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1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus; 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, he has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.”
Jesus was becoming more and more famous that people started to look for Him. Some searched Him to experience Him while some others searched for Him with a view to find His true identity. Even today we can find these types of people. Some tries to analyze His self in a bid to find out whether He is fully God or fully human, etc, etc. while some others search for Him to find Him in their lives. Where should our all the actions lead to?
55 And coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Every human being is related to each other. Jesus in His earthly life was no exception. He was a son of somebody, a brother of some others and a friend, possibly more than a friend of some others.Then what made Him different? It was the realization of His own SELF identity as the Son of God. People who really saw this SELF was able to witness His marvellous deeds. As disciples of Jesus who yearn for a transforming experience, we should really be able to see this Jesus-SELF. This will allow Jesus to perform His mighty deeds amongst us. This JESUS-SELF which passes through us will, then, enable us to be real Christ- givers who will radiate His Love through our actions.
* Happy to restart blogging after a long interval. Please pray to the Spirit to continue to inspire me and never lose the heart.*
38 After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. 39 Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.
Gratitude is an attitude. We are all thankful to those who have done some favour to us. Simon’s mother-in-law shows such a gratitude. For her, gratitude is not only a feeling oriented one but an action oriented one, which prompts her to serve the Lord. Does our gratitude show up in our actions or does it remain only in feelings and words? Gratitue could more than be an attitude, it could be action.
31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” 37 And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
It is really puzzling to note that the people of God who had been waiting for the Messiah, miserably failed to recognize him. But his adversaries, the unclean spirits did recognize him as the Holy One of God. Just as the darkness cannot co-exist with light, the evil-spirit cannot co-exist with the Holy One. Just the realization of who Jesus was, made the evil spirits to come out of the possessed. If we could recognize the Holy One of God in our personal lives, the dark zones of our lives could be dispelled by His light.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers1 in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
After the mushrooming of neo-Pentecostal movements, there has been a wide thinking which associates the work of the Lord with the power to work miracles, with the mode of prayer, praying in tongues, or praying out loud, etc. Jesus, reading from the prophet Isaiah, announces his mission and says,
This is the real measure of our anointing with the spirit of the Lord. Can we say that the Lord has appointed to bring good news to the poor? If then, we can be sure that, the spirit of the Lord is upon me. Our mere prayers, working miracles, studying the scripture can all be done even without the power of the Spirit. But if we can bring the good news, Jesus, to the poor, captives, blind and the oppressed, we can be sure that we are acting in the Spirit of the Lord, and that the Spirit of the Lord is upon me! Remember, in the great judgement of nations described in Matthew 25, the Lord did not mention about our style of prayers, or about our power to do extra-ordinary miracles, or about the stupendous acts we have done, but the judgement was on the basis of our day-to-day and ordinary dealing with our least counted brothers and sisters. May the Sprit of the Lord work in us so that we may be able to bring good news to the poor!
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,1 to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Do we always act according to our knowledge? I had this question in my mind, as I sat listening to my professor talking about the academic rivalries of the exegetes. According to my mind, the exegetes did analyse the structures and study each word meticulously to bring out new meanings and nuances of the Word. But he added, ‘they do all these, but for money and fame.’ Often, it made no difference to either their lives or the lives of others. As I was meditating upon today’s passage, I was facing the same question again. The servant who got one talent knew exactly who the master was. He had studied the master meticulously and came to know that, master was a harsh man, reaping where he did not sow and gathering where he did not scatter. But this knowledge only led to a negative fear which made him to act against his knowledge. Most of us do study about God and the Word of God and we claim to know God in many and various adjectives. But our actions betray our knowledge. The God of our actions does not correspond to the God of our knowledge. That is precisely why we fail miserably to increase the talent of faith and godliness which is given to us as free gifts.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids1 took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids1 got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids1 came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Every New Year, every birthday, and every new beginning of our lives comes with new enthusiasm and new vigour. While we received baptism, while we received Jesus in the Holy Communion and while we received the Holy Spirit in the Confirmation, we and those around us were filled with such enthusiasm and vigour for the Lord. Every priest or religious did feel this at their ordination or profession. These sacraments had our heads overflowing with oil and our hearts were filled with joy and love for the Lord. We were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. But as time goes by, our first love vanishes. Just as our New Year or Birthday resolutions get buried under the blanket of time, the enthusiasm we had for the Lord while receiving the sacraments get buried by the passing of time. As the time passed by, the oil of the virgins were getting exhausted, but the wise ones were wise enough to carry that extra quantity which gave them enough oil to light their lamps when the bridegroom arrived. The foolish virgins could not carry it through the extra-time. In the Book of Revelation, the Son of Man in his letter to church in Ephesus praises it for their good works and perseverance but nevertheless he warns them, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4). May we not lose the love we had for the Lord at first, when we decided to dedicate our lives for the Lord! May our oil never get exhausted! For it is said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mat 10:22).
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod1 had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed;1 and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias1 came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s1 head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
A poet in my native language wrote, ‘due to gold and due to women are many quarrels there.’ While hhistorically it is true, such thought pattern arises from the fact that women are equated with gold, a commodity to be used in transactions, decorations, pleasure, etc. In today’s gospel, the daughter of Herodias uses her beauty and talents to bribe the king and put him in a perplexed mind. On the advice of her mother, she urges the king Herod to give the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The head of the greatest prophet, born of the women (Mat 11:11), was gifted in exchange for a beautiful dance of a beautiful girl. Such use of the physical beauty and the talents of women are very common even in today’s world. They are used as commodities of pleasure, decorative items in advertisements, movies and other places, and in many other illegal and unethical ways for the gain of many others. Unfortunately, both men and women are part of this exploitation. When will we understand the fact that women are not to be used for our gains – commercial or any other? When will we understand the fact that our calling is to enhance the life in all possible ways? Let us, by our talents, try to amplify the prophetic voices and not to silence them.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous,
30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.
I remember a short story I read years ago. One day Jesus decided to visit the earth once again. As he was walking in the busy streets of the city, he saw many people engaged in many activities. They were engaged in many immoral activities. They did not even feel ashamed of doing such activities in the presence of the Lord. Suddenly a lady fell at his feet. She was being chased by a small mob. She cried to Him for help. Jesus, remembering a similar scene, sat down and started to write on the ground. The mob shouted at him to leave her and go for they said, ‘she was a shame to their society.’ He said to them, ‘If anyone among you do not have sin, let him or her be the first one to attack her.’ Jesus was sure that no one would dare to do that for He knew all of them. But, contrary to His belief at once all started to attack her. Jesus could not do anything but to look at the bizarre situation.
There are many in our society who think that, if we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have crucified Jesus. Surely, we would not have crucified him but gunned him down. How could we allow the son of a carpenter to grow into a powerful figure? Are we better than our ancestors?
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.
24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
The fourth woe in Matthew 23 against scribes and Pharisees certainly has something to do with food, for it speaks of the spices – mint, dill, and cumin – and also about straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. The Law certainly required Jewish people to give tithes of everything. Scribes and Pharisees did give tithes even of minute things like mint, dill and cumin. Jesus does not have problem with their customs, but he says unless you act with justice- taking care of the poor, needy, widow and orphan, unless you act mercifully to your own brothers and sisters, it is impossible to know the Lord (Jeremiah 22:16) and to have faith in Him. So while you certainly offer even the spices to the Lord, you must take care of your brothers and sisters. For the Lord is not interested in eating spicy food but surely a weighty food for all his sons and daughters is His concern.As Christians, let us share the camel we have with our less-fortune brothers and sisters and not be satisfied with giving them the odd mosquito that fell accidently in our food.