28, ఫిబ్రవరి 2023, మంగళవారం

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

 

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent


Jonah 3:1-10

Luke 11:29-32

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, there are several signs and wonders in the Old Testament to manifest that God is present amidst them. In case of the call of Moses, to show that he is sent by God he performed some signs, for exam in Exodus 4: 7, then the LORD said, “ Put your hand inside your cloak” so Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. “ Now put it back into your cloak,”he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. And in the case of Gideon- the sign of Fleece (Judges 6:36-40). It invoked certain faith in God.

On the other hand, there are times the signs have been given, it did not lead to belief. In the desert journey people of Israel received a lot of signs but were unbelieving. Pharoah saw the signs but was stubborn to believe.  In the Gospel too, people were astonished and awe struck at the miraculous deed of Christ, but all of them did not move to faith. (Luke 5:26; Mark 2:12) they were moved to glorify but not had a change of heart.

Therefore , all these signs and wonders alone do not instil faith but in all these there is a person who does them at the command of God. That particular person’s word and action is an essential yardstick for opening up other’s minds to the Truth of God and to Faith.

The context: During Jesus' time as the Gospel presents to us, people were amazed at his extraordinary works and words, so they started following. Some among them are for to see miracles and some others are seeking other signs to believe in him that He is the Son of Man, the Messiah. 

But Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.

Why do we seek signs? Some reason could be in general

To confirm that it is from God

To show excuses their unbelief (No intention to believe) Matthew 16:1; Luke 11:16).

To satisfy their curiosity but no real desire to know

To attract to themselves not to the true source (frauds)

 

What is the sign of Jonah that Jesus speaks about?

The Sign of Jonah

There are two aspects to the sign of Jonah.

      In the belly of fish and in the heart of the earth: Jonah 1:17 But the LORD provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. This refers to Jesus in relation to his death, that he would be in the heart of the earth for three days and for three nights.

      Preaching : Jonah 2:10  The LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land. Once he was in Nineveh, he went about preaching the word of God, the wrath of God and invited them for conversion of heart and lives. So also after the death and resurrection of Christ, the message of conversion will be proclaimed throughout.

1st reading - Prophet spoke the Truth, People Listened, Believed and they were saved.

Jonah thought people would not listen, the Ninevites are  the Assyrians;  they were pagans, cruel and immoral in their nature, so they were in enmity with God and Israel. Though the Prophet was hesitant to go for the fear of his life and cruelty, he was led to go.  To his surprise, when people heard his message there was immediate response, they believed in his message. They recognised the truth, believed in God, and repented. From the most downtrodden to the most powerful, they took Jonah’s words to heart. They repented and turned from their evil ways. Thus they were spared.

Jesus also mentions about the wisdom of Solomon, the Queen of Sheba came from afar to listen to Solomon, to appreciate the gift of wisdom. She recognised this as the gift of God and came to witness it personally and enlivened by it. His wisdom was a sign, pointing towards a fraction of God’s wisdom and Truth.

Jesus said, there is greater than jonah, solomon and all the prophets. Nothing could win him over even death.

Jesus' message was to invite people to repent and believe, the kingdom is at hand. He inhibited people to turn away from their sinful ways and return to communion with God by changing the course of their lives.

People marvelled at his preaching, astonished at his healings but many continued to ask for signs. They failed to see a great sign, failed to see who was in front of them.

 

The Present day Danger:

People are now easily targeted, misled by so called man of god. The deceptions in God’s name to earn more followers not to Jesus but to himself. So the more the number of followers the more the man of God he is.  So they are only performing some acts to attract more people, designing and creating some exaggerated works to impress and increase followers. But this is at the cost of omitting Truth, Spiritual quality but adhering to exaggerations and emotionalism(pleasing words and false miracles). Even today People flock to places if something sensational happens without first verifying it. This is dangerous to faith. People want signs and marvellous deeds but fail to see who is in front of them because:

We have enough signs today

    The Eucharist (failed to spend time)

    The Word of God (failed to read and learn)

    Which do not need any further proof to instil faith. It’s like pouring water into the sea and holding a candle to the sun.  The lord has already given enough signs through his life and death and resurrection.

    sacrament and community of faithful. (failed to understand the role)

 

Lent is time to reflect and understand the many ways he is present to us now. We don't need more signs and wonders to believe.

Let us listen to Word of God, the eternal Truth and believe

Let us recognize Christ in the Eucharist who is always before us.

 

“So faith comes from what is heard, and

what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Let our faith be relied on Word, Eucharist = Christ, the eternal Truth

Let our faith not be relied on sensory experiences, sensations, emotional satiety

, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed;

blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” John 20:29

 

 FR.JAYARAJU MANTHENA OCD

 

 

 

 

 

27, ఫిబ్రవరి 2023, సోమవారం

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

 

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55: 10-11

Matthew 6: 7-15

The Way of Prayer

 

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we had reflected Yesterday about how we should relate with our neighbours and to those who are in need. We are invited to see the presence of God in them and love as we would love God.

We were invited to respond to their needs, negligence on our part deserves appropriate punishment from God. hence we can sum up and say it was a call to love and serve them, one of the Pillars of the Lent: Charity ( Almsgiving)

Today we are invited to reflect on another pillar of the Lent: Prayer.

From the teaching of Christ, we can extract two aspects that are unnecessary to be avoided.

      Many words are not required, need not to heap up words while praying. Therefore the repetition of the words,  long prayers without any real attention to God does not affect God to grant us our petitions. (Mt 6:7)

      And the focus should not be on public opinion or public appreciation. And it should not be a time to showcase one’s talents and skills. (Mt 6:5)

So when Jesus says  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” is that a kind of personal contemplative prayer where you shut all the doors of  distractions, intentions and focus only God and his will to us.  When Built on this personal relationship God hears and responds. St. Teresa of Avila defines prayer as “is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with the one who we know loves us.”  

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us The Lord’s Prayer or Our Father , perfect model to all the prayers and perfect in every sense.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven” - as being to pray  Christ invites us to call God, our Father, transforming our prayer into more personal. With this close relationship we can confidently approach him now without any hesitation.

And here by addressing who art in Heaven  we acknowledge his greatness and thus give due praise and reverence. It’s a praise to his Holiness and Divinity. 

 

The Petitions

As the prayer is divided into two sections, The first section solely the praise of God, the will of God and our cooperation with him.

Hallowed be Thy Name:

God’s name is Holy From eternity  the reason for our praying is that it is a reminder that it should not be defiled, rather we allow it to spread the Holy Name and be revered in us and around. (unfortunately, in many places God’s Holy is name is unnecessarily used and defiled) 

Thy Kingdom Come:

We pray for the second coming and also elsewhere Jesus says it is already among you (Luke 17:21), it means that we pray that it is established in us first. That our life may be guided according to the rules and regulations of God’s kingdom. The way we think, speak and act must reflect the kingdom's values. And also the values of the kingdom are upheld in the society, the respect for life at any stage, mutual respect, and goodness. Love and forgiveness to name a few. ( but we are drifting away now).

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven:

We pray that his will is fulfilled in our lives as is accomplished in Jesus. Therefore it's a way of committing and entrusting ourselves into his hands. We are also asking here to fill us with the strength to fulfil his will in our lives.

 

The next four petitions relate to personal and interpersonal needs. we pray:

Give us this day our daily bread:  

We pray for our needs: material and spiritual. We are trusting in the providence of God here. By saying daily, we are praying for his presence in every moment of our life so that we lack nothing (psalm 23:1). We trust in his care and depend on it for he is the source of our sustenance.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us:

 God is merciful and loving. So we need not fear and be embarrassed to come to him with our faults. We can pray He is our father. However there is one condition here, the only way to obtain is to forgive our brothers and sisters first, first be reconciled with them then we are eligible for this grace. (Matthew 5: 23-24)

And lead us not into temptation:

Temptations are real and painful, it can be because of our weakness, nature and satan. It’s like a battle we have to fight off, lest we fall into sin. So We pray here to the  Lord that we are  weak, so we entrust ourselves into his power and authority to help us to overcome.
But deliver us from evil: As we pray for the deliverance from evil, the evil which destroys life and distances us away from the values,  gospel values and human dignity , in our modern society there are many evils in different forms. the systems, laws and regulation in the society which lead a person in a destructive way. ( we witness this trend in many countries, Gender, woke and all) at home, workplace, schools, roads and environment.

Only God can free and deliver us.(Daniel 3:17)

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. — Soren Kierkegaard.

Therefore, let us remember to pray as Jesus taught us with praise and petitions and with attention and awareness. Let us have a personal relationship with God the Father in our Prayers. Let us remember

 

    Prayer is a personal relationship with God

    Prayer is conversation with God and connection with God who awaits for us.

    Prayer is to depend on God, acknowledging our weaknesses.

    Prayer is to submit to God, surrendering our will to God’s will.

    Prayer is to believe that “I can do nothing, but God can do everything,” and to ask him humbly.


 FR. JAYARAJU MANTHENA OCD

26, ఫిబ్రవరి 2023, ఆదివారం

 

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18

Matthew 25:31-46

 

The Call : to Be Holy (Lev 19:1)

The Measure : the Holiness of God (Lev 19:1, Mt 5:48)

The Action: Love and Service (Charity) in our Interpersonal relationship (Lev 19:18, 

                    Mk  12:31)

The Identity : God identifies with every person (the neighbour, the needy) Lev 19:14, 16, 18,                                         Mt 25:40, 45)

 

No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.(John 4:12 )

If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (John 4 : 20)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, the readings of the day explain  to us that standard and goal in our life. That is to be Holy as God is Holy, to share in his Holiness.  The readings present to us the reason and  the ways of becoming Holy. The basis of our holiness is the Holiness of loving God.

The first reading,  taken from the book of Leviticus, gives the Holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am Holy.”  Our God is both transcendent, beyond our comprehension also at the same time He is immanent made himself known to us through his words, actions above all through Jesus Christ. So the people of Israel and now we are expected not only to adore and revere but also share his Holiness by living holy. God’s holiness consists in his unconditional love, care, mercy and forgiveness. So in order to live holy we also need to have the same qualities. Holiness consists of :  1) “Love your God 2) “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

St. Paul also tells that We are to be holy because we are the temples of the holy spirit , the holy spirit lives in us. The presence of the holy spirit in us leads us towards holy life, always encouraging us to better our thoughts, words and actions in allegiance to the life of Christ.

Jesus also affirms the standard of our life that is:  “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) It means that our standard is high which is based on how God thinks, speaks and does , it’s not based on what everyone is saying and doing. So we ought to be different and be like your heavenly Father. That’s the standard and goal. But too often in our lives we settle for everything except for this.

The Meaning: Holiness means set part, so when we say a person is holy he is set aside by God for holy purpose.

 

Today’s readings present to us one of the ways to become Holy, The Lord speaks through Moses to gather and  instruct all the people. Moses gives them some regulations on how to relate with others socially as well as religiously. Because we live in an interconnected society, therefore how we connect to the person determines the quality of our life. Therefore in this respect Holiness pervades every aspect of our life.

The Lord gives us some commands to follow for our day to day life in our interpersonal relationship which would lead us to form a character that is Holy.  Our each thought, word and action in relation to the other matters to God  because at the end of verses 14, 16, and 18 God reminds that “ I am the Lord''. He reminds them that He identifies with them. so whatever we do and however we relate directly connects to God. 

The instructions are crystal clear:

No defilement of His name and No unnecessary usage

No Oppression

No Negligence towards Physically challenged

No unfair Judgement regardless of Poor or Rich

No Partiality

No hatred in our hearts

No slander and No robbing.

 

Though every instruction is explained in negative terms, at the end of verse 18 we find “ love your neighbours as you love yourself”. Therefore everything can be summed in this command to love others and to reach out to them.

In the Gospel “ amen, i say to you, what you did  for one of these least ones, you did for me” and amen, i say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me”

Jesus too in the Gospel identifies himself with the least, the needy: especially the people who are in need of food, drink, clothing; people who lack a home, health and freedom.

By identifying Jesus reveals that they too deserve human dignity and respect despite their condition, they too deserve to be looked after.

God Judged on the basis of their relation towards the other, especially the needy. Both the groups were surprised, and had no awareness. Some had responded to the needy and others had failed to respond. It was important for God in assessing our attitude. Because

    In dealing with the other, we are dealing with the Lord.

    In serving the other, we are serving the Lord.

    In loving the other, we are loving the Lord.

    In neglecting the other, we are neglecting the Lord.

Examples : Rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) ;  Good Samaritan Story (Lk 10:25-37)

 

Today our neighbour could be anyone who comes in contact with us despite his or her background and the least of which could be any who is socially, socially, economically and psychologically disadvantaged. God expects us to treat them as we would treat him because they belong to the family of God and whatever we do to them is done ultimately to the Lord. 

 

From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

From the abundance of goodness within, good actions flow.

From the abundance of love within, loving behaviours proceed.

From the abundance of kindness within, kindhearted conduct emerges.

 “in the evening of our life, we will be examined in love,” - Saint John of the Cross

Are we prepared for the evening and meet our God?

 FR. JAYARAJU MANTHENA OCD

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