Sep 5, 2011

Agents of Death Vs Agents of Life

The Magi came to worship the new born King Jesus. Matthew 2:1 – “Some wise men came to Jerusalem from the East asking, 'Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage'.” They came from the Far East may be from Persia, East Syria or Arabia. It is interesting to note that the three kings landed in the palace of Herod whilst enquiring about the new born King. It is natural that the king of the Jews would be expected to be in his palace but they did not find the king they came for. Here we have two forces or agents strongly acting against each other. On one hand we have the powerful king Herod and his supporters whilst on the other hand we have the weak baby Jesus and His supporters.

The agents of death – Herod and the religious authorities were frightened when they heard of a new king being born.  Matthew 2:3 - “When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.”The presence of the religious authorities in the palace of Herod signifies the unholy alliance between civil and religious leaders. Matthew 2:4 – “Herod called together all the chief priests and the scribes.” Herod wanted to kill the child Jesus. Here the group is powerful with military power and political power. They destroy and eliminate life with the massacre of the innocent children. Matthew 2:16 – “Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less.” The Magi at first unknowingly went to the agents of death but soon they departed and joined the other group – the agents of life.

The agents of life – God, Angels, Joseph, Mary, child Jesus and the Magi were promoters and safe-guarders of life. The Magi disobey the agents of death and join the agents of life. Matthew 2:12 – “The magi were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they returned to their own country by a different way.” In this group people are helpless but still they hold on. This is the true worship of the Magi. The agents of death want to destroy and kill but the agents of life promote and protect life.

The battle continues today between agents of death and agents of life. A few agents of death are those who promote war, terrorism, discrimination, injustice, greed, self-centeredness, unholy alliances between groups to destroy life, insensitivity etc. A few agents of life are those who promote peace, unity, justice, love, charity, selflessness, harmony, non-violence etc. Today we still have people who come with the intention of worshipping the true God – the agent of life but struggle to find the way. Often they land up in the wrong side with the agents of death who are more appealing but some like the Magi leave the forces of death and join the forces of life.

Joining the agents of life is a challenge. There is no military power, no political power and no economical power to guarantee this group. They are the weakest in the eyes of the world and lack support. They are like the ‘anavim’ – those who are in desperate need of God and put their total trust in God. And God takes care of His children amidst the strong forces of death they are surrounded with.

Mar 20, 2011

Arrangement of Sunday Readings During Lent

The Sunday readings of all three cycles (A,B & C) during Lent have the Old Testament and the Gospel in focus with the second reading shedding light. Each year the Old Testament readings of the first 5 Sundays are arranged systematically:

1. Sunday of the Original Covenants: The Fall, the Covenant with Noah, the profession of faith by chosen people)
2. The Sunday with Abraham: His call, the sacrifice of Issac, God's Covenant with Abraham
3. The Sunday of Moses: Moses strikes the rock, the Law given to Moses, God reveals His name to Moses.
4. The Sunday of the people of the living God in the promised land: David, the exile and return, Passover in the promised land.
5. Sunday of the Prophets: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah

Mar 7, 2011

Excerpt of Interview with the Assassinated Minister

Here is an excerpt from the 2008 book-length interview with Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities who was assassinated last week.
The book is titled “Christians in Pakistan or Where Hope Is Tested (Marcianum Press, 2008). In this excerpt, Bhatti reveals his motivations for being an outspoken advocate for religious freedom.
* * *
I was offered high government positions and asked to quit my struggle but I always refused to give up even at the cost of my life. I said: "No, I want to serve Jesus as a common man". I am happy with this devotion. I do not want popularity; I do not want any position. I want just a place at Jesus' feet.

I want that my life, my character, my actions speak for me and indicate that I am following Jesus Christ. Because of this desire, I will consider myself even to be more fortunate if -in this effort and struggle to help the needy, the poor, to help the persecuted and victimized Christians of Pakistan - Jesus Christ will accept the sacrifice of my life. I want to live for Christ and I want to die for Him.
I do not feel any fear in this country. Many times the extremists wanted to kill me, many times they wanted to put me in prison, they threatened me, they harassed me and they terrorized my family. Even my parents, my mother and my father, were asked by the extremists few years ago to stop their son from continuing with his mission, this struggle to help the Christians and the needy. Otherwise they would have lost me. But my father always encouraged me. I said: "Until I live, until my last breath, I will continue to serve Jesus, to serve the poor humanity, the suffering humanity, the Christians, the needy, the poor".
I want to share that I am very much inspired by the Holy Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. The more I read the New and Old Testament, verses from the Holy Bible, the word of God, the more it gives me strength, determination. When I see that Jesus Christ sacrificed His everything and our Lord sent His Son for our redemption and salvation, I ask myself how I can follow that path of the Calvary. And our Lord said: "Come to me, hold your cross, and follow the path". The verses I like the most from the Holy Bible read: "I came to you when I was hungry, when I was thirsty, when I was imprisoned".
So when I see the poor people, I think Jesus might have come to me. Hence I always try to help, along with my colleagues, those in need, the hungry, the thirst.

Feb 19, 2011

The Fool !

If you don't take revenge... 
If you want to be holy...
If you are not diplomatic...
If you don't argue craftily...
If you don't boast your achievements...
If you treat your enemies with kindness...
If you want to be perfect...
If you look forward to a pie in the sky that is a reward in heaven...
You are a FOOL (in bold, underlined & highlighted).

Resolutions of the great FOOL:
* You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason   
   with your neighbor (Lev 19:17)
* You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy (Lev 19:2)
* God catches the wise in their craftiness (1 Cor 3:19 / Job 5:13)
* Let no one boast of men (1 Cor 3:21)
* Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44)
* Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48)
* In this way you will be sons of your Father who is in 
   heaven (Mt 5:45)
                                                                                                                      Certified to be a

"Grace can do nothing without the will and the will can do nothing without grace"-- St. John Chrysostom

Reflection based on the readings of 7th Sunday of the Year, Year A

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48

Feb 8, 2011

Plagues Against Egyptian Gods

Purpose of the Plagues: The purpose of the ten plagues in the Book of Exodus is to make known that Israel's God is the True God and reigns over all people. The ten plagues are a direct attack against the Egyptian gods.
1. Water turning into blood (Ex 7:14-24): As Aaron, the spokesman for Moses, touched the "rod" of the Lord to the Nile River it immediately turned to blood, all the fish died, and the river stank. This plague was probably against the Egyptian god of Nile - Hapi, who was a water bearer.
2. Frogs (Ex 8:1-15): The frogs came up from the river and were in their houses, in their food, in their clothing, in every place possible. This plague was probably against the Egyptian goddess of fertility - Heket who had the head of a frog.
3. Gnats (Ex 8:16-19): At the command of the Lord to Moses, Aaron was told to stretch forth his rod and smite the dust of the earth. When he did the dust became lice throughout all the land, on both people and beasts. This plague was probably against the Egyptian god of the earth - Geb who was over the dust of the earth.
4. Flies (Ex 8:20-32): The Egyptians were plagued by the flies. This plague was probably against the Egyptian god of creation - Khepri who had the head of a fly.
5. Death of Livestock (Ex 9:1-7): This plague affected the Egyptian by creating a huge economic disaster, in areas of food, transportation, military supplies, farming, and economic goods that were produced by these livestock. This plague was probably against the Egyptian goddess - Hathor who had the head of a cow.
6. Boils and Sores (Ex 9:8-12): The people and animals were affected by boils. This plague was probably against the Egyptian goddess of Medicine - Isis
7. Hail (Ex 9:13-35): Hail rained down from the sky and destroyed the crops. This plague was probably against the Egyptian goddess of sky - Nut.
8. Locusts (Ex 10:1-20): Whatever crops were left in tact after the destruction by Hail, were now completely consumed by the swarms of locusts that were unleashed from the sky. This plague was probably against the Egyptian god of storms and disorder - Seth 
9. Darkness (Ex 10:21-29): Darkness fell upon Egypt. This plague was probably against the Egyptian sun god - Ra
10. Death of the Firstborn (Ex 11:1-10): Pharaoh the King of Egypt was considered to be the greatest Egyptian god of all.  

Feb 2, 2011

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord

Origin of this Feast:
The fortieth day after Christmas-Epiphany was celebrated in Jerusalem as Egeria attests around 386 AD. The procession with candles was added around 450 AD. In the 6th century the feast made its way to Syria and was then accepted at Constantinople under the name ‘Meeting’ (Gk - Hypapante ): Meeting of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ with Simeon. Rome accepted this feast in the second half of the 7th century. The French liturgies of the 18th century replaced it with the title ‘Presentation of the Lord’ which the Roman calendar adopted in 1969. At the end of 7th century, during the time of Pope Sergius I the procession took place at the dawn of 2nd February. Everyone in the procession carried a candle, but the ceremony had a penitential character. The pope and deacons wore black vestements and the emperor walked barefoot. The blessing of candles made its appearance only in the 10th century in the Germanic world.

How is this feast celebrated today?
The celebration of the Presentation is marked by a procession with candles and a preceding blessing. The service begins with an exhortation calling to mind the meeting of Jesus and Simeon and leads to the meeting of the Christian assembly with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, which in turn is an anticipation of the definitive meeting in glory. The procession takes place with the singing of the Nunc Dimittis.

Extract from the Sermon of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem – “Let us all run to meet Him, we who honour and venerate the mystery of the Lord with pious devotion. Let us all go to meet Him with eager minds. Let there be no one who does not share in this meeting, let no one refuse to carry a light. We add to this the bright shining of candles. In this way we show forth the divine splendor of the coming of Him who makes all things bright, in the abundance of whose eternal light all things are bathed in light….. That true light which enlightens every man coming into this world, has come. Brethren, let us all be enlightened, let us all be filled with light……”

Jan 22, 2011

Ministries in the Church

Certain ministries were established by the Church even in the most ancient times for the purpose of suitably giving worship to God and for offering service to the people of God according to their needs. The conferring of these functions often took place by a special rite, in which, after God's blessing had been implored, a Christian was established in a special class or rank for the fulfillment of some ecclesiastical function. Some of these functions, which were more closely connected with the liturgical celebration, slowly came to be considered as a training in preparation for the reception of sacred orders. Before Vatican II, there were four Minor Orders:  lector,  exorcist,  acolyte and porter. There was also subdiaconate.  These were required before one could receive the Sacrament of Orders as a deacon or priest.   Vatican II called for the revision of sacraments and liturgy. What up to now were called minor orders are now called Ministries.

Two ministries, adapted to present-day needs, are preserved in the whole Latin Church. They are that of Lector and Acolyte.

Lector/Reader: The reader is appointed for a function proper to him, that of reading the word of God in the liturgical assembly. Accordingly, he is to proclaim the readings from sacred Scripture, except for the gospel in the Mass and other sacred celebrations; he is to recite the psalm between the readings when there is no psalmist; he is to present the intentions for the general intercessions in the absence of a deacon or cantor; he is to direct the singing and the participation by the faithful; he is to instruct the faithful for the worthy reception of the sacraments. He may also, insofar as may be necessary, take care of preparing other faithful who are appointed on a temporary basis to read the Scriptures in liturgical celebrations. That he may more fittingly and perfectly fulfill these functions, he is to meditate assiduously on sacred Scripture. Aware of the office he has undertaken, the reader is to make every effort and employ suitable means to acquire that increasingly warm and living love and knowledge of Scripture that will make him a more perfect disciple of the Lord.

Acolyte: The acolyte is appointed in order to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest. It is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass; he is also to distribute communion as a special minister when the ministers spoken of in the Codex Iuris Canonicican. 845 are not available or are prevented by ill health, age, or another pastoral ministry from performing this function, or when the number of communicants is so great that the celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. In the same extraordinary circumstances an acolyte may be entrusted with publicly exposing the blessed sacrament for adoration by the faithful and afterward replacing it, but not with blessing the people. He may also, to the extent needed, take care of instructing other faithful who on a temporary basis are appointed to assist the priest or deacon in liturgical celebrations by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc., or by performing other such duties. He will perform these functions more worthily if he participates in the holy eucharist with increasingly fervent devotion, receives nourishment from it, and deepens his knowledge about it. As one set aside in a special way for the service of the altar, the acolyte should learn all matters concerning public divine worship and strive to grasp their inner spiritual meaning: in that way he will be able each day to offer himself entirely to God, be an example to all by his gravity and reverence in church, and have a sincere love for the Mystical Body of Christ, the people of God, especially for the weak and the sick.

The ministries are conferred by the Ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes, the Major Superior) through the liturgical rite De institutione lectoris and De institutione acolythi as revised by the Apostolic See. Candidates for ordination as deacons and priests are to receive the ministries of reader and acolyte and are to exercise them for a suitable time, in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and of the altar.

(Extracts taken from MINISTERIA QUAEDAM)

Jan 13, 2011

A Good SCC Animator !

Mr. John Sangle is an auto-rickshaw driver and after the day's hectic work he comes and picks me up in his auto. We go through the narrow slums to a house and the Catholic family welcomes us. Mr. John leaves the house and goes on his 'Reminder Ministry' to all the neighboring Christian houses reminding them that its time for SCC Meeting (Small Christian Community). Some people tell me that this morning he had reminded them and now he has gone again to give the second reminder. For the past few years Mr. John is the SCC Animator for the Ganesh Nagar Zone of Sacred Heart Church, Pune. Soon children, youngsters and adults start trickling in.

In a small room the people are seated on the ground mats while around 13 children sit right in front facing the small family altar. We begin with the Rosary which happens to be multi-lingual. After each decade a hymn is sung and at the end the Litany of Our Lady is prayed. The gathering sings loudly in Marathi and all take turns to say the decades of the Rosary. The children are attentive and don't seem to be bothered with the 45 minutes of prayer going on. After the Litany the Scripture is read and I give a short reflection in Marathi. The prayer meeting ends with a concluding prayer and a Marian Hymn. Mr. John thanks me and as he leaves me back in his auto he explains to me about the Pastoral Plan he is going to prepare.

I go for the meetings on alternate Thursdays but Mr. John continues with his SCC animation every Thursday and I can feel the serenity and peace of Christ within myself and those present for the meetings.

Jan 11, 2011

Hunted Down Unknowingly !

The way Eskimos kill wolves is ingenious. They will coat the blade of a sharp hunting knife with blood. The blood will freeze on the blade. Then the blade will be coated again, frozen, and repeated till the blade is completely hidden by the frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up.

When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. The lust for more blood drives the animal to lick faster and faster, never realizing he is now licking his own blood. In the end, the wolf bleeds to death on the snow and the Eskimo has his prey.

It could happen that we may uncritically go after certain false but attractive systems, theories, philosophies which may turn out to be a lethal weapon of self-destruction without our realization.

Jan 9, 2011

Oldest Surviving Gospel Fragment

This fragment is generally accepted as the oldest surviving fragment of the New Testament found in Egypt.

John 18:31-33

the Jews, "For us it is not permitted to kill
anyone," so that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he
spoke signifying what kind of death he was going to
to die. Entered therefore again into the Praeto-
rium Pilate and summoned Jesus
and he said to him, "Thou art king of the


On the reverse side: John 18:37-38

a King I am. For this I have been born
and (for this) I have come into the world so that I would
testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears of me my voice." Said to him
Pilate, "What is truth?" and this
having said, again he went out unto the Jews
and said to them, "I find not one
fault in him."

What does the symbol of Fish signify?

The fish was an early symbol for Christianity, since the Greek word for fish, ichthus, is an acronym (the first
letter of each word) for the Greek phrase "Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter" which means

Ἰησοῦς - Iesous - Jesus
Χριστὸς - Christos - Christ
Θεοῦ - Theou - God
Υἱός - Huios - Son
Σωτήρ - Soter - Savior

Complete Meaning is : "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" 

Jan 8, 2011

What is κοινωνία ?

Koinonia is a Greek word that occurs 20 times in the Bible. Koinonia’s primary meaning is “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Christian fellowship is a key aspect of the Christian life. Believers in Christ are to come together in love, faith, and encouragement. That is the essence of koinonia.

Philippians 2:1-2 declares, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Koinonia is being in agreement with one another, being united in purpose, and serving alongside each other. Our koinonia with each other is based on our common koinonia with Jesus Christ. First John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

A powerful example of what koinonia should look like can be found in a study of the phrase “one another” in the Bible. Scripture commands us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12). That is what true biblical koinonia should look like.