Living Flame

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ARTICLE: 5th Sunday in Lent Year: B

5th Sunday in Lent Year: B 

Jer 31.31-34; Ps 50(51); Heb 5.7-9; Jn 12.20-33

 

You are My Life

 

There was a boy in India who was sent by his parents to a boarding school. Before being sent away this boy was the brightest student in his class. He was at the top in every competition. He was a champion.

But the boy changed after leaving home and attending the boarding school. His grades started dropping. He hated being in a group. He was lonely all the time. And there were especially dark times when he felt like committing suicide. All of this because he felt worthless and that no one loved him.

His parents started worrying about the boy. But even they did not know what was wrong with him. So his dad decided to travel to the boarding school and talk with him.

They sat on the bank of the lake near the school. The father started asking him casual questions about his classes, teachers and sports. After some time his dad said, 'Do you know son, why I am here today?"

The boy answered back, "to check my grades?"

"No, no" his dad replied, "I am here to tell you that you are the most important person for me. I want to see you happy. I don't care about grades. I care about you. I care about your happiness. YOU ARE MY LIFE."

These words caused the boy's eyes to fill with tears. He hugged his dad. They didn't say anything to each other for a long time.

Now the boy had everything he wanted. He knew there was someone on this earth who cared for him deeply. He meant the world to someone. And today this young man is in college at the top of his class and no one has ever seen him sad! Thanks a lot dad. YOU ARE MY LIFE.

 

What Was Jesus’ Passion? 

 

Today is Passion Sunday. A week before Palm Sunday our readings focus on the passion of Jesus. What was Jesus passion? What was the driving force in his life? What was Jesus passionate about? Intense about? Animated over? What gave him sleepless nights? What did he wrestle over in prayer? Let’s find out. I want you to look at John 12.20-33 and notice three aspects to Jesus passion.

The Timing of the Cross (v 23)


Two keys words here - glory and hour. Glory first. This is not the glory of fame but the glory of shame. Not the glory of popularity but the glory of isolation. Glory because it was for us, because it was instead of us. Jesus knew that before the war would be over he must be taken captive. He knew that before victory would come defeat. He knew that before the throne would come the cup. He knew that before the light of Sunday, there must be the darkness of Friday. Before his ascension into heaven there must be a descent into hell. At the very moment when the crowds of people were cheering, smiling and waving their palm branches on Palm Sunday, Jesus was in agony. On the hill side half way down the Mount of Olives is the chapel known as Dominus Flevit. It’s the place where the Lord wept. It is a favourite spot in all of Palestine.

Why was Jesus in agony? This was his glory. His hour. The hour to which every word and every act in Scripture pointed. Jesus was in agony because he knew from eternity past that this was indeed the time for the Cross. His passion announced.

The Necessity of the Cross (v 24-26)

Each little grain of wheat has a hard, glossy husk, within which its life is contained. But if it falls into the ground then its husk softens and rots and breaks open. From inside the seed the power of its life begins to push outwards. The pattern of its life begins to unfold. Roots go down into the soil. A shoot comes up into the light where it grows stronger and taller and produces a single ear of corn. By harvest time there will be forty seeds where before there was only one. Next year if those forty seeds all fall on good soil they will produce sixteen hundred seeds. In the third year sixty-four thousand. In the fourth year over two and a half million. But only if that first seed falls to the ground and dies. So it is that Jesus offers bread to the whole world. He offers himself, his life, to come alive in hundreds, then thousands, then millions of others. But first he must die.

And if we his followers wish to pass on his life then we too must learn the pattern of life. We will bear fruit only when we die to self. God has given each one of us a passion. A unique combination of personality, experience and spiritual gifting. Therefore our place of service in the church is unique and irreplaceable.

The Purpose of the Cross (v 27-33)

Martin Luther said once, "No one ever feared death as much as this man." The Son was troubled and Heaven answered. God in heaven could not keep silence; Heaven answered the Son's prayer with an articulate voice. It was agony for Jesus to do the will of his Father. It was agony for Jesus to bring glory to his Father. It was agony for Jesus to drive out the prince of this world. It was agony for Jesus to draw all men to himself. But there was no other way. No other way. When you come face to face with a person in difficulty remind yourself of this picture.

The Seed Must Die

Christians are not protected from pain. We have no insurance policy against agony. Sorrow can burn up a great deal of shallowness or it can lead to bitterness. It all depends on our perspective; it all depends on our motive. Jesus was not saved from the hour. He was saved for it. And so are we. One of my favourite books in the Old Testament is Esther. It might be subtitled, "For such a time as this." It comes from the scene where Esther's life is at stake. She must plead for the life of her people before her husband the king. But for anyone including her to enter his presence unannounced could mean instant execution. Just as she was wavering, Mordecai reminds her,

"If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4.14)

The Crisis

This was Jesus hour. The Greek word for judgment means crisis or discrimination. Now was the moment of crisis. The decision day but the world today prefers to be inoffensively neutral. It does not like having to decide.

The Decision

How different with Jesus. It was judgment time. The Judge was about to take their just upon Himself. Jesus was going to do three things simultaneously by his death.

Jesus was making a decision that changed the course of history for the entire universe. The hour of his destiny and of his death would be like a flash of lightening suddenly illuminating the whole cosmos with God's love.

When Joan of Arc knew that she had been betrayed and was to be burnt at the stake by the leaders of her own people, as George Bernard Shaw has it in his play, she turns to them and says, "I will go out to the common people, and let the love in their eyes comfort me for the hate in yours. You will be glad to see me burnt; but if I go through the fire I shall go through it to their hearts forever and ever."

Jesus said “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

Christians are not protected from pain. We have no insurance policy against agony. Sorrow can burn up a great deal of shallowness or it can lead to bitterness. It all depends on our perspective; it all depends on our motive. Jesus was not saved from the hour. He was saved for it. And so are we.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

ARTICLE: 4th Sunday of Lent Year B

4th Sunday of Lent Year B 

II Chronicles 36.14-17a; 19-23; Psalm 137;
Ephesians 2.4-10;  John 3.14-21

 

The scene of the brazen serpent (in Numbers 21:4-9) immediately makes me recall the serpent in the Garden of Eden. That the Israelites were punished for their thanklessness with deadly biting serpents, and then forced to look upon the image of another serpent to find a cure, makes me think that God was trying to get the Israelites to remember what had transpired in Eden. However, scholarship and archaeology tells us that serpent images were used in ancient Israel, during the time of the unified monarchy, as a symbol of fertility, and that similar images were used in ancient Egypt as a talisman to repel living snakes.

 

That the Israelites had recently evacuated Egypt, what we may have here is a recollection of Egyptian practice. They were going to ward off the snakes in the same way as their captor Egyptians had done.

If one were going to preach on the brazen serpent, I think this would be a decent place to start—or at least have in the back of one’s mind.

However, when this scene is referenced in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, I don’t think this that this is what Jesus had in mind at all. It has nothing to do with fertility, Egyptian practice, or even the history of the Exodus. It seems that the brazen serpent is used here to speak about Jesus’ crucifixion in two ways:

 

  • As a way to highlight the crucifixion as a “lifting up,”. Jesus the Son of God will be lifted up means that he will be exalted and every knee shall bow before him and every power in the world and in the heaven will confess that Jesus is the Lord.
  • and as a way to say that the passion of Christ provides a remedy, and the promise of life. Jesus came to give life in abundance and he is life itself. Without him nothing was created.

 

Unlike the synoptic Gospels, John’s Gospel presents the crucifixion not as an event of horror and humiliation, but as exaltation. There are no great drops of sweat. No crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

No, in John it’s an enthronement. It’s the moment of coronation where Jesus’ kingship is fulfilled and proclaimed.

And, in this moment, Jesus is lifted high for everyone to behold. In the words of Simeon in the Gospel of Luke: “My eyes have seen the savior whom you have prepared for all the world to see; a light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people, Israel.

 

But, the event of the cross isn’t just an advertisement, or a show. It actually does something. The cross is effectual.

 

Just like when the Israelites looked at the brazen serpent they were able to be healed, the cross has the power to heal and give life too. But, according to John, gazing upon it isn’t enough.

You need to have faith. You need to be moved to believe. Which is, of course, what the entire third chapter of John is all about.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 

This conversation that begins with Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night becomes a sermon on the reign of God which is made manifest on Calvary, and what the reign of God calls us to be in response: people of faith. Not like the Israelites in the wilderness, complaining that the manna was bland—but people feasting on the manna that God provides with thankfulness and faithful recognition of Our King.

Practical conclusion:

We need to confess that Jesus is Lord

We need to believe in his power to heal and restore

We need to be in touch with Jesus every moment of the day

Let us not think that we can save ourselves through our good deeds. We cannot save ourselves. We need the power of Jesus to save us and that power we have received in Baptism. We have become sons and daughter of God through Jesus our brother.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Pastor

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

 

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year B

3rd Sunday of Lent – Year B 

Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; I Cor 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

 

We are celebrating the 3rd Sunday of Lent. During this weekend we reflect on Jesus’ zeal for his Father’s house, which should be a house of prayer and worship and not a place of business or market. This opens a wide door to reflections on our day to day sense of worship and prayer. If our worship and prayer is directed towards worldly matters and affairs then we have a moment to reflect that God wants true worshippers in spirit and truth. Let us now reflect on the readings of this Sunday.

 

The Ten Commandments set out in the First Reading, Exod 20:1-17, in no way represent a moral code imposed as if it simply dropped down from heaven. Behind the commandments and the values they enshrine lies Israel’s covenant relationship with the God who set her free from slavery in Egypt and made her a people with a unique vocation: holy, beloved and set apart. It is by way of response to the gift of freedom and life that Israel lives according to the values and prescriptions set out in the commandments, modelling in this way before the nations of the world what it means to live out the Creator’s true intent for human beings.

 

Hence the stress in the opening commandments upon the relationship with the Lord, as sole and unique God. Then comes the Sabbath, the day set apart each week for leisure to reflect and foster relationships, including, first of all, the foundational relationship with God. The remaining commandments, beginning with the family and extending to marriage and all social relationships, should not be seen simply as prohibitions but as enshrining the values essential to peaceful life in human society. We could perhaps linger a little on the final ones having to do with “coveting”: that human desire to possess more and more which insecurity and fear can make all-consuming. St. Paul, in Romans 7:7-8, will see in it the very essence of sin. While in themselves the Ten Commandments presuppose a social set-up vastly different from our own, the values they enshrine have an abiding and far more widespread application.

The Second Reading, 1 Cor 1:22-25, contains perhaps the most radical sentences Paul ever wrote. Centuries of Christian tradition have dulled us to the horror and shock the thought of crucifixion evoked in the Greco-Roman world. It was simply not a subject to be mentioned—let alone depicted. Yet the early Christian missionaries, such as Paul, had to proclaim a crucified One as the Lord of salvation—the very antithesis of what the two categories of audience, Jews and Greeks, were looking for. Jews wanted their Messiah to prove his credentials by performing the kind of miraculous acts and stunts suggested to Jesus by Satan at the Temptation—suggestions Jesus swiftly dismissed. The Greeks—educated citizens of the wider Mediterranean world—were looking for salvation in the form of instruction that they could consider and adopt if it seemed reasonable. Salvation in such a form would have neatly met human desires. But God had in mind a solution vastly more radical, incomprehensible to merely human understanding: an act of divine unselfishness sufficient to match and overcome the entire accumulated mass of human selfishness and sin. The very capacity to see the Cross in these terms is something itself requiring the gift of God. Hence Paul’s insistence that only “those who are called”, those, that is, who have been grasped by God’s grace, can see the Cross as the power and the wisdom of God.

We may think that we have come to terms with this mystery. Then suffering or loss in some new form forces us to confront it anew. Every Lent is an invitation to journey once again to the heart of the Paschal Mystery and expose ourselves to a fresh appreciation of the Cross as the saving power and wisdom of God.

The Gospel, John 2:13-25, presents us with the Johannine version of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Though the Fourth Gospel, unlike the Synoptics, places this episode at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, it has essential reference to the events of his death and resurrection. In driving out from the Temple the animals brought there for sacrifice Jesus is in effect shutting it down as a place of worship. His own body is now to become the “place” or sanctuary where God is present and is to be worshipped. “Zeal for his father’s house” will “destroy” him in the sense that his attempt to break the confinement of worship to the physical Temple will provoke the hostility that will ultimately lead to the destruction of his own physical body. But in resurrection Jesus will “raise up” the new sanctuary of his risen body where his disciples and all subsequent believers will truly “dwell” with God and God with them. The disciples will grasp the full significance of what he is now saying when they “remember” it in the light of these later events.

Jesus whole mission, centring upon his death and resurrection, is driven by a consuming zeal to bring about between human beings and their God the “at-homeness” with God that he, as beloved Son, enjoys eternally with the Father (John 1:1-2, 18; 17:5)

 

Ultimately as we are approaching the celebration of the Pascal mysteries, we need to focus our attention of cleansing the temple of our hearts. This is an occasion also to understand that Jesus’ kingdom does not flourish in business terms rather in terms of compassions, love, forgiveness and joy of the Gospel. Hence, dear friends, let us gear up to understanding the real meaning of God’s kingdom in our lives and let the physical Church and spiritual Church become the true witness to Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

ARTICLE: 2nd Sunday of Lent Year: B

2nd Sunday of Lent Year: B

Gen 22.1-2, 9-18; Ps115 (116); Rom 8.31-37; Mk 9.2-10

From Peak to Peak

The seniors among us certainly recall that amazing story over half a century ago. May 29, 1953. A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest's summit. Here was a mountain - unreachable, tantalizing, fearsome, deadly - that had defeated 15 previous expeditions. Some of the planet's strongest climbers had perished on its slopes. For many, Everest represented the last of the earth's great challenges. The North Pole had been reached in 1909; the South Pole in 1911. But Everest, often called the Third Pole, had defied all human efforts - reaching its summit seemed beyond mere mortals. Now success! And heightening the impact even further was the delicious coincidence of their arrival just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the dramatic announcement of their triumph on the morning of the coronation. It was literally a "mountaintop experience." The mountaintop experience of which we read in today’s gospel a moment ago has Jesus and his three closest apostles - Peter, James, and John - going up on a high mountain and the miraculous transformation undergone by Jesus showing his heavenly glory to his disciples.

Transfiguration

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s gospel), to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Fr. Anthony De Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man. “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ’Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”

"He took with him Peter, James and John"

From the group of disciples Jesus chose 3, whom according to Mark's Gospel were present at the resurrection of Jairus' daughter (Mk 5.37) and will be close to Jesus in Gethsemane (Mk 14.33). These are 2 significant moments because in the first episode the 3 disciples become witnesses to the divine power which Jesus revealed by resurrecting a dead person, a sign of eschatological power which will be realized in the resurrection of all believers. In the second event the 3 disciples are witnesses to the supreme hour in which Jesus, the Son of God (Mk 14.36) and "Son of Man was given over to the hands of sinners" (Mk 14.41). Analogically it may be considered that the restriction of the immediate witnesses to these 3 disciples underline that the Transfiguration is a culminating event of Jesus' revelation and the mystery of his death and Resurrection.

"He Brought them up a high Mountain…"

The topographical data is important for its message. Besides the symbolic resonance of the adjective "high", Mark records elsewhere the motif of mountains which help interpret this verse. In 3.13 the mountain is the place where Jesus reveals himself as the founder and leader of the community by choosing some disciples, "making them" the Twelve and giving them the eschatological power to announce the Gospel and to cast out demons. In 6.46 the mountain is the place where Jesus after having multiplied the bread and before walking on the Sea of Galilee, went to pray; two revelatory events in the presence of the disciples. In 13.3 the mountain is the place where Jesus, alone with his disciples, reveals the signs of the eschatological coming of the Son of Man. The mountain of the Transfiguration thus appears to be an element which accentuates the aspect of messianic revelation with reference to the community in which the 3 disciples represent.

Mountain of Revelations

The place of the Transfiguration away from the public, found near to places where some significantly messianic miracles were worked (1.40-45; 5.21-43; 7.31-37; 8.22-26) and the prohibitions to divulge these miracles (5.37.40 cf. 5.43; 7.33 cf. 7.36; 8.23 cf. 8.26; the Transfiguration 9.2 cf. 9.9), becomes clear in the light of Mark's characteristic theme by which "that which he kept hidden from the masses came to be revealed to his disciples, the nucleus of the future messianic community."

"He was transfigured ..."

The verb used by the evangelist is also found in Romans 12.2 and in II Cor 3.18. It indicates a spiritual change. Here in this context however it treats of a visible transformation. The context shows that it is not a metamorphosis of the Hellenistic type whereby Jesus acquired a nature of another living thing or of another person or had taken on a disguise. Jesus does not appear to be a divine being who took over a human body, nor was found to be in an unrecognizable form (cf. Mk 16.12 and Lk 24.16). On Mt Tabor the disciples had no trouble in recognizing him; his personal and physical reality did not undergo mutation. The evangelist does not speak of the type of transfiguration undergone by Jesus. He speaks only of a unique and heavenly candour of the clothes. From this one may consider that "it treats of a transformation to a heavenly condition which matched the resplendent whiteness of the clothes." Moreover according to the connection between 9.1 and 9.9, to see the Kingdom of God come in glorious power is to see Jesus transfigured. It speaks of a transfiguration in which Jesus assumes the splendour of the eschatological Glory in the might of the divine power of the Kingdom.

"Elijah appeared to them with Moses…"

The meaning of the presence of these two renowned heavenly figures who represent the Prophets and the Law next to Jesus, most probably is that the times are fulfilled in Jesus and that Jesus is the Messiah. It is unique that Mark names Elijah first, but it is difficult to give an explanation for this. It appears that Mark stressed the function of these 2 persons with regard to the disciples. Jesus in himself blends the spirit of the Law and the Prophets and shows to his disciples concretely through the action of LOVE.

"Master, it is good for us to be here..."

Peter, having experienced this heavenly event, expressed his joy and proposed to keep Jesus and the 2 heavenly figures as long as possible. Various authors see in these words of Peter an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Ex 23.16; Lev 23.27-34; Dt 16.13). But if this were to be true, then Peter ought to have had proposed the building of tents also for the disciples. This feast in the time of Jesus was linked to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

"He did not know what to say…

There was fear, awe among the disciples. In this way, the evangelist appears to allude to the incapacity of the disciples to understand both the tragic and glorious events; of the mystery; and indirectly that the glory of Jesus transfigured is intimately linked to the glory which Jesus will obtain through the power of his Death and Resurrection. "It is the Glory which corresponds to the Passion and Death and that death brings with it the glorious Resurrection. The Transfiguration of Jesus was not meant to make a paradise out of the mountain; it was to stimulate, to fortify each step in the journey towards the Passion. The Christological revelation is oriented towards an ecclesiological understanding for a community placed in the journey which leads the Passion."

"And a Cloud came, Covering them in Shadow"

The way this is expressed indicates that the action of the cloud is meant to protect and guide the frightened disciples from the event. This meaning seems to be reinforced by the fact that the cloud elsewhere in the Old Testament indicates the coming of God in his manifestation to his people in the Exodus (Ex 40.35; Num 9.18,22; 10.34). The function of the cloud was to guide and protect the people in their journey in the desert (Ex 33.9-10; Num 11.25; 12.5). Perhaps it can allude also to the eschatological cloud which covers the elected people as found in Is 4.5. The cloud can therefore indicate the benevolent action of God on the disciples called to follow Jesus in the journey towards the Cross.

"There came a Voice from the Cloud..”

The association between the cloud and the voice is found in biblical literature (Ex 16.10; 19.19; 24.16; Num 17.7) as well as ancient Jewish literature (Num 21.6; Gen 22.10). It treats of a voice within a theophanic or revelatory framework which proclaims a divine oracle. Peter had practically equated Jesus with Elijah and Moses. The voice instead made the distinction very clear.

The statement of the divine sonship recalls without doubt the declaration which the evangelist had referred to at the moment of Jesus' baptism in Mk 1.11. There the divine oracle was addressed to Jesus, here however it is addressed to the disciples and through them, to the community and the crowds. Indeed with the command to listen to Jesus, the voice indirectly presents Jesus as the prophet whom all the people must listen to (cf. Acts 3.22 & Dt 18.15). It is a unique command valid for all time.

The "Messianic Secret"

It is written "As they came down from the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what "rising from the dead" could mean." In the descent from the mountain, Jesus spoke to his 3 disciples about what happened on the mountain and gave them an order. This is the well-known "messianic secret" (cf. 1.34; 3.12 and especially 8.30) followed immediately by the incomprehension of the disciples regarding the announcement of the Son of Man's Passion and Resurrection (cf. 8.32-33; 9.31).

The Dazzling Mystery

I have cited at the beginning a liturgical text summarizing the mystical theology and the existential spirituality which the event of the Transfiguration had inspired the Church. I now conclude with a liturgical text which seems to have as its basis the same fundamental text. It is found in the Preface of the Feast of the Transfiguration according to the Ambrosian Missal; "Christ revealed his glory before the witnesses pre-chosen by Him and in the poverty of our common nature He shone an incomparable light. Thus He prepared his disciples to bear the scandal of the Cross, anticipating in the Transfiguration the marvelous destiny of the entire Church, His Spouse and His Body; called to share in the fate of its Head and Lord".

Practical Conclusion

Transfiguration in our daily life is accomplished through our sufferings, pain and sorrows. This also refers to all our daily joys and moments of triumphs. We need to take our daily challenges in our hand as coming from God and face them with a resolution of Christ who said to his disciples that he should suffer and die in Jerusalem. Ultimately we are all transfigured in our body, in our mind and in our heart before we meet our Lord on the last judgment day.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 1st Sunday of Lent Year: B

1st Sunday of Lent Year: B

Gen 9.8-15; Ps 24(25); 1 Pet 3.18-22; Mk 1.12-15

 

Listen Carefully – Try Reaching Back

There is a true story told by Stephen Covey about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull.

He went to this physician who found nothing wrong with him physically. The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal. He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else. The doctor then handed him four prescriptions - one to be read at 9 AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3 PM, and the final one at 6 PM. The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.

 

At nine AM he opened the first prescription, which read. “Listen carefully.” For three hours do nothing but listen??? Our friend was annoyed, but decided to obey. At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf—predictable beach sounds. But then he found himself listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as n child—patience, respect, the interdependence of the different parts of nature. Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.

At noon he opened the second prescription, and it said, “Try reaching back.” His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.

 

Examine your Motives

 

At three he opened the third prescription. This one was harder. It read, “Examine your motives.” Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life - success, recognition, security - and found satisfactory explanations for them all. But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment, that those motives were not enough, that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life.

“In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney. It is only when you are serving others, that you do the job well and feel good. This is a law as irrefutable as gravity.”

At six PM he read the final prescription. It said, “Write your worries on the sand.” He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away, never turning back. He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his anxieties would be washed away.”

Wilderness is an Opportunity

My friends, The Wilderness - the aloneness - the solitude that the wilderness affords - the hardship - is an opportunity - a blessing - from the Spirit of God. It is a place where we can be tested - a place where we can grow into the maturity that we require so that we can indeed face the world, in both good times and in bad, and do there those things there that God would have us do.

Meaning of Lent

Lent is a short season of six weeks intended to prepare us for the great celebrations of Easter. The word Lent comes from the old Anglo-Saxon and Old German words for spring marked by days that lengthen. The idea of penitence and fasting during Lent may have begun in earlier, hungrier times as a means of spiritualizing real shortages of food at this time of year. This refers to early European famine and drought.

Desert

The Gospel of today narrates how Jesus triumphed over Satan. While in the wilderness for forty days (this being a symbolic number), Satan tempted Him. Jesus did not allow himself to be seduced by Satan. He came on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came on earth to reclaim God's Kingdom that was rightfully his, but stolen by Satan through sin.

Jesus concludes in this passage the announcing in Galilee, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'

Repentance

As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.

Doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the salvation that we shall inherit as children of God.

The Word of God

Jesus - had the Word of God - and he had prayer as his tools for surviving in the wilderness. He had used these tools before - in fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness. So Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence - or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in today’s scripture.

Prayer

With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him - to help him in the wilderness. With it Jesus was able to resist giving in to the Devil.

When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are good to eat and which are poisonous.

 

Jesus’ Prayer Life

Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself. He knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the things that God wanted him to find.

 

Practical Conclusion

Wilderness experience is a way of purifying ourselves from the toxins of the modern environment. This type of experience tames us from our pride and egoism. We begin to rely on God and not on ourselves. Wilderness experience is good physically, morally, spiritually and psychologically to uphold the values we stand for.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Lev 13.1-2, 45-46; 1 Cor 10.23-11.1; Mk 1.40-45

I am Crying for Myself

Once when Emperor Yu, the founding Emperor of the Xia Dynasty, went out to inspect his kingdom, he saw a criminal being escorted to be punished. He ordered his carriage to stop and asked, "What crime did he commit?"

The guards said, "He was caught stealing wheat and rice. We are taking him to the site for punishment."

Yu stepped out of his carriage. He came to the criminal and asked, "Why did you steal?"

The criminal faced a very important official and was so scared that he lowered his head and said nothing. Yu did not get angry but continued to advise him while shedding tears. The officials around Emperor Yu could not understand and one of them asked, "This person stole from others and should be punished. Why is Your Majesty suffering so much as to be shedding tears?"

Yu said, "I am not crying for him but for myself. When Yao and Shun were Emperors, all the citizens followed their hearts and moral standards. Now I am the Emperor, but my people are not following my moral standards, committing crimes such as this and hurting others. Seeing such a state of affairs in my own kingdom greatly upsets me!"

Emperor Yu asked someone to bring a plate and wrote "When citizens commit a crime, it is my fault." He then ordered the guards to release the criminal.

Sharing the Blame

It is written in the Old Testament that "the person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean'. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Leviticus 13.45-46). This was to share their shame and sin without in any way interfering in the so called sinless society. Indifference towards those lepers was normal and accepted behaviour.

Attain Small thing at a Time

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, and continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

Light a Candle

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

Great Ships

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Jesus fearlessly engaged himself in liberating people. He acted and lived a life of service. That is what we have to learn from Jesus.

Whatever You Do

St. Paul tells us something very similar. Helping our neighbour, and glorifying God. Corinthians 10.31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. 

I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context. 

From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10.28). 

Discernment in Life

Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.

Do Not Scandalize the Weak

Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble. 

Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to the theme. What glorifies God the most? the salvation of the lost people. 

Practical Conclusion

Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Job 7.1-4, 6-7; Ps 146 (147);1 Cor 9.16-19, 22-23; Mk 1.29-39

The Fish

Novelist Russell Banks once wrote a short story called "The Fish." In this fanciful tale we are told about a giant fish that lived in a good-sized lake not far from a small Chinese village. For reasons no one was ever clear about, the authorities, led by a Colonel Tung, decided that this giant fish was a menace that had to be removed from the lake. But every time the colonel tried to kill the fish, the creature somehow survived unscathed. They fired automatic weapons at the fish, but no bullet struck it. They placed mines throughout the waters of the lake, and although the fish detonated the mines, it swam on. They hid floatable grenades amidst chunks of bread that were scattered on the water's surface. And although the fish ate the grenades along with the bread, it lived on.

Needless to say, each time Colonel Tung failed to slay the beast, the reputation of the fish grew. People delighted in astonishment that such a creature existed. Tourists began to come to the lake's shores to catch a glimpse of the fish, and soon people in boats trolled the waters to see it, cameras at the ready. But then one day someone began to circulate the idea that it must be the waters of the lake itself that contained the magic. Surely such special water had healing properties, could be an elixir for long life.

They Carried away Water

Soon, everyone who came to see the fish brought a mason jar, a bucket, or some other vessel with which to cart home some of this magic water. This went on for months. The authorities tried to control it, but under the cover of darkness some were now siphoning water out of the lake into tanker trucks. Before anyone could do much about it, the lake level dropped precipitously. A dry stretch of weather over the next summer depleted the lake still more until finally the terrible day came when there was no longer enough water for the great fish to swim in. One morning, people found the fish lying on its side, flapping its fins on a muddy flat that had once been the lake. They began to bring water back to the lake, dousing the fish as quickly as they could. But by sunset that night, they buried the fish.

We Ruin Things around Us

I am by no means certain what all Mr. Banks meant to convey via this story. Probably it means lots of things, but among them is surely this idea: there is nothing so wonderful in this life that we humans cannot find a way to ruin as soon as we make our own selves our sole reference point. As soon as something becomes all about me, the moment I spy something that I think I can turn to my private advantage, my perspective becomes narrowed, my horizons contract, and suddenly I discover that by trying to horde something for my own private benefit, I have killed that very thing.

Jesus Cared for all

Indeed, we human beings will go to extraordinary efforts to free ourselves of chaos, yet however the harder we try to destroy chaos, the worse things become. In some ways we have some success. Throughout the past two thousand years, Christians have done much good for those who have suffered. It is said that Christians learned the Muslim invention of the hospital, later of course we brought healing across the globe. We also created schools so that the poor could rise out of their poverty. We created social programs, did you know that it was Christians who brought about Universal medical care in Canada. Jesus cared for the sick, so we should too.

Getting Rid of Evil

However, we need to tell the truth about our Christian history too. There have been times when clearly we have tried to destroy what we thought was evil and in doing so unleashed hell on countless numbers of people. During the crusades, we killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims who would not convert. And of course we engaged in many wars in order to "rid the world of evil". And yet, the vain promise of "a war to end all wars" has brought instead a century of the worst violence in human history. Wounds are still alive, and hearts are restless.

Prayer was his Strength

More than ever we need to listen and follow Jesus. Did you notice what he did in the text after healing people and casting out the demons? After Jesus, in his compassion, heals those with disease and demons for a full day, he gets up in the early morning to pray. While it was still dark and goes to a place alone and prayed.

He Listened to His Father

The text doesn't say what he prayed; I wonder if he says nothing but just listens. An older Christian once said that praying was more about listening than asking from God. He said, "Most times just sit in silence and listen for what God wants you to know and do."

Everyone is Searching for You

And so his companions find him praying and begin to tell him what he must do. "Everyone is searching for you." OK, Jesus, they are saying, it is time for you to really show them your power and to expand your popularity. That is what we want you to do, be successful.

And yet, Jesus will not let the disciples set the agenda. Did you notice that? He says, "Let's go on to neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do." And he went through Galilee proclaiming the message in the places of worship and casting out demons.

The Time is Fulfilled

It is interesting that Jesus message itself casts out the demons. You remember what Jesus was preaching? "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news." It is a simple message however as we shall see; all the forces of Hell will set themselves against this one from Nazareth. And still he will not respond to their chaotic fury with a punch, or kick or slash of the sword or dropping of a bomb, but rather he will speak the truth to them and to us even to the point of death on a cross. Where we expect him to crush evil and chaos with a divine army, instead he speaks the truth, even to the point of a death on the cross.

What an Absurdity!

And to many, responding to evil in his way is folly; to respond to power with truth is insanity; and of course to die for one's enemies rather than fighting them to the last breath seems nothing less than absurd.

And yet, still we gather under the sign of the cross; the throne of God's power. We who have been called to proclaim the message of Christ's reign are entrusted to proclaim to those around us that there is a way which can cast out the demons that deceive us and create chaos in the lives of humanity.

Jesus Brings the Kingdom

Proclaiming the Gospel starts in a simple way. Do you know that you are beloved? That God has welcomed you, just as you are, into a new way of life. Do you know that Jesus, the Holy One has called us friends, broken people like us, troubled people like us, sinners like us; friends we who could not make it to God by being rich enough, or smart enough, or popular enough or good enough. The kingdom of God has come near, come to us in Jesus Christ. If anyone, even yourself tells you that you are unworthy of life, tell them, "Shut up!” If someone says to another that they are unlovable tell them, "Shut up!" And of course, there is more to the story, and more to the Gospel, but at the core is God's love for a chaotic and broken world.

His kind of power may not be what the world expected but it is enough to claim us and make us sons and daughters of the Most High God to call us to share in God's mission as the very body of Christ. For when all is said, we are called to proclaim with our lives that the power and truth of God is at work setting us free and the whole world free of death and destruction.

The Mission of Love

To follow this Holy One who does not destroy enemies, but rather gives his life for them, is the most important mission of all. While the world may not realize it and we may not yet realize it, but the church is the most important thing that is happening in the world. I sincerely believe that we have been called to follow Jesus and witness to God's loving power at work in the world. To be asked to share in the divine power and mission of Jesus is the greatest news of all and that is what we understand as LOVE mission.!

In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you’

Practical Conclusion

When we do good works people come in search of us because we become another Christ in our deeds and intentions. When we do bad things, people run away from us. We are called to be like Christ who always went around doing good works and helping people in need. He liberated them from their sufferings and pain.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

Article: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Deut 18.15-20; Ps 94(95); 1 Cor 7.17, 32-35

Mk 1.21-28

In a worldly sense, Jesus did not have any power at all. He was not a worldly king with political or military power. He was not of the priests, who had the power in Roman Judea. He was not even a scribe with the authority of Jewish tradition. The only authority he had was the supreme confidence that what he did and said was God's will and God's truth. His authority lay in the sheer power of his words and in the example of his deeds. His authority lay in his living as God's servant. Jesus used his authority not to obtain power for himself but to serve humanity (Mark 10:41-45). This is the same kind of exousia, sovereign freedom, of which Paul speaks in today's second lesson [1 Corinthians 8:9]--sovereign freedom exercised for the good of others.

Here was a man who spoke with his own authority, not in the name of another. That alone was amazing. But if that were not amazing enough, Jesus demonstrated his authority when he told an evil spirit what to do, and the evil spirit obeyed.

In Jesus’ day, evil spirits were considered, even by many Jewish teachers, to be numerous and powerful, hanging around everywhere and doing whatever they could to inflict trouble and suffering. When someone seemed to be possessed of a demon, the exorcists, whether Jewish or pagan, used complicated magical rites and spells to compel the demon to leave. The power was in the magic, it was believed, so whoever knew the right incantations and ingredients and methods could use them to bring about the unseen conditions that would manipulate the spirit world.

But Jesus was astonishingly different. When the demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting, Jesus simply ordered the demon to leave, and it left. The people in the synagogue had never seen anything like it. Who could have such authority that even the evil spirits have to obey his straightforward word?

Not authoritarian

 

Jesus, the Son of God, had all the authority in the world—in the universe. God created all things through him and put all things under him. So even these spirits that turned evil, though he allowed them to exist, were completely subject to him (see Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:20-21).

 

Yet Jesus did not use his incomparable authority the way we humans tend to use our little sprigs of authority. Man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority, wrote Shakespeare. For many humans, authority becomes merely a means of enriching oneself, of getting one’s own way, of suppressing the truth, and of getting and holding the power to keep doing those things. Witness the parade of totalitarian regimes, corporate executive, government and ecclesiastical scandals, tyrannical parents, bosses, teachers, government officials and the like.

Not so with Jesus. He has all the authority there is, yet he uses it entirely differently from the way many people would. Let’s look at a few examples:

  1. He took action when necessary. Jesus did not stifle normal living by trying to prevent all possibility of something going wrong. He didn’t post sentries at the doors to keep all potential demon-possessed-looking people from coming in. He simply dealt with the problem decisively when it arose.
  2. He didn’t overreact. Jesus didn’t make a Broadway production out of making the demon leave. He didn’t knock the demon around for a while, tell it off for 10 minutes, scream at it, kill it or declare war on all demons. He just made it go.
  3. Jesus didn’t use the incident to further his image. He didn’t print up flyers and bill himself as the one who tossed out the demon.

Servant authority

 

Jesus uses authority to serve, not to be served. And that is how he wants us to use whatever authority we might have. Whether our authority is at home, at work, or somewhere else, he wants us to use it to help others, not to make ourselves into big shots.

Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus explained it to his disciples like this, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

 

What a difference it makes when the authority we’re subject to is a blessing instead of a curse. “When the wicked rule, the people groan,” says Proverbs 29:2. It is when authority is used to help, not to overpower, that those under it can rejoice.

Jesus doesn’t overpower us to make us knuckle under. He serves us with patience and mercy, helping us grow to see how much we need him. Sin is a cruel, harsh, manipulative, unforgiving taskmaster. Jesus is compassionate, gracious, patient, loving and merciful. The authority of sin is fraudulent, but the authority of Jesus is absolute.

Walk with Jesus

 

When it comes to Jesus’ authority in our lives, how do you think he uses it? To help us, or to lord it over us? Many of us live as though we think Jesus uses his authority to lord it over us. We assume his love for us is conditioned on how well we behave. We feel discouraged and fearful that God no longer loves us when we fail to measure up in our obedience.

But Jesus uses his authority to help us, not to destroy us. He drives out the demons, not us. And literal evil spirits are not the only kind of demons Jesus has authority over and drives out for us. Sin itself is an enemy that does us damage and lords it over us. So are our fears and our doubts.

When our sins and fears start a commotion, it’s time for us to take them to the one who knows how to handle them. We can take them to Jesus in prayer and trust him to know what to do.

Why not take your needs to Jesus? Give your problems to him and trust him to see you through them. He’s there for you, now and always

Let us ask ourselves

  • Why were those at the synagogue amazed at Jesus’ teaching?
  • Why did the evil spirits have to obey Jesus?
  • How did Jesus use authority?
  • How can Jesus help you?

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Jn 3.1-5, 10; Ps 24(25);1 Cor 7.29-31; Mk 1.14-20

 

Shirt of a happy Man

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. (Pastor's Professional Research Service, "Happiness"). That is why Oscar Wilde wrote, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." He was trying to warn us no matter how hard we work at being successful, success will not satisfy us. By the time we get there, having sacrificed so much on the altar of being successful, we will realize that success was not what we wanted.

Disturbing statistics on stress

A few years ago, The Comprehensive Care Corporation of Tampa, Florida published a booklet about stress in our modern world. The facts are disturbing. (1) One out of four (that’s 25% of the American People) suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, loneliness and other painful symptoms which are attributed mainly to stress. (2) Four out of five adult family members see a need for less stress in their daily lives. (3) Approximately half of all diseases can be linked to stress-related origins, including ulcers, colitis, bronchial asthma, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. (4) Unmanaged stress is a leading factor in homicides, suicides, child abuse, spouse abuse and other aggravated assaults. (5) The problem of stress is taking a tremendous toll economically, also. In our nation alone, we Americans are now spending 64.9 billion dollars a year trying to deal with the issue of stress. That is why Jesus shared the “good news” with us a long time ago when He said: “Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28). Jesus’ call to be disciple is to care for the overburdened. The disciple is to carry his own cross and then help those who carry heavier burdens.

Discipleship

Discipleship is costly. Jesus’ call to follow him in turbulent times has been eloquently expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4). Karl Barth says of this book that it is “easily the best that has been written on this subject,” and that, “I cannot hope to say anything better on the subject than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was ready to achieve it in his own life, and did in his own way achieve it even to the point of death."

Pastor and Theologian

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the turbulent years 1930-45. His book on discipleship was written during the years 1935-37 when he was leading the illegal Confessing Church’s seminary at Finkenwalde. Until the Gestapo closed it down in late 1937, Bonhoeffer trained young men to shepherd the church, to preach, to do good theological thinking. His life would end in the concentration camp of Flossenberg where he was executed in April, 1945.

Passing through Fire

For Bonhoeffer, there is a very concrete spirituality manifested in the life of discipleship. It is spirituality gained by passing through the fire. “When Christ calls a person, He bids them come and die.” “And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to him, for only he knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us to follow him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy.”

Murder Plot against Hitler

During this period of his life, it is important to note that Bonhoeffer eschewed violence. He could be considered a ‘pacifist.’ Of course his later turn about to participation in the murder plot on Hitler does signal a very real change in him. Walter Wink raises this question: “If counter-violence appears to be the only responsible choice, this still does not make violence right. Bonhoeffer is a much-misunderstood case in point. He joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. But he insisted his act was a sin, and threw himself on the mercy of God. Two generations of Christians have held back from full commitment to non-violence, citing Bonhoeffer’s example. Had he known, both that his attempt would fail, and that it would have the effect of justifying redemptive violence in the eyes of so many Christians, I wonder if he would have done it.”

It was not easy for Bonhoeffer to go back on his commitment to non-violence seen in his book on Discipleship. His later writings indicate that he had spent some considerable time reflecting on the implications of this change. Bonhoeffer’s life and his book on Discipleship are important resources when considering the possibilities of the redemption.

Jesus is the Model

Today I would also want to emphasize that it is Jesus as the human model that is essential. That is, it is an aspect of Jesus’ priestly function: to model our spirituality for us, our relationship to God. Why? Because we are included in Him, Jesus is our corporate head, the Second Adam, the One who got it right.

I believe that Bonhoeffer was desperate, in the sense that, he was watching from the inside, the destruction of everything he held dear as a German, a Lutheran, a theologian, a Berliner. It must have been awful.

Luke 14.27: And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Cost of Discipleship in our Daily Life

Denying ourselves means being willing to renounce any so-called right to plan or choose, and to recognize His Lordship in every area of life. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life He lived. This involves:

  • Coping with opposition of loved ones
  • Coping with reproach from the world
  • Forsaking all else for Him if need be, and the comforts of this life.
  • Complete dependence on God.
  • Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Proclaiming an unpopular message.
  • Being alone
  • Suffering for the sake of righteousness.
  • Enduring slander and shame.
  • Pouring out one’s life for others.
  • Death to self and to the world, denial of self.

A Brand New Life

It also involves beginning a brand new life, real life in Jesus! It means finding out the real reason for our existence. And it means eternal reward. We so often run away from a life of cross-bearing. Our minds are reluctant to believe that this could be God’s will for us. Yet the words of Christ “If anyone desires to come after Me” mean that this is the cost of discipleship for each of us, but consider the blessings to follow, and the joy that comes from living close to the Lord.

When we meet the Lord on that day to we want Him to say "Well done my good and faithful servant.” So it is all or nothing. What a change is wrought in our lives when we surrender our all to the Lord.

Practical Conclusion

Becoming a disciple of Jesus often involves sacrifice...

  • For Simon and Andrew, it meant leaving their business behind
  • For James and John, it also meant leaving their family behind
  • For all four, it meant lives of service that included hardship, ending in martyrdom or exile

Becoming a disciple of Jesus means to seek the lost...

  • Jesus wants His disciples to become "fishers of men" - Mk 1.17
  • Just as He come to "seek and save the lost" - Lk 19.10

As Disciples of Christ today...

  • Are we willing to sacrifice for the Lord?
  • Are we willing to seek the lost?
  • If not, can we really claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ?

Jesus would have everyone become His disciple today (cf. Mt 28.19-20). May "The Call of Four Fishermen", and the service they rendered to the Lord, inspire us to greater dedication as disciples...

 

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

Thursday - 2nd Week - Year B - Mark 3:7-12

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Thursday - 2nd Week - Year B - Mark 3:7-12

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