Simple Truths: God IS in your storm

Here is a simple truth; because the wind is against you it does not mean that God is not for you. Sadly many have come to believe that blessings are the only sign that God is pleased with us. While I get the sentimental belief that prevails I do believe that such beliefs are far from the Christian faith.

God is also in the storm and the Gospels tell us that. When the apostles were battling the waves (Matthew 14:24) they seemed to be alone for the Lord was not in their boat. Scripture tells us that Jesus came walking to them “early in the morning” while they struggled through the night.

When plagued with the tempests, the night seems to never end and it is in these moments that most Christians feel deserted and abandoned in their faith. We question our beliefs, we question God! Where is God? That is the question that tops the charts in our mind. Why won’t He come now to rescue us? Why does He wait to make an early morning dramatic entrance when any sign of His presence would soothe me in my storm?

The simple truth is that God never abandoned us in our storm. A careful reading of Matthew 14: 22-32 tells us that while the disciples battled the wind and the waves Jesus was by himself, up in the mountains that overlooked the Sea of Galilee, PRAYING the whole night, obviously for them. The Lord had his eye fixed on them in their storm.

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Rejoice, Lent is approaching

In a week from now we will be enveloped by the colour purple.  For a while we will bid farewell to the Alleluia’s; for a while the sanctuary will be devoid of flowers and ornamentation. These are merely external signs and symbols to remind us of the greater calling to shut ourselves from those things that clutter our world and enter a deeper union with God.

Many Catholics perceive the season of Lent as a downer, for linked to it are the three disciplines which in common practice is narrowed down to what you can’t eat. The season of Lent is not about what we can’t eat but what is eating us! So you can stop tip toeing over the contents of your next meal in Lent and devote that same time to examine the contents of your heart. Fasting is merely a discipline, a means to an end and not an end in itself and that ironically is what most Catholics don’t get.

So it’s not about what you can’t do in Lent but rather what you should do in Lent. It’s a positive season of renewal rather than the mournful approach it has been blanketed with. The disciplines are given to us so that we focus on God.  

Hence the disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving are not about what we do for God but rather what God wants to do for us. He wants to drown out the noise that surrounds our lives so that we may find time listen to Him speak to our heart. The sound of silence may not be what we are used to but it’s certainly what we need.

Surely the run up to Ash Wednesday may not seem as celebratory as Christmas but that is because of how we have been brought up to approach this period of grace.  In the week to come we open our hearts to receive Jesus who will be our teacher and guide for the next forty days. Lent is approaching, rejoice!

Fr Warner D’Souza

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TRANSFORMATION- TRANSLATION- TRANSFIGURATION – Saturday, 6th week in ordinary time Mk 9:2-13

And now for the second time the Father bears testimony to the son. Jesus the beloved, is acclaimed by God as ‘His voice’; “listen to him “says God. Earlier in Chapter 1:11, God proclaims Jesus as his son in whom he is ‘well pleased’.  So surely, the transfiguration must be a pivotal point in the gospel of Mark. Attached to this pericope is what is called the Elijah question (11- 13). Let us understand this pericope a bit more.

Jesus has just pronounced the first of His three passion predictions and teachings on discipleship. He will do this again in chapter 9: 31 and 10: 33. Peter has pronounced Jesus as the Christ but is far from understanding what the Father’s revelation to him means. Scripture tells us that Peter is lost in an illusion of an earthy kingdom of power. He therefore remonstrates with Jesus in an attempt to prevent him walking down the road of suffering.  Now as it were, to reiterate his earlier question on whom men thinks Jesus is, the Master takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain.

We have no idea where this place definitely is. Scholars have opined that it may be Mount Tabor or Hermon. In the Old Testament, mountains were the usual settings for supernatural revelations and manifestations of God. In the New Testament Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount and dies on the cross on mount Calvary. These manifestations are called theophanies. (Theo= God, Phaneroo = make clear) It is here that the form of Jesus changes; that’s why we call it the ‘transfiguration’. Peter’s confession is now revealed in visual form. The disciples of Jesus see the master’s glorious state which so far they have been revealed only in words. This is the glorious state that Jesus will have after his death and resurrection. It is this glorious state that we will all have in heaven.

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Simple Truth: Oversized brains, shrunken hearts (with malice to none)

The simple truth is this; the Bible is not a ‘challenge’ to understand it’s just that we make no effort to understand it. Over nineteen years of being a priest I have heard devout Catholics crib  and cry about how little they know about the scriptures, yet there is no dearth of  excellent courses in scripture ranging from a couple of hours to a two year course in the Archdiocese of Bombay. The truth is that they are poorly attended by the ‘faithful’.

Two and a half years ago I took a decision to stop telling ‘stories’ in my homily; you can find the fairy tale you so desire in any library. While an anecdote makes for good listening and may provide for value based learning, the Bible has truths that no story can give you and ironically these narratives make for great listening if not literature reading. The book of Job is studied in the Mumbai University under the section of literature.

But there is another reason I stopped illustrating my homilies with stories and that is because the Bible has enough to offer us. Sadly even the clergy don’t break the word as is instructed by the Church and continue to feed the sheep with food not found in green pastures but ‘genetically modified’ to the whims and wants of the sheep.

We need to go back to the word of God as sustenance for our living and we can’t rely solely on  the clergy to jump start that for us; If you were hungry you know where the fridge is and how to raid it even at midnight. Fact is we know every restaurant on Zomato! Having made the decision to study the word (not just read it) one needs to devote time.

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Who do you say I am? Feast of the chair of St Peter -Matthew 16: 13-19

The confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”, seems all too easy an answer, given the question if asked today, to you and me.  But did Peter fully fathom what he answered? For Jesus says to Peter, ‘flesh and blood has not revealed it to you but my Father in heaven’. So did Peter get it right by himself or was he just prompted by God? Did he fully understand who the Messiah was ?

How do we know when God is speaking to us? How can we be sure that the voices we hear in our head are not simply the chatter of our minds reflecting our own wishes; mere ‘flesh and blood’ responses?  How did Peter know what to say when the other disciples got the answer so wrong?

To understand the word ‘Messiah’ as being uniquely attributed only to Jesus would be as fallacious as to understand that Jesus was the only one crucified in history; yet many Christians believe so. Crucifixion was perhaps the most brutal public execution carried out by the Romans and Jesus was one of the thousands put to death in this fashion. The same understanding must be applied to the meaning of the word Messiah; it would be sentimental to insist that this word must exclusively apply itself to Jesus.

In time, this word Messiah has crystalized in the mind of the modern Christian to be attributed exclusively to Christ, though we would use it loosely to describe a person who comes to our aid in time of great need.  First century Judaism understood ‘mashiah’ meaning ‘anointed one’, to be anyone; from prophet, to warrior or king.  

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