Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter, B
                                                           Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn 3:1-12; Jn 10:11-18
Jesus the Good Shepherd, the Christian model of care and concern
It is so evident that human beings are relational in nature.  J. Mbitti says it well: “I am because WE are and, since we are, therefore I am” Our relationships can reveal our identity as in the saying, ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.’ In presenting himself as the ‘good shepherd’ in today’s gospel, Jesus reveals something of his relationship with us. In fact the entire gospel brings out some salient attributes of Christ’s relationship with us, and, which at the same time, constitute the pillars of good and meaningful relationships among priests , Christians, parents and children, wives and husbands, employers and employees,  and what have you.

These attributes include self -sacrifice, care and concern, knowledge of each other, mutual understanding and dialogue. As a good shepherd, he lays down his life for us on the cross and offers himself daily to us in the Eucharist.  There is no greater than love this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13). Our Lord invites us always, ‘come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give rest’ (Mtt 11:28). Besides, he means what he says: “I know mine and mine knows me”.  Jesus knows us through and through; he knows our thoughts, our ways, our deeds, he knows it all. We too know him because he would say, “I no longer call you slaves but friends because I have revealed to you everything I learnt from my Father.”(Jn 15:15) Because of this knowledge, we can hear his voice and speak to him in prayer-dialogue.

A closer look at Psalm 23 reveals how the Lord watches over us, day and night: The Lord is my Shepherd-that’s a relationship: I shall not want- that’s supply. He makes me lie down in green pasture-That’s rest. He leads me besides the still waters-That’s refreshment. He restores my soul-that’s healing. He leads me in the path of righteousness-that’s guidance. For his name sake-that’s purpose. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death-that’s testing. I will fear no evil-that’s protection. For thou art with me-that’s faithfulness. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me-that’s discipline…

Indeed, Jesus doesn’t call us to be good shepherds in a vacuum, but he wants us to build and maintain meaningful relationships after his own heart.  First and foremost, we must strive to know the people we call friends. You can’t say someone is your friend when you don’t really know who that person is. It is even more dangerous to rush into serious relationships with people we haven’t taken time to know. Knowledge in this sense must take into account the nitty gritty of the person’s personality-weaknesses, strengths, temperament, mannerisms, family background, and personal hygiene and so on. There is nothing wrong in finding out how a man reacts when he is hungry, or to see how a woman looks like when she wakes up early in the morning without make-up.

This thorough knowledge leads to mutual understanding.  I read an inscription somewhere: “I married her because we have so many faults in common.” This is what it means to know someone and exercise mutual understanding.  Three women were expressing their concerns about their husbands: the first, whose husband was a football player said, I hate when my husband calls leftovers replays. The second, whose husband was a TV executive said, my husband refers to them as reruns. The third, whose husband was a mortician, said to her friends, “be grateful”, my husband calls them remains.  She went on to say, ‘suffices to know and understand your husband’s background and career.’
Once we know and understand each other well, we can easily dialogue on areas where there is need for growth.

Over and above all this, we must put on love, care and concern for one another. It was Theodore Roosevelt, one time US president, who said “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Care and concern keep our relationships alive. At the level of families, spouses should show care and concern for each other, especially in times of sickness. Children too should love and care for one another.

In school, teachers are called to be good shepherds by their love and care for students, especially the weaker ones. Consider your job as a calling to bring out the best in your students.
Physicians, nurses, care-givers all have the God-given opportunity to live out the example of the good shepherd by their love and care for the sick. Our tender loving care can bring healing more than any amount of medication.
All of us in leadership positions are called to be  good shepherds by treating our subordinates with love, care, and respect, even when they seem not to meet our expectations. The dignity of the human person does not depend on his ability to work. Sometimes we treat employees and co-workers like nonentities if to our estimation, they are not efficient or productive.

Finally, let us trust in Christ our Good Shepherd, and after his example, strive to grow in our relationships by giving up selfish and childish tendencies. Rather, let the spirit of the good shepherd rekindle our relationships with love, care, self-sacrifice and mutual understanding.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

                                    Third Sunday of Easter, B
                             Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1Jn 2:1-5;Lk 24:35-48 
                                                            Peace of Mind
The one precious and priceless gift which every person longs for is Peace of mind. Peace of mind is necessary   for our spiritual and physical health. The Latin say “mens sana in corpore sano”(a healthy mind in a healthy body). We can hardly function well without peace of mind. Every war, every quarrel, every disagreement begins in the heart and mind. Without   peace of mind, we can suffer from depression and bad temper. This usually overflows unto our relationship, work, environment, family and everything around us.  When we speak about transfer aggression, it is an overflow of an inner unrest. We all need peace of mind to be able to rest, enjoy family, friends, and work.

No one can buy this inner peace with money. On various occasions in his public ministry, Christ gives peace to his disciples, just like he does today to the disciples on their way to Emmaus. However, despite the assurance he had given them before his resurrection, they are still troubled, with many unanswered questions in their minds. All these worries and fears have clouded their minds to his words of peace: “I will be with you until the end of time.”(Mtt 28:20) “In the world you will have troubles but be brave because I have overcome the world.”(Jn 16:33) “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in me.”(Jn 14:1)

One of the major obstacles to peace of mind is the worry habit. Many, many Christians have allowed  fears, worries, and troubles to take a better part of them. In this state of mind we can hardly think and see things clearly, just like the disciples; they saw Jesus and thought he was a ghost. We are what we think! When our minds are not at peace, we can see an enemy in a friend, a ghost in a human being; we can see war where there is peace. Someone once said worry never accomplishes anything except wrinkles, which give us another cause to worry.  And, it is your choice; you can either count your blessings or recount your disappointments.

Another obstacle to peace of mind is evil. The evil that men do, do not only live after them, but follows them. There is no rest for the wicked because the conscience haunts. When Cain killed his brother Abel, he was not at peace. He claimed not to know the whereabouts of his brother, but his brother’s blood was crying for vengeance. Peter is recounting to the Jews the evil in their act of crucifying Christ. He calls them to repentance and conversion because it is the only way for them to have peace of mind. Peace of mind requires repentance and conversion from old ways. That’s why after giving the disciples peace, he breathe the Holy Spirit upon them, giving them the power to forgive sins (Jn 20:21-22).

Hypocrisy robs us of inner peace. St John tells us, “Those who say I know him, but don’t keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. A life of double standards is energy consuming! It takes quite some energy to mask, pretending to be what we are not.

Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves. If we always find fault with others, our thoughts will be all about wars. “What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your inner longings which make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it, and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight (Jm 4:1-2). Our uncontrolled desires leads to jealousy and unhealthy competition. “If you don’t have what you like, like what you have.” If we can’t control that inner longing, we can easily develop anger and hate feelings.

The ways to peace of mind are simple. First of all, true peace can only come from Christ who assures us that the peace he gives is a peace the world cannot give(Jn 14:27). This means walking close to him and keeping his Word, for scriptures say “great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble”(Ps 119:165).

Forgiveness is a necessary way to acquire peace of mind. Forgive, not necessarily because your offender deserves forgiveness, but because you deserve peace of mind. It is true that when you forgive you ultimately liberate yourself. Besides, let us be quick to let go. If you let go a little you will have a little peace, if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up bones (Pr 17:22). To keep a cheerful heart, we need to take life easy; enjoying one moment at a time, taking one day at a time. Avoid taking everything too personally.

Peace of mind requires that we strive to be always patient with family, friends, co-workers and everyone else. Accept people just as they are because peace of mind comes from not wanting to change others. It is rightly said if you can’t change the circumstances around you, change your attitude. You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it.

Today Christ wants to renew his gift of peace in our lives. We must not allow another person or event to control our emotions. Keep in mind that no one can drive you crazy if you don’t give him/her the keys.

In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.   Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you(Phil 4:6-9).Peace be with you.