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Open heart, open eyes.

Alleluia! He is Risen!! Rejoice, Jesus is with us, He is Alive! In a nutshell this is the Easter message and the greatest truth of our faith. God became man, suffered and died and out of love rose from the dead in accordance with the sacred scriptures. Yet, how many times do we read or hear this truth and we never stop to let it really sink into our hearts and minds? How often do we allow the risen Jesus, to pass us by? The reality is that our hearts can be closed and so our eyes are blinded. Nevertheless, the Gospel this Sunday gives us some hope, our eyes can still be opened.

 

In the Gospel, we are told two disciples set out on their way to Emmaus talking “together about all that happened” regarding Jesus’ passion and death (Lk 24:14). Imagine their conversation, their heavy and desperate hearts trying to make sense of life without Jesus. They must have been trying to pick up the bits and pieces of their broken expectations and dreams. However, Jesus does not leave them in their ignorance and lack of understanding, he comes to them. However “something” prevents “them from recognising him” (Lk 24: 16). We are not told explicitly what this something is, instead, the scriptures invites us to reflect on our own ‘somethings’ that prevent us from recognising Jesus on our pilgrimage of life.

 

 Even though the disciples did not recognise him at first it does not mean they are doomed to stay like that. The good news is their obscurity of mind and heart can be ‘healed’ because of their potential for openness and generosity of heart. We can easily overlook the fact that the disciples could have chosen to stay enclosed in their talk of gloom and despair between themselves without allowing Jesus into their lives. They could have kept their hearts locked up. They need not have replied to Jesus’ questions. However the very openness and love for sharing that made them disciples in the first place was still there even in their despair and confusion. Their openness to talk about their faith, even their lack of it, was an entrance for Jesus to dialogue with them bringing the disciples to an understanding of the scriptures and eventually to a recognition of himself as their Lord in the breaking of bread. The lesson here is that if we persist in our closed hearts we will remain blind but if we are willing to be open to the questions of our faith and our lives we too can be like the two disciples and come to see Jesus in our lives.

 

 

Hence, this Gospel speaks to us of the journey of faith which can only be made with an openness of heart. It teaches us that if we are willing to be open to discuss with the Lord our disillusionment and doubts, we can provide Jesus with an opening through which he can come to heal and transform us. As the disciples eyes were opened to reality, we too can journey from the seeming absence of the Lord to an intimate encounter with Him.

 

 

 

Gospel reflection for The Third Sunday of Easter– Year A (Luke 24:13-35)

Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild?

jesus-do-you-reallyThere is a great temptation in all of us to develop a caricature of Jesus as non-demanding, a Jesus who is overly docile and passive. We can often imagine and invent a Jesus whose actions and words conforms to our will and to our idea of life. As a result we manipulate the Gospel to fit our self-made ideals. But this Jesus is lifeless and can be an excuse for us to be spiritually stagnant and lukewarm.

 

The real Jesus is far more provoking and far more challenging to our tendencies for comforts and for the easy way. In this Sunday’s Gospel if we are really open to let Jesus himself speak to us we will discover a great challenge. We will discover a Jesus who demands us to go beyond the narrow confines of our ego and selfishness to discover true discipleship.

 

The first exhortation in the Gospel that Jesus says to us is to turn our cheek when people strike us. It takes great inner strength and courage to offer our other cheek to those who are persecuting us or being violent to us. It is much easier to run away or even to retaliate. Similarly it takes great character and magnanimity of heart to have the generosity to not only give our clothes to those in need but also to give our cloak as well. Here, Jesus is really telling us to give everything we have and to risk even our own securities and comforts for love of others. If you think about this, it takes great heroism. Likewise when he demands us to go those extra miles for service he is calling us to be true servants who always do more than what is expected.

 

These exhortations and other ones in the Gospel show us that Jesus expects us to step beyond our own limited notions of bravery, love and service. They teach us of a Jesus who is very demanding. But we know he demands only what he himself demands of himself.

 

As much as these commands outline to us attitudes of the disciple it also reveals Jesus’s own disposition and inner life to us. They show Jesus’ total gift of self to us. For despite all our sins and even our hostility to him, he does not flint, he offers us his other cheek. He stands his ground in patience waiting for us to come to our senses. He not only gives us his clothes and cloak, he gives us his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist; his very being and life. He not only walks with us two extra miles he walks with us every second of the day bringing us to heaven. He walked the way of the Cross for us. It is this going out of himself in love that he  invites us to imitate.

 

  We know he will never demand anything from us without his own strength and grace to help us. Jesus may be demanding but he is not unreasonable nor is he intent on weighing us down with commands. Instead he helps us himself to live the way of love. It is in his strength that we live out our daily struggle against sin and self-complacency. It is  he who carries the heavier yoke making our burden light. Let us keep our eyes on him, trusting in his mercy and love to help us in all that he demands of us.

Gospel Reflection for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 5:38-48)

The Presentation of the Lord

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_Presentation_of_Christ_in_the_Temple_-_WGA09082This Sunday we read St Luke’s account of the Presentation of the Lord. St Luke begins by giving the reasons for the Lord’s presentation. It was written in the Law of Moses that every first born male should be consecrated to the Lord. When we contemplate this event in the Gospel, it is easy to think about the idea of giving oneself to the Lord. I am reminded of Samuel who was confused when the Lord called him, Samuel had thought it his master Eli was calling Him. (1 Samuel: Chapter 3) Eli told Samuel to say “Here I am Lord”. When Jesus is presented in the Temple, He is in effect saying the same thing to His Father, “Here I am, Father”. This “Here I am” is the response that we all hope to give when the Lord calls us. Within the feast of the Lord’s presentation we can see the inspiration of our own vocations. Nonetheless, the feast and the Gospel account contain in one sense the whole mystery of salvation and much can be learned from contemplating this Sunday’s Gospel.

When we contemplate the unspoken “Here I am”, of Jesus in the temple, our minds and hearts are drawn to the cross. The presentation of Jesus to His Father cannot be thought about without recalling that it was the Father’s will that Jesus die on the cross. It is the Father’s will that humanity was to be redeemed by the sacrifice of the cross. This is why Simeon is able to say: “my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all nations”. (Luke 2:30-31) When Jesus is presented to the Lord in the Temple, it is the salvation of Humanity that is being prophesied by Simeon. The “Here I am” which is not spoken by the baby Jesus, is an anticipation of His words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not My will, but Thy will”. (Matthew 26:39) In the time of Jesus, the presentation of the first-born in the temple would have been a joyous affair, yet for us who understand that the presentation is an anticipation of the Cross, the feast is tinged with sadness. This was especially true for our Lady.

We can place ourselves in the shoes of Mary, who heard Simeon’s words: “A sword of sorrow will pierce your own soul”. The feast of the presentation is one of Our Lady’s seven sorrows, and in the list it is called the prophesy of Simeon. This sword of sorrow is the cross, and St Luke is reminding us of Our Lady’s presence at the Crucifixion. When I think about the fact that Our Lady was present at the Crucifixion, I am struck by the fact that Our Lord permitted her to be there. A son who loves his mother, does not want her to see him suffer terribly. It is one thing to want one’s mother when one is slightly ill, but when one is suffering terribly as Jesus did on the cross, I do not think that Jesus as a man wanted to see his mother’s heart break to see Him hurt so. As God, He could have arranged things providentially, in such a way that He would have spared her the sight of His sufferings. I think that the very fact that Jesus’ did die in the presence of His mother, meant that there was a good reason for this. The reason can be seen in some of Jesus’ last actions on the Cross.

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19: 26-27) A simple reading of these words, we could conclude that Jesus is merely asking the disciple to look after His mother. However, His words are addressed to all disciples: “behold your mother”. In this we can see the plan of the Lord for His mother, she is to become the mother of all disciples. So when we hear this Sunday’s Gospel, let us be reminded of the reality of the cross which is present in this feast and think about the words of Simeon addressed to Mary. Let us also remember the sorrows of the Mother of God and the fact that she is Our Mother also.