Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Saturday, December 22, 2012

4th Sunday of Advent (C)

The readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent are Micah 5:1-4a; Hebrews 10:5-10; and Luke 1:39-45A Biblical Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C
The Infancy Narrative of Luke’s Gospel contains some of the most touching, well-known biblical scenes in the New Testament.

Not only does the annunciation of the Baptist’s beginnings precede that of Jesus (1:5-24), but the birth of John the Baptist precedes Jesus’ birth (1:26-38). The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:39-45) is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John.
In both stories the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision (Luke 1:11-12, 26-29), and then told by the angel not to fear (Luke 1:13, 30). After the announcement is made (Luke 1:14-17, 31-33) the parent objects (Luke 1:18, 34) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36). The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David (Luke 1:32-33) and Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35).

In the very personal scene of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth (1:39-45), the Precursor and the Lord are both hidden from each other. Yet even before the two women embrace, John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb, having recognized the presence of the Lord and Messiah in the womb of Mary. Both births are hailed by two beautiful canticles: the Benedictus sung by Zechariah, father of the Baptist, at his son’s birth (1:68-79), and the “Nunc Dimittis” prayed by Simeon, the “righteous and devout” man in the Jerusalem temple, as he takes the infant Jesus in his arms (2:22-35).

The two pregnant women of today’s Advent gospel, Mary and Elizabeth, recognized in each other signs from God. The angel Gabriel offered Mary a lesser parallel to her own virginal conception: “Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36). Elizabeth in her turn senses in the movement of the child in her womb on Mary’s arrival that something extraordinary was happening. “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Each of the women experienced in herself the possibility of the impossible.

Trust in God
The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth turned out to be a divine visitation, the Ark of God bringing not terror but blessing as it did to the house of Obededom the Gittite (1 Samuel 6:9-11). Unlike Sarah, who had laughed at the notion that she could conceive and bear a child in her old age to Abraham (Genesis 18:12), and unlike Zechariah, her husband, who had been struck dumb for questioning God’s power in this matter (Luke 1:8-20), Elizabeth gives thanks to God and trusted in his providence: “So has the Lord done for me at that time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others” (Luke 1:25). Mary, for her part, deserved to be acclaimed by Elizabeth as “she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”

Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. The Magnificat celebrates the wonders of God’s graciousness in the lives not only of these two Advent women but of all for whom “the Mighty One has done great things” (Luke 1:49).

There are two aspects of today’s Visitation scene to consider. The first is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is put aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives.
Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two great biblical women consoled each another, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced: Elizabeth after her long years of barrenness and now sudden pregnancy, and Mary, after her meeting with the heavenly messenger, and her “irregular” marriage situation and pregnancy.

The second point to consider is Mary’s quick response and movement. Luke tells us that she undertook “in haste” the long and perilous trek from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, St. Ambrose of Milan describes this haste with a difficult Latin phrase, “nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia,” which could mean: “the grace of the Holy Spirit does not know delayed efforts,” or “delayed efforts are foreign to the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Mary’s free choice to move forward and outward reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.

How many things exist in our lives that we dreamed of doing, should have done, and never did — letters that should have been written, dreams that should have been realized, gratitude that was not expressed, affection never shown, words that should have been spoken, etc.? Postponements and delays weigh heavily upon us, wear us down and discourage us. They gnaw away at us. How true St. Ambrose described Mary’s haste: The Spirit completely possessed the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth and compelled her to act.

The story of the Visitation teaches us an important lesson: When Christ is growing inside of us, we will be led to people, places and situations that we never dreamed of. We will bear words of consolation and hope that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will be consoled. We will be at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life and issues seem to be, from them Christ is forming himself.
The women of today’s Gospel show us that it is possible to move beyond our own little, personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry and service in the Church. Ministry and service are not simply doing things for others. Authentic Christian ministers and servants allow themselves to serve and be served, taught, cared for, consoled and loved. Such moments liberate us and enable us to sing Magnificat along the journey, and celebrate the great things that God does for us and His people.

Consider these words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): “In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life — gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique.
“Thus, the first Eucharist was such: Mary’s offering of her Son in her, in whom he had set up the first altar. Mary, the only one who could affirm with absolute confidence, ‘this is my body,’ from that first moment offered her own body, her strength, all her being, to form the Body of Christ.”

God’s choice
Let me conclude with these thoughts given to me years ago by an elderly Italian religious sister who made a retreat I preached in a small Umbrian town in Italy just prior to Christmas. The poem is entitled “Bellezza” meaning “Beauty,” and speaks about God’s choice of Mary for a special mission.

Don’t smile, brothers and sisters,
And don’t shrug your shoulders:
Our God is fascinating and what he does always surpasses the impossible.

God looked upon a woman and loved her,
And he who loves even before looking at the face
Seeks the beauty that lies in the heart.

God looked upon a woman who was from the race
Of the little ones without name,
Those that live far away from palaces.

Those who work in kitchens,
Those who come from the numbers of the humble and the forgotten,
Those that never open their mouths and who are accustomed to poverty.

God looked upon her and found her to be beautiful,
And this woman was joined to him as if she were his beloved –
For life and for death.

From now on all generations will call her blessed.
God looked upon a woman. Her name was Mary.

As a woman who gives herself, she believed,
And during the night, in a grotto, she cried out with pain,
And from her womb God himself was born,
Brining with him salvation and peace, like treasures for all eternity.

As a woman who surrenders herself and never regrets it,
She believed against all the obscurity that enveloped her,
Against all the doubts that filled her.

From now on her name will be sung, because God took her
And she gave herself to him, she, Mary, one of us.

And God crowned her with stars and robed her with the sun,
And under her feet God placed the moon.

Her name is Mary, and if you looked upon her Lord, it is because on Our earth filled with women and men, you found such beauty.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two Mighty and Courageous Widows...

Two Mighty and Courageous Widows

November 6, 2012 By  Leave a Comment

Thirty-second sunday in ordinary time – November 11, 2012
The readings for this Sunday are: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44

Today’s Old Testament reading from 1 Kings 17:10-16 and the Gospel story from Mark 12:38-44 present us with two remarkable widows who challenge us by their conviction, generosity and faith. They force us to reexamine our understanding of the poor and poverty, and look at our own ways of being generous with others. I would like to offer some reflections on the stories of these two biblical figures and then apply their example to our own lives, through the lenses of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate.

Elijah’s faith
Whenever I read stories from the Elijah and Elisha cycle in the first and second books of Kings, I always say a prayer of thanksgiving for one of my professors from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Jesuit Father Stephen Pisano, who taught the best course I had in the Old Testament: “The Man of God in the Books of Kings.” God knows how many times I have gone back to those notes and appreciated anew the stories of Elijah and his disciple Elisha, and their efforts to make God’s Word known and loved in the land of Israel! In I Kings 17:8-16, God continues to test the Prophet Elijah. While today’s lectionary reading begins with Verse 10, it is important to go back to Verse 8 to understand the full meaning of the text. In Verse 8 we read: “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying… .”

Elijah did not set out until he received the message from God. It is essential for us to be in communication with God through listening to God’s Word before setting out on mission.

Elijah is then told to go to Zarephath (v 9), which is part of Sidon. Verse 9 contains three commands: “arise,” “go,” and “stay.” The prophet will be tested with each of these commands through faith, trust, obedience, availability and commitment. When Elijah is told to “arise,” it is not only a physical movement but a spiritual one. For Elijah, following the Lord obediently is the result of his own spiritual reawakening.

The second command – “go to Zarephath” – carries with it the idea of a journey, including risks, hardships and dangers. Elijah is sent to a specific place, Zarephath, which means “a smelting place, a place of testing.” Furthermore, Zarephath was in the land of Sidon, which belonged to the wicked Jezebel. Elijah is hardly being sent to a vacation destination for rest and relaxation!

The third command – “stay there” – was a great challenge to his commitment, trust and vision as a man of God who was simply seeking to serve the Lord. Elijah’s provision would come from a poor, destitute, depressed widow facing starvation in the pagan nation of the Sidonians who represented the forces clearly in opposition to the God of Israel.

Elijah encounters his benefactress, not living in a large house and sharing her excess with itinerant prophets, but rather at the gate of the city, collecting a few sticks since she had no fuel at home to cook even a meagre meal.

The God who commanded the ravens and who provided for Elijah in the desert (I Kings 17:1-7), was the same God who had commanded the widow and would provide for the prophet through her. At Zarephath, the poor woman listened to Elijah’s instruction and it was just as he had promised according to the Word of the Lord. She saw the power of God: The widow, her son, and Elijah were all sustained.

What lessons can we learn from this passage?
Because of a poor woman’s generosity and goodness, and Elijah’s faithfulness, God strengthened the prophet’s faith, renewed his capacity for ministry, using him to comfort the widow and her son at the same time. The Lord God will provide for us, beyond outward appearances of weakness, failure and fear. God always does far more than we can ever ask for or imagine.

Just a mite
In today’s well-known Gospel story (Mark 12:38-44), Jesus praises the poor widow’s offering, and makes it clear that the standard measurement for assessing gifts is not how much we give to the works of God or how much we put in the collection basket, but how much we have left for ourselves. Those who give out of their abundance still have abundance left.

Is Jesus exalting this woman because she emptied her bank account for the temple? Is Jesus romanticizing and idealizing the poor? I have yet to meet people who dream of growing up destitute, poor, hungry and homeless. I don’t know anyone who delights in living from one government social assistance check to the next, nor people who enjoy rummaging through garbage bins and are proud that they cannot afford to pay for electric and water bills for their inadequate and even dangerous housing situations during cold Canadian winters.

The woman in today’s provocative Gospel story was poor because she was a widow. She was completely dependent on her male relatives for her livelihood. To be widowed meant not only losing a spouse, but more tragically, losing the one on whom you were totally dependent. Widows were forced to live off of the generosity of other male relatives and anyone in the community who might provide for one’s needs.

The two coins in the woman’s hand were most likely all she had. When one has so little, a penny or two isn’t going to move that person from complete social assistance to employment. With the coins or without them, the widow was still a dependent person. She had no status in life. She was totally dependent on the grace of God, yet she was indeed rich in God’s mercy.

Jesus never condemns the rich but simply says that they will find it difficult to enter the kingdom. What matters is not how much money is stored in bank accounts or kept in stocks and bonds, but rather for what that money is destined.

Will the money be used to assist others, to make the world a better place? Will be it used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide for the homeless and destitute poor? Will it be used to build a culture of life? Do our lives revolve around the money or are we dependant on God who truly makes us rich? Do we behave as owners or live as stewards?

The widow tossed her only signs of independence into the collection basket, but she maintained her complete dependence on God and neighbour. Her example of faith is grounded in the love of God: her love for God and God’s love for her. She was a steward and not an owner of her meagre possessions. This poor widow teaches us that dependence, far from being oppressive and depressive, can really lead to a life lived in deep joy and profound gratitude.

Charity in truth
Four brief sections from Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate merit our careful reflection and meditation this week.
1. The search for love and truth is purified and liberated by Jesus Christ from the impoverishment that our humanity brings to it, and he reveals to us in all its fullness the initiative of love and the plan for true life that God has prepared for us. In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth (cf. John 14:6).
23. The mere fact of emerging from economic backwardness, though positive in itself, does not resolve the complex issues of human advancement, neither for the countries that are spearheading such progress, nor for those that are already economically developed, nor even for those that are still poor, which can suffer not just through old forms of exploitation, but also from the negative consequences of a growth that is marked by irregularities and imbalances.

42. For a long time it was thought that poor peoples should remain at a fixed stage of development, and should be content to receive assistance from the philanthropy of developed peoples. Paul VI strongly opposed this mentality in Populorum Progressio.

Today the material resources available for rescuing these peoples from poverty are potentially greater than before, but they have ended up largely in the hands of people from developed countries, who have benefited more from the liberalization that has occurred in the mobility of capital and labor. The world-wide diffusion of forms of prosperity should not therefore be held up by projects that are self-centred, protectionist or at the service of private interests.
75. While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human. God reveals man to himself; reason and faith work hand in hand to demonstrate to us what is good, provided we want to see it; the natural law, in which creative Reason shines forth, reveals our greatness, but also our wretchedness insofar as we fail to recognize the call to moral truth.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Friday, October 26, 2012

Badaliyya: Fatiha

Badaliyya 004: Fatiha 

Fr. Louis Massignon’s clear message to the BADALIYYA movement is to effect peaceful relations and reconciliation with those of other faith traditions.  To achieve this, we must begin by opening our own minds and hearts to conquer our fear of differences.

Fr. Massignon spoke often of the need to “cross over” to the “other”, to learn their language, study their beliefs, practices and culture as the beginning of mutual respect and understanding. In the process of learning to truly know others, from the inside out so to speak, we find that our own values and belief systems become more defined and clear.

Our faith experience is enhanced rather than diminished. The goal of “substitutionary prayer” of “Badaliya” is to see the face of Christ in every human person and learn to love them as Christ loves us.

As Christians we are challenged to overcome centuries of misinformation and prejudice that we have sometimes even unconsciously absorbed.

In one of his books the Fransiscan Fr. Giulio Basetti-Sani writes about his own journey of studying the condemning writings of the scholars of his time about Islam and Muhammad and approaching Louis Massignon with those ideas. He wrote:

“Once, when Professor Massignon was in Cairo, I went to see him at the French Institute of Oriental Archeology.... Only someone who has known Massignon can fully imagine his reaction to my ideas. His usual grave expression changed to a smile like the lighting of a lamp and his eyes twinkled. He said, ‘The medieval world taught that Muhammad was a messenger of Satan and that the Allah of the Qur’an was not the God of Abraham. We should not do to others what we would not have them do to us’.

Basetti-Sani quotes much more than this as he describes how, following Massignon’s advice, he began to move in a totally different direction in what became years of Islamic studies. He wrote: “Islam is a mystery linked with the blessing obtained by Abraham from God for his son Ishmael and Ishmael’s progeny.

This line of thought, derived from the Bible, is the one to take in order to grasp the significance of Islam....
Before we parted, Massignon gave me two thoughts meant as guidelines in my reorientation, one from St. Augustine, ‘Love sees with new eyes.’ and the other from St. John of the Cross, ‘Where there is no love put love, and you will find Love Himself’.

It was true, my eyes had seen badly... Later, when my eyes were to see clearly, I would discover in Islam and the Muslims the reflections of the infinite goodness of God”. (From Basetti-Sani.1977. “The Koran In the Light of Christ”)

With the inspiring examples of Fr. Giulio Basetti-Sani, Massignon himself and his own mentor, Bl.Charles de Foucauld, and in the spirit of St. Francis, let us begin our process of learning about Islam. We begin with the opening Sura (chapter) of the Qur’an:

One of the first prayers in the Qur’an memorized very early by every Muslim child is the opening Sura called the Surat-al -Fatiha. The language of Islam and the Qur’an is Arabic and therefore all Muslims learn to chant the verses in this poetic language. The Fatiha is a wonderful summary of Muslim belief that God is the Lord of all being, entirely separate from the world yet forever present and aware, providing a Path from darkness into light and a direction for worship and praise:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Lord of all being.
The Merciful, the Compassionate.
Master of the Day of Judgement.
It is you alone that we serve,
It is only from you that we seek aid
Guide us on the straight path.
The path of those whom you have blessed.
Not of those with whom you are displeased.
Nor of those who go astray.”
(Translated by Matthew S. Gordon)

In his letters to members of the Badaliya, Fr.  Massignon often invited them to join in both the fasts and the feasts of both Islam and Judaism. We have an opportunity to fast and pray the Fatiha in spirit with our Muslim brothers and sisters, as Fr. Massignon did, during the Muslim month of Ramadan. He chose always to pray the Fatiha on the feast of the 27th day of Ramadan marking “the Night of Destiny” when Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

May we look neither for likenesses nor differences as we learn about all faith traditions but rather see just what is there. That is seeing with the eyes of Love.

Peace to you…
Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Master, I Want to See!

October 23, 2012 By Fr. Thomas Rosica Leave a Comment

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 28, 2012

The readings for this Sunday are: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
Mark’s healing stories of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26) and the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man on the road to Jericho (10:46-52) were undoubtedly popular stories in the early Church and they remain very significant stories for the contemporary Church.
These miracles have always fascinated me because I grew up with my father who was an eye doctor. How frequently we spoke about sight impairments, eye diseases, astigmatisms, cataracts and 20/20 vision! My father was also a member of a charitable society that assisted the blind, and I vividly remember volunteering as a child with my father and his doctor colleagues who hosted memorable Christmas parties for blind people.
Road to Jericho
Mark tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus, a blind man and a beggar (10:46-52) in the Gospel for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). Jesus had made the long, arduous journey down the desert valley from Galilee in the north. He was on his way to Jerusalem, a daunting climb from an oasis on the desert floor to the hills of Judea.
As Jesus passed through Jericho, Bartimaeus heard the din of the crowd and knew that the chance of a lifetime was within his grasp. Bartimaeus was not about to miss this opportunity! From the roadside, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Some people in Jesus’ entourage were embarrassed to have this dirty, rude beggar bother the master and they attempted to silence him.
What were they embarrassed about? Bartimaeus was simply trying to engage the culture around him and let the people know that he, too, had a right to see Jesus. If individuals in the crowd had heard the rumours about Jesus’ healing powers, wouldn’t they be kind to this poor beggar and bring him to Jesus for healing?
Bartimaeus would not be denied – and neither would Jesus. As the shouts of the beggar reached his ears, Jesus brushed aside the restraints of his disciples and called to the blind man. Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and drew near to that welcoming voice, which responded to his pleas, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“My teacher, let me see again.” And Bartimaeus did see, not just with his eyes but more importantly, with his heart. Though Bartimaeus was blind to many things, he clearly saw who Jesus is. Seeing “who Jesus is” is the goal of faith, and it leads to discipleship. At the end of the story, Bartimaeus regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way. Given that the very next verse in Mark narrates the entry into Jerusalem, we can be certain that Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way to the cross.
Blindness metaphor
Compassion for the outcast was a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry and healing stories in the Gospels never seem to be simply a reversal of physical misfortune. In the stories of those who “once were blind, but now they see,” the connections between seeing and believing are so strong that these miracles worked by Jesus are more about growing in faith than letting the scales of blindness fall away.
Disciples of Jesus have vision problems. How often do we use the metaphor of blindness to describe our inability to grasp the meaning of the suffering we endure? We sometimes describe our blindness as an inability to see the forest for the trees, but that is a rather simplistic analysis. More worrisome is the inherited blindness which so often assumes that there are no lessons left to learn. Arrogance is very often the root of our blindness. We need the miracle of restored sight each day.
What corners of the Church, of society and of our culture need serious healing, restoration and reformation in our time? Where are our blind spots? Where are the big problems with near-sightedness and far-sightedness? How often do we prefer monologue to dialogue, refusing to believe that we might learn from those who oppose us and disagree with us; refusing to engage the culture around us and preferring a narrow, obstinate and angry way of existing? How often do we say that there are no other ways to look at an issue than our way … or the highway!
How often do we behave like those who tried to prevent Bartimaeus from seeing and meeting the Lord? Against the cries of the scoffers and cynics in our midst, do we dare to bring our friends, colleagues and loved ones into the very presence of the Lord? How can we not, when we know the result of a lifetime without Christ?
Healing, restoration and sight
Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. It is important to recall Benedict XVI’s words and pro-life vision at theWelcoming Celebration by the Young People of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, on July 17, 2008:
And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?
The Roman Catholic Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be pro-life.
Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.
To say that we are pro-life means that we are against whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction.
We stand firmly against whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons. All of these things and more destroy human life and poison human society.
Capuchin Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, recently wrote:
Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.
Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: We stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope.
Being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us.
As we recognize the things that blind us from the Lord and paralyze us from effective action, let us never cease begging the Lord to heal us! “Lord, that I may see!” And when our vision is restored, let us get up to follow him joyfully along the way to the Kingdom.
A Prayer for Sight
Origen (185-253)
May the Lord Jesus touch our eyes,
As he did those of the blind.
Then we shall begin to see in visible things
Those which are invisible.
May he open our eyes to gaze not on present realities, But on the blessings to come.
May he open the eyes of our heart
to contemplate God in Spirit, Through Jesus Christ the Lord,
To whom belong power and glory
through all eternity. Amen.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Saturday, September 15, 2012

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Affirmation, identity and purpose of Jesus’ mission

September 11, 2012 By 

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are: Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35

Today’s Gospel story (Mark 8:27-35) is about affirmation, identity and purpose of Jesus’ mission. Mark makes this episode the centrepiece of his Gospel. It comes immediately after Jesus’ healing of the blind man of Bethsaida.
This restoration of sight must surely set the scene for Peter’s confession of faith and the glorious moment of the Transfiguration. Jesus’ nature is now gradually revealed to the disciples. Their blindness is cured but they still do not understand the full meaning of what they see. From this point on, everything in Mark’s Gospel moves toward the crucifixion.
If there was ever a “turning point” in Mark’s account of Jesus’ public ministry, it is today’s story. During my graduate studies in Israel in the 1990s, I had the privilege of working closely with the Israeli archeological team on the excavations in Caesarea Philippi, now known as “Banias” referring back to “Paneas” or the Greek god Pan. Sexual excess and violence ran rampant in this centre for the worship of the Greek god Pan.  At the time of Jesus, a fertility cult was thriving in this pagan temple on the border of northern Israel and Syria at the foot of majestic Mount Hermon. Jesus and his disciples entered the area of Caesarea Philippi as part of a long journey from their familiar surroundings.

Caesarea Philippi had been built by Philip, another generation of the Herodian family, and it was a garrison town for the Roman army. Here in this centre of pagan worship to the Greek god Pan, Jesus asks about their understanding of his identity. Jesus asks what people are saying about him. How do they see his work? Who is he in their minds? Probably taken aback by the question, the disciples dredge their memories for overheard remarks, past conversations, opinions and gossip circulating in the fishing towns of the lake area. Jesus himself is aware of some of what is being said and knows only too well the hurtful attitudes of his own townsfolk of Nazareth.

In response to Jesus’ question, the disciples list a whole series of labels that people have applied to Jesus. These names reveal the different expectations held about him. Some thought of him as an Elijah, working toward a real confrontation with the powers that be. Some saw him more like Jeremiah, no less vehement but concentrating more on the inner journey, the private side of life.

Jesus pursues the question further – “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Christ” of the one true God. Jesus acknowledges this identification but forbids them from making his messianic role known to avoid confusing it with ambiguous contemporary ideas associated with that title. Then Jesus goes on to say, somewhat enigmatically, that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, die, and rise again.

The concept of Messiah in Judaism

There was no single concept of “Messiah” in Judaism. The idea of Messiah “anointed one” as an ideal king descended from David is the earliest known to us, but in the Maccabaean period (163-63 B.C.) the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs give evidence of belief in a Messiah from the tribe of Levi, to which the Maccabaean family belonged. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain various ideas: a priestly Messiah and the (lay) Messiah of Israel; a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) who is also the star coming out of Jacob (Numbers 23:15-17); but also the Davidic Messiah. Melchizedek is a deliverer also, but is not called Messiah.

To proclaim Jesus as the Messiah was a loaded and dangerous statement. It was all that Jesus’ enemies needed to use against him, and already there were many who were ready to enlist under the banner of a royal pretender. But, far more than this, such a role was not Jesus’ destiny. He would not and could not be that kind of militaristic or political Messiah.

Identifying Jesus’ role today

The struggle to identify Jesus and his role as Messiah continues today. Some say individual Christians and the whole Church should be Elijah figures, publicly confronting systems, institutions and national policies. That was the way Elijah saw his task. Read the First Book of Kings (Chapters 17 to 21) to see what Elijah endured. Those filled with violence don’t usually bring about peace and justice in situations that are terribly unjust and wrong. Some say, like Jeremiah, that the reign of Christ, through his Church, is the personal and private side of life. And there are indeed many who would like to reduce religion and faith to a private affair in our world today.

Jesus probes beyond both approaches and asks, “You, who do you say I am.” In Peter’s answer, “You are Christ,” blurted out with his typical impetuosity, we are given a concept that involves both of the above ideas and goes beyond them. The Messiah came into society, and into individual lives, in a total way, reconciling the distinction between public and private. The quality of our response to this question is the best gauge of the quality of our discipleship. Everyone at some stage must come to Caesarea Philippi and answer the question, “You, who do you say I am?”

Some facts about Jesus

As we continue to give answer to the question: “Who is Jesus for us?” let us recall certain facts about Jesus’ background, identity and mission that have prepared the mission of the Church in the world today:
  1. Jesus was born of the political tribe of Judah–not the priestly tribe of Levi nor the priestly family of Zaddok. Jesus was not a politician.
  2. Jesus did, however, have a keen sense of politics. World mission cannot be undertaken independently without serious interaction with politics.
  3. Jesus established himself at Capernaum rather than at Qumran in the desert or in some remote village or place away from the thick of things. In Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, there was a mainroad, tax collectors, and dealings with the Roman centurion. Jesus was very much at home in Capernaum, not in Jerusalem.
  4. Jesus bonded himself with the unclean, the sick and dying, with sinners, and those living on the fringes of society. Through his life, Jesus puts biblical justice into practice in proclaiming the Beatitudes. Authentic justice is a bonding of one’s self with the sick, the disabled, the poor and the hungry. But he did not neglect others as well. He dined with the rich and the mighty as well as with the poor and downtrodden. He befriended sinners and the wretched of his times – never condoning their behavior, but inviting them to an alternative lifestyle. He teaches us that by “being with people” he also teaches and heals. His human solidarity with the unclean, the unjust and sinners also saves.
  5. Jesus did not preach the political kingdom of David but the Kingdom of God. He had a great ability to appeal to everything and incorporate everything into his vision of kingdom. During his lifetime, he only tried to fulfill the hopes of Israel. The Good News he preached was ultimately about love. Contrary to some popular opinions still around today, Jesus was not a social revolutionary. He did not denounce injustice, but confronted it with love. It is striking how many of his parables assume situations of injustice, not to condemn the injustice but to show the zeal, ingenuity and perseverance of the unjust as a model for those who would live by love. Still, those who lived by injustice made no mistake when they recognized in Jesus and in those who followed him a fundamental challenge to their way of life.
Following Jesus today

Jesus’ words at the end of today’s Gospel “Whoever wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” (v 34-35) challenge all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself. The Way of the Cross was not for Jesus alone but also for everyone who professed to follow him. There might be victory and glory ahead, but it was only for those who could take up the Cross. If Peter or anyone else should reject this demand it meant to be on the side of Satan. Life seen as mere self-centred earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Monday, June 25, 2012

Badaliyya # 1


The Badaliya movement was created in Cairo in 1934 by Fr. Louis Massignon. The same spirit was shared by his friend and mentor, Charles de Foucauld.

The backdrop of the movement was the shared concern for the mounting religious conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Palestine/Israel.

By renewing the spirit of the Badaliya in the Philippines, we hope to encourage mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between Massignon's three Abrahamic traditions here in the Philippines with few modifications.  We can substitute, Indigenous Peoples’ beliefs to Judaism. 

The Badaliya began with a vow made by Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil in an ancient Franciscan church to dedicate themselves to the well-being of the Muslim community.

Since we are a small group it is reassuring to realize that the Badaliya began with only two. The initial responses to the idea of a vow led us to begin to realize the seriousness of our endeavor.

The vows are essentially a deepening of our baptismal promises. This is an invitation for us to struggle more intently with what we are called to become. We discuss the meaning of the Arabic word, badaliya, substitution, and begin some reflection on Massignon's understanding in light of his intense Christian faith.

Substitution is a controversial and challenging call which we will continue to explore through the writings of Massignon and others at our badaliya prayer session.

In keeping with the original spirit of the Badaliya we shall have moments before the Blessed  Sacrament in silence. We conclude the adoration in silence with intercessory prayers that include a plea for peaceful resolution to the unpeace in Southern Philippines and for conversion of hearts of all those whose hatred leads them to terrorist actions.

We pray for the courage to forgive them by offering ourselves in their place to be reconciled to a benevolent God. We closed with the prayer of our Church, the Lord's Prayer.

We center our gathering on the theme of peace and each person shares his/her experience on the issue of Muslim-Christian relations.  In solidarity with all the badals worldwide, we agree to join them in praying for peace in the world, especially in the Holy Land.

Peace to everyone.
Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI
25 June 2012

Badal Concept


Badaliyya is a movement based on the concept of BADAL (an Arabic word for "Substitution" or "Ransom". The inspiration comes from the "understanding" that interreligious relation, is primarily a movement of LOVE - a PASSIONATE LOVE that moves one to offer his/her life that others may have life and life to the full. It is a movement of self-expenditure... The model is Jesus Christ in the cross who paid the price by being a RANSOM for us!

St. Francis of Assisi and Blessed Charles de Foucault are few examples of Badal.  The Badaliyya movement got the first impetus through the initiatives and efforts of Fr. Louis Massignon, Mary Kahil and their friends in the Academy specializing in Middle East Studies.

Beginning this June 28th, 2012, Thursday, we shall revive our monthly Badaliyya  Session (every last Thursday of each month) at the Conference Hall of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (2nd Floor of NDU Main Canteen) from 3: 30 pm to 5:00 pm.

Bring also your friends and members of your community…

For more information, visit the website of the Badaliyya Philippines at http://www.badaliyya.blogspot.com/

Be well!

Bapa Eliseo "Jun" Mercado, OMI