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- Tuesday, May 4th, 2021
John 15:1-8 Vine and the Branches
In the Old Testament vine or vineyard was used to symbolise the people of Israel. Isiah 5: 1-7 is a beautiful song about the vineyard that is Israel. Psalm 80: 8-10 explains how God delivered the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and planted it among the nations giving utmost care to it. This choice vine later when it started to produce fruits turned its face away from God and indulged in idolatry (Hos 10). In fact, it has become a wild vine (Jer 2:21). Therefore, this useless vine will be thrown into the fire. Even its wood cannot be used afterwards (Ezek 15:1-8). The choice vine, Israel, that was privileged by God did not remain faithful to the true God.
It is from this background that Jesus proclaims, “I am the true vine, and you are the branches.” Jesus compares himself to the “faithful vine” that always remain faithful to the vinedresser (the Father). We, the new Israel, have been grafted in the place of the old Israel (Rom 11:17). Our duty is to remain in him and to bear fruits. We receive divine life by remaining faithful to Jesus. The Lord has entered into communion with us; he has taken the initiative to be in a loving relationship with us. That is why he says to us, I am the vine, you are the branches. However, he needs us to respond to that loving initiative he has taken towards us. We are to make our home in him, to remain in him. We are to keep coming to him and turning towards him.
There is also another dimension that we need to understand. He suggests that in various ways God prunes our lives to make them even more fruitful than they presently are. There are some things we may need to shed if we are to become all that God is calling us to be. Some experiences of letting go, which can be very painful at the time, can help us to grow in our relationship with God and with others. Yet, during those painful experiences of pruning in our lives, the Lord is in communion with us. We don’t have to face that experience of being pruned on our own, or in the strength of our own resources alone. The Lord who makes his home in us will sustain us in those times and will lead us through the painful experience of pruning into a new and more fruitful life. ✍️CB
- Tuesday, May 4th, 2021
“The Father is greater than I.” This gospel passage is from the gospel of John. No other gospel explains the divinity of Jesus other than the gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). And this Word dwelt among us (v.14). Jesus is God from God, Light from Light and true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father. This is the fundamental proclamation of the catholic faith. But now in the same gospel, Jesus is telling, “the Father is greater than I.” This may be a confusing statement. Throughout the centuries this verse has been used to argue that Jesus is not fully divine or that he is just a human being or that he is subordinate to the Father. How do we interpret this verse as Catholics?
In the context of the whole gospel of John, this verse cannot be used to deny the divinity of Jesus because John’s gospel is structured around revealing the fullness of Jesus’ divinity. In the very first verse of the gospel, we read that the Word was with God and the Word was God. There is a distinction between the Word and God and also equality. Towards the end, we have the marvellous proclamation of Thomas “My Lord, and my God” (Jn. 20:28). In the course of the gospel, we have many “I am” statements that point to the divinity of Jesus. Thus, the fullness of Jesus’ divinity is really unquestionable in the gospel of John. So, how do we answer?
We believe that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. This verse is a part of the last supper discourse. In this context, he is focussing on his humanity that is about to be crucified and that is about to die and then to be raised and ascend to the Father. So, in his humanity, Jesus tells the disciples that the Father is greater than him. In his divinity, he is equal to the Father, which will be revealed in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. He asks the disciples to rejoice in this because the Second Person of the Trinity is who through his incarnation assumed human flesh opens the way for us, humans, to enter into a loving relationship with the triune God. ✍️ CB
- 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