PALM SUNDAY: 04/04/2004
Speaker: Keith G. Thomas
Gospel Reading: St. John 12:12-19
Respected achen and my dear friends in Christ,
Today’s gospel from St. John, Chapter 12:12-19 tells about Jesus’ last week on earth. He will begin his journey into his passion on the cross by riding into Jerusalem. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt under a canopy of palm branches waived by people young and old. They greeted Him with flowers and put clothes on the ground to make it a royal entry.
After several weeks of healing and miracles from changing water into wine, healing a government official’s daughter, healing a lame man at the pool, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, and healing the man born blind to comforting Mary and raising Lazarus from the dead, He chose a donkey’s colt instead of riding on a horse or a chariot.
Jesus rode in this humble style into the city of Jerusalem to announce that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem which was a place where huge crowds could see Him. Today we celebrate Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. It was triumphant because nobody could stop Him and He was given the mandate by the people to be their king.
But we have to note carefully that the thousands of people who were praising and singing ‘Hosanna’ were doing so because they had wrong ideas about Jesus. They thought that Jesus would be their local king. They thought that Jesus would be their political savior.
For all these healing performances in 3 years of a 33-year old man, He is on his road to be crucified after 160 more hours.
- From today after one hundred sixty hours, the crowds who sang ‘Hosanna’ will change and shout ‘crucify Him’
- They will change from throwing flowers to throwing rocks.
- They will change from holding palm leaves to holding whip lashes.
- After 160 hours, Jesus’ royal parade will change into a mocking crowd enjoying His fall on the ground.
- They will change from the victorious entry into the city of Jerusalem to the painful climb along the rocks of Calvary.
What do we learn from Palm Sunday? Sometimes we wonder if we are the same like the crowds. We may praise Jesus in the public eye and change our attitudes when it comes to the real issues. What kind of a change will we make is the question we need to ponder.
When Jesus Christ came into the temple, He found that it was not used as a place of worship. He was praised as the Royal priest and he acted like a Royal priest. A Royal priest will not allow desecration of the house of the Lord. A Royal priest would become angry if the house of the Lord is misused. The temple belonged to the son of David. The temple belonged to the King of Kings. The temple belonged to the son of God. On Palm Sunday, his first troubles began. He started to chase the people who misused the temple and even used force to make it clean.
It is clear that Palm Sunday began with the singing of praises and ‘Hosanna’. But it ended with Jesus having to chase out those who misused the temple. In our lives today, our reflection should be whether we sing ‘Hosanna’ and sing praises to God and his son, Jesus, and live by the praises or will we have to be corrected and chased out for misusing God’s temple. And, what is God’s temple? God’s temple is our body, our mind, our soul, and our church. May God give us the wisdom and power to keep praising Him for the right reasons all the days of our life.
Thank you and God bless all of us.
WE MAY BE BLINDED IN OUR SIN. GOD MAY OPEN OUR EYES: 03/28/2004
Speaker: Joji Thomas
Gospel Reading: St. John 9:1-41
Dear achen, teachers and friends
Today is the sixth Sunday of the Great lent. Today’s gospel reading is St. John chapter 9 verses 1- 41. It talks about a man who was born blind and was healed by Jesus. One of Jesus’ disciples said Rabbi “who has sinned this man or his parents”. Jesus said to him “it was neither of them, but to show the work of God”.
After He said this, he spit on the ground. Then made some mud with the saliva and put it on man’s eyes. Then Jesus told him to wash himself in the pool of Siloam. The man went and washed himself. He believed in Jesus, so he obeyed Him, went the pool of Siloam and washed. Then he was able to see.
We may be blinded in our sin. God may open our eyes
When the man went back to his neighbors and the people who had seen him begging, all said “isn’t the same man who used to sit and beg”. Others said that “he only looked like the man”. But the man went around said that he was the man.
All the people asked him how you got your sight. He told them what had happened. They asked him where this man (Jesus) is. He told them I do not know.
The men who asked him went and got the Pharisees and showed them the man whose eyes were opened. It was on a Sabbath day Jesus made this Miracle. The Pharisees said how this man can be from god if he does not keep the Sabbath. The man said He is a prophet.
The Jews did not believe that the man could see or the person who opened his eyes. So they called his parents. They asked them “is this son, was he born blind and how is it that he can see now”. They answered yes to the first two questions. But they said “they didn’t know how he can see”, and said “ask him, he is of age”. They did not want to answer because any one who believes Jesus was the Christ would be kicked out of the Synagogue.
In today’s world also , we are afraid to tell others the blessings we receive every day.
The Pharisees threw the man out. Jesus heard that the man was thrown out. When Jesus found the blind man, He asked him do you know the man who gave you the sight is?. The man said “who is he sir”? . Jesus said you have seen Him and you are talking to Him with you. The man believed Him.
Some of the Pharisees heard them, said “What are we blind too”. Then Jesus said to them “if you were blind you would not be guilty of the sins, but now that you say you can see you guilt remains”.
In conclusion. We are all spiritually blind. We should seek God’s help to open our eyes. If we pray and read the bible, God will open our eyes.
CRIPPLED WOMEN -HEALING: 03/21/2004
Speaker: Christina Abraham
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 13:10-7
Good Morning Achen, Chemmachen, Deacons, and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today’s gospel reading was taken from St. Luke, Chapter 13, and Verses 10-17. Today is the fifth Sunday after the Great Lent begins. As you all know, each Sunday has a particular reading and a very special meaning. For this Sunday, the particular reading is about, “ The Crippled Woman” Jesus healed on the Sabbath Day.
When Jesus was teaching at one of the synagogues, a woman who was crippled for eighteen years came into the synagogue. Jesus saw the woman and called her forward.
He said to her, “ Woman you are set free from you infirmity.” As soon as Jesus laid his hands on her, she was healed and straightened up. When she was healed, she praised the lord immediately.
The rulers of the synagogue stood up as Jesus performed this miracle and said to the crowd, “ There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on Sabbath.”
Then the Lord answered the ruler of the synagogue and said, “ You hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept sick for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath?”
When the ruler received that answer he and his companies felt humiliated. Everyone else was amazed about all the help that they were receiving from God.
I want to share some of my thoughts:
- Jesus is compassionate
- There may be bondage due to evil spirit
- God’s power is essential to be healed from evil spirit
- We need to be obedient to God’s calling
- Set our priorities straight and follow the right way
When I say Jesus is compassionate: we read the woman walked into the synagogue,
Jesus was so kind to call her forward and help her. He is always Knocking at our heart and say “ Daughter, son I am hear to help you out, please listen to my voice”. The woman didn’t turn away from God, she went to the lord and was healed of her sickness.
Bondage due to evil spirit: Jesus told to the Rulers that “this woman was out of bondage of Satan for more than eighteen years”. This woman came to the synagogue, probably with thinking that she will be healed by some miracle, or she might be heard of Jesus coming to the synagogue. We may be going to the Church with different types of sickness like crippled woman. We should examine ourselves “Do I have Jesus in my heart?, do I need a miracle to be healed?
God’s power is essential to be healed: When we are condemned by a spirit of a sickness
or are in need of help, God is ready and prepared to help us and always cares about everyone. Jesus calls us so that he can cure us of anything we may have. He calls us so that we don’t take the wrong way down the path of life. He calls us to protect us from the dangers ahead of us. He calls us to make sure we go the right way, so that we have a place in his Holy Kingdom.
Set our priorities straight and follow the right way. When we say a rule that should be followed and we don’t do it ourselves, we are being a hypocrite. The Rulers of Synagogue were preaching to follow all the commandments, but they are not practicing, that is why Jesus calls them Hypocrites. We should examine ourselves are we a hypocrite in front of God?, God examines the hearts and judge accordingly. Jesus healed her on a Sabbath day, and it is essential to set her free from the bondage of Satan even though it was performed on a Sabbath day. He was setting priorities straight and follows the right way.
Obedient to His Calling: We noticed that when Jesus called her forward, without any hesitation she obeyed, though she was not able to walk straight. She went towards Jesus with her infirmities. We have to examine ourselves are we following his calling? Jesus is calling us every day, every moments, he is willing to help us.
In conclusion I would like to say that whenever we are in need, just remember that Jesus is knocking at the door to our heart, asking us if we need help. Everyone should ask us, am I willing to let Jesus Christ in my heart to help and heal me of my problems. Am I ready to allow God to help straighten my ways. We should all always be prepared to let Jesus come in to our hearts.
And God Bless our church,
LEPROSY MIRACLE DAY: 02/29/2004
Speaker: Manoj Varghese
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 5:12-16
Good Morning Achen, Chemmachen, Deacons, and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today is the First Sunday after Lent begins. Our Church acknowledges the miracles of Christ on each Sunday of Lent, and in our church, today’s significance is “Leprosy Miracle Day.”
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from St Luke Chapter 4 verses 40 through 41 and Chapter 5 verses 12 through 16. Last week we heard the Miracle Jesus performed at the Wedding. The importance of Today’s Gospel reading is that Jesus’ healing ministry begins here.
I invite your attention to verse 38 onwards, where we read Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law from high fever. Later on we read that Jesus casts out the evil spirits with a rebuke, and heals all who are sick. St. Mathew states that “this is a fulfillment of what Isaiah the prophet has spoken: “He himself took our infirmities and bore our sickness”.
As we continue to read on, we see that Jesus is exorcising demons out of the demon possessed, and what’s interesting is that the demons were crying out and saying “You are the Christ, the son of God”, but Jesus commands them to be quite. While preaching in a boat, Jesus recites the message that “the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Later on Jesus asks Peter to cast a net to his left, and as Peter obeys he is rewarded with a great catch of fish. From there they enter into a certain city, where great multitudes follow Jesus.
After further reading, we see a leper comes and worships Jesus, saying “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”. St Luke states that the leper falls on his face and makes this statement. Jesus then puts out His hand and touches the leper saying, “I am willing. Be cleansed!”, immediately the leper is cured. Next, Jesus tells the man, to tell no one and only go and show himself to the priest, and make an offering for his cleansing, as a testimony to the people, just as Moses had commanded in his time.
Lessons of these passages
What are the lessons of these passages?.
In my search I concluded the following points:
- All these miracles happen only when somebody asks for it.
- The people who ask for a miracle, always believe in Jesus being the Son of God.
- Jesus performs these miracles by touching the sick, and by rebuking the demons.
- There are evil spirits everywhere we go.
- Even demons acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God
- Evil spirits can be controlled by the power of God.
- The miracles are not always for publicity instead they are to help relieve the pain and sickness that ails those who believe in Jesus.
- We should be thankful to God for every miracle in our lives
- We should make our offerings according to commandments.
- obedience to God will be rewarded abundantly
Thoughts of the reading:
Now I request your attention for my thoughts of the reading:
If we read Leviticus Chapter 13 verses 1 through 13: we read the command Moses tells to the Israelites, about a person who might be sick with leprosy.
According to the law; he who has leprosy is condemned as “Unclean”, and no one will go near that person. However, in St Luke Chapter 5 Verse 13, we read the passage: “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him” saying “I am willing. Be cleansed!”
Today, Leprosy is not very common. I consider the lepers of Jesus’ time to be given the same respect as people with AIDS today.
We should ask ourselves if we are willing to help these types of people with the same devotion Jesus had towards helping these people We should continually pray for those who are disadvantaged physically, mentally, and spiritually, with the same devotion Jesus had for our salvation.
I remember that our church visited the “Missionaries of Charity home”. We spent a few hours with them, and we sang songs and prayed for them. These were always cherishing and lasting memories, and providing hope to the sick and the disadvantaged. I consider this to be a memorable event since we spent time with the same type of people Jesus discusses in the Gospel Reading. However, I am wondering what happened last year, and are we abandoning this program?
A poet once said, “If we can not love our next-door neighbors, how can we love the God whom we can not see with our eyes?”
May be that is why our Lord admonished the people by saying, “I was sick, you did not visit me, I was hungry you did not feed me, I was thirsty you did not give me anything to drink.”
I hope the church will continue our charity work to our neighbors.
The Theme of the Passage:
The main theme of today’s message is compassion, faith, and hope. I would like to conclude by reciting a prose:
“Hope is not the closing of our eyes,
To the difficulty, to the risk, or to the failure,
It is a trust, that
If I’m hurt I shall be healed,
It is something you trust which you cannot see or hear,
Something deep inside that only you can understand,
And something only you can control
And it is a trust that love is powerful
And the future is full of promise
It is this faith that builds our hope.”
I hope during this great lent, to collectively, as a church, do something good for those who are less fortunate and be more compassionate to our neighbors.
May God bless our Church, and may God bless us all.
Speaker: Renu Thomas
Gospel Reading: St. John 2:1-11
Good Morning dear Achen, Chemachen, Uncles, Aunties, Family and Friends in Christ. This dayâ’s Gospel reading was taken from St. John 2: 1-11. This reading speaks of Jesus’ encounter at a wedding, which he had attended in Cana. He had arrived with his mother and his chosen disciples. This wedding displayed an exemplary exhibition of the power bestowed upon our Lord Jesus Christ by our Almighty Father in Heaven. We basically see it as a first approach of the Lordâ’s power, but as we sink into the depths of this passage, we learn to read between the lines. We see certain things everyday, which we pass by, not even giving it a second thought.
We see that during the wedding, the wine has run out and the hosts are crying for a bit of it to serve their highest ranking guests, so that he may be pleased. Couldn’t we also use this, an unnoticed part of this reading as an example? We should also be trying to please the highest ranker, our Father in Heaven.
We miss another point in this message which pulls everything together. In verse 4… Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” Jesus is speaking to his mother, but this is not necessarily a truly important verse though it gives some insight on Jesus’ situation and how his life is planned for him as ours is for us. The true divinity in his voice is that he knows what is planned for him, which we do not know.
For Jesus was not persecuted only for his teachings, but for his works, which were considered sorcery at the highest. The people believed it to be the wizardry of the devil to cause others to follow him. This persecution led to his death, adding a bit of jealousy. If he performs this task he will have to avoid his death a bit longer. There was to be a certain amount of time between his first miracle and his death, purely by his destiny. His time of death may be earlier wherefore he consequently stated his point.
He had a choice of changing destiny, the chance to stop his preaching and evangelism. We all have this chance. He did not have to die for our sins which put him on the cross to die in the utmost humiliation at the time. Would anyone want die like that? With scornful mouths inducing your plight and pitiless eyes watching your fall? Anyone would think to visit hell before that. What is keeping us on our feet? We have gained favor in the worldly ministry; we haven a single person who would stand and persecute you. We as Christians have gained favor in the world, but maybe not with God.
Are we truly Christians, or are we wearing the mask of the religion. Do we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent down from heaven to relieve us of the bondage, that which is our sins. We must believe.
Then we give great importance to the miracle. Do we have to? Is there any truly great importance in the miracle except that it is the first which Jesus is mentioned of performing? sure, it shows his divinity and outright power, but does not it strike us as the most important part of 11 verses? Is this the main message? Or is the news behind what our eyes see the true implication?
This miracle increased the union of the disciples with Jesus. We usually do not believe until we see with our own eyes or it has not been witnessed by others. We cannot question the Bible and its news, but we can make different insinuations. This viewing had increased the bond of loyalty of the disciples to the Christ, and their ministration will continue to live as an image to us so that we may also witness the words influenced by God.
The Governor at the wedding had dubbed the wine the best of the feast. Why not? It was the best, was it not? Made by the Power of an almighty being, who makes all possible.
We should try to strengthen our bond with the Lord. His judgment upon us has not arrived but it will come. It will arrive when we least expect it. As we begin our church’s Lenten season. We should not enter for the sake of giving something up, but to strengthen our relationship and service to our Lord and our God. We should try to show all our prayers continually to God to receive his continual blessing. May God bless our Church, and bless us all, Thank you.
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: 02/01/2004
Speaker: Amy Abraham
Gospel Reading: St. Mark 6:1-6
Respected Achen, Chemachen, Family and Friends,
Today’s gospel reading was taken from St. Mark chapter six verses one to Six. Today is the fourth Sunday after epiphany. St. Mark describes that, what kind of reception Jesus was received from His home town and why Jesus could not perform mighty miracles there. Also St. Luke is referring Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
First let me talk about Jesus’ brothers and sisters:
Verse 3 states that James, Joses, Judas and Simon are Jesus’ brothers. Because of this verse some churches teach that St. Mary had other children. But if we study the culture and language of Nazareth at the time of Jesus, we will understand that the cousins and step brothers were also called brothers in that part at that time. Since the writer did not state that He is one of the sons of Mary, we have to conclude with the contextual aspect that He is the cousin or step brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon.
Now let me point out why Jesus could not perform mighty miracles there.
When we analyze the reading we see three different groups of people:
1. Prejudiced people: Verse: 2: reads “And He began to teach in the Synagogue, and when 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.”
They know that Jesus performed mighty miracles. However they do not want to accept Jesus as the son of God because of their prejudiced and biased mind set. That is why they are asking “is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary”. Jesus was not born in an aristocratic family and did not receive higher education. This sarcastic, condescending statement is out of jealousy and pride.
Let us examine ourselves and ask: Are we prejudiced about others? Are we biased in our action with others? Are we jealous of others?
2. Faithless people: Verse 5: reads ” Now He could do no mighty work there” Because of their doubt in faith, by no means diminishes the virtue of Christ, but knowingly and willingly it deprives itself of the efficacy of it being offered unto them. Jesus’ teaching, wisdom, and miracles, do not overcome the disbelief of those in His hometown. Jesus does not release the divine power, which is always His. He could have helped a lot of people by healing the sick more or the weak but because people doubted him, he couldn’t perform mighty miracles.
Let us examine ourselves and ask: Are we faithless of God’s might power? Are we doubtful on God’s might power?
3. Faithful believers: Verse 5: ends, “He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them”. Here we can see that even though most of them were not believed His authority, some accepted Him, and they were healed. This is an important point. Since they were minorities they might get condescend activities from the majority. But they stood up with their faith and accepted Him. That is why Jesus was able to heal them.
Let us examine ourselves and ask: Are we faithful on Jesus’ might power? Are we faithful on Jesus’ authority?
I want to mention the following points: – Let us renew our faith in Jesus and accept His authority. – Let us work for His Kingdom, we will be able to perform mighty miracles. – Let us not be prejudiced on others. – Let us accept others as they are.
Thank You and God Bless.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRANSFIGURATION: 08/10/2003
Speaker: Andrew Punnoose
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 21:28-32
The bible verses for today are in Matthew, Ch. 21, verses 28 to 32. These verses are a parable that Jesus is telling. However, before I read it, let me tell you what happens before he tells his parable.
Jesus had just come from Jerusalem to Bethany, and was going to the temple, where the priests and elders confronted him. They asked him who gave him the authority to perform the miracles he had recently been performing. He said them he would tell them how he performed the miracles if they told him it they thought the baptism of John was through God, or by men. The priests, not wanting to commit to either answer, said they didn’t know. Because they wouldn’t answer him, Jesus didn’t tell them what they were asking. However, he did tell them a parable.
(Read parable from Matthew, Ch. 21, verses 28 – 32)
When Jesus told the priests this parable, he was comparing the priests to the second son, who said he would obey his father but didn’t. The priests said that they believed in God, but when John came to them with the word of God. they refused to believe him. Jesus also said in the last verse that the tax collectors were like the first son, who said he wouldn’t do what his father told him to, but went later and did it. The tax collectors refused to believe in God, but after John showed them that they should follow God, they believed. The message of these verses is that what you say is not as important as what you do. The first son did the will of his father, even though he said he wasn’t going. However, the second son disobeyed his father, although he said he would obey him. This can be related to our lives. We do not need to show people that we are righteous, as long as we know it in our hearts.
(Read Matthew, Ch. 9, verses 1 – 9)
Some people say they are Christians, but they don’t follow God. These people are like the priests. Other people are like the tax collectors and sin, but repent their sins. It is better for us to be like the tax collector than the priests. We shouldn’t try to show others that we are good Christians, we should just be good Christians. As we leave here today, we should ask ourselves if we are true Christians or Sunday Christians.
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST: 07/27/2003
Speaker: Renjith Thomas
Gospel Reading: St. Mark 3:20-30
Today’s Gospel reading was taken from the book of St. Mark the apostle, specifically from Chapter 3, Verses 20-30. The verses of this passage convey to us the feelings of some Nonbelievers in Christ at the time.
Jesus was a teacher of extraordinary skill. He was also extremely devoted to his cause in life. Usually, there were large multitudes of people gathering to listen to his teachings that he could or would not eat with his apostles. Because of these things people started to think and say that he was crazy or out of his mind about these things. His family of course heard of this and went to go and get him.
Religious leaders completely opposed of Jesus and his teachings and tried to apply his works to justify their thoughts and themselves. They tried to prove Jesus wrong and lied against him.
They claimed that the reason that he could destroy or force out demons was because he possessed the ruler of all demons in himself, Beelzebub, whom we have established as Satan. Jesus completely denounced this and opposed against it in an undeniable manner.
He said to the people of the place where he dwelled at the moment:
- That a kingdom can’t fight itself.
- That Satan wouldn’t fight his own demons.
- That if he did he would fight his kingdom.
- That this would destroy his kingdom.
- That therefore, Satan would destroy himself.
- That would be the end of Satan.
Therefore Jesus provided the people with information that proved the leaders wrong. Jesus also added something that would prove the fate of the religious leaders.
He said: ‘All sins that people do can be forgiven. All bad things that people say about God can be forgiven. But any person who says bad things against the holy spirit will never be forgiven.”
According to this, all the religious leaders who said that the works of Jesus through the Holy Spirit were the works of the devil would have been punished justly and cast into the lake of fire.
This is still the punishment for people today. We as Christian believers should save people from a fate such as the one mentioned in the passage. We can do this by:
- Spreading the good news.
- Spreading the commandments of Jesus Christ.
- Setting an example for others, especially nonbelievers in Christ.
We have a mission that is given to all Christians and that is to spread the news and love of Jesus Christ to all people, especially the nonbelievers.
Jesus first went to the Jews to teach them and learn them in the way of righteousness. They wouldn’t all accept him, so he educated Gentiles in the way of righteous living. So we must uphold the kingdom of God, but denounce the pit of the devil.
We should try to be like Jesus. Jesus was extremely devout and preached the teachings of God without even stopping for a meal at most times. He was constantly trying to spread the word of God, even at times of danger. He overcame even the hardest obstacles with faith in the almighty God.
Jesus defeated the devil and his demons and the unbelieving religious leaders and teachers. When they had destroyed his earthly body, his spiritual body conquered and always will. Now all this was possible because of his immense belief and faith in the Almighty Father of heaven. All true believers have received a part of Jesus. So like Jesus, we should also have and put all our faith in the Almighty Father.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER DANAHA (EPIPHANY): 01/19/2003
Speaker: Dn. George Mathew
Gospel Reading: St. John 1:43-51
A good leader knows that he is only as effective as the talent that surrounds him. Our Lord knew this and, not long after He started his public ministry, he began to gather his team, His first disciples. Andrew and Peter who were brothers were the first to accept the invitation. Not long after, Jesus asked Philip to join the group. He was from the same village as Andrew and Peter. Interestingly, Philip wasn’t even looking for Jesus. It was Jesus looking for him. He wanted to go to Galilee in order to find Philip, and to bring him to Himself. What do we notice about his calling? We plainly see His complete obedience and yielding to the call without question or doubt. There was no pleading to Philip to accept Him, to let Him into his heart. There was a command issued, and Philip had to follow through because the Almighty God who created the universe with the Word of His mouth had spoken to him with the same Divine Authority. Thus, Philip became a disciple of Jesus.
Philip must have been overjoyed and completely speechless. What did he want to do? He wanted to share his good news with someone, and went looking for his friend named Nathaniel. When Philip finds him, he tells Nathaniel, “We have found the Messiah, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathaniel was skeptical at hearing the news. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asked. This is not a question that is out-of-line, either. After all, all studiers of the Scriptures knew that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Also, Nazareth historically had never been remarkable for anything in the way of religion and politics. It had never produced a well-known man of God or any notable political or religious leader in the same way that Bethlehem was known as the “City of David.” Nazareth is furthermore never mentioned in the Old Testament, which means that it did not have any special religious or historical associations. So, Nathaniel who had always thought of Nazareth as rather a dull and drab place could not imagine anyone of any importance coming from there. Aren’t we like that at times? Many of our own cynical comments and negative questions can be wrong. It demonstrates that we can be limited by our expectations, that we can be blind to God at work in our midst. Fortunately, out of Nazareth, a little known place, there came by God’s grace, the greatest good that has ever come among us, the love of God focused uniquely on a human being.
After Nathaniel asked his question, Philip didn’t argue with him. He didn’t try to convince him with words. Maybe he himself didn’t know how to answer him being a new disciple. All he said to Nathaniel was, “Come and see.” And Nathaniel accepted Philip’s invitation. He was willing to re-examine his own basic assumption that nothing good could come out of Nazareth. We too need to be stubborn-free in our own lives and see the works of God in our lives.
Jesus sees Nathaniel coming with Philip and says “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” Here, Jesus is seeking to draw attention to Nathaniel, and gain his full attention. By ‘guile’, He means that Nathaniel does not have any deceitful dealings. He was honest, sincere, and genuine – not a hypocrite. He had an upright heart and was full of integrity. This phrase is a bit of a play on the name ‘Israel,’ for the first person called ‘Israel’ was a deceiver. Jacob was to be called Israel, who went from being a deceiver, stealing his brother’s birthright, to becoming the Father of Israel (see Genesis chapters 27, 28, and 32). Jesus admired the honesty of Nathaniel. So, Jesus praised him and wanted to give him the grace of faith and the vocation to be an apostle.
Nathaniel is surprised by all of this. “How do you know me?” He says, “I don’t know you, how is it possible that you could know anything about me?” Jesus answered him and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” The fig tree was a favorite place in those parts for the study and meditation upon the Scriptures, and the place for prayer and communion with God. Jesus later confirms the need for personal time and spoke of doing one’s fasting and prayer in secret before the Father who sees in secret (St. Matthew 6:5-21). In keeping with this, Jesus also instructed His followers not to be like the hypocrites who like to be seen by men to be fasting. Nathaniel had been living the life of fasting and prayer; that is why Jesus called him honest and true.
What was Nathaniel’s reaction to this? He said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” He reasons that Jesus must be the Messiah, for only the Messiah could know about him so personally. This was Nathaniel’s proclamation of faith, just as our patron saint, St. Thomas’ stated “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus responds and says, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Here, Nathaniel had caught a glimpse of something special about Jesus and it had amazed him, but the Lord tells him so much more is coming – His teachings, His miracles, and His glorious Resurrection. Jesus is telling him that what you have just experienced is very little, just a portion of who I am, for you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. The promise given by God to Jacob in Genesis 28 was referring to Jesus, that He is that ladder to heaven. It was Jesus who brought the heavenly together with the earthly, and reconciled the two to each other. He was the link between Heaven and earth, and these angels are descending and ascending upon Him. He says that your current vision of an earthly Messiah will give way to a vision of salvation that will see you ascend this ladder, that will see you ascend into Heaven itself – you will come to know Me as the ladder which you must climb. He was also hinting at the fact that He was the ladder for all mankind. All may be saved by this way; all may enter into the Kingdom if they enter this way, not just the Jews, but all mankind. When Heaven is open to receive you, the angels will be there rejoicing.
What are the main points we can glean from this reading?
1. How well does Jesus know us? Are we like Nathaniel – ‘without guile’?
Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God knows us intimately, more intimately than we know ourselves for He is our Creator. In Psalms 139:1-3, it says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.” He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our daily needs, even before we ask for it. He knows our problems and offers to take that burden off our shoulders, for He says, “Come unto me all who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Our trust and faith in God will see us through the problems of life, giving us the courage and strength to live another day.
2. God calls both individuals and whole communities of people to “Follow Him”
God calls us again and again. It is not just a one-time commitment, but a lifetime commitment. God calls some to the full-time ministry to bring about God’s new creation and to be his witnesses and custodians of the true faith. It is sad to see so few young people losing the jewel of orthodoxy. We have to do better at teaching, training, and equipping our youth and youngsters about our faith and traditions so they too can follow the call of God.
God also calls us to make reconciliation with our fellow human beings and forgive as we are forgiven. He expects us to perform acts of kindness and charity. He wants us also to be true to our baptismal covenant and participate in the sacraments of the church. A part of following Him is also supporting the church, both prayerfully and financially. And, above all, we are called to love the Tri-Une God and our neighbors. We have to hear His call. We have to see His call. We have to feel His call. We have to follow His call.
Our obedience will yield a multitude of blessings. We will also find a transformation of our selves. We will have the strength and courage to live in this world. As St. Paul states in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We are the pencils in the hand of God. Our aim should be to consistently depreciate our own efforts in order to appreciate the efforts of God. And, then there will be showers of blessings from Heaven.
3. Each person is invited to “Come and see.”
Jesus calls us to come and meet Him, to come and follow Him, to come and find out the truth for ourselves. During the Holy Qurbana, we have ample time to worship, adore, and thank Him. We can offer our supplications and know that He is in control of our lives and will always take care of us. We have to be “in Him” in order to be united with Him.
We also have a responsibility to share our faith. Our church is unique in that it is apostolic, founded by an apostle. It is the living manifestation of His presence in the history of the mankind. It has a rich liturgical life and maintains faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. We must share our faith with the world around us. His light should shine through us and brighten this dismal world.
So, my dear friends, we must listen to God’s call and respond as Samuel did in the Old Testament, by saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Let us listen to the call and be deeply rooted and grounded in the faith. Let us listen to Jesus call to follow and to live according to His commandments and rules. We must determine that we want to live the way He expects – in holiness and truth. This way, we can be as Apostle Nathaniel — without guile. Finally, let us listen to the call to be witnesses and invite the world to “Come and see” the rich faith and traditions we cling to so dearly. May God bless all of us and help us to live up to this important calling.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER DANAHA (EPIPHANY): 01/12/2003
Youth Speaker: Amy Abraham
Gospel Reading: St. Matt. 4:12-22
Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Matthew chapter 4 versus 12 to 22. This chapter talks about the beginning of the main purpose in the life of Jesus Christ. He starts His ministry as the prophets had foretold. Jesus started His ministry in Galilee because the people there were more receptive than the Jewish leaders. He came to provide hope and salvation rather than argue.
St. Mathew says that Jesus went to Galilee, Nazareth, and Capernaum to go start his ministry. Verse 15 and 16 it says what prophet Isaiah had said which was, The land of Zebulum and the land of> Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. For the people who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. These two versus are very important because in verse 15 the term Galilee of Gentiles means that many non-Jews who lived in this region, which became an Assyrian province.
During Jesus’ time, it had a mixed population and was not considered a Jewish land. Jesus acted in order to fulfill the prophecy. The religious men “knew” the Scriptures, yet did not see. They were spiritually blind. Those who desired to see Jesus and the manifestation of God were given sight. Do we focus on the details of the Bible and lose focus of the meaning? We need to apply the Bible to our lives and do God’s will every day.
In verse 16, the term darkness means ungodliness. To be in darkness means to be overcome by spiritual ignorance and death. The term great light means light that enlightens people. Today in life when you fight or cheat or disobey or break any of the 10 commandments with your family or neighbors you are surrounded by darkness. Darkness makes human beings live like animals because they do not have a soul. But if you are holy, honest and kind to yourself and trustworthy, obedient, practice God’s rules then your surrounded by the great light. That light comes from the Son of God – Jesus Christ.
In verse 17, Jesus Christ’s first word he preached was Repent. He says that repentance is necessary to enter and continue in the light. His new way of life. He starts his ministry by selecting his disciples.
Jesus sees two fishermen named Andrew and Simon called Peter casting a net into the sea. Jesus says to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. This verse tells that Jesus wants to catch the people who are in darkness and to bring them into the great light. After Andrew and Peter heard this, they left their nets and followed him. After a while, Jesus saw two other brothers named John and James both son of Zebedee. Jesus saw John, James and their father in a boat. He called out to them and told them to follow him. Both John and James felt convinced and left their nets, their boat and their father and followed Jesus. Jesus chooses men who have never had any training in any sacred school, who did not know how to read and write as his disciples. He depended on Holy Spirit
to come at Pentecost, and give them wisdom. The best lesson to learn from today’s Gospel is that to start any ministry of Jesus Christ or to develop any spiritual activity you do not need skilled people. You do not need rich people. Jesus needs simple people. You need people who will obey the God’s word and practice sacrifice.
- Like the jews under Assysria, we too live amongst a mixed population Gentiles and non-belivers: the challenge is the same. So pray everyday, for without God there is no happiness.
- Like Andrew and Simon Peter, if you are struck by the power of Jesus Christ, then leave all that you have and become fishers of men
- Like John and James who left their fishing business to seek the truth and live by it, we need to
find the truth and practice it.
- The first words of Jesus’ Ministry was Repent. The second one pray needs the first one Repent. Only God and His church can forgive you for what you are and what you have done.
- Most important of all, the Ministry of Jesus gives us the experience of leadership, sacrifice, and
the fruits of spiritual success.
May God Bless us all.