Sunday Reflections - 4 Sept 2011

Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them

Last Sunday’s(4 Sept.2011) Gospel reading touched on something very interesting that we all do very often – getting together and asking God for favors. We are aware of what Jesus told his apostles, “Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them”(Mathew 18:20). It was these words of Jesus that make us come together as a community to pray.

However these words are very often taken out of context by many as to mean that if we get together in groups and pray God will grant us all our requests. In the homily last Sunday the celebrant, Fr.Francis Anthony, rightly pointed out that those words of Jesus were the most misinterpreted by us.

He reiterated that while it is not wrong to ask for favors like good health, success, peace etc., it is more important for us to ask Him to grant us the courage to be like Him in all that we do. He added that it is not enough to just fulfill the Commandments – not to steal, kill, commit adultery and so on but to be brave enough to accept His challenge to reflect Him in our lives.

Very often we say “I do not kill, I do not steal, I do not commit adultery” and “I go to church every Sunday, I attend all the feasts, fast, pray and do charity occasionally”. By these obedient acts of ours we feel that God should grant us all we ask. If He doesn’t we feel He is unfair and at times even doubt His very existence.

Fr.Anthony said that these acts are not important. What is important is to have the courage to be Christ-like in our own life and in our dealings with those around us. If we do not reflect Christ in our lives then all these good acts are mere rituals that lack substance and cannot take us anywhere nearer to Him.

We are all very familiar with such fantastic sermons by our priests every Sunday but why is the Church not prepared to put them into practice? It is the Church that puts so much emphasis on rituals that we forget the real meaning of what they mean as they mask the real principles for which Jesus stood. It is time for the Church, founded on the principles of Jesus to walk the talk

The Church and its hierarchy continue to stress on attending mass, participating in mammoth celebrations and feasts and other grandeur projects involving huge sums of money and expending tremendous energy and time. The clergy seem to enjoy being idolized by the people whom they are supposed to serve to the extent they think they are Christ themselves. By giving great publicity to these eternal celebrations we are seen as seeking publicity as though we in popularity contest

We carried away with the huge turnouts and money collected at these mammoth spiritual gatherings that we forget the primary mission of Jesus who is a symbol of poverty and humility who was tortured, dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and killed like a hardcore criminal. Where do we, the Church, its priests and people, stand as emissaries of that Jesus who preached and lived a life of humility, forgiveness and love? It is sad that the church is becoming increasing seen as an institution that seeks grandeur, glory, power and popularity, which is contrary to what Jesus, stood for.

Christ’s teachings were very simple to be comprehended by even very the most illiterate – Love God and love your neighbor, but the Church has made it so complex as to be interpreted by only the most learned. This has resulted in us doing many things that are not really demanded by Jesus. In fact many of our practices are even against His teachings on love, humility and forgiveness.

Jesus did not ask us to worship him the way we do – majestic churches, mammoth gatherings to celebrate feasts, fasting, and elaborate sacraments and so on.He told precisely what to do in the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount as contained in Matthew Chatper 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

In fact the one who came closest to these Commandments in recent times was Mother Teresa who summarized what Jesus really wanted us to do as his followers, At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in."

It is time for us and our church to examine ourselves to see how closely we are following Jesus in our lives. Are we worshiping God by strict adherence to fixed rituals or are we willing to accept the challenges to serve Him in the people around us? Jesus will only be present when two or three are gathered to reach out to Him in those around them and not to a Jesus confined to majestic buildings and ornamental tabernacles.

As Mother Teresa said, God is not going to ask us how many times we went to church, how many feasts we attended, how many times we fasted and how many pilgrimages we made but He will judge us on what we did when He was hungry, naked and homeless.

The following is the reading for last Sunday

Gospel, Mt 18:15-20

15 'If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.

16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the charge.

17 But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a gentile or a tax collector.

18 'In truth I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 'In truth I tell you once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven.

20 For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.'

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