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- Divine Mercy Sunday – In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter to be the Feast of Divine Mercy. In doing so, he took to the heart of the whole Church a desire that Sr. Faustina had received in visions from Jesus himself. Saturday, April 10th, 2021
This feast is closely connected with the image of the Merciful Jesus, from whose heart two rays of light emerge. The greatness and importance of this image lie not in the beauty of the depiction, but in the grace that Jesus gives to the believer. But why does Jesus desire the veneration of this image?
The rays come from the side of Jesus. Jesus showed his side to the unbelieving Thomas and thus paved the way for him to believe. Thus, this image reminds us of God’s great mercy. He does not wish the sinner to die, but to repent and live. The rays are red and white – blood and water. From the open side of the Lord spring the sacraments of the Church. In the sacraments the merciful Lord turns to us in a special way.
God’s mercy is the reason why we may trust him without reservation. With all our distress, with all our sins, we may come to him. That is why under the picture it says “Jesus, I trust in you.”
In order to grow in trust in divine mercy, Jesus, through Sr Faustina, recommends the following exercises: the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday on the 1st Sunday after Easter, the Divine Mercy Novena, daily at 3 p.m. the Hour of Mercy (at the hour of Jesus’ death, we look with trust to Jesus who has mercy on us and wants to give us life) and the Divine Mercy chaplet. All these exercises are intended to strengthen our trust in God’s mercy, because he has promised us that no one will be lost who trusts in his mercy.
(11.04.2021 at 4.45 PM Divine Mercy chaplet and the opportunity for confession)
- Lenten Message from Father Sibi Sunday, February 7th, 2021
We all know that Lent has 40 days, but it may cause us to wonder about the significance of the number 40. Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days each. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to “bear the iniquity” of Judea’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6), Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4), three kings reigned for 40 years each: Saul, David and Solomon, Jonah warned ancient Nineveh for 40 days that its destruction would come because of its many sins (Jonah 3: 1-10). These are some of the examples of the significance of the number 40 in the Bible. The number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. A time of discipline and preparation is important before any important event or decision in life. We too have 40 days of lent before us. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the three tools we use as we prepare to celebrate the great mystery of Easter: the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord.
This one should be the easiest of the three. As Christians we are supposed to be praying anyway, so why make it a requirement? Because the sad truth is that many Christians do not pray, at least not with any regularity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that prayer is loving conversation with the God who created you. Take time to talk to the Lord. Thank Him for all that He has given you, ask Him what you really need. Try picking one or two of the common prayers like the Rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet or the stations of the cross or read a chapter of the Bible every day. Do what you can, but just keep working towards more prayer. As Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “if a Christian is not growing, he is dead. There is no stagnation in Christ.”
Fasting and Abstinence have nothing to do with hating or despising the world and its material goods. Neither are they ways of punishing ourselves. Fasting is one way in which we deepen our awareness of God. By denying ourselves food, or a luxury (the sweets, the cigarettes, the alcohol) what else do we do except say “I do not depend on these things”. It enables us to step back from the usual habits and distractions and give particular attention to God. An outward restraint can be a sign and symbol of an inner attention, and a help towards it. “Fasting is food for the soul, nourishment for the spirit”. (Ambrose of Milan).
Almsgiving is really just another name for charitable giving. Giving to charity is showing caritas, love, for our neighbour just as Jesus told us to. St Francis of Assisi said, “in giving we receive.” During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,” which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).
Wishing you all a fruitful Lenten season,
- Mark 6:45-56 Saturday, January 9th, 2021
Jesus has just fed five thousand men, as well as additional women and children, with five small loaves of bread and two fish. In verse 45 we read, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.” You sense an urgency in Jesus’ actions. He wants the disciples gone, and according to verse 46, he wants to be alone to pray. What’s going on here? What had just happened – the five thousand – became a test for both Jesus and for the disciples.
For Jesus, the test was one that we usually don’t recognize as a test. We read in the Gospel of John that the crowd that Jesus fed was ready to force him to become King (Jn 6:15). Jesus was so popular at that point that he faced the temptation to get sidetracked from his mission due to the acclaim of the crowds. Jesus also knew that the path ahead led to the cross, not to glory and conquest. The glory and victory would come, but not before betrayal and death. So Jesus was going through his own storm, and so he retreated and spent most of the night in prayer.
But the focus in this passage really isn’t on the storm that Jesus faced. Mark doesn’t even go there. Instead, he draws our attention to what the disciples are going through. We read in verses 47 and 48: And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea.
One commentator says: This episode is a good illustration of the life of discipleship…It was not through stubborn self-will, but through direct obedience to the Lord’s command, that the disciples found themselves in this plight. Thus the storm in no way showed that they had deviated from the path of God’s will: God’s path for them lay through the storm, to the other shore of the lake. Moreover, it appeared as if the Lord had forgotten them; they were alone, at night, making heavy weather with the rowing. (Alan Cole)
Ask yourself: Why would Jesus allow the disciples to go through this crisis alone? The answer has to be that this is part of the preparation process that the disciples needed as part of their training. We are going to be placed in situations, believing that God has sent us. We are going to be straining at the oars making very little progress at all. It’s going to seem as if we’re alone and that Jesus is off somewhere else. We can expect this to be part of our experience.
There really are three lessons we’re expected to learn:
We will face adversity and hardship. Following Christ does not mean an exemption from suffering. Following Christ will sometimes lead us directly into a position of suffering and hardship. We should not be surprised to encounter times of suffering. When we follow Jesus, adversity and hardship will be part of the path.
There are going to be times when we’re at the end of our own resources. The picture of the disciples “straining at the oars” is a good one for us. There are going to be times that we are working very hard but seemingly making very little progress. Reaching the point of helplessness and desperation is actually a step forward spiritually.
There will be times that Jesus seems absent. We will be in the storm and it will seem like God has abandoned us.
If you are in one of these moments right now of suffering and hardship, of being at the end of your resources, feeling that God is perhaps absent, then you are in a very good spot. Suffering is not evidence of God’s absence, but of God’s presence, and it is in our experience of being broken that God does his surest and most characteristic salvation work.
We’re going to face situations like this, and it’s in these very situations that we learn something about Jesus.
- John 3:22-4:6 Friday, January 8th, 2021
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
From the very beginnings of Christianity, there has been false and heretical teachings. The apostle John tells us how a false teacher can be identified. If someone denies either the deity of Christ or His humanity, that man is a fraudulent teacher. We are to discern the spirit that is behind a teacher or his doctrine. “Dear friends,” John reminds us, “do not believe every spirit. You are to test the spirits to determine if they are from God.”
We are reminded in earlier verses, that there are many spirits in the world that are not to be trusted, and the apostle points out the importance of testing every spirit to see if it is from God, or if it has been spawned from the evil one. We are told that many false prophets and false teachers have gone out into the world with the deliberate intention of misleading Christians by teaching a false gospel… under the pretence of being a true believer.
From the time of John, there have been teachers and religious groups that refuse to accept that Jesus is fully God or that He is fully Man. But Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Some like to suggest that the Lord Jesus was a lesser god – a created being, while others have taught that Jesus was not fully human.. but simply the mirage of a man. However, only the perfect God is good enough to pay the price for sin and only a sinless Man could die on the Cross and shed His life-blood as payment for humanities sin. It is only in the hypostatic union of Christ’s humanity with His divinity, that qualified Him to be our Substitute for sin.
It is ONLY faith in the incarnate Son of God – the eternal God made in human flesh, that is sufficient to pay for the price of sin and save us from death and hell. Without faith in the humanity of Christ, there is no Christian faith. Without the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin and without trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection to save… we remain dead in our sin and without hope in the world.
John gives clear guidelines to discern whether or not a doctrine is really from the Lord. He tells us that, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” has the truth… for every person, every preacher, every teacher, every denomination, every doctrine, every spirit that does not acknowledge the humanity of God-incarnate, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaims a false gospel and is influenced by a ‘spirit’ other than the Holy Spirit of God.
It was only by the eternal God becoming a Man, that He could die as a Man as payment for the sin of mankind. It was only because the eternally existing Son of God set aside His glory for a time and took upon Himself humanity, that sin and death could be defeated. Life is in the blood and only the shed blood of a perfect Man was sufficient to pay the price of sin. Only the God-Man could die for us and be resurrected to life – so that in HIM we might be forgiven, through his blood, and receive His life.
We do well to reflect on this truth, for Scripture tells us that as the Church age comes to a close, apostasy, heresy, the doctrines of demons, and all manner of false ‘gospels’ will infiltrate every sector of Christianity.
Let us hold fast to the truth and confess Christ crucified, as the anointed Messiah of God and Redeemer of the world – for our Saviour Jesus Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King. He is Son of God and Son of Man. He is very God of very God – incarnate and not created. He is the Word that became flesh. He is the unique God-Man, Who alone is our Kinsman-Redeemer, our Lord and our God.
- The Epiphani of the Lord Matthew 2:1:12 Tuesday, January 5th, 2021
Who are the wise men from the east mentioned in the beginning of the gospel of Matthew? What relationship do they have to the tradition of three kings that we hear about?
Wise men are specifically mentioned in Mt 2:1-2a. The Greek word used here is Magoi- we get magician from this. Question is who are they? Why does he say that they came from the east? Over the history of Christianity, three interpretations have been put forward. Some fathers of the Church like Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Leo the Great and Cyril of Jerusalem are of the opinion that the wise men were from Persia. Persia was very well known in the antiquity for its knowledge, wisdom and learning. The second interpretation is that the wise men are from Babylon because Babylon is to the east of the holy land. Jerome and Augustine took this position. Third interpretive option and the strongest possibility is that Matthew talks about Arabia. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage represent this view.
Why is it the best possibility? Matthew appears to allude to an Old Testament prophecy- Isaiah 60:6. It describes the new Jerusalem. The wise men brought exactly the same gifts. Many commentators suggest that Matthew is deliberately alluding to Isaiah because Sheba is a part of the territory of Midian and Efrat and it consisted of Arabians who were the descendants of Abraham’s wife Ketura in the book of Genesis. So, the Link between Mathew and Isaiah points us to Arabia.
A second element here is Psalm 72 which describes King Solomon. It depicts a new king, a messianic king. It speaks of gentile kings bowing down to the Israelite king. And these kings bring Gold from Sheba. (72:15). What is interesting is not only that Sheba is mentioned but also that the kings bow down just like the wise men in Matthew (72:10-11). So, what Matthew here depicts is that gold from Sheba, Arabia is brought to the new Solomon, the Messiah. If this interpretation is true, then Matthew associates these wise men from the east with the territory of Sheba and the gold that is brought to Jesus as a kind of fulfilment of that prophecy. Psalm 72 leads to the assumption that these wise men are kings. But Matthew never tells that. So, it is the fusing of Matthew’s account with OT Psalm that leads to this tradition that these wise men were kings. The tradition of 3 kings is derived from the three gifts.
Therefore, we infer that these wise men are not from Persia or Babylon, but most likely from Arabia which would fulfil the prophecy of the Psalm that the Messiah would be a kind of new Solomon or greater than Solomon. Mt12. 42.
The second thing to notice is the term wise men, magoi. It was used to refer to great philosophers, astronomers, astrologers who were often members of royal courts and acted as advisors to the king and who were known for their wisdom and knowledge as well as their ability to read the signs of heavens, to read the signs in the stars. They come from the east. They see a star and they recognise it as a portent of the birth of a new king. Pope Benedict speaks about an expectation among Jews in the first century. He continues that such an expectation was also among gentiles. Pagan writers like Suetonius and Tacitus point out that a ruler would come out of Judea who would be a king out of Judea. Now, what do the wise men do? They go to Herod and narrates everything. He was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. He asks scribes about the kin. They quote Mica 5:2- a king from the city of Bethlehem. 1Sam 16 tells us that Bethlehem was the city of David. Another important prophecy is Numbers 24:15-17 oracle of Balaam who was a pagan prophet. It is the famous prophecy of the star. It was so famous that a 2 nd century Jewish man proclaimed himself as Messiah and revolted against Romans and was named Bar Kochba (son of Star). So, this might have been known also among the gentiles. So, when the star rises it is a sign of the sceptre. So, the wise men come to Jerusalem. What was the star? A comet or a planet? We do not know. Many of the church fathers thought of it as a supernatural phenomenon, like an angel. In the bible, angels are depicted as stars. Following a star may not lead you to the goal. So, they interpreted this star as an angel who showed them the way. Star in the heavens was a sign. The magi read the book of creation in the star which gives them some idea about the newborn king. But there is the book of scripture which the scribes consulted and tells them that the king would be born in Bethlehem. We need to look at the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Scripture. CB
- John 1:43-51 Monday, January 4th, 2021
Let us reflect today on what it means to follow Jesus.
Jesus decides to head for Galilee, and that’s when the encounter with Philip begins. The first point we notice is actually very easy to miss. Right at the start of the story, John says: “Jesus found Philip”.
Philip didn’t find Christ. Christ found Philip. The truth at the heart of the Christian story is not that you and I have found Christ, but Christ has found us. We did not decide for God. God decided for us. And the narrative that runs throughout the Bible is of a God who constantly seeks out his people. And that’s the case right from the beginning of Scripture. If you remember in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, realised they were naked and were embarrassed, so they hid. And, in verse 8, God is walking in the garden and looking for Adam and Eve and in verse 9: “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Right from the beginning of time, God has been seeking us out and finding us.
So let us never think that we chose God: He has chosen us! As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” And this is important because the knowledge that God has sought us out, rather than vice versa, is crucial in keeping us humble before God. Even our own faith is not our own decision!
And once Jesus finds Philip, he issues a single command: “Follow me”. Put Jesus as number one in our lives: that is what is demanded of us as Christians. Philip is compelled to follow Jesus – and leaves all else behind: his work, his family, his possessions, his ambitions. It all has to go when we follow Christ.
The first thing he did, according to John, was find Nathanael and tell him about Jesus! The first rule of being a disciple of Jesus is very simple: Tell other people about Jesus!
And what is so lovely, I think, is that Philip didn’t have any great learning and yet he was really effective in being an evangelist for Jesus. I’ve just said how God finds us, not the other way round, but look what Philip says to Nathanael: “We have found him about whom Moses in the law wrote…” Well, Philip’s theology isn’t very good: Jesus found him, he didn’t find Jesus! But, nevertheless, he is effective in bringing Nathanael to Jesus.
So often, we think we can’t tell other people about Jesus because we don’t know enough or we don’t know our Bibles well enough…but none of that matters. We don’t need to be theologians to be effective. We just need to be passionate for Jesus, and he will do the rest!
So firstly, to be a follower of Jesus means to be found by him.
Secondly, to be a follower of Jesus means to tell others about him.
Thirdly, to be a follower of Jesus means keeping on going despite the knocks. Nathanael’s response to Philip is not particularly encouraging, is it? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip had come running over to Nathanael, passionate about sharing this good news about Jesus, only to be met with a really cynical response.
Sometimes, when we tell people about Jesus, we are met with cynicism or rudeness or apathy and it can be really discouraging and it can knock our self-confidence. But when it happened to Philip, he didn’t get into some theological debate about the merits of Nazareth as a geographical region or its place within the salvation history of Israel, or anything like that…He just said to Nathanael, “Come and see!”
As the followers of Christ, it is our duty to provide opportunities to experience God. Are you excited about your faith? If yes, then let your faith be converted to actions of love that reveal God to this world.
- John 1:1-18 – The prologue to the gospel of John is one of the greatest theological masterpieces of the bible. It sums up the whole of Christianity. It is an attestation of the unending love of God. Wednesday, December 30th, 2020
“In the beginning was the Word.” This is how John begins. No first-century Jew would miss it. ‘Bereshit’ is the Hebrew for “in the beginning.” That is how the whole bible commences, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1). John is indicating, the story that I am going to tell you is the story of a new creation. In fact, it is God at work completing His creation. “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Whenever I speak words, it is an expression of myself. I am telling you what I think or feel like or my opinion. But I do so in a restricted sense because what I speak is just one little aspect of what I am thinking. But God who is the source of creation can speak Himself utterly. He can utter a word that carries the truth of what He is. That is why we say, the Father speaks the Son and the Son is the fulness of the truth of the Father. We say in the Creed God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God or as John says here “Word was God.”
Then there is the reference to John the Baptist, the last of the Hebrew prophets. God spoke to humanity from time immemorial through patriarchs, prophets or by extrapolation through all those who spoke the truth and as a culmination of all these figures John the Baptist comes. But the evangelist tells us, this Jesus is qualitatively different from all of them. This consciousness is needed all the more today when Jesus is domesticated as a moral teacher.
Then there is an accusation that the world did not know the light that came into the world. The reality of sin is summed up here. The man was created through the Logos but he failed to resonate the Word. Man did not respond to the Word. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” The church fathers said, God became human that humans might become God. God condescended and took our human nature that our nature elevated and raised up. Only God can do it. Christ became human and allows us a share in His Divinity. We cannot become children of God of our own unless by being assimilated by God`s higher life.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The literal Greek has it as God tabernacled among us. The Jews would never miss to think about the Tabernacle of God in the Old Testament. It was the tent of meeting and the prototype of the Temple in Jerusalem. Temple was the place where God came to meet His people, where heaven and earth came together. In the incarnation, we have the full tabernacling of God among His people. This incarnation is “grace upon grace.” It is a free gift of God and we cannot merit or demand it. God freely gives Himself in Christ and He wills the elevation of our human nature.