Archive for category Giving

John 12:1-17 The anointing at Bethany

As Jesus made His way towards Jerusalem where death awaits him, He stopped in the village of Bethany where He was invited to dinner party by a wealthy friend named Simon. In the course of the gathering, a woman interrupted the meal which shocked all those who were present.

What scandalized them? First, they were shocked because the woman who came to Jesus   loosened her hair in public. During that time, to loosen one’s hair in public even for a married woman, was a sign of grave immodesty. Second, they were shocked because the woman wasted lot of money when she anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. When Mary anointed Jesus with an oil worth a whole year’s wages, Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold. It would have brought three hundred silver pieces (he’ll betray Jesus for just thirty), and then the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, fully aware that he is a traitor, unconcerned about the poor,  and a thief.

The contrast between Judas and Mary of Bethany is powerful. Mary spent what she had on “very costly ointment” in a gesture of love, affection, and respect. While Judas complained for losing the money that does not belong to him in the guise of being concern for the poor.

How did Jesus react to that given situation? Jesus defended what the woman did for him out of gratitude and thanksgiving and then used that occasion to teach them about the virtue of hospitality and his imminent passion and death in the hands of the scribes and the pharisees who will deliver him to the pagans to be mocked, crucified and be killed.

For Jesus hospitality is more than just welcoming a guest into one’s house. It is more than just serving a guest with food and drink. For Jesus, hospitality is, above all, welcoming someone what he stands for or represents. This is the reason why he praised what Mary did to him than Martha who prepared everything for their meal when he visited their home once. On that ocassion Mary both as a friend and a disciple welcomed Jesus and what he stands for and represents.

Today is Monday of the Holy Week. On this day,  let us reflect on the prophetic anointing of Jesus by a woman named Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus who were close friends of Jesus), which foreshadowed Jesus’ imminent death, honored Him as God’s anointed, and poured out to Him love and devotion too deep for words. Her action reminds us that our journey through Holy Week is a matter of the heart.

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John 6:1-15 Multiplication of the Loaves

Today’s gospel narrates to us one of the greatest miracles of Jesus – the feeding of about five thousand people out of five barley loaves and two fish. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels.

“The location according to the text is in a “desert” region. There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren. The word “desert” means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people” (15 James A. Brooks, Mark, NAC. p. 107).

The miracle happened when John the Baptist had just been killed and Herod was seeking Jesus.  Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples to be alone to rest (according to Mark and John’s chronology the disciples had just returned from being sent out) and to give them some private instruction.  It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him and they have nothing to eat. There and then Jesus out of his compassion feed five thousand people in number. There were even 12 filled wicker baskets of fragments left-over.

There are three points to be considered here for our reflection and daily Christian living:

First, Jesus takes cares of us in all our needs: both body and soul. Hence, his love and care for us is integral, whole and complete. This is why in today’s account, Jesus does not want to dismiss the hungry crowd on empty stomach in a deserted place. Instead, out of compassion, he attends to his peoples’ hunger, both material and spiritual. This is the best reminder for all of us who are ministers of the word: “Never preach in an empty stomach,”  or “You cannot preach love on an empty stomach” as the popular saying goes.

Second, a miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us. Expectant faith, therefore, does not make us fold our hands doing nothing looking into heaven while waiting for miracles to come. Rather it spurs us on to make our best, if not greatest possible contributions, our efforts, cooperation, generosity, five loaves and two fish, knowing that without them, though how humble and inadequate they were, there would be no miracle.

Third, miracle aims conversion, faith and discipleship.  It would be somehow sound to infer that what really happened here was not just the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish that fed the five thousand of  hungry crowds but also a miracles of sharing as a fruit of conversion, faith and discipleship. It is said that “the world is so poor for everybody’s greed but so rich for everybody’s need.”

It is estimated that 840 millions out of 6.2 billon (August 16, 2002 estimate, US Census Bureau) in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition (World Hunger, Do you know the facts?). About 24,000 people die everyday from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourth of the deaths are children under the age of five. Famine and wars cause about 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about often. Majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition whose cause is poverty. And the root cause of poverty is sin in the forms of injustice, greed and selfishness.

Friend, we do not need Jesus to come and be crucified once again just to perform miracles for us so that we can eat and live. Rather, let the word, the person and the examples of Jesus do miracles for us by transforming us from being greedy to generous, from being selfish to selfless, from being close and indifferent to being sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people around us. This is what the world needs now. The miracle of sharing, giving, caring and love. With this, the world would be a better place to live in.

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