21 Sunday A: Who do you say I am? The Messiah


  Summary:

1.     Who Do People Say He Is?
2.     Who Do You Say He Is?
3.     What Are We Called to Do?

 
1.     Feedback – Communication
2.     Recognition – Messiah: Title ; Sacrifice
3.     Authority –Dependability – Rock


Gospel Text:  Matthew 16:13-20
Jesua questions peter
Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
This is a difficult passage for us Catholics to meditate on because in our Church it is nearly always read with an apologetic purpose – to reinforce (or persuade others of) our faith in the primacy of the Pope and the infallibility of his teaching office. The apologetic purpose is important but in meditation we go further and discover in the text a message that will help us grow spiritually and experience the work of God in our lives.
The passage tells the story in three stages:
– verses 13 to 16, the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples leading to Peter’s confession;
– verses 17 to 19, Jesus bequeaths his authority to Peter;
– verse 20, conclusion: Jesus gives them “strict orders” not to tell anyone he is the Christ.
At all three stages we can focus either (a) on Jesus or (b) on those he relates with.
–  Verses 13-16: Jesus is proclaimed to be “the Christ, the son of the living God”, but as always in the gospels we should not isolate him from our experience. The passage invites us to recognise in this incident similar experiences in our lives and in the lives of great people we have known – “anointed ones”, the “sons and daughters of the living God”.
So too we need not read the story of Jesus in a static way, as if he is settled in his identity. Once we choose to identify with his experience, we will naturally see him as making a journey to enter into his identity, and Peter as the one who affirms him on the way. This interpretation in no way takes away from Jesus’ divinity. It merely reminds us of the sacredness of the journey to self; we make the journey precisely because we are in the image and likeness of God.
Simple enough question ?
             Simple enough question ?
Interpreted in this perspective, the question “who do people say the Son of Man is?” tells us where Jesus is in his life’s journey. Caesarea Philippi is a watershed moment in his life; he feels the need to clarify where he is – has he established himself? communicated his  message? been who he is called to be? As always happens to us if we are honest in our self questioning as Jesus is, he is blessed to have someone like Peter, a “disciple”,  affirm him as “the Christ, the son of the living God”.
Peter on the other hand is at the stage where he knows he must take a stand on the master he is following. He must answer from the truth of himself, not “who do people say he is?” but “who do I say he is?”. We celebrate the person (it may be an event or God himself in a moment of prayer) who brings us to the point where we have to affirm the “lordship” of Jesus or someone (a cause) in which he is incarnate.
– Verses 17-20: Here is another watershed moment in Jesus’ life, when he becomes conscious that he has found someone to whom he can hand over his mission. We experience similar moments when, as parents, teachers, friends, leaders of political parties or social movements, we realise with great joy that someone is going to carry on our work. Every aspect of Jesus’ words is significant:
Peter the Keyman– He feels deep humility, an overwhelming sense of gratitude that this is the work not of flesh and blood but of God.
– He feels unbounded confidence in the future. This person is a sure foundation, a “rock”, and “the gates of the underworld” will not “hold out” against him or her.
– He is very happy to hand over his authority, to give this person “the keys of the kingdom”. The authority is practical – it includes both “binding and loosing.”
– He does this handing over with confidence too; whatever decision the “disciple” takes will be “considered” ratified “in heaven”.
Looking back on similar moments in our lives we may find that the “Peter” we celebrated later disappointed us – lost the vision, betrayed us, turned out to be corrupt. The subsequent disappointment does not however take away from the sacredness of the original experience.
It is a wonderful moment for Peter too. He experiences himself as receiving a mandate to bind and to loose with the confidence that whichever decision he takes will be ratified in heaven.
– Verse 20:  Here again we can focus on Jesus. He represents us when we realise that the truth of what we are about is something we can share only with our confidantes, not with everyone.
For the disciples it is the moment when they know with deep conviction (“gave them strict orders”) that they cannot reveal the revolutionary character of their leader or cause.

Scripture Prayer Reflection
“To have humility is to experience reality not in relation to ourselves but in its sacred independence.” …Dag Hammarskjold
Lord, many people today are drifting through life, unsure of their identity.
Remind them that your son Jesus too had to make the journey to being himself.
Send them humble companions like Simon Peter who will see them in their truth,
not replicas of anyone else, but your sons and daughters,
anointed by you for a particular mission in the world.
Pope FrancisLord, there was a time when we felt discouraged, wondering if our work was in vain.
Then we came to a place, our own Caesarea Philippi,
and we found that there were people who understood what we were about;
we knew at that moment that the cause we had given our lives for
was now on a solid foundation,
the forces of evil would not hold out against it,
and we could hand it over with confidence to our successors.
Lord, every once in a way you send us young people who are special to us
their teachers, parents or community leaders.
Whereas others have only a vague idea of the message we are trying to convey,
they understand it perfectly.
We experience them as a gift,
we know that it was not our hard work that revealed things to them;
it was you yourself who taught them.
Without being able to prove it, we know for certain that they will never fail us.
Thank you Lord, for these blessed ones.
“Under the pontificate of John Paul II the Church has discovered itself as a
companion in
humanity’s pilgrimage, 
no longer a fortress under siege.”  …Cardinal Koenig
Lord, we thank you that Jesus saw himself as a companion of his disciples.
He entered into dialogue with them,
asking them to share with him how they saw his mission.
Naturally they were surprised;
they were not accustomed to teachers who would relate to them like this,
and so they did not speak from their own conviction
but repeated what the learned people of the time were saying.
Jesus wanted them to share what was deep within them
because he knew that when people do that
it is not merely flesh and blood that is at work in them but you yourself.
And so their little community grew together,
built on the rock of trust and sharing a foundation so solid
that the gates of the underworld could never hold out against it.
Slaves wrested God from their captors.”  …Derek Walcott, Caribbean poet reflecting on a Third World culture finding itself
Lord, we thank you for sending us great artists who make us aware
that we have allowed others to keep us bound;
now we are set free and no power on earth can bind us again.
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul
  And sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”  …Emily Dickinson
Lord, we thank you for the wonderful gift of the sacrament of reconciliation.
We remember the times when the priest told us
that we were free from the bondage of our sins
and we knew that what was loosed there in the confessional
was loosed in your presence in heaven.
Lord, forgive us Church workers that we like to draw attention to ourselves,
arrogating to ourselves sacred titles like “prophet” or “anointed one”.
Help us to be humble like Jesus when he gave his disciples strict orders
not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We have gathered here as the disciples of Jesus, we declare that he is present among us, we are about to share his table. But who is the One we follow? That is the question that is posed in today’s gospel, and we hear Peter’s resounding answer: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.‘ Let us spend a moment in prayer and reflection, asking the Father to reveal to us now a deeper awareness of who it is in whose name we have assembled and into whose presence we have come.

Homily notes
1. There are, at least, three different directions that a homily based on today’s gospel can go down:
First, the confession of who Jesus is, and then the homily focuses on christology;
Second, who/what the church is that was founded on the apostles, and then the homily focuses on ecclesiology; or
Third, the focus is on Peter and / or the keys, and the memory of Rome and the papacy, and then the homily will have an apologetics or ecumenics focus because this Petrine ministry is an aspect of the church that is not just disputed with the churches of the Reformation, but with the ancient churches of the East (e.g. the Greeks and the Syrians) and of Africa (e.g. the Copts and the Ethiopians).
1. The problem is that all three of these themes have to be given attention in today’s liturgy; but if you try to give all equal prominence, then you overload the whole system. More pointedly, if in a homily of 7 minutes, or less, you try to cover all of them, then you will probably fail to communicate anyone of them adequately. The nature of human communications decrees that you choose one of the three possible di­rections and focus on it in the homily, and then let the rest of the liturgy draw attention to the other themes (e.g. The Preface of the Apostles can draw attention to the apostolic nature of the church).
2. I am opting in the rest of these notes for the theme of christology. My reason for this choice is that there are likely to be many people in an average congregation with a defective understanding of who we believe Jesus to be, and sound doctrine on this core of Christian faith (as this gospel itself makes clear) is the presupposition of concerns with ecclesiology or ecumenics.
Jesus today3. Let us begin, just as today’s gospel does, with a question. Who is Jesus? There are, of course, a raft of answers: some from those who dismiss him, some from those who are vaguely interested in him or in religion, and some from those who have encountered his message and have followed him in one way or another. It is this third group that are our concern. Jesus did not ask disciples an open question (e.g. what do you think people make of me? To which they might have replied: ‘Well, the Romans think you are just another Jewish hot head; while the priests in the temple think you are another heretic; while the followers think you are great!, but rather he asked them about who the followers – that is those who knew him as the Son of Man – thought he was. This is a question about the integrity of our belief and our preaching as his church.
4. The range of opinions (John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet) held by Jesus’s followers among those who first heard the gospel may be far closer to ways of viewing Jesus held in the average congregation today than you would expect!
5. The first position is that Jesus is another John the Baptist. Jesus was influenced by John; but while both proclaimed the closeness of the kingdom, they presented very different visions. John preached repentance, for the coming of the kingdom would be the great crunch when God would mete out his justice. Jesus came saying the kingdom was at hand when the Father would mete our forgiveness and mercy, and inaugur­ate the reign of peace and love. Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, and was criticised for this (Mt 9:10-11); John spent his time telling these people about the wickedness of their lives and warning them of the future retribution. Many then, and now, would prefer such a finger wagging, ‘Tell it to them straight,’ type of religious leader than the incarnation of the gentleness and forgiveness that is the Lord.
6. The second position is that Jesus is another Elijah. When we hear words like ‘lord’ we thing of a mighty leader who can march his men on to victory over opponents. If God is going to save his people, we sometimes imagine, the best way to do it would be with a great wonder-working person who can intervene, stop things happening, and get things moving. That was exactly how Elijah was remembered. When he took on the prophets of BaaI, they were roundly shown to be frauds through God’s power, gathered up and slaughtered’ and not one escaped’ (1 Kgs 18). This is a powerful type of saviour whom people must respect, and who shows who is really in charge. And, deep down, many of us would like Jesus, just now and then, to show the world just who is in charge. You may think this is not so; but consider the fact that the legend of St Patrick is based on him being another Elijah; while many private revelations (St Margaret Mary or Fatima) have elements of John the Baptist and Elijah bound up in them. But just as Matthew presents Jesus as very different to John, so also he presents him as very different to Elijah; at the moment of his arrest Jesus asks: ‘Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?’ Those who like an Elijah-style Christ would have had the twelve squadrons ‘buzz’ the scene, even if they do not go all the way and call in an air­strike!
7. The third position is that Jesus is just one more wise religious leader who calls or recalls people to the faith they already held. Jesus’s work was not just a ‘re-heating’ of the religious wisdom, but the establishment of a new community, a new covenant, a people intimate with the Father. Jesus is the ‘new wine’ (Mt 9:17) who has established the new relationship between us and the Father, and between us as sisters and brother.
8. This gentle, forgiving Christ offering us adoption by our loving Fatherm- so unlike the expectations of religious people then or now – is revealed to us, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father himself.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

The people who knew Jesus, including some of his disciples, believed him to be a great prophet, such as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But, when asked by Jesus to offer an opinion about his identity, Peter said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:16).
Jesus made clear that this was a particular grace from God which allowed Peter, from among all the apostles and disciples, to discern the true identity of Jesus. In this way, Peter announced his belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah who had come to deliver God’s people from the bondage of sin. Jesus was much more than a prophet, and Peter was divinely inspired to acknowledge this truth.
The public manifestation of Peter’s faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, was immediately rewarded by Christ who wanted Peter to know two facts.
First, he had been especially blessed by God in being given this knowledge.
jesus the anointed
Secondly, Peter was given a singularly important role in the infant Church: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven’
(Mt 16:18-19).
Thus we find an instance of the Old Testament custom of changing names at a pivotal moment in the salvation history of the Chosen People. For example, in the case of Abraham, we read: ‘You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations’ (Gen 17:5). Similarly, regarding Jacob, we read: ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel’ (Gen 32:28).
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (meaning rock), explaining that it would be upon the rock of Peter that the Church would be built. Just as the Father had given Peter special insight into the identity of Jesus, so Christ now delegated his own authority to Peter and his successors.
Interestingly, after giving authority to Peter, Jesus commanded his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. This command has been much debated because in other places in the gospels Jesus did not deny that he was the Messiah, most famously when speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. When she mentioned the Messiah, Jesus replied: I who am speaking to you, I am he’ (In 4:25).
There are several reasons why Jesus instructed Peter and the others to remain silent about his identity, not least to protect them from harm because, as subsequent verses indicate, they had not yet been prepared by Jesus for the persecutions to come. However, the important lesson for us in these verses is that here we are reminded of the supernatural origins of the papacy. Peter and those popes who followed him have their crucial leadership role in the Church by divine mandate.
Therefore, when the Pope speaks definitively (that is, finally) on matters of faith and morality, teaching something that must be held by all the faithful, Catholics are bound to obey and adhere to that teaching. This definite teaching need not always come in the form of a public pronouncement, but applies whenever the Pope is repeating teachings that have always been accepted by the Church from the earliest days. The Pope’s authority is limited, however, in that his office is one of guardianship. He is to guard, promote and teach the Christian faith but he is not authorised to add anything to it.
It is difficult being the Pope in the contemporary world when the teaching of Christ and the moral law often challenge modern fashions and trends. So let us pray for the Pope who is charged with upholding and defending the Church’s teachings.

For meditation
But you, who do you say I am? (Mt 16:15)
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Fr Donal Neary, S.J
Nothing but Jesus
We all need some statements like Peter’s that give a rock and a meaning to life, It gives us a clue of where we belong at deeper levels. We all need statements that express our faith in God. For Peter it was his faith in Jesus, the son of God. This would keep him going all of his life, even at times of unfaithfulness and dan­ger. He could never forget that he had said, ‘you are the Christ, the son of the living God’.


We might wonder who or what is a living God for us? Where we might put our basic trust? What is it that, if taken away, we would be lost without? We can give our lives to family, country, a political party, money. Some of these are worth our trust and some not so much.
We need the rock that Peter found in Jesus. He was called rock only because of his relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who calls forth our faith and love and gives our lives a huge meaning.
If s not that we have nothing but Jesus – if s that we can inte­grate all that is important in life within our trust in him. It is God who reveals Jesus to us.
We want to give this to our younger people ~ a rock they can stand on in life, which nothing can demolish. This is Jesus, and in him all is created.

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FROM THE CONNECTIONS:

THE WORD:

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter’s confession of faith is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus will now concentrate on preparing his disciples to take on the teaching ministry and leadership of the Church he will establish.
The scene of today’s Gospel, Caesarea Philippi, was the site of temples dedicated to no less than 14 different pagan gods, ranging from the Syrian god Baal to Pan, the Greek god of nature.  In the middle of the city was a great white temple built by Herod and dedicated to the “divinity” of Caesar (hence the name of the city).  In the midst of this marketplace of gods and temples, Jesus first indicates his plans and hopes for his church.
Jesus “sets up” Peter’s declaration of faith by asking his disciples what people are saying about him.  Many believed that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptizer or the long-awaited return of the prophets Elijah or Jeremiah (Malachi 4: 5-6), whose return would signal the restoration of Israel.  Simon Peter, however, has been given the gift of faith (“flesh and blood has not revealed this to you”) and unequivocally states that Jesus is the Messiah.
Jesus blesses Simon with the new name of “rock” (Kepha in Aramaic, Petros in Greek), indicating that his faith will be the foundation for Jesus’ new Church.  Peter is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (an image drawn from Isaiah 22: 15-25, today's first reading) and the mission to bring sins to consciousness and to proclaim to sinners the love and forgiveness of God.

HOMILY POINTS:
The question Jesus poses to Peter and his disciples is asked of us every minute of every day.  Every decision we make is ultimately a response to the question, Who do you say I am?  Our love for family and friends, our dedication to the cause of justice, our commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards, our taking the first step toward reconciliation and forgiveness, our simplest acts of kindness and charity declare most accurately and effectively our belief in the Gospel Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer.
Peter is the first of the disciples to grasp the divinity of Christ.  On the faith of Peter “the rock” Christ establishes his Church.  Peter becomes, then, the first stone in the foundation of the Church.  We who are baptized into the faith handed down to us by Peter and the apostles become stones of Christ’s new church; the faith we live and the hope we cherish in the empty tomb of Easter are the foundation of the Church of the Risen One.
The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” are entrusted by Christ not just to the institutional Church but to each one of us.  Christ has given every one of us a “key” to the kingdom: the means to “unlock” the presence of God in our world by our own efforts, however small and hidden, to realize God’s love in our midst.  Our “keys” may be patience and understanding, a talent or skill we possess that we can use to unlock a door or open a pathway enabling us and those we love and care about realize the kingdom of heaven here and now.

The only thing Kelli could offer
Kelli was a third-year medical student, on a rotation in oncology.  This particular day she was not her usual enthusiastic, upbeat self.  She was having doubts. 
“The only thing I have to offer is my compassion,” she confided to her supervisor.   “But now I wonder what my words can mean as I look at Sheila.  It’s all overwhelming.  I’m not sure I can keep doing this.”
Kelli’s supervisor understood; her doubts are an occupational hazard for doctors and nurses who treat the terminally ill. 
But over the next month, Kelli had several opportunities to practice her “only” contribution.
 
Sheila was the 35-year-old mother of four whose husband, Michael, was a nurse at Kelli’s hospital.  A persistent bout of “walking pneumonia” was finally diagnosed as metastic lung cancer.  Sheila began a demanding protocol of chemotherapy.  Sheila was able to share with Kelli the full range of emotions common to all who struggled with cancer: fear, anger, sadness, joy at small successes, and gratitude.  Kelli’s innate kindness and approachability helped Sheila get through those difficult weeks.
Another of Kelli’s patients was being treated for a condition called bronchiectasis.  Quite unexpectedly, his cough worsened and he went into respiratory distress, requiring him to be put on a ventilator.  The poor man was terrified as the medical team went to work.  Kelli stayed with him the whole time and explained every step of the procedure.
 
“Now, Mr. Bernard, I know this tube is uncomfortable, but we need it to help you breathe.  Hold my hand.  I’ll stay with you.”  And she did until he was settled and comfortable in the intensive care unit. 
Sheila’s husband, Michael, was on duty in ICU when Kelli and Mr. Bernard arrived.
Later in the day, at the end of rounds, Kelli and the other students were meeting with the supervising physician to review the day.  During the conversation, Michael poked his head into the room.
“Is Sheila alright?” the doctor asked, fearing the worst.
Michael seemed shaken and didn’t speak for a long time.
“I just wanted to tell you,” he began, “all of you, how much Sheila and I appreciate the care she’s getting.  It’s not just the medical stuff.  I mean that’s important, and we know she’s getting the best medical treatment available.  But’s it’s the way you take care of her — and me — that makes it so different.”
He then turned to Kelli.  “I was watching you hold that man’s hand.  I listened as you talked to him and I tell you, do you know how long it’s been since I’ve held anyone’s hand in there, or thought about how it must feel to be on one of those things . . . I want you to know, Kelli, that you, and each of you, have reminded me of something I had long forgotten.  And I won’t forget again to comfort those I take care of.”
Sometimes compassion — the only thing we can offer — is the most important and remembered gift we give.
[From “Regaining Compassion” by James W. Lynch, Jr., M.D., Journal of the American Medical Association, May 13, 1998.]

Kelli has learned that compassion is the “rock” of her work as a physician.  It is on that same “rock” that Jesus establishes his church, a community of men and women whose lives mirror the love, peace and justice of God.  In taking on God’s work of reconciliation, in our struggle to forgive selflessly and humbly, in our often less-than-successful attempts to imitate the compassion of Jesus, our church and parish reflect the face of God to our world.  
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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading, God promises to give the keys of the house of David to Eliakim with full authority over his royal household. Eliakim was among the leaders in Jerusalem during the critical Assyrian siege. Here he succeeds Shebnah to the office of chief steward. He will hold the ‘key of the house of David’. In the Biblical world, officials were invested with keys as a sign of stewardship and power. In the New Testament the text is applied to Jesus. Peter is given the keys of the kingdom. God shares His power with those whom he chooses.

Search and you may find…
Late one evening Jerry lost the key of his moneybox and went down on fours looking for it outside. His neighbours joined him in searching under streetlights until all were exhausted. “Where did you lose the key?” asked a concerned friend. “Inside my house,” replied Jerry. “Then why look for it outside?” “Because,” explained Jerry, “there is more light outside than inside my house!” We often look for keys in wrong places and, ironically, the key to understand today’s readings is a key: of the House of David in the first reading and of the kingdom of heaven in the gospel. On April 24, 2005, at his installation as Pontiff, Benedict XVI described himself as “weak servant of God” showing deep awareness of being servant of servant. Likewise, on Oct. 22, 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry he said, “Open wide the doors for Christ!” It is heartening that those who hold the keys are aware of their responsibility to serve and open Church doors for the Spirit’s action. Have we been given the key to the kingdom of God?
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

In today’s world, we have a glut of opinion polls especially around election times. These opinion polls show the variety and often contradictory views people can have about particular issues or personality. In the gospel we have an example of an early opinion poll conducted by Jesus himself. Though it was a limited one, it concerned a vital question, namely the identity of Jesus. ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ Jesus knew who he was. The question was for the benefit of the disciples. In his time, the question was on everybody’s lips: Who is this man Jesus? The question echoes through the entire gospel. Jesus rejected the inadequate answers of others and demanded that the disciples speak for themselves: “And you, who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter answered. All of us as believers have to give our personal answer to that question. A person cannot be baptized without a profession of faith. The more people we have in the Church who believe out of personal conviction, the more the Church will be founded on rock. The profession of faith is only the beginning. We must live our faith. We must allow our lives to be shaped by our faith. Peter is the centre of today’s gospel, he is the leader but he has his weaknesses and faults. He denied Jesus, He did not fall simply because he was weak. He fell because he felt he was strong. In giving authority to a man who denied him, Jesus showed that he was establishing his Church not on human strength, but on his own love and faithfulness. God does not choose perfect people to do his work. God chooses people who are flawed, but nevertheless have the capacity for greatness and holiness. Peter’s story helps us to understand ourselves and shows us how to develop a close relationship with Jesus.

How to have a God-experience?
A young boy approached an enlightened person and asked him what he must do to have a God-experience. The enlightened one closed his eyes and remained silent for some time. The young man asked again, “What must I do to have a God experience?” The enlightened one opened his eyes smiled at him and closed his eyes again. The young man in his restlessness repeated his question a third time. Now the enlightened one opened his eyes, smiled at the young man and told him, “I told you twice. Seek the Lord in the silence of your heart and you will have a God-experience. The closed eyes help you only to open your inner eyes to see God enthroned in your heart. The atmosphere of external silence is only an attempt to experience inner silence. Once you open the cave of your heart with the keys of inner silence and deeper awareness you stand face to face with God.”
Robert D’Souza in ‘The Sunday Liturgy’

She may not know but I know…
Every day Tim would go to the nursing home and visit her. And each time Tim would explain who he was and why he was visiting. He would tell the story of his children and grandchildren, all the activities and all the news of his family. And while he was feeding her lunch each day, he would gently remind her that he was married for 52 years to the same woman and that woman was her. Then each time she would smile brightly as if told for the first time. That woman was Margaret, and Margaret suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, she moves in and out of reality. Tim tends to her each and every day before he leaves, he caresses her gently, kisses her and tells her that he loves her dearly, knowing well, that tomorrow he will have to repeat the whole routine over and over again. His friends plead with Tim as to why he continues to put himself through this. They tell him, “She does not even know who you are anymore.” And he would always respond in the same way, “But I know who I am.” Do I know Jesus? Do I know who I am?
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

Who is Jesus?

During the Second World War, in his famous BBC Radio talk- ‘Mere Christianity’, C.S. Lewis said, “I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: “I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg –or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make a choice. Either this man was, or is the Son of God; or else a man or something worse.” If we accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, then we must necessarily accept Him as god, for great moral teachers do not tell lies. One person who fascinates and baffles everyone –both believers and non-believers, is Jesus Christ. One is surprised by the simple life of Jesus, and the tremendous impact He had on history.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

One Solitary Life
Jesus was born in a manger, in a simple carpenter’s family; He never went to school, nor attended college; He never wrote a book. Until the age of thirty he was a village carpenter. At thirty he became a nomadic preacher; but he never travelled more than 200 miles from the place of his birth. When he was thirty-three years old, public opinion turned against him; He was betrayed by his friend and deserted by the others. He was unjustly condemned to death and was nailed as a criminal between two thieves. When he died, they laid him in a borrowed tomb. Twenty centuries have come and gone. Till today he is the central figure of history. No library is complete without his biography. All ages and dates are numbered from His birth; He never led an army, never held a gun; but all the armies that ever marched and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of a man on this earth like that ONE SOLITARY LIFE.
Anon


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From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.     What is in a name?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The Journal of the American Medical Association did a study on the names of people in the medical profession in the United States. Doctors’ names included: Needle, Probe, Lance, Ligate, Drill, Scope, Bolt, Pin, Croak and Klutz. On the up side, we find physicians named Fix, Cure, Heal, Brilliant, Able and Best. A vet’s name is Dr. Fish. There is an Episcopal priest in New York City named Donald Goodness. Do names make a difference? Can a person’s name determine his or her destiny? If you had the choice, would you pick Dr. Brilliant or Dr. Klutz? Many actors will take a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, or amusing for the wrong reason, or because it projects the wrong image, or is considered too “ethnic.” Today’s gospel describes how Jesus who gave Simon a new name Peter made him the bedrock foundation of his Church 

2.      "Suppose Jesus were to come here."

Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William Shakespeare would be “missing in action.” It was Mr. Lamb's essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from undeserved obscurity after he had been famous for Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes. One night Lamb and his guests were chatting about the Bard over Spanish port and Cuban cigars. "Supposing," one asked Lamb, "Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment." The essayist replied, "We would raise a glass of port to the great man." "Supposing," asked another, "Jesus were to come here." Lamb answered, "We would all get down on our knees.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. The Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exit.” (Fr. Gilhooly) 

3.     Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

When one thinks of South Dakota, one thinks of Mount Rushmore. Carved into the mountainside by Gutzon Borglum are the heads of some of the great leaders of the United States. It's ironic that this monument is in the heart of an area sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people whose ancestors possessed the land centuries before George Washington's family came to America. Thousands of Americans visit Mount Rushmore each year. Many come away with flags, patriotic symbols and T- shirts reading, "God Bless America." Perhaps they feel a rush of pride and make resolutions to be better Americans in the future. Let us remember that Christians are part of the rock. Jesus built his Church on the rock of Peter as a reward for his great confession of faith in the divinity of Christ. The members of the Church are given a new face on the same rock, the face of Jesus, as they proclaim his love, mercy, forgiveness in their daily lives. 

4.     Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador,

assassinated in 1980 while defending Jesus, said eloquently: "Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather, Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ." 

5.     "To draw out all his savings?"

A teacher was giving her students a lesson in logic. "Here is the situation," she said. "A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help. His wife in her riverside house hears the commotion, knows he can’t swim, and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank instead of calling for help?" A girl raised her hand and asked, "To draw out all his savings?" In today’s gospel, the disciples are faced with a similar situation – like being in class when the teacher asks a very important question. We want to seem intelligent so we blurt out an answer – not always the right one – but an answer nonetheless. In today’s gospel lesson Peter blurts out an answer that is theologically correct, inspired and amazing.  

6.     Fr. Herbert O’Driscoll uses a wonderful image to explain the structure of the Church.

His idea is to look at all of the last 20 centuries as rings of time, or as concentric circles of time. Today's Christians, in the 21st century, are in the outermost circle, farthest away from the center – which is a Cross. We are brought into the circle, into the faith, in large part because somewhere, somehow, someone in the circle just before ours took us by the hand and said, “Come,” and so drew us in. That is one very important reason why we are here. That person was able to do this for us because someone had taken him or her by the hand and had drawn that person in. And so it went, back through all the centuries until we reach the hands that had actually touched the mark of the nails. In this way, Christ builds his church. We constantly re-live this Gospel story. When we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he says to each of us—“You, too, are Peter, you too, are a rock, and with you, also, I am building my church.” What happened to Peter continues to happen and actually includes us. 

7.     "But how did the other ear get burned?":

On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, "WHAT happened to YOU?" "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up and the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: "Do you understand who I am," he asks, "and what my being here means for you?" (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

      8.  "But how did the other ear get burned?":

On Sunday morning, a man showed up at Church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, "WHAT happened to YOU?" "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up and the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: "Do you understand who I am," he asks, "and what my being here means for you?" (Msgr.  Dennis Clarke)

      9.  “But on the other hand..”

Three of the clergy—a Lutheran, a Catholic, and an Episcopalian—ended up at the Pearly Gates one day. It was St. Peter’s day off, so Jesus was administering the entrance exam. “The question is simple,” he said. “Who do you say that I am?"  The Lutheran stepped forward and began, “The Bible says . . . ” but Jesus interrupted and said, “I know what the Bible says; who do you say that I am?” The Lutheran said, “I don’t know,” and fell through a trap-door to that other place. The Catholic stepped forward and began, “The Pope says . . . ” But Jesus interrupted him and said, “I know what the Pope says; who do you say that I am?” “I’m not sure,” said the Catholic, and promptly fell through the trap-door to that other place. Jesus turned to the Episcopalian and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” The Episcopalian replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" Then, just as Jesus smiled and gestured for the Pearly Gates to be opened, the Episcopalian continued, “but on the other hand..."
 

      10. .”In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games.
 
You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event. The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The French hero fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line.
 
In this sports tale, we have something of the history of the human race. Jesus Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown, so that today Jesus is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before and sixteen times has been pictured on the cover of Time magazine, while Jesus’ sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages.  Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ's? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. "Christ," he wrote, "is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth." As Emerson once noted, "The name of Jesus is not so much written as PLOUGHED into the history of the world." Today’s gospel challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior as St. Peter did at Caesarea Philippi.
 
       11. “Who is Jesus?”
 
In his teens, C.S. Lewis was a professed agnostic. He was influenced in his conversion to Christianity by reading the book The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton and through the influence of two of his Christian friends. After his conversion, he wrote a number of books defending Christianity. During the Second World War, in his famous BBC radio talk, “Mere Christianity,” he said, “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” If we accept Jesus as a moral teacher, then we must necessarily accept Him as God, for great moral teachers do not tell lies. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies)      

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From Sermons.com 

Jesus and his disciples ventured into the District of Caesarea Philippi, an area about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The region had tremendous religious implications. The place was littered with the temples of the Syrian gods. Here also was the elaborate marble temple that had been erected by Herod the Great, father of the then ruling Herod Antipas. Here also was the influence of the Greek gods. Here also the worship of Caesar as a God himself. You might say that the world religions were on display in this town. It was with this scene in the background that Jesus chose to ask the most crucial questions of his ministry.

He looked at his disciples and in a moment of reflection said: "Who do men say that I am?" The disciples begin sharing with Jesus what they have heard from the people who have been following Jesus: Some say that you are Elijah; others say John the Baptist, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. It's always been this way, Jesus as seen by the masses is seen in so many different ways.

You can speak of Jesus as prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. But speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval.

Who do people say he is? Who do you say he is? And what are we called to do? Let's take a look at the answers to these three questions... 
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Sin is less something we succumb to or fall into than it is something we are seduced by. And the greatest seduction is pride. Pride is holy halitosis. Like all bad breath, you're the last person to know you have it. 

Last week in Zurich, the pride of a gold medal champion, a 3000 meter steeplechase runner, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. French runner Mahidine Mekhissi, already a two time European champion, found himself in the final 100 meters of his race. He was well ahead of the rest of the pack. After a long backwards glance confirmed his apparent victory over the trailing field of runners, Mekhissi began to celebrate early. He stripped off his jersey. With the jersey went his identifying race number. He put the jersey and number in his mouth as he cavorted to the finish line, taunting his competitors with the pride of victory. 

Mekhissi's antics did not sit well with his colleagues. Or the race authorities. After multiple complaints were filed by the other competitors, Mekhissi was disqualified. He won. But he lost. He won the race. But he lost the game. Mekhissi was so proud of his prowess that he managed to turn a clear victory into a humiliating defeat. 

The line between pride as honor and pride as hubris is often a hair's breadth distance. The honors that come with personal accomplishments are worthy and welcome. Showcasing one's successes is a bit trickier. Proving one's skills and self-worth in action is one thing. Proclaiming in words one's worthiness to the world is another. 

Our reading for this morning is a portion of Paul's communication to a Gentile congregation in the heart of Rome... 
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The Authority of the Church 

There is general agreement that the phrase "the gates of Hades" is poetic language for the power of death (see Isa. 38:10). What is meant is that the congregation of the new covenant will persist into the age to come despite all the efforts of the powers of darkness to destroy it. "The gates of Hades" may here represent a defensive posture: death will strive to hold in its prison house all who have entered its gates, but the Messiah's congregation will triumphantly storm the gates and rescue those destined for the life of the age to come. 

Douglas R.A. Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, John Knox Press,1993, p.191
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Without the Struggle, There Are No Wings 

A family brought in two cocoons that were about to hatch. They watched as the first one began to open and the butterfly inside squeezed very slowly and painfully through a tiny hole that it chewed in one end of the cocoon. After lying exhausted for about ten minutes following its agonizing emergence, the butterfly finally flew out the open window on its beautiful new wings.

The family decided to help the second butterfly so that it would not have to go through such an excruciating ordeal. So, as it began to emerge, they carefully sliced open the cocoon with a razor blade, doing the equivalent of a Caesarean section. The second butterfly never did sprout wings, and in about ten minutes, instead of flying away, it quietly died.

The family asked a biologist friend to explain what had happened. The scientist said that the difficult struggle to emerge from the small hole actually pushes liquids from deep inside the butterfly's body cavity into tiny capillaries in the wings where they hardened to complete the healthy and beautiful adult butterfly. The lesson? WITHOUT THE STRUGGLE, THERE ARE NO WINGS.
 

Collected Sermons, David E. Leininger
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The Triumph of Jesus 

In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event.

The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line.

In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame, books are written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. Less and less is written or spoken of their lives until they rest in relative obscurity.

With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite an opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten.

But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before, sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages.
 

Stephen M. Crotts / George L. Murphy, Sermons For Sundays: After Pentecost (Middle Third): The Incomparable Christ, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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Call Him God 

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addressed the inclination to say nice things about Jesus, but to stop short of calling him God. 

He wrote, "I am here trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any of that patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. Nor did he intend to." 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, MacMillan, 1943, p. 55-56, with thanks to Paul Janke
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 Public Notions of Jesus' Identity 

Some, said Peter, say that you are Elijah. Now why would people think that Jesus was the long deceased prophet Elijah. Elijah was, of course, a highly revered personality in the religious life of the Hebrews. His defeat of the 450 prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel was a story that was known even by the little children. It was a commonly held belief among the Hebrews that one day Elijah would return and that would mark the end of the world. In the very last passage in the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi, we find these words: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." 

Most of you have read Charles Schultz's comic strip Peanuts. One day we see that the television is on but there is no one in the room listening to it. The announcer is talking about a golf tournament that is in process. He says: Smith has to make this putt to win the championship. There will be no tomorrow." And just as he says, "There will be no tomorrow," in walks Lucy. She immediately goes into a panic and starts running around and yelling to the other children: The world is coming to an end. They just announced it on television. Her panic quickly spreads as we see all the peanuts kids as they go wildly screaming about. Finally in the last square we see all of the children huddled on top of Snoopy's doghouse waiting for the end of the world. And Charlie Brown finally speaks up with a puzzled voice: I thought that Elijah was supposed to come back first." 

Well Charlie Brown knew his Bible. Elijah was supposed to come back before the end time. When the disciples told Jesus that some people thought he was Elijah, they were expressing a common thought among the people that the end was very near. 

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A Point of Reference 

The state highway department in Pennsylvania once set out to build a bridge working from both sides. When the workers reached the middle of the waterway, they found they were thirteen feet to one side of each other. Albert Steinberg, writing some time ago in the Saturday Evening Post, went on to explain that each crew of workmen had used its own reference point. No wonder they did not connect.

In that same article Steinberg tells about a small disc on the Meades Ranch in north central Kansas where the thirty-ninth parallel from the Atlantic to the Pacific crosses the ninety-eighth meridian running from Canada to the Rio Grande. The National Oceanic Survey, a small federal agency whose business it is to locate the exact positions of every point in the United States, uses the scientifically recognized reference point on the Meades Ranch. So far, no mistakes have been made, and none are expected. All ocean liners and commercial planes come under the survey. The government can build no dams or even launch a missile without this agency to tell it the exact location to the very inch. "Location by approximation," the article goes on to say, "can be costly and dangerous."

That's why there is so much chaos in our society today. Everyone's using their own reference point. What we need is a universal reference point so that we can say, "Here. Here is how the good life is lived."

For Christians there is such a reference point - and that is Jesus. What would Jesus do? That is the question that continually helps us in our quest for right living. Jesus not only revealed the character of God but he also patterned the ideal life for humanity. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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 One Generation Away from Extinction
 
It has been pointed out that the Church is always one generation from extinction. If we don't spread the Gospel, it will be just one generation away from disappearing from the face of the earth. It's a compelling idea, isn't it? It enhances our sense of Christian responsibility. We need to get out there and work for the Gospel or the Church could fade into history.

Perhaps you have heard the old story about Jesus appearing in heaven just after his resurrection. Jesus is giving a progress report on all that has happened while he was on earth. Moses is there and he asks him, "Well Jesus, did you leave things in capable hands?" 

Jesus responds, "I did. I have left behind Mary and Martha and Peter and the other disciples."

Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Jesus said, "Well, I have established the Church and filled it with the Holy Spirit and they will carry on."

And Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Came the reply, "I have no other plan." 

There's a great tension there. God is at work here in our church but we've been given the keys of the Kingdom. We have work to do and Christ calls us to it. The prophet Micah put it this way: "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God." 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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 People See Things Differently

 People see things differently all the time. For example, three people - a minister, an archaeologist, and a cowboy - were getting their first look at the Grand Canyon one day. The minister exclaimed, "Truly this is one of the glories of God!" The archaeologist commented, "What a wonder of nature this is!" And the cowboy said, "Can you imagine trying to find a lost steer in there?" People see things differently.

The Messianic hope of those in the Jewish community who held such a belief was that the Chosen One would reestablish the supremacy of Israel among the great nations of the world. The assumption was that this would be accomplished in a violent and vengeful manner, with the forceful overthrow and total destruction of the current ruling powers. But before this happened, the prophet Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Chosen One. As a result of these hopes, Jesus had to somehow communicate to his disciples and others who had such high hopes for him that what he was offering was something completely different from what they expected.


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Irom Sharmila of Imphal India fasting last 14 years and force fed through tubes by the Govt fighting for a cause - against extra ordinary powers to the military.
Lata Tare of Baramati, MH, India ran at a marathon beating all experienced  and well clad young runners. She was 61, grand mother, wearing a Maharashtrian 9 yard saree, no shoes or sandals. She needed the money for her husband's surgery. She didn't care for the trophy.
Yellavva from Yadgir Dt of Karnataka-400 Km north of Bangalore was 9 nine pregnant with her first child. Her village was totally marooned by flood waters. No ferries, no road connections. She tied pumpkin and other gourd pods on her body for floatation and buoyancy and swam 1 km across 14 feet deep waters and reached a hospital to give birth.
Ramesh Ramanathan is the founder of Bangalore based NGO Janagraha. Studied in US with his wife. Cycling at night from class to pick up his wife working at a McDonald's. They both resigned the jobs to come and work for people.