Gospel reading & Sermons for each Sunday Based on the Lectionary of the 

Syrian Orthodox Church

22 September 2019

posted 21 Sep 2019, 03:14 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Sep 2019, 03:24 ]

22 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Matthew 16:5-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you]have brought no bread? .

Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 

10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 

11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 

12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Distortions Called Yeast

by HG Yakob Mar Ireanios

Second Sunday following the Feast of the Holy Cross

Bible Reading: St. Mathew 16:5-12

"God made human beings straight forward, but they have devised many schemes." Eccl. 7:29

Scheming has assumed the proportions of a dignified art! What has been created good and straightforward degenerates into downright corruption and immorality. The 'fall' has been so grave that the ground of separation between good and evil is getting thinner and thinner with the passage of time, whether it is the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Cricket match fixing scandal or the rhetoric over the danger of climate change. Corruption becomes sweeter, since "stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17)

Jesus warns us against the big hoax played on us by the powers that be including autocratic administrations, ideologies, Glittering advertisements from multi-national companies and some Faith movements as well which 'rule the roost today. The Lord names them as " yeast" perhaps referring to the style of their functioning and the seductive techniques they apply to entice as many as possible.

The Pharisees and Sadducees are proverbially the "goodie-goodie" people of the times. They appear as the protectors of the "Law" and guarding everything towards the welfare of all! Yet they are the real cancers, eating in the vitals of whatever is good and virtuous. Yeast seemingly is small in quantity, but slowly it works in secret, affecting and seducing maximum minds as possible. As explained by him, effacing the misunderstanding of the disciples, yeast here refers to false teachings. The Pharisees and Sadducees were religious leaders and were learned; however, their teaching techniques were relatively limited as against the options open for teachers today. As thinking persons, it is our duty to "scan" the voluminous 'literature' on religion, commerce, ideologies, trade relationships etc. to identify their essential value. The advertisement industry cajoles us to take in magic formulae, with little discernment.

In life, one confronts situations clear or otherwise, the Lord counsels us to take everything with a pinch of salt. Many people learn the lesson "all that glitters is not gold" the hard way; sometimes only after losing their money, prestige and good name!

In the field of religion, especially, there is a lot of yeast making the rounds. We have around us spiritual "gurus" promising Shanti and Nirvana and what not. There are Christian sects which seem to sell an apparent euphoria over "miracles" to attract credulous people to their fold. These faith groups are advocating worldly prosperity and other worldly 'salvation' through means of easy access. The tribe of Pharisees were demanding Jesus to perform a miracle, and this demand brought them condemnation from Him. Real faith is not to be thus commercialized. God men of our times, Christian or otherwise, claim to perform miracles, and thus a culture of real or fake miracles is "tom-tomed' as the cornerstone of a life of faith. Thus people are duped to believe that miracle is greater than faith itself!

The process of education has numerous possibilities in grooming and directing human thinking and convictions. The Bible says that it is God who teaches all. So human teachers are instruments in the divine hands. Teaching of any hue has to acknowledge this obligation and show a sense of responsibility. No teacher is perfect except the Divine Teacher. Pharisees and Sadducees were teachers as well. So they could influence the life and thinking of the people. Hence the warning from the Lord!

15 September 2019

posted 15 Sep 2019, 02:23 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Sep 2019, 03:15 ]

15 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 13:30-37 New King James Version (NKJV)

30 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

No One Knows the Day or Hour

32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 

33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 

34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 

35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 

36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 

37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Second Coming of Jesus Christ

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

The Second Coming of Christ is confused by several false teachings. Prediction books have been written picking the exact date of Jesus' return. These books have sold several copies, but they mislead their readers. As soon as someone predicts the day or time of Jesus' Second Coming, that prediction is found wrong simply because only God the Father knows when it will be - Jesus doesn't even know.

Here is a story I have read in the "Wikipedia Encyclopedia." (The story is paraphrased.)

In the late 19th century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophesies predicting the actual date for Jesus Christ's Second Coming.

One such prophet was a Seventh Day Adventist leader by the name William Miller. (1782-1849) And it is in his movement that both the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.

Miller first predicted that Christ would return on 21st March 1842. Several thousand followers jammed the Boston Seventh Day Adventist Temple, only to be disappointed. The movement didn't die. It continued to grow.

Miller decided to recalculate his date - April 3, 1843. When the messiah did not show up on that date either, there was frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.

Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date - 22nd October 1844. This date was published as real and rallied his followers in full strength. They spread the new date of the second coming with great enthusiasm that had not been seen before. Church members who did not accept this message were denounced as agents of evil.

One account notes that "Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no conditions of recovery.

Huge press releases of Adventist publications warned the public that "The Time is Short", "Prepare to Meet Your God," and "The Lord is Coming."

Miller himself began to supply white "ascension robes" to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.

As we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844. In fact, if they had read Mark 13: 32-37 they would not have been taken in by Miller's false prophesy. For Jesus speaking about the Second Coming said in Mark 13:32, "No one knows about that day or hour not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

The Ana-Baptists, a radical Protestand Christian Reformation movement in the 16the century believed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur in 1533. When the prophey failed, the Anbaptists became more zealous and claimed that Enoch and Elijah had come in the form of Jan Matthys and Jan Bockelson, the group's two top leaders.

Charles Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, predicted Jesus Christ would return on March 8, 1889. That day passed uneventfully.

The 2011 end times prediction made by American Christian radio host Harold Camping, a former civil engineer, stated that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. The Rapture is the taking up into heaven of God's elect people. Camping, president of the Family Radio Christian network, claimed the Bible as his source and said May 21, 2011 would be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment "beyond the shadow of a doubt". Camping suggested that it would occur at 6 p.m. local time, with the rapture sweeping the globe time zone by time zone, while some of his supporters claimed that around 200 million people (approximately 3% of the world's population) would be 'raptured'. That day passed and nothing had happened.

Previously back in 1992, Camping had also predicted the world coming to an end on September 6, 1944. He then said on September 7, 1944 that his prediction didn't come true due to a mathematical error.

On June 9, 2011, a day ofter his recent end time prediction, Camping suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. A neighbor, according to reports, stated that his speech had become slurred as a result of the stroke. He has since then been moved to a nursing home for rehabilitation. On June 21, Camping radio station announced that it wold replace Camping Show with new programming.

Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studied doomsday prophesies, suggests that the interest in doomsday predictions is a reflection of the uncertainty of people who face a slumpy economy. A lot of times those prophesies gain traction when difficulities are happening in the society.

Jesus said, speaking about his Second Coming in Mark 13:26-27: "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven."

Again, "It is like a man going away: Leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tell the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping". (Mark 13:34-36)

8 September 2019

posted 6 Sep 2019, 22:30 by C S Paul

8 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Nativity of St. Mary (September 8)

Fourth Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 6:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 

Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 

And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

Devotional Thoughts for this  Sunday

by Rev. Fr. Happy Jacob, N Yorkshire

From the early time itself the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of her virtues and her Pre eminent role in Gods plan for the salvation of the mankind, held a distinct position of admiration and love among the Christians.

Several prophecies of the Old Testament foretold the incarnation of the Son of God and the blessed woman who would become a channel for the salvation of mankind. In Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel."

In Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."

"Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy. God sent Gabriel to the town of Nazareth. He came to Mary and said, greetings, favored one! Lord is with you. Do not afraid, for you have found favor with God. Her name itself means favored one (exalted). And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. Mary said to him how can this be, since I am a virgin. The angel said, for nothing will be impossible with God. Then she answered, here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." St Luke 1:26-38

The conception of Jesus in the womb of Virgin Mary was preternatural, i.e.: with out a natural explanation.Lk1 :35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will over shadow you. Thus we are informed that the virginal conception of the Jesus was the creative act of God Almighty.

God gives His grace upon all who believes in Him. The new era of salvation begins with the conception in the womb of Mary. Mary knows she is having some thing beyond human capability. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do gods will; even it seemed difficult. When God commands he also gives the help, strength and means to respond.

What ever it was that went through her mind; she came to the place of submission. That is the challenge before every one of us too .Like Mary who bears the Son of God, we also change ourselves to bear God.

When we pray the Nicene Creed we state our confession on this great mystery.

"Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God by the Holy Ghost and became man and was crucified for us in….." .

Every time God gives us Grace, he expects us to respond with the same willingness and obedience and trust that St Mary did. Along with this we have to learn the Pauline thought in Phil 2:5-11. "God send his only begotten son to the world to save the sinful world." This passage encouraging us as Christian men and women to be like Jesus. Verse 5. Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ.

1 September 2019

posted 31 Aug 2019, 00:30 by C S Paul

1 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 17:22-27 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Again Predicts His Death and Resurrection

22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 

23 and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.

Peter and His Master Pay Their Taxes

24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”

25 He said, “Yes.”

And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.”

Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 

27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Carrying out the will

by Rev. Fr. Shebaly, Philadelphia


Our Lord Jesus Christ here foretells us his own sufferings to come. What he foretold was concerning Him--that he should be betrayed and killed. He perfectly knew, before, all things that should happen to him, and yet undertook the work of our redemption. His passion greatly commends his selfless love; and this love to man made all sufferings easy to him.

(V 22&23) He started proclaiming it well in advance to his disciples (ch. 16:. 21); and, finding that it was incomprehensive to his disciples. Any way Jesus saw it was necessary to repeat it, for there are some things which God speaks once, or twice, and man does not perceive it.

But see, how the disciples conceived this; they were exceedingly sorry. Here it appears their love towards their Master as a person, but with all their ignorance and mistake concerning his unique role in the redemption of the humankind. Peter indeed did not say any thing against it. But all others lamented on it.

It is very important to note that because Jesus knew the will of God about him, his whole life was committed to carry out his fathers Will in him. He was born and brought up as poor. He lived in poverty and never worried of his life situations. Through his life situations he reminded the humankind to seek God's kingdom first and promised them that the rest will be added to them.

(V 24-27) In order to teach the disciples how God's people should act towards the temple of God and how God cares for those who seek and work for him, he drew the attention of Peter in this given situation.

Here Jesus Christ was at Capernaum, where he mostly resided. The tax demanded was not any civil payment to the Roman powers, but to the church, which was strictly collected by the publicans.

Their question was, does not your teacher pay the temple tax? Some think that they sought an occasion against him, designing, if he refused, to represent him as disaffected to the temple-service, and his followers as lawless people, who would neither pay toll, tax, nor custom. It should rather seem, they asked this with much respect, intimating, that if he had any privilege to exempt him from this payment, they would not insist upon it.

Peter presenting his word for his great Master; "Yes, certainly; my Master pays tax; it is his principle and practice; you need not fear moving it to him." He was made under the law (Gal. 4. 4); therefore under this law he was paid for at forty days old (Luke 2. 22) Jesus was agreeable in contributing to the support of the public worship of God. If we reap spiritual things, it is fit that we should return carnal things also. That was his law. The temple was now made a den of thieves, and the temple-worship pretence for the opposition, which the chief priests gave to Christ and his teachings; and yet Jesus paid this tax.

Note, According to Jesus, Church-duties, legally imposed, are to be paid, irrespective of church-corruptions. We must take care not to use our liberty as a cloak of covetousness or maliciousness, 1 Pet. 2: 16. If Jesus paid tax, who can ask for an exemption?

Now, He appeals to the way of the kings of the earth, which is, to take tax from strangers, of the subjects of their kingdom, or foreigners that deal with them, but not from their own children that are of their families.

He applies this to himself; then the sons are free. Jesus is the Son of God, and Heir of all things; his Father's house (John 2. 16), in it he is faithful as a Son in his own house (Heb. 3: 6), and therefore not obliged to pay this tax for the service of the temple. Thus Jesus asserts His right, not to paying this tax.

It is interesting to note that for what reason Jesus waived his privilege, and paid this tax, though he was entitled to an exemption. He said, "We should not offend them". Few knew, as Peter did, that he was the Son of God. Here Jesus drops that argument, and considers, that if he refuses this payment, it would increase people's prejudice against him and his teachings.

The way he took for the payment of this tax was out of the mouth of a fish (v. 27), as bible says.

Here the poverty of Jesus is accountable. He had no money at command to pay his tax, although he cured so many diseased; it seems, all his service was free and for our sake he became poor, 2 Cor 8: 9. In his ordinary expenses, he lived upon alms (Luke 8: 3), and in extraordinary ones, he lived upon miracles. He did not order Judas to pay this out of the bag that he carried and which was intended for the benefit of the community.

The power of Jesus Christ, in fetching money out of a fish's mouth for this purpose. Whether his omnipotence put it there, or his omniscience knew that it was there, it seems all to one; it was an evidence of his divinity, and to show his duty bound life and care for his disciple who work for him.

Jesus intended, Peter must catch the fish by casting a hook in order to pay the tax for him and peter. Even in miracles he would use means to encourage our involvement. Peter has something to do, and it is in the way of his own calling too, to teach us diligence in the job we are called to, and called in.

Do we expect that Jesus Christ should give to us freely and doing nothing in return? Let us be ready to work for him to see a miracle.

The fish came up, with money in its mouth, which represents the reward of obedience in obedience. What work we do at Christ's command brings its own pay along with it: In keeping God's commands, as well as after keeping them, there is great reward, Ps. 19: 11. Peter was made a fisher of men, and those that he caught thus came up; where the heart is opened to entertain Christ's word, the hand is open to encourage his ministers.

The money was just enough to pay the tax for Jesus and Peter. Here Jesus could have easily commanded a bag full of money, instead he teaches us not to be greedy, but to having sufficient for our present situation. Jesus Christ made the fish his cash-keeper; and why may not we make God's providence our storehouse and treasury? If we have enough for today, let to-morrow take thought of it, for the things.

Peter fished for this money, and therefore a part of it was given for his use. Those that are workers together with Christ in winning souls shall shine with him. Jesus said, 'Give it for you and me' and Jesus paid for himself and Peter. What Jesus paid for himself was a debt; what he paid for Peter was a courtesy to him. Yes! The word of God assures us that those who seek his kingdom first will be rewarded in this world and the world to come. Love to work for him. You will be rewarded!!

25 August 2019

posted 23 Aug 2019, 22:35 by C S Paul

25 August 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 11:9-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 

10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 

11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 

12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 

13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

A House Divided Cannot Stand

14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. 

15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. 

17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. 

18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 

19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 

20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Meditation on Luke 11: 9 - 20

by HG Dr Yuhanon Mor Meletius

I find two important themes in this passage for us to consider today:

One: Search and will be found.

Two: A talk about the disintegration of communities.

Parallel to the first story is seen in Matthew 7:7. This saying is not connected in Matthew to the second saying seen in Luke (11:14-23). The gift of God is said to be just ‘good things’ according to Matthew (7:11) whereas according to Luke it is the Holy Spirit (11:13). Of course Holy Spirit is something good that comes from God. But I doubt that is what Matthew means here. It should be just something good in general. This saying is not seen in Mark. So it is from common source to Matthew and Luke.

Regarding the meaning of the saying, I do not think that it is a talk about our hard labour to get something good in our lives. Rather it reminds us of knowing what really want and what we need to do to get it in terms of doing our part of the job.

In Matt. 6:26, Jesus talks about the birds of the air that do not sow or reap, but are fed by God. But the birds have to look for where God has kept the food for them and also they have to eat it for themselves. No one else can do these things for them.

Yes you have to do your part of the job to get the blessing. The door is waiting to be knocked to open and the thing is waiting to be searched for you to have it. There was a call from God the father saying, “Here is my beloved Son ... listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). It was for the people to behold him. God cannot make them listen. There is a saying, ‘you can only lead the horse to the water, but cannot make it drink’. You cannot tell your students what they need to learn. You cannot make them taught. We need to do our job and no one can do it for us.

The second incident in Luke is a talk about the possible disintegration of communities and societies. This is given in the backdrop of Jew’s accusation of Jesus casting out demons with the help of demons.

Parallel texts can be seen in Matthew Ch. 12 and Mark Ch. 3. There are few differences between these three records. Mark records the story in an entirely different context. Jesus was with a large multitude and he had no time even to eat. Seeing this, his own people called him crazy. Matthew has blind and mute person healed by Jesus. The people called Jesus, ‘Son of David’ which is not seen in either Mark or Luke.

This is quite understandable considering the audience of Matthew which was primarily Jews. According to Matthew it was the Pharisees who accused Jesus.

For Mark it was the Scribes who did so. Luke has only ‘some of them’ implying part of the crowd. To Mark the statement about division comes as a parable from Jesus.

Luke v. 16 seems to be an interpolation which says, ‘some others asked for a sign from Jesus’. While some accused Jesus of casting out demons by demons some others asked for a sign. We can already see a division on this matter among the people.

Luke 11: 23 and Matthew 7:30 end with a statement “He who is not with me is against me and will be scattered”. Actually this is where the second passage ends. For some reason the lectionary did not consider this important to be included.

Matthew and Mark conclude the passage with a statement regarding ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’. Luke omitted it for unknown reason.

Let me today focus on the second part of the passage that talk about Jesus being accused of casting out demons by demons.

A Divided House

Division can be of two types.

I. One that is inevitable and positive:

There was division among the people and among the Jews regarding who Jesus was and what was he doing (John 7:43; 9:16 and in 10:19).

As a matter of fact Jesus came to this world to create a division according to Luke 12:51-53. (‘I have not come to set peace on earth rather division’)

This division is between good and evil, between those who accepted Jesus as God and those who did not.

Elimination and removal of evil from what is essentially good is the work of salvation.

It is elimination or burning out of impurities or parasites that were attached to something fundamentally good. This is what we see all through the history of humans with God.

Abraham leaving Haran was a division; the burning bush Moses witnessed was another division (the bush in flame was not consumed. But there was something symbolically being consumed, which is slavery in Egypt); Israel leaving Egypt yet another division; accepting Jesus for sure was yet another.

Those were means of re-instatement of the creation and hence something positive and good.

II. There is a second kind of division.

This division is seen as something negative and destructive.

This is what Jesus was talking about in this event under consideration.

A situation where things cannot be sorted out and a consensus or perfect understanding cannot be achieved becomes a reason for division.

Such a situation will put confusion and chaos in the community and will eventually lead to breaking down and perishing of it.

No caring person can allow this to happen. That will be self-destructive.

We in India today are facing such a situation.

The big question before our nation today is how to deal with the escalating corruption in our society?

All-party meetings, parties and Team Anna, government and civil society representatives all stand at different corners not agreeing on ways and means of sorting it out and trying to cast out this demon.

We are divided.

This unhealthy and destructive division prevails in all sections of our society, our families and even in every single person today.

People are becoming more and more confused that leads them to depression and further to breaking down of the self.

Integrity of personality, of family, of communities becomes a big challenge for us.

Look at our Church for example.

A Church divided in to two groups, the Jacobite and the Orthodox.

Both worship the same God, profess same faith, follow same tradition, share the same heritage, teach the same theology and worship using the same liturgy. There is absolutely nothing that divides us. Still we are divided. We have become a laughing stock in the midst of other people. Our financial and other resources are wasted on this division. Our young are going away from the fellowship; we are losing members to unhealthy new generation so called spiritual groups mushrooming in and around us.

We need to stand together, work together and march forward for the welfare and progress of the people.

Wedded husbands and wives are now standing in the veranda of court rooms waiting for them to be called to present their reasons for them to be separated or divided. Daily about a hundred divorce petitions are filed in family courts in Kerala with mutual consent. When they are separated, where will the children go and how healthy will they be emotionally in future? How will they experience God’s loving care through the parents and will learn to love others? Families are getting split away at an alarming rate. Still we claim that we are a developed community and are progressing.

No community, family or individual can stand when it is divided for the wrong reasons.

Yes we need to distinguish between good and evil.

Since evil has no essence and eternal existence, it has to go and a division with that goal will help world become a better place and will progress.

But we should not be divided to cast out demonic forces that parasite that sickens us. Also we should not use demonic forces to cast out demonic tendencies. That will be a matter for another sermon.

Be divided and take a definite stand for right and noble cause. But do not be divided in casting out demons and never use demonic forces to eliminate what is bad and unhealthy in us and around us.

Jesus who cast out demons with the power of God will help us to be united to eliminate bad influences and tendencies in and among us.

Cast out demons with the ‘figure of God’ and we will see the kingdom of God in our midst! Amen.

18 August 2019

posted 16 Aug 2019, 23:37 by C S Paul

18 August 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 10:35-45 New King James Version (NKJV)

Greatness Is Serving

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

39 They said to Him, “We are able.”

So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 

40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 

42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 

44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Power, Pleasure & Wealth

by Fr. Patrick Brennan

A very kind man from the business world asked me a question recently that momentarily caused me to pause. I have been the pastor of a large northwest suburban parish for three years now. Focusing on my role as pastor, the man asked me: "Are you happy with where you are at career-wise?" I had not thought of my role as pastor in those terms; so, I paused for a moment.

My immediate answer was one of frustration. "I wrote twelve books before I was named pastor," I said. "Now I do not have the time to write a few pages of a chapter...and I have been trying to complete a doctorate in psychology for some time. I have all the course work done. What remains are final exams, part-time internship, and dissertation. Because of the time demands with being a pastor, I am stalled in completing my doctorate."

I continued more positively: "But Holy Family Parish fascinates me. It is a progressive parish, which is none the less respectful of Catholic tradition. It is a parish dedicated to Evangelization, small Christian communities, and the re-imagining of parish systems. I spent a good part of my priesthood directing such efforts for the Archdiocese, as well as teaching in these areas. So, the parish and I seem to be in a good marriage."

I say to all of you today, being pastor is contributing toward my growth, conversion and healing. And I hope, believe that my presence at the parish is helping the parish and parishioners also. I hope, believe that there is some mutuality of benefit happening.

For followers of Jesus, the gentleman’s question needs some expanding and deepening. Some expanded, deepened questions would sound like this: as a pastor, am I a servant? Am I a servant leader? Do I lead by serving? Do I seek to serve God’s people? Do I seek to serve God? Is service my motivation in living out my role?

Let me expand the field of focus. Jesus does not just call male, celibate priests to service. Jesus calls all of us to service, to be servants—whether we teach or drive a truck, whether we pick up garbage or do brain surgery—in all that we do, we are to be servants. The goal of our lives can not be to just pick up a pay check.

A doctor friend of mine was telling me recently that he has become concerned about a peer of his, another doctor. This other doctor’s number of patients has risen exponentially. But as patients have increased in number, the doctor’s bedside manner, and style of inter-acting with patients have deteriorated. My doctor friend’s concern about his colleague is this: something seems to have become more important to him that the purity of the Hippocratic oath, and his original commitment to service. That "something else" seems to be money or profit.

Archbishop Rembart Weakland of Milwaukee once said that the most important role of the laity is not to spend a lot of time doing Church work, but rather, in whatever role they play in the work would to, give witness to Christ alive in them. The real challenge of being a disciple of Jesus is to be a servant, as Jesus was, in whatever work that we do.

Servant leadership, leading by serving—as Robert Greenleaf has described it—is the essence of life in the Reign on Kingdom of God.

My dad, who is deceased, was a wonderful example of service to me. He did not make a lot of money. He did not have a lot of education. He worked for the city for many years at a water pumping station. He monitored the working of pumps making sure that people had water in their homes on the southwest side of the city of Chicago. The job would seem to be meager, not all that important to many people. But my dad had a great sense of service and responsibility about his job. He was serving the people of Chicago as he monitored those pumps. Similarly, I had an uncle, John, who several times as a fireman had to be hospitalized for injuries incurred trying to rescue people from burning buildings. He also was a model of service to me.

But I also saw another side in my family. A couple of relatives started out in service professions, but then something went wrong. Their lives ended in public scrutiny regarding possible misuse of office or position. Some things became more important to them than service, things like money, homes, cars.

Service as motivation for our lives brings us into close personal contact with brothers and sisters in the human family. Its antithesis, power, on the other hand distances us from one another; it causes disconnection. A life of power often also disconnects us from God.

In the 10th Chapter of Mark, verse 35 and following, James and John ask Jesus for power places in His future, coming Kingdom. This sets off some arguing with the other apostles. Here and elsewhere in the gospels, the apostles, while good people, are portrayed as ambitious, concerned about power. The encounter gives Jesus the opportunity to teach to us how true greatness is found in service, how one ranks first in the Reign of God by serving the needs of all. He explains that He has come, not to be served, but to serve, to actually give His life as a ransom for all of us.

Ambition, grabbing for power, can manifest itself in the Church also. Some men begin as fine priests, but as they progress upwardly, on a hierarchical-career track, it becomes difficult to discern what they believe in—God? or their role? or power? Similarly, in this age of lay ministry, the laity need to beware that they do not take on the errors of clericalism, namely using what should be a role of "servant" for one’s own needs for importance and power.

Relative to those of us who are clergy, the venerable Msgr. Jack Egan used to tell us as younger priests: "you have to make a decision—do you want to be a bishop or a priest?—and that decision will influence the rest of your life." He was not criticizing all bishops, for obviously there are many fine ones—historically and in our midst today. I do think Msgr. Egan was saying, in your priesthood, you need to decide whether you are going to be a careerist or a servant and that decision will influence the rest of a clergyman’s life, like the rest of anyone’s life.

Jesus’ warning against power needs to be connected to another warning He gives in Mark 10, verse 17 and following—a warning against stockpiling wealth. This is the exchange He has with a rich man, challenging him to sell all that he has, give to the poor, and come follow Him. Stockpiled money and things, like power, can disconnect us from brothers and sisters in the human family. Because of wealth and possessions, people can develop a pretense that somehow they are better than, ahead of, different from others—when, in fact, we are all pretty much the same, and we will all leave this world the same way—through the passage way of death. Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus, Paul and others warn us about another spiritual landmine—self-focused pleasure. Take, for example, the gift of human sexuality. It has been given to us for connection, commitment, communication. If used in an immature, irresponsible, or immoral way, sexuality—or any pleasure—can disconnect us, cause alienation among and between us. So often in marriage counseling people will report feeling great "loneliness" after moments of so called "intimacy". In such cases, people or a person have been self-focused in using a gift that should bring people into greater unity or communion with each other.

Power, wealth, pleasure—they are goods in themselves, given to us to bring us into closer connection with God and each other. Misused, they cause distance and divisiveness.

I was thinking about hell recently. What might the experience of hell be like. I think at root, hell must be isolation from brothers and sisters and God, an isolation that begins during this life through a self-deceiving misuse of power, wealth, or pleasure, and then continued after death for eternity. Isolated eternally: that must be what hell is like.

If someone asks you if you are happy with your career, answer honestly. But then, ask yourself more important questions:

Am I serving?
Am I connecting with brothers and sisters, my fellow human beings?
Am I, more and more, trying to place God at the center of my life?

11 August 2019

posted 9 Aug 2019, 22:36 by C S Paul   [ updated 9 Aug 2019, 22:42 ]

11 August 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after the Festival of Transfiguration 

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 21:28-32 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 

29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 

30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 

32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Glimpses on the Kingdom of God

by Robert H. Albers

The Parable of the Two Sons, like the previous two parables considered is peculiar to the Matthean tradition. Given its Matthean setting—the confrontation between the chief priests and elders with Jesus over his authority (21:23-27)—the poignant and powerful point of the parable is made in 21:31 with brutal force. This perspective again affords a glimpse into the nature of the Kingdom of God and underscores its radicality when juxtaposed with the expectations of religious convention.

With relative simplicity, the parable presents the scenario of a father who asks each of his sons to labor in the vineyard. The first responds negatively initially, but then repents or has a complete change of heart and goes to work. The second with lip service acknowledges the request and accedes, but does not follow through on his promise. The indisputable answer to the question posed by Jesus concerning which of the two did the will of his father is obvious. Actions speak louder than words, and empty words are synonymous with broken promises. The climax of the parable is reached in 21:31b with the shocking statement that tax collectors and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before you. This prioritization of the sinful outcast over those in the religious in-group adds great irony to the story. Given the prevailing attitudes of the day with its religious and social consciousness, it might have been less offensive to be excluded entirely rather than be in second position behind those who were despised.

The intent of the parable seems clear. C. H. Dodd notes that the parable is “clearly a comment on the rejection of the word of God by the religious leaders, and its acceptance by the outcasts, as the evangelist represents it.”  The hymas in the Greek text of 21:31 refers to the religious leaders who were the antagonists of John and Jesus, while both John and Jesus are represented as being protagonists for the repentant tax collectors and harlots. From the statement in 21:45, the intent of the parable found its mark, for the religious leaders perceived that Jesus was in fact talking about them.

It seems safe to assume that 21:32 is an editorial addition. The behavior of the religious leaders does not parallel the behavior of either son. The leaders are not portrayed as refusing the request and repenting, nor did they initially accept the invitation and fail to follow through. Jeremias contends that the verse has been attached by association since the subject matter held in common by both verses is that of the tax collectors and harlots. The formula “Amen, I say to you...”—which normally signals the end of a parable or saying—appears in 21:31 followed by the principle point of the parable. The redactor’s hand seems evident as Jeremias notes that, Again we are confronted by the fact that a parable whose original purpose was to vindicate the good news (God’s invitation, rejected by you, has been accepted by the despised ones, hence the promise for them!), has in Matthew, through its relation to the Baptist, received a soteriological application which is utterly foreign to it, and is akin to the soteriological interpretation of the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen and of the Great Supper in Matthew. 9

The interpreter and preacher is faced with a choice of emphasis. It is clear that for Matthew the soteriological emphasis and linkage of the message of Jesus with that of John the Baptist—which results in the religious folks rejecting it and the non-religious folks accepting it—seems to be central.

Significant in this parable from another perspective is the fact that when it comes to the life of discipleship, people often honor the Lord with their lips while their hearts and manner of living are far from that expected by the Master (cf. 15:8). Once again with the element and shock of surprise, the parable gives one a glimpse into the nature of the Kingdom of God with all of its radicality. Those who would otherwise be judged as outside the pale of salvation because of their rejection of the outward form of religion may in fact be those who are most sensitive to their need for radical grace and thus repent and serve the Master most meaningfully. This same strange and surprising way of God is lifted up in the second portion of the Old Testament reading for the day in which the ways of God and the ways of God’s people stand in stark contrast (Ezek 18:25-32).

The temptation for the reader/listener is to identify with the first son in the parable. However, for many whose vision of discipleship is limited to outward conformity to custom and religious ritual, the point of identification may more logically and painfully be that of the second son. Lip service which is an outward mouthing of polite promises and pious platitudes is empty by comparison with the inward acceptance of the message which prompts people to repentance and action. Curiously enough such action often occurs without them even being aware of it, as Matthew suggests in 7:21 and 25:31-46. The interpreter of the parable is once again confronted with a kind of literary O. Henry’s twist as the tables are turned by the radical claim of the Kingdom’s message. It might be noted that the tenor of this parable is on the same track which is continued in the next parable wherein the second son might be equated with the disposition of the tenants.

4 August 2019

posted 2 Aug 2019, 23:30 by C S Paul   [ updated 2 Aug 2019, 23:31 ]

4 August 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 8:1-10 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Four Thousand

In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 

“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.

 And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven.”

So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 

They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 

So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 

Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away, 

10 immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Jesus Expands Our Small Vision to His Limitless Vision

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Earlier I explained that we interrupt our reading of Mark for six Sundays to read John 6 - the Eucharistic Chapter - and explained that the multiplication of the loaves and fish anticipates the miracle of the Eucharist

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus gave the instruction for the people to sit down in the Gospel today? (John 6:10) Did they feel like saying, "Lord healing the sick is one thing but feeding five thousand men and several thousand women and children with just five loaves and two fish is asking for the impossible?" Did they think that if Jesus failed to feed the crowds they would all look like fools? We can see that they obviously had worries because Andrew said to Jesus, "what is five loaves and two fish between so many?" (John 6:9) Did they feel like saying to Jesus, "Jesus, don’t be stupid." The disciples had one vision of the situation and Jesus had a different vision of the situation. The disciples were putting a limit on what to expect, but Jesus had no limits. There is a tension between the expectation of the disciples and the expectation of Jesus. The disciples’ vision was small but the vision of Jesus was limitless.

It hasn’t changed much since then. Our vision and expectations are often small but Jesus’ vision and expectations for us are without limits. And if we try to expand our vision to be more like the vision of Jesus the world says to us, "You are stupid." The world says "you are stupid to want to become a priest, you are stupid to want to become a nun, you are stupid to have one more child, you are stupid to join a prayer group, you are stupid to spend so much time in prayer." And the world is right according to its own standards and vision, but the vision and standards of the western world are very often not the vision of Jesus. According to the mind of the world, following Jesus is irrational. So to follow Jesus in our world now you have to lose something; maybe you have to lose some respect for yourself to follow Jesus now. When Mary said "Yes" to the angel Gabriel she lost respect for herself; in the eyes of the world she was a loser, but in fact she became the winner. If we decide not to lose something for Jesus and follow the ways of the world, then we will really end up losers in the end.

In our Gospel Jesus is not the only one with a big vision. The other person with a big vision is the small boy who had the loaves and fish. The thinking of the world now is, "What is in it for me?" or "What will I get out of it?" or "The more I receive the more I will be blessed." That is the attitude which is destroying our western society. If the small boy had that attitude and did not give his five loaves and two fish to Jesus there would have been no miracle. But because of his generosity a great miracle took place. That little boy shows us that when we give we receive. The vision of the world is often small and narrow but the vision of Jesus is without limits.

In the very early days after Pentecost there was a cripple begging at one of the entrances to the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3). When he saw Peter and John going into the Temple he begged from them. Peter and John said, "Look at us." The cripple was then obviously hoping to get some money from them. Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" (Acts 3:6) Then Peter took him by the hand and helped him up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, and he jumped up and praised God. That beggar had a small vision for himself but Peter had a wonderful vision of where his life should be. In a sense we could say that the cripple was asking for pennies but God was offering him millions. Are you putting limits on yourself while God has a more wonderful vision for you?

As Paul preached the Gospel he encountered a similar problem. People had a narrow vision of Paul and his ministry but Paul’s vision was wide. This is what he wrote in 2 Cor 6:8-10,

"taken for imposters and yet we are genuine…said to be dying and yet we are here alive, scourged but not executed; in pain yet always full of joy; poor and making many people rich; having nothing and yet owning everything."

We can ask ourselves, "What is our vision of ourselves and the world?" Do we take our vision of ourselves from the world or from Jesus? God help us if we take our vision of ourselves from the world. The only way to see yourself is to see yourself as Jesus sees you.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for an even greater miracle where Jesus would expand our vision even more. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for the miracle of the Eucharist. To human eyes in the Eucharist one sees bread and wine but with the eyes of faith we see the Body and Blood of Jesus. Again according to the world it is irrational and stupid to believe in transubstantiation, that the bread really changes into the body of Jesus and the wine really changes into the blood of Jesus. But following Jesus does not entail looking at Jesus with the vision of the world. Following Jesus means looking at Jesus with the eyes of faith, with the faith of Mary who accepted the impossible from the angel Gabriel and responded, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) We do not allow our vision of ourselves to be tainted and contaminated by the world but we take our vision of ourselves and our possibilities from Jesus.

Note: This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

28 July 2019

posted 26 Jul 2019, 08:27 by C S Paul

28 July 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 3:20-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

A House Divided Cannot Stand

20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 

21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”

23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 

26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.

27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

The Unpardonable Sin

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 

29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 

30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Devotional Thoughts for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. Fr. Geevarghese Erakkath

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The real knowledge about God is the essential factor for the spiritual growth of earthly man. It will make him realize the limitations in life and conscious of his sins. This leads him to depend on the grace of God. Through our daily prayers and reading the Holy Bible, attending the liturgy and constant participation in the Holy Communion we could familiarize with and understand that the healing touch and casting out of demons by Jesus are from heavenly power.

Here in the gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus healed a man who had a withered hand, in the Synagogue. He touched and cured those who came from all over Galilee and beyond the territory. He appointed twelve disciples to share and follow after him the ministry of preaching, healing and casting out demons. He did all these things with Godly authority and power where as the scribes from Jerusalem together with the Herodians said “ He has Beelzebub and by the ruler of the demons he cast out the demons”. Jesus disproved the argument with a parable. The parable of a house divided. An important principle is laid down here. An organization or an institution standing against its own interest will be lead to destruction. ‘ United we stand divided we fall’ is a famous saying. The most effective way to destroy a mighty empire is to saw the seeds of an internal conflict.

Jesus said that the sin of acquisition against the Son of God and all the unworthiness of Man would be forgiven. He made a warning that the denial of the beauty of moral values, ignoring the goodness of others (Jesus’ healing) accepting the limitations of our own, the negligence of hearing the voice of God are all blasphemies against the Holy Spirit. ‘ He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation’. It was the worst habit of the Jewish hypocrites as Jesus called them to envy at the goodness of others. They try to misapprehend the holy deeds of the savior. It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is a sin that does not deserve forgiveness.

Here St. Mark symbolically depicted the liberation proclamation by Jesus from the demonic bondage to total humanity. The regained soul of every man can enjoy the characteristic spirit of the original creation through the salvation work of our savior. At this time, let me pray to God Almighty to enter the house of my mind with the help of the spiritual strength I attained so far, to bind the satanic thoughts in it and cast out every evil. I may enjoy the peace of mind where God dwells.

21 July 2019

posted 20 Jul 2019, 04:15 by C S Paul

21 July 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 15:32-39 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Four Thousand

32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”

35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 

36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 

37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.

38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 

39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

Jesus feeds the Four Thousand

by Rev. Fr. Abraham Thomas

With a slight difference, again a story of the feeding! Just as in the case of a few other incidents in here also, figuratively some of the NT scholars interpret that the first story (feeding of the five thousand) was the people of the own tribe whereas this incident refer to the wider community. Even though this is not evident in the Gospel with the extended number of people who joined the fellowship we could at least infer that the values of the 'Kingdom of Heaven' are permeating into world more vigorously.

Divine Compassion and the responsibility of the Disciples

The multitude had the freedom to be with Him for as long as they wanted. He is compassionately asking the disciples to provide them food. The doubt that the disciples had on how on earth they could provide anything for such a large crowd is natural. (Interestingly, there is an OT parallel for this doubt of the disciples- 'how can I set this before a hundred men?' II Kings 4: 42- as Elisha's servant doubted him on how the limited resource would be sufficient to a larger crowd). Origen (c.a. 254 AD+) in his Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthews says that the multitude never wanted to go away from Him as they found solace in Him. They would have gone to the nearby villages or to their own houses but they found it more significant to be with Him. (Comm. Matt: Book XI: 2). The world needs Him; it is the responsibility of the Church- the community of His disciples- to realize this need and cater accordingly. Unfortunately the paraphernalia or protocols that we would tend to hold on may ask questions like on what way that we can cater such a large crowd? Sometimes we may be the real hindrance to others to see Him or to be with Him.

The care ought to offer to those who may collapse on their way

Again it is a divinely assigned responsibility of the Church to cater to the need of those who may 'collapse on their way'. This is not the sole example of the divine intervention to those who are at the verge of breaking up. Hagar, who could not find any way-out other than 'death' is receiving water for thirst and a new vision for the future life (Gen. 21: 15-19); Elijah who was about to burn out himself under the broom tree found bread baked on coal and jar of water (I Kings 19: 3-5); Hananiah and his friends seeing Him as the 'fourth person' in the fiery experience (Dan. 3: 20-27) are only a few examples. We may be at that point of giving up ourselves finding no way forward or may be incessantly ended up before closed doors; yet let us not give up as His compassion could help us find new ways. In order that we would not 'collapse on our way' let us join His flocks in communion.

The power of confronting questions

'How many loaves do you have'? (Vs. 34)- was rather a simple question. Questions are not anything that would pleasantly be accepted by many but it may have the power to transform our attitude and vision. Questions are in fact an obstacle but a life without an obstacle will not teach us anything.

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