Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul

Volume 4 No. 225 June 27, 2014

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St. Peter Receiving Keys
St. Peter Receiving 'The Keys to the Kingdom' by Rubens, Consegna Delle Chiavi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

Everything about Peter was plain and simple - with the exception of his divine mission. As a fisherman, he was not a great hero of world-wide importance, no masterful genius who advanced to great heights. Ancient pictures show Peter with an ordinary man of the street. One wonders why this un-influential man was called to fill such an influential and extraordinary office.

Undoubtedly this unadorned picture of simplicity has its golden side too. If one pays close attention to this picture of St Peter in the Gospels, he will be completely captivated by the magic of his unfeigned sincerity and cordiality, by his purity of intention. After the miraculous catch of fish, how quickly and willingly he poured out his soul before the Lord, with unconcealed astonishment, with bare humility. ....

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 29)

 

3. Sermons for This Sunday (June 29)

Sermons For The Third Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_3rd-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

4. Working for God

Dear Lord, I sometimes see things from a very human and selfish point of view. Sometimes I find myself getting angry because others may have more than I do. Help me understand that the most important thing to be truly happy in my life is to be aware of the need I have of your grace. ...

5. Featured: Wages and Gifts - Reflection on Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus' parables are never about church. Not one parable of Jesus is about church. Not one parable is about candles, canticles or choirs. Not one of his parables are about preaching, pews, or processionals. Jesus' parables are from everyday life. They are from the market place, the farm, the family. Well, today's parable is about salaries, wages, and a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Today's parable is about the pocket book, the billfold, the daily or hourly income. People always get tense, anxious and nervous when you talk about money, salaries, and income. ...

6. Meditation on Matthew 20:1-16

So God owns a vineyard and decides to hire people at different points and pay the same wage. In our society that would spell lawsuit. But God works on a different economic model. Where most business transactions in the world are driven by a concern for profit, God's concern is generosity. It doesn't matter when you decided to join the workforce; what matters is that you joined up at all. God is so generous that he would rather have us come late than not show up at all. ...

7. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers

What was Jesus trying to teach us in this parable? Some think the point is that we'll all have the same reward in heaven no matter how long or hard we work for the Lord on earth. But that can't be right, because the Bible teaches that each person will be rewarded individually, according to his own labor (see 1Cor 3:8). ...

8. St. Peter and St. Paul, the Fathers of Great Rome

Early Christian writers often contrasted Peter and Paul with Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus. According to the ancient Roman myth, Rome was violently established when Romulus killed his brother as they laid the city's walls. In comparison, Peter and Paul built up the civilization of love found in the Church with brotherly affection. The Roman Empire, in nascent form at the time of the twin founders, would rule the world through fear and violence under the shroud of the pax romana. Peter and Paul would set the example for the Church to serve the world through faith and charity under the mantle of the pax Christi. ...

9. Family Special: Hoping for Home

All that is mine will one day belong to someone else.

One simple thought that changes everything. Life slowly passes and then suddenly and swiftly begins to fly by. The items we think we own are simply given to us for the journey. Even our relationships are subject to the changing tides of life. I no longer have chubby cheeked babies to cuddle or diapers to change. Where did they go? ...

10. Family Special: A Song for Your Heart

Amidst our imperfections, Christ loves, forgives and still accepts us. This is the good news - the real Gospel of Christianity. I see and feel it in my own life, and the Bible breathes it in nearly every story. Filled with historical figures and thousands of examples - from kings, to peasants - the beauty and message of the Bible is how God works through the lives of imperfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. Over and over we see the story of redemption. Of how men and women from all walks of life are accepted and redeemed by Jesus. ...

11. Health: The Healing Power Is In The Word

All the healing power you need is in the word of God. Sometimes people overlook the word and ask God to send the power, but he has already sent it by his word. Let me give you a few examples. ...

12. Recipe: Peanut Chikki

13. News: Report on the Situation in North Iraq

Situation in Northern Iraq compiled from various Sources.

14. Like Jews Before Them, Iraq's Christians May Face Extinction After Jihadist (ISIS) Invasion

For most Westerners, Iraq is a foreboding and dangerous place that is filled with extremists and daily violence. Yet as little as 75 years ago Iraq was a vibrant country that was home to many different ethnic and religious minorities, including large Jewish and Christian populations. But the latest round of violence spearheaded by the jihadist terrorist group ISIS, which is driving through the heart of Iraq to the capital of Baghdad and inflicting medieval-style Islamic justice on anyone in its path, might be the last gasp of Iraq's ancient Christian community, which faces extinction like Iraq's Jewish community before it. ...

15. About Malankara World

Foreword
Our church celebrates June 29 as the feast days of St. Peter and St. Paul. On July 30, we remember all apostles.

The Gospel reading on Sunday, June 29 includes Matthew 20:1-16 (Parable of the workers at the vineyard.) Like other parables of Jesus many people interpret this differently. Few articles in this week's MW Journal gives you different perspectives of this parable.

Some theologians tend to overanalyze this parable, according to John Jewell. "Some suggest the first workers as the Jewish people and the ones who come along at differing times of the day are the Jerusalemites, then the Samaritans, then those at the ends of the earth. The central point of the story is that God is generous to all who reach out."

John Jewell observed: "The parable is told, however, in the final conflicted days of Jesus' ministry before he moves into Jerusalem. The very next verse following our text has Jesus telling his disciples of his betrayal, condemnation and death. The conflict will require a choice. People will choose the vineyard (the kingdom of God and its values) or the market place (the world and its values).

One of the surprises in this story is that the owner of the vineyard goes to do the hiring. The marketplace was a kind of "Manpower" program in Jesus' time. The lowest class of day laborers were found here waiting for work. The grace of God goes searching in every place to find those who will receive it."

If we can learn from this parable that grace of God is freely available to everyone, whether they were Christians all their lives or, like the thief on the right, at the last minute, the parable has served its purpose. God is a loving father. Like the father of the prodigal, he is waiting for us to repent and seek the kingdom of the God. It is not too late. But it may be late tomorrow as we do not know if we will be here tomorrow. Like everything else, we owe our lives to God too. So, it is important that we seek Jesus and the triune God asap.

We remember St. Peter and St. Paul this Sunday. Our Patriarch sits on the throne of St. Peter. St. Peter is acknowledged as the first among equals among Jesus Christ's disciples. St. Leo the Great explains why:

Jesus said: "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: "To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven."

I like St. Peter. He was just like any of us. We can all identify with him. He was human, sensitive and emotional. He never had any problem expressing his opinions or thoughts. (Sometimes he talked too much just like many of us.) Peter was a humble man; he was also a humbled man just like St. Paul.

We often point out in MW Journal that God picks ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Most of us wonder why Jesus Christ picked the apostles for this critical task. They had no prior experience or knowledge; they fumbled from one situation to another. Anyone other than Jesus would have fired them long ago from the job.

St. Augustine explained why:

Peter was a fisherman...had God chosen an orator, the orator would have said, "for my rhetoric I was chosen." Or had He chosen a politician, the politician would have said, "For my politics I was chosen". Or even had God chosen a ruler, the ruler would have said, "for my powerful position I was chosen." Nevertheless, our Lord said: "Give me that fisherman. Give me that unlettered man. Give me that unlearned man. Give me that man with whom the politician never once would have stopped to speak. This one give me, and if I cannot fulfill what I wish, at least it will be clear that I have only myself to blame. Although I will call an orator and a politician and a ruler also just the same with a fisherman am I certain to remain myself."

Otto Hophan, O.F.M. Cap. in his book "The Apostles" explains this further:

Everything about Peter was plain and simple - with the exception of his divine mission. As a fisherman, he was not a great hero of world-wide importance, no masterful genius who advanced to great heights. Ancient pictures show Peter with an ordinary man of the street. One wonders why this un-influential man was called to fill such an influential and extraordinary office.

Undoubtedly this unadorned picture of simplicity has its golden side too. If one pays close attention to this picture of St Peter in the Gospels, he will be completely captivated by the magic of his unfeigned sincerity and cordiality, by his purity of intention. After the miraculous catch of fish, how quickly and willingly he poured out his soul before the Lord, with unconcealed astonishment, with bare humility; "'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'" And still he himself did not forget to mention some of the complimentary words of our Lord to him, which Mark-who wrote down Peter's words-recorded for all posterity, as did the other evangelists. To the very depths of his soul Peter was a simple, unpretentious, pure person.

Does the reason behind our Lord's seemingly unwise choice perhaps lie in the fact that Christ Himself laid down the essential criterion for leadership: "'Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant'"? Simon had to be at once great and small, the first and the last. Peter had a balanced character, a straightforward nature, as a defense against the severe temptations of self-praise- a praise which the Lord wanted him to have. In this ordinary man our Lord pointed out the directions He wanted this important and difficult office to take, lest it deteriorate into sheer pretentiousness, lest it become as meaningless as a piece of blank paper, let it lose sight of reality and become entagled in theories and problems.

Don't you love this man? Our Holy Father, Patriarch, sits on the throne of this humble fisherman picked by Jesus Christ to lead the church.

Pope Benedict XVI observed:

A fisherman from Galilee, married, the brother of Andrew, Peter was chosen by the Lord as one of his first disciples. His strong, impulsive and openhearted character, and his deep religiosity are evident in the account of his calling.

Having fished all night and caught nothing, Peter trusted fully in Jesus' word, and, after witnessing the miraculous haul of fishes, accepted his call to follow him as a fisher of men (cf. Luke 5:10). At Caesarea Philippi, Peter speaks for the other disciples in acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 8:29), but he is scandalized when the Lord reveals that his mission will include suffering, rejection and death.

Peter must painfully learn the meaning of conversion and true discipleship, following in the footsteps of the Master by embracing the mystery of the cross.

Peter learned what following Jesus really means. It is the second call, as Abraham's in Genesis, Chapter 22, after that of Genesis, Chapter 12. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). It is the exacting law to follow him: It is necessary to be able to deny oneself, if necessary, the whole world to save the true values, to save the soul, to save the presence of God in the world (cf. Mark 8:36-37). And though with difficulty, Peter accepted the invitation and continued his path in the footsteps of the Master.

These different conversions of St. Peter and his whole figure are a motive of great consolation and a great teaching for us. We also desire God, we also want to be generous, but we also expect God to be strong in the world and that he transform the world immediately, according to our ideas and the needs we see.

God opts for another way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and humility. And we, like Peter, must always be converted again. We must follow Jesus and not precede him. He shows us the way. Peter tells us: You think you have the recipe and that you have to transform Christianity, but the Lord is the one who knows the way. It is the Lord who says to me, who says to you, "Follow me!" And we must have the courage and humility to follow Jesus, as he is the way, the truth and the life.

We can learn quite a lot from the example of St. Peter. St. Leo the Great explains:

The Gospel tells us that at least once, Jesus called Peter a "Satan" because he was not thinking as God but as a human being. This tells us indirectly that human beings have the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to guide our thinking and reasoning process and that it's very easy to be misled especially when we misunderstand the role of the suffering Messiah's mission from our heavenly Father.

Peter had to learn much about forgiveness, without any limits, and humility, as all Christians must, if they are to extend the Church of God as Peter did. This requires not mere human knowledge but divine knowledge.

We learn from St Peter's epistles in the New Testament that human beings need to be sober and vigilant because, in addition to the weakness of human nature and worldly concerns, we have an opponent, the Devil, who roams abound like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Peter's wise advice for all with no exception is to be thoughtful, caring and prayerful. This requires one to be obedient, humble and act as a servant toward all human beings and the Church. It has been purchased for us by the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the human race by His achieving His Father's will, but it requires our cooperation and goodwill.

St. Peter and St. Paul occupies important positions in our church and had separate roles. Peter's name always heads the list of names of the apostles. There is no doubt who is the leader of the group. St. Paul would always have a leading position in the Church through his writings, example and missionary work. But Peter is the foundation and the rock of the Church with full authority, leaderhip and primacy.

The Lord built his church upon the rock of Peter's faith. He placed us within the faith that never falthers - the faith we inherited through St. Peter.

The Lord has given us knowledge of the faith through the missionary work and preaching of St Paul. May his example inspire us to lead others to Christ (evangelize) by the manner of how we live.

May the keys of Peter, and the words of Paul, their undying witness and their prayers, lead us to the joy of that eternal home which Peter gained by his cross and Paul by the sword.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 29)
 
 

Sermons for This Sunday (June 29)
This Week's Features

Working for God

by Father José LaBoy, LC

Gospel: Matthew 20: 1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'

When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.'

He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Introductory Prayer:

Dear Jesus, I believe in you because you have revealed your plan of love to the Church. I hope in you because you are more interested in my happiness and salvation than I am. I love you because you have loved me without my deserving your love.

Petition:

Lord, help me to appreciate and be grateful for your grace.

1. There Is Always an Opportunity:

One of the worst experiences is to accept that you have lost the last opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do. This can occur in any human situation: job opportunities, university acceptances, etc. In the spiritual life, on the other hand, there is always the opportunity to live only for God, the opportunity to be redeemed. There is always the possibility to start again. Why is this? It is because God has granted us our time on earth to walk towards him. Therefore, even if we fall, he continues to give us the strength to get up. That is why the sacrament of reconciliation is so important. When we lose grace, our spiritual strength, we can regain it in the sacraments, especially in confession.

2. Expecting More Than You Deserve:

Considered from a merely human point of view, this Gospel's situation is an unjust one. Whoever works more should receive more than those who work less. We tend to forget, however, that in terms of the spiritual, everything is a gift. There is nothing in our nature that can demand grace. The demands of our faith are not "favors" we do for God, but existential obligations. That is why Christ reminds us, "When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do'" (Luke 17:10).

3. The Generosity of God:

God's generosity is a manifestation of his love for us. He knows each and every person intimately and personally. He knows that the needs of some are bigger than those of others. To think that God loves some people more than others is an injustice to God. We owe love and respect to others because we are all human persons with the same dignity. We owe adoration and love to God because he is our creator and provident Father. But God owes nothing to his creatures. Everything he gives us is gratuitous and a fruit of his infinite love. It's too easy to treat God in a human way, forgetting that he is God. The most beautiful gift he gives us is his grace.

Petition:

Dear Lord, I sometimes see things from a very human and selfish point of view. Sometimes I find myself getting angry because others may have more than I do. Help me understand that the most important thing to be truly happy in my life is to be aware of the need I have of your grace.

Resolution:

I will thank Christ for his grace and love and will try to imitate him by being generous to others.

Source: Regnum Christi

Featured: Wages and Gifts - Reflection on Matthew 20:1-16

by Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

Do you have any idea what garbage haulers are making today? The people who pick up the garbage from our homes, do you realize what they are earning each day? Those county workers who are standing out there in circles on the street, do you know what they are making per hour? Have you seen what electricians are making per hour nowadays? A whole bunch of people want to be making as much as those garbage collector, those country workers, and those electricians. … And those professional athletes? Their salaries are ridiculous. So are the salaries of our television entertainers. And those CEOs are making so much money today and that contributes to our economy being in shambles.

If you want to get people upset very quickly in today's world, all you have to do is begin talking about salaries. We often play the game of comparing our salary to someone else's salary. It is called "size up our salary." When we play that game, we usually compare our wages with a person who is making more money than we are. They are making more money and they seem to have less skill and education. Then we become upset, but usually don't say anything but simmer inside. That is the way we normally play the "size up the salary" game.

I talked to a cement worker the other day and he told me that he made $160 a day whether he worked one hour or eight hours. $160 a day was the going rate, and he was pleased. Meanwhile, I was talking to a woman who works over at our neighboring day care, and she is making slightly above minimum wage, and she is not pleased. She has just as much education and experience as the cement worker, but she, as a day care provider, is making considerably less money with fewer benefits. From her point of view, she works "three times as hard for a third of the money." It stuck in her craw and she was secretly incensed by it all.

Originally, I believe that is what the woman's movement was all about: equal pay for equal work. Women studied the comparison of their salaries with men's salaries. Both women and men were doing the same job, but women were consistently making less money. And so women started to protest. I believe the origins of the women's movement was initiated by unequal salaries for equal work. Women simply wanted equal pay for equal work.

Then there came the affirmation action movement for minorities and for women. These people want to have reverse discrimination. That is, our society discriminated against these minorities for a long time and our society and law has determined that we are now going to give those discriminated against a job over those who may be more qualified. All you have to do is get an older white male's danger up, is to get into the discussion about affirmative action, and he will get quickly hot under the collar because he may feel that he was more qualified for a job he didn't get. If you want to get somebody's dander up in our parish, you want to talk to persons who feel that they have experienced reverse discrimination because of affirmative action.

Money, salaries, equal pay for equal work, affirmative action: these words cause all kinds of tensions within us. It is with this tense and conflictive mood that we approach the parable for Jesus for today.

Jesus' parables are never about church. Not one parable of Jesus is about church. Not one parable is about candles, canticles or choirs. Not one of his parables are about preaching, pews, or processionals. Jesus' parables are from everyday life. They are from the market place, the farm, the family. Well, today's parable is about salaries, wages, and a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Today's parable is about the pocket book, the billfold, the daily or hourly income. People always get tense, anxious and nervous when you talk about money, salaries, and income.

Jesus was and is a master story teller. He always tells these wonderful stories. Jesus is famous for many reasons. Jesus is famous because he is the Son of God. He is famous because he died on the cross and was raised from the dead. But did you know that Jesus is famous because he got an A plus in creative writing? When you examine the parables of Jesus, they are enormously creative. Many scholars rightfully claim that Jesus is the father of the short story. The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are two of the finest short stories in all of literature. If you read short stories from before the time of Jesus and short stories after the time of Jesus, there is nobody who writes or tells stories with the imagination and quality with which Jesus tells stories. Jesus is one of the greatest story creators and story-tellers who ever lived.

In the story for today, once again Jesus uses everyday, common life experiences. What was the dominant farm crop in Israel at this time? Grapes. And so Jesus would tell a story about harvesting grapes. The story goes like this: There was this man who was an owner a vineyard and he needed workers to harvest his grapes. He went to the village square at six o'clock in the morning and hired workers who went out and worked all day for twelve hours until six at night. A twelve hour day, from six in the morning until six at night. Next, some workers were hired at nine o'clock in the morning and they worked for nine hours. Those who came at noon worked for six hours; those at three o'clock for three hours; and those who came late in the afternoon at five o'clock worked one hour. They worked merely for one hour and you know what? The owner of the vineyard game them a full one hundred dollars for a full day's wage. Those early birds and industrious people, who had worked all day, from six o'clock in the morning, for the full twelve hours under the heat of the sun, those workers were mad that the latecomers received the same wage.

That makes sense to me. Don't you get mad when you have been busting your butt all day long and someone else comes in and does a little bit of work and they get the same wage as you who worked so hard all day long? Doesn't that make you mad when you are at work? When you are putting in the time, doing all the work, and someone else near you is sloughing off, and they get the same salary. Doesn't that make you mad?

The workers in the vineyards didn't stop to figure out the meaning of the parable because they were so upset about the story itself.

What is the purpose of this story of Jesus? The parables of Jesus are always earthly stories with heavenly meanings. So what is the heavenly meaning of this earthly story for today?

The key to the story is the contrast between those who came at the last hour and those who came at the first hour. Those who came at the last hour were given a full day's wage.

Those who were given a full days wage at the last hour felt that their wage was undeserved, unearned and a wonderful gift from the owner. The wage was a gift, a surprise, a wonderful delight. And there are Christians who feel that God's generosity to them is unearned, undeserved, and they are surprised at the generosity of God. Such Christians have this attitude that life has been a wonderful gift from God such as these workers who came to work for only one hour and had received a full blessing from God.

Meanwhile, there are other religious people who were there at six o'clock in the morning and they worked all day long. They were born into the Christian faith; they were baptized into the Christian faith; they went to Sunday School; they went to Youth Group; they did confirmation; they worked in the Altar Guild; they sang in the church choir; they served on the church council; they came to church every Sunday. And they knew in their hearts that God owed it to them. They had the inner attitude: if anyone deserved to be blessed by God, they did for they had been faithful to God and his church all of their lives. God: I deserve your blessing. I have earned your blessing because of my faithful behavior to you and the church throughout the years.

So this parable is one of the many contrast parables and teachings of Jesus.

Jesus said those who are last with an attitude of thanksgiving shall be first, and those who think they are first shall be last.

Tell me, what did you do yesterday to deserve to be given the gift of life today? What did you do yesterday that was so good that you deserved to live today? To wake up, brush your teeth, have breakfast, see your family, come to church, being with nice people: what did you do yesterday on Saturday that you deserved to be alive in Sunday?

I have a friend who faced surgery several years ago, and it happened suddenly. He didn't have time to emotionally prepare for the surgery. He went to the doctor who sent him directly to the hospital and in hours, he had open heart surgery. This man was grateful for his surgery, his successful life, the extra years that had been given to him. But he also said that he was sad that he was not able to express his love to his children before that critical moment of surgery. He had wanted to tell his children but he didn't. There wasn't time. Months passed; years passed; a decade passed. One day, he was at his doctor's office only to discover that he needed surgery again. Only, this time, he had two days to prepare. He had each child, now adults, come into his hospital room and talk privately with him. He wanted each child, now an adult, to know that he felt this past decade of life were extra years that had been given to him by God. Not only the past ten years, but his whole life had been a gift of God, that they, his children, had been a total gift of God. That God had given him his children, his wife, his family, his work, his faith in Christ. That God had given him an abundant life and that God would give him eternal life as well. He wanted his kids to know how he felt. He wanted to tell his children these things ten years ago, and now he had a second chance to do it. And so he told them, each of them, one by one. It was very emotional, and his wife left the room because she couldn't handle it.

This man expressed what God wants. Deep down inside, all people have this attitude that life is a gift. Life itself, the abundant life, eternal life, it is all a gift. It is not that God owes us anything.

Jesus tells many stories that contrast. For example, the prostitutes and the Pharisees. Jesus liked and appreciated the prostitutes. Jesus loved those people, especially those people who had grown up on the streets and been abused by other people. These women were surprised that Jesus had such affection and love for them. Down deep in their emotions, they knew they did not deserve it. The Pharisees, on the other hand, knew that they deserved God's blessings and love. They knew that they were "bar mitvahed." They knew the Old Testament backward and forward; they tithed; they observed all the special worship services; they were in their synagogues every Friday night. They deserved the blessings and honor from God.

Another contrast. The one leper and the other nine lepers. All ten lepers were healed. Only one came back and said to Jesus, "Thank you for healing me. I did not deserve your healing. You were so gracious in healing me, a great sinner. I am surprised that I am well." The other nine lepers said, "Glad that we are healed. We need to go home and see what is happening around the house. We expected healing, and it happened to us. Back to home. Back to work." Healing was no big deal to the nine lepers. Today we find similar attitudes when people say, "I have good health insurance. Good doctors. Good medical care. I am part of a healing world." They experience healing but show no appreciation to God for the miracle of healing given to them.

Another contrast. The sinner and the publican. The sinner, who gets down onto his knees and prays up to God, saying, "I don't deserve your forgiveness. What I have done is wrong. Please God, give me your forgiveness and your Presence." On the other hand, there is the publican who says, "I have been attending synagogue all my life. God, I appreciate your forgiveness. I know you are in the forgiveness business. It is no big deal to you. I have heard about your forgiveness all my life and I am expecting your forgiveness."

Another contrast. In the parable of younger brother and older brother. The younger son who had run away to the far country. "O Father, I sinned greatly, ran away, consumed your inheritance, and now am coming home. I deserve nothing. … What? You are killing the fatted calf for me? Celebrating that I have come back to you?" The older brother thought and felt: "Father, I have stayed home with you my whole life. I am a loyal son who has done what you wanted me to do. I expect your blessing."

Another contrast. The sheep and the goats. The sheep. "Why did I get into heaven? What did I do to deserve this gift? Your gift of eternal life is such a surprise?" God says, "Well, you were kind to those in prison, the hungry, the homeless, the stranger." The sheep: "I don't know about that. I don't know why I am in heaven. I am so surprised that I am here." The goats said: "We were good all of our lives. We gave money to world hunger and supported orphans in Haiti. We deserved to go to heaven. What is this about departing from me, you evil doers. I was not an evil doer."

In many of Jesus' stories there is this contrast between these people and those people. These people who understand that all of life and forgiveness, the abundant life and the eternal life, that all of this is a gift from God, undeserved, unearned and a surprise. And those people have the attitude that I expected it, that I deserved it, that I earned it. Pay me my full day's wage.

I don't know about you, but I know about me. Someday I will die and come up to those pearly gates, knock on the door, and if they open the door, I will be very pleased. I will walk inside and say, "O, even Pastor O'Neal is here. My, my, my. Look whose here. What a surprise. So many surprises. I will walk around and everybody I meet will say, "Surprise. I didn't deserve it.." I will be so glad that Peter will not say to me, "This way to the exit, downstairs to you know where, with a flame of fire on the exit sign."

The same is true with you. When you come to that moment and you know on the door to eternal life, and the door opens up for you, you will breathe a sigh of relief, peek in and say, "It is really nice in there. Thank you Jesus for allowing me in."

In conclusion, I would like to tell a story about Simon Peter and Dismas, the thief on the cross.

Simon Peter, the big disciple, and Dismas, the thief on the cross, both died and went up to heaven. They both knocked on the door and they both got into heaven. But, up in heaven, they both lived on the same street. Simon Peter lived on the same street with Dismas, the thief on the cross. Peter was honked off and was not pleased with this situation.

Well, one day, God came walking by and Peter decided to ask God about it. He said, "You know God, Dismas and I are living on the same street here in heaven and both having similar houses. I want you to know that I left everything for you. I left my fishing nets for you, my occupation. My boat, my nets. I left my good wife. I left my children. I gave all of this up and I followed you my whole adult life and I got crucified upside down at the end of my life in Rome. Dismas here, he wasn't a Christian for even fifteen minutes. And here we are: on the same street in heaven. I don't get it."

God said, "Come on, Peter get off it. Your fishing nets were filled with holes. Your fishing boat was falling apart and not really safe. You know very well your kids were rebellious teenagers that you were trying to get away from. Besides, your wife was quite a nag and you wanted to get out of the house and away from her nagging. And you were crucified by the Roman government because they wanted to kill you. So don't give me this 'holier than thou' stuff Peter, because I know you better than that. I knew your heart then and now."

Yes, both Peter and Dismas were received by grace as a gift, undeserved, unearned, and they received their gift as a surprise.

Jesus. I love the stories of Jesus because they are never about church. The parables of Jesus are never about choirs and candles and canticles. The parables of Jesus are never about preachers or prayers or prophets. His parables are about real life.

Jesus told this great story about this wine grower who had to get some workers. He got the first set of workers at six o'clock in the morning and they worked all day in his vineyards. There were others who came at five o'clock in the afternoon and they worked for only one hour and the owner gave a fully days wage of one hundred bucks. Those who received the money were surprise, amazed and pleased with the gift to them. Those who worked all day grumbled at the owner's generosity. I love the story.

Do you understand this riddle of the kingdom of God? I think you do.

Years have gone by and I have been a pastor and a human being for a long time. When I came to this church nearly thirty years ago, I had black hair and was probably twenty pounds lighter. My body was healthier then than today. The years have gone by, and I know this for sure: that everything in my life is a gift from God. Absolutely everything. My wife, my family, my job, you. Life, the abundant life, eternal life. Of this I am sure: that everything is a gift. What a surprise. So many surprises that life has given.

Amen. 

Meditation on Matthew 20:1-16

by Saint Pope Pius X

"Are you envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:16)

So God owns a vineyard and decides to hire people at different points and pay the same wage. In our society that would spell lawsuit. But God works on a different economic model. Where most business transactions in the world are driven by a concern for profit, God's concern is generosity. It doesn't matter when you decided to join the workforce; what matters is that you joined up at all. God is so generous that he would rather have us come late than not show up at all.

We who have been working in the field of the Lord for a while can be quick to judge the latecomers. Perhaps a new parishioner volunteers to help teach CCD and gets more attention for his new ideas than you have received for all the years you have put in. Perhaps someone from a different faith tradition has converted and is filled with a zeal that makes you uncomfortable. Or perhaps a new, young pastor is assigned to your parish, and he upsets the status quo with his approach to liturgy or evangelization.

But today's Gospel reading asks us to embrace God's economy of salvation. He doesn't look at formulas, past practices, or current expectations as much as he looks at the heart. He is more than happy to welcome anyone who joins him in the vineyard, be it day or evening or even the last hour. He is so happy, in fact, that he has no problem giving them the same pay that he promised to those who have been faithful, longtime workers in the vineyard.

The real issue isn't one of payment - whether it's money, recognition, or some other reward. The real issue is the vineyard. As Jesus said in another passage, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:36). All around us, people waiting to be shown the gospel in action. In our neighborhoods, at work, even in our families, people are ready to hear the good news about Jesus, but there's no one available to help them. No wonder God is eager for people to join him in the fields! May we have the same attitude.

"Father, help me be just as generous as you are with all those who are joining you in the vineyard!"

Source: The Word Among Us

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

What was Jesus trying to teach us in this parable? Some think the point is that we'll all have the same reward in heaven no matter how long or hard we work for the Lord on earth. But that can't be right, because the Bible teaches that each person will be rewarded individually, according to his own labor (see 1 Corinthians 3:8).

The best way to interpret this parable is to consider the context in which it was spoken. Notice that Jesus told this parable right after Peter had asked what reward he and the other disciples would receive for giving up everything to follow Jesus. Jesus promised him that they would be abundantly rewarded in heaven for the earthly sacrifices they made for His cause. In fact, He promised that "everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life" (Matthew 19:29).

The lesson of this parable is that God rewards us based upon the opportunities that He gives us. The later workers would have been willing to go to work earlier, but they were not given the opportunity by the employer.

Had you been given a lot of money, you may have been willing to give a lot of money away to the poor. But if God gave you only a little money, you were not given the opportunity to give away lots of money. Still, if you are faithful with the small opportunities that God gives you, God will reward you with just as much as someone who was faithful with large opportunities that God gave them. He is perfectly fair.

Q. Jesus concluded the parable of the vineyard workers by saying, "And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then" (Matthew 20:16). In light of the parable, can you describe someone who might be first now but last in God's kingdom, and vice versa?

A. Some who are faithful with the small opportunities that God gives them, now "last" in the eyes of people, might receive more reward than one who is "first" in the eyes of people but who is unfaithful with the bigger opportunities God has given him.

Application:

Are you being faithful with the opportunities God has given you?

Source: Family Style Devotions

St. Peter and St. Paul, the Fathers of Great Rome

by Ben Akers

Peter and Paul, the Fathers of great Rome,
Now sitting in the Senate of the skies,
One by the cross, the other by the sword,
Sent to their thrones on high, to Life's eternal prize.

Elpis, the wife of Boethius, sings the praises of St. Peter and St. Paul in her Latin poem, Decora lux aeternitatis. In another translation of this hymn, these two apostles are referred to as the "twin founders of Rome." This historical allusion recalls the legend of the founding of the city of Rome by the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. Their city matured into an Empire that was one of the most powerful civilizations in human history. Yet over 800 years from the founding of the city of Rome, another set of brothers, Peter and Paul, not natural brothers, but united by the bonds of the Spirit in Christ, laid a foundation of a new civilization which would outlast and outshine the Roman Empire.

Early Christian writers often contrasted Peter and Paul with Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus. According to the ancient Roman myth, Rome was violently established when Romulus killed his brother as they laid the city's walls. In comparison, Peter and Paul built up the civilization of love found in the Church with brotherly affection. The Roman Empire, in nascent form at the time of the twin founders, would rule the world through fear and violence under the shroud of the pax romana. Peter and Paul would set the example for the Church to serve the world through faith and charity under the mantle of the pax Christi. The spiritual kingdom of the Church would far surpass the boundaries of time and space to which the Roman Empire had aspired. As noted by Pope St. Leo the Great, the Roman Empire which was the great teacher of error became the disciple of Truth under the guidance of the two great apostles, Peter and Paul.

Through preaching truth in word and practicing charity in deed, Peter and Paul re-founded the city of Rome for Christ. It was their brotherhood established in Christ which produced their fruitful collaboration. Their friendship seemed unlikely since Peter served as the leader of the Church while Paul was oppressing the Church. This seemingly insurmountable obstacle was removed by Christ's direct intervention. Paul, the former persecutor of the Church, became a member of the persecuted Church.

We do not know how many times the two great apostles met one another. It seems that the first visit between them took place three years after Paul's conversion to Christianity. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul recounts that he went to visit Cephas in Jerusalem for 15 days (cf. Gal 1:18). The Greek word used by Paul for his visit, historeō, has a rich meaning and carries the connotation of seeing, observing, and inquiring. Its root is related to the English word "history" and has the sense of gathering data. We do not know what they discussed on this visit but perhaps Paul went to ask Peter to relate all the details of Christ's life that he could remember since Paul had never met Jesus before the Resurrection. Certainly, Paul wanted to spend time observing the way Peter lived out his life in discipleship to Christ.

Again, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul mentions another visit between the two 14 years after this first encounter, perhaps at the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Gal 2:1). Paul came to Jerusalem to give his presentation of the gospel message to Cephas, James, and John, the "pillars" of the Church, to verify that he had not been preaching in vain (cf. Gal 2:9) and receives the handshake of fellowship from the other apostles. Even though Peter and Paul were to continue in their mission to preach the good news to both Jews and Gentiles, Paul was confirmed in his special mission to the Gentiles as Peter was confirmed in his preaching to the Jewish people (cf. Gal 2:7). Oftentimes this is depicted in art with Peter crowned for his gathering members of the Church from the circumcised (ecclesia ex circumcision) and Paul crowned for his efforts in collecting souls from the Gentiles (ecclesia ex gentibus).

The last Scriptural record of an encounter between the two is also found in the letter to the Galatians. At the council of Jerusalem, Peter made a judgment that Gentile converts to Christianity would not be bound to observe Jewish kosher laws. However, when Peter is in Antioch with Paul he began to spend too much time with a group of Jewish converts to Christianity who believed that the Gentiles were obliged to observe Jewish dietary laws. In charity, Paul publicly admonishes Peter for his actions (cf. Gal 2:11). Out of love, Paul challenges Peter's deeds. Often this scene is over emphasized by those pitting Peter and Paul against one another. Rather, it should be read as a passage demonstrating true fraternal correction. Because of the bonds of friendship forged in the love of Christ, Paul objects to Peter's actions. Paul is concerned with Peter's deeds not his doctrine. Peter is failing to practice what he preaches and is not giving the true witness of his life along with the witness of his words. An admonishment like this could rupture any friendship. However, a relationship rooted in Christ, like the bond of Peter and Paul, can grow, like theirs continues to do.

According to early Christian traditions, Peter and Paul met again in Rome under the persecution of Nero. They were imprisoned together in the Tullianum, Rome's oldest prison reserved for the greatest enemies of the state. For nine months, Peter and Paul pray, preach, and prepare for their birth into eternal life. Little is known about this period of their lives but it must have been a time of grace for the friends to spend so much time together discussing the things of God. Artists have rightfully been captivated by the final embrace between Christian brothers as each goes off to give the ultimate testimony of their earthly life. Peter was crucified upside down on the western side of the Tiber River and Paul was beheaded on the eastern side perhaps in God's Providence so that both sides of the river, the whole city, might be sanctified by their blood.

Since the first Rome was founded on fratricide, Rome needed to be re-founded as a Christian city in fraternal love. Elpis continues her hymn in praise of the great apostles Peter and Paul by extolling the great city of Rome.

O happy Rome! Who in thy martyr princes' blood,
A twofold stream, art washed and doubly sanctified.
All earthly beauty thou alone outshinest far,
Empurpled by their outpoured life-blood's glorious tide.

The blood of the brothers united in Christ serves as the seed of the Church which will grow in time. We sing their praises together, according to Tertullian, because they "poured forth all their teaching along with their blood." Their witness in teaching and blood is what truly makes Rome the urbs sacra and urbs aeterna. It was their martyrdom in Rome that at last led to the unending reunion between Peter and Paul in the true Holy and Eternal City, the Heavenly Jerusalem. For eternity, they are united with one another and with their Redeemer who called them both to the great mission of bringing the gospel to the entire world.

Source: Crisis Magazine

Family Special: Hoping for Home

by Melissa Kruger

I stare out, glancing at the trees in my backyard. I soak in the scene before me, wanting to capture the moment. In three short weeks, this view will no longer be mine. I will no longer have access to this place I now call home. Boxes slowly are piling up around me, crowding our rooms, crowding my mind. So much to do, so much to do.

Yet, at the window I pause. This view has been mine for eight years. That's nearly 3000 evenings of washing dishes and watching. Watching my children laugh and swing as the sun sets. Watching the birds' fly, gather food, and rest. Watching the trees bloom, burst with color, and grow barren once more. Somehow, I thought I owned this little view. Yet, I am realizing more and more, I never really own anything. I simply steward what is given.

All that is mine will one day belong to someone else.

One simple thought that changes everything. Life slowly passes and then suddenly and swiftly begins to fly by. The items we think we own are simply given to us for the journey. Even our relationships are subject to the changing tides of life. I no longer have chubby cheeked babies to cuddle or diapers to change. Where did they go?

With every passing year I say good-bye to some part of my children that is lost as they grow. And with every year I gain some new part as I watch God unveil who He is making each of them to be. Slowly He uncovers and reveals the mystery of His plan. I do not own my children anymore than I own my home. I simply steward what it is given.

I want to grasp and hold on to these moments. I want to welcome new memories without the sadness of saying good-bye to passing days. Yet, in perfect harmony we always seem to be in the process of losing and gaining. Holding on and letting go. Speeding up and slowing down. Glancing back and looking forward. Already having, but not yet obtaining. If I cling to what is lost, I miss the joy of what is given. I am a creature bound for eternity, living within the confines of time. All my days were written before one of them came to be. Even my time is not my own. I simply steward what is given.

In the midst of a world where homes come and go, children grow up and change, friendships ebb and flow, and time passes with increasing speed, the Lord is the only unchanging presence in life. He is an anchor that holds, a foundation that is firm, and a rock on which we can stand. No other person, place, or thing can give us such a promise:

"Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

He also gives us the hopeful truth that in our waiting and wanting something better is yet to come:

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." John 14:1-3

As I am preparing for another temporary home, He is preparing for me an eternal dwelling. This future reality supplies present joy. One day, He will return and take me home. No boxes to pack and unpack, no moving vans required. He has made all the arrangements and secured the way. Oh, how I await that day! The ebb and flow of changing seasons and circumstances will cease and the unending song of joy will begin.

About The Author:

Melissa Kruger serves as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of 'The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World' (Christian Focus, 2012).

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Family Special: A Song for Your Heart

By Rebecca Hagelin

Culture Challenge of the Week: Exclusive Christianity

Christianity is the most inclusive religion the world has ever known.

Despite the "bad" rap - both earned and unearned - that Christianity often gets as a religion that is reserved for only "church" people, or Western people, or whatever - the Bible makes it crystal clear that true Christianity, when preached like Jesus preached, is the "big tent" of all faiths.

The familiar image of a judgmental, mean, religion has often been sadly "earned" by the way many of us as Christians live out our faith - and I include myself in that indictment. We are imperfect. We stumble on our words when explaining what we believe. We lash out, act hateful, and mess up all the time. Sadly, if we aren't humble and honest about our failings, all some people see in us is hypocrisy. If we don't share about the time we spend on our knees asking for God's forgiveness, or if we don't extend that same forgiveness to others when we are wronged, then all some people know of us is our ugliness.

Yet, even then - amidst our imperfections, Christ loves, forgives and still accepts us. This is the good news - the real Gospel of Christianity. I see and feel it in my own life, and the Bible breathes it in nearly every story. Filled with historical figures and thousands of examples - from kings, to peasants - the beauty and message of the Bible is how God works through the lives of imperfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. Over and over we see the story of redemption. Of how men and women from all walks of life are accepted and redeemed by Jesus.

Yes, part of Christianity's image problem also comes from those who intentionally mischaracterize Christianity. Call them the "enemies" of Christ, if you will.

But even then, Christians are called by scripture to remember that we, too, were once enemies of Christ. Yet, in his infinite grace, love and mercy for all of us, Jesus died and paid for our sins before we even cared enough or knew enough to be interested in his message.

How To Save Your Family: Practice the Truth of God's Infinite Love

The book of Romans is an awesome place to be reminded of how accepting Jesus is. Romans chapter 5 is one of my favorites. Take a peek at chapter 5, verses 6-10:

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"

The Bible tells us - and shows us through the people it talks about - that Jesus Christ accepts Jews and Gentiles; prostitutes and kings; liars and thieves; homosexuals, adulterers, persecutors, the prideful. He opens his arms to men, women, children, and doubters. To the rich and the poor. To the famous and the quiet, unknown person just going about his daily life. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

I love that word, "whoever"! It means anyone and everyone who believes! Any race. Any nationality. Any age. Any style. Whoever! We see this unique, spectacular truth in the book of John several times, including this beautiful passage from John 1:12: "Yet to ALL who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God..."

He allows us to come "as we are" - and He then changes us, from the inside out! The thief on the cross. The prostitute at the well. The rich man. The beggar. The crippled man. The Pharisee. The little children. Over and over again the Bible shows us how Jesus Christ invites ALL who believe in Him to share in the fellowship of faith!!

Make it your purpose in 2014 to share the amazing story of the infinite love of Christ that is available to all. It is the greatest story the world has ever known - and it is a story that is still being written. You can decide to have a part in it too. When I was a young child I learned a hymn that reminds me to this day that God accepts me just as I am - and everyone else who believes in him too. Written in 1835 by Charlotte Elliott, here is most of the song - pray that this will be the song of your heart in 2014:

"Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

[Editor's Note: This hymn was immortalized by Rev. Billy Graham. At the end of his crusades, the choir sings this hymn as an alter call. When I hear this hymn, I visualize the prodigal son returning to the Father. Yes, our heavenly father is waiting to receive us 'just as we are.']

Source: How to Save Your Family Blog

Health Tip: The Healing Power Is In The Word

by Frank Broom

All the healing power you need is in the word of God. Sometimes people overlook the word and ask God to send the power, but he has already sent it by his word. Let me give you a few examples. When the children of Israel was in the desert serpents came upon them and were biting them and killing them so they asked Moses to pray to God to take away the serpents and God said to Moses, "Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." And as a result it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. And what did the people do as a result, they started worshiping the pole. They thought the power was in the pole, but it wasn't it was in the words.

Another example is there was a Syrian captain by the name of Naaman which had a case of leprosy which he went to see the man of God to be healed and Elisha sent word to him to dip 7 times in the Jordan River and his flesh would come again. But, he got angry because he wanted Elisha to come out and call on the name of the Lord his God and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper. Then he didn't want to dip in Jordan because it was muddy, but it wasn't about where he dipped it was about what the word said and the word said dip in Jordan. And when he dipped 7 times in the Jordan River his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Notice when they did what he said they got the results he said. Not one person failed to get what God said they would get.

And God has left instructions for you to follow that will lead you to healing. In Proverbs 4:20-22 God says, "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." That word health is translated medicine, remedy, and cure. God is telling you that his word put in your heart (spirit) will bring the healing you need. Again, it's the word that brings healing to your body. The word has the power in it. The word is anointed and when you follow God's instructions it releases it's power to you. And just like the children of Israel and that Syrian captain you follow his instructions properly and you will have to receive your healing. As Psalm 107:20 says, "He sent his word, and healed them and delivered them from their destructions." Don't give up for God is faithful. I know by personal experience that his word works.

Recipe: Peanut Chikki

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

Ingredients

500 gram Peanut
400 gram Jaggery / Sugar
50 g Butter / Ghee

Directions

1. Heat a pan. Roast the peanut. Remove the skin and crush it.

2. Heat another pan and melt jaggery/sugar and butter in it until it becomes brown in color.

3. Add the peanut and mix thoroughly.

4. Grease a tray with butter and then pour the mixture in it. Cool it.

5. Cut it into bite size pieces. Serve as a dessert.

[Not recommended for people with diabetes.]

Yield. 8 Servings

News: Report on the Situation in North Iraq
Situation in Northern Iraq compiled from various Sources.

Sinjar District

June 21, 2014

Militants have threatened to attack the center of Sinjar District with mortars because it received the displaced Shiites from Tel Afar.

Hamdaniya District (Baghdeda)

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, gunmen attacked the village of AlShamsiyat in the Alhamdania District and arrested 25 village elders and young men who are Turkmen; their whereabouts is still unknown.

Armed militants raided the village of Qaratapa Arabs to search for a person wanted by them, but they did not find him.

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, the insurgents raided the village of AlKahara in the Nimrud Municipality in Alhamdania District to search for the Director of the District, Mr. Ahmed Obaid, and one of his relatives from the military leaders named Khaled Kosofi, but they were not found, and as a result the militants bombed their homes.

Utility Services in Hamdaniya, Bartella, Karamles, Bashiqa and other villages

ISIS has severely limited the electric service to Hamdaniya (AINA June 21, 2014). The available electric power is first used for water purification projects and pumping, and what is left is distributed to residents at a rate of just one hour per day.

Mosul

June 21, 2014

The water supply in Mosul is under the control of ISIS, it is only available for a few hours per day. This is the sole source of water that feeds Hamdaniya, Bartella and Ba'shiqah municipalities. The number of people who depend on this is more than 350,000. The populations has been forced to depend on wells and many of these are not suitable for drinking.

June 25, 2014

There is a job paralysis and a halt in all financial and banking activity as ISIS has forcefully prevented all female employees from working. All members of minority groups have been fired from public service positions.

June 27, 2014

Reliable sources report that gunmen rounded up many of the security agency members of the police and army and others in Sabrine Mosque and asked them to declare what they call "repentance" and give surrender their weapons and other military equipment. After doing so, all the prisoners were tried and sentenced according to Sharia Law and executed.

A resident of Mosul who fled with his family to the Nineveh plain reported that ISIS members told him by telephone that his home in Mosul had been confiscated for one of the "princes" of the Militia. He also added that there are many more similar cases.

ISIS has prevented delivery of government food rations to Tel Kepe and other areas not under their control.

Cars with large loudspeakers roamed the streets of Mosul telling people that the judgements that will apply in the city are according to Sharia laws and no other laws will apply.

There has been a significantly pronounced decrease in the movement of women and children within the city. Gunmen have prevented all employees in the city from attending their jobs.

There has been a significant rise in food prices. Fruit and vegetables have become very scarce. ISIS has ordered that no ice blocks are to be sold.

Residents continue to leave the city and are having great difficulty reaching safe areas.

The Nineveh Plain

On June 21, 2014 ISIS destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary at the Immaculate Church of the Highest in the neighborhood of AlShafa in Mosul, as well as the statues of Mullah Osman Al-Musali and the poet Abu Tamam (AINA 2014-06-19).

ISIS militants ordered Christian, Yazidis and Shiite government employees not to report for work in Mosul.

Shiite Turkmen in the villages of AlKibba and Shraikhan fled after receiving threats from ISIS.

June 25, 2014

The suffering of the residents of the Nineveh plain has been exacerbated since the fall of Mosul to the militants. Residential neighborhoods receive only one hour per day of electricity while only 10 to 15 megawatts of energy reaches the Nineveh Plains and that is devoted mostly to hospitals and water projects. An agreement with the Government of the region to provide 40 megawatts has not been honored.

Militants are still in control of Hamdaniya water project and are only allowing 90 minutes of pumping through two pumps. This situation has intensified the suffering of the people in Hamdaniya, Bartella and Ba'shiqah municipalities, particularly with the sharp rise in temperature.

In the district of Tel Kepe, all residents receive domestic water for only two or three hours per day. The source of drinking water is under the control of the militants in the area of ??Rashidiya. The people of Tel Kepe also receive one hour of electricity per day and they are unable to use their private generators for lack of fuel. The electricity shortage is expected to worsen in the next few days.

The accumulation of trash in residential areas is significantly noticeable because most sanitation employees are not working and fuel shortages. Doctors have warned of the possibility of the spread of epidemics as a result of the decomposition and decay of the waste.

June 27, 2014

Electric and water service is still severely limited. All districts and municipalities in the Nineveh Plain only obtain about one hour of electricity per day, and these areas suffer from lack of water because of ISIS control of AlRashidiya and AlSlamiya water projects that provide the Northern and Southern Nineveh Plain with potable water.

The villages of AlKibba and Shraikhan within the Tel Kepe district came under attack on the night of June 25 by insurgents who targeted the residents of the village, forcing people to escape on foot. A number of the residents were killed and many men, young and old, were arrested, their fate is still unknown.

Residents who fled from Baghdede have not been allowed to enter the Dohuk Province on June 25, forcing these families to stay in the open or to go to other towns in the Nineveh Plain.

Mental Health

June 25, 2014

Monitors of this situation have noted a high frequency of anxiety, fear and frustration as a result of the exceptional circumstances that prevailed in the region, the scarcity of electricity and water and the surge in fuel prices. There are reports of high anxiety and unrest which is causing some people to leave the affected areas.

Government Assistance

June 25, 2014

The Ministry of Displacement and Migration embarked this morning on distributing aid including food items and furniture to more than 250 displaced families that came to Hamdaniya District.

Other Cases

June 25, 2014

We have been informed by reliable sources in the Makhmor District that gunmen told all the Arab service employees and security forces to leave Makhmor District and not attend work, but to return to their Arab villages, even though Makhmour District is still under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Economic situation

June 21, 2014

The economic situation in the District suffers from volatility and decline. A number of displaced families visited the Department of Immigration and Displacement for aid. The registered number for this aid reached hundreds by Saturday June 21, 2014 and the number continues to increase.

Sources:

1. Assyrian International News Agency. © 2014, All Rights Reserved.

2. The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization

The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO), an NGO based in Baghdad, Iraq, monitors the human rights situation in Iraq, particularly of minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Shabak. Founded in 2005, HHRO works for human rights observation and documentation, in addition to implementation of humanitarian relief in Iraq.

HHRO works with various Iraqi and international institutions on variety of issues.

Like Jews Before Them, Iraq's Christians May Face Extinction After Jihadist (ISIS) Invasion

By Sean Savage

JNS.org: Jun 23, 2014: For most Westerners, Iraq is a foreboding and dangerous place that is filled with extremists and daily violence. Yet as little as 75 years ago Iraq was a vibrant country that was home to many different ethnic and religious minorities, including large Jewish and Christian populations. But the latest round of violence spearheaded by the jihadist terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is driving through the heart of Iraq to the capital of Baghdad and inflicting medieval-style Islamic justice on anyone in its path, might be the last gasp of Iraq's ancient Christian community, which faces extinction like Iraq's Jewish community before it.

"Iraq used to be a beautiful mosaic made of many different faiths, including Judaism," Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, told JNS.org. Like the Jewish people, the Christians of Iraq have a long and storied history that can be traced back to the very foundations of human civilization. Most Iraqi Christians belong to an ethnic group known as the Assyrians. The Assyrian people consider themselves to be direct descendants of the numerous ancient Mesopotamian civilizations such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. "The Assyrians, also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs, are the children of Sumerians, the original people of Iraq," Taimoorazy said.

Mentioned numerous times in the bible from Genesis and onward, the peoples of Mesopotamia were key in formation of Judeo-Christian history. It is the land from which the biblical patriarch Abraham hailed. And later on, the Assyrians played a notable role in Jewish history, as they conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and expelled the Jewish people to Mesopotamia. That led to the creation of Iraq's Jewish community, which continued until the 20th century. Additionally, the Mesopotamians' successors, the Babylonians, were the ones who later destroyed the First Temple in 587 BCE.

Christianity was first brought to modern-day Iraq by Jesus's Apostle St. Thomas during the 1st century CE, making it one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Christians formed the majority of the country's population until the 14th century. The region's Christians have subdivided since then into a number of churches, with the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East forming the largest denominations. Today, the Assyrians are based in northern Iraq's Nineveh plains, where they have fought to preserve the customs, culture, and languages of the area's past, despite facing numerous waves of persecution, mass killings, and expulsions since the invasion of Islam in the 7th century CE.

"For hundreds of years Christians have been marginalized in the Islam-dominated part of the world. After the fall of Saddam, the situation has been devastating for Christian Assyrians and other minorities such as Mandeans and Yezidies," Nuri Kino-a Swedish-Assyrian Christian who is an independent investigative reporter, filmmaker, author, and Middle East and human rights analyst-told JNS.org.

"More than 60 churches have been attacked and bombed. Rapes, kidnappings, robberies and executions [are all prevalent]," Kino added. Kino, who has been in constant communication with friends on the ground in Iraq, said that these attacks are all a part of daily life for Assyrians "who don't have their own militia or any neighboring country to back them up."

According to Taimoorazy, who has also been in regular contact with a number of people in Iraq, the situation has deteriorated rapidly since the jihadist invasion. Taimoorazy said that "water and electricity have been cut, there is a shortage of cooking gas, clean water is running out and there is a fear of an outbreak of illness where the refugees have fled."

"This is a complete disaster for the wellbeing of our nation," she added.

Before 2003, it was estimated that around 130,000 Christians lived in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. But only about 10,000 remained before the recent ISIS invasion a week ago. Now, residents say around 2,000 Christians remain in the city. Many have gone to the surrounding countryside or to Kurdistan. Additionally, many are seeking to flee the country altogether.

"Mosul is also very important for Christians, the prophet Jonah is buried there and also Abraham is supposed to be born in that part of Iraq," Kino said,

"I have spoken to more than 20 Assyrian refugees [in recent days]. They are all saying pretty much the same thing: ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group who preaches and demands Sharia laws. That means that Christians have to pay a certain tax for protection, convert, or die," she said.

The latest attacks are nothing new for Assyrian Christians and other minorities. They have faced nearly a century of continuous assault on their way of life.

"We lost 75 percent of our nation during the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocide from 1914 through 1918," Taimoorazy said. This has accelerated over the last decade, where nearly two-thirds of Iraq's 1.5 million Christians have fled the country since 2003.

As the jihadist invasion continues, Iraq's Christian leaders fear that this may very well be the end of Christianity in Iraq. "After more than 2,000 years, during which we have withstood obstacles and persecutions, Iraq is today almost emptied of its Christian presence," Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad said in an interview with the international Catholic charity group 'Aid to the Church in Need'.

"We fear a civil war. If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians," added Syroub.

The modern persecution and expulsion of Iraq's Christian and other minorities draws many parallels to the waves of attacks on and eventual expulsion of Iraq's Jewish community during the mid-20th century, when nearly 135,000 Jews were forced to leave from 1948 onwards. Overall, nearly 900,000 Jews were expelled from their homes across the Middle East, many settling in Israel, Europe, and North America.

Similar to Iraq's Jews, who were targeted for their success and accused of supporting Israel, Christians in Iraq are also being targeted for their relative success and supposed ties to the West, especially the United States.

"The history of Jews and Christians in the Muslim dominated part of the world goes hand in hand. Massacres and atrocities to the members of the two religions have been going on for centuries," Kino told JNS.org. "It is very sad that the colorful and very cultivated Jewish community of Iraq vanished."

For Iraqi Christians-as well as those in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East-their ancient communities may soon also vanish, as many flee for safety in Europe and North America.

"At the current rate, with the mass exodus which is being witnessed by the world, the number of Christians left in the Middle East will be slim to none," Taimoorazy said.

Source: gospelherald.com

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