Truth stands alone and stands still – Friday, 4th Week of Lent – Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22/ John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Read also based on the Gospel text of today.

I cannot for the life of me recall ever reading this text from scripture. Yet for those who love the Lord, you have leant by now that God speaks to us through his word in his own time and says what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.

God chose to speak this text to my heart today, on my 53rd birthday and I want to break this down for you as a gift. He shares his word with me. I share his message with you and I hope each day you do the same by sharing HIS word fearlessly. Remember, truth stands alone and stands still.

We find ourselves living in a world where ever thing must be reasoned out and have a ‘convincing answer’. When applied to the Christian faith, ‘convincing answers’ are nothing more than a stubborn heart and mind refusing to accept the truth of God. They would gladly settle for the compromised and convenient ‘truths’ that the world would rather offer. Oddly, this is not entirely a malaise of this generation for the Book of Wisdom, written in the 1st century BC, was battling with a similar situation.

The author of the book of wisdom addresses the “ungodly” (1:16). That’s a tough word to use in a modern world that strives to be politically correct. The author of the book of wisdom seemed to care a damn for political correctness and threw it in the dustbin where in belonged. He called out the ungodly for who they were and did not seek to find a ‘pastorally’ acceptable or politically correct term.

At the heart of the matter, is the matter of the heart. While we often speak of thought that emanates from the head, it is the chatter in the heart that leads us to the fires of hell. Chapter two of the book of wisdom needs to be read in its entirety to understand the chatter of the ungodly; and boy do they have much to say!

It is they ungodly that want to “enjoy the good things that exist.” “Make use of creation to the full as in youth.” It is they who “want to take their fill of costly wine and perfumes” and enjoy every moment of every season. It is they who desire to crown themselves with rosebuds before they wither, as if rosebuds are going out of style and it is they who never cease “enjoying themselves.”

But while all this may seem like a ‘bit’ of self-indulgence, the sin of the ungodly runs deeper for their shameless eyes also fall on the poor and marginalized of society. Scripture tells us that not only do the pick on the “poor man” they do it knowing that he is righteous. They target the widow and disregard the aged whom they circle around like vultures, knowing their prey is weak and dying. They believe that might is right and what is weak proves to be useless (think now of the abortonist and those pushing the euthanasia agenda)

But their sin multiply when the righteous person stands up as a voice of conscience, or the good person becomes an inconvenient truth; standing as a beacon against their sins, calling them out in public. Hell, hath no fury than the ungodly scorned for now everything is fair game for them.

Read verses 12 to 20 and you can identify with the sufferings of Christ. It seems like this text was a prophecy of what Our Lord would suffer. But this text is also a testimony to those in the Church who have the courage to stand up and call out the sins within the Church. While it is fashionable to point out the sins of civil society it is anathema to call out your own.

When corrupt religious institutions, both systems and individuals, turn against the righteous few because they stand up and call out the sins of the institution, then moral standing has failed completely. Our Lord stood alone; he called out the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin and even the Chief Priest himself. Our Lord stood alone, as a voice of conscience of his day and for that he was ridiculed and mocked. The entire might of the Roman government was used against him. False accusations were brought against him and he was sentenced to death, a death sanctioned by the might of the religious institution.

Perhaps today we are no far from the same situation….but for a few good men and women.


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Can I change God’s mind? – Thursday, 4th Week of Lent – Exodus 32:7-14/John 5:31-47

Read also based on the Gospel of today.

The golden calf will forever be the metaphor of betrayal. A people that was loved much, brought out of slavery, fed in the desert and now gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai have tired of waiting for Moses to return. We are told that Moses entered into the midst of the cloud, and went up on the mountain; “and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (24:18). Having waited this long, the people come to Aaron asking that him to make “gods” to go before them. Aaron complies without argument by making a calf idol of gold.

Here is the irony of it all. Such was the fickleness of the people of Israel that they sought to break the very first commandment that God had just given them. In a religiously pluralistic country such as India, it is not uncommon to see similar sinful behaviour of Christian politicians and businessmen who wish to ‘please’ and ‘not offend’ their vote banks and business partners by participating in religious ceremonies before idols. Sometimes the most ‘devout’ Christian who in the name of keeping friendly relationships with their neighbour, will bow down before an idol. They have violated the first and most fundamental of the commandments, the one that binds them to God in a relationship of exclusive loyalty: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)

I have often advocated that to assume that sin comes without the wrath of God is a delusional belief that Christians hold. While we have a forgiving God, that God is also capable of inflicting his wrath. On seeing the sin of his people, God’s wrath blazed. He says to Moses, “let me alone.” This was God’s way of saying, ‘this time I will not chose to listen to you Moses, this time I have decided to act and act decisively in destroying the people I once loved.’ But there is another way of looking at these words of God. Sometimes when people say, “Don’t try to stop me!” they are really signaling their desire for the listener to give them a good reason to stop. That seems to be the case here. Yahweh is ordering Moses not to interfere, but instead seems to be inviting Moses to do just that.

Yet the anger of God is also evident. In addressing Moses, God says “for your people, who you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (v. 7b). In the past, Yahweh spoke of these people as “my people” (3:7, 10; 5:1; 6:7; 7:4, 16, etc.) but now he refers to them as “your people,” as Moses’ people; the people whom Moses brought up. It is the kind of thing that a frustrated parent might say to his or her spouse, “YOUR son or daughter did this.”

Mercifully, Moses chose to implore the Lord. If one were to paraphrase it all, Moses simply tells the Lord, ‘Calm down.’ Then using a very clever emotive and intellectual argument He asks the Lord to think for it is the Lord’s reputation that is at stake. If Israel perishes in the wilderness, the Egyptians will say that God’s intentions were evil from the start. Instead of a faith-keeping and merciful deliverer, the LORD will appear to be a faithless, malevolent deity.

What the Bible records next is just shocking. We are told that God repents! The English translation of verse 14 tells us that the Lord ‘changed his mind.” The Hebrew verb for “changed his mind” is naham, a term elsewhere translated as “be sorry” or “repent” when its subject is a human. It is an emotion-laden term and appropriate to a context in which one is deeply moved. It is not so much that God has done some wrong but his repentance is really a ‘feeling sorry’ for giving into his anger even though God was justified.

There is something here that may miss the eye. The tendency would be to focus on the mercy of God which the text does highlight but the text also highlights another reality and that is the fact that humans can ‘affect’ God. In the text of today, God changes his plans of destruction and acts otherwise. He did this in response to human persuasion; to Moses petitions for his people. If there is any take away here that consoles the faithful is that we have the ability to prevail on God’s mercy and petition him to change his mind. And guess what! He does it.

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Better times follow bitter days – Wednesday, 4th week of Lent – Isaiah 49:8-15/ John 5:17-30

Read also based on the Gospel of today

To be exiled is simply to be kicked out; that’s reality 101 for you. There are several sugar-coated ways of saying the same thing but when played out, it means you are unwanted, whatever the socio-political reason may be. Then, there are those that go into exile, either to make a point as a voice of conscience or because one’s life is threatened.

God sent HIS people, his covenant people into exile. He had promised a relationship that would last forever but while ratifying this covenant he clearly made his demands clear in return for his love and protection. They were to be his people who kept his laws diligently and in return he would be their God. This they failed to do. 

We tend to take those we love for granted. We most certainly take God for granted, clinging on to the fantasy that God’s anger will never kick in. When it did, God sent his people into exile for seventy long years.  In stead of waking up to God’s anger, the people of Israel were  lost  in their self-pity and misery. Even now, they would not take responsibility for their sinful past and chose rather to blame God for the situation they found themselves in.

The text of today, which is written in poetic form, must be seen in the totality of all twenty six verses that form this chapter. This text was almost certainly composed during the period of the Babylonian exile (586-539 BCE). This explains the words of the text when the people of Israel are described as a “desolate heritages,” as people in “prison or living in darkness”.

Living in Babylon, the people were surrounded by the symbols of their captors’ might. They are presented as “barren” (49:21; see 54:1), that is, unable to bring about their own future. Their lives were lived in hardship, leaving them dispirited; they had to live in a land surrounded by signs of their own defeat and helplessness. While we know that Israel never really had a change of heart, God on the other hand was nothing short of a bleeding heart.

In response to the alienation and vulnerability of exile, Isaiah offers them words of comfort in chapter 49. Now distance is overcome by intimacy, and helplessness is met by the comforting presence of God. To a  people who have suffered a lengthy exile in Babylon, Yahweh is preparing for their return to their homeland.

To reassure his people, Yahweh draws upon the image of a mother’s love.  Yahweh has not forgotten them, he has not abandoned them and will not refuse to act with compassion. Though bizarre accounts of unspeakable cruelty surface from time to time, everyone knows that a woman will never forget her nursing child. Even if such a bizarre incident may occur, Yahweh promises that  he will not forget his people. In our darkest moments, let us not forget the unchanging intensity of God’s love for us.

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The river of life- Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent – Ezekiel 47:1-9,12/ John 5: 1-16

Read also based on the Gospel of today. Simply click on the link above.

This text of today is certainly difficult to understand if you have no background to the Prophet Ezekiel. The passage is about a vision of hope given to the prophet Ezekiel who lived in exile for 25 years in Babylon (40:1). The temple in Jerusalem had been devastated because of the idolatrous sins of God’s people and as a result they were taken into exile and scattered, while the rest were living in their own ruined land.

For the people in exile and those back home, it seemed that there was no hope and no future. At this point, Ezekiel saw a series of visions. In his earlier vision, he saw abominations in the temple and the glory of Yahweh departing from the temple (Ch.8-11). But in his final vision (Ch. 40-48), Ezekiel sees a vision of a new temple. He witnesses the glory of the Lord returning to fill his temple (43:1-12). Ezekiel’s vision zooms out even further to describe the new city and land (Ch. 47-48). The new temple is in the very centre of this new city.

Today’s passage describes a marvellous river flowing from the temple to bring life and healing to the land. Ironically, in all of its recorded history, Jerusalem never had such a river. There were streams and springs, but never a rich, mighty river, and never one flowing from this part of the city. Jerusalem is the only great city of the ancient world that wasn’t located on a river, and in the east, a dependable water supply is essential for life and for defense

So, what is the point of Ezekiel’s vision for us today? Simply this, it reveals God’s heart for a broken world and testifies about the Gospel of Jesus. God wants us to know his heart and to give us a river of life that flows out to heal our broken hearts and our violent world. So, the hope that Ezekiel shared is that in this semi-arid geography of Israel, a river like this will be both a blessing and a miracle. It will bring life, growth, vitality, refreshment, hope, and security.

The last word of God for each of us is not destruction but new life in Jesus.

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Louder than words-  Solemnity of St Joseph – Luke 2: 41- 51

So are all Joseph’s dreamers? Well the Bible presents us with another dreamer, this time in the New Testament and he is the foster father of Jesus. St Joseph’s dreams don’t require any interpretation like the ones in Zechariah or Daniel. His dreams are straightforward though their execution called for obedience; and obey he did.

So I often wonder why we don’t make much of St Joseph. For some reason we have made him the third person of the Holy Family and often the least acknowledged for his role. Joseph, like Mary also said yes! Yes to a socially interpreted scandalous marriage, yes to being homeless, yes to being a refugee, yes to being a foster father and this last one being a tough one. Joseph said YES; and yet there are no hymns that I know that sing of his ‘fiat.’(From the Latin, “let it be done”)

The gospel of today speaks of another lost son, not prodigal, but lost all the same. Jesus in a very theological sense was not lost, He was where He should be, ‘in his Father’s house’; but his parents most certainly though they had lost him. 

Luke is the only gospel that gives us a story from Jesus’ childhood. This precocious little twelve year old most certainly gave Mary and Joseph a three day fright. The first words that Jesus spoke in the New Testament, are recorded in this narrative; “Why were you searching for me, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Make no mistake, for all the love my parents have for me, that statement coupled with three days of insane stressful searching would have earned me a good thrashing. And yet I presume Joseph and Mary were silent and not angry. How often perhaps, in His childhood, had Jesus said things that only solicited puzzled glances from Mary and Joseph? 

But on this occasion, something must have happened in the heart of this ever invisible but dutiful father.  St Joseph, who played his role as foster father to perfection, is now told the inevitable; that Jesus was in ‘His Father’s house’.  ‘Father’, no longer refers to Joseph, his foster-father, a title by which the boy Jesus lovingly called Joseph.  Now that word ‘Father’, refers to God. Luke makes the new meaning very clear, emphasizing that Jesus, a fully human teenage boy, is also the Son of God and fully divine. And while his heart must have tugged, Joseph let’s go, pondering all this in his heart.

He is a good man, this one; a devoted and obedient servant of God.  His yes was more than a yes to ‘the divine call’. He said yes to his human calling too. He was that just and hardworking carpenter who provided for his family. He was the devoted servant of God, who though was not required, made the trip to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. He traversed hill and mountain on foot, making a week long journey to Jerusalem with Mary. He not only strived to do what was right but to do it the right way when he took Mary home to be his wife. He accepted the role of refugee in Egypt fleeing from a tyrant who wanted to murder his son.  He is the silent one of the gospel, you never hear his words, NOT ONCE, but you see his actions and boy do they speak far louder than words!

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