Saturday, June 18, 2005
It might seem like a bit too much to ask a person to be praying day and night. This is the case only if we have a very limited vision of prayer, namely that prayer is recitation of devotional formulas in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There is far more to prayer than this. Our whole life ought to be one long prayer to God.
This is what the prophetess Anna is teaching us in today's Gospel reading. Her life becomes a symbol, or, better still, a living example of what all our lives should be, namely, a living sacrifice to God. Exactly that that means for each of us is different. Each person has his or her own part to play in the great plan of salvation. Hopefully, we all do our part. The big question is: How is this possible in the midst of the busyness of our lives?
Any successful person will tell you that one of the keys to his or her success in life is the ability to prioritize well. It is important for us to realize that not every good thing that we can do, should be done. This can be hard to accept at first but it is quite logical when we think it through properly.
Jesus gave a certain priority to prayer in his life and ministry because he knew that this was the basis of his relationship with the Father. Without being in relationship with God through prayer, it is impossible to know what it is that God wants us to do. It is certainly ironical that the first thing that we stop doing in our lives when we are busy with some project or other is stop praying. This does not happen in the lives of the saints and herein lies the key to holiness and success in the spiritual life. We must learn to give absolute priority to prayer, as it is the basis of our relationship with God. Without prayer, we cannot know what is God's will for our lives.
The fact that Anna is 84 years old should also give us hope. We are never too old to have something constructive to do in the work of God's kingdom. Age brings with it a freedom and usually plenty of free time. Is there anything better that we can do than to intercede for God's will to be done? There is never an excuse for inactivity in the work of salvation. The least we can do is to pray for its success.
"Lord, may I never cease to hope in you and to trust in your promises. Inflame my zeal for your kingdom and increase my love for prayer, that I may never cease to give you praise and worship".
Today in our Church community we see many people who give themselves generously in service to the Church. In the first reading Paul lists the qualities that must characterize men chosen to be presbyters or bishops in the local churches in his day. We might well expect many of these qualities to describe also the men and women who in many different ways aspire to serve the Church today. We might hope surely that they would be, "hospitable and lovers of goodness; steady, just, holy and self-controlled." Above all, they must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, in order that they might encourage others and refute those who oppose it.
If you were on a search committee in your church and were responsible for finding people who possess these leadership qualifications, would you yourself satisfy these criteria?
In the gospel Jesus warns his disciples not to be a person who causes others to sin. We are to be alert and watch ourselves lest we engage in such activity. While we are not to judge others, we still should not be blind when our brother sins. We are called to rebuke him. But more than that, we are to be able to forgive him when he repents. In order to forgive others constantly, we must pray as the disciples did, "Increase our faith!" Then like the tiny mustard seed we might be able to accomplish what seemed to be impossible.
"Lord, help me in my weakness and increase my trust in you and in your power to resist temptation. Give me the grace and strength to choose what is right and to set a good example for others, especially to those who are young in the faith."
occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better
for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into
the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on
your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents,
forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns
to you seven times saying, `I am sorry,' you should forgive him." And
the Apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied,
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this
mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey
Today in our Church community we see many people who give themselves
generously in service to the Church. In the first reading Paul lists
the qualities that must characterize men chosen to be presbyters or
bishops in the local churches in his day. We might well expect many of
these qualities to describe also the men and women who in many
different ways aspire to serve the Church today. We might hope surely
that they would be, "hospitable and lovers of goodness; steady, just,
holy and self-controlled." Above all, they must hold firmly to the
trustworthy message as it has been taught, in order that they might
encourage others and refute those who oppose it.
If you were on a search committee in your church and were responsible
for finding people who possess these leadership qualifications, would
you yourself satisfy these criteria?
In the gospel Jesus warns his disciples not to be a person who causes
others to sin. We are to be alert and watch ourselves lest we engage
in such activity. While we are not to judge others, we still should
not be blind when our brother sins. We are called to rebuke him. But
more than that, we are to be able to forgive him when he repents. In
order to forgive others constantly, we must pray as the disciples did,
"Increase our faith!" Then like the tiny mustard seed we might be able
to accomplish what seemed to be impossible.
"Lord, help me in my weakness and increase my trust in you and in your
power to resist temptation. Give me the grace and strength to choose
what is right and to set a good example for others, especially to
those who are young in the faith."
forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote
for us, If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his
brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died
childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise
all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at
the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had
been married to her." Jesus said to them, "The children of this age
marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the
coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are
given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will
rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage
about the bush, when he called out 'Lord,' the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead,
but of the living, for to him all are alive."
When it was still the practice to read the intentions before the
start of the Mass, the office secretaries used to abbreviate the
intentions such "SR" for speedy recovery. One day, the Mass
commentator read among the intentions for the departed, "for the
speedy recovery of Mr. Anonas." The priest, who had just conducted
the funeral service of Mr. Anonas a few days before, said that it
would take a special miracle for him to recover.
It turned out that since Mr. Anonas was the senior, there was "Sr."
after his name. And although he was placed with the names of the
departed, the commentator automatically read the "Sr" as "for speedy
recovery." Some people say that the RIP for the dead means "Return If
Today's liturgy invites us to reflect on death and the afterlife.
For an atheist, there is no afterlife. Death is the end of
everything. No matter how wealthy or healthy you are, how powerful,
how famous, how many friends you have, when death comes, disaster!
Everything is wiped away. We fall into nothingness. So, carpe diem –
enjoy as much pleasure as you can each day, while you are still
Most religions believe in afterlife, but they differ in their ideas
of the next life. Some religions believe in reincarnation, that we
keep on coming back in some other persons or animals. It's just a
Some believe in a place for the dead. Some call it Hades, or Sheol
or "somewhere down there." And because death is such a mystery, and
we have not experienced what the next life is like, we tend to
project our experiences of this life to the life of the dear
departed. Thus the American Indians believe that the dead are in
the "Happy Hunting Ground." Some Orientals practice offering what
brings happiness and joy in this life to the departed. Thus they
offer delicious food, burn gold and silver painted paper for their
allowances, burn paper houses, and automobiles (with a driver), or a
helicopter, for the enjoyment of the dead. In some culture, they
even cremate a living wife with her dead husband.
In speaking of resurrection and of life after death, the Sadducees
had used as a starting point their own earthly experience. This was
a mistake. In the next life everything is different, and no
comparison is possible.
For the Christian, death is a passage, a transition to a more perfect
life, a life with God. Fr. Mark Link tells a story of the twins.
One day, a mother conceived twins. One child was a girl, the other a
boy. Months passed and they developed. As they grew they sang for
joy, "Isn't it great to be alive!" Together they explored their
mother's womb. When they found their mother's life cord, they
shouted for joy, "How great is our mother's love, that she shares her
life with us!"
Soon the twins began to change drastically. "What does this mean?"
Asked the boy.
"It means that our life in the womb is coming to an end." Said the
"But I don't want to leave the womb," said the boy, "I want to stay
"We have no choice," said the girl. "But maybe there is life after
"How can there be?" asked the boy. "We will shed our mother's cord,
and how is life possible without it? Besides, there's evidence in
the womb that others were here before us, and none of them ever came
back to tell us that there is life after birth. No, this is the end."
And so the boy fell into despair saying, "If life in the womb ends in
death, what's its purpose? What's its meaning? Maybe we don't even
have a mother. Maybe we made her up just to feel good."
"But we must have a mother," said the girl, "How else did we get
here? How else do we stay alive?"
And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning
and fear. Finally, the moment of birth arrived. When the twins
opened their eyes, they cried for joy. What they saw exceeded their
Just as the twins wondered about life after birth and what it was
like, so we sometimes wonder about life after death and what it is
like. And just as life after birth exceeded the dreams of the twins,
so life after death will exceed our dreams. In the words of St.
Paul, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as
dawned on (the human heart) what God has prepared for those who love
(God)." (1 Cur 2:9)
Perhaps to illustrate the meaning of this passage from St. Paul is to
imagine yourself describing a modern home with its air-conditioned
room, and TV, DVD player, computer, telephone, etc. to a cave man.
No matter how hard you try, the cave man will not understand what you
are talking about. Try to describe your travel by airlines, and air
con bus to him. It will not make sense to him. It is beyond his
experience in life.
If you try to explain a modern kitchen with its refrigerator, mixer
and blender, electric and microwave oven, to a cave woman, she would
not make sense of what you're talking about. Likewise, for someone
to describe what God has prepared for those who love Him, we would
not comprehend what he's talking about. We just know that God will
give us what would be the best for us, because He is all-wise. And
He loves us dearly.
This gives us a whole new perspective of looking at death. The late
Fr. William Klement, S.J., in his own funeral homily wrote: "We might
describe death in this way. You are on the seashore, and a ship is
leaving. It's carrying a dear friend. He's leaving your shore and
going to another. And as you watch the ship pull out, your heart is
full of sadness, because your friend is now leaving you. And it is
goodbye – God be with you!
As it disappears over the horizon, it is a sad goodbye. But at the
same time to those on the other shore, as it appears on the horizon,
the ship is just the same. It holds the same passengers as the time
it left you at the shore. But as it comes over the horizon and
becomes closer, more visible, there's great anticipation for those
waiting on the shore. They're waiting say their welcome, welcome.
The Father is waiting there, the Father is waiting for His prodigal
son to come home, and his loving brother, Jesus, who loved him so
much that he gave up his life for him. And the Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of love, and there his Mother, Mary, Jesus' mother and mine.
And as the ship arrives, there is a great shout. "Welcome home."
And Jesus says, "Come, beloved of my Father, enter into the Kingdom
prepared for you from the beginning of the world!" Relatives and
friends, too, who have gone before, are waiting there with their
welcome, and all the Saints, whom we have known in history and have
loved and prayed to. They too, join in the "Hail," in the "Welcome."
Death a sorrowful thing? A fearful thing? Could anything be more
joyful on the shores of heaven, when one has crossed over the sea to
the other end?
Let's conclude by quoting again the words of St. Paul concerning
heaven. They are a beautiful summery of our faith and our hope
concerning life after death.
St. Paul wrote:
"What eye has not seen, and
Ear has not heard,
And what has not entered the human heart,
What God has prepared for those who love Him."
This God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed
into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small
matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is
dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If,
therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will
trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what
belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can
serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be
devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and
mammon." The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and
sneered at him. And he said to them, "You justify yourselves in the
sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human
esteem is an abomination in the sight of God."
Is Jesus presenting to us an unattainable ideal? Is he urging us to
take on ourselves a lifestyle that in modern society it's impossible
to live out? Not at all.
Jesus is condemning here neither the possession nor the use of money
and material things. How is a married couple, for instance, to
fulfill their obligations to their family without money?
Many people insist that the saying, "money is the root of all evil,"
is found in the Bible. It's not. Paul, however, in his letter to
Timothy, the young bishop in the early Church, does remark, "the love
of money is the root of all evil." "The love of money" and "money"
do not mean the same thing. Paul, after all, in today's first reading
thanks the Philippians for the financial support they have sent him.
It is not money that Jesus condemns, but the making of money into an
idol, a false god we worship, dedicating all our time and effort to
its pursuit, so lusting for it that its pursuit relegates to
secondary importance all else in our lives, all else - family,
friends, integrity, faith, even God himself.
As Jesus points out, God and material success cannot coexist in us as
equals. One, to the exclusion of the other, will exercise dominion
over us. It's impossible to keep the two in perfect balance. It's
true therefore that we cannot serve God and money. But it's quite
legitimate to make use of money in the service of God, to serve God
with money. The married couple has a religious duty to use money in
the support and development of their children.
In our world where materialism and consumerism are gods and
inordinately attractive and powerfully seductive idols, we constantly
have to question ourselves: do we make the acquisition of wealth a
goal in itself or a means to a higher goal?
"Lord, may the fire of your love burn in my heart that I may be
wholly devoted to you above all else. Free me from greed and
attachment to material things that I may be generous in using the
gifts and resources you give me for your glory and for the good of my
The parable in today's Gospel, Jesus says, "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light." It's a good point, isn't it?
Ask yourself, how creative, decisive and enterprising are you when a contract you're trying to land seems to be slipping out of your grasp? Are you as intense, as creative, as decisive when you're pursuing a spiritual value? Jesus is saying, "be as enterprising, as creative and as intense in your pursuit of spiritual values as the servant in the parable was in his attempt to safeguard his future material welfare."
In our society, the pursuit of material values is paramount. We want our children to get into the best grade schools, so they can get into the best high schools, so they can get into the best colleges, so they can get into the best graduate programs, so they can get the best jobs and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. To this end we bend all our considerable talents creatively and decisively.
And yet for many of us, we somehow neglect our spiritual lives, confining for the most part to about an hour every Saturday or Sunday. Perhaps it's time to consider and address the imbalance.
"Lord, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of my time, finances, and possessions. May I regard all that I have as yours. Free from greed and possessiveness and fill me with generosity in giving liberally to others, especially those in need, and to the work of the gospel."
Sinners were attracted to Jesus. They wanted to be around Him and hear His words. They wanted Jesus to eat in their homes. They even gathered other fellow sinners and brought them along to hear Jesus. Sinners must have been attuned to the obvious love Jesus had for them. Jesus proved that love is a powerful magnet to draw sinners.
Jesus is not soft on sin. He endured the agony of crucifixion in order to destroy sin. However, Jesus is soft-hearted for sinners. Jesus wants them to avoid sin, but He definitely does not avoid sinners. He came to save sinners. He came to seek out sinners. Jesus loved sinners so much that He, in a sense, became sin so that we sinners "might become the very holiness of God".
As Christians and followers of Christ, we can not imitate Jesus without having His heart for sinners. Jesus will lose everything, even His life, for them. To follow Him, we must deal with sinners as Jesus does. We must plunge recklessly "into the wasteland" of desolation and leave ninety-nine good Christian friends behind in order to rescue just one sinner. We must be willing to risk our good reputation, as Jesus did, to bring God's love and word to a sinner. Jesus' heart of love impelled Him to lovingly "search out" sinners and lead them to conversion. We must "go and do the same".
God the Father has loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. We are loved infinitely, perfectly, and eternally. In response to God's love, we love. As human beings, we try to express our love in words, actions, and gifts. But what can we do for the Lord that would make Him very happy? What is a gift that would delight the almighty God?
Jesus answers this question for us in today's Gospel reading: "I tell you, there will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent". The Lord is very pleased by our righteousness but even more happy about our repentance. When we go to Confession, we are escalating the joy in heaven. When we accept God's call to be ministers of reconciliation, calling others to repentance and Confession, we are thrilling the Holy Trinity and the hosts of heaven. Even if we ourselves do not feel so excited about repentance, all that counts is that the One receiving the gift likes it. Therefore, give God the gift of repentance.
"Lord, let your light dispel the darkness that what is lost may be found and restored. Let your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you. May I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful."
The cost of Christian discipleship can be very high. Loyalty to Christ and his values, according to today's gospel, must be placed even before loyalty to one's family. To accept discipleship, according to this gospel, is to accept the possibility of the cross: the possibility of rejection by family and friends, even the possibility of loss of life. Anyone who is unwilling to accept Christ's cross, again according to this gospel, cannot be his disciple.
It's time for us to reflect on the quality of our Christian discipleship. Do we put limits on our commitment to Christ. "I'm loyal to you, Lord, but please don't ask me to give you my health or my life, don't ask me to sacrifice my little luxuries, don't ask me to give my time, my energy, my efforts."
We have to ask ourselves about the quality of our discipleship. Am I a disciple only when discipleship makes no demands of me? Or is my loyalty and my commitment to Christ the most important thing in my life?
"Lord, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Help me to count the cost and to joyfully embrace discipleship for your sake."
An American Jesuit priest, Walter Ciscek was imprisoned in Russia for more than twenty years. When he was finally freed and returned to the United States he wrote a book, He Leadeth Me. In it he tells many extraordinary stories about life in Russia under the Communists. When he speaks of how Russian peasants remember their dead each year, you'd think he was describing customs celebrated by Filipinos on All Saints and All Souls Days.
Russian peasant families flock to the cemeteries as for a joyous picnic in the park. The graves are cleaned and decorated, and the family sits down to a meal at the graveside. Passersby are invited to join the meal or to drink a toast.
Like the Russian peasants, Filipinos believe that for the dead, life has changed, it has not ended.
The day a loved one dies is among the most difficult and painful days we will ever experience. It's as though a hole were carved in our person, which will never again be filled. On that day, however, the loved one awakens on the other side of death. He awakens to a day of exultant joy. The loved one celebrates the joy of which Isaiah sings in the first reading: God has lifted all mourning veils from all peoples; he has destroyed death and wiped away all tears. He is the God whose love seeks to save us.
Life has not ended for those whom we have loved and have lost to death; their lives have changed. Notice, however: we have not really lost these people we love, to death. We have placed them in the loving, merciful hands of God where they will rest in joy until we too die to death in this world only to awaken to the same joy that sustains them. For us too, life will not end, it will be changed.
After reflecting on today's Gospel, let us ask ourselves: have we ever lost a loved one that made us feel depressed, sad and lonely, but found comfort in today's Gospel? Did the Gospel help us love and trust Jesus' more?
"Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life and hope where there was once only despair and defeat. Give me the unshakeable hope of everlasting life, the inexpressible joy of knowing your unfailing love, and the unquestioning faith and zeal in doing the will of the Father in heaven."
In the introduction to the liturgy for today, the Daily Roman Missal states that we celebrate the feast of all the unknown saints who are now in heaven. The Church reminds us that sanctity is within everyone's reach. Through the communion of saints we help one another achieve sanctity.
It is common knowledge that death exempts no one. However, if anyone views death as a matter of fate and is resigned to this fate, and indulges himself in keeping with a let's-eat-and-drink-and-be-merry- for-tomorrow-we-die philosophy, then it makes no difference whether we are human beings or not; for all creatures eventually die.
For people who think this way, the hope of a resurrected life is a fantasy and not a reality. But for those of us who believe, "we live for what is to come!"
In the eyes of God, all people are equal when first confronted by Christ's grace, since Christ died not just for the good but also for all men. However, because of his free will, by his own choice the individual is either judged and condemned because of his actions or saved because he believed in Christ and acted accordingly.
There are very many saints throughout the history of the Church, who have been honored with their own feast day because of some extraordinary act of faith, hope or love. However, there are also many more "saints" whose stories we do not know, but who have also been given a place in heaven in the communion of saints. What makes this reality so beautiful is that none of these saints acted out of a "spirit of competition" to outdo another for his or her personal glory. All of them acted out of the love for God and for his neighbor even in the midst of great adversity and suffering.
The call to sanctity is universal. Sanctity is not impossible to attain. If it were, then no one could ever enter the kingdom of God. In Jesus it is made possible. In today's gospel Jesus is preaching his Sermon on the Mount. He's teaching his disciples and the crowd the "beatitudes". Cutting the word in two we get "be attitudes". These are proper attitudes of being. They are totally different from the attitudes we develop, shaped as we are by our worldly environment. Death respects no age; anyone can die anytime, any day. Since we cling to our freedom of choice, why not choose what is certain and true, everlasting life with God and all His saints?
>From the qualities mentioned in today's Gospel, which of the qualities don't you have or feel that you don't have enough of, but would like to have in your life?
"Lord, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting peace and happiness. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will".
John Aurelio in his book, Story Sunday, relates a parable about a man, who had a terminal illness. He felt that the disease meant the end of all his hopes and dreams. But he heard of a wizard, who could do wonderful things for people. So, he sought him out.
When the wizard asked, "What do you want?" The man replied, "I have dreamed dreams and hoped hopes." When asked what he had hoped for, the man, not sure of the wizard's power, told of his dream of living in a fine home of his own. The wizard said, "You have but to ask." Immediately, there appeared a beautiful palace, and the man was filled with joy as he walked its halls.
Remembering his illness, the man grew sad and returned to the wizard. Again, he spoke of his dreams and hopes, and again the wizard asked what he hoped for. The man said he had often dreamed of food fit for a king. The wizard snapped his fingers and Pop! A banquet appeared. The man rejoiced as he sat and feasted.
A third time this cycle was repeated, with the man wishing for beautiful clothes and the wizard providing garments made of the finest cloth imaginable. But the man was still sad. When the wizard asked why he was still sad, the man finally admitted that he had an incurable illness that he didn't expect even the wizard could help him with. "I can cure that," said the wizard. At that, the man exclaimed, "If you can cure my sickness, what do I care about where I live or what I eat or what I wear?" The wizard cured him with a snap of his fingers, and the man walked away from castle and food and clothes, happier than he had ever been in his life.
What's the connection between this parable and today's Gospel? We all have a terminal illness. Realizing that we must one day die, we hope and dream for any number of things – a big mansion, a fine car, good food, social status, expensive clothes, power, influence and popularity – yet, we are still sad and unfulfilled even when we get these things. Aurelio imagines God asking us, "Why are you still sad when I bless you with so many things?" When we reply, "Because we must die," God says, "I can cure that," and with a snap of his fingers … there is Jesus!
Having encountered this truth about Jesus, would we not look on big house, food, and clothes as if they were nothing? Realizing that God has "cure" death, should we not be happier than we ever dreamed we could be?
Zacchaeus is what St. Augustine describes as "restless heart," the person who will not be satisfied until he or she rests secure in the presence of God, the ultimate goodness and truth. In terms of material possessions, Zacchaeus has done pretty well. But Zacchaeus senses a lack in his life, an emptiness at the core of his life. That is why he so eagerly sought out Jesus, this itinerant preacher, a stranger.
Zacchaeus was a controversial person himself. Being a tax collector he was rich, and therefore has certain influence in the community. But as a tax collector he was also despised and hated by fellow Jews. He was a collaborator of the hated Romans. Furthermore, the job lends itself to abuses and corruption. What is collected above and beyond the quota required by the Roman authority goes to the pocket of the tax collector. That is why John the Baptist admonished the tax collectors to "Exact no more than what is due." The Jews classed in one breath tax collectors and sinners such as murderers and adulterers, all to be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.
Zacchaeus lacked nothing materially speaking. He was rich. He had attained the goal of his earthly ambition. And yet, interiorly troubled, he is till looking for something else, or someone else. Perhaps he does not fully know who Jesus is but [prompted by a kind of irresistible urge] he wants to catch a glimpse of the prophet. Only afterwards will he recognize Jesus for what he is. It is as if Zacchaeus and Jesus were both impelled by the same drive leading them one to the other.
This encounter between Zacchaeus the sinner and Jesus is symbolic. It represents our own state. In each one of us there lives the sinner and the Lord. In each sinner – the Son of God lives. In each believer – Zacchaeus continues to exist until "the Lord may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by His power," as St. Paul says.
This enables us to take any kind of risk in order to fulfill the demands of our personal faith, whatever the opinion of our surrounding crowd. This also inclines us to the greatest prudence in forming an opinion about others. We know them still far less than they know themselves.
Like Zacchaeus, we find in Jesus the fulfillment of our truest selves. Christianity has long suggested that the truest image of what humanity was meant to be can be seen in Jesus.
"Life is a terminal illness." This observation need not be as morbid as it sounds. We will reach a point in our lives at which we truly realize the consequences of our mortality. That can be a vulnerable insight, leading us to shift out what is ultimately meaningful in life. But it can also cause us to be overcome with sadness and to stockpile material goods as a kind of "cushion" against the pain of finite existence.
Luke presents Zacchaeus as a model of the process of salvation. This very rich person, despised by his fellow Jews, wants to see Jesus. Jesus disarmingly draws Zacchaeus to himself as he invites himself to reside and break bread in Zacchaeus' house.
Zacchaeus willingly and joyfully allows Jesus to come into his life. Zacchaeus counters his self-righteous critics by announcing emphatically his resolve to split his possessions in two and give one half to the poor. For his part, Jesus pronounces that Zacchaeus is not outside the fold of God's people and is saved.
The distinctively Lucan touch in this story of salvation is the theological insight that Jesus liberates us from the stranglehold, which the allurements of possessions have on us.
And this brings us to our own personal lives. Jesus often walks into our lives, as he did into the life of Zacchaeus. When he does, we need only reach out to him, and he will do for us what he did for Zacchaeus.
But this raises a question: When can we be sure that Jesus walks into our lives? There are three times, especially. The first is when the Scriptures are read and explained at Mass, no matter how boring the preacher. Jesus assured his disciples, "Whoever listens to you listens to me." And so Jesus is walking into our lives right now, in a way, as we listen to his words in Scripture.
A second time Jesus walks into our lives is in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Again, Jesus said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." And so the second time Jesus walks into our lives, in a special way, is in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which we will celebrate in just a few minutes.
Finally, Jesus walks into our lives, in a special way, whenever we encounter a brother or sister in need. Once again, Jesus said that whatever we do for one of these, we do for him.
And so there are three times, especially, when we can be sure that Jesus walks into our lives: in the Liturgy of the Word, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and when we encounter a needy brother or sister.
At these times Jesus walks into our lives just as surely as he did into the life of Zacchaeus. When this happens, we need only to reach out and invite Jesus to do for us what he did for Zacchaeus.
This is the message of today's Gospel. This is what we celebrate in today's Liturgy. This is the good news that Jesus wants each one of us to carry with us today as we leave this church.
Let's close with these beautiful words from the Book of Revelation Jesus says to us there:
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
[Then] I will enter his house and dine with him,
And he with me."
LUKE 14:1, 7-11
In today's Gospel, Jesus gives instructions on how to make a good impression on people. It sounds a little like Dale Carnegie's How to make friends and influence people! Jesus chooses concrete situations, understood well by those he was addressing, and uses them as sort of metaphors to teach us about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus' message in this gospel is that there's no room for pride, for self-glorification in God's Kingdom. Here he's making a profoundly spiritual point. It's the same point he's made over and over again throughout his public life. He who is the greatest among you, is servant of all. Service is the hallmark of my disciple. You must wash one another's feet.
We all welcome honors, we all gobble up praise. Desire for recognition is a powerful stimulus that can push aside Christ-like motivation, that can urge upon us a type of behavior that is hardly in accord with Christ's values.
We would think this is the vulnerable point in the armor of a Christian politician. Is this individual's strongest motivation the service of his country and his constituents or is it the need for approval, the desire to win reelection or to hold on to power? Is this individual a person of principle?
One scholar ends his commentary on today's gospel speaking of humility as the most difficult of all commandments. So difficult is it that even Christians have to see an exultation offered as a reward: "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
"Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of selfishness, fear, and conceit. Help me to be humble as you are humble and to love freely and graciously all whom you call me to serve."
Luke, the physician and keen observer of the human condition, notes the disposition of the Pharisees as they bring Jesus into their table fellowship. Body language often communicates more truthfully than words. Luke says the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus, no doubt with great suspicion. They wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God's law. Jesus' attention and affection, however, was fixed on meeting the needs of a man who had dropsy. How did such a pitiable man get into this dinner party? In the hot, arid climate of Palestine, homes were open and people freely dropped in without much ado. It would be uncharitable to exclude beggars. And if a rabbi came to dinner, it would be expected for him to speak a few words. So, famous rabbis obviously drew crowds wherever they went.
Jesus already knew that his hosts wanted to catch him in the act of breaking their Sabbath rituals. So when Jesus gave his defense, they treated him with cold silence. They were ensnared in their own legalism and could not understand or see the purpose of God. Why did God give the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath and enjoined his people to refrain from work on that day? The "Sabbath rest" was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God's goodness and the goodness of his works, both in creation and redemption. It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. It was not, however, intended to put a stop to love of God and love of neighbor.
The law of love supercedes the law of rest! Jesus shows the fallacy of the Pharisees' legalism by pointing to God's intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to heal. God's word has power to heal and to set free from ignorance, error, intolerance, and prejudice.
Do you honor the Lord's Day with appropriate rest and worship, and do you treat your neighbor with love and compassion at all times?
"Lord, may I always honor you, both in my work and in my rest, and in the way I treat my neighbor. Fill me with your love and keep me free from a critical and intolerant spirit that I may always seek the good of my neighbor in every situation."
The Decree on the Laity of Vatican II states: "Incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate of the Lord himself." So whether you are an accountant, lawyer, doctor, businessman or simple housewife, you share in the apostolate of preaching, teaching, and witnessing to Christ's teachings.
Today, there are very many Catholics who sacrifice time, money and effort for the Church. Think of the Eucharistic lay leaders, lectors, collectors, sacristans and others who render their services free. Consider, also, the many lay Catholics involved in various renewal movements such as charismatic organizations and neo-catechumenates. Never before has there been such a renaissance of spiritual awakening.
The most effective form of communicating the Good News is, however, our Christian living. We do not have to stand at street corners beating drums and shouting hallelujahs. We can do an effective job very quietly. Whenever we do not buy a lewd magazine, when we contribute neither money nor our presence to the type of movie or entertainment or search the internet for pornographic materials that are an insult to our morals and intelligence, we are preaching the Good News of Jesus by the example of our lives. When in our charity we help a missionary whom we will never see, when we give a beggar not just scraps of food but a good meal, when unnoticed we leave a good piece of literature somewhere which someone is bound to pick up and read and be drawn closer to Christ, we are proclaiming for Christ. Inconspicuously we are telling the world about Christ as effectively as if we had the whole world by the ear over radio or television.
Not everybody gets the big opportunities; but everyone gets the little opportunities for spreading the truth. The little circle in which we move everyday is our mission territory. In this work we must realize that no role is insignificant. The Mystical Body of Christ is so constituted that if each one does not contribute his or her share to spreading the truth in his or her own way, that part of the Mystical Body of Christ becomes a drag on the rest of the body. No matter what we are, we should do our best to contribute to the spread of Christianity.
"Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Inflame my heart with a burning love for you and with an expectant faith in your saving power. Take my life and all that I have as an offering of love for you, who are my All."
Out, therefore, goes all elitism. `I'm a son of Abraham . . .
I'm a disciple of Jesus . . . Therefore I'm among the
saved.' `No way,' says Jesus.
What will prevent us from getting through the narrow door? A marvelous Peanuts comic strip offers us a suggestion. Charlie Brown wants to go skiing. He's frustrated, staring at the open door. He's so heavily wrapped up in warm clothing that he can't fit through the door. He's shouting in frustration: "How am I going to get through the door?"
If Charlie Brown would only strip himself of some of the warm garments he's wearing, he he'd have no trouble getting through the door.
We're like Charlie Brown. We tend to get wrapped up in lots of things in this life which we do not need or which are positively harmful for us. Strip them off. Get rid of them.
Admiral Richard Byrd, an American explorer, once commented, "Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need." Maybe we could add, `the other half of the world's confusion comes from our failure to recognize what is harmful to us.'
"Lord, help me to always trust in your saving grace, especially when I am tempted and put to the test. Help me to be faithful to you and give me the courage and strength to resist temptation, especially the temptation to compromise or to be indifferent to your word."
Our role as Christians is to be yeast, transforming society, making it into God's Kingdom. We are to penetrate society and transform it. This is, of course, a major undertaking. It will not be accomplished overnight, not even over countless generations. How many generations have passed since Jesus walked our earth and first committed this task to earth`s people? How many more generations will be born and die before the task of building the kingdom is accomplished? We have no idea. Perhaps as many generations as have preceded us, perhaps more. This, however, is not reason for us to abandon the task.
Neither is the fact that the task is subversive, reason for abandoning it. And subversive it is! Just as a bit of yeast disturbs the mass of dough, Christian values will disturb, challenge and subvert a society characterized by materialism, consumerism and hedonism; they will subvert anti-Christian values embraced by political forces, hunger for power, arrogance, disrespect for freedom, for justice, for dignity, for life.
I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is this: have we allowed Christian values to neutralize within us the power of materialism, consumerism and hedonism?
"Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ- like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory."
MONDAY 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
MONDAY 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME - YR I
JUNE 20, 2005
The LORD said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and
from your father's house to a land that I will show you. "I will
make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your
name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who
bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the
earth shall find blessing in you." Abram went as the LORD directed
him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he
left Haran. Abram took his wife, Sarai, his brother's son Lot, all
the possessions that they had accumulated, and the persons they had
acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they
came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land as far as
the sacred place at Shechem, by the terebinth of Moreh. (The
Canaanites were then in the land.) The LORD appeared to Abram and
said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So Abram built an
altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. From there he moved
on to the hill country east of Bethel, pitching his tent with Bethel
to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there to the LORD
and invoked the LORD by name. Then Abram journeyed on by stages to
Jesus said to his disciples: "Stop judging, that you may not be
judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with
which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the
splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam
in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me remove that
splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You
hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will
see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
How difficult it is to judge the guilt of those accused of crime in
our courts. How often mistakes are made. The innocent are condemned
and the guilty go free. Yet somehow we find it so easy to pass
judgment on those around us. And we judge them with a very demanding
standard, not to mention quickly and with little deliberation. Worse
still, we pretend to know their intentions and innermost
dispositions. How little we know of their past lives, the real
condition of their hearts. What we do know is just how guilty we are
of so many sins and faults in our life. How can we beg mercy from God
if we continue to see and treat others from a judging heart? While
our judgments are always limited and flawed, God's judgment will be
perfectly precise, complete and just. Judging gets us nowhere but
condemned. Let us fill our heart with mercy, so as at least to
say, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
Why do we judge others? The answer lies in how we see others. Jesus
was able to forgive even his most cruel and merciless enemies because
of how he looked at them. His eyes having gazed so often upon the
face of his merciful Father and upon the good and loving face of his
mother, knew only how to seek goodness in others. The love in his
heart colors what he sees. Beyond the horror of a penitent's sins in
confession, Jesus' eyes rest only upon the humble and contrite heart
that opens itself in trust to him. We then must learn to look with
love in prayer. If we have a humble heart, aware of my own
weaknesses, yet not obsessed by them, then we can focus on God and
If we have trained our heart to seek and recognize God's goodness in
others, then what we say about others will follow. Why, though, are
we so easily bothered by their defects? We want them to be perfect.
We have high expectations, especially for those we love. Yet
underneath it all, if our expectations are unreal and unforgiving,
should we not consider the source? The source is our own heart. Are
we so unaware of our own weaknesses and failings that we expect
perfection of others? Or do we seek out and examine the defects of
others so as to escape our own? Do we feel righteous by seeing the
moral misery of others? Who are we to seek out imperfections in
others. If we truly care about helping others with our words, we will
begin by correcting the pride in our own life first.
We should judge only our own misery and sin. We should fill our heart
and mind with the vision of God's mercy and love. Let us open our
eyes to God's goodness hidden in our wounded and suffering brothers
and sisters. Let us not crucify God's hope and love for them with our
thoughts or words.
O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits
its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke.
Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize
rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to
think of people at their best rather than at their worst. This we ask
for thy name's sake. (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)
We pray ...
- for Pacita Lo, who is in coma and for the strength and comfort
needed by her husband, children and her entire family at this time.
- for better health and healing of Maribeth Malvar.
- for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Birthday: Cecilia J. Chua
- In Memoriam:Chester Gotiong
- for world peace and reconciliation.
- for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our
prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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