To pray is to be Christ

Quite often I have been asked a question from different people of varied backgrounds and age. The question, “where could I be at peace to spend ‘quality time’ in prayer?” Whether or not someone is working or is a homemaker. Whether for a child coming of age or a scholar pursuing academic excellence, in the pursuit of God, prayer becomes an inevitable trajectory. In a simpleton’s understanding, prayer is ‘spending time with God’. In a spiritual master’s exegesis, prayer becomes ‘the soul’s elevation into the life of the Divine’. In either case prayer establishes itself in the very purpose of human existence.

Pope St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae exalts human life by drawing reference to the sacred dignity it has been endowed with. “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” This fullness of life stems out of Life Himself. Christ in John 14:6 embodied this truth by His word, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and as the living person in the Holy Trinity negates every other route of ‘approaching The Father except through Him’.

As the Son of Man when He walked the length and breadth of his homeland, His immaculate thoughts, words and deeds were a fulfilment of His Father’s holy purpose and heart’s foremost desire, the redemption of all of mankind and creation. And the Messiah preluded all of it with the sanctification by prayer. Prayer was not a special ingredient needed for an extraordinary chore or miracle for the Anointed One, rather it was and is His very nature. His image and likeness which was promised, assured and given to us at the moment of our creation (Genesis 1:27). He prayed always (Luke 3:21, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16, Matthew 26:42) and scripture presses us to do the same (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

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The struggle today is not about where to pray. The actual battle is whether or not there is any relevance to prayer. The wise say that the people of God are now witnessing the time of the early Christians. A time of public hostility and ghastly persecution of Christians in almost every part of the world. Persecution not necessarily always of the body, but of belief, ideas, faith, convictions, truth and way of life. Andrew Brian McGowan an Australian Anglican scholar of early Christianity in chapter on prayer by early Christians says, “they stopped even in their daily routine to pray…” In his section on Jewish origins, McGowan emphasises again ‘that “worship” was all of life and that prayers was not restricted to what happened when Christians gathered together for “worship.” Prayer was part of life. The Jewish approach to prayer involved morning and evening prayers (of the Shema, perhaps the Amidah) and mid-afternoon prayer (evoking the afternoon sacrifice). Jewish Christians inherited this prayer practice. E.g., Acts 2:42; 10:30.’

If prayer was for them the fulcrum that balanced the weight between fatal persecution and faithfulness to Jesus the saviour of the world, how much more should it be to us who yearn to be His disciples in whichever measure.

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Prayer unites us with the presence of God. Prayer is the mystical invitation for us from God Himself ‘to be consumed in the pleasure of His intimacy’. The Person of God one in communion with the person of man. Prayer is the personal dialogue between sin and the Holy of Holies. Prayer is the human heart lovingly nourishing the human soul with the precise and wholesome nourishment. Therefore, at the moment of prayer, man suddenly finds himself in the presence of the creator of heaven and earth. The God of powers and dominions but also of human creatures. The moment of prayer, hence, is now suddenly a moment of sanctity. The place of prayer, wherever it may be, so-much-so even the bath place, becomes the sanctum sanctorum. For the one who cries out his anguish of suffering or for the one who is on his knees begging for mercy of grace, for the one who’s soul rejoices in thanksgiving, or for the one who is wrestling the purpose if his life, prayer becomes his moment into eternity within time and space. Even for the one who knows not how to pray, The Lord hears volumes spoken by the spirit of such a desolate man (Romans 8:26-27). Let us always therefore pray with faith like that of job who exclaimed, “Thou shall make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee” (Job 22:27).

Calvary of those who fear

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+JMJ+

A child has a tremendous sense of emptiness at the loss of a prized or dear possession. The sense of loss is so profound in a child because at that tender age where a human slowly but inquisitively discovers the art of expressing his/herself through the mesh of emotions, adapt to reactions, connect to possibilities both significant and insignificant, it is this important phase of life where the child; through these events, also encounters and adapts to fear due to something being lost. This is fear of loss affects and plays a very pivotal role in the spiritual realm.

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Whether we are fortunate or less fortunate, blessed or deprived, able or enabled, many of us receive something or the other from those who care about us or are obligated to us; not necessary that they be those who love us truthfully. It could be presents or generous donations or in the case of those who are among the poorest of the poor; anything given to them becomes possession of great value and they try to protect it with their life. Our possessions are no only a collection of gifts but also of our own hard earned money. By our labor, sacrifices and perseverance we accumulate belongings and treasures. At the loss of such things, the sense of being deprived of them and the fear of having lost it can at times also lead to a rolling some effect in life. If we especially loose something that we were meant to protect or manage then the fear of loosing that item or person is tremendous.

Fear…according to the dictionary is an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. The connotation of fear is quite negative. According to its meaning, it is unpleasant. It is not something that one would desire or yearn for. The fear of underperformance, unpreparedness, loss of a beloved or a valuable and also the unique fear of the possibility of loosing something and not being able to replace or restore.

God on the other hand reveals a very unique and endearing aspect of fear which is contradictory to the worldly consensus about this human emotion. There are several instances in scripture where the first and instant reaction toward God or His heavenly messengers have been ‘fear’. In Revelations 21:8 tells us the “cowardly” or “fearful” (King James Version) will not be in God’s Kingdom. However, there is a particular reverential attribute given to fear in Holy Scriptures. In the beginning there was ‘fear of The Lord‘, now ‘fear of God‘ is most prevalent.  Take the example of all heavenly beings who surround God and His most high and holy throne above the heavens. All these innumerable ‘creatures of light’ – seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels (according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa theologiae’) present their beings before The Lord of Hosts with a mysteriously profound sense of awe, submission and holy fear. This ‘fear of The Lord’, in Hebrew ‘yirah’, or the Greek noun ‘phobos’ makes a person receptive to knowledge and wisdom. The priests, prophets, kings and patriarchs submerged themselves in this fear in all their thoughts as well as encounters with God. Even the peasants and the lowly such as the shepherds who received a thunderous annunciation of the savior while they were tending their flock  by night, were filled with this fear. The Holy Virgin Mary – Mother of God, submitted herself with to her creator’s most holy will, with holy fear in her being for Him.

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Going back to loss of something precious, let us remember that faith in the One True God – the Most Holy Trinity is the most precious of gifts that we receive from The Trinity Themselves. St. Paul in Ephesians 2:8 says, presses the truth saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”. God is our creator, this is our belief and He who is love has given us an immeasurable and unfathomable measure of love by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son Jesus. Therefore we are bound by love to protect, safeguard, nurture, feed, share and build this invaluable gift of faith. However, the earth and life on it is constantly batter with sin and corruption. With the loss of the appetite for the holy and obsessed with the abnormal hunger for that which is unrighteous and evil, our being which was created holy and powerful has become vulnerable and at times mortally victim to sin. Constant susceptibility to concupiscence and the loss of self-control drives us to the loss of what could be the loss of God Himself.

The loss of God is indescribable and unmatched. Man can profit the whole world but with the loss of God, he looses his very soul. This is irreparable loss. The corrupt and evil will never have or seek remorse for having offended God and His people. The sinner who repents truthfully will however be lifted up out of sinful bondage, cleansed and purified by Divine Mercy and exalted by agape. Against the gigantic tides of the culture of death, perversion, sin, sacrilege and corruption in the world, we our summoned to be holy warriors of The Kingdom of God. The one who rejects His Creator and God will curse The glory of The Cross, but a sinner who humbles himself and delights in the shame of having to even crawl towards God’s forgiveness, will glorify The Cross and exalt the ‘Son of Man’ nailed upon it, wounded for the sinner’s transgressions (Isiah 53:5). Satan may claim that he can steal, kill or destroy the human soul. But faith and fear of The Lord negates every attack of ‘the enemy’. The one who has been beaten by ‘the enemy’ yet seeks The Lord, will embrace his/her cross and complete the journey of reconciliation and faithfulness. The world may see it as a walk of shame, but the repentant child of God will embrace and glorify it with humility and love for God.

Therefore, God, through His word, Church and working in individual as well as community lives, is constantly reminding us of the magnanimity of pain and suffering our soul would bear if we do not keep in safe possession the faith He bestows upon us. He is constantly reminding us the we need not be scared of Him or be afraid of Him as we are at the threat of danger or terror, rather he gently caresses us towards cultivating reverence, worship and holy trembling/fear for Him. This holy fear does not add anything to the eternal and incorruptible glory of God, but rather adds immeasurably and unequivocally to our redemption and pilgrimage to our Father’s home.

A repentant sinner bears humiliation, mockery, pain, sorrow, abandonment, with the hope that his ‘fear of The Lord’ grants him a sense of holy shame, leading him to conversion with a contrite heart and in the end await the crown of righteousness.

+JMJ+

When God calls, answer

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There are precious moments in the hours when light emerges from the darkness, when the sun dawns upon the earth and the moon fades into the clouds. Those moments when these incredible celestial bodies play see-saw, the whole world is at the brink of a whole new beginning. Those who live to see the day break, either acknowledge or are oblivious of the fact that God has chosen to be merciful and loving towards them, and is giving them another chance to discover the awesomeness, extraordinary potential and unique charisms that He has poured to the brim in their lives, to bear great fruit.

Thousands of thousands of people all around the world are seeking to find, to know and experience the purpose of their lives. Some want to know what best they can do to make their life fulfilling. Some others who realize and live their kingship with God – are yearning to know their call. God’s children choose to discern their ‘calling’ – purpose in life.  In James 1:5 it is written “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Wisdom is the key to discern the will of God in one’s life. It surely is not easy by mere human intellect or emotions. God’s grace is the supernatural link to embark on the journey of discernment as well as to decode the will of God in one’s life, a will which is holy, perfect and that would bring great glory to God alone (ref Jeremiah 29:11).

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But it is surely not very easy to know what’s in God’s mind for us. His plan for us has been in His mind even before the creation of the world. He is a God of unthinkable, unspeakable and immeasurable omniscience. To come close to an understanding of such an implausible design for life, many saints and mystics have generously and freely taught by experience – of what I call the art of being ‘collaborators of love’. Our life is a gift of love – God. To live life to the fullest can be possible only when the fruit of that love is manifested precisely as Love would expect. The best part however, is that Love is never forced upon us. So, one needs to seek, find and fulfill. Among the many saints, doctors and mystics of the Christ’s Church, many have recommended and even designed systematic ways of discerning one’s call in life. Be it St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Paul, St Augustine and so forth.

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One of the most important aspects of discerning one’s calling/vocation in life, common in all the recommendations of saints, is to have a heart and mind that is willing to explore. Cooperation with God’s grace will do the rest. One common challenge or rather shortcoming in discerning vocations is that we fail to see in and around our own circumstances. We look for answers or for God’s voice everywhere, but seldom in the very present circumstances of our lives. This ‘angle’ is as important as every other. It is clearly and repeatedly evident in the lives of many of those who responded to God’s call, mentioned especially in the Holy Gospels. Jesus entered in to the very now of people’s lives, spoke to them in the midst of their day-to-day realities and called them. Now those who said yes to His call did not spare time in doing so. By grace, they let their hearts and minds to follow the call, to experience the possibilities and in the end bear fruit that would be greater than their most unthinkable imagination.

Peter and Andrew were fishermen, and Jesus entered in the very center of their lives and called them to be ‘fishers’ of men. The same He did with James and John. Jesus met Matthew just as he was – a tax collector. Wanted him to experience God (Himself) in his very own house, and then at His call of ‘follow me’ – Matthew left everything and followed Jesus. When Jesus calls, He expects us to respond and not procrastinate. That’s because when He calls, He is also mindful that our weaknesses, commitments, attachments, etc, make it impossible for us to follow Him. This is why He gives us grace, and longs for us to cooperate with that grace at the earliest or rather immediately. Failing which, such grace may not occur again. When the rich young man asked the ‘Good Teacher’ what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus acknowledges that the man lived his life following the commandments but yet there was one thing that he had to do. Jesus did not mince words in letting him know what that one thing was. Jesus said, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21)”. You see how Jesus spoke to him in a language that the ‘rich man’ was accustomed to all his life? The language of possessions, wealth and treasure – but only now it had a paradigm shift in meaning. So what did the rich young man do? Scripture says, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

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Dear friends, most of us desire to fulfill God’s will in our lives, but not all of us have the same spirit of obedience after God reveals his plan for us. God surely knows us better than we do. Holy Scriptures in Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” God speaks to us in our every day circumstances. He wants us to look into ourselves. He speaks to us in ways that we can surely understand, if and only if we have the true desire to submit our will to Him and to cooperate zestfully with His grace, to a call that will illuminate His image and likeness, with which He fearfully and lovingly created us. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).” Let us be open, be willing, be courageous and let ourselves be willed towards heaven by His grace.

We Adore Thee Corpus Christi

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“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). In the beginning, God who is eternal spoke the Word and there came into being all that He saw and considered good. How glorious and indescribably overwhelming to even begin to discover the joy creation might have experienced when it came into being by the sound of the voice of The Almighty God. This same Word, which was with God, became incarnate as man, taking the species of flesh, blood and soul. Through His salvific purpose on earth, Jesus, fully God and fully Man, gave purpose to man’s grafting into the vine that is holy and everlasting. The Body and Blood of God Incarnate – Jesus, is the Word that became flesh.

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The feast of Corpus Christi is the celebration of the reality of God present in the lives of baptized Catholics, around them and within them, not only for the nourishment of their body and soul, but also as the source of Divine Utterance from the mouth of The Father, constantly at work, creating all things new, and with a sigh of immeasurable contentment saying, “it is good” (Genesis 1:31). Jesus gave us His body and blood not as a symbolic gesture for intellectual or spiritual contemplation, but rather fundamentally as life to our soul that falls victim to the fatal corruption of sin.

St. Catherine of Siena was invited to drink the Precious Blood of Jesus, which flowed from His side.  After drinking from the Fountain of His Precious Blood, she could not eat or drink anything more.  For seven years before her death she lived on no food but Our Lord in the Eucharist.  She was not hungry, but remained active and strong.

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One of the most well known attitudes towards the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the attitude of disbelief. Many believers and unbelievers throughout the ages have either lacked faith or trust in the actual, real and living presence of Jesus in flesh and blood in the species of the consecrated host. There have been numerous incidents around the globe where our dear Blessed Lord Jesus has been gracious enough to reveal the glory of His human nature in it’s very species of flesh and blood, within the transubstantiated Eucharistic bread.

A hardened heretic in the region of Tolosa challenged St. Anthony that if he can prove with a miracle that in the Eucharist of believers there is, however hidden it may be, the true body of Christ, he will renounce every heresy and submit myself to the Catholic faith. He said that if his mule, which he would starve for 3 days, ignored the fodder and rushes to adore the living body of Jesus in the host, and then he will instantly convert. St. Anthony agreed. Finally, asking for silence the man of God said to the animal with great faith: “In the name of virtue and the Creator, who I, although unworthy, am carrying in my hands, I ask you, o beast, and I order to come closer quickly and with humility and to show just veneration, so that the malevolent heretics will learn from this gesture that every creature is subject to the Lord, as held in the hands with priestly dignity on the altar”.

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God’s servant had hardly finished speaking, when the animal, ignoring the fodder, knelt down and lowered his head to the floor, thus genuflecting before the living sacrament of the body of Christ. The faithful were filled with uncontrollable joy, and the heretic, renounced the his doctrine in front of all present, and from then on was obedient to the precepts of the holy Church (Benignitas16,6-17).

As the Church of Christ Jesus acknowledges the real presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, she ‘proclaims his death and resurrection until He comes again’ – Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I. She celebrates the meal, which assures eternal sustenance of the soul and life everlasting with The Trinity. The reality of a Catholic life is immersed as well as illuminated in the radical reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the species of the Holy Eucharist. Without this reality there is no Catholic faith, without the Catholic faith there is no hope for eternal life with the One True Eternal God.

With heartfelt gratitude to Pope Urban who instituted the feast of Corpus Christi and to St. Thomas Aquinas for his venerable work in praise and adoration to this glorious feast, I wish you all very Happy Feast of Corpus Christi.

Love ascends with glory

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Reflection on the Gospel, John 17:11-19

The Ascending of Our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven is a glorious precursor to His indescribable Descending on earth on the Final Day. Swaddling clothes were the robes that adorned the King of heaven and earth when He became God incarnate and lay in a poor manger at His birth. In the moment of His Ascension the majestic clouds, which kiss the mighty sun and cradle the tranquil moon, had the privilege to be luminous garments for it’s Creator’s triumphant entrée into The Father’s court. While the Angels escorted their Lord and Master into His heavenly Kingdom, every essence of their being would have exclaimed an ecstasy of unimaginable joy and awe.

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The earth’s sod that rejoiced when the Holy of Holies; Jesus strolled upon it. As He ascends Himself up to the heavens as the Risen Lord who defeated Death in its face, every grain of this soil also rejoices for being healed by the shedding of every drop of His immaculate blood on it during His passion and death.

Jesus ascends into heaven, not to abandon the world that He redeemed, but rather to present it to the Father for His full embrace that would last for all eternity. He assures us of His real presence here on earth even as He takes His rightful place with The Father. He manifests that great love by praying to His Father that He may keep us all one just as He and The Father are one, protecting us from the Evil One and ratifying that we do not belong to the world anymore, no more than He belongs to it.

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‘The consecration’ which Christ makes to His loving and merciful Father exemplifies His constant protection and counsel for us. Jesus consecrates the world in Truth. During His mission on earth He proclaimed Himself as “The Truth…” (Jn 14:6). He also said “The Father and I are One” (Jn 10:30). Consecration to the Truth is consecration to the undeniable and unfathomable unity of The Father and The Son and also The Spirit who is the light of this Truth. The Prince of Darkness charged his mortal assault on The Light of all Nations, but failed in the conquest precisely because Truth pierces victoriously through every shield of lie. By this consecration in Truth; Jesus establishes The Kingdom’s coat of arms to be the Trinity itself. It therefore calls upon every baptized Christian to be a Testimony to this salvific Truth that radiates peace, love, joy and mercy.

Jesus ascends into heaven to let His Spirit descend upon His Church, so that Truth may be glorified and it bears testimony to life, death and resurrection of those who part take in the very life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Let’s go fishing!

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Gospel Reflection, John 21: 1-14

The glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus begins a whole new ‘creation narrative’. Jesus who is the ‘Logos’, The Word which became flesh, now dwells amidst His creation as the Risen Christ, glorified by God. The resurrection is the genesis of a new creation of God. This new creation is also filled with unblemished love, purity and holiness, as was the first creation, until it bore corruption so intense that it disrupted the equilibrium of all of creation. But what is unique about this new creation is that it is a gift of God’s love as well as His mercy. In the beginning when God created the world, He created it out of love and saw that everything was good. But now, through His risen Son Jesus, He creates everything with His love but also with His compassionate mercy. And it is this image of God, the quintessential image of mercy that renews the image of all of creation and aligns it with that of God.

In today’s Gospel reading, the risen Christ Jesus appears once again to His friends. The Evangelist John says in his gospel that the apparition happened at the Sea of Tiberias. ‘It was on or around this lake that Jesus did many of His wonderful miracles. 18 of the 33 recorded miracles of Christ were probably done in the immediate neighborhood of the Sea of Galilee. In the city of Capernaum alone He performed 10 of these. The Sea of Galilee, also KinneretLake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias (Hebrew: יָם כִּנֶּרֶת, Judeo-Aramaic: יַמּא דטבריא, Arabic:بحيرة طبريا‎), is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide. The fresh waters of the lake are clean, and they have always been well stocked with a variety of fish.’ (Source: Wikipedia and bible-history.com)

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During His ministry on earth, Jesus taught His disciples to be fishers of men. On this particular day Simon Peter decides to go fishing for actual fish and not men. It is important to observe that Simon Peter upon whom Jesus bestowed the ‘great ordination’ as I call it, of being the rock upon which the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of Jesus would be build, is back in being engaged with his earthly profession. St. Peter is teaching us that having received Jesus in our lives, one should never forget the world in which we live and the responsibilities given to us. Those responsibilities come from God himself, in order to cultivate a culture that promotes dignity of labor, dignity of life and caring for the creation of God.

In our daily works in the world, we are also called to be fishers of men. We are expected to be on our boats of faith built in the wood of the Gospel truth and the light of the Church, equipped with the nets of righteousness, love, humility and wisdom. The Gospel reading accounts that they went fishing during the night. Our mission too as fishers of men, commissioned by our Baptism into the Catholic Church, is to venture into the waters (lives of people) especially when they are struggling in the darkness of sin, loneliness, despair and suffering.

Today’s Gospel also shows us that it is not always guaranteed that whenever we venture into the sea (“Go make disciples of all nations” – Mt 28:19) we will be received with open arms or have a ‘good catch’. We should be aware and open to the fact that we may have to sail back to our shore empty handed. Nevertheless, the resurrected Christ yet assures us that He will be there with us in our mission, as early as the break of light at dawn, and if we listen to his voice when He calls and throw the net in the direction that He asks us to (submitting to His will), then we will have a great catch and that our nets (Church) will still be able to contain. Through such an experience, the eyes of our hearts will instantly recognize the presence of The Lord even from a far off distance, just as the beloved disciple John did, and proclaimed, ‘It is The Lord’.

Therefore, we should always remember to look forward to have our first conversation of each day with God. For in the peace and serenity of day break, The Lord is watching out for us, praying for us and looking out for us to guide our course for the day. Jesus will then also invite us and lead us to be refreshed as well as be nourished by a meal with Him (Holy Eucharist), and by doing so He fulfills His promise of providing us with our daily bread (spiritual and temporal) from His Father in heaven. Let us allow our entire being to be renewed by the love and mercy of the Risen Savior and be partakers of His glory and eternal life of holiness, freedom and peace. Amen.

Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

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Lenten Reflection: Day 43

Gospel, John 14: 1-6

This He saith, because it was probable that when they heard they would be troubled. For if the leader of their band, one so entirely fervent, was told that before the cock crew he should thrice deny his Master, it was likely that they would expect to have to undergo some great reverse, sufficient to bend even souls of adamant. Since then it was probable that they considering these things would be astounded, see how He comforteth them, saying, “Let not your heart be troubled.” By this first word showing the power of His Godhead, because, what they had in their hearts He knew and brought to light. As He comforteth Peter when bewildered by saying, “but thou shall follow afterwards,” so also He gives this glimpse of hope to the others. For lest they should think that the promise was given to him alone, He saith, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”

“The same place which receiveth Peter shall receive you.” For a great abundance of dwellings is there, and it may not be said that they need preparation. When He said, “Ye cannot follow Me now,” that they might not deem that they were finally cut off. So earnest have I been concerning this matter, that I should already have been given up to it, had not preparation been made long ago for you.” Showing them that they ought to be very bold and confident. Then that He may not seem to speak as though enticing them, but that they may believe the thing to be so.

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Seest thou that He giveth them proof that these things were not said without a meaning? And He used these words, because He knew in Himself that their souls now desired to learn this. For Peter said what he said, not in order to learn, but that he might follow. But when Peter had been rebuked, and Christ had declared that to be possible which for the time seemed impossible, and when the apparent impossibility led him to desire to know the matter exactly, therefore He saith to the others, “And the way ye know.” For as when He hath said, “Thou shalt deny Me,” before any one spake a word, searching into their hearts, He said, “Be not troubled,” so here also by saying “Ye know,” He disclosed the desire which was in their heart, and Himself giveth them an excuse for questioning. Now the, “Whither goest Thou?” Peter used from a very loving affection, Thomas from cowardice.

If the Jews questioned among themselves when they heard (of His departure), although desirous to be rid of Him much more would those desire to learn, who wished never to be separated from Him. They feared therefore to ask Him, but yet they asked Him, from their great love and anxiety. What then saith Christ?

“In My Father’s house are many mansions”; and again, “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.” This He would not tell them at first, in order not to throw them into greater despondency, but, now that He hath soothed them, He telleth them. For by Peter’s rebuke He cast out much of their despondency; and dreading lest they should be addressed in the same way, they were the more restrained. “I am the Way.” This is the proof of the, “No man cometh to the Father but by Me”; and, “the Truth, and the Life,” of this, “that these things shall surely be.” “There is then no falsehood with Me, if I am ‘the Truth’; if I am ‘Life’ also, not even death shall be able to hinder you from coming to Me. Besides; if I am ‘the Way,’ ye will need none to lead you by the hand; if I am also ‘the Truth,’ My words are no falsehoods; if I am also ‘Life,’ though ye die ye shall obtain what I have told you.”

Now His being “the Way,” they both understood and allowed, but the rest they knew not. They did not indeed venture to say what they knew not. Still they gained great consolation from His being “the Way.” “If,” saith He, “I have sole authority to bring 26 to the Father, ye shall surely come thither; for neither is it possible to come by any other way.” But by saying before, “No man can come to Me except the Father draw him”; and again, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men unto Me” (Jn 12:32); and again, “No man cometh to the Father but by Me” (Jn 14:6); He showeth Himself equal to Him who begat Him. But how after saying, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

– The above is an excerpt from a commentary of St. Chrysostom on today’s Gospel.

One of you is going to betray Me

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Lenten Reflection: Day 42

Gospel, John 13: 21-33, 36-38

It is no light question, brethren, that meets us in the Gospel of the blessed John, when he says: “When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” Was it for this reason that Jesus was troubled, not in flesh, but in spirit, that He was now about to say, “One of you shall betray me”? Did this occur then for the first time to His mind, or was it at that moment suddenly revealed to Him for the first time, and so troubled Him by the startling novelty of so great a calamity?

Was it not a little before that He was using these words, “He that eateth bread with me will lift up his heel against me”? And had He not also, previously to that, said, “And ye are clean, but not all”? where the evangelist added, “For He knew who should betray Him:” to whom also on a still earlier occasion He had pointed in the words, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” Why is it, then, that He “was now troubled in spirit,” when “He testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me”?

He was troubled, then, who had power to lay down His life, and had power to take it again. That mighty power is troubled, the firmness of the rock is disturbed: or is it rather our infirmity that is troubled in Him? Assuredly so: let servants believe nothing unworthy of their Lord, but recognize their own membership in their Head. He who died for us, was also Himself troubled in our place. He, therefore, who died in power, was troubled in the midst of His power: He who shall yet transform the body of our humility into similarity of form with the body of His glory, hath also transferred into Himself the feeling of our infirmity, and sympathizeth with us in the feelings of His own soul. Accordingly, when it is the great, the brave, the sure, the invincible One that is troubled, let us have no fear for Him, as if He were capable of failing: He is not perishing, but in search of us [who are]. Us, I say; it is us exclusively whom He is thus seeking, that in His trouble we may behold ourselves, and so, when trouble reaches us, may not fall into despair and perish. By His trouble, who could not be troubled save with His own consent, He comforts such as are troubled unwillingly.

Il bacio di Giuda di Ignazio Jacometti (1854).

Strong-minded, indeed, are those Christians, if such there are, who experience no trouble at all in the prospect of death; but for all that, are they stronger-minded than Christ? Who would have the madness to say so? And what else, then, does His being troubled signify, but that, by voluntarily assuming the likeness of their weakness, He comforted the weak members in His own body, that is, in His Church; to the end that, if any of His own are still troubled at the approach of death, they may fix their gaze upon Him, and so be kept from thinking themselves castaways on this account, and being swallowed up in the more grievous death of despair? And how great, then, must be that good which we ought to expect and hope for in the participation of His divine nature, whose very perturbation tranquillizes us, and whose infirmity confirms us?

“What thou doest, do quickly,” not because thou hast the power in thyself, but because He wills it who has all the power.  “Now no one of those at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the money-bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy those things which we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.” The Lord, therefore, had also a money-box, where He kept the offerings of believers, and distributed to the necessities of His own, and to others who were in need. It was then that the custom of having church-money was first introduced, so that thereby we might understand that His precept about taking no thought for the morrow was not a command that no money should be kept by His saints, but that God should not he served for any such end, and that the doing of what is right should not be held in abeyance through the fear of want.

“The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.” Although thou say, “I know not the man;” although thou say, “Man, I know not what thou sayest;” although thou say, “I am not one of His disciples;”6 thou wilt be denying me. If, which it were sinful to doubt, Christ so spake, and foretold the truth, then doubtless Peter denied Christ. Let us not accuse Christ in defending Peter. Let infirmity acknowledge its sin; for there is no falsehood in the Truth. When Peter’s infirmity acknowledged its sin, his acknowledgment was full; and the greatness of the evil he had committed in denying Christ, he showed by his tears. He himself reproves his defenders, and for their conviction, brings his tears forward as witnesses.

Nor have we, on our part, in so speaking, any delight in accusing the first of the apostles; but in looking on him, we ought to take home the lesson to ourselves, that no man should place his confidence in human strength. For what else had our Teacher and Saviour in view, but to show us, by making the first of the apostles himself an example, that no one ought in any way to presume of himself? And that, therefore, really took place in Peter’s soul, for which he gave cause in his body. And yet he did not go before in the Lord’s behalf, as he rashly presumed, but did so otherwise than he reckoned. For before the death and resurrection of the Lord, he both died when he denied, and returned to life when he wept; but he died, because he himself had been proud in his presumption, and he lived again, because that Other had looked on him with kindness).

The above is an excerpt from St Augustine’s tractates 60-64, 66 on the Gospel of St John.

Anoint The Lord with richness of your life

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Lenten Reflection: Day 41

Gospel, John 12:1-11

While Martha was serving, Mary anointed the Lord with ointment, thus accomplishing her love towards Him; and by the actions of both, the measure of love was filled up and made perfect. The traitor rebukes the woman who had shown her devotion towards Christ, and attacks the admirable deed, and affects to blame it out of love towards the poor, because ointment was brought and not money. But it was out of ignorance as to what is really excellent that Judas said this. For the bringing of presents unto God ought to be honoured more than the poor. For, He says, love for the poor is very praiseworthy, only let it be put after veneration of God.

And what He says amounts to this: The time, He says, which has been appointed for My being honoured, that is to say, the time of My sojourn on earth, does not require that the poor should be honoured before Me. And this He said with reference to the Incarnation. He does not however in any way forbid the sympathetic person to exercise his love towards the poor. Therefore when there is need of service or of singing, these must be honoured before love towards the poor; for it is possible to do good after the spiritual services are over. He says therefore that it is not necessary always without intermission to devote our time to honouring Himself, or to spend everything upon the priestly service, but to lay out the greatest part upon the poor.

Mary annointing Jesus feet

For after the Ascension of the Saviour, when they were no longer following their Master on His journeys, but had leisure; then they eagerly spent all the offerings that were brought to them upon the poor. Through the strangeness of the sign the multitude are astonished; and that which they heard to have been done they wished also to behold with their eyes, that they might believe it more confidently. And they not only wished to see Lazarus, but also the Christ, the doer of the sign; not then seeing Him for the first time, for they had often seen Him and accompanied with Him; but inasmuch as He had gone into retirement, that He might not suffer before the proper time, they were seeking again to see Him: and the more reasonable among them even admired Him, as they recognised no fault in Him. With a settled purpose therefore the Lord did not immediately enter into Jerusalem, but remained outside, in order that by the report [which would reach the city] He might draw the common people to a desire of wishing to see Him.

See now how frantic the rulers seem to become, wildly rushing hither and thither under the influence of their envy, and saying nothing coherently. They seriously meditate murder upon murder, thinking to remove the force of the miraculous deed at the same time with their victim, that they might stop the people running to believe Christ.

The above is an excerpt of St. Cyril of Alexandria’s homiletic Commentary on today’s Gospel reading.