31 January, 2014

CATHOLICISM Faith Formation Part II

Fr. Barron comments on the Sacrament of Confirmation

A mission for confirmation

Let’s Help a Colleague: Project Based Learning for Confirmation Prep
May 30, 2013
 I received the following email from Tom, telling me about his idea of doing a “project-based” approach to Confirmation preparation. Here’s how he describes it:

Hi Joe,
It was great to meet you in Winnipeg last month; your visit got me thinking about our parish’s catechetical confirmation prep. The candidates are in Gr. 9 (or as you folks say, ninth grade). I’m looking at implementing project based learning at the core of the process. Working in groups, the candidates would do things like preach at closing prayer, coordinate closing prayer, lead a catechesis session for the other candidates, plan a social event for the youth of the parish, fund-raise for a charity, or come up with a project of their own. In each case, they would have to seek out “experts” from our parish to answer their questions as they teach themselves how to do these Christian practices. Maybe this is a lot to ask of 14-year olds, but I’m less concerned with the finished product than I am with the process of figuring out how to do church together. Their projects could all fail, but they could end up learning more from their failures than sitting through lessons about systematic theology and church history. My question for you is, who would have experience with this kind of approach? What models or resources are out there for this kind of independent learning?
Here is my response:
Hi Tom and thanks for your email. I had a wonderful time in Winnipeg and enjoyed meeting so many good folks.
I love your idea for a project based approach to confirmation. I personally don’t know anyone who is doing this right now. I wonder if I might put it out on my blog to see if someone can respond to your needs and give you some insights on their experience? Let me know.
It also occurs to me that you might want to explore what the Mormons do since I understand that they are very mission-based. In fact, I would recommend that you use that word – mission – as approached to project. We don’t do projects…we engage in mission. Also, you might want to think of arranging it in such a way that the research part of it takes place before Confirmation and the project takes place after so that it does not appear to be the completion of a requirement to receive the sacrament but an apprenticeship into our way of life. Just a thought.
Again, let me know if you want me to share your email with the readers of my blog.
Peace and blessings,  joe
Tom indeed indicated that he would like me to share his email and he invites your responses. Let’s help out a colleague! Share your comments in the “Leave a Reply” space below.
Dear Tom,
You are right on target regarding the necessity of helping teens to connect the knowledge with mission. This is what our Confirmation process can be! Service speaks to teens and they are so aware of justice, have hearts to serve and want to know how to really “see” Jesus.
Here are a few ideas and, yes, I have tried some or implemented some of these aspects at various times in Confirmation preparation:
1. First sit down with your pastor and/or DRE and explain your desire for Confirmation preparation. After all, this is your vision and it needs to be spoken, fleshed out, and planned.
2. When you have his permission, though he may not really understand what you want to do, go to the various ministries in the parish and begin to “partner” with the members. Either assign a teen to an adult or ask if an adult would oversee a group of teens. By partnering as lectors, ushers, in the music ministry, outreach, at parish events, they will see the big picture of parish.
3. Prepare a sign up list with times, dates, etc. for teens to commit to. Have an idea of a minimum of hours/days that they are to do.
4. Be sure to have Scripture verses that speak of our corporal and spiritual works of mercy for the teens to reflect on so they know this is not just a vision of yours but is rooted in our call to discipleship.
5. Journaling needs to be part of the experience as well as small group sharing. Plan a schedule of meeting times for them after a mission/service project so they can share where they saw Jesus, what they noticed, what was challenging, what really “spoke” to them.
6. Periodically have them voluntarily share their journal entries so they can put words to the experiences and witness to others.
7. Invite those who assisted you, the members of the various ministries, to share once a month why they chose or were called to a parish ministry. Try to seek out young adults who are also involved in parish life.
Those are some basic elements. This partnering can help us have assurance that ministries will continue and not die out because the members are the “gray hairs” of our parish. Just going through the steps of lector or usher or being on a committee helps a teen see the commitment and treasure of participating in a mission.
Hope this was helpful.
Tom and Joe,
Thank you for sharing this great idea and conversation.
At the parish where I was the catechetical leader for many years, we invited the candidates for Confirmation to participate in stewardship experiences in three ways: stewardship at home, in the community, and in the parish. The candidates, and often their parents and family, determined the ways they would be stewards of their talents, time and service and completed a guided reflection sheet for each stewardship experience. The reflections were signed by Confirmand and parents and were given to their preparation small group leader. The candidates also shared their experiences within their small groups.
Tom, your idea of mission experiences or projects reminded me of our stewardship experiences, I thought it worth sharing. I found the candidates and their parents understood that the preparation was a time to establish a way of life as a disciple and steward. As one parent said to me, “we know you are not asking the youth to do anything that we don’t hope everyone will do.”

Currency Notes withdrawal


JESA Dispatch 201 sheds light on the recent circular of the Reserve Bank of India regarding withdrawal of all series of Banknotes (currency notes) issued prior to 2005. We disseminate this information in public interest.



JESA Dispatch 201: Withdrawal of All Series of Indian Currency Notes Issued Prior to 2005

DCM(Plg) No.G-17/3231/10.27.00/2013-14
January 23, 2014
The Chairman / Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer
All Scheduled Commercial Banks
Primary(Urban) Co-operative Banks/RRBs
Dear Sir /Madam
Withdrawal of all old series of Banknotes issued prior to 2005
As you are aware, RBI has been following a policy of phasing out of certain series of banknotes from time to time. It has now been decided that all old series of banknotes issued prior to 2005 will be completely withdrawn from circulation.
2. Accordingly, the following plan of action has been formulated:
(i) All older series of banknotes issued prior to 2005 would be acceptable for all kinds of monetary transactions only till March 31, 2014.
(ii) Thereafter, the public will be required to approach bank branches which would provide them exchange facilities on an ongoing basis.
(iii) These notes will continue to be legal tender.
(iv) From July 01, 2014, to exchange more than 10 pieces of ` 500 and ` 1000 notes, bank branches should obtain from non-customers, proof of their identity and residence.
(v) A public notification informing public of the exercise and soliciting their co-operation and enabling them to identify the older series is issued separately. A copy of the same is enclosed for ready reference.
3. Please issue suitable instructions to all your branches, to provide exchange facilities to members of public and to stop re-issue of the older series banknotes issued prior to 2005. Notes of such series tendered over the counters may be sorted immediately and deposited in the currency chests under the Linkage Scheme or forwarded to the nearest Issue Office of Reserve Bank of India for disposal.
4. Please also advise your branches to extend all cooperation to the members of public so that the withdrawal is carried out in a smooth and non-disruptive manner, without any inconvenience to the public.
Please acknowledge receipt.
Yours faithfully
(Dr. Sanjeev Sharma)
General Manager in-Charge
The Reserve Bank has decided to withdraw all currency notes issued prior to 2005, including Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, to curb black money and fake currencies.
Notes issued before 2005 does not carry year of printing while the valid notes will have the year printed on the reverse side.
"After March 31, 2014, it (RBI) will completely withdraw from circulation all bank notes issued prior to 2005. From April 1, 2014, the public will be required to approach banks for exchanging these notes," the RBI said in a statement.
The public can easily distinguish the currency notes issued before 2005 as they do not have the year of printing on reverse side.
The year of printing in a small font is visible at the middle of the bottom row in notes issued after 2005 (see the image above).

30 January, 2014

Noticing the Spirit

Noticing the Spirit that is always active in our world

Christine Schenk  |  Jan. 23, 2014 Simply Spirit
Christine Schenck is A Sister of St. Joseph, who has  served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years.]

I pondered the title for this column for quite a while. When NCR asked me to write regularly for them, I knew I wanted to somehow chronicle the ubiquitous presence of the Spirit of Jesus in our world. But how to capture that without being too hokey? Perhaps a way to begin is to share some of my own story.
Many NCR readers know me best as the founding director (now emerita) of FutureChurch. You may know of that organization's commitment to opening ordination, preserving parishes and access to the Eucharist, lay empowerment, and retrieving the memory of women leaders, such as St. Mary of Magdala, in the early church.
What you may not know is that the fruitfulness of these initiatives is linked to the faithfulness of the Spirit of God to me personally and to the FutureChurch mission. I'm guessing most Catholic activist organizations, whether working for church reform or implementing Catholic social teaching, would say the same.
I often thought I must be insane to believe this fledgling FutureChurch group could make any real difference. Founded in 1990, our early years were really challenging in the wake of Pope John Paul II's traumatizing ban on discussing women's ordination and his thinly disguised disdain for optional celibacy. Many times I was so discouraged, I wanted to quit. Invariably, something would happen. A supporter would call to thank me for what often felt like a thankless ministry. A psalm at Mass would console and reassure with unusual clarity. A respected colleague's off-hand comment would turn my perspective toward the positive. One Advent, when cash flow was tight and I hadn't taken a paycheck for nearly a month, I received an email documenting a gift of $10,000 from a person we had never heard of. At first I thought it was a scam. But no, it was real. He said he liked that we were trying to dialogue with U.S. bishops. (They didn't want to talk to us, of course, but we stuck with it anyway.)
This sort of thing happened so many times that I would have been a real dummy not to get the message: I must rely on the Spirit more and on myself less. In subsequent years when discouragement loomed, these improbable past blessings always came to mind. I remembered anew that this mission belongs to God and not to me. It was time to trust. I must learn to trust the Spirit's faithfulness if church renewal and reform were ever to succeed. I couldn't give up on the institutional church yet because the Holy Spirit hadn't -- and never would.
I have always loved the Spirit. As a young child, this was the first image of God to which I felt a real connection. The images of God-the-father and God-the-son seemed so settled and so definite. Both were male: one Yahweh-thunderbolt creator; one sympathetic, crucified savior. Aside from being hard for a young girl to identify with, they were sort of scary. And then there's the Spirit. Not defined. Not exclusively male. My girl-child self was already enthralled with the natural world's spectacularly immanent beauty. The Holy Spirit is the God-name I recognized as that mysterious loving Presence I had already sensed through nature. God-not-in-a-box who is tenderly near. I loved the Holy Spirit best before I ever knew of Father or Son. Today, my understanding is more nuanced. As I trudge along my pilgrim journey, I find I need each person of the Trinity in different ways at different times. But there is something special about the Spirit.
Look at the witness of the early church. The disciples are always saying things like, "then the Spirit told us to go here, so we went" and "the Spirit told him not to go there, so he stayed away." See this passage in the book of Acts: "[Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16: 6-7).
Did you ever wonder how Paul and Timothy knew it was the Spirit talking to them? Maybe they acted on a subtle but definite inner prompting and only in retrospect did they realize it was the Jesus-Spirit. Alternatively, as my Quaker friends would say, the "way would open." Or not. And that's often how the Spirit guides us still.
I love that the Spirit seems so very practical and yet so powerful.
How about this passage preceding Peter's church-changing encounter with Cornelius: "While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them' " (Acts 10: 19-20). After that, we read of Peter's conversion, welcoming Gentiles without first requiring circumcision: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ... Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10: 34-35; 47).
This same practical and powerful Spirit is active everywhere in our world today. But we seldom notice. This column is dedicated to noticing. I want to notice places and people rich in Spirit and places and people in need of Spirit.
I have titled my column "Simply Spirit" because, as the Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein wrote in his "Mass," "God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all." There is a simplicity about God-in-the-person-of-the-Spirit that is both disarming and attractive.
This is how the Spirit does things. In whatever situation we find ourselves, the Spirit is as committed to our own growth into the God-Mystery as to the success of the mission we have been given. In fact, as nearly as I can tell, they are two sides of the same coin.
How amazing. How loving. How simply Spirit.

I i

Presentation of the Lord Jesus

Presentation of the Lord (A)  02-02-14

Luke 2, 22-40

A simple faith

José Antonio Pagola

The story of the birth of Jesus is confusing. According to Luke, Jesus is born in a village in which there is no place to welcome him. The shepherds have had to look for him throughout Bethlehem till they found him in a secluded place, lying in a manger, with no witnesses except his parents.

   It seems Luke needed to get together another story in which the child would be rescued from anonymity to be  presented publicly. What better place than the Temple of Jerusalem to have Jesus solemnly received as the Messiah sent by God to his people?

   But, once again, the story of Luke is going to be confusing. When the parents go up to the Temple with the child, neither the high priests nor the other religious leaders come out to meet him. Within a few years they  will be the ones to hand him over to be crucified. Jesus is not welcomed by that religion sure of itself and unconcerned about the suffering of the poor.

   Neither do the teachers of the Law  come out to receive him. They teach their “human traditions” in the porches of that temple. Years later, they will reject Jesus for healing the sick, even breaking the law of the Sabbath. Jesus does not find a welcome in doctrines and religious traditions that do not promote a more dignified and healthy life.

   Those who receive Jesus and recognize him as sent by God are two old people of simple faith and open hearts who have lived their long lives hoping for the salvation of God. Their names seem to suggest they are symbolic personalities. The old man is called Simeon (“The Lord has heard”), the old woman is Ana (“Gift”). They stand for so many people of simple faith who in every nation of all times live with their trust placed in God.

   Both of them belong to the most healthy environment of Israel. They are known as “the Group of the Poor of Yahweh”.      They are people who have nothing except their faith in God. They do not think of their plight or their well-being. They only hope from God for the “consolation” their people need, the “liberation” they keep seeking generation after generation, the “light” that will illumine the darkness in which the nations of the earth live. Now they feel their hopes are fulfilled in Jesus.

   This simple faith that expects definitive salvation  from God is the faith of the majority of people. A poorly educated faith, almost always found in clumsy, distracted prayers, drawn up in expressions hardly orthodox , a faith that arises mostly in difficult times of stress. A faith God does not find at all difficult to understand and welcome.

28 January, 2014

4th Sunday 2014 from Jude


Dear friend,

People of all faiths observe rituals and religious practices according to the traditions handed down and observed in families. Some go on pilgrimages, visit temples, mosques and Churches, spend time in prayers and make religious offerings. In themselves, the rituals may be empty but they can be enriched by our faith and devotion. Jesus himself as an infant, was taken to the temple, we too need to be consecrated and blessed by God.Have a blessed weekend, renewing your commitment - your self-giving, to God! Fr. Jude

Sunday Reflections: Fourth Sunday - Presentation of the Lord "Consecrated and set apart for the Lord's service!" 2-Feb-2014

The first reading from the prophet Malachi reminds the people that the Lord has sent his messenger to prepare the way of the Lord. That the Lord will come is certain, his messenger is at hand, but are we ready to heed his word? In order to receive the Lord we have to be purified and cleansed. We cannot offer ourselves to the Lord without being made pure and holy. His coming will cleanse us and make us worthy and pleasing to the Lord.

The healing in giving
He stood on the steel bridge, fifty feet above the swirling river. He lit his last cigarette -before making his escape. There was no other way out. He had tried everything: orgies of sensuality, travel and excitement, drink and drugs. And now the last failure: marriage. No woman could stand him after a few months. He demanded too much and gave nothing. He was too much a brute to be treated like a man. The river was the best place for him. A shabby man passed by, saw him standing in the shadow and said, "Got a dime for a cup of coffee, mister?" The other smiled in the darkness. A dime! What difference would a dime make? "Sure, I've got a dime, buddy. I've got more than a dime" He took out a wallet. "Here, take it all." There was about $100 in the wallet, he took it out and thrust it towards the tramp. "What's the idea?" asked the tramp. "It's all right. I won't need it where I'm going." He glanced down towards the river.  The tramp took the bills, and stood holding them uncertainly for a moment. Then he said, "No, you don't mister. I may be a beggar, but I'm no coward; and I won't take money from one either. Take your filthy money with you -into the river." He threw the bills over the rail and they fluttered and scattered as they drifted slowly down towards the dark river. "So long, coward." And he walked off. The 'coward' gasped. Suddenly he wanted the tramp to have the money he had thrown away. He wanted to give -and couldn't. To give! That was it! To give! He had never tried that before. To give and be happy. He took one last look at the river and turned from it and followed the tramp.
Christopher Notes

In today's gospel we are told of the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification rite that followed his birth. On the eight day after his birth, Jesus was circumcised, a rite that marked in his flesh that he belonged to the covenant community that originated with God's promise to Abraham. At that time, too, Jesus formally received the name given him by the angel Gabriel. Jewish ritual demanded two other gestures of devotion: the 'buying back' from God of the first-born and the purification of the mother. God asked families in subsequent generations to recall the Exodus by consecration to him their first-born child. Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God. Mary, the sinless one, did not need to be purified yet she offered herself and her symbolic offering, of the poor, two turtle doves, to the Lord. The presentation of Jesus, the ritual purification offering of Mary, Simeon and Anna's ritual practice of devotion, were all blessed by God. This reality and today's gospel hint that Catholic ritual devotions serve to dispose those who practice them for encounters with the divine. Though not an end in themselves, these rituals can serve as a means of getting to know the Lord better in our lives.

Keeping it pure!
At my mountain cabin in western North Carolina, there is a refreshing spring of clean cool water. The oldest resident in the community says he never knew it to dry up in summer or to freeze over in the winter. The water is pure and good, and the flow is constant at all times of the year. But the spring could become contaminated. This would happen if I let the dense growth above it be removed, or turned surface water into it, or built a stable and kept cattle just above it. No longer would its water be pure and good. No longer would it be desirable. But I would never allow these things to happen to my spring. I keep an eye on it for out of it flows water not only to my cabin but also to the cabins of my neighbours. Friends come to see me and drink of the water from the spring, and an occasional hiker stops to slake his thirst. For my sake and theirs, my spring must be kept pure. The same with my heart!
E. L. Clegg in 'Together'

Film -Terminator 2: Judgement Day
In the closing scene, the Terminator (who in the previous film was the arch-enemy - links to Lucifer!), is lowered into a vat of molten metal, because this is the only way to destroy his otherwise indestructible micro-chip and the power of destruction that it contains. The destruction must be accomplished by his friends, as he is unable to "self-destruct" - powerful connotations for considering the Judas story. The knowledge of what it means to be human and to feel grief is also highlighted. The final image of his destruction is at hand (God to man? Crucifixion?) reaching up (also links back to the last image in the first film, where the hand which kept coming alive represented the power of evil.) The whole film has strong themes of salvation and the cost of salvation - for instance, is it justifiable to destroy a family in order to save the world? - All of us have an unique identity and mission in life, we can be the source of much good or evil. Rather than self-destruct, can we work towards multiplying goodness and blessing?
David Hogg - 'Website-Text this Week'

What God needs
A girl belonging to a rich family was found visiting places. She had little time for her mother who was ill. The girl was in Kashmir when, suddenly she remembered that her mother's birthday was near. She bought her a beautiful shawl, of a rare material, and sent it to her mother. The mother received the costly packet on her birthday but did not care to look at the shawl. There were tears in her eyes as she wrote to her daughter: "My child what shall I do with the shawl? I want you, YOU, YOU! - God speaks the same words to us. "What shall I do with your rituals and ceremonies, your gifts of silver and gold? I want YOU!" which means I want your heart - a heart contrite and lowly, humble and holy.
J.P. Vaswani in '101 Stories for you and me'

May we dedicate our lives to being instruments of God's love and peace!

Fr. Jude Botelho

PS. The stories, incidents and anecdotes used in the reflections have been collected over the years from books as well as from sources over the net and from e-mails received. Every effort is made to acknowledge authors whenever possible. If you send in stories or illustrations I would be grateful if you could quote the source as well so that they can be acknowledged if used in these reflections.
These reflections are also available on my Web site
www.NetForLife.net Thank you.

20 January, 2014

3rd Sun 2014 - Loyola Press A Jesuit Ministry

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
January 26, 2014

This Sunday's Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 8:23-9:3
The people in darkness have seen a great light.
Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
The Lord is our refuge, our light, our salvation.
Second Reading
1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Paul urges the community at Corinth to be united as people baptized in Christ's name.
Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today's Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (called the Synoptic Gospels), Jesus' public ministry begins after his baptism by John the Baptist and after his retreat to the desert where he was tempted by the devil. When Jesus returns from the desert, he hears that John has been arrested.
The first part of today's Gospel places Jesus' ministry in the context of the writings of the prophet, Isaiah. Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies given to the people of Israel, and he refers to Isaiah to do so. Isaiah says that the Messiah will begin his ministry in Galilee, the land of the Gentiles. When Jesus begins to preach in Galilee, Matthew points to his ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, proof that Jesus is the Messiah.
When Jesus called his first disciples, the Gospel tells us that the fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John) dropped everything to follow Jesus immediately. Yet this Gospel tells us little about the prior experience that the fishermen had of Jesus. Did they know him? Had they heard him preach? What kind of person must Jesus have been to invoke such a response? We can imagine that Jesus was a powerful presence to elicit a response as immediate and complete as these first disciples gave.
The Gospel concludes with a description of the ministry that Jesus begins in Galilee. Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his work. He teaches in the synagogue and preaches the kingdom. His ability to cure people's diseases and illness is a sign of the kingdom. In Jesus' ministry, we already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

3rd Sunday of the year 2014 from Fr Jude

Dear friend,
Normally, we wait for the light and long for light when the light fails. In the light we can see where we are going and can comfortably carry on our work, that can get disrupted when the lights go off. But if the darkness continues for a while we can get used to the darkness and may even prefer to live in darkness. Faith is an enlightened journey! God is light and he enlightens and dispels darkness. God invites us to live enlightened lives bringing light in darkened lives!Have a great weekend enlightened by God's call! Fr. Jude
Sunday Reflections: Third Sunday of the Year "Repent for the kingdom is at hand! Follow after Me!" 26-Jan-2014
Isaiah 9: 1-4          Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17          Matthew 4: 12-23
The prophet Isaiah was living in Jerusalem more than seven hundred years before Christ and during his time the Assyrians raided northern Palestine and destroyed everything. The prophet saw this misfortune as a thick cloud, as a darkness that had enveloped the entire land. All of a sudden the prophet saw a brilliant light in these regions and prophesied the coming of a great light, the Messiah, who by his birth and preaching brought salvation to humankind. This would be the mission of the Messiah, and also the mission of all those who followed him. Have we seen the light in the darkness? Have we heard his call?
Lead kindly light...
A young man who later became a Cardinal was returning by sea from Italy to his native England. While the boat was detained in Sicily, young Newman fell ill and nearly died. During his convalescence, he wrote these words: "Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom," because he believed that the prophecy of Isaiah had come true: "The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light." We too have our moments of darkness. The death of a lifelong spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success or the loss of good health can throw us into temporary darkness. But in these tragic moments true believers have in the past seen the light of Christ, a light that illumines the shadows of our hearts with the radiance of his splendour, guiding us to travel safely over the tempestuous sea of life.
Vima Dasan in 'His Word Lives'
In today's gospel Matthew begins the mission of Jesus Christ by using the passage from Isaiah, which forms today's first reading, to show that Jesus was the one that brought light and deliverance to Galilee. Jesus took over the preaching of John the Baptist after he had been arrested and preached the call to repentance, because the Kingdom of God was close at hand.  Jesus showed by his preaching and by his deeds that he brought healing, pardon and freedom to those who were in bondage. He revealed signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God being close at hand. The call to repentance is not so much about doing penance but turning towards God, turning towards the light of Christ, so that we might see his goodness and experience his mercy. Normally light is something that we welcome, but sometimes we are afraid of what the light might reveal. The latter part of today's gospel speaks of Jesus calling disciples to follow him. He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting nets for a catch and he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And they left their nets at once and followed him. Later he saw another pair of brothers, James and John sons of Zebedee who were in their boat with their father and he called them and leaving their boat they followed him. Jesus has not stopped calling people to be his disciples. He has called us to be his followers and every day there is a new call within the calling to be Christian. We are called to be the light and to spread the light of Christ by our lives. Jesus went about preaching and healing people and we are called to do the same. We will accomplish this mission in the measure that we let the light of Christ shine brightly in our lives. Be Light bearers!
Their faces said it all
A historian tells us that many, many years ago, a group of prospectors set out from Bannock, Montana, in search of gold. For days together they had to endure many hardships and cope with severe weather changes, so that some of them unable to cope actually perished. Undeterred, the rest persisted until one day they ran into a gang of ruthless Indians, who seized their horses and belongings and left them with a few limping ponies. Releasing them, the Red Indians warned them never to return for, the next time, their lives would be at risk. The crestfallen group began their return journey very disappointed. At night they decided to stop by a stream and camp. One of the men entered the stream and noticed something unusual about one stone. So he lifted it up and cracked it open and realized that they had struck gold right there. And so his companions joined and they made a reasonable haul. The next day they discovered even more and were absolutely ecstatic. The following day they returned to Bannock, in order to bring all the equipment and horses necessary to collect their treasure. And they vowed that they would not tell anyone of their extraordinary discovery. When they decided to set out they found themselves surrounded by 300 equally excited gold prospectors. Somebody seemed to have spilled the beans! The fact of the matter is that no one had let out their secret. But the others saw their ecstatic joy on their faces and sensed there certainly was a very good reason. So they decided to join, fully assured that soon they too would be as jubilantly happy as the others. Their beaming faces had literally betrayed their secret! - Do our faces reveal that we have found the greatest treasure -Jesus Christ?
James Valladares in 'Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life'
Ready to follow, no matter what the cost?
Have you heard the story of Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru? The Spaniards came to know that the rivers of Peru were flowing with gold and people could just pick up gold from these rivers. Pizarro got together a band of men who were fond of adventure and eager to get gold. They crossed the Atlantic and crossed the Isthmus of Panama. The travel was not easy and they had troubled times. On the sea there were storms and over land poisonous snakes and wild animals. There was no food and the band of men had to face many difficulties and therefore decided to return to Spain. Pizarro drew out his sword and drew a line on the sand with his sword that separated north and south. Then he said to his band of soldiers, "Comrades, on the south of this line there lies famine, perils, nakedness, trials and death, while on the north there lies pleasure, ease, and comfort. As for me I go south and he stepped over the line on the south." Seven men followed him not for love of the gold but because they loved him and trusted him and wanted to sacrifice everything. That is why we remember them as the seven immortals of Peru.
Elias Dias in 'Divine Stories for Families'
The Light she lit is still burning.
Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He hadn't had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying, "Leave it alone. It's all right as it is." But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful oil lamp but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, "How come you never light the lamp?" "Why should I light it?" he replied. "No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody." "Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?" "Yes," he replied. "If I hear a human voice I'll light the lamp." Two of Mother Teresa's nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, "Sisters, I'll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first Sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning."
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy day Liturgies'
May we be led by his light and his love to follow Him!!
Fr. Jude Botelho
PS. The stories, incidents and anecdotes used in the reflections have been collected over the years from books as well as from sources over the net and from e-mails received. Every effort is made to acknowledge authors whenever possible. If you send in stories or illustrations I would be grateful if you could quote the source as well so that they can be acknowledged if used in these reflections.
These reflections are also available on my Web sitewww.NetForLife.net Thank you.

18 January, 2014

The Gospel - John 1:29-34 (2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

2nd Sun after Christmas 2014

Second Sunday after Christmas

19 January 2014

José Antonio Pagola

Recovering the freshness of the Gospel

In the prologue of the Gospel of John, the writer makes two basic statements that oblige us to revise radically the way we live the Christian faith after twenty centuries of  losing our way not a few times, reductionism and giving importance to things hardly faithful to the Gospel of Jesus.

This is the first statement: “The Word of God became flesh.” God has not remained silent, imprisoned forever  in his mystery. He has  spoken to us. But he has not revealed himself to us through concepts and doctrines. His Word has been incarnated in the sublime life of Jesus so that even the most simple people can understand and welcome him.

The second statement runs thus: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”  We theologians speak much about God, but none of us has seen him. Religious leaders and preachers speak much about him with confidence, but none of us has seen his face. Only Jesus, the only Son of the Father, has told us what God is like, how much he loves us, and how he wants to build a more humane world for all.

These two statements are in the background of the renewal program of Pope Francis. So he working for a Church rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, without being entangled in doctrines and customs not directly connected  with the core of the Gospel.” If we do not  take this course of action, “it will not be the Gospel we proclaim, but some doctrinal or moral points we make that flow from particular ideological positions.

The attitude of the Pope is clear. Only in Jesus has the compassion of God been revealed to us.   So we have to return to the transforming power of the first proclamation of the Gospel, without eclipsing the Good News of Jesus and “without getting obsessed with a number of doctrines we try to impose by dint of insistence.

The Pope is thinking of a Church in which the Gospel can recover its power to attract people, without being confused with other ways of understanding and living the Christian faith today. So he calls us “to recover the original freshness of the Gospel” as the most beautiful, the greatest, the most attractive and, at the same time, the most “necessary”, without locking Jesus up in our boring outlines.

We cannot allow ourselves at this time to live the faith without promoting conversion to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel  in our communities for which the Pope himself is asking all of us to  put into practice with courage and generosity his orientations without fear or standing in the way.

Recover the original freshness of the Gospel

2nd Sun Ordinary time. 2014


The Miliband brothers, David Miliband and Ed Miliband of England, were front ranking leaders of the Labour Party. Both were recognized as young leaders of the future – dynamic, charming and with experience in administration. David being the elder was widely expected to take over the leadership of the party. But in the party election held in 2010, Ed upstaged his elder brother and bagged the leadership. And how did David react to the shock choice? He just quit. Not only politics, but his country altogether and moved to America where he will be separated from his brother by the Atlantic Ocean!

Most of us may have grown up through the experience of sibling rivalry in the early days of our life? Haven’t I felt bad when my elder brother tried to show that he was smarter, by clicking his fingers and whistling with lips? – Things that I could not yet do. For the elders who watch their children in sibling rivalry, it can be fun. But some children end up as life-long victims of hurts of shame and inferiority resulting from it. Even as young adults, don’t we compare ourselves with our siblings and become painfully aware that I am not as intelligent as her?, I am not as efficient as her?, I am not as popular as her?

Sibling rivalry is not a phenomenon unique to our times. In fact, it is as old as human race itself. Bible abounds in stories of strife, cheating and all-consuming jealousy among siblings in the family. The story of Esau and Jacob born to Isaac and Rebecca is a classic example. Here the rivalry begins even before they are born. The womb of the mother becomes literally a battleground for the yet to be born twins. Jacob cannot reconcile to the fact that he is not going to be the firstborn. First he tries to block Esau from being born first. With no success in that, thereafter he tries every trick to deprive his brother of his natural rights of the firstborn. The Book of Genesis is home to beautiful narratives of the plots of deception that Jacob plans against his brother. Subsequently, we also get to see how the deceptions he plotted against his brother come back to haunt him later in his life.

John the Baptist and Jesus are cousins. Not only by blood, but also bond. See, it was the thought of lending a helping hand to Elizabeth that engages Mary when the former was pregnant with John. When they met, how the cousin babes in the womb bonded!

Both are born and are named John and Jesus. John is the elder, born a few months before his cousin. They grow up together. More than the family bond, the vision of life binds them together. Certainly, it is the elder cousin who is more radical in following a religious life-style. Jesus is more of a commoner. By his radical bend, John scores over his cousin. Was it not Jesus who testified that “John the Baptist is greater than any man who has ever lived?” (Mt 11:11).

For John the Baptist then, things were not clear like black and white as perhaps they are for us today. True, a sense of being chosen guided him. And his commitment to his call was total. But what sort of a mission God had intended for his younger cousin was something he did not even vaguely know. When Jesus walked up to him for baptism, John saw signs indicative of God’s special designs for his cousin. But doubts were far from cleared from John’s mind. Even just days and weeks away from his death, John is desperately sending his disciples to Jesus as if the last thing he wanted to do before his death was to know for sure who his cousin indeed was: “Are you the one who is going to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt 11:3).

Over the time both John the Baptist and Jesus grew up to be Masters. Both had their own band of ardent followers. Both preached the coming of the Kingdom. Apart from these, there was nothing in common between the two. They were worlds apart in lifestyles. Jesus with his wonder working skills was certainly more popular. But for John’s disciples, Jesus’ credibility was suspect. To them, he even seemed fake. Unlike their master, Jesus did not fast and was seen by some as a glutton. So naturally they take objection to Jesus baptizing people.

John was human and all too human. The more he observed Jesus, the more he was confused. And worse, his own band of supporters daily brought him some stories aimed at driving a wedge between him and his cousin Jesus. In turn, John did not turn to himself to count own merits. The light can come not from within, nor from around, but from above. He resolves to live by the sign from above he witnessed as he baptized Jesus; the dove descending on Jesus. ‘We may be from the same family; I may be the elder; people may speak of me more approvingly. Yet, he is the designated one. That is the heaven’s choice.’ Hence John chooses to be open to the truth and live by the truth. “Jesus ranks ahead of me,” says he as we heard in the Gospel today.

How many families do we see around us choosing self-destruction through division within themselves? Brother against brother; sister against sister; brother against sister. What is it that turns me against my brother? I feel that my brother was privileged when my father divided the property; I rebel at the thought that I have to bear the burden of caring for my sick parents; I can’t bear the shame when people compare me with my brother who is far ahead of me on every scale.

Let us learn from John the Baptist. Turning to me and comparing me with my brother would mean that I choose a life of counting what I miss in my life. That reduces me to simmering jealousy and hatred and self-contempt. Look to the heavens, says the Baptist. See the heaven’s choice - for me and for my brother. Embrace it with trust and gratitude. Then I will see springs of energy and joy welling up within me. That will set me on a path where I can count blessings after blessings.

Dr George Kulangara CMI