Xavier Thelakkatt

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Reflection on Sunday Readings

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Better Sinners

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on February 27, 2016 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

          I was at a Thanksgiving party in the home of Janet and John. A few of their close neighbors were also invited. Among them I met Nancy, a bubbly middle aged woman. She engaged others in conversation well and was funny. I also noticed that she wore a wig. When the neighbors had left, Janet told me a bit about Nancy. She was apparently dying of terminal cancer and was on radiation therapy. She had worked as a nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic in town for many years. “What goes around, comes around, doesn’t it?” Janet’s tone of voice indicated that Nancy deserved it. I felt sad. Now, did her actions bring it upon her? Did it happen because of her sin of helping with abortions?

           It is often a human way of thinking, rather simplistic and in some way judgmental. In fact Jesus resented it. People brought to him the news that some Galileans who revolted against the authorities under the guise of a sacrifice were brutally murdered. Jesus immediately responded, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did” (Lk 13:2-3). Can anyone claim to be a better sinner?

                                  

Third Sunday of Lent Ex3:1-8, 13-15; 1Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9

 

 

Experience from Above

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on February 19, 2016 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (2)

          Teresa was thinking of entering the convent to become a nun, but needed an extraordinary sign that God was really calling her to Religious life. It didn’t happen and years went by. Then one morning while praying at the grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she heard a voice “My daughter, why do you delay?” She looked closely at the statue and Mother Mary was in tears. It was indeed a miraculous sign, especially since she was considering the Order called “Daughters of Mary.” Unfortunately the miracle could not be verified since no one else had heard the voice and the “tears” turned out to be morning dew on the statue. Whether it was objectively a miraculous event or not, as far as Teresa was concerned, it was a genuine experience that validated her call.

           The Bible is filled with such God experiences. Abram’s experience of God is an example (Gen 15:5-12) and the transfiguration is another, though more spectacular (Lk 9:28-36). Such an experience could be as breathtaking as transfiguration or as ordinary as a voice during prayer. God continues to manifest himself to people, calling them to particular missions. Such experiences from above come only to the discerning hearts and not to those crowded, noisy and busy. In fact, lent provides us the opportunity to quiet down and discern.

                      

Second Sunday of Lent Gen 15:5-12. 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28-36

 

Time for Restructuring

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on February 12, 2016 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

          A seminarian attempted suicide by swallowing a handful of sleeping pills. The paramedics rushed him to the hospital and saved his life. It was surprising to me that suicide was so rampant in the university campus wherein the seminary was located. Among the student population of about thirteen thousand every year there would be at least one serious attempt. When the seminarian’s parents arrived they were distraught and asked the question, “why?” They provided him with almost everything physically available. Many other students in the university were like that. They possessed every material thing. That, in fact, led them to addictions and consequent frustrations: smoking, alcohol, sex, drugs, porn, computer, video games, etc.

           Months later, the same seminarian told me that it was a thirty-day silent retreat which helped to put his life in order again, though some struggles of depression remained. That self-imposed period of deprivation and isolation actually helped. In fact, lent is a time of such self-examination in order to restructure our lives with the aid of fasting, prayer and penance. Jesus was led by the Spirit into such a desert experience with no food, drink, and comforts of home or human companionship (Lk 4:1-13). It helped him overcome temptations. A period of retreat and introspection is essential even for the well-ordered lives.

                         

First Sunday of Lent Dt 26:4-10; Rom 10:8-15; Lk 4:1-13

 

Uplifting the Unworthy

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on February 3, 2016 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

          He had been convicted for seven years in prison for sexually molesting his own niece, a girl of fourteen. Interestingly Marvin (not his real name) became very active at the Bible study sessions in the prison. He also completed a couple of correspondence courses on the Bible and was feeling a strong call to be a minister in his church when released. However, that thought sometimes tormented Marvin because he was most aware of his unworthiness. Would he be found deserving of that ministry? How would the established Church respond? Would anyone sit down to listen to him preach? Those were his fears and he was puzzled. Could a person accused of being a child molester become the vehicle of the word of God?

           Similar thoughts came to haunt Isaiah the prophet, so much so, he said “I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips” (Is 6:5). Paul the apostle also felt unworthy “because I persecuted the church of God” (1Cor 15:9). Peter, when encountered by the Divine power of Jesus the Lord, blurted out “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). All these men were empowered and made worthy by the Lord God. The Lord’s call is almost always directed to the unworthy. It is He who uplifts the undeserving and enables the incompetent.

                          

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 6:1-2, 3-8; 1Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11

 

The Club Approach

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on January 29, 2016 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

          It was a suburb of Dublin and the three of us wandered through the posh golf course to walk into the Club House hoping to get a snack or sandwich. At the entrance we were gently reminded that we had to follow the club rules by wearing a suit and tie for the meal. It was an exclusive club and that made a lot of sense, so we had to look for snacks elsewhere. Such a club approach can creep into religious groups as well, making God somewhat a club deity. The Jewish religion of Jesus’ time had some such tendencies. According to popular religion, non-Jews were enemies to be shunned, pagans and idolaters created to be fuel for hell fire. Israelites were the chosen people.

           The synagogue worshippers of Nazareth had a problem that day. One of their own, Jesus the son of Mary had the “strange” idea that the gentiles were loved by God. The elders tried to argue with him attempting to put some “sense” into his head, but he would quote from Scriptures the examples of the widow of Zerephath and Naaman the Syrian. An enraged group of enthusiasts tried to throw him down from the cliff and kill him along with his ideas, but luckily he walked away with his life. Isn’t this Scripture “fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21)?

               

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 4:21-30

 

Mission Identified

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on January 21, 2016 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

          “How did you become a missionary?” I asked Reginald, in that remote village in Saskatchewan. His story was simple. As a teenager he was invited to proclaim a reading at his Confirmation, presided over by the Archbishop. He had read and re-read the passage beforehand; so much so, he read it at the mass with feeling. The Archbishop during his homily pointed to him and said, “You did that reading so well; did you know you’re called to proclaim it to the poor?” That was his call. His mission was identified that day. After his studies he moved with his family into a very poor Cree Indian village in northern Canada as a lay missionary. That’s where I met him.

           Jesus was invited to proclaim the Scriptures at the synagogue in Nazareth. He began, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Lk 4:18). Those words of Isaiah touched him deeply and helped him become more aware of his mission so much so he said at the end, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). It helped his mission to be fully identified and defined. The Scriptures we read regularly continue to have that power to transform us and to define our mission in life.

              

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Neh 8:2-4, 8-10; 1Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

 

Naming the Issue

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on January 15, 2016 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

 

           The cross on top of the church steeple was wobbly and one could see it shaking in the wind. It was more than a hundred feet above ground and needed immediate fixing. Ordinary lift buckets couldn’t reach it and those I consulted acknowledged their helplessness. As a last resort, I talked about it in the church from the pulpit and the miracle happened. One of the parishioners brought some heavy equipment and fixed it at no cost to the church.

       Naming the issue before others in clear terms is important in our attempt to solving it. The Miracle of Cana is another example. The Blessed Mother identified the issue when she said, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:2). That led to solving that problem of the family. She did not plead with Jesus to intervene, rather directed the servant to obey him. Isaiah the prophet refused to be silent when he saw Jerusalem denigrated as ‘forsaken’ and ‘desolate.’ “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet” (Is 62:1). He spoke up focusing on the issue. Naming it in clear terms would bring in a solution. Speaking out for those in trouble and giving voice to the voiceless, are obvious Christian tasks of naming the issues. The Virgin Mother provides the best model.

                     

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 62:1-5; 1Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11

 


A Voice from Heaven

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on January 9, 2016 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 

             “Do you mean you heard a voice from heaven?” I inquired. “Yes, I did” He asserted. Apparently the beggar-woman holding a baby had just told Paul that she had absolutely no means to raise that baby. “Pick up that baby” the voice had said to him. That’s exactly what he did, taking that baby home. Today, he has thirty such orphans at home. It became his call and that of his family. I met Paul a few years back in India. The ministry of this man with a mission is well appreciated today. Does God have a plan for me? What does God want me to do? These questions are more relevant than the query, ‘what do I want to do with my life?’

              Jesus was called to his God-given mission in the context of baptism. After baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on him and a voice from heaven was heard (Lk 3:21-22). That’s how Jesus received his mission as Son of God. God does have a plan for us and He wants us to make a difference in the world. It is heard through a voice from heaven in the context of prayer. Without listening to that voice we’ll never be sure of our mission.

          

The Baptism of the Lord Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-39; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

 

A Turning Point

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on January 9, 2016 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

           “That changed my life inside out” she said. Becky was talking about the trip she undertook for last Christmas. Her friends agreed that her lifestyle was different now. For Christmas she had decided to go to a village in Guatemala rather than celebrate it here with family and friends. The family tried to dissuade her, but she was determined. It was a hard choice. Thus she spent the entire week of Christmas in a small village there in the midst of poverty and hunger, at the same time in great joy and peace. She returned as a joy-filled person. “It was different, a more authentic Christmas.” She had become more giving and more reaching out to others than before. “That was a turning point in my life’s pilgrimage” she said. Indeed, she was right. Christian life is a pilgrimage. And a true Christ experience, a genuine encounter with the baby Jesus, can alter that pilgrimage totally.

           The magi’s experience was not different (Mt 2:1-12). These wise men’s journey took them through rugged lands and difficult people, like Herod, to the newborn king. Their encounter with the baby of Bethlehem was life changing. No more were they the same. The direction of their pilgrimage was changed and the route was altered as well. “They departed . . . by another way” (Mt 2:12).

                    

The Epiphany of the Lord Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

 

The Silent Anguish

Posted by Xavier Thelakkatt on December 23, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (3)

               The darkness in the early hours was deep. My thirteen-year-old brother had not returned home. In the afternoon he had left towards the neighborhood lakes with his fishing line. The lakes were deep and the night was dark; he was alone. There was reason for concern. My parents plunged themselves into a panic mode. Dad left with a flash light in hand and Mom made us kneel before the Sacred Heart to pray. Minutes felt like hours and in half hour the back door of the house opened, and Dad brought him home. He hadn’t caught any fish. But his fishing career had just come to an abrupt end. Not a word was spoken that night, but later we learned it all. Sitting on the lakeshore alone, focused on the deep blue waters, he had grown unaware of the passing of time and nightfall.

           What makes one a parent? It’s not merely the fact of giving birth, but the sufferings one endures for children. Anxieties and concerns for children’s safety and well-being often consume the parents. It is those struggles that make the bond stronger and stronger. The parents of Jesus were no exception. Mary suffered silently keeping “all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:52). It is the willingness to endure pain for the other is what makes a family holy.


The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Sir 3:2-6. 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2: 41-52

 


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