Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is Divine authority reflected by the prophets of the Old Testament in their messages, by the apostles (including St. Paul), in their writings and teaching in the New Testament, and by Jesus in his teaching and healing ministry.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading tells us that a true prophet speaks with authority because it is God Who speaks through him. After the Babylonian exile, the Jewish priests began to interpret the words of Moses given in the first reading, namely, "a prophet like me," as referring to one individual, the expected Messiah. This passage is chosen for today’s first reading because it refers to Jesus, the "preacher with authority," mentioned in today's Gospel. In the second reading, St. Paul exercises his God-given authority as the Apostle to the Gentiles to teach people in Corinth that marriage is a holy state ordained by God and that it is a life-long partnership according to the teaching of the Lord. In today’s Gospel, Mark describes one sample Sabbath day of Jesus’ public life. He joins in public worship in the synagogue as a practicing Jew, he heals the sick, he drives out evil spirits and he prays privately. People immediately noticed that Jesus spoke with authority and healed with Divine power. Jesus explained the Scriptures with complete confidence, and when questioned by people, he answered with authority. He used his real (authentic) authority to teach, empower, liberate, and heal others. The evil spirit mentioned in today’s Gospel recognized Jesus as the Messiah and acknowledged him as such. Jesus commanded the evil spirit harshly, using strong words and tones: "Be quiet! Come out of him!" This was another reason Jesus developed a reputation for speaking with authority.
Life Messages: 1) We need to approach Jesus for liberation: Jesus did not use his authority and Divine power to rule and control people. He came to make people free. Hence, let us approach Jesus with trusting faith so that he may free us from the evil spirits that keep us from praying and prevent us from loving others and sharing our blessings with others. Jesus also frees us from all the “evil spirits” of fear, jealousy, envy, addictions, compulsions, selfishness, anger, resentment and hostility. May he free us from all those spirits which make us deaf, dumb, blind, lame and paralyzed, physically and spiritually.
2) We need to use our God-given authority to build up lives. So many people with authority have made a lasting impression on our lives either for good or bad. Perhaps it was a grandparent, an uncle, or a parent, who loved us and cared for us. Perhaps it was a Sunday school teacher who encouraged us in our Faith and exerted a positive impact on our lives. Perhaps we remember the kindness as well as the firm discipline that a schoolteacher gave us. Teachers are powerful because they change and mould lives. Hence, let us all become good teachers like Jesus and use our authority to mould young lives in the right way.
O.T. IV (Feb 1) DEUT 18:15-20; I COR 7:32-35; MARK 1:21-28 (L/15)
Anecdote: # 1: Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit? Jesus' world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia, Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York's Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?
# 2: “Show him yer papers!” "There is an old story about some linemen who were busy putting up telephone poles through a farmer's fields. The farmer ordered them off his land, whereupon they showed him a paper giving them the right to plant poles wherever they pleased. Not long afterward a big and vicious bull charged the linemen. The old farmer sat on a nearby fence and yelled: 'Show him yer papers, darn ye, show him yer papers!'" To many Christians, Jesus' authority is only a paper authority. His word is something we study for inspiration, but we really don't believe that what Jesus teaches applies to our situation. For many of us, Jesus' authority doesn't extend to putting a marriage or a family back together. It doesn't mean curing an addiction or healing a character flaw. Maybe 2,000 years ago he had authority, but not today.
# 3: Athletes proclaiming the authority of God. Athletes with religious convictions are nothing new. In 1954, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded "to present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church." In a visit to the FCA's extensive Web Site, many familiar names pop up: Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Cris Carter, Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, University of Washington quarterback Brock Huard and Heisman-trophy-winner Charlie Ward. New Orleans Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel is an active member of the FCA and a contributing writer to the FCA's monthly publication, Sharing the Victory. Wuerffel has said: “I am a Christian who happens to be an athlete, and not vice-versa." Courtney Chase declares, "For Christian athletes religion is part of the game." “Muscular Christianity" has been around since baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday loudly refuted the idea that Jesus was a weakling, a man of sorrows, a loser. The football stadium at Notre Dame is situated next to a huge library mural known as "Touchdown Jesus." It was big national news when Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders Sunday gave God all glory for the victories of his after the Cowboys' 37-7 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Professional athletes are getting saved, and sports writers are getting annoyed! There can be no doubt that the number of athletes publicly testifying to their faith has drastically increased in the last few years. When the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, for example, The New York Times quoted the team's born-again star receiver, John Wetteland, saying, "Jesus Christ is my point man." Increasingly, the athletes are attributing their victories to God. Such testimonies -- along with the Bible study sessions, chapel services pre-game and post-game group prayer -- have all become an accepted part of the game today, bearing testimony to the authority of God in all spheres of human activities. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus demonstrates this Divine power and authority in his teaching and healing ministry.
#3: The en vogue theory: During a discussion of William Shakespeare, a student asked the old professor about the en vogue theory that Shakespeare did not write the plays ascribed to him. The professor growled, "Young man, if Shakespeare did not write those plays, then they were written by someone who lived at the same time and had the same name!" It is a sure sign of desperation in the atheistic circles to speak of Jesus as a myth - the idea that Jesus did not even exist, much less conduct a ministry with Divine power and Divine authority as described in today’s Gospel.
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is Divine authority reflected by the prophets of the Old Testament in their messages, by the apostles (including St. Paul), in their writings and teaching in the New Testament, and by Jesus in his teaching and healing ministry. Today’s first reading tells us that a true prophet speaks with authority because it is God who speaks through him. After the Babylonian exile, the Jewish priests began to interpret the words of Moses given in the first reading, namely, "a prophet like me," as referring to one individual, the expected Messiah. According to Acts 3: 22; 7: 37 this is verified in Jesus Christ. This passage is chosen for today’s first reading because it refers to Jesus, the "preacher with authority," mentioned in today's Gospel. In the second reading, St. Paul exercises his God-given authority as the Apostle to the Gentiles to teach people that marriage is a holy state ordained by God and that it is a life-long partnership according to the teaching of the Lord. In today’s Gospel, Mark describes one sample Sabbath day of Jesus’ public life. He joins in public worship in the synagogue as a practicing Jew, he heals the sick, he drives out evil spirits -- and he prays privately. Since anyone could be invited to explain the Holy Scripture in synagogue worship, Jesus was invited. People immediately noticed that Jesus spoke with authority and healed with Divine power. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using his own authority and knowledge as God. Jesus used his real (or authentic) authority to teach, empower, liberate, and heal others.
First reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20. Moses was about to die. The Chosen People were terrified because they were about to lose the person who had been successfully leading them through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. They were also going to lose a prophet who had been keeping them informed of Yahweh's will. When he died, how would they find out what God wanted of them? God answered the question by promising Moses that He would heed the people’s request and “raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and … put My words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.” Moses had set up a theocratic society for the Israelites as he had been instructed to do by God. This society had various officers to regulate the civil and religious life of the people, e.g., judges, kings, priests and prophets. Today’s reading tells us that a true prophet would speak with authority because it would be God Who spoke through him. The text was first seen as promising that there would be a line of prophets to interpret previous revelations by God and to add some new ones for each generation. After the return from the Babylonian exile (c. 538 B. C.), the Jewish priests began to interpret this text of Deuteronomy as referring to one individual, namely the Messiah who was to come. The New Testament followed this interpretation and saw these words of dying Moses, "a prophet like me," verified in Christ (Acts 3: 22; 7: 37). These verses therefore, have been chosen for today’s first reading because they refer to Jesus, the "preacher with authority," mentioned in today's Gospel.
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. St. Paul and most of the early Christians believed, or strongly hoped, that the end of this world and the second coming of Christ were imminent. For this reason, many Christians in Corinth thought they should not enter into marriage, lest marriage should interfere with their whole-hearted service of God in preparation for the second coming of Jesus. As a good Jew, Paul presumed a different set of circumstances always demanded a different prophet with a different word. Hence, St. Paul exercised his God-given authority as the Apostle to the Gentiles to teach people that marriage is a holy state ordained by God and that it is a life-long partnership according to the teaching of the Lord (see Mt. 5:32; 19:3-9). Further, Paul recommended a life of virginity to the non-married, only if they felt they could live such a life. The advantage of celibacy, as Paul explained, was that celibates would have the freedom to serve God fully with the fewest earthly cares and worries.
Exegesis: Worship & teaching in the synagogues: In Jesus’ time there were synagogues, in Palestine, in every city and town of any importance, and, outside Palestine, wherever the Jewish community was large enough. The synagogue consisted mainly of a rectangular room built in such a way that those attending were facing Jerusalem when seated. There was a rostrum or pulpit from which Sacred Scripture was read and explained. It was here that Jesus showed his authority to teach (Navarre Bible Commentary).
The authority of Jesus: Today’s Gospel passage begins and ends with comments about Jesus’ authority as a teacher (1:21-22 and 1:27-28). In between is an exorcism (1:23-26), pointing out a connection between Jesus' teachings and his supernatural authority. Moreover, this is the first episode in Jesus’ ministry which Mark recounts after the call of the disciples. Jesus' authority is also the main theme in the collection of stories in 2:1 and 3:6. Verse 2:10 refers to the authority of Jesus to declare to people God's compassion in forgiving their sins (2:10). Mark in his Gospel repeatedly returns to the theme that Jesus’ teaching with authority gave him followers, and Jesus’ healing with Divine power liberated people from illness and demoniac possession. The Catholic and apostolic Church derives her teaching authority from her founder Jesus.
Teaching with authority: There was a local synagogue in every Jewish settlement of more than ten families. The synagogue was a place of instruction and Sabbath prayers. The synagogue service consisted of three parts – prayer, the reading of God's word, and the exposition of it made by anyone who wished to do so. In this chapter Mark tells us that in the local synagogue Jesus taught with authority. This means that Jesus explained the Scriptures with complete confidence, and when questioned by people he answered with authority. He spoke as if he relied on no one beyond himself. He cited no authorities or experts. Mark also records the impact Jesus had on those who heard him. We are told how amazed people were at the authority with which he preached. Jesus also showed his power and authority by curing the sick and granting forgiveness to people.
Exorcising with Divine authority: In the synagogue, there was a man who was troubled by an unclean spirit. Everyone in the ancient Biblical world feared evil spirits and believed in demonic possession. People believed that demons or “unclean spirits” living inside the people caused leprosy, lameness, paralysis, etc. Even in the twenty-first century, we still believe in the existence of unclean spirits. How else can we explain the sudden explosions of anger that occur, the suicidal impulses, the intense jealousies, wild sexual fantasies, or overwhelming feelings of depression? We, as human beings, are keenly aware of these unclean spirits. We often wonder where the “unclean thoughts” come from and why we can’t rid ourselves of them. Victory over the unclean spirit, as the devil is usually described, is a clear sign that God's salvation has come: by overcoming the Evil One, Jesus shows that He is the Messiah, the Savior, more powerful than the demons.
The demoniac cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” What does Jesus have to do with these unclean spirits that live in each one of us? The answer we find in the Gospel is equally true today: Jesus came to destroy the unclean spirits living inside of us. That is one of the reasons why Jesus came to earth in the first place and one of the reasons why he continues his presence in our lives. Jesus came to drive out those unclean spirits within us, to wash them away, to cleanse our lives of them. Let us put ourselves under his authority and he will liberate us. The evil spirit in today’s Gospel recognized Jesus as the Messiah and acknowledged him as such. Jesus commanded the evil spirit harshly, using strong words and tones: "Be quiet! Come out of him!" This was one of the reasons why Jesus developed a reputation for speaking with authority.
Life Messages: 1) Let us approach Jesus for liberation: Jesus did not use his authority and divine power to rule and control people. He came to make people free. Hence, let us approach Jesus with trusting faith so that he may free us from the evil spirits that keep us from praying and prevent us from loving and sharing our blessings with others. He also frees us from all the “evil spirits” of fear, compulsions, selfishness, anger, resentment and hostility. "I have come that they may have life, life in abundance" (Jn 10:10). So Jesus should be a source of liberation for us. May he free us from all those spirits which make us deaf, dumb, blind, lame and paralyzed, physically and spiritually. Through Word and Sacrament, he brings that power to us and says to the demons in our life, "Be gone!" He says it as often as we need to hear it, over and over again, until by his power we are free from them all. Christ has power over any demon, whether that demon be an addiction, a heartache, a secret sin--whatever our need may be--Christ can set us free.
2) We need to use our God-given authority to build up lives. No doubt we can think back to people who have made a lasting impression on our lives – either for good or bad. Perhaps it was a grandparent, an uncle, or a parent, who loved us and cared for us. Perhaps it was a Sunday school teacher who encouraged us in our faith and exerted a positive impact on our lives. Perhaps we remember the kindness as well as the firm discipline that a schoolteacher gave us. On the other hand, there may be people in our past whom we remember with pain and discomfort. Are children learning something from us as parents that will stand them in good stead for the future? We want our children to grow into strong, wise, confident, capable, mature adults. But we want more than that. We want them to grow in their Faith, to accept Jesus as their Lord and personal Savior. We want children to see in us the love of Jesus and how our Christian faith affects our lives. A good question for parents, teachers and all of us is: "In what way am I helping the children I know grow in amazement at Jesus and his love for them?” When God's Word and God's ways are taught and spoken about with authority – with conviction – our children (and others) will see with amazement God's love for them in His Son Jesus.
3) We need teachers who know how to use their authority properly: Teachers are powerful because they change lives. They have, within their hands, power terribly to hurt or wonderfully to heal young lives. Most of us are deeply, forever indebted to some caring teacher in our past. Some people never get over the damage done to them by some cruel or uncaring teacher. So today, when we hear that Jesus entered the synagogue at Capernaum and began to teach, we need to take note. Jesus was a teacher. They never called him “Reverend,” or “Father,” or “Priest.” They called him “Rabbi,” which means “teacher.” Let us all become good teachers and use our authority to mould young lives in the right way.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: The three readings today underline the absolute necessity for us of repentance and a prompt response to God’s call.
Scripture lessons The first reading tells us how God had to punish the disobedient prophet Jonah to get him to preach repentance in Nineveh.The wicked people of Nineveh, however, could accept Jonah as God’s prophet,and, hence, they promptly responded to God’s call for repentance as Jonah preach edit. In the second reading,Paul urges the Christian community in Corinthto lose no time in accepting the message of the Gospel and in renewing their lives with repentance because Jesus’ second coming might occur at any moment. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus came to Galilee and began preaching, challenging people to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Just as John did, Jesus also called for repentance,meaning a change in one's mind or in the direction of one’s life, setting new priorities. It also meant hating sin, not just being sorry for the consequences of one’s sins. Believing in the Gospel demanded from the hearers a resolution to take Jesus’ words seriously, to translate them into action and to put trust in Jesus’ authority. Jesus preached the Gospel, or Good News, that God is a loving, forgiving, caring and merciful Father who wants to liberate us and save us from our sins through His son Jesus. By describing the call of Jesus' first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James and John,today’s Gospel also emphasizes how we, sinners, are to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life. Jesus started his public ministry immediately after John the Baptist was arrested.According to Mark, Jesus selected four fishermen, Andrew and his brother Peter with James and his brother John, right from their fishing boats. Jesus wanted these ordinary, hard-working people as assistants for his ministry because they would be very responsive and generous instruments in the hands of God.
Life messages: 1) We need to appreciate our call to become Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually, and collectively as a parish community, to continue Jesus’ mission of preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom and healing the sick. 2) We are called individually to a particular vocation in lifelike that of a priest, a missionary, a religious Sister, a religious Brother, a married man, a married woman, a single man or a single woman. Our own unique vocation should enable us to become what God wants us to be. As St.Francis Sales puts it, we are expected to bloom where we are planted. 3) Our call, of course, begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation.It is strengthened through the years with the Eucharist and Reconciliation,healed and consoled by Anointing and made manifest by Matrimony or Holy Orders. The amazing truth is that God is relentless in calling us back to Himself even when we stray away from Him. 4) Let us be thankful to God for His Divine grace of calling us to be members of the true Church. Let us remember that it is our vocation in life as Christians to borrow Christ’s Light and to radiate it all around us in our society as unconditional love, mercy,forgiveness and humble service
O.T. III SUNDAY JONAH 3: 1-5, 10; I COR 7: 29-31; MARK 1:14-20
Anecdote: # 1: The management forgives you:J. Edwin Orr, a professor of Church history has described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Protestant Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century resulting in real metanoia. As people sought to be filled with the Spirit, they did all they could to confess their wrongdoings and to make restitution. But this created serious problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years workers had stolen all kinds of things, from wheelbarrows to hammers. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards put up signs that read, "If you have been led by God to return what you have stolen, please know that the management forgives you and wishes you to keep what you have taken." In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges each one of us to revive our lives with a true spirit of repentance.
# 2: Deep-sea fishing: How many of you have ever been deep-sea fishing? I was shocked to learn that more than 2.4 million people participated in this sport last year,resulting in retail sales of almost $2.4 billion dollars and a total economic impact of almost $4.5 billion dollars. Deep-sea fishing provides jobs for nearly 55,000 people. You may be asking what deep-sea fishing has to do with the Church. You are going to see over the next four weeks that deep-sea fishing is a picture of the deep-soul fishing we are to be about as Church. "As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow Me, and, I will make you fishers of men.'" (Mark 1:16-17). That one statement tells us what our primary business is as Church, both corporately and as followers of Jesus individually.If you are a follower of Jesus I want you to understand that every day Jesus Christ wants fishermen-disciples to launch out into the sea of humanity and go deep-soul fishing, because the Church's primary business, the Christian's primary business, is the fishing business, and no matter what else we do nor how well we do it, if we ever get out of the fishing business, we are out of business. Your neighborhood is a lake full of fish. Your office is a lake full of fish. Your school is a lake full of fish. When Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men,” He was saying, “I will take you, with your personality,your background, your testimony, your influence and I will use you to catch men and women and boys and girls and bring them into my family.”
# 3: An epitaph to God’s grace: In the small cemetery of a parish churchyard in Olney, England, stands a granite tombstone with this inscription: “John Newton,clerk [pastor], once an infidel & Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ,preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy.” You may not remember his name, but all of us know the song he wrote as a testimony of his life: Amazing Grace.”
Introduction: God’s call to discipleship, with the response of repentance, conversion and renewal of life expected from us, is the main theme of today’s readings. No matter to what life, work or ministry God calls us, God first calls us to conversion, to reform, to repentance -- to continually becoming new people. Those who are constantly being reformed by the Spirit will be able to follow, as true disciples, wherever God leads. All three readings today underline the absolute necessity of such repentance and ready response to God’s call. The first reading tells us how the prophet Jonah did not respond quickly when God called him, perhaps because he hated the Gentile people of Nineveh and thought that they were not worthy of God's gracious mercy. Jonah ran away.God had to halt Jonah in his flight before the prophet could respond affirmatively to His second call to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh, however, promptly responded to God’s word as preached by His prophet. In the second reading Paul urged the community in Corinth, and us, to lose no time accepting the message of the Gospel because Jesus’ second coming could occur at any time. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus entered Galilee and began preaching. Like John, Jesus also called for repentance. But Jesus added the Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand. It still is, for where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God.Then Jesus called on his listeners to believe in the Gospel or the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation. Since discipleship is the appropriate response to Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News, Jesus invited Simon and Andrew and James and John to join him and help in his preaching and healing ministry. They promptly accepted his call. The two greatest aspects of discipleship in Mark are being with Jesus and sharing in his mission. Disciples are invited to be with Jesus on a great spiritual journey and to share in Jesus’ mission of proclaiming God’s kingdom in word and deed. In describing the call of Jesus' first disciples, today's Gospel also emphasizes how we, sinners, are to respond to Him with total commitment,abandoning our accustomed attitudes and styles of life to follow Him in thought, word and deed.
First reading, Jonah 3:1-5: The first reading shows us that we should respond promptly to God’s call for repentance.The Book of Jonah was written in Palestine around the 5th century B.C. after the Babylonian exile. Some of the Jews were quite nationalistic,filled with a smug sense of their superiority over all other nations. Like Jonah, they wished God would destroy the nations they perceived as His enemies.For Jonah, the Ninevites were terrible people doing terrible things. The story of Jonah was intended to rebuke the Palestinians’ smallness of vision, and to teach them that God had care for other peoples besides themselves. The first two chapters describe how God responded to Jonah’s flight from His call and the mission He had assigned the prophet, exposing him to a deadly storm and an excruciating experience in the belly of a whale. At God’s second call to preach repentance in Nineveh, Jonah obeyed –and he was disappointed seeing the ready response of that evil city to God’s message of repentance and a change of life! Jonah had not even finished the first day of his preaching journey before the people had totally turned around– doing visible penance while asking and hoping for God’s love, reconciliation and forgiveness. Contrary to Jonah’s expectations, the pagan peoples of the city "believed in God" and "renounced their evil behavior".But perhaps the greater change, the more radical turnabout, happened in Jonah himself. Jonah had been an arrogant,bigoted, narrow-minded prophet. But he finally realized that God’s love is not limited – God’s forgiveness is not to be contained – God’s offer of salvation is for all – and we’d best not thwart it.
SecondReading, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31: The second reading also urges us to be converted and to accept the “Good News’ preached by Jesus.Thinking that the end was near and the second coming of Jesus would happen soon, Paul preferred that no one get married and that slaves not try to gain their freedom (1 Cor7:8, 17-24).But the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World makes clear that it is precisely through engagement with the concerns of the world that Jesus’ followers are to exercise their discipleship. Saint Paul had to be strict and detailed in his moral teaching to the Christians in Corinth because Corinth was a bawdy seaport with a typical seaport's set of ethics and some very bizarre philosophical ideas. Hence, Paul spent all of chapter 7 on marriage and sexual morality. He told the Corinthians to live in total freedom and detachment because nothing they had, whether things or personal attachments, was permanent, and everything could disappear at a moment's notice. Whether life is very good or very bad,nothing lasts except the fundamental values of truth and love, of freedom and justice. In the end, it is what we are, not what we have that counts. Hence, let us ask to have the freedom to follow the call of God and to be ready to go wherever Jesus is asking us to go.
Exegesis: Invitation to repentance:It is highly likely that Jesus and the four followers he summoned here were not strangers. Even if they had not personally met each other before this time,they were aware of each other's aspirations and objectives. Jesus used exactly the same words John the Baptist had used: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” The Greek word used “metanoeo” means to change one's mind or direction. Repentance means that we make a complete change of direction in our lives. This involves a radical conversion (metanoia), a change of direction and priorities in our lives. For Jesus, repentance is not merely saying, "I'm sorry," but also promising, “I will change my life."Real repentance means that a man has come, not only to be sorry for the consequences of his sin, but to hate sin itself. We often think of repentance as feeling guilty, but it is really a change of mind or direction -- seeing things from a different perspective. Once we begin to see things rightly, it might follow that we will feel bad about having seen them wrongly for so long. But repentance starts with the new vision rather than the guilt feelings. By true repentance we are giving up control of our lives and throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God. We are inviting God to do what we can't do ourselves -- namely to raise the dead -- to change and recreate us. "Repent" is used in the present tense -- "Keep on repenting!" "Continually be repentant!" This means that repentance must be the ongoing life of the people in the kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. This Kingdom is any society where God’s will is done as it is done in Heaven. Hence, a person who does the will of God perfectly is already in the Kingdom of God. Matthew, as a devout Jew, consistently uses the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" while Mark, a Gentile convert, uses the phrase "Kingdom of God," without any scruples about using God's name. We probably shouldn't interpret the"Kingdom of God" as Heaven where God rules. In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives and do the will of God as it is done in Heaven, thus allowing God to reign in our lives.
Believe in the“Gospel’ or “Good News.” It was preeminently Good News that Jesus came to bring to men. It was the Good News that God is our loving and forgiving Father and not a punishing judge, and that He wants to save us through His son Jesus. So St. Paul calls it Good News of truth (Gal.2:5; Col.1:5), Good News of hope (Col.1:23),Good News of peace with God and man (Eph.6:15), Good News of God's promise of salvation (Eph. I; 13, 3:6) and Good News of immortality (2Tim.1:10). To believe in the Good News simply means to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about, to believe that God so loves the world that He will make any sacrifice to bring us back to Himself.To believe in the “Good News” involves a total commitment – the investing of one's whole self in God without any guarantees or preconditions.
The call of the apostles:Just like Matthew’s, Mark’s account of this call is very brief. Jesus calls two pairs of brothers Andrew and Peter, James and John inviting them to become his disciples. The men respond immediately, leaving their nets, their boats, and their father to follow Jesus.These fishermen immediately accept Jesus’ invitation to use their skills to“fish for people.” Abandoning their nets is a way of speaking of what must be left behind when one embraces radical discipleship. Usually rabbinical students sought out their teachers and attached themselves to them. However,Jesus, as rabbi, takes the initiative and calls some probably less-than-ideal candidates to be his students. The disciples were simple fishermen with no great background. In Cicero's ranking of occupations (De Off 1.150-51),owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last. What Jesus needs are ordinary folk who will give Him themselves. What Christ needs is not our ability, but our availability. What Jesus teaches His disciples is not a course of study, but a way of life to follow. Hence, Jesus offers these men the opportunity to observe him at close range on a daily basis.
Call to make fishers of men:In the ancient world fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities:judgment and teaching. “Fishing for people” meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge. And “fishing” was also used of teaching people, of the process of leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involve a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and entrance upon a new way of life. We are the fish and what God promises us who are dragged out of the water in the nets to die is a resurrection, a new life, a new family, a new future, all under God's control, all within the Kingdom of Heaven, which has come near in Jesus. We have very little control over our own lives, but as fish caught in the net of God's love, we can trust that we are under God's control. We have to believe that being captured by God's love, that responding to the command to repent and die to self, that being raised to a new life by God, is not only right for us,but a message we need to share with the entire world. The disciples will be trained to do precisely what Jesus is doing right now: proclaiming the kingdom, recruiting people for it, and drawing them into a community that experiences God's reign.
Life messages: 1) Let us appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually and collectively. The mission of preaching, teaching and healing which Jesus began in Galilee is now the responsibility of the Church.Our own unique vocation and our relationship with the risen Lord are the same as that of the universal Church. Be we religious, priests, married or single people, we are all called, and in this call we become what God wants us to be. The call, of course, begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation. It is strengthened throughout the years with the Eucharist and Reconciliation, healed and consoled by Anointing and made manifest in Matrimony, or Holy Orders. God is relentless in calling us back to Himself, even when we stray away from Him.
2) Let us be thankful to God for His Divine grace of calling us to be members of the true Church. Let us make personal efforts to see the Light of Christ and to grow in holiness, learning the truths that are revealed through the Church and receiving its Sacraments. Let us be shining lights in the world as Christ was and make a personal effort to bring others to the truth and the light, so that they may rejoice with us in the mystical Body of Christ, the invisible Kingdom of God.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI Website.
SYNOPSIS OF O.T. II (B) SUNDAY JN 1: 35-42 (JAN 18, 2015) L-15
Introduction:The main theme of today’s Scripture readings is Divine vocation – that everyone is called by God to be a witness for Christ by doing something for others with his or her life, using his or her unique gifts and blessings.Hence, today’s readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for Jesus, the Lamb of God, by leading lives of holiness and purity.
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes how Yahweh called Samuel to His service and how the boy Samuel responded to Him, saying, “Speak,Lord, Your servant is listening.” Hence, God blessed him in the mission entrusted to him, and Samuel became an illustrious figure, ranking with Moses and David as a man of God. In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist sings, “Behold, I come to do Your will,”indicating that his vocation is to obey, to do what God commands him to do. In the second reading, St. Paulexplains to the Corinthians that their Divine call is a call to holiness. Hence, they need to keep their bodies pureand souls holy because by Baptism they have become parts of Christ’s Bodyand the temples of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel, John the Baptist claims that his vocation is to introduce Jesus to two of his disciples as the “Lamb of God,” suggesting Jesus’ vocation to become a sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins. The disciples followed Jesus to his residence, accepting his invitation to “come and see.” Theystayed with him that day. Then Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, introducing Jesus to him as the Messiah. Thus, today’s Gospel describes also the call or vocation of the first apostles and challenges us to invite others to Christ by our Christian witnessing.
Life messages:1) Our Christian vocation is to live and die like the Lamb of God. (A) We live like the Lamb of God: 1)by leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives, obeying Christ’s commandment of love. 2) by appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church. 3) by partaking of the Body and Blood of the Good Shepherd in the Holy Eucharist and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the Sacraments. (B) We are called to die like the Lamb of God: a) by sharing sacrificially our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; b)by bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering through our graceful acceptance of all of it; c) by offering our sufferings for God’s glory, as penance for our sins and for the conversion of sinners. 2) Ourcall is to bear witness to the Lamb of God. Doing this requires a personal experience of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We get this personal of experience of Jesus in our daily lives through the meditative reading and study of the Bible,through personal and family prayers and through our active participation in the Eucharistic celebration. Once we have experienced the personal presence of Jesus in our daily lives, we will start sharing with others the Good News of love, peace, justice, tolerance, mercy and forgiveness preached and lived by Jesus. L-15
Anecdote:1: “Eureka, Eureka.” According to legend, the ruler Hieros II asked the Greek philosopher Archimedes to find a method for determining whether a crown was made of pure gold or of gold mixed with silver. One day when Archimedes stepped into his bath and noticed that the water rose as he sat down, he ran out of the house naked shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" (= "I have found it!") The method to determine whether or not a crown was pure gold, discovered by Archimedes in his bathtub, was to compare its weight to its volume. If one had one pound of gold and one pound of silver and submerged them in water, the silver would make the water rise higher than the gold, because it is less dense than gold, and therefore larger in volume, displacing more water. Archimedes compared the volume of water displaced by the suspected crown with that displaced by a pure gold crown of equal weight. Archimedes did not "find" this truth by searching after it -- although he might have spent days thinking about a solution to the problem. His "find" came as an unexpected surprise. He had probably noticed the water in the bathtub rising hundreds of times before, but its significance didn't"click" in his brain until that "eureka" moment. Today’s Gospel describes how John discovered Jesus as the Lamb of God and how Andrew, Simon, and Nathaniel discovered him as the “Promised Messiah” quite unexpectedly. Jesus was their "Eureka."
# 2: Evangelism –Andrew’s style: Shaquille O'Neal played in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers. He loved coming up with nicknamesfor himself. When he received his first Most Valuable Player award, Shaq gave himself a new nickname. He said, "From this day on I want to be known as‘The Big Apostle’ because Aristotle once said that excellence is not a singular act; it is a habit - you are what you repeatedly do." Shaq was right...and Aristotle was right. Excellence is not one single act. It is found in what we repeatedly do well... and here is where we see the excellence of Andrew. Herepeatedly introduced people to Jesus. He repeatedly brought people into the presence of Jesus. He repeatedly included people in the circle of his love andChrist's love. This was the greatness of Andrew. Today’s Gospel challenges us to bring our friends to Christ.
3) “I asked 300,000 to support me, but only 140 to affirm Jesus.” Former President Jimmy Carteris not shy about sharing the Faith. He and wife Rosalynn have been on numerous faith-sharing missions in America and overseas. In his book Living Faith,Jimmy Carter recounts a humbling experience. He says that when he was preparing to run for governor a second time, he was invited to speak to a Christian men's group about his activities as a Christian witness. In preparation for that talk, he took account of the witnessing he had done. He added up the times when he had shared the faith with other people, one on one, and they had made commitments to Christ. The total number came to 140. But then, said Carter, "The Lord must have been looking over my shoulder because immediately I remembered my 1966 political campaign when Rosalynn and I had traveled the state and had shaken hands with 300,000 Georgians, extolling my good points, and asking them to vote for me. I had asked 300,000 to support me, but only 140 to affirmJesus. The terrible difference in those numbers brought me to my knees."
Introduction:Today’s theme is Divine vocation. Everyone is called by God to be something, to do something for otherswith his life and with his unique gifts. Hence, today’s readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for the Lamb of God and to lead lives of holiness and purity. We are told that each of us, as a Christian, is personally called to discipleship, which demands an ongoing response of commitment. The first reading describes how Yahweh called Samuel to His service. The boy Samuel responded to God promptly, as instructed by his master and mentor, Eli, saying, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” Hence, God blessed him in the mission entrusted to him, and Samuel became an illustrious figure, ranking with Moses and David as a man of God. In the Responsorial Psalm,the psalmist sings, “Behold, I come to do Your will,” voicing his recognition that his vocation has called him to obedience to what God has commanded him to do. In the second reading, we listen to St. Paul speaking to us, too, as he reminded his readers that they had a Divine call, a call to holiness. He argued that Christians had to keep their bodies pure and their souls holy because in Baptism they had become parts of Christ’s Body and the temples of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel, John the Baptistintroduced Jesus to two of his disciples as the, “Lamb of God.” They followed Jesus to His residence,accepting his call to “come and see.” They went with Him andstayed with Him that day. Then Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to Jesus, introducing Jesus to him as the Messiah. Thus, today’s Gospel describes the call of the first apostles.
The first reading, 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19:The book of Samuel begins with a long narrative of what we might call ancient Israel's middle history. Moses,Aaron, and Joshua were gone from the scene. The period of rule by Judges had begun (at about 1000 BC). The first chapter describes how Samuel was born to a long-barren couple by divine intervention. They dedicated him in his early childhood to God's service in the Temple at Shiloh, as an apprentice to the priest Eli. The boy's duties included attendance during the night near "the Ark of God," a most sacred cult object and a place of unique Divine presence among the people. God called Samuel one night and Samuel thought it was his master Eli. Twice God called, twice Samuel went to Eli and twice Eli told him to go back to sleep. The third time God called and Samuel went to Eli, the old priest realized what was going on, and told Samuel, "Next time, say, 'Speak,Lord, Your servant is listening.’” The threefold repetition of God's call indicates genuine experience rather than hallucination. Eli knew theproper response for all God's followers: "Speak, Lord, for Your servant islistening." Only those willing to carry out the Lord's wishes will be able to hear God calling -- even in the middle of the night. Though Eli had served God faithfully, it was Samuel whom God called. Samuel became an illustrious figure, ranking with Moses and David as a man of God. The lesson for us is that God often calls ordinary people, including the young, to serve within the community. Consequently, we need guidance indiscerning and responding to His will. Our lives as God's followers revolve around seeking, finding and responding to God’s calls. Listening to the call of God is to hear, understand, and accept it in word and action. Is God calling me today fora special mission? What is he saying tome? Am I really listening?
The second reading, 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20: The letter is addressed to all members of the church at Corinth. Corinth was a bawdy seaport in cosmopolitan Greece and thecenter of intellectual ferment. The vices of every seaport, plus the philosophical ferment of ancient Greece, were all part of these peoples' lives, and gave rise,in part, to the need for this letter. One of the greatest besetting sins of the pagan port-town of Corinth was prostitution. A few Christians even tried to justify prostitution as part of the Christian liberty which Paul had preached to them. Corinth was a difficult place to preach a new doctrine and a new morality, but Paul had dared to preach both, provoking intense controversy. The pagan Corinthians believed that the soul of man was the important part and the body a mere piece of matter. They looked on the body as a matter of instincts to be fulfilled,including the sex instinct. Therefore,they argued, one ought to let the desires of the body have their way. Some of the Christian Corinthians had apparently picked up these pagan ideas. So Paul reminded them that they were "sanctified and called to be holy" like all who call on the name of Jesus. Just as God called Samuel and Jesus called his apostles, the Corinthian Christians were called to lead a life of holiness. Paul’s argument runs like this: since God's Spirit dwells in us,we have become temples of God and consequently our bodies are sacred. In addition, Christ gave his life in order that man might be redeemed, body and soul. Hence,a man's body is not his own to do with as he likes; it is Christ's, and a man must use it, not for the satisfaction of his lusts, but for the glory of Christ.
Exegesis:John’s selfless witnessing: John's Gospel presents John the Baptist as a self-effacing figure whose role is preeminently one of witnessing. Instead of building up his own following, John selflessly directed his disciples to Jesus. John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God (vv 29,36); Andrew called him the Messiah (v 41) and Nathaniel called Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (v 49). Jesus completed the epiphany, declaring Himself the Son of Man (v 51). In the Synoptic gospels, Jesus called the disciples away from their fishing boats to follow him (Matt 4:18-22, et. al). But in the Fourth Gospel, they went to Him at John's direction rather than in response to Jesus' call. Insteadof leaving their boats, they left John. On the second day of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God.” (Jn 1:29). He repeated the name on the third day in introducing Jesus to two of his own disciples as described in today’s Gospel.
The Lamb of God:This is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible. It is used 29 times in the book of Revelation. It sums up the love, the sacrifice and the triumph of Christ. John’s introduction might have brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners. 1) The Lamb of Atonement (Lev. 16:20-22). A lamb was brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement (“Yom Kippur”). Placing his hands over its head, the high priest transferred all the sins of his people to the lamb. It was then sent into the wilderness (as the lamb who takes away the sins of the Jews) to be killed by some wild animal. 2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex.29: 38-42; Numbers 28: 1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews. 3) The Paschal Lamb(Ex. 12: 11ss.). The Paschal Lamb’s blood saved the firstborn of the Jewish families in Egypt from the “Angel of destruction.” The event was memorialized yearly in the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb at Passover. 4) The Lamb of the Prophets, an image portraying one who, by his sacrifice, would redeem his people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer. 11: 19),“like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7). Both, as we know, refer to the sufferings and sacrificial death of Christ. 5) The Lamb of theConquerors. The picture of a horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of the Maccabaean Liberation War was used as a sign of conquering majesty and power. The great Jewish conquerors like Samuel, David and Solomon were described by the ancient Jewish historians as “horned lambs.”
Christ as Lamb of God is a title familiar to us. In the Eucharist, at "the breaking of the bread," we proclaim what the Baptist said, in word orsong. Our traditional “fractional anthem” is the Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, who takeaway the sin of the world, have mercy on us/grant us peace.” In this prayer, we give expression to our deepest understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our Lamb and Lord. By his life of love and sacrifice, we believe and affirm that he is the one who came and continues to come into a broken world to take our sins upon himself.
Stages in God’s call:In the opening verses of today’s Gospel, John points out to his disciples that the One who is passing by is the “Lamb of God.” Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus who turns and asks them what they are seeking. Somewhat confused, they ask Jesus where he is staying. Jesus doesnot tell them. Instead, he invites them to “come and see.” For each of us, belief in Jesus develops in stages, which John appears to be describing. First, we respond to testimony given byothers. Then, having "seen"where Jesus dwells - within believers, as individuals and as community - we move to commitment based on our own experience of the risen Lord. Finally, our conversion is completed when we become witnesses for Jesus. InAndrew's case, his conversion reveals his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. He then brings his brother Peter to Christ. Jesus looks at Simon and says, “You are Simon son of John. Youare to be called 'Cephas' or 'Peter.'” Cephas is the Aramaic word for "rock” and so is the Greek word "Petros." This kind of name-change has precedents in the Old Testament (Gen 17:5,32:28). Such name-changes indicate the beginning of a new life—a new purpose—a new relationship with God. Simon's new life in Christ is symbolized by his new name, "Peter," conferred by the Master. The evangelist sets out a challenging patternfor evangelization. The first people to be evangelized preached Jesus in their turn to relatives, friends, and even to strangers. We, too, must find and grow in faith through the lifelong seeking of God's will, coming to God through Jesus, whom we find in the local Christian community.
Life Messages:1) Our Christian call is to live and die like the Lamb ofGod. (A) We live like a lamb: a) by leading pure, innocent,humble, selfless lives, obeying Christ’s commandment of love. b) by appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church. c) by partaking of the Body and Blood of the Good Shepherd in the Holy Eucharist and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the Sacraments. (B)We die like a sacrificial lamb: a)by sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; b) by bearing witness to Christ in our illness,pain and suffering; c) by offering our suffering for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others.
2) Our call is torebuild broken lives. Like the missionary call of Samuel and the apostles, we too are called. Our call is to rebuild broken lives,reconciling them to God's love and justice through Christ Jesus, our Lamb and Lord. Through Baptism into the Body of Christ, we are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to free the oppressed. Through the love of the Lamb of God, we are called to better the lot and improve the broken spirit of all who have been exiled from the possibility of hope, exiled from God's righteousness or burdened by the yoke of spiritual, social, economic, and political dislocation. In other words,through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lamb,we are called to empower the human spirit with a sense of identity and purpose.
3) Our call is to bear witness to the Lamb of God. Today's Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to grow in faith and become witnesses for him. Bearing witness to Christ is an active rather than a passive enterprise. Knowing Jesus is a matter of experience. One could know the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all 700 pages of it, by heart, and still not know Jesus. Bearing witness to Christ, then, demands that we should have personal and first-hand experience of Jesus. We get this personal of experience of Jesus in our daily lives – through the meditative reading and study of the Bible, through personal and family prayers and through the Sacraments, especially by participation in the Eucharistic celebration. Once we have experienced the personal presence of Jesus in our daily lives, we will start sharing with others the Good News of love, peace, justice, tolerance,mercy and forgiveness preached and lived by Jesus. The essence of our witness-bearing is to state what we have seen, heard, experienced and believed, and then to invite others to "come and see." Other people will see Jesus in our lives when we love, forgive and spend time doing good. A dynamic and living experience of Jesus will also enable us to invite and encourage people to come and participate in our Church activities.