droop and it begins to die.

 

Exposure to God

 

We need in the same way to be exposed to the word of God, we need daily contact with the light it sheds, we need to hold his teachings in our minds and in our hearts so that we might draw from them the strength and energy we need. When we do that - when we lean out to receive God's word, when we absorb his words like the plant absorbs the sunlight, then a miracle occurs in us - God's word gives us part of what we need for life and the production of life.

 

Psalm One says it very well: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on whose law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

 

Rooted in Christ

 

Secondly - the branch is connected to the stem or trunk, receiving from it the nutrients and moisture that it needs. The branch is - for want of a better word, in communion with the vine and through that communion it is able to produce fruit. The same truth applies to us. All the light in the world, all the reading of God's word and meditation upon the gospel of Jesus, will not avail us much unless we are connected to him.

 

The connection, my friends, is established by God; and it is maintained by us through the way of faith and prayer, the way of trust and worship, the way of willingness to receive from God by making ourselves available to God as part of Christ's living body, the church.

 

These things both keep us in the vine and feed us - that we might produce fruit. When Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and you are branches", he also said - "no branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine". We remain in the vine and produce fruit when we desire a relationship with God that goes beyond being content with having parking privileges only.

 

Practical Conclusions

 

We remain part of the vine - when we are willing to obey the commandments that Jesus has given us, - when we are willing to love each other and to love God, - when we are willing to forgive each other and trust God to forgive us, - when we are willing to be seen with the rest of the branches in the vine.

 

We remain a part of the vine and produce fruit when we commune with God - when we are willing to pray to him and listen for his answers, - when we are willing to worship him even if it takes us away from our Sunday dinner and the latest baseball, hockey or Cricket game for a few minutes, - when we are willing to trust in him even when we think that he is not doing enough.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 4th Sunday in Easter

4th Sunday in Easter

Year: B

Acts 4.7-12; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10.11-18

 

 

The Hubble

 

Recently I watched a documentary by name HUBBLE in Vancouver. It was awesome and great. I was just asking myself after the movie isn’t it astounding that God who is almighty should be concerned about us? When we think of how big the universe is, it is even more astounding that we are so important to God. Our solar system with the sun at the center and the eight planets revolving around it, is just one solar system in our galaxy called the Milky Way. The Milky Way may have 100,000 Billion solar systems similar to our own i.e. 100,000 billion suns or more with their own planets. It is 100,000 lights years in diameter. The Milky Way is just one galaxy in the universe which is thought to contain about 8000 million galaxies. It is truly beyond comprehension. We are indeed nothing by comparison but in fact we are more important than all the solar systems, all the galaxies and the entire universe itself because we are God’s beloved. God has a wonderful plan for us, and that plan is Jesus - salvation through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

The Love of God

 

When we think of how much God has done for us and how much God loves us we are left with only one response, praise and gratitude and love of God. It is part of our very being, to praise and thank and love God. If we forget in the midst of all our activity how important we are in the eyes of God, what a great loss we have suffered. But when we remember God’s love for us and all he has done for us, our only natural response is to love God in return.

 

Loving God

 

The command in the Book of Deuteronomy, which we hear, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, (Deut 6.4-6) and repeated by Jesus in the Gospel today (Mark 12.29-30), is what we want to do when we see what God has done for us and how God loves us. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the only response to God who loves us so much. We want to love God by praying every day, celebrating Mass here every Sunday, reading the Scriptures and spiritual books, receiving the sacraments, because we will not be happy if we do not love God. In fact we discover that when we love God we become happier because the more time we spend with God the more we receive the life of God and that life uplifts us, heals us, renews us and invigorates us. So in fact we discover that the more we love God the happier we are.

 

Love and the Glimpse of Heaven

 

We discover that the more we love God, the more we get a foretaste and glimpse of heaven here on earth. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deut 6.4-6). In fact this Scripture passage was part of the daily prayer of devout Jews at the time of Jesus. Now you know part of the prayers that Jesus said every day as a devout Jew.

 

Everyone is Special to God

 

When we contemplate that God loves everyone as much as he loves us we think of everyone in a new way. Everyone is special to God. The love we know God has for ourselves is also the love God also has for the person beside me, in front of me, behind me, for my neighbor who goes to a different church, for the people I may not particularly like, and the people who may not particularly like me. We are all God’s beloved. And because everyone is so special to God who loves us so much we want to love everyone also. So the second command of Jesus in the Gospel today, where he says that he lays down his life for his sheep (John), which summarizes Commandments four through ten, is not so much a command but the natural thing to do when we realize how much God loves everyone. Everyone is in some way a reflection of God, of the God who loves us, and so we want to love the reflection of God in others.

 

More like God

 

When we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, what happens? We become more like God. We are filled with the light of God. One person who witnessed people filled with God’s light in a more dramatic way than normal was Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990; he was a British journalist, author and media person) which he has described in his book Something Beautiful for God (pages 41-45) which is an account of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Muggeridge and his film crew were filming the nuns picking up the dying from the streets and bringing them to a home for the dying. Muggeridge wrote, “This Home for the Dying is dimly lit by small windows high up in the walls, and Ken was adamant that filming was quite impossible there. We had only one small light with us, and to get the place adequately lighted in the time at our disposal was quite impossible. It was decided that, nonetheless, Ken should have a go, but by way of insurance he took, as well, some film in an outside courtyard where some of the inmates were sitting in the sun. In the processed film, the part taken inside was bathed in a particularly beautiful soft light, whereas the part taken outside was rather dim and confused…Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying is overflowing with love, as one senses immediately on entering it. This love is luminous, like the haloes artists have seen and made visible round the heads of the saints. I find it not at all surprising that the luminosity should register on a photographic film. “(pages 41…44 is the story of another photographic miracle when a priest brought a patient Holy Communion to the hospital) At the time Muggeridge wrote Something Beautiful for God he was not a Catholic but eleven years later he converted to Catholicism and meeting Mother Teresa was largely responsible for his conversion. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, we are filled with light and miracles happen.

 

Practical Conclusion

Once I was travelling by train and I had wonderful friends that day along with me in my compartment. What impressed me during my journey was the way they were treating us with all delicacy and care. Each one would offer what each one brought for the journey. Then came a deserving beggar asking for alms and food. Well, no one was generous, including me who was feeling a bit nervous in the presence of that ‘good’ company to give something to that beggar. To stop my conscience pounding at me, I moved towards the corridor and gave the beggar Rs. 10 for his food. Did I do well? I do not know. I should have the courage to give something to the poor beggar in the presence of the good company of people around me. What actually means love of neighbour? Is that feeling well when all is well around me and among my friends? No. Love of neighbour means perhaps shedding some of my ego and loving everyone unconditionally. Of course this is difficult but God wants just that.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; Ps 4; I Jn 2.1-5; Lk 24.35-48

"Don't worry, Miss, I've got you."

Our tendency is to look for Christ in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the breathtaking. Remember in Superman: the Movie when Superman first reveals his superpowers to the world? Lois Lane is dangling from a cable, high atop the Daily Planet building, screaming at the top of her lungs. Just as she begins her long fall to earth, Superman changes into his flashy red, yellow, and blue outfit and swoops up to catch her in midair. "Don't worry, Miss," he assures her, "I've got you." "You've got me," she exclaims. "Who's got you?" Just then the helicopter that has been perched on the edge of the building begins to fall straight toward them and the crowd below. But Superman merely grabs it with his one free arm and gently sets both it and Lois safely back on the landing pad. When he turns to leave, an astonished Lois stammers out the words, "Who ARE you?" "A friend," Superman replies warmly, and as he flies straight up into the air with a sort of half twist. Lois faints.

That's the way we would like for Christ to come to us. And that is why we miss him. Christ reveals himself as he has always revealed himself "through the Word and through the Sacraments," through the study of Scripture and the breaking of Bread. That is why when we need encouragement we go to our Bible or we go to our church because there, Christ is revealed in all his glory.

What If Jesus Appeared to you?

If you were living in Palestine at the time of Jesus and met him what sort of person would you expect him to be? What would he be like to talk to? Did he have a good sense of humor? When Jesus appeared on that Easter Sunday evening in Jerusalem to the group of disciples it was a gentle encounter. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He wasn’t someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary! Jesus was a cool person!

Jesus the Man in News

A well-known hymn begins “Reach out and touch the Lord”. If we knew the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine we would see how easygoing a person he was, that he had no airs or graces, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the Gospels we see that he loved other people. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11.5). Several times in John’s Gospel we are told that one of the disciples was a special friend to Jesus, the beloved disciple (John 13.23; 19.26; 20.2; 21.7,20). When Jesus was healing people he touched them (Mark 1.31; 1.41; 5.41; 8.22-26). He allowed the sick to touch him (Mark 6:56). This is what Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7.44-45 to the Pharisee who invited him to his house, “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.” What confidence she had in approaching Jesus. How easy Jesus was to approach. No wonder that they said to Jesus in Mark 12.14 “we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you…” Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. They are figments of our imagination, pride and sinfulness but in the eyes of Jesus class distinctions mean nothing.

He was as human as we are

When we suffer great pain we cry. Jesus too cried when he was hurt. When his cousin and friend Lazarus died we read in John 11.35-36 that Jesus wept. Jesus cried before entering Jerusalem for the last time before his passion because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19.41-44).

Jesus the Man Who Enjoyed Life

Jesus certainly knew how to enjoy himself. He attended several dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Mat 9.9-10; Mk 2.13-15; Luke 5.27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19.7); and Pharisees invited him to dinner (Luke 7.36; 11.37; 14.1); and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12.2). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7.34)

He was Close to Social Issues

When there is injustice we become angry. Jesus too became angry when he saw injustice. He drove the money-changers out of the temple (Mat 21.12-13). Anger is an emotion we are uncomfortable with because we handle it badly. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral, neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with the emotion. We can sometimes take our frustration with one person out on a different person but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus didn’t hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live.

Jesus was Troubled

Like all of us, Jesus was afraid when faced with something dreadful. We all know about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane when he asked his Father to let the chalice of his passion pass him by. But in John 12.27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” Imagine Jesus saying his soul is troubled! Very human and ordinary, don’t you think? How did Jesus cope when he was troubled? He prayed and then he was uplifted once again so that in the following verse Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” If our prayer is working, if we are praying properly, it should also uplift us as it uplifted Jesus.

Jesus under Trial

We suffer many temptations and Jesus also was tempted on many occasions not only in the desert for 40 days. During the Last Supper, in Luke’s version, Jesus says, “You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials” (Luke 22,28). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus, when Peter said he must not suffer and die in Jerusalem (Mat 16.21-23; Mark 8.31-33). Jesus reply was “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (Heb 4.15).

Jesus’ Humanity

A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22, says Jesus “laboured with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way.”

Proof of the Resurrection

All of that brings me back to our Gospel today and the gentle meeting between Jesus and his disciples. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Reach out and touch the Lord! He is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Reach out and touch the Lord. “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.”

Back in the Trenches

 

There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him . . . who had endured . . . who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ("To Illustrate," Preaching Magazine, Jan-Feb 1989.) Maybe that's what you and I need to do in the moments of our distress and darkness, “strike a match in the darkness and look on the face of Jesus Christ.” For Christ is here. He comes to us just as he came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus even though we may not recognize him. He takes the initiative. He knocks on the door.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

Jesus’ humanity inspires us to become like him. We need to shed all our self importance, pride, egoism and selfishness so that we may be elevated to Christ in his body. This process should help us usher into new life in Jesus.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

2nd Sunday of Easter : Year B

2nd Sunday of Easter
Year: B

Acts 4.32-35; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 5.1-6; Jn 20.19-31

 

Moso Bamboo

 

The Moso (Phyllostachys pubescens) is a bamboo plant that grows mostly in China and the Far East. Moso bamboo is the largest of the cold-hardy bamboos, growing to a height of 75 feet with a diameter of eight inches. After the Moso is planted, no visible growth occurs for up to fifty days - even under ideal conditions! Then, as if by magic, it suddenly begins growing to its full height of 75 feet within six weeks. The Moso’s rapid growth is due to the miles of roots (rhizomes) it has developed during those two months of getting ready. Jesus’ parable of the sower invites us to be patient when we fail to achieve instant results from the preaching we do through our exemplary lives of bearing witness to Jesus and his gospel.

 

 

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground

 

One of William Barclay's friends tells this story. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, 1996) In the church where he worshiped, there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. As he had outlived all his friends, hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, his only old friend had the feeling that there would be no one else to go to the funeral. So he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting, an officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. He came to the graveside for the religious ceremony. When the pastor finished his prayers, the officer stepped forward and gave a solemn military salute to Thomas in the closed coffin as if to a dead king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier's raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general. The general said, "You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday school teacher. I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end." Thomas did not know what he was doing. No preacher or teacher ever does. Keep sowing the high-yielding seeds of the word of God. This is the GOOD news of today’s gospel for all of us, tenant farmers.

 

 

Fear and Sadness

 

Did you ever have a bad weekend? Just think what kind of weekend the apostles had on that first Easter weekend. They must have been suffering from a severe dose of depression since Good Friday. Jesus was dead. The crowd that welcomed Jesus with palms as he entered Jerusalem turned against him on Good Friday morning calling for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. The apostles, now afraid of the crowd, had shut themselves in for their own protection as we heard in the Gospel (John 20.19). There were ten of them gathered in this state; Judas was no more and Thomas was temporarily absent. Jesus came with his healing, “Peace be with you.” (John 20.19) And how much peace they must have felt within now! As well as shock and doubts. But this meeting with the risen Jesus certainly brought peace to their troubled minds and hearts. That was Easter Sunday evening; the crisis was over, but what a long three days it had been since Friday morning.

 

Doubting Thomas

 

Thomas comes back then and they tell him Jesus is alive, they have seen him. Jesus came in even though the doors were all closed. Thomas thinks this is adding insult to injury. You can imagine what he would have said to them. “You saw his body when it was taken down from the cross. You know he was not breathing. You know there was no blood left in his body, you know his heart had been pierced with the soldier’s lance. You are all raving. It’s getting to you. Get a grip on yourselves!” We heard in our Gospel that Thomas demanded proof, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” (John 20.25)

 

The Division

 

What has happened now? Now there is division among the apostles. Ten know Jesus is alive. The eleventh, Thomas, is stubborn and refuses to believe. Thomas does not have faith yet and he is relying on reason alone but when Thomas will see Jesus in a week he will believe and faith and reason will be perfectly aligned in Thomas. The division among the apostles is like the division in any family between those who have faith and reason in perfect harmony and those whose faith and reason are out. Those with faith and reason in life try to help the others to come to greater faith in Jesus. And they get a negative response from a modern day Thomas who might say something like, “If you force me I won’t go to Mass.” And Thomas, ancient or contemporary, remains in his sad state. If Thomas had been sensitive enough he would surely have noticed that the ten have great peace now, they are not the same as when he left earlier. But Thomas, ancient and modern, considers himself a big, strong, macho man. He has no time for what he thinks is silly sissy stuff. He wants a scientific proof for God and fails to realize that there does not have to be any conflict between faith and science, or between faith and reason. Thomas has yet to learn that faith and reason/logic/science are meant to be in harmony. The following Sunday Jesus came again even though the doors were closed. Again Jesus wished them peace and provided Thomas with the proof that his reason and logic and desire for a scientific answer needed, “Put your finger here: look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” (John 20.27) Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20.28) Now faith and reason are perfectly aligned in Thomas, faith and science are in synchronization and Thomas has seen Jesus.

 

Growth in Faith

 

Relying only on reason and logic and science alone had closed Thomas’ mind to Jesus’ resurrection. His independence, his pride, his wish to be master of his own life, wanting control of his own destiny instead of allowing faith to be in harmony with reason meant that he wasted a week. He shut Jesus out of his life for one week. All it takes to meet Jesus is to allow our reason/logic to work together with our faith. So let us make that act of faith in God. Surrender into the hands of a loving God. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

 

Receiving Grace

 

A beautiful chant about trust in God goes like this, “Trust, surrender, believe, receive.” The last word is “receive.” If you trust, surrender and believe, you will receive. When Thomas saw the risen Jesus on the Sunday after Easter Sunday, he trusted, surrendered and believed. Then he received Jesus. It is the same with each of us. Trust in Jesus, surrender, believe, and you will receive a joy that you will not get from anything or anybody else.

 

Happiness in God

 

Remember what I have said to you previously, if you are not happy it is because you have gone away from God. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. God has adopted you as his son or daughter and our second reading today began, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God.” (1John 5.1) It is most wonderful privilege. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. If you haven’t yet met the risen Jesus, roll away the stone and meet Jesus. Allow faith to work together in harmony with your reason and logic. Trust, surrender, believe, receive and you will be happy for ever.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

We need to break out of our tombs. Jesus teaches us that we need to die in order to live. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains single. We notice death everyday in our own bodies as they become old and tired. But when we live by the Spirit of Christ Resurrected we also notice that it is being resurrected again and again through him.

 

Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

 

 

ARTICLE: EASTER SUNDAY

EASTER SUNDAY

Mark 16:1-8

THE ANGEL ANNOUNCED, “HE’S ALIVE!”

Once again we must admire the women who followed Jesus. They were there at the cross. They were the last ones in the garden when Joseph and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body in the tomb. And early on Sunday morning, they were the first ones heading back to the tomb. They were carrying additional spices to anoint the corpse of Christ. They’re biggest concern was how they were going to roll the huge stone away from the opening of the tomb.

But they were totally surprised to arrive and find the stone was already rolled away. These brave women went into the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there, but they saw a young man dressed in white. This is a description the Bible often uses for angels. Of course, the women were confused and terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. He has risen! Then the angel gave them two sets of instructions. These are the same instructions we should follow today.

  1. He said, “Come see!”

He invited them to examine the tomb and look for the evidence. The tomb was empty, but it was full of significance. In John’s account, we’re told the strips of cloth that had covered the body of Jesus were stacked up along with the sheet covering His body. These women had to be wondering if this was a dream. They had seen the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They watched as His body was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb. They knew He was dead. But they were confronted with an empty tomb.

 

  1. He said, “Go tell!”

The angel told the women to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and He would meet them in Galilee. However, notice their reaction in verse eight. It says trembling and bewildered they fled: They didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid. I can’t really blame them. They were in shock. A little while later Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she delivered the message.

We’ve been given the same command to “go tell” the world that Jesus is alive. How often have we been guilty of the initial behavior of the women? Like them, we are too afraid to share the Good News.

THE DISCIPLES DOUBTED THE REPORTS

Meanwhile the eleven disciples (twelve minus Judas), we hiding behind closed doors weeping and mourning. Mary and the women come running in, “Jesus is alive.” The Bible says they didn’t believe her.

Mark mentions that later two other people show up claiming they had seen Jesus alive. In Luke 24 we read the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of eleven miles. They didn’t recognize Jesus. I would have loved to have been on that original walk to Emmaus, because the Bible says Jesus started with Moses (that’s Exodus) and took them all the way through the Old Testament telling how all the scriptures predicted the Messiah would suffer and die. When they finally arrived at their house, they invited their companion to join them for dinner. Jesus, who was the guest, became the host, because the Bible says when He broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus. Then He, poof!, just disappeared. They were so excited they turned around and traveled eleven miles back to tell the disciples. I imagine they ran this time. Out of breath, I can hear one of them telling Peter, “We saw the Lord! He’s alive!” Mary probably chimed in, “See I told you!” But it says the disciples still didn’t believe.

What do we learn?

Resurrection is the best news we have because it transcends all our joys, wealth, health, happiness of this world. What we actually need is to fill this empty heart with the joy of the Resurrection. We need a solid understanding why Jesus rose from the dead. The answer is He loves us and wants us to be with him where he is in the House of the Father. We came from there and we have to return to Him. Do dear parishioners, let us live this great truth of the Resurrection in our daily lives, when we are sick, lonely, defeated, challenged, in pain, in sorrow, in utter desperation we need to look for answers in the truth of the Resurrection. This truth will not disappoint us because Jesus underwent all that we are undergoing right now, but he rose from the dead to give us the good news of Peace. God bless.

 

Have a wonderful Easter

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

Mark 16:1-8

THE ANGEL ANNOUNCED, “HE’S ALIVE!”

Once again we must admire the women who followed Jesus. They were there at the cross. They were the last ones in the garden when Joseph and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body in the tomb. And early on Sunday morning, they were the first ones heading back to the tomb. They were carrying additional spices to anoint the corpse of Christ. They’re biggest concern was how they were going to roll the huge stone away from the opening of the tomb.

But they were totally surprised to arrive and find the stone was already rolled away. These brave women went into the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there, but they saw a young man dressed in white. This is a description the Bible often uses for angels. Of course, the women were confused and terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. He has risen! Then the angel gave them two sets of instructions. These are the same instructions we should follow today.

  1. He said, “Come see!”

He invited them to examine the tomb and look for the evidence. The tomb was empty, but it was full of significance. In John’s account, we’re told the strips of cloth that had covered the body of Jesus were stacked up along with the sheet covering His body. These women had to be wondering if this was a dream. They had seen the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They watched as His body was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb. They knew He was dead. But they were confronted with an empty tomb.

 

  1. He said, “Go tell!”

The angel told the women to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and He would meet them in Galilee. However, notice their reaction in verse eight. It says trembling and bewildered they fled: They didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid. I can’t really blame them. They were in shock. A little while later Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she delivered the message.

We’ve been given the same command to “go tell” the world that Jesus is alive. How often have we been guilty of the initial behavior of the women? Like them, we are too afraid to share the Good News.

THE DISCIPLES DOUBTED THE REPORTS

Meanwhile the eleven disciples (twelve minus Judas), we hiding behind closed doors weeping and mourning. Mary and the women come running in, “Jesus is alive.” The Bible says they didn’t believe her.

Mark mentions that later two other people show up claiming they had seen Jesus alive. In Luke 24 we read the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of eleven miles. They didn’t recognize Jesus. I would have loved to have been on that original walk to Emmaus, because the Bible says Jesus started with Moses (that’s Exodus) and took them all the way through the Old Testament telling how all the scriptures predicted the Messiah would suffer and die. When they finally arrived at their house, they invited their companion to join them for dinner. Jesus, who was the guest, became the host, because the Bible says when He broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus. Then He, poof!, just disappeared. They were so excited they turned around and traveled eleven miles back to tell the disciples. I imagine they ran this time. Out of breath, I can hear one of them telling Peter, “We saw the Lord! He’s alive!” Mary probably chimed in, “See I told you!” But it says the disciples still didn’t believe.

What do we learn?

Resurrection is the best news we have because it transcends all our joys, wealth, health, happiness of this world. What we actually need is to fill this empty heart with the joy of the Resurrection. We need a solid understanding why Jesus rose from the dead. The answer is He loves us and wants us to be with him where he is in the House of the Father. We came from there and we have to return to Him. Do dear parishioners, let us live this great truth of the Resurrection in our daily lives, when we are sick, lonely, defeated, challenged, in pain, in sorrow, in utter desperation we need to look for answers in the truth of the Resurrection. This truth will not disappoint us because Jesus underwent all that we are undergoing right now, but he rose from the dead to give us the good news of Peace. God bless.

 

Have a wonderful Easter

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

ARTICLE: GOOD FRIDAY Year: B

GOOD FRIDAY

Year: B

Is 52.13-53.12; Ps 30(31); Heb 1.14-16; 5.7-9; Jn 18.1-19.42

 

She Was Just 22

 

Alin was just 22 years old. She was full of life, beautiful and talented. Fate sealed her life at this age. She was diagnosed with brain cancer. The torture began. She was determined to beat this horrible sickness. She was full of hope and at times hopes against hope, maintaining her composure and calm. To be precise she suffered for 4 years until she was very badly ill and doctors had given up hopes. But she was as always hopeful that she will be alright and will resume her college studies. I went to meet her just after my papa’s first death anniversary on 25th January 2011. I was till then struggling to come to terms with my papa’s sudden death last year. When I met this girl with this horrible cross, I had no words to console her. But she was still hopeful with her eyes beaming with light and serenity. At one point she asked me to put my hand on her head for prayers. My hands shivered with fear and I asked the Lord for help. Then she told me, ‘do you think father, the Lord has abandoned me?’ I was dumb; no word came to my lips. I closed my eyes and just remained in silence. When I left her home I said to her, ‘May the Lord take care of you’. She died in June this year (2011). A thought came to my mind when I saw the photographs of her funeral: “My God, My Lord, why? Why this innocent girl had to die?

 

Behold the Man

 

After Jesus is brutally scourged, Pilate, hoping that the assembled mob will be placated by the sight of the chastised Jesus, places him on display and declares “Ecce Homo.” “Behold the Man.” The scourging has rendered Jesus into a blood-covered mess. There would be blood dripping from dozens, perhaps even hundreds of wounds, and flaps of skin would be hanging from his lacerated and bruised body.

 
Man without a Face

 

Jesus would have been a horrid sight to behold. As Isaiah prophesied, “so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless.” Indeed, Pilate was banking on Jesus’ appearance; he was hoping that beholding the sight of Jesus would move the mob to pity and get sufficient reasons to release him.

 
Crucify Him

 

But the sight of Jesus does not bring out the compassion of the crowd, but incites them to call for Jesus’ blood. The sight of blood and suffering does not satisfy them. It startles them to demand more blood and more suffering. Seeing Jesus, they cry “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate’s ploy of trying to play on the crowd’s sympathy backfires.

 
The Last Attempt Pilate’s last attempt to spare Jesus’ from the cross is an appeal to the crowd’s patriotism. Pilate knew all too well how the Jews despised the Romans and greatly desired their freedom. So he brings Jesus out, enthrones Him on the judge’s bench, and declares “Ecce Rex vester,” “Behold your King.” The crowd is given a choice, just like they had a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. They can embrace Jesus as their King, or they can embrace Caesar. And again, they cry “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!... We have no king but Caesar.”

 
No Sympathy

 

Whenever Pilate says “Behold”, whether he knows it or not, whether he believes it or not, he is declaring a truth about Jesus. Moved by jealousy, hatred, and blood lust, the crowd denies the truths proclaimed by Pilate. They deny Jesus’ humanity showing no sympathy for an innocent man, yet they embrace Barabbas, being sympathetic to a murderous thug.

 

Embrace the Pagan

 

In denying Jesus’ Kingship, the crowds embrace a pagan ruler who declares himself to be not only a king, but insists that he is also divine. In rejecting Jesus, they reject the dignity of what it means to be human and made in God’s image, they reject one of their own, they reject their identity as the Chosen People, they reject the promise of a King of David’s line, and they reject God as their true Ruler. Jealousy, hatred, and blood lust lead to the crowd rejecting all that it means to be Jewish.

What is Truth?

 

It is ironic that the very man who asks “What is truth?” proclaims the truth every time he says “Behold.” Likewise, it is ironic that the very people who have been entrusted with God’s truths deny them in response to Pilate proclaiming “Behold.” But He Who is Truth also says “Behold.” From the cross, Jesus addresses His mother saying “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He addresses St John saying “Behold, your mother.” Here Jesus is not just stating truths, He is creating truths. The beloved disciple is not related to Mary at all according to the flesh, but Jesus creates a spiritual relationship between them.

 
Indeed, if we are among Jesus' beloved disciples, isn't Mary as much our mother as she is John's mother? And if we are spiritual sons and daughters of Mary, then Jesus is our Brother. It is as if Pilate's “Behold the Man” becomes “Behold our Brother.”

 
Members of God’s Family

 

Through Jesus, we enter into a new relationship with God, not just being His people, not just subjects of his Kingdom, not just being his friends, but becoming members of God's own family. Such is the power of Jesus saying “Behold” from the cross. And such is the power of Jesus' suffering and death.

 

The Final Word

 

Indeed, Jesus' suffering and death mark the end of all suffering and death. Because of Jesus' suffering and death, the sufferings we endure and the deaths we shall undergo no longer have the final word. Now, sufferings united to Jesus' cross bring glory and death brings forth life eternal for those who truly love Jesus. Jesus has the final word, and that word is Behold.

 
He will Wipe every Tear

 

As we read in the book of Revelation, “[Jesus] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’”.

Practical Conclusion

So as we approach the cross tonight and give homage to the display of what Jesus has done for us, let us “Behold the Man”, let us “Behold our King”, let us behold the Truth, and let us behold his love, for his love makes all things new.

 

We need to behold with our eyes the miseries of this world; poverty, sickness, violence, natural calamities, war and other many ways that people of God suffer. They are crucified daily and shed their blood and tears for their loved ones. There is no turning away from the Cross in our daily lives, as Jesus told his disciples that those who would like to follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. This is very true indeed; we are never free from crosses in our lives.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: Holy Thursday Year: B

Holy Thursday

Year: B

Ex 12.1-8, 11-14; Ps 115 (116); I Cor 11.23-26; Jn 13.1-15

 

“Jesus Christ gave a Lasting Memorial”

One of his Catholic disciples asked the controversial god-man Osho Rajneesh about the difference between Buddha the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ. He told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his death bed, his disciple Anand asked him for a memorial and Buddha gave him a Jasmine flower. But as the flower dried up, the memory of Buddha also dwindled. But Jesus Christ instituted a lasting memorial without anybody’s asking for it by offering his body and blood in the form of bread and wine and commanding his disciples to share his divinity by repeating the ceremony. So Jesus continues to live in his followers while Buddha lives only in history books. On Holy Thursday we are reflecting on the importance of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and priesthood. Osho Rajneesh claimed himself to be another incarnation of God who attained “enlightenment” at 29 when he was a professor of Hindu philosophy in Jabalpur University in India. He had thousands of followers for his controversial “liberation through sex theology” based on Hindu, Buddhist and Christian theology

“You don't Recognize me, do you?”

There is an old legend about Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. In all of his paintings he tried to find someone to pose that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a young 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later Da Vinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner to strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, "You don't recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago as the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low."

The Last Supper

Tonight we enter into the most sacred holy days of our shared Christian tradition. From Thursday night to Sunday morning we are invited into the drama that is one of the mainstays of the world, one of the recurring themes of the universe. We are invited to watch it from the sidelines, or to stand up and enter into it ourselves – as much or as little as we can handle right now, this year, at this point in our lives.

And that drama is this. It has four parts.

Non-resistance

Many of us go through our lives somewhat – or entirely – resistant. We resist things that are different, we resist new concepts, new food, new people, new places. We like what we know, we like our traditions, we like what is familiar and solid and dependable – and that’s fine. We can like, we can have preference, that’s fine. But when we resist as a knee jerk reaction instead of taking a moment to weigh and decide for ourselves if perhaps change is warranted in this particular situation – then we’re not being smart, we’re just being stubborn. We’re being… resistant.

Maundy Thursday invites us to embrace what is real, even if we don’t particularly like it. Depending on the gospel story, this is either the time that Jesus ate the Passover meal, and his final meal with his friends which we remember each time we have communion, or it is the time that Jesus, the teacher, bent down to his knees and acted as the slave and washed the feet of his disciples. Both stories required something of their first listeners, and of the people who figured in the stories themselves.

During dinner, Jesus had things that were difficult to say and difficult to hear, but they needed to be said. His disciples needed to remember, and they needed to accept.

Washing the Feet

Ordering his disciples to allow him to wash their feet was also hard for them to handle – it really was servant’s work, and they were appalled and humiliated on his behalf that Jesus would act in such a way. But that was his point, of which they were so resistant: Loving one another really is the most important thing, and that is how other people will recognize us – by our love. Still, it was hard for them to hear, and hard for them to do.

But that is Maundy Thursday, the first part of the drama. Non-resistance, or acceptance if you like.

Death Everywhere

All things die. All things end. This is a basic and fundamental truth of our Universe that we don’t particularly approve of. Instead we tell ourselves fairy tales of fountains of youth, and then we go and use Oil of Olay. We use euphemisms for death, like passed away, passed on, in a better place. But it’s not just people that die, it’s ideas, too, and civilizations, relationships, towns, religions, and vacuum cleaners. Things die. Things end. Life; and parts of life, draw to a close, and part of why it is so very, very, hard to deal with is because we haven’t yet accepted that it is part of the way the world works, independent of morality. Good people die, bad people die. Death is not a punishment for the wicked, nor is the death of a civilization or relationship or city punishment for sins. Things simply don’t last forever, and everything in this world comes to an end.

This is the second part of the drama we’re invited into. The first part is non-resistance, which is really helpful to master first, because the second part is death.

The Vigil

The third part is ritualized in the Easter Vigil, and it has no snappy name, except to say that it is the time between death and rebirth. It is the winter of the cycle where things seem to be dormant, and yet life continues on. And we are asked to continue to live, even when it feels like our hearts have been torn out. We are asked to continue paying the bills, even though our worlds will never be the same. We still have to eat and sleep and function, and we do, even though something important has just died, and we probably weren’t quite ready for it.

That is the third part of the drama – dormancy, might be a good way to think of it. So the first part is non-resistance, the second is death, and the third is dormancy.

Back to Life

This is the fourth part of the drama – the end, which will always ever circle back to the beginning again. And that is, rebirth in Christ and through Christ. We celebrate it on Easter Sunday, and every Sunday. It is the utter joy of something fresh and new, something vital and vigorous, like a sapling, or a baby, a new home, or a new hike, a new lease on life, or a new love… or a new hope for something better this time.

Practical Conclusion

The Last Supper is the solemn occasion Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. Eucharist reveals that our salvation begins with God, not ourselves. God offers Himself to man in Christ first. At the same time, as the summit of Christian spirituality, the Eucharist is man's supreme, grace-enabled, freely given offering of himself back to God through Jesus Christ, our high priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The union or intimate, personal fellowship between God and man realized through God's gift of Himself to man and man's faithful response, we call communion.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

 

ARTICLE: Palm Sunday Year: B

Palm Sunday    Year: B

Is 50.4-7; Ps 21 (22); Phil 2.6-11; Mk 14.1-15.47

 

"Help! Help!"

 

There is an old story about a preacher who was having problems and decided to leave the ministry. But he ran into trouble finding another job. Finally, in desperation, he took a job at the local zoo. The gorilla had died, and since it had been the children's favorite animal, the zoo officials decided to put someone in a gorilla costume until a real replacement could be found. To the minister's surprise, he liked the job. He enjoyed ministering to children as the donkey on Palm Sunday carried Jesus. He got lots of attention and could eat all he wanted. There was no stress no deadlines, complaints or committees. And he could take a nap anytime he wanted. One day he was feeling particularly frisky. So he began swinging on the trapeze. Higher and higher he went. But suddenly he lost his grip, flipped a couple of times, and landed in the next cage.

Stunned and dazed, he looked up and saw a ferocious lion. In his panic he forgot he was supposed to be a gorilla and yelled, "Help! Help!" That ferocious lion turned in his direction and said, "oh shut up, man, I'm a minister too." Unlike these gorilla and lion ministers, all of us are supposed to be donkey ministers by becoming donkey-givers like the man Jesus met long ago and who loaned his donkey to Jesus to ride as he entered Jerusalem for the last time. We become donkey-givers when we give something that promotes Jesus and his kingdom. Five hundred years from now, as we delight in the glory of God's kingdom, we will not even remember how much money we earned on earth or how big our houses were or whether we had much status or popularity. But we will celebrate forever every single donkey we gave to the Master in the form of little things we have done for others in Jesus’ name for God’s glory.

 

Meaning

 

It has been estimated that some 2.5 million people were in or around Jerusalem for the Passover observance. Jesus was mounted on a donkey -- the beast that the prophet Zechariah of old predicted would bear the Messiah. The people were shouting "Hosanna" - "save us!" - the traditional cry of the Jewish people to their king. A crowd estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000 lined the roadsides to cheer an itinerant preacher from Nazareth named Jesus. The palm branches and the shouts harkened back a century-and-a-half to the triumph of the Maccabees and the overthrow of the brutal Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In 167 B.C. Antiochus had precipitated a full-scale revolt when, having already forbidden the practice of Judaism on pain of death, he set up in the middle of the Jewish Temple, an altar to Zeus and sacrificed a pig on it. Stinging from this outrage, an old man of priestly stock named Mattathias rounded up his five sons, all the weapons he could find, and a guerrilla war was launched. Old Mattathias soon died, but his son Judas, called Maccabeus (which means "hammer"), kept on and within three years was able to cleanse and to rededicate the desecrated temple. "Mission Accomplished?" Well, it would be a full 20 years more of fighting, after Judas and a successor, his brother, Jonathan, had died in battle, that a third brother, Simon, would take over, and, through his diplomacy, achieve Judean independence. That would begin a century of Jewish sovereignty. Of course, there was great celebration. "On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred and seventy-first year, the Jews entered Jerusalem with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel"(I Maccabees 13.51). So says the account in I Maccabees - a story as well known to the crowd in Jerusalem that day.

 

Triumphal Entry

 

It is often questioned why Palm Sunday is also the Sunday of the Passion. What starts off as what is sometimes called the “Triumphal Entry” to Jerusalem at the beginning of the Liturgy seems to race all the way forward to Good Friday by the end of the liturgy of the Word.

 

The stock answer, of course, is that it’s because so few people make it their business to go to church on Good Friday to hear Saint John’s Passion. This way at least a Passion narrative is read and heard by those who only come on Sundays.

 

Gospel of Mark

 

It has also been observed that Mark, which is our gospel for Year: B, can be viewed primarily as a Passion narrative with an extended introduction. That is, to understand Mark at all, one must look at the cross. The whole narrative in Mark moves us toward the cross. As one reads the full version of the Passion, we immediately sense how the Passion events seem to play themselves out in horrifying slow motion.

 

The Inevitability of the Cross

 

As much as we would like to have Jesus not go to Gethsemane, as much as we might wish to stop Judas, as much as we would like to get after Peter for his three denials of Jesus, in Mark, the cross is not to be avoided. As we will see and hear on Easter, even the young man sitting in the empty tomb will say, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who has been crucified. He was raised.” For Mark, Jesus is the Crucified One more than the Risen One.

 

Also, on this question of why the Passion seemingly intrudes upon Palm Sunday – “It never did when we were younger!” the people cry – it is the Passion that places the entry into Jerusalem in some sort of understandable context.

 

The Crowd

 

We may as well face it, Jesus and his rag-tag parade of the poor, the halt and the lame, sinners and outcasts, and he himself riding into town not on regal horseback but on a pathetic little donkey, does not a particularly triumphal entry make. It is at best, in the midst of Passover, Jerusalem’s busiest week of the year, it was an annoying little demonstration that symbolically challenged the occupation of Rome and the authority of the religious professionals, the Pharisees, the priests, and the Herodians.

 

Conspiracy

 

We are to remember that all the way back in Chapter 3 of Mark, we read, “the Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” The Herodians were those Jews who were already conspiring with the ruling party of the successive Herods, who in turn were in a political alliance with Rome. They were considered by the people to be collaborators with the occupying enemy, Rome.

 

Political Procession

 

That is, we must recognize that the little demonstration we call Palm Sunday was, in at least one dimension, a political demonstration. Taken together with the next event in Mark, which is the episode at the Temple with the animals and money changers, it is easy to see how once word got to Pilate, whose primary responsibility was to maintain public order, something would have to be done to calm things down so that the Passover celebration could come off without any further disruption.

 

Freedom from Rome

 

Also, given the fact that people in the streets wanted nothing more than to get rid of the yoke of Rome, Barabbas – which curiously translates as “son of the father” – a known insurrectionist, becomes a more attractive captive to liberate since he at least was willing to take to the streets and kill as many Romans and collaborators as necessary to inspire some sort of wider scale insurrection or civil war.

 

The Fight

 

The key to this whole story very well may be that Jesus refuses to fight the pain that has been inflicted on him by inflicting pain. He refuses to overcome injustice with an easy, optimistic plan for progress. He refuses to fight back against the shame poured out upon him by a mighty, flashy display of Rome’s imperial power: crucifixion.

 

Service

 

We speak of a service economy, and businesses looking eager to “serve” the public. But such service comes of self-interest. It is not service in terms of laying down one’s life for the customers’ sake, but rather it is service intended to impress – like Pilate, whom we are told wished “to please the crowd.” Jesus does not serve to impress or please, to win the favor and sympathy of those whom he helps, let alone those whom he confronts. Jesus is the chosen one of God who has displayed his power over demons and disease, who chose to serve and refused to avoid suffering and even death on a cross.

 

Why?

 

All those things that we decry as the power of sin in our world and in our lives, even death itself, will not be overcome by force. They will only be overcome by the service and ransom of the very one, the only one, who needs neither to serve nor to pay off any debt.

 

Could this have been done any other way? Perhaps it could have, if we could live lives without suffering and sin and death; which, of course, is another way of saying, “No.”

 

Desperate Cry

 

What we see in Mark’s version of this narrative is a Jesus who does not so much defeat death but rather refuses to avoid it. His forsaken cry from the cross should not be tempered into anything but a true cry of desperation that echoes the truth of the pains we experience in our lives – individually, as well as collectively as the church, as a community, and as a nation.

 

Defeat of Sin and Defeat of Death

 

Make no mistake about it, this entire narrative takes place within the context of an international military and political occupation and conflict. Jesus rises above the petty political, religious, and military background noise. He literally is raised above it all on the cross. He defeats sin through bearing sin. He defeats death by dying on a cross.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

In Christ crucified we begin to experience authentic life. Such life is not easy in a world still mad with power and prestige, a world that wants to sell a path of service to others as a commodity to be purchased rather than as a life lived like Jesus lived his. It’s a good thing the good news can only be given away!

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Canada - Vancouver

www.LivingFlame.ca