SR-2017-10-01

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 1, 2017


“The growing knowledge of and the love of Christ, above all, prepares us to follow His call.” (St Ignatius)


26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Responsibility and Obedience.

In Reading 1, Ezekiel tells us that each of us is responsible for our own conduct, and will be judged accordingly.  In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that “actions (our conduct) speak louder than words.” In Reading 2, Paul reminds the Philippians that self-seeking and rivalry have no place in the Christian community.

Our obedience (i.e. follow His call) to God’s Word is our own responsibility and  it is shown by our conduct, not just by our words.


  • Reading 1 – Ezekiel 18:25-28      It is possible to turn from sin and preserve one’s life.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 25:4-9      A prayer to God for mercy.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 2:1-11     Be like Christ who humbled Himself and was exalted by God.
  • Gospel Matthew 21:28-32     Jesus poses a question to the chief priests and elders on the meaning of obedience.

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Ezekiel 18:25-28                        (The Virtuous Person Shall Live)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual  and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.

Today’s Reading – Ezekiel tells his fellow exiles in Babylon that each individual will be held responsible for his/her individual sin. For the Israelites, this is a radical, new teaching.  Until now, they believe in what is called “corporate responsibility.  The idea of corporate responsibility means that they are now paying for the sins of their ancestors; hence, the words: “The Lord’s way is not fair,” found at the beginning of today’s reading. Ezekiel states clearly that we are responsible only for our own sins.  If the sinner repents, he/she will experience a whole new beginning with God.   Conversely, if the virtuous person sins, he/she will pay for his/her sins.


Thus says the LORD: You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? (To be a follower of God and to do what He wants you to do instead of what you want to do, means obedience: “We are not free to do what we want to do but free to do what we ought to do” – St Pope John Paul II)  When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (This is an early Old Testament reference to a life after death.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 25:4-918                   (God’s Compassion)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm speaks beautifully of God’s compassion for the sinner that turns to Him. The note of conversion, as the Psalmist sees his own sins in the light of God’s goodness, makes this psalm a suitable accompaniment for the change of heart (i.e. obedience) mentioned in Reading 1 and the Gospel reading.


R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me Your paths, guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior. R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that Your compassion, O LORD, and Your love are from of old. The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in Your kindness remember me, because of Your goodness, O LORD.
R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord. Good and upright is the LORD; thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble His way.
(God is good, upright, loving, and faithful. Because He is this way He teaches sinners and guides the humble, those who sense their need for His help and are willing to be responsible for their actions and be obedient to God’s Word. He does so through His covenant (the Mosaic Law), testimonies of the prophets, and most importantly, via the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.)
R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2.     Philippians 2:1-11                     (Jesus is Lord)        

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – While in prison, Paul hears from his visitors about the bickering and division amongst his beloved Philippians.  From the deepest recesses of his heart, he appeals to them to change their destructive ways. Because they have been baptized into Christ, they are called to live responsively and be obedient to God’s Word. That is, live in a fellowship with others that should be characterized by love, humility, mutual respect, altruism and unity.  Paul holds Jesus up for his readers as their model for this transformation process.  Look at Jesus, even though He is God, He is willing to surrender His equality with God in order to become fully human. In placing before them the self-emptying of Christ, Paul is suggesting to the Philippians a radical de-centering of their lives— from self-absorption to self-giving.


Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. (For Paul, Christian love flows from the free disposition to forego concern for self as the driving force of life and replacing it with a practical concern for others.)

Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus (The secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks—their attitudes. “Let us strive at all times to have pure thoughts, righteous  ideas, an d holy intentions in our minds.” – St. Padre Pio), Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. (“If Christ were only a man, He would have been said to have been ‘in the image of God,’ not ‘in the form of God.’ We know that humanity was made in the image, not the form, of God.”) Rather, He emptied Himself (The extreme limit of self-denial was shown by Jesus doing this. Jesus did not lay aside the form of God; He did not cease to be God. He added the “form” of man but without its sinfulness.), taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (every people) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend”  General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) # 275:  A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons (Trinity) are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.



Gospel     Matthew 21:28-32                          (Obeying God’s Will)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Jesus is now about one week away from His passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple. Jesus has caught the attention of the religious authorities. The chief priests and elders question Jesus about the source of His authority. Jesus refuses to name, for these religious leaders, the source of His authority. Instead, He questions the priests and elders through the parable we hear in today’s Gospel. The answer to the parable given by the religious leaders is correct, but it convicts them for their failure to heed the call of John the Baptist and for their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God.

The situation Jesus poses is rather straightforward. Given the same task by their father, one son asserts his disobedience in words, but then obeys in his actions; the second son obeys with his words, but disobeys in his actions. The question that Jesus poses is pointed and direct: Which son did what the father wanted? All would agree that “actions speak louder than words” and that even if his words were disobedient, the son who did the work as ordered did the father’s will.

Jesus’ conclusion is also direct. The chief priests and elders, the ones who speak most often about God, did not act accordingly. They did not respond to the message of repentance announced by John the Baptist  (See PAUSE, below) with a change of heart. Instead, John’s message was heeded by those that one would not expect to repent—tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Because of their actions, these sinners will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders.

Jesus could ask us the same question. Do our words indicate our obedience to God? If not our words, do our actions? God desires a full conversion of heart. It’s our responsibility that our actions (and our words as well) will give evidence of our love for God.


Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons (The distinction here is not between Jews and Gentiles, but between two kinds of Jews: faithless leaders and faithful outcasts.). He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard (God’s Kingdom on earth) today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John [the Baptist] came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did (They saw the need to repent of their evil ways and did so.). Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (The leaders, by contrast, thought themselves righteous and did not see the need to repent and be reconciled with the Father. This parable has a counterpart in the gospel of Luke called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” – i.e. the contrast between the actions of the prodigal son versus his brother.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Canticle of Zachariah – “… You, my child (i.e. John the Baptist), shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. …”



Catechism 546 – Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the Kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for us: will we be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have we made of the talents we have  received? Jesus and the presence of the Kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the Kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic (being beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain). 



 

SR-2017-09-24

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 24, 2017


“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to us. All the good from
The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”
(Abraham Lincoln)
“Humility is the realization that all your gifts,
blessings, and your good works/deeds come from the grace of God.”


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Gods’ Generosity.

In Reading 1, we are told that “God’s ways are not our ways.” In the Gospel, we have a concrete example of this truth as we see how the latecomer laborers to the vineyard are treated equally with God’s generosity as are the other laborers. In Reading 2, Paul speaks of his desire to have Christ exalted in him.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 55:6-9      God’s ways are far beyond the ways of human beings.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18      God is near to those who call upon Him.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 1:20c-24,27a      Paul tells the Philippians to live for Christ.
  • Gospel Matthew 20:1-16      In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus teaches about God’s generous mercy.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 55:6-9                (Seek the Lord)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – The text from Isaiah 55 is from the post-Babylonian Captivity era, likely around the end of the 6th Century BC. The Jews had been technically freed from captivity with the fall of Babylon to Persia. They were in the process of being repatriated to Palestine and of rebuilding Jerusalem, including the Temple.

Isaiah was provoking God’s people to remember why their ancestors had been seemingly abandoned by God and allowed to fall to the Gentiles during the previous few centuries. He was prodding them into remembering how their national, religious and moral leadership had stepped away from their covenant with God. Now they had yet another opportunity to reconsider, redirect, and correct their community’s course. Think! Reflect! Consider! Change! Grow! Repent! Evolve! Improve! And you shall be a recipient of God’s generosity.


Seek the LORD while He may be found, call Him while He is near. (God can always be found and He is always near, but our dulled hearts may not recognize His presence. That is, Seek God while you have some spiritual sense in you. Seek Him before you lose all belief in Him.) Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. (God’s generosity is open for anyone to return to the Lord who may have wandered away from Him or rebelled against Him.) For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18                 (The Nearness of God)

Today’s Psalm –  This is a psalm of praise to God for His mercy – for His nearness to us and for His generosity.


R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD and highly to be praised; His greatness is unsearchable.
R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger
(God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.) and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all His works.
R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
The LORD is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



 Reading 2.     Philippians 1:20c-24,27a                      (Life in Christ)        

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – Paul is writing from prison and is not sure whether he will get out alive. But it does not matter because for him “life is Christ and death is gain.” If he gets out of prison, that’s okay too; it will give him another opportunity to preach the Gospel. The bottom line for Paul is to serve Christ and His Gospel.  He urges his readers to have the same attitude.


Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ (Paul has died to his former life and now lives an existence entirely taken over by Christ; one that transcends the barrier of physical death.) , and death is gain (Union with Christ). If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. (Remaining alive provides further opportunity for preaching the gospel and reaping its fruits.) And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. (And you will be a recipient of God’s generosity.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 20:1-16                            (The Workers in the Vineyard)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Today’s Gospel occurs after Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea where He is sought out by great crowds and tested by the Pharisees. The Gospel parable reminds us of God’s generosity (see THEME), which He offers abundantly and equally. We are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more reward, more of God’s abundant mercy, than the actions of others. But God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people. When we think that way, we are trying to relate to God on our terms rather than to accept God’s radically different ways. Some of us find Christianity early in life and remain so throughout our life. Some of us find Christianity, leave it and then find it again prior to our death. Some of us find Christianity late in life but prior to our death. Some of us never find Christianity or have left it prior to our death (i.e. they may never have been taught the Way or may have incurred a terrible circumstance, or …). But in all cases Jesus has the same generous reward – Heaven, as He so judges our heart to grant It. So, you might say, I’ll take my chances and live my life as the song says “I Did It My Way”. While the rest of us are fortunate to learn to live our life, with our best efforts, based upon the teachings of the Scriptures, the Magisterium, and the Catholic Traditions which we believe greatly improve our chances of being acceptable to Jesus’ judgment. Individual Spiritual Direction is a good way for us to get the feedback we need as to how well we are proceeding on the Way.


Jesus told His disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard (The vineyard is symbolic of God’s chosen people.). After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ (The wage is the same, yet it is not truly equal because of the boss’ generosity. The boss has counted their willingness to work.) He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ (The laborers are rebuked not for their dissatisfaction with what they have received, but for their dissatisfaction in the fact that others have received as much. By giving to one, the employer has not taken away from another.) Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (This parable is addressed to the Jewish people, whom God called at an early hour, centuries ago. Now the Gentiles are also being called – with an equal right to form part of the new people of God, the Church. It is a matter of gratuitous, unmerited, invitation; therefore those who were first to receive the invitation have no grounds for complaint when God calls the “last” and gives them the same reward – membership in His family. )


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           The hours of the workday, in the above parable, correspond to stages in life when people turn to God. When converted, they are rescued from idle living to serve Christ in his vineyard (Church/Kingdom), where they harvest much fruit for God before the sun sets on their earthly life. (From Origen)

At first reading, the laborers who were first hired seem to have a genuine grievance (envy) – because they do not realize that to have a job in the Lord’s vineyard is a divine gift. Jesus leaves no doubt that although we may all come by different paths, we all receive the same reward – the kingdom of heaven.



Catechism 2540 – Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train themselves to live in humility:
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his                       servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised. 



 

SR-2017-09-17

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 17, 2017


“A Christian’s longing should be to reflect the Lord to others.” (Charles Stanley)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Be Kind and Merciful.

Both Reading 1 and the Gospel reading give us a strong message on forgiveness.  If we are to be like God, we must forgive each other over and over.  In Reading 2, Paul states that we are all God’s partners.

Being kind means to be of a good or caring nature or disposition as a person; having sympathy and consideration for others; given to anticipation of the needs and happiness of others.

Merciful means providing relief and compassionate treatment of those in distress; showing compassion and forgiveness to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.


  • Reading 1 – Sirach 27:30—28:9      Those who seek God’s mercy must be merciful toward others.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-4,9-12      A song of praise to God who is kind and merciful.
  • Reading 2 Romans 14:7-9      We belong to the Lord.
  • Gospel Matthew 18:21-35     Jesus teaches that we must forgive one another as God has forgiven us.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Sirach 27:30—28:9                  (The Need for Forgiveness)

Context – Sirach is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) ). It’s one of the Books of the Apocrypha, and was written in 180 BC by a teacher of Old Testament law. It is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 180 BC. The teachings are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to our duties toward ourselves and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God.

Today’s Reading – If we do not forgive one another, what right have we to ask God to forgive us? The refusal to forgive and our tendency to seek revenge are in themselves a manifestation of sin, warns Sirach.


Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. (See PAUSE, below) Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing (forgiveness) from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “The vengeful will suffer”Self-defense was allowable, but love was not to be laid aside. Exodus 21:24 – ” eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”. This Old Testament principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions. Excessive harshness (i.e. vengefulness) and excessive leniency should be avoided. In Matthew 5:17  Jesus said – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law [i.e. Ten Commandments] or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So, when He said in Matthew 5:39 – “When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”, He did not negate the above Old Testament principle because His concern was to add to it forgiveness and mercy. (See THEME).

The scripture lessons and parables generally assume that all parties in the Gospel narrative are fundamentally good people who try to be and are open to becoming ever-more reasonable, balanced, and just. The Gospel is not about terrorists or extremists. Terrorists and extremists, past and present, tend to be neither reasonable, nor balanced, nor just. Terrorists are anti-Gospel. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-4,9-12                         (God’s Mercy)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm is a meditation on the merciful face of God, which the Israelites have come to know so well through their history of sin and forgiveness.


R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger (God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.), and rich in compassion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He will not always chide, nor does He keep His wrath forever. Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west
(See PAUSE, below)
, so far has He put our transgressions from us.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “As far as the east is from the west” – If someone travels north or south they finally arrive at a pole from which they can proceed no farther north or south. However if someone travels east or west, they never reach such a point. God did not say He forgives our sins as far as the North is from the South but as far as the East is from the West, namely, infinitely.  



 Reading 2.     Romans 14:7-9                          (God’s Partners)     

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In all we are, in all we say, in all we do, we are the Lord’s. Therefore, that belonging to the Lord inspires and influences us in all things, among all peoples, in every situation, in all places.


Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (See PAUSE, below). For this is why Christ died and came to life, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “we are the Lord’s” – The liberating act of Christ freeing human beings from bondage to the Mosaic law (all of its 613 specific commands), sin, and death, has enabled us to live for God (Christians belong to Christ in both life and death, having been purchased at the price of His blood.). This implies the service of God in all things; it is also the basis of a Christian’s social obligations. “This means that we are not free to do what we want but free to do as we ought.” – Saint John Paul II.



Gospel     Matthew 18:21-35                (Forgiving Our Neighbor)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The story opens with Peter seeking to put limits on forgiveness. Jesus tells Peter: God does not put  limits on how often He forgives; neither must you put limits on how often you forgive others. Jesus tells us a parable to reinforce His point and to show how forgiveness freely given can be lost if not freely shared. The King in the story is God and we are the servants.  In failing to imitate his master, the servant is severely judged and reprimanded. God is like a King who expects His servants to offer each other the same mercy that He has shown them. To experience the reign of God is to experience the mercy of God in such a powerful way that we are, in turn, able to extend to others the same mercy God has given to us. We must fervently pray for strength to resist the temptation of getting even with those who have hurt us and pray for the grace to reflect the majestic generosity of the Kingdom of God.


Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (St. Peter knew the Jews of that time to be much given to revenge; he therefore thought it a great proof of superior virtue to be able to forgive seven times.)  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. (This gives us an idea of the immense value of the forgiveness we receive from God when we go to Him in confession.)

  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will My heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” (Those whom God has forgiven must forgive as God has forgiven them. This demonstrates true humility. This forgiveness must be real, not pretended; from the heart, and not in word and appearance only; sacrificing all desire of revenge, all anger, hatred and resentment, at the shrine of charity.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Let us imitate Joseph, who though reduced to a state of the most abject servitude, by the hatred of his unnatural brethren, yet in the affliction of his heart, employed all his power to succor them in their afflictions. Let us imitate Moses, who after a thousand injuries, raised his fervent supplications in behalf of his people. Let us imitate the blessed Paul, who, though daily suffering a thousand afflictions from the Jews, still wished to become an anathema (punished for the Jews disbelief in Jesus) for their salvation. Let us imitate Stephen, who, when the stones of his persecutors were covering him with wounds, prayed that the Almighty would pardon their sin. Let us follow these admirable examples, then shall we extinguish the flames of anger, then will our heavenly Father grant us the forgiveness of our sins, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. (From St. Chrysostom)

The ultimate example of forgiveness is that of our Dear Lord Jesus Christ. In His humanity, as He hung on the cross, He said – “Father forgive them.”


Catechism 2843 – Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial (suitable for use in a Church) communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession (a prayer for the offender).



 

SR-2017-09-10

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 10, 2017


“If we get to heaven, wouldn’t it be terrible if we saw a family member or loved one being rejected and
having them see us and exclaim – when we were together why didn’t you tell me about this wonderful place?” (EWTN) 


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Actions of a Just and Strong Believer.

The just believer tries to imitate the God of Justice and the strong believer appreciates the danger of excessive use of power – these types of believers follow God’s example for being able to engage and handle the messiest aspects of life with compassion, wisdom, and finesse. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

All three readings speak about the importance of right relationships and  personal responsibility. Reading 1 and the Gospel reading address the issue of how to respond to a church member (but expandable to a family member, or friend) who is walking a sinful and wrong path.  In Reading 2, Paul tells us that in following the way of love, we fulfill the law.


  • Reading 1 – Ezekiel 33:7-9      The Son of Man is appointed as guardian of Israel.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 95:1-2,6-9      Song of praise to God, our Salvation.
  • Reading 2 Romans 13:8-10      The Law is summarized in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Gospel Matthew 18:15-20     Jesus teaches His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Ezekiel 33:7-9                            (Warning the Wicked)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.

Today’s Reading – In our reading today we hear Ezekiel tell of his role as watchman for the Israelites, the one who is to initiate correction. God reminded Ezekiel that He had appointed him a watchman for the Israelites. He was responsible to deliver the Lord’s messages to His people. If Ezekiel failed to warn the people that they would die for their sins, God would hold him responsible for their deaths. But if Ezekiel warned the sinners of the consequences of their iniquity and they disregarded his warning, they would die, but God would hold them, not Ezekiel, responsible.



Thus says the LORD: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear Me say anything, you shall warn them for Me. If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ” and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself. (Israel is in trouble. Ezekiel is their prophet but he must work on an individual basis. Just as a mile is walked one step at a time, there is no salvation for Israel as a whole, but for each individual according to his merits.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Warning others of the consequences of judgment inherent in sin is never a popular assignment. Believers have a duty to be ‘watchmen’ who warn those who are in the world and are without God of the destructive nature of sin and its final irrevocable result—death and hell. Our responsibility is to warn [i.e. be a just believer] and proclaim as persuasively and gentle as possible [i.e. be  a strong believer], but how the message is received is beyond our control. (From Thomas Constable)



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 95:1-2,6-9                             (Answering the Lord’s Call)

Today’s Psalm –  This Psalm echoes the call to conversion imparted in Reading 1 and the Gospel reading, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts,”.


R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him.
(These two versus and the following two, summon us to worship the Lord.)
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear His voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted Me; they tested Me though they had seen My works.”
(These versus are a Prophetic warning against disobedience to God.)

R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Meribah and Massah are two names for the same place in the desert where Moses was leading the Israelites during the Exodus. The people complained loudly about the need for more water. God told Moses to speak to a large rock (a symbol of Jesus) near them. But Moses struck the rock twice. Water did flow forth but God chastised Moses for not trusting Him by his striking the rock and thus prevented him from leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. However, God gave Moses a preview of the Promised Land prior to his death and burial. 



Reading 2.     Romans 13:8-10                        (Love of Neighbor) 

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – Christian love must be sincere, without hypocrisy, and must manifest itself in heartfelt affection for one’s brothers and sisters in the community, even for one’s enemies (one tough assignment!) and anyone in need. In the context of today’s readings, it can also be noted that genuine love sometimes calls us to reach out to an erring brother or sister with the purpose of drawing him/her back into God’s ways.


Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Paul wants us to have peace with everyone and love the brethren. Then we shall not owe anybody anything. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law of Moses. The commandment of the New Covenant is that we should love our enemies as well. – Ambrosiaster) The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. (If you love somebody, you will not kill them. Nor will you commit adultery, steal from them or bear false witness against them. It is the same with all the other commands of the law: love ensures that they are kept. – Origen)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 18:15-20                (Communal Correction and Prayer)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – In today’s Gospel reading,  Jesus addresses how the Christian community should deal with a member who sins. Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters fairly. This is one of the ways in which the members of the Church must seek out the sheep that has wandered. This is loving correction. The community must reflect the merciful love of Christ. Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians today who pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring church member, family member, or friend  to give up their sinful ways.


Jesus said to His disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (A serious step which is taken only where the welfare of the community is at stake. Jesus welcomes tax collectors (St. Matthew had been one himself at the time of his calling) but only when they showed faith and repented of their sins.)  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (The apostles are given the power to bind and loose, the same power that was given to Peter. Note that there is one significant difference, they have not been given the keys; this symbol of authority has been reserved for Peter as the Chief Apostle (and first Pope).) Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. (From the very beginning the Church has practiced communal prayer in addition to encouraging individual prayer. ) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           God fully warns us to be prepared for difficulties when following our obligation in drawing one’s attention to their erring ways –  Proverbs 9:7 “Whoever corrects the arrogant/scoffer earns insults/abuse; and whoever reproves the wicked incurs injury.”



Catechism 1443 – During His public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: He reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at His table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.



 

SR-2017-09-03

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 3, 2017


“The growing knowledge of and the love of Christ, above all, prepares us to follow His call.” (St. Ignatius)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)  


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Love Implies Sacrifice.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about the cost of faithfulness. The passion/sufferings (sacrifices) of Jeremiah foreshadow the passion (sacrifice) of Jesus, which He speaks about in the Gospel. In Reading 2, Paul speaks about offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to God.

Sacrifice means – surrendering something of value for something of greater value. The Eucharist is a true sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal. The sacrificial character of Jesus’ instruction, “Do this in remembrance of Me” can be translated “Offer this (i.e. our sacrificing of our Unchristian way of life  for a Christian way of life) as my memorial offering.”


  • Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:7-9      Jeremiah laments but cannot fail to speak in God’s name.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 63:2-6,8-9      Our souls yearn for God.
  • Reading 2 Romans 12:1-2      Paul encourages the Romans to stay faithful to God.
  • Gospel Matthew 16:21-27     Jesus speaks of His Passion (sacrifice) and rebukes Peter for his objection.

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Jeremiah 20:7-9                       (Power of God’s Will)

Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah, and is called “the  crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.

Today’s Reading – During a turbulent time in Israel’s history, Jeremiah is called by God to deliver a message that his people do not want to hear. Jeremiah must denounce corruption in the temple liturgy and condemn the people’s dabbling in foreign cults, chastise them for their many breaches of the covenant, and castigate them for ignoring the poor. But the people beat him up and throw him in a dark dungeon. Being a messenger of God is no fun – it incurs many sacrifices.


You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; You were too strong for me, and You triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. (Jeremiah is not charging God with any untruth; but what he calls duping, was only the concealing from him, when he accepted the prophetical commission, the greatness of the evils which the execution of that commission was to bring upon him. God never promised Jeremiah that he would not suffer persecution.)

Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. (Jeremiah felt that he was always shouting messages of impending disaster, and these announcements had resulted in people criticizing and ridiculing him constantly.)

I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. (Regardless, Jeremiah could not however refrain from speaking. For Jeremiah, the only thing worse than being God’s prophet is saying “no” to God’s call.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.    



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 63:2-6,8-9                             (Longing for God)

Today’s Psalm –  This beautiful psalm expresses the author’s intense longing to be in the presence of God. Most likely, this psalm expresses the thoughts and feelings of Jeremiah on his better days.


R – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
O God, You are my God whom I seek; for You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory, for Your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify You.
(“to see” what/whom? – in the OT, it  relates to the Arc of the Covenant; in the NT,  it relates to Jesus Christ.)

R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless You while I live; lifting up my hands
(a gesture of prayer and doing good works), I will call upon Your name. As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise You.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to You; Your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.       



Reading 2.     Romans 12:1-2                          (A Living Sacrifice)

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In acknowledgment of God’s goodness, followers of Christ are to seek to make Christian values permeate every aspect of their lives. Authentic liturgy is not something that just takes place in church. Ideally, our whole life is an act of worship to God. Offering ourselves to God means conforming to His will and not to the temptations of the world. Verse 1 deals with making the commitment – an explicit act, to conforming to His will and verse 2 with maintaining it – maintaining a lifelong process.



I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice (as opposed to the OT offering of slain animals as sacrifices), holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age (Our current age seeks to exclude God from life.) but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Total commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ is a prerequisite for experiencing God’s will.).


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you         “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”   We obey this command to “offer ourselves” in each Eucharistic prayer when we respond to the Priest when he says “Lift up your hearts” and we say  “We lift them up to the Lord.” We are placing our lives on the altar along with the offering of bread and wine – so that our lives, along with the bread and wine, can be transformed by God into something even more pleasing to Him. 



Gospel     Matthew 16:21-27                (Taking Up the Cross)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Peter has yet to learn that Jesus will not be a regal warrior type of hero, but a humble, suffering Messiah. Then Jesus goes on to speak about the cost and  rewards of discipleship. The disciples must be willing to embrace the crosses of life and die to themselves, i.e., to their false self―proud, vain, self-seeking – sacrifices.  Jesus, not oneself, must be the center of one’s life.  In dying to the desires of the false self, we will discover and grow into our true (Christ) self. The Gospel concludes with a reminder that ahead for each of us is a day of reckoning. Our words and deeds will have eternal consequences.


Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes (The three groups which compose the Sanhedrin, the elders were lay leaders.), and be killed and on the third day be raised. (Jerusalem is the city where the prophets die (Matthew 23:29-39). Imagine the disillusionment of the disciples at this point – He has just previously been revealed as the Messiah and instead of military victory and prosperity, He is speaking of suffering and rejection.) Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me (Remain a follower; you are not yet ready to lead.), Satan! (Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Peter is acting like Satan and tempting Jesus.) You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Peter’s natural instincts object to a suffering Messiah. At this time, He cannot understand the spiritual necessity of Jesus’ Passion for sinners.)  

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. (Jesus indicates that suffering and self-denial (sacrifices) are central to the Christian life.) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world (Acquire great wealth.) and forfeit his life (Here life is not merely physical existence, but one’s higher or spiritual life.)? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory, and then He will repay all according to his conduct.” (This is a picture of the rewards of discipleship. The Son of Man acts as judge and the kingdom is His. )


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 736 – By the power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.” [Personal Sacrifices].

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.