Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Prayer and Reflection

 Lord, I believe that you are here with me. I am privileged to have this private audience with you. Aware of my weakness, I hope in your mercy and love. I open my heart now to you, to the wisdom, mercy and good news of your Gospel, for through it you wish to guide me home to rest eternally with you in heaven. Thank you for your boundless love. Take my weak, poor love in return, as it is all I have to offer you.

REFLECTION:

1. This Is How They Will Know You Are My Disciples: Nowadays, words alone are empty; they need to be backed up by actions. All too often we have experienced that zealous politician or marketer who makes promises that we instinctively know are too good to be true. We want to believe the good they promise, but experience has taught us to have a healthy sense of skepticism. Unfortunately, this contemporary disbelief of “too good to be true” could also be said of Christianity. Christians are to be known by their love for one another. In my marriage, with my children, and in my social circle, am I known for my Christ-like love? In particular, am I capable of accepting others as they are, of seeing their way of being in a good light? Though I set high standards, do my spouse and children truly find rest, light and solace in my company?
 

2. Love Has High Standards: The film “Love Story” had a classic line: “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” As Christians, though, we are aware of our weak nature and tendency to sin. We need to ask pardon – frequently. More often than not, the souls we hurt are those closest to us: our spouse, a child, a parent or in-law. The disciples, too, had their squabbles with each other. The love that bound them exhorted them to make peace with one another as Christ makes peace with his Church: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Is my love great enough to overlook the weaknesses of those who hurt me and turn my wounded ego to compassion and pardon? To err is human, but to forgive is divine.
 

3. Love Is from the Heart: Christ told his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This applies as well to harboring grudges in our hearts. Love goes beyond kind words and actions to the very heart of man: to our thoughts. Although it may initially cause distress to our will to think well of those who have hurt us, it is truly therapeutic! Our Lord said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Matthew 15:19). Likewise, a heart that actively looks for the good in others will form the habit of speaking well and acting kindly towards those who naturally are displeasing. Thinking well of others renews our faith in God’s mercy. If we are merciful, how much more we can expect Our Lord to be patient and merciful with us!

Sunday, May 19 Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts of the Apostles 14,21b-27.
After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Psalms 145(144),8-9.10-11.12-13ab.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.

Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Book of Revelation 21,1-5a.
Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God).
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away."
The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true."

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13,31-33a.34-35.
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
(If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you.
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Reflections for the XVI Sunday of the year

Weekly homily and reflections from the Vatican through the Vatican News;

Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the sixteenth Sunday in ordinary time. He says that the readings explain how God, like a Good Shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them.
Jer 23:1-6, Eph 2:13-18, Mk 6:30-34)
Homily starter anecdote: # 1:  Altar of the Chair:” Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd for people who were like sheep without shepherd. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the role of Pope as a teaching shepherd is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, there is one of the most famous pieces in art history, done by the great sculptor Bernini. It’s called the “Altar of the Chair,” and it was so beautiful and influential that art historians say it was the start of the baroque era. It was Pope Alexander VII who commissioned Bernini to build a sumptuous monument which would give prominence to the ancient wooden chair believed to have been used by St. Peter.  Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair which houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter sat to teach the people of Rome. Peter’s chair is a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ’s vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church are called “ex cathedra,” meaning literally “from the chair.” Underneath the chair there are four bishops who are all famous teaching saints in the early Church—Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose—who are depicted referring to and spiritually upholding the teaching authority of the Church and papacy. But the element that is most relevant to today’s Scriptures is found sculpted into the backrest of the Chair. It’s a depiction of Peter feeding Christ’s sheep. It’s a reference to the end of St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did. And Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” Peter’s obedience in caring for Christ’s sheep is seen above all, therefore, in his TEACHING of Christ’s truth. Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction:  Today’s readings explain how God, like a Good Shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the Church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility.   Today “pastoral” ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors” but the loving service given by many others who follow different callings to serve and lead others. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century B.C.), thunders against Israel's careless leaders - the king, some priests and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David. Then he consoles the Israelites enslaved in Babylon, by assuring them that God will lead them back to their original pasture in Israel.  Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) affirms David’s faith and trust in God, the Good Shepherd.”   The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both Jews and Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about another reconciliation, that between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus who accepted both into the same Christian brotherhood. The reading from the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise given through his prophet Jeremiah in the first reading.  Here we see Jesus attending to his weary apostles, who have just returned from their first preaching mission, while at the same time expressing his concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd," have gathered to meet him in the             wilderness.
 First reading, Jeremiah 23:1-6, explained:  The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 BC to perhaps 580 B.C. Most of his work was in Judah's capital, Jerusalem. He tried to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not.  He suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of this prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who allied Judah to Egypt. Jeremiah was sent by God to rage against this policy, reminding the people and the King that God's people should trust in God, not in alliances with pagan nations. Some flattering "prophets" of the court backed the King and criticized Jeremiah. But Jeremiah remained a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. Today we'd say Jeremiah had fire in his belly. Here he thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people's neglect of their responsibility to the poor. "I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock, I'm about to replace you, and my people will be restored!" Jeremiah assured his audience that Yahweh would give them a "new shepherd," a new leader who would exercise Yahweh's care and concern for His people. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the good shepherd God promised through Jeremiah – the one who would shepherd the sheep “so that they need no longer fear and tremble,” and the Davidic king who would do what was just and right in the land. Jeremiah’s prophetic denunciation of faithless servants in the Old Testament is applicable also to our own time. All of us who exercise responsibility in various ministries in the Church, in family life and in society, are called to imitate God’s diligent, effective caring by bringing people together, leading them and showing selfless concern for our subjects rather than taking personal advantage of them.
Second Reading, Ephesians 2:13-18, explained: In this reading, Paul celebrates the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (first reading) of a future shepherd who would gather the dispersed and the scattered into one people of God. This passage explains how Christ has brought about reconciliation between ancient enemies, the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul says that the Jews were "near" and the Gentiles "far off." But by becoming Christians, those Jews, who had enjoyed God's favor for so many generations, have now accepted Christ as the Messiah. The converted Gentiles had long been estranged from God. But they, too, have now accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Hence, as Christians, the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians are now no more enemies but brothers and sisters. The Law of Moses “with its commandments and legal claims" served to separate the Jews who kept it from the Gentiles who didn't know of it and didn't bother. Against the attempts by some Jewish Christians to impose the Mosaic Law on Gentile converts, Paul affirms that the Law can no longer separate God's single people into factions. 
Gospel Exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his apostles to a desolate place for some rest.   Jesus had sent his apostles on their first mission, which was one of healing, teaching and preaching.  When they returned, they were no doubt exhilarated by the experience. They had witnessed at first hand, the power of God's Word.   Nonetheless, they were hungry, exhausted, and in need of rest, both physical and spiritual. In fact, Jesus was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences. But Jesus, too, was in need of a break from the crowds who were constantly pressing on him, demanding his attention and healing. Hence, he led the Apostles by boat to a “deserted place” on the other side of the Lake for a period of rest and sharing. Today’s Gospel teaches that “the mission of the Church should be based on the Gospel of compassion we seek to live and share, from the authority of our commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation; and that leadership, inspired by the wisdom of God, means not dictating and ruling over others but inspiring, providing for and selflessly caring for those whom we are called to lead.” (Connections).
2) “Sheep without shepherd:” But when they came ashore there was a large crowd waiting for them. Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for those people who were “sheep without a shepherd.” Here the reference to the shepherdwas probably to religious leaders, because at this time the Jews were an occupied people and the real political power was in the hands of the Romans. This brief description, “sheep without a shepherd,” is also dense with Biblical allusions. Like the people of Israel, the crowds were in the desert where they would receive not only miraculous food (next Sunday’s Gospel), but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah had been given in the desert of Sinai.  “Sheep without s shepherd” will perish because a) they cannot find their way and will probably end up eaten by a wolf or other carnivores   b) they cannot find pasture and food and c) they have no defense against the dangers which threaten them.   Jesus' first act with this shepherd-less sheep was to teach them [v. 34] and then to feed them [vv. 35-40] and finally to protect his closest disciples who were also His sheep from the storm [vv. 45-52]. This text affirms Jesus’ extraordinary availability and his compassion for the needy. It teaches us that a Christian should be ready to sacrifice his time and even his rest in the service of the Gospel.
Life messages: 1) Christians must be people of prayer and action: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us.  We also do not know how to "be still and to listen." Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength.  In addition, we do not set aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God.   How can we shoulder life's burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life?  How can we do God's work unless we rely on God's strength?  And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to him individually, in the family and as a parish community in the Church and receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the Sacraments? However, we must never seek God's fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men but always in order to prepare for it.   From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve people more effectively in the market place.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: People today find it difficult to balance those two aspects of the Christian life. Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world.   Others seem to believe that the Church's major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick.  The Church's duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the Gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided.  There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community.  But that is only half of the story. Christians must also display the same compassion for the suffering that Jesus exhibited by meeting the social and material needs of others - even those who are not members of our Church.
3) The Church needs ideal pastors: The pastor must be a person of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. The pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer 23:5), living the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved and peaceful care and guidance. There are very many people searching for truth today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity by unemployment; a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who feel the diminishing surge of life in their bodies; people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. They are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They all need ideal pastors filled with the spirit of Christ the “Good Shepherd.” (Fr. Antony Kadavil).

Prayer and Meditation

Lord Jesus, you guard and protect us from all evil. Help me to stand firm in your word and to trust in your help in all circumstances. May I always find rest and refuge in the shelter of your presence.

Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, I believe in you. I trust in you because as a man you experienced everything I experience except sin. You have pity on me in my weakness because you became weak for love of me. I believe in you. I trust you. I thank you for your everlasting love and benevolence. 


Meditation from Kairos;

Do you trust in His grace and help at all times?
What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God's care for us? Shepherding was one of the oldest of callings in Israel, even before farming, since the Chosen People had traveled from place to place, living in tents, and driving their flocks from one pasture to another. Looking after sheep was no easy calling. It required great skill and courage. Herds were often quite large, thousands or even ten thousands of sheep. The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country. Watching over them required a great deal of attention and care. 
Stray sheep must be brought back  lest they die
Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back by the shepherd. Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, and even bear were common and fed on sheep, the shepherds often had to do battle with these wild and dangerous beasts. A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep. Shepherds took turns watching the sheep at night to ward off any attackers. The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together. Their life was so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.
God himself leads us like a good shepherd
The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of his people, Israel.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).  Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1)  We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God's people:  He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). 
Jesus told his disciples that he was the Good Shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4, John 10). When he saw the multitude of people in need of protection and care, he was moved to respond with compassionate concern. His love was a personal love for each and every person who came to him in need. 
Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
Peter the apostle called Jesus the  Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Do you know the peace and security of a life freely submitted to Jesus, the Good Shepherd? In the person of the Lord Jesus we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God's love. In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever ready to give us help, strength, and refuge. Do you trust in his grace and help at all times?

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jer 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
"The LORD our justice."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 Eph 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Alleluia Jn 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Against Satan’s seduction, seek refuge in the Mother of God

Beware, the Pope warned, of the devil’s seduction. “The devil is a seducer,” Francis reminded, saying, he “knows what words to tell us” and this is dangerous as “we like to be seduced.”
“He has this ability; this ability to seduce. This is why it is so difficult to understand that he is a loser, because he presents himself with great power, promises you many things, brings you gifts – beautiful, well wrapped – ‘Oh, how nice!’ – but you do not know what’s inside – ‘But, the card outside is beautiful.’ The package seduces us without letting us see what’s inside. He can present his proposals to our vanity, to our curiosity.”
His light, Francis said, is dazzling, but it vanishes.
The devil who ‘is very dangerous,’ the Pope admitted, presents himself with all his power, yet “his proposals are all lies.” “We, fools,” he said, “believe.” Stressing the devil “is the great liar, the father of lies,” the Pope noted, “he can speak well,” “is able to sing to deceive.”
“He is a loser but moves like a winner,” whose light is dazzling, “like a firework” but does not last and fades, whereas the Lord’s is “mild but permanent.”
… In the end, go to the mother, like children. When the children are afraid, they go to the mother: ‘Mom, mom … I’m scared!’ When they have bad dreams … they go to their mothers.
“Go to the Madonna; she guards us. And the Fathers of the Church, especially the Russian mystics, say: in the time of spiritual turmoil, take refuge under the mantle of the great Mother of God. Go to the Mother. May she help us in this fight against the defeated, against the chained dog to win it.”
Pope Francis concluded, urging us always to seek refuge in the Mother of God.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reflections for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018

From the Vatican News;

Homly starter anecdote: Gideon’s army and Jesus’ fishermen: An angel spoke directly to Gideon (Judges 6: 11-25), the fourth judge of the Israelites in the 12th century B.C.  This two-way conversation is recorded in detail and comprises the commissioning of Gideon to be a deliverer and “Judge” of God's people.  The angel of the Lord came to meet Gideon under the oak tree at Ophrah with specific instructions for a raid on the Midianites who were the controlling force in the land, fielding a unique and fast-moving camel battalion.  They forcefully reaped all the grain of the Israelites during the harvest season for seven years.  Gideon protested that his clan, Manasseh, was the weakest in the nation.  But God assured Gideon, “I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them" (v 16).  Gideon asked for a sign from God and God graciously gave it to convince Gideon that it was God who was sending him to fight, and it was God who would be fighting for him.  In Judges 7:2-11 God gave additional instruction to Gideon and asked him to send home those soldiers who were afraid to fight a strong and big army.  That reduced the number of soldiers in Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 10,000.  But it was still too many in God’s sight.  God further instructed Gideon to conduct a water-drinking test in the river. The test eliminated 9700 more soldiers, leaving behind only 300 soldiers of God’s selection.  The story of Gideon's calling was about strategy: "Go in My strength."  TheMidianites had a force of 135,000 men with them when they invaded Israel in the 8th harvest season.  But Gideon trusted in the strength of the Lord and defeated and destroyed the mighty army of the Midianites by his surprise midnight attack.  Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus selected and delegated twelve ordinary men for his preaching and healing ministry. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction:  Today’s readings remind us of our Divine Adoption as God's children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus by bearing witness to God’s love, mercy and salvation as revealed through Jesus.  The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos.  Amos condemned the cozy lifestyle of priests who supported the king and the rich and ignored the oppression of the poor.  The angry chief priest, Amaziah of Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, told Amos to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, because they did not want to listen to his prophecy in Bethel.  Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his choice but his God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree dresser to a prophet. Like Amos, each one of us is chosen by God through the mystery of Divine adoption in Jesus to become missionaries and to preach the “Good News” by the witness of our Christian lives. The Psalmist sings in today's Responsorial Psalm that in Jesus alone, "Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from Heaven" (Psalm 85: 11-12).   In the second reading, St. Paul explains the blessings that we have received through our Baptism and the responsibility we have to become missionaries.  Through Christ, God has chosen us to be holy, made us the adopted brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus, forgiven our sins, given us a right relationship with God, and enabled us to understand His plan of salvation.  Then Paul reveals the Divine secret that it had been God’s eternal plan to extend salvation, through Jesus, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.  Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians needed to love, help and respect one another and thus proclaim Jesus by the witness of their lives.  In today’s Gospel(Mark 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus' commissioning of the twelve apostles for their first missionary journey. They are to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus.  Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most.
The first reading, Amos 7:12-15 explained: This first reading shows us, in the rejection of an Old Testament prophet, what would happen to Jesus and his apostles.  For a long time, the territory we call the Holy Land had been divided between a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom known as Judah.  The city of Jerusalem was in Judah.  In the northern kingdom, at Bethel, there was a very ancient shrine with several priests.  These Bethel priests sponsored the rich people and acted as cronies of King Jeroboam.  Amos the prophet was sent by God to these priests with the demand that they speak against the current neglect and exploitation of the poor by the powerful.  Amos had come from Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel, to pronounce God’s judgment on Israel and its King, Jeroboam.  As a prophet, Amos foretold the overthrow of the throne and shrine by the hand of God.  Amaziah who was the high priest told him that the King was angry with him and he was seeking to kill him. It would be better for Amos to look for his own safety. Amos tells Amaziah that in the eyes of God the Temple that Amaziah served was not legitimate as it had been established by the royal household. But the furious chief priest of Bethel, Amaziah, told Amos to get out and go south to Judah.  Amos explained that he was not a professional prophet; he was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores.  He had become a prophet only because God had sent him to deliver a message to Israel and its King.  We are invited to see the mission of the twelve apostles and our mission as Christians as parallel to the mission of Amos.
The second reading, Ephesians 1:3-10, explained: This reading, taken from the letter to the Ephesians, is a prayer praising God for what God has accomplished in Jesus.  In other words, Paul offers us the exercise of counting our blessings in the form of a benediction and thanksgiving in which we point to God as the Source of our blessings, in and through Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.  Through Christ, God has given us a clear purpose in life—to praise and to serve God and one another—with the Holy Spirit as a Helper in carrying out the task.  Paul advises the Ephesians to count their blessings instead of focusing excessively on their inadequacies and deficiencies.  In this prayer, Paul also reveals a Divine secret to the Jewish Christians.  It had not been God’s plan to keep the Jews as His Chosen People exclusively.  God's plan had always been to include the Gentiles eventually.  And that is what Jesus did by sending Paul to preach to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians were to respect and help each other as both were now adopted children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Gospel exegesis: 1The context: Jesus, like the prophets before Him, was rejected by the people of his hometown as he corrected them for their prejudice. But instead of getting discouraged, Jesus went with his disciples to the neighboring towns and villages with his preaching and healing ministry.  He prepared his disciples to go ahead of him to various places to announce his coming and to preach the Good News of the salvation coming through their master, Jesus.  Today’s Gospel gives us the instruction Jesus gave his disciples for their first mission.
2) Travelers’ kit in Palestine: In Jesus' time, the Jews of Palestine ordinarily wore five articles of clothing.  The innermost garment was called the tunic; and the outer garment was used as a cloak by day and as a blanket by night.   Next, there was a girdle, which was worn over the tunic and cloak.   The skirts of the tunic could be hitched up under the girdle for work or any strenuous activity.  A headdress was also worn in order to protect the neck, the cheekbones, and the eyes from the heat and glare of the sun.  Finally, the Jews wore   sandals made of leather, wood or matted grass.  They also carried a wicker basket within which was an ordinary traveler's bag made of kid's skin. 
3) The meaning of Jesus’ instructions: Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth.  Going two by two carries with it the authority of official witnesses. By his instructions, it is clear that Jesus meant that his disciples should take no supplies for the road but simply trust in God for their requirements.  God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of the needs of the disciples.  Jesus’ instructions also suggest that his disciples should not be like the acquisitive priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches.  Instead, the disciples of Jesus must be concerned with "giving" rather than “getting."  They should be walking examples of God’s love and providence.  By doing so, they would also have the maximum of freedom and the minimum of burdens in their preaching and healing ministry.  Jesus wanted his apostles to be rich in all the things which really mattered, so that they might enrich those who came into contact with them. Statistics tell us that most people who come to join a Church do so because a friend or relative brought them. So the best advertisement for any Church is the number of the faithful – men, women, and children, whose daily lives show forth some of the radiance of the Gospel.
3) "Shake off the dust from your feet:" Jesus knew that when his disciples went to any place to evangelize, a family or house would take them in, welcome them and give them what they needed because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine.  By His stern instruction, Jesus seems to be saying, “If people refuse to listen to you or to show you hospitality, the only thing you can do is to treat them as an orthodox Jew would treat a Gentile or a pagan.”  The Rabbinic law stated that the dust of a Gentile country was defiled, so that when a Jew entered Palestine from another country, he had to shake off every particle of the unclean land’s dust from his clothing and sandals.
4) Convey the Good News of God’s love and mercy: Jesus’ disciples were to preach the Good News that God is not a punishing judge, but rather a loving Father who wants to save men from their bondage to sin through Jesus His Son. The disciples were to preach the message of metanoia or repentance--which has disturbing implications.  To "repent" means to change one's mind and then fit one's actions to this change.  Metanoia literally means change your mind.  It can also mean taking a new direction.  Thus, repentance means a change of heart and a change of action--a change from a self-centered life to a God-centered life.  Such a change may hurt a bit at times.  It is also interesting to note that Jesus commanded his disciples to anoint with oil.  In the ancient world, oil was regarded as a sort of cure-all.  In the hands of Christ's servants, however, the old cures would acquire a new virtue through the power of God.
   Life Messages: # 1: We, too, have a witnessing mission: Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle.  As disciples, we have to follow Jesus and imitate Jesus.  As apostles, we have to evangelize the world.  We are called to share with others not just words, or ideas, or doctrines but an experience, our experience of God and His Son, Jesus.  Like the apostles, like St. Francis Assisi, like Blessed Mother Teresa, we are all chosen and sent to proclaim the Gospel through our living.  It is through our transparent Christian lives that we must show in our own actions the love, mercy and concern of Jesus for the people around us. Since we are baptized, Jesus is calling us in our working and living environment to evangelize, to invite people to know Jesus, to love him, to serve him and to follow him. An important part of evangelism is the simple act of inviting a friend or family member to join us in worship. This is where reconciliation between persons and God is most likely to take place. We do not have to commit verbal assault on someone with our convictions. A simple invitation offered out of a loving and joyful heart is the most powerful evangelistic message of all.
#2: We have a liberating mission: Although many people don’t believe in real demonic possession in our age, there are many demons which can control the lives of people around us making them helpless slaves.  For example, there are the demons of nicotine, alcohol, gambling, pornography and promiscuous sex, materialism and consumerism, or of any other activity which somehow can take control of people’s lives and become an addiction over which they have no control.  All of these, or any one of them, can turn people into slaves.  We need the help of Jesus to liberate us and others from these things.  Jesus is inviting us today to cooperate with him.  He wants us to be his instruments of liberation, to help others recover their freedom. We are meant to help people to cure their sicknesses - not only the bodily sicknesses but psychological and emotional illnesses as well.  As a family member, a friend, a colleague, an evangelizer, when we work with Jesus, we can truly have a healing influence.
#3: We have a mission to live as children of God.  Realization of our dignity as children of God should change our outlook on life.  We are to be children filled with love, rather than selfishness and disobedience.  We are to respect our brothers and sisters in Christ.  As God’s children, we should live a life of absolute trust in the goodness of our Heavenly Father, who knows what is best for us.  The realization that we are the children of God should bring us great comfort, peace and joy--even in our worst moments.
#4: We have a mission to grow in Divine adoption: It is in the Church--principally through the seven Sacraments--that our Divine adoption is made possible.  We are chosen by God in Christ, baptized into his death and his Church, healed by his forgiveness, and nourished at the Eucharistic table.  Today, when we gather as His adopted sons and daughters at this table of Christ’s sacrificial banquet, we can rightly address God as our Divine Father and ask Him for the special anointing of the Holy Spirit that we may grow daily in the true spirit and practice of our Divine adoption.  (Fr. Antony Kadavil).

Meditation and Prayers for Today

Lord Jesus, make me a channel of your healing power and merciful love that others may find abundant life and freedom in you. Free me from all other attachments that I may joyfully pursue the treasure of your heavenly kingdom. May I witness the joy of the Gospel both in word and deed.

Lord Jesus, I believe in you, and I believe that I must follow your will in all that I do. I hope in you, and I place my hope in what you have planned for me today. Teach me not to place my hope in created things, but only in your will. Lord, I love you, and I desire to love your will with greater fervor. Open my heart to respond to your will with generosity and joy. 

Meditation from Regnum Christi; (link takes you to an audio version)

1. Two by Two: Our Lord didn’t send the apostles out in their mission as isolated individuals, but in pairs. Jesus wanted them to realize that alone they would not be strong enough. Alone they would be vulnerable to attacks. Alone they might succumb to temptation and discouragement. Jesus’ disciples were not alone as they labored to carry out their mission, and neither are we. The mission we have of following Jesus may be difficult at times, but Jesus knows this. He places people in our path to help and support us. We must realize that we need the help of others and that others also need our help. We are not alone!

2. Take Nothing: Jesus wanted his apostles to realize that he is in charge of the mission. Jesus tells them to leave at home what we would consider basic items necessary for any trip. This was a radical lesson for the apostles, as it is for us. Jesus doesn’t want us to rely on our personal efforts, the advanced technology of the day, or any other methods or elements that we can invent for our security or success. He is the origin of any success in our lives, and he alone gives true security. Jesus tells the apostles to take nothing on their journey, except him.
 
3. They Went Off: The apostles then went to preach repentance and cure the sick. They trusted in Jesus and in the mission he had entrusted to them. As they began to work, they saw that their efforts were bearing fruit. The people they encountered were responsive. They could see that they were changing lives. In our own lives we don’t often encounter receptive crowds, open and eager to hear about Christ and prepared to amend their lives and start off on a new path. We often find hostility and opposition. In either situation — success or failure — as we try to build Christ’s Kingdom, we must trust in him and remember that we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful from a human standpoint.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you’ve given me a mission to spread your Gospel among my family members, friends and coworkers — everyone I encounter. Help me to be faithful to this mission and to undertake it in the way you wish, not the way it most pleases me.
 
Resolution: I will fulfill my prayer commitments today with generosity and fidelity.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Reading 1 Am 7:12-15

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD —for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2 Eph 1:3-14 or 1:3-10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

or

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of God’s grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

Alleluia Cf. Eph 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope that
belongs to our call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.