First Sunday of Advent

My dear brothers and Sisters,

The season of Advent has begun once again. A time – plainly speaking – questions our preparedness and readiness for the Lord. I am not sure, how many of you will agree with me if I say, Advent has got nothing to do with Christmas, in the sense – it has got nothing to do with  all our material preparations for Christmas that in fact overshadow the real implications of the Season of Advent.

Yes, it is true that the Season of Advent culminates in the Stable of Bethlehem.  What happened there was not Christmas that we have been celebrating for years. That was the Mystery of Incarnation – God becoming Man – God embracing our Humanity-Word Made Flesh and Love made Flesh.  That stable of Bethlehem is the reason why you and I are Christians today. That stable of Bethlehem is the reason why you and I are religious and that Stable of Bethlehem is a reason why our life has a purpose here on this earth. If I can sum up the purpose – in simple language – it is the eternal life, life with God, to be accepted by the Lord.   This is what we should be concerned about during the Season of Advent.

Advent is a time to reflect on the Second Coming of Christ – In the creed that we profess we say – He will come again to judge the loving and the dead. The readings and liturgy symbolisms used in this season of Advent point to the second coming of Christ. The Gospel passage today says: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” “you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

So Preparation for that coming of the Son of Man is what Advent aims at. Even if we don’t celebrate Christmas at the end of this season, it would not be a matter of importance but if we forget the meaning and implications of Advent and if we are not prepared and ready for the coming of the Son of Man, we will be condemning ourselves.  Let me take recourse to the second reading today:

It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, writes St. Paul to the Romans. The famous advent hymn goes thus: Wake up, O , People the Lord is very near!  Let us be awake to the teachings of Christ, Let us be awake to our commitment as Christians, let us be awake to the religious life that we have professed to live by.  Paul continues saying “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.

The works of darkness put us to shame and riddle us with guilt but humans we are, we continue to engage ourselves with works of darkness in our personal, professional and religious life and therefore the warning of Paul makes much sense to us. It is time to throw away the works of darkness. We should put on the armour of light – Jesus is the light and his words are the armour. If we arm ourselves with Christ, we stand ever ready and always prepared.

Paul says – Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We need put Jesus on ourselves. So he does not belong to the cribs that we soon busy ourselves in creating it. Do not just put Jesus in the Crib but we need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to become a crib ourselves carrying Jesus.

Advent is a time to become more aware of the presence of the Lord in our lives.  Advent is a time to wake up from the slumber of sin to a life of grace and blessing. Advent is a time to shake off the dust of sluggishness and become more zealous and fervent. The central theme of reading of the Day is Jesus’ warning to each one of us to be alert, watchful and prepared

Those who have hoarded illegal money would be all  having  one same lamentation: if only i knew a week earlier, a day earlier at least a few hours earlier but the announcement came in the most unexpected manner. They ask now for time when it’s all already gone! Not a good comparison though but makes the message of the Gospel contextual for us: Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

As we discuss during this season, what shall be our Christmas gifts and how much shall be for each one’s Christmas gift, what shall be our decoration and how shall we make the crib, where shall we shop and how shall we treat our friends and benefactors, Let us not miss the point – Christmas – the first coming has no relevance for one who does not stand ready and prepared for the Lord‘s second coming!  Let alone Christmas and  Let alone His Second coming – Let me ask If  i stand prepared for the Lord coming in this Eucharist – here and now

 

29 January 2017

My dear brothers and sisters! The Gospel today presents to us one of the most popular passages in the world, namely, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes consist of Christian, more so, human virtues and values: poor in spirit, meekness, righteousness, justice, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacefulness and patience. These are the attitudes to be…. To be human and to be Christian.  Devoid of these virtues in life, you and I end up not just less Christian but less human as well

The term “Blessed” in our conversations is also used to complement someone who has wealth, a job with good pay and perks, own house and so on. “Man, you are blessed.”  Jesus however uses the same compliment but for different reasons. The measure for blessedness according to Jesus is different. He does not weigh the blessedness in a balance of worldly riches but human and Christian values and virtues.

It is our  life of uncompromising fidelity to our call as Christians by being poor in spirit, meek, righteous, just, merciful, pure of heart, peace loving and patient that determines how blessed we are in this world. I am sure you agree with me that this is indeed a blessing. This indeed a treasure we store up. This is indeed a true human and Christian life.

In teaching us these Beatitudes, Jesus wishes to achieve a two-fold purpose: Focussed on Self and Focussed on Other.

Firstly, Focussed on Self meaning that if we take Jesus’ words seriously and take these words beyond the pages of the Bible to our actual life in the family, with the friends, in the workplace and in the society and put them into action realize them in deeds and live them in our lives, we are people of renewal, renewed in vigour and fervour to live our Christian vocation.

This is where the first beatitude makes sense. “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit”. The “poor in spirit” are those who cast themselves on God’s grace. We personally acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is the tax collector in the temple, beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. It is an honest confession that we are sinful and lacking Christian virtues and Human values needed to please God. It is the opposite of arrogance. In its deepest form, it acknowledges our desperate need for God. Jesus is declaring that it is a blessing to recognize our need to be filled by God’s grace. If I am serious about myself, my life, I will not take Jesus and His words for granted; I will not be a ritual Christian anymore; on the contrary, I will let Jesus take hold of my life; I will allow his words, like the Beatitudes today, to shape my life.

Secondly, Focussed on Other meaning that if we take Jesus’ words seriously we cannot but be affected by what is happening to the others in the world.  I am not isolated being in the world. Christianity which is my way of life is certainly not a proponent individualism and self-gratification. A Christian is for the other – others in need. These Beatitudes propose a life of action.  These Beatitudes invite you and me to a life of involvement. These Beatitudes when practised in spirit and letter release us from our own cocoons of “I, Me and Mine” to the world of the other where our actions and involvements are indispensable. These Beatitudes displace us from being just Christians to being followers of Christ.

When we shed a tear out of sincere love seeing the tragedy of the other, when we embrace the sorrow of the other as our own and willing to spend our time, energy and resources to ease that sorrow, you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude – Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  When we shed our ego and humble ourselves in the face of adverse situations in family and workplaces and when we with meekness forgive and accept the other, be it your spouse, friend, colleague, child, parent or a stranger on the road, you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude – Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land.

When we refuse to yield to the temptations to be the best or to be the wealthy or to be favoured through dishonest and unjust means and when we persevere in our honesty and righteousness to the shock of the world or to be labelled as foolish in the world, you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude, Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. When we show mercy to the other even when we claim that he or she does not deserve it – you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

When we are not prejudiced, ill-intended and without any malice treat and welcome the other, no matter, who one is, where one is from, how one looks and what status one holds in the society, you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude –Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. When you refuse to pick a fight even when you have 100% chances of winning it because you are right in all accounts but decide to reconcile with the other and when you hold peace as  more important than proving yourself right to your spouse or to your friend or to your child or to your parent, you are a follower of Christ and remember the beatitude- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

We often tend to write the Beatitudes off by conveniently placing them as ideals not attainable forgetting that it is practising these sweet and nice Beatitudes which determine our fidelity to Christ.

We are already Christians but what makes us followers of Christ is our wholehearted adherence to these beatitudes.  The Church has enough Christians to sustain herself for centuries to come but less followers of Christ to sustain herself as a witnessing force. Among whom, am I counted – Christians or Followers of Christ?

 

Feb 19, 2017

Have you ever been asked this question – What is the essence of Christianity? Let me try and define what essence is in the first place. It means the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially that, which determines its character. So when we say, the essence of Christianity, it means what is that which is central to being a Christian today, it means what it that without which we cannot be identified as a Christian today and it means what is that which determines the Character of a Christian today. The Gospel passage today answers this question – What is the essence of Christianity – quite well. It sums up it in very few words: The Gospel way of life is the essence of Christianity.

Every one of us has a framework of life, our own ideals and perspectives as to how we want to be, how we want to move on in life and how we want to pitch ourselves in this competitive world. Life without such a structure is meaningless. As followers of Christ, we do have our own framework which governs our life as followers of Christ, namely the Gospel Framework.

This Gospel Framework is what identifies you and me as a Christian. As Christians we are called to pledge uncompromising fidelity to Gospel Framework. Our way of life as Christians is founded on the Gospel. If Gospel teaching is not the driving force for our life, we remain at the level of Christians in name and rituals. When we allow the Gospel to shape our life, to guide our decisions and to direct our life’s path, we rise to the level of followers of Christ and bear witness to Christ.

Jesus prescribes a new way of life in the Gospel which involves turning the other cheek meaning vengeance is not Christian, giving more meaning letting go even what we need when others’ need is greater, walking extra mile meaning making oneself available for the other, willing to give meaning do not say No to any plea for help, loving the enemy and praying for the persecuted meaning tolerance, forgiveness and mercy define who a follower of Christ is

The Gospel Framework which is at the base our life is vividly described in the Gospel passage today. The beauty and power of the Gospel lies in its opposition to what this world teaches us. The beauty and power of the Gospel lies in its ability to raise us from the surface level to the deep level of living Christianity. Jesus says, “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”. Jesus here implies that we as His followers have a unique identity.

I am sure you agree with me that just as this habit does not make me a Franciscan but my life, choices and options do, the church attendance on Sunday, the ritual reception of the Sacraments  and the occasional charity to ease my conscience do not make me a Christian either. Essence of Christianity is far more which goes beyond all our ceremonial practices and strikes at the root of our being – what is the purpose of my life? How close am I in living the ideals of the Gospel? How far have I become a follower of Christ?

 

The law then as Jesus point out and the law of the world now says, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.” It is not disputable. The law of Jesus goes further inviting a deeper level commitment which is, “whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘fool,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Hell
.” It is not that one should commit murder to be condemned to hell but think twice before you lose your temper and become abusive even in kind of language you use.

Jesus places murder and angry abusive language on the same foot. Jesus relates hurtful worlds, mockery, derision and serious insults to an act of murder. Jesus says that hatred and resentment amount to an act of injury because they violate the essence of relationship: Love.  The Gospel teaching goes beyond the law of this world and invites us to exemplify the Gospel virtues of love, peace and charity in our everyday life and in our interpersonal relationships.

I am sure you agree with me that our Christian identity manifests itself not just in our names and not just on Sundays but it manifests itself in how we relate to one another, be it our family members, colleagues and friends.  When you refuse to pick a fight even when you have 100% chances of winning it because you are right in all accounts but decide to reconcile with the other and when you hold peace as more important than proving yourself right to your spouse or to your friend or to your child or to your parent, your framework of life is Gospel, you follow the commands of Jesus Christ.

With resentment and anger in our heart, we cannot partake fully in the Eucharist. “Therefore, if you recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” When our heart is at peace and when we have reconciled our differences, our participation in the Eucharist will be full and effective, or else, we render our participation meaningless. Jesus while offering himself on the cross which is the supreme sacrifice – He made sure that he was reconciled with everyone: He said, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Jesus did not wait for the other – those who committed the wrong – but Jesus the righteous extends his forgiveness. He stands as reconciled.

The first reading from the book of Sirach is very clear: “If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live. Before men are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” When offered life or  death and good or evil, I am sure, we all will choose good and we all will choose life. Jesus says in the Gospel of John 10: 10: I have come that you may have life and life in all its fullness.  This fullness of life resides in the Gospel teachings like what is prescribed in the Gospel today.

The Gospel passage further teaches us challenging lessons: everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. Jesus sums up his teaching in these words:  Do not swear fast oath. Let our ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and our ‘No’ mean ‘No; Jesus invites us to a life of integrity.

We often tend to write the Gospel teachings off by conveniently placing them as ideals not attainable forgetting that it is practising these teachings we indeed become followers of Christ.  The Responsorial Psalm says what our identity should be: Followers of Christ are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. Followers of Christ  they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart.

We are already Christians but what makes us followers of Christ is our wholehearted adherence to Gospel Teachings.  The Church has enough Christians to sustain herself for centuries to come but less followers of Christ with the Gospel Framework to sustain herself as a witnessing force. Among whom, am I counted – Christians or Followers of Christ?

 

 

 

February 26, 2017 – Homily

In 1209 Francis of Assisi wrote a rule for his brothers.  This rule was based closely on Jesus’ instructions to His apostles in the Gospels and particularly on this passage. Francis of Assisi asked for total poverty because he believed in the Gospel verses that we heard just now – God provides for our needs just as He does for Birds of air and lilies of the field. For Francis, Living the Gospel was the priority and he did not want anything else come on the way. His concern was following the Gospel as close as possible and so he asked the Pope that he and his brothers be allowed to live like the birds of the air and lilies of the field.

If you are asked now to pen down “the priority” in your life, what would be that one Priority? An open and honest answer to this question will help us to set our foot on the right path. I am sure you will agree with me that it is our relationship with God, uncompromising fidelity to God and Keeping His commandments – to put it in one word – it is God who should be our priority. The Gospel opens with the powerful statement: You cannot serve God and mammon. You either love the one and hate the other or be devoted to one and despise the other! There is no half- hearted commitment when it comes to God and there is no wishy-washy approach to God.  We are either Christians or not. There is no part time Christianity.

A whole hearted commitment to God and His teachings should be the priority and it should never be replaced with anything. This “anything” is specified in the Gospel by this term – Mammon. “Mammon” is a Syriac word for riches, which our Lord here beautifully represents as a person whom the world has deified as God. Mammon refers to the fact that money, riches and wealth become so important to some that they forget God, forget Gospel values, and forget humanity and compromise justice. It is also said that the term Mammon does not just refer to money, it has a wider concept – it denotes also the obsession with power, authority, prestige and ego. Anything that undermines God and Teachings of the Gospel amounts to be identified as Mammon. For us, Christians who are called to follow Christ and emulate His values, we have just a single focus – an absolutely committed Christian life with no place for any waywardness at no time. This is what God wishes for us. This is what our vocation demands us.

An absolutely committed Christian life with no place for any waywardness at no time is possible when I am solely dependent on God and rely exclusively on the Providence of God. Compromise in Christian life occurs when we fail to trust that God is there for us, when we fail to say to ourselves that God’s Providence has its ways and when we forget how God has been caring for us from the moment he thought of us. Food, clothing and shelter are important for us without which we cannot go on but when Jesus says “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or wear”, let these not become our sole concern to the extent we see our life only from the perspective of what our menu is, which restaurants we visit, what recipe we have tasted, what brands of accessories we are loyal to and what brands we wear. Jesus asks us a poignant question: Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Our concern should be the life, how we nourish that life with God and how we adorn that life God’s teaching.

God is the source of Creation and He sustains the creation in His plan. We read, “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet the heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they… If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”  God cares for even the most insignificant of his entire creation and so you and I can imagine how much more does he care for us, the crown of His creation. Brothers and Sisters, God provides for us. This is what we need to trust and this is what we need to hold on it. Any laxity on this element and when we fail to place trust in God’s providence, our priorities change, God is relegated to a secondary place. It is our faith in God at all times and perseverance in that faith in all situations determines where our priority is.

The Gospel further says, it is the pagans who worry unnecessarily. In other words, it is not expected of the believers to worry, it is not expected of Christians to worry about what to eat, drink and wear. So the moment we are preoccupied and obsessed with the worldly items and show no signs of trust in God, we deny our identity, we lie about our God and we bear counter witness to Gospel.

Jesus invites us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given us. Actions, it is said, reveal our priorities. Being part of God’s Kingdom meaning being part of what God wants to do in this world and building God’s kingdom meaning doing what wants t do in this world is our priority. Our life as Christians, our life with others, our life in this world shall be a witness to God’s love and care, Let us live so.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 35:4-7a Jas 2:1-5 Mk 7:31-37 6th September 2015

Concern for the Poor

God has created us in His image and likeness. As God’s children, there are no distinctions among us on the basis of colour, race, status and so on. We are all invited to treat one another with the same respect and esteem. One’s riches or position in the society should not only be a determining factor for respect. St. James writes, “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” The question that St. James poses today is, “Is our church free from distinctions, differences and partiality?”

A priest dressed as a homeless man went to the church where he was to be introduced as their new parish priest. He walked around the church for thirty minutes and saw scores of people arriving in their vehicles and filling the church. Some noticed him while others ignored his presence completely.  While he tried to wish some people running to occupy the seats in the church, all that he got in return was dirty looks and stares. Only a very few came forward to give him some change.

As he made his way to the church and sat on the last pew, the security guarding the church rushed towards him and ordered him to leave the church immediately as if he did not belong there.  When the parish council members took the microphone to introduce the new parish priest of the church to the parishioners “We would like to introduce to you the new parish priest.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man started walking down the aisle, the clapping stopped with all eyes on him.

He looked towards the congregation and narrated to them all what he had experienced that morning.  Listening to their new parish priest, parishioners began to feel ashamed of themselves. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples.”

St. James challenges us saying, “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”  How many of us have made such a distinction?

The Church of Christ means that we not only treat the poor with respect but the way we conduct ourselves as Christians, the way we hold our parish feasts, the kind of church constructions that we undertake and the kind of service we do must reflect the hallmark character of Christians: concern for the poor, care for the needy and help towards the marginalized. In speaking about poverty in the world today, Pope Francis says that poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick and in those unjust social structures. The church becomes an abode of God only when the homeless and suffering feel welcome in the church. The church with its “riches” should not alienate the poor of the today.

St. James further writes that it was God who chose those who were poor in the world. Jesus Christ himself chose to be poor and was born in a manger. His earthly ministry was towards the needy of His time. In the Gospel, a man suffering from hearing and speech impediment is brought to Jesus.  Jesus touches him and prays for him and heals him. In his earthly life, Jesus chose to be with the poor and suffering. He healed the sick and cured those suffering from physical ailments. Jesus was poor and He was for poor!

God has always shown a special concern for and love of the needy and the poor. This does not imply that poverty is to be glorified as a virtue. But, we as children of God should help the poor and assist them in their needs. God’s deep concern for the poor is the source of Christian ethics. The Christian social concern is better described in the parable of the Last Judgement in Matthew 25.  It is this concern that has led Christians all over the world to take up works of charity and development.  It is indeed a scandal if we hold extravagant parish feasts when poor around us have no food to eat and if we Christians live our lives without any concern for the poor ignoring the great needs in our world. St. James exhorts the whole community to participate fully, consciously, and actively in their care for each other. It is an exhortation to fully and radically embrace the Gospel message in one’s heart and to act out that faith in love of neighbour.

Pope Francis once said, “Oh, how I wish for a church that is poor and for the poor!” Church has to become poor if she believes in God who is God of Anawim. Church has to be for the poor if she is founded on the Gospel principles!

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 50:5-9a Jas 2:14-18 Mk 8:27-35 13th September 2015

Who do You say that I am?

This week’s Gospel passage has Jesus having one of those interesting talks with his disciples. Jesus asks His disciples as a group, “Who do people say that I am?” And they quickly rush to some answers. They in fact state that some say he’s Elijah and that others say that he’s John the Baptist and still others say that he’s a prophet. But after they all give him these answers, he asks the same question directly to the disciples. “But, who do YOU say that I am.” I am certain there there was immediately an uneasy calmness as disciples had to give a personal testimony! It is Peter Who attempts finally. He tells Jesus, “You’re the Messiah”. Peter got the answer right. The very fact that Peter answers the question rightly shows that Peter personally KNOWS Jesus.  Yes. It is much easier to provide answers from what one has heard from the others. When it comes to answering from personal experiences, it is difficult for unless and until one knows the person personally, one cannot sufficiently answer the question about that person.

It is not enough to merely allow Peter to answer Jesus’ question for us. But we have to do more; it is we who have to answer the question for ourselves. As Jesus turns to us and He asks each one us He asks “Who do you say that I am?” we have to answer Him. We can’t rely on Peter. Jesus has no desire to hear us talk about what Peter, or even what our parents, or even what our priests or our church believes. Instead, Jesus wants to know what we individually and personally know and believe. He wants to know how I would answer His question. We all know what what Peter says, or our parents, or our friends say about Jesus. They all may have the right answer — the same answer as Peter. But what is of importance in our life is our personal answer. What would our answer be to His question “Who do you say that I am?”

This is a question which we all must answer. Finding answer to this question is not one-time activity but it is a process that involves our everyday life and the entire life. At every moment of our lives, we need to answer the question, “who is Jesus to me?” And in order to answer it, we have to get to know Jesus for ourselves. We need to have a personal relationship with him. The answer to this question cannot be found outside myself, neither in books nor in others. Jesus must be my own personal discovery. The knowledge that I have of Jesus cannot be a carried tale but an experiential one. To be a Christian does not mean reciting a creed but knowing a person: Jesus Christ.

I read once an illustration for a sermon: When native converts of the island of Madagascar used to present themselves for   Baptism, they were often asked, “What first led you to think of becoming Christian?  Was it a particular sermon you heard?  Was it the reading of something particular in the scriptures?”  But their answer was rarely about that which they had heard or read; rather, their answers were about what they saw.  “I knew a man who used to be a thief,” they would say, “or one that was very cruel or unkind to his family.  Now they are changed after their Baptism. The thief has become an honest man; the other is gentler and kinder to those around him.  There must be something great,” they said, “in Jesus Christ who can work such changes.” These people saw in that thief and others, “a personal encounter with Christ leading to a change in the way of life” and they wanted to experience the same in their lives. It is our personal encounter and experience with Jesus that will bring us change as well as help us grow in the knowledge that we have of Jesus.

I will be able to know Christ only when I have an intimate and a personal relationship with Him. I learn about Jesus by experiencing Him in my life. When I place my total trust and confidence in Jesus and when I live my daily life from a conviction to honor Jesus in all that I do, I come to know who Jesus is. When I model my thinking, doing and my style of life according to Jesus, He shall reveal Himself to me. Jesus is alive and present always and everywhere. Jesus is the personal saviour who comforts and consoles and who accompanies in joys and sorrows. I need to possess Jesus and let him guide my life and only in this way can I find Him, know Him and experience Him. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah is the result of his personal relationship with Jesus, his daily encounter with Jesus, his constant accompanying with Jesus and his listening to Jesus.

Jesus says further in the Gospel, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This strenuous invitation of Jesus will make some sense only when we know who Jesus is, what His teachings are and what He wants of us. Without a personal knowledge of Jesus we cannot really be authentic and witnessing Christians. What is the answer you have for the question that Jesus poses to you, “Who do You say that I am?”

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Wis 2:12, 17-20 Jas 3:16—4:3 Mk 9:30-37 20th September 2015

Being the last of all and the servant of the all

Jesus teaches in the Gospel that “the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after the Son of Man will rise.” Jesus is thus trying to impart something that is very much opposed to what the society of His time expects and knows so well. The people of His time do not expect their kings and leaders to speak anything about suffering and death but all that they wanted to hear was of glory and triumph. The kings and leaders of Jesus’ time are not to be seen in the company of the poor and helpless but they are to be found among the crowds that cheer them and sing their glory. The disciples are no exception!

Instead of trying to understand what Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection, here are the disciples discussing about who is the greatest. This clearly proves that the disciples are more worried about who is going to get that prestigious place with the gloriously victorious king and leader and not with a defeated and accused one hanging helplessly on the cross.  Jesus who knows His disciples very much asks them what they were discussing about. The disciples are so ashamed that they did not listen to Jesus and understand what He meant. Jesus however begins to explain to the disciples about the meaning of His words and actions. Jesus says that being His disciple is not about being the greatest but it is all about being the last of all and the servant of the all.

What Jesus asks of His disciples may sound unacceptable. Everyone wants to climb the ladder of success to be the first of all. Everyone wants to become more and more powerful. In this world of competition, the values that Jesus preaches in the Gospel may seem irrelevant and meaningless to some today. Even in the time of Jesus, the situation was no different which is very evident from the discussion of the disciples on who was the greatest among them. Christianity as a way of life calls for a life of service and sacrifice. This is what we see in the life of Jesus Himself.

Jesus goes about doing His ministry quietly. He urges the people who experienced healing not to tell anyone. Jesus does not seek for opportunities for glory and fame and even when he has, he did not take advantage of them. To the one who is ambitious it would really seem utter nonsense.  The entire life of Jesus on earth shows that he is selfless, humble and always at the service of those in need. Every time Jesus meets persons considered worthless by the society, Jesus touches them and reassures them of His love. Jesus makes himself available for sinners, outcasts, sick, lepers. Jesus does not seek to gain advantage or score political mileage through His self-effacing ministry.  Jesus remains a servant till the end and faces a death meant for a criminal. Jesus becomes “the last” and “the servant” of all.

In this world of prestige, power and status, there is no room for unselfishness. However, there is a great need for servants. It is only those who dare to become the last sacrificing their personal ambitions and it is only those who dare to become servants placing the needs of others before theirs can truly become the disciples of Christ. In so far as one is able to become the last of all and servant of all which involves challenges and difficulties, one can identify oneself with what Jesus in the Gospel: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”

Jesus makes it very clear that the hallmark of Christian life and ministry is to serve those who give nothing in return, to lift up the broken hearted, to console the despises, to receive the shunned and to help them all realize that they are loved and cared for. The disciples understood this eventually after the Resurrection. The disciples transformed themselves from being ambitious ones that we see in this Gospel to selfless and sacrificing servant of Jesus Christ. We are called to become the same here and now.

It is true that there is nothing to be gained from being selfless according to this world. Being a servant does not make one rich or famous. Jesus however urges us to listen to Him and follow His own example. We are here to build the Kingdom of God and that will become a tangible reality when we become servants for God.

St. Augustine once said, “For you, I am a bishop; with you I am a Christian. We have been placed at the head and we are servants. We are in command, but only if we are useful.” We are called to have this same attitude whenever we find ourselves in leadership, whether it is a leader of a family, a group, a parish. The ultimate leader – Jesus – lived out this for us and showed us that it would not be easy.