17th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

2K 4:42-44 ; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15

There were times when Jesus  desired to withdraw from the crowds. When the disciples returned from their first mission Jesus withdrew  with them into privacy. Jesus went up into the hill behind the plain and he was sitting there  with his disciples. Then the crowd  began to appear. At the sight of the crowd Jesus' sympathy was kindled. They were hungry and tired, and they must be fed. No one asked  Jesus to provide  the crowd with food.  It was Jesus  who first expressed his concern about the people's need for food.

One of the greatest tragedies  of our  time is  the fact that millions of people are reduced to starvation throughout the  world.  In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty". Every year 15 million children die of hunger. For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years. 100 million deaths could be prevented for the price of ten Stealth bombers, or what the world spends on its military in two days! The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world. Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion - a majority of humanity - live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people.
God has arranged  the world in such a way, that ever person may have the food he or she needs. God  continues to work thousands and millions of miracles in nature  to provide  food for his children: the power to sprout  which a seed contains, the way a grain grows and  the way nature takes care of the  crops. Food in the world should suffice to feed God's children but it will never suffice to fill the  greed of  men. One of the  reasons for world hunger is priorities. Those of us who live in an industrialized society place a high priority on comfort and convenience. Our standard of living places a significant strain on the world economy. Certainly this is something Christians must consider in terms of their own economic lifestyle. At a time when people are not getting enough to eat, we are living a lifestyle far beyond what many could even imagine. We have a great challenge before us. We must not only consider what we can do to feed the hungry, but we must also consider what we should do to limit our indulgent lifestyle.
With the failure of the potato crop in 1845, Ireland was sent into a downward spiral of starvation, poverty, disease and death. Subsequent annual crop failures brought even more suffering. As the Great Hunger progressed, more and more Irish were made destitute and homeless, without any means of obtaining food. The truly sad truth about the Great Hunger is that the British continued to ship food from Ireland while millions of Irish starved.

In March of 1849, over six hundred starving people made their way into the town of Louisburgh in search of food through outdoor relief or a ticket that would admit them to the workhouse. They met with the Receiving Officer at the Louisburgh workhouse. He told them he had no authority to grant them food or a ticket, but they could appeal to two of the Board of Guardians, Colonel Hograve and Mr. Lecky, who were meeting the next day at Delphi Lodge, located twelve miles south of Louisburgh.
The crowd spent the night in Louisburg. Weakened from their trip, many of the 600 men, women and children who slept in the streets that night died. The next day, five hundred of those that remained trudged through the mud and rain along a goat track in the direction of Delphi Lodge, crossing the Glankeen River at flood stage and through the mountain pass. Still more died of exhaustion along the way. They arrived wet and cold at Delphi Lodge the next afternoon.
The Board of Guardian members were at lunch when the people arrived and amazingly, they could not be disturbed. The starving crowd was told to wait. A few more died of exhaustion while waiting. When they had finished their meal the crowd was advised to return to Louisburgh. Disappointed, the group headed back to Louisburgh over the same bleak and dangerous path they had just taken. It is unknown how many of this group of starving people met their death in the waters of Doolough. Some call them the dead victims of the Great Hunger; others refer to them as martyrs.
Hunger and poverty are the consequences of the selfishness of people. So the solution to this devastating problems lies with man alone.
One day, a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad."
"Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.
"Oh yeah," said the son.
"So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.
The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them."
The boy's father was speechless.
Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."
There stood the little boy before Jesus. He had not much to offer but in what he had Jesus found  the materials for  a miracle. Jesus needs what we can bring him. It may not be much but  he needs it. It may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Jesus  what we have. He wants us to make good use of all his gifts. And the generosity of the boy contains a lesson for us. Today Jesus' message to us is "Go and do the same thing."

16th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

 Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34

Jesus sent out his disciples with the mission of bringing God's message to the people. When they came  back from their mission they  reported to Jesus all that they had done.  The demanding crowds were  so insistent that they had no time even to eat; so Jesus took them  to a lonely place that they might have peace and rest for a while.

Today's passage  places before us the rhythm of the Christian life. Go out from the presence of God, into the presence of men, and return from the presence of men to the presence of God. It is like the  rhythm of sleep and work.  We cannot work unless we have our time of rest; and sleep will not  embrace anyone who has not worked until he is tired.

This passage very clearly warns us against the danger of too constant activity. No man can work without rest; and no man can live his Christian life without  giving time to be with God. Dallas Willard says that practicing silence and solitude is the most important spiritual discipline for people today. In our busy, noisy world we need to "unhook" and get away to be alone with our Lord.

Jesus began his public ministry with 40 days of withdrawal into the desert wilderness to fast and pray in silence and solitude. He was alone, hungry, hot and thirsty, surrounded by wild animals, and tested by Satan. But the truth of Jesus' fast is that the Father, the Scriptures, and ministering angels strengthened Jesus! His time alone with God and quietly focused only on him empowered him to resist Satan's temptations (which came at the end of the 40 days) and it focused and prepared him for his public ministry. Interspersed throughout Jesus' ministry of preaching, and healing,  we see him withdraw from the crowds again and again – often getting up very early to do so – in order to be quiet and alone with the Father (e.g., Mark 1:35, 3:13, 6:31, 46).

Jesus' rhythm of life is the secret to how he got renewed in his Father's love and empowered by the Spirit for his life and ministry. In quiet prayer he listened to the Father and received discernment for many things.

Michael Faraday, an early pioneer of electromagnetic current, once addressed a convocation of scientists. For an hour, he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the nature of the magnet. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a midweek prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual; batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God's presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place.

John the Baptist is another one in the Bible who practiced solitude with God. He was quite a figure. Imagine a man who lives in the wilderness with wild animals, dresses in hairy camel skin tied on by a thick leather belt, and exists on a diet of locusts and wild honey! That's John the Baptist. His message was as austere as his desert surroundings: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2, NASB).

John lived in the desert with his disciples and hundreds of people came to him there to be baptized and taught. Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets , but John sought no glory for himself. Instead his life ambition and great joy was to prepare the way for people to go to Jesus. Like John the Baptist, the Desert Fathers of the early church made solitude in the desert their way of life. They lived in the Egyptian desert in private huts where they weaved baskets to earn a living and while they weaved they prayed and meditated on Scripture. They fasted often and practiced other ascetic disciplines (some of the monks did so in extreme and odd ways that have been given undo attention). Regularly they met individually with their Abba for spiritual direction and as a community for worship.

The ultimate test of the value of silence and solitude is if they empower us to love others – if we've truly been with the God of love and his love has purified us and put us at peace then we'll love others. So we need to realize that silence isn't something only for when we're alone; it's also about learning to control our tongue in our relationships.

"The fruit of solitude," explains Richard Foster, "is increased sensitivity and compassion for others."

The crowd saw Jesus and his men going away. But some people walked round  and were there before Jesus and his disciples arrived. They earnestly sought the company of men of God. More than ever today men crave to be in the company of   men of God, to experience the holiness of God. Today we are entrusted with this mission – to  impart the experience of the holiness of God to our contemporaries. For that  we require to  do two things. First of all find time to be with God, secondly  Find time to be with men. Hence, the rhythm of Christian  life is the   alternative meeting with God in the secret place and serving  men in the market place.


15th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14 ; Mk 6:7-13

Today's gospel, tells the story of Jesus' commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach the "good news". Jesus gave clear instructions to his disciples for their first mission. They should be walking illustrations of God's love and providence in action. They were  instructed by Jesus not to take any supplies for the road, but must trust God for  everything.

It was a Rabbinic law  that when a man entered the  Temple courts  he must put off his staff and shoes and money girdle. In short all ordinary things were  to be set aside on entering the  sacred place. He wanted his disciples to consider the simple homes  they enter as sacred as  the Temple courts.

Hospitality was a sacred duty in the East. When a stranger  entered a village, it was not his duty to  search for hospitality; but it was the duty of the village to offer it.  Jesus told his disciples if hospitality was denied they must shake off the dust of that place from their  feet when they left. The mark of  Christian disciple is not be utter simplicity, complete trust, and the generosity which is always to give and never to demand. Accepting the mission the  disciples travelled all over.

To the people they brought the king's message. The king's message was "Repent". To repent means to change one's mind and then to fit one's actions to this change. There is a beautiful scene in the novel Quo Vadis. Vincius the young Roman,  fell in love with a girl who  was a Christian. Because he was not a Christian she would have nothing to do with him. He followed her to the secret night  gathering of the little group of Christians, and there unknown to an one he listens to the  service. He head Peter preach. As he listened something happened to him. He  felt that if he wished to follow that teaching, he would have to place on a burning pile all this thoughts, habits and character; burn them into ashes and then fill himself  with a life  altogether different and an entirely new soul. That is repentance. The change is not  necessarily from robbery, theft, murder, adultery  and such glaring sins. Such changes are comparatively easy. But the change most often required is from a life that  is completely selfish, instinctively demanding, totally inconsiderate, and egocentric. A change from self centred life to God centred life.

Repentance always involves some change in values, and a willingness to leave behind values and attitudes that may be inconsistent with living in a relationship with God. There are also times when restitution may be necessary.  Festo Kivengere (former Anglican Archbishop of Kigezi, Uganda, and leader of the African Enterprise evangelistic team,  in Decision magazine.) Told a story about his uncle. He said, "My uncle, the chief, was sitting in court one day with his courtiers around him when a man came and bowed in the African way. He was rich in cattle and was well known as a man who sought God through the spirits of dead relatives. He had come with eight cows which he left some twenty yards away.
'I have come for a purpose, sir,' the man said.
'What are those cows for?' asked the chief.
'Sir, they are yours.'
'What do you mean they are mine?'
'They are yours. When I was looking after your cattle, I stole four and now they are eight, and I am bringing them.'
'Who arrested you?'
'Jesus arrested me, sir, and here are your cows.'
There was no laughter, only a shocked silence. My uncle could see this man was at peace with himself and rejoicing.
'You can put me in prison or beat me up,' the man said, 'but I am liberated. Jesus came my way and I am a free human being.'
'Well, if God has done that for you, who am I to put you in prison? You go home.'
A few days later, having heard the news, I went to see my uncle. I said to him, 'Uncle, I hear you got eight free cows!'
'Yes, it's true,' he said.
'You must be happy.'
'Forget it! Since that man came, I can't sleep. If I want the peace he has, I would have to return a hundred cows!'"

Repentance implies a change from the  undesirable habits. Abstinence alone isn't enough to hold us when it comes to dropping an old habit. We need to find a new focus that's more enticing, more compelling than the old habit, to shift interest and energy to a new way of living.

Secondly, the Apostles  brought  to the people the king's mercy. Not only did they bring their shattering demand upon men; they  brought  help and healing. Jesus tried to lift his people not only from moral wreckage, but also from  physical pain and suffering. This remains the  task of the church today.

Finally, the passages tell us that  preachers of the Gospel must be listened to because they  are God's messengers. It is immaterial where God's messenger comes from: what matters is that it is God who sends them. So, no other consideration should prevent us from accepting their message.
Remember the words of Jesus to his disciples:
"Anyone who welcomes  you welcomes me:
and those who welcome me
welcome the one who sent me(Mt 10:40).



14th Sunday in the Ordinary Time

Ez 2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. Most of the famous men have experienced rejection not once, but many times. Colonel Sanders is the founder of KFC. He started his dream at 65 years old! He got a social security check for only $105 and was mad. Instead of complaining he did something about it. He thought restaurant owners would love his fried chicken recipe, use it, sales would increase, and