Divine Amnesia – Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent – Isaiah 40:1-11
Scholars divide the book of Isaiah into three parts; from Chapters 1-30, 40-55 and 56-66. The first part of the book deals with the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians and ends with a narrative in chapter 39.
King Hezekiah in defiance of Gods instructions, hosts envoys from Babylon and the prophet Isaiah predicts the destruction of Jerusalem as divine punishment. While chapter 39 does not explicitly mention the details of the exile its consequences are assumed in chapter 40. It is as if the sacred writer found this memory so painful to talk about that he simply reduced the most significant national tragedy in the history of Israel to a mere eight verses.
With one step into Chapter 40 a new power, Persia, under King Cyrus has now succeeded Babylon and just like that comfort and pardon are offered to the people of Israel. The question is, are the people of Israel truly deserving of a mere 70 year exile in return for generations of infidelity? They who made a sacred covenant with God were guilty of more than just a flirtatious relationship with pagan gods. The prophet Hosea had long accused the people of Israel of ‘prostituting them selves’ at the cross roads to every other god and faith.
Yet chapter 40:1 opens with the double exhortation from Yahweh, “comfort, comfort”! Chapter 40 is set in a heavenly court in which Yahweh now insists and commands that his people be comforted. Even though it would be right for God to continue to admonish his people, he asks that they be spoken to ‘tenderly’, and they be won over tenderly. It is compassion not condemnation that is brought into play.
Prayer- are you asking or basking? – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time –LK 18:9-14
What is the attitude we should have before God in prayer? Luke gives us another account of two people praying in 18:9-14. Who is he telling this parable to? To those who trusted in themselves, to those who were righteous and to those who regarded others with contempt.
So Jesus is not only narrating this parable about ‘a Pharisee’, he is narrating this to the present day audience especially when we behave like Pharisees. Jesus is talking to ALL who fall in the above categories. So don’t be fooled by the example of the Pharisee and dismiss this as situational example lost in history.
Jesus is talking about the Pharisee in all of us (Church people). Yet it is amazing that he even used a tax collector and a Pharisee in the same story for the Jews could not even imagine the two to be mentioned in the same breath. There was no doubt in the mind of the Jew that the Pharisee would be the hero of the narrative.
In Luke 5:32 Jesus said I have come not for the righteous. So it is clear that Jesus does not have some ‘gold star standard’ for those He has come or not come for. He has come to save all so all can petition him in prayer.
What’s common between the tax collector and the Pharisee in the parable?
Both went to pray
Both went to temple (the same place)
Both are sinners( even though the Pharisee things otherwise)
Both address God
What’s different about them?
One was an honest sinner. He looks to heaven, beats his breast and acknowledges the sin
The other was a dishonest sinner – The Pharisee is not praying to God he is actually listing his religious achievements. Who is the centre of his prayer? It is himself! He is the object of his own worship. Four times in the parable he says “I”.
When my dear friend Celine Zuzarte passed away on June 19th, 2016 I was heartbroken. On my Facebook message I wrote that day, “Move over angels in heaven, Sheila, (that’s what we called her) now joins you. Treat her well, she loved me on earth.
After the funeral ceremony, her family gave me a bag full of religious items. In it was a Bible which she had purchased on the 24th of July 2002 which was the second year of my priestly ministry in St Michael’s. Mahim. Perhaps unknowingly, the family passed on the most precious possession of Sheila. For me, this gift became a transforming moment in my life for I began to fall in love with the scriptures which prompted me to write this daily blog, pottypadre.com
This Bible has now become my most valued possession. I believe it was Sheila’s gift to me from heaven. So attached have I been to the Word of God that I have willed that when I die, the Bible be placed in my hand over the more traditional choice of a chalice( a symbol of priestly ministry). I would like this curious, non-conformist request to elicit questions, why a Bible over a chalice?
We are nourished by Jesus our Lord and Saviour by His body and blood AND by His word. But I have come to bemoan the fact that Word of God has not been given its fair share of importance in the Eucharistic service. This ‘fair share’ has not been denied by the Catholic Church, for in the mind and the heart of the Church both are given due importance; it has been denied its due importance by the fact that it is not being BROKEN (like the body of Christ is) for our nourishment as it should.
The new endangered species; why are our seminaries empty?
The seminary of the Archdiocese of Bombay situated in Goregaon East once boasted of a full house. There were years when rooms ran out and even the students of the integrated years, who usually got a small cubicle, were obliged to share their rooms with others. Ironically today, there is much room in the inn but few seem to be knocking.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are certainly down while the expectations of what a priest should be doing in ministry has certainly increased. Between 2012 and 2016, the number worldwide, of men in seminary training for the priesthood fell by nearly 4,000, to 116,160 prompting the Vatican to call it a “crisis of vocations”. So what is the problem?
We need priests, but let it not be my child!
For many, the crisis of vocations is best solved by encouraging someone else son or daughter to answer the call; it’s never our own. This evening we buried Fr Ryan Fernandes whose dear mother encouraged two sons to become priests, two daughters to join the convent and still another son who though married, to embrace the call to the permanent diaconate.
Why does it please us to hear that someone else’s son fell on the sword of sacrifice while we then settle down to analyse his call to the priesthood or his ministry under a microscope? And then there are those who revel in running down someone else’s child who has said yes to the priesthood (with all his human failings) while they themselves would be most forgiving should their own child faltered or fell short of others expectations. And do not forget the army of catholic whatsappers who forward every apparent piece of Church gossip without verifying the facts.
It is my hunch that economics also plays a great role in the decision of Catholic parents who do not even place on the table, the vocation to the priesthood while actively promoting every secular profession. The worry, especially for parents who have one child seems valid on the face of things; who will care and provide for us in our old age? Strangely the answer mostly is, the child who accepted the call to say yes to the Lord. But even more, such fears betray our faltering trust in a provident God who always meets our needs. Is there a guarantee that your married son will take care of you in your old age?
Fr. Warner D'Souza is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay. He has served in the parishes of St Michael's, Mahim, St Paul's, Dadar East, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Bandra and at present is the priest in charge of St Jude Church, Malad East. He is also the Director of the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum and is the co-ordinator of the Committee for the Promotion and Preservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church.