Sunday Readings Reflections

SR-2017-09-24

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


ORDINARY TIME:
Liturgical Color – Green (Stands for Growth, hope, life.)
Purpose –
To recall the life of Christ, reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians.

(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.


WHY BIBLE STUDY?
The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.

“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.

(This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn,  St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)


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.



 

SR-2017-08-27

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 27, 2017


“Let us therefore yield ourselves and bow to the authority of the Holy Scriptures,
which can neither err nor deceive.”
(St. Augustine)


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Authority.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about the conferral of keys of authority. In Reading 2, Paul bows down before the authority of God whose ways are inscrutable and full of wisdom.

The authority our leaders attain upon their election is just like our own Free Will. It can be used under the direction of God for the good of all or it can be used inappropriately. Helping to deal with the aspects of their inappropriate use of authority, it helps to remind ourselves how we should live as just believers, strong believers, and wise believers. “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 appreciate God for being able to engage and handle the messiest aspects of life with compassion, wisdom and finesse. Such is true wisdom. Wise believers likewise willingly wade into the fray of life and risk the chaos, the complications, the injustices, and the human foibles of all such issues. Wise believers who engage life survive and thrive even as they respect everyone concerned.” (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild) All of this is good medicine for today’s rampant political polarization and disingenuousness in America!

“The confession of love must precede the bestowing of authority; authority without love is tyranny.” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 22:19-23      God will remove Shebna from his office as master of the palace.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 138:1-3,6,8      God’s kindness is forever.
  • Reading 2 Romans 11:33-36      Paul sings praise to God.
  • Gospel Matthew 16:13-20     Simon Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven

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 22:19-23                        (The Gift of Authority)

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 prophet Isaiah is delivering God’s judgment to a disgraced public official, Shebna, who supports Israel’s military alliance with one pagan nation (Egypt) against another (Assyria). The failed alliance is disastrous for Israel, which the prophet attributes to a failure to trust in the Lord alone. Shebna will therefore be removed from his position of trust and honor and a successor named – Eliakim. The Lord promises, “I will give over to him your authority….  I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder” (Isaiah 22:21, 22). The basis for conferring this symbolic key of power is of course Eliakim’s perceived trust in the Lord God alone.


Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon My servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. (This reflects the quality of his rule. He will care for them like they are his own children.)  I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.” (This is the same process and power that Christ conferred on St. Peter, when He gave him the keys of heaven – See Gospel, below.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          We can learn from God’s replacement of Shebna with Eliakim and not put too much hope in our leaders and not enough in our God that He will resolve the problem of poor leadership.  



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 138:1-3,6,8                           (God’s Eternal Love)

Today’s Psalm –  In this hymn of thanksgiving, the Psalmist, unlike Shebna in Reading 1, above, places his confidence in God.


R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, with all my heart, for You have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing Your praise; I will worship at Your holy temple.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
I will give thanks to Your name, because of Your kindness and Your truth: When I called, You answered me; You built up strength within me.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly
(respectful) He sees, and the proud (self-righteous) He knows from afar. (See PAUSE, below) Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of Your hands.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly (respectful) He sees, and the proud (self-righteous) He knows from afar.Our Lord is a good role model figure, for authority behavior, for our leaders  in the way they should relate to all of the people.


Reading 2.     Romans 11:33-36                      (Eternal Glory)       

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 – God’s riches and fullness, His wisdom and knowledge, are highlighted in this passage. God’s riches convey the sense of overflowing abundance of a God whose very being, whose love and fidelity, can neither be contained nor limited. As the Scripture attests, God’s ways of doing things are often not our ways. One can only respond with awe to God’s mysterious ways. God’s knowledge and understanding surpass all human designs. God’s wisdom is something we receive as a gift from Him through the Holy Spirit.


Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor?” (Isaiah 40:13) “Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid?” (Job 35:7  and 41:11) For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. (This is much like the doxology we hear at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.”)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid?” – Here is another good example of God’s good role model for authority behavior by not ever having to repay anyone for His position or actions. 



Gospel     Matthew 16:13-20                (The First Pope)

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 –  Almost as a fugitive from His enemies, Jesus took His disciples to the far northern extremity of Jewish influence, the most northerly place Jesus visited – the region of Caesarea Philippi. At this place, as far from Jerusalem and Jesus’ opponents as possible, Jesus proceeded to give them important revelation concerning what lay ahead for Him and them. Here Peter would make the great confession of the true identity of Jesus, whereas in Jerusalem to the south the Jews would deny His identity.


Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (The title “Son of Man” is a title which Jesus applies to Himself, it is never applied by His disciples. It refers back to Daniel 7:13.) They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah (Even today when the Passover Seder is celebrated in the Jewish household, a place is set for Elijah.) , still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ (Messiah, Anointed One by God), the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. (Recall that it was Jonah who announced the impending destruction of Nineveh and successfully effected repentance of the people. This could be an early symbol of Peter’s role. ) For flesh and blood (human beings) has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter (rock), and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld (Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, due to Original Sin all the souls of the dead went to this place called the netherworld.) shall not prevail against it (The gates of the netherworld will not prevail because even if the occupant of the office dies, the office will continue.). I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind (forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (permit, declare lawful) on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Again just as in Reading 1, where the power to open and shut were given, here the ability to bind and loose are given. Notice that the binding and loosing are initiated on earth but are confirmed in heaven.)  Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ. (He wished that the people would believe Him to be their Messiah, but His hour had not yet come and  the apostles were not yet fit to deliver, nor the people to receive, this grand belief. Plus it might moreover have proved a hindrance to His death.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Just as in Reading 1, the office of Peter is a perpetual office; in fact it is the same office which was once occupied by Shebna and Eliakim. The position continues even though the occupant changes. Each occupant of the office of Peter is invested with the keys and the responsibility to bind and loose for the entire Church. This is why the popes are called the “Successors of Peter.”

The primacy of Peter (which each of his successors hold) is not an invention of the Church. It is something granted by Christ Himself. The failures of some popes throughout history do not contradict Jesus’ promise that “the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.” Peter himself failed the Lord.  In giving authority and primacy to the one who will deny Him, Jesus is communicating to us that His Church was not established on human strength, but on His own divine love and faithfulness. The Church’s true foundation is Christ Himself.  The Pope is His servant.

Abraham was called “the rock” from which the children of Israel were hewn (see Isaiah 51:1-2). And Peter becomes the rock from which God raises up new children of God (see Matthew 3:9).



Catechism 153 – When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “My Father who is in heaven”. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him. “Before this faith can be exercised, humankind must have the grace of God to move and assist them; they must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”

Catechism 1445 – The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into His. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.



 

SR-2017-08-20

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 20, 2017


“The more we read the gospel, the stronger our faith becomes.” (Pope Pius X)
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
(St. Jerome)


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Universalism.

In God’s plan, Abraham was to be the father of many nations – Universalism. Israel was to be the firstborn of a worldwide family of God, made up of all who believe that Jesus is Lord. Jesus came first to restore the kingdom to Israel. But His ultimate mission was the reconciliation of the world – Universalism.

All three readings today remind us of the universality and inclusiveness of God’s love―all are invited to sit at God’s table.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 56:1,6-7      The Lord reveals His salvation to all.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8      All the nations will praise God.
  • Reading 2 Romans 11:13-15,29-32      God’s favor to Israel is irrevocable.
  • Gospel Matthew 15:21-28     Jesus heals the daughter of the Canaanite woman because of her great faith.

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 56:1,6-7                          (Justice and Salvation for All)

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.

Today’s Reading –  God loves all people and not just His chosen people.  As Isaiah writes these words during the post-exilic period of Israel’s history, there are lots of foreigners living in Israel. Many Jews, including the leaders, consider such people as outsiders and resist their joining in the worship services even though these foreigners are willing to accept the God of Israel and follow His ways. Isaiah challenges such a parochial and narrow mentality.  Isaiah states that if non-Jews “love the name of the Lord, become His servants, observe Sabbath, hold to God’s covenant,” then they must be welcomed into God’s house of prayer for “God’s house is for all peoples.”


Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just (See PAUSE, below); for My salvation (Jesus) is about to come, My justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to Him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming His servants— all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to My covenant, them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (For Jews and Gentiles, alike! The beginnings of universal salvation are found here where “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Observe what is right, do what is just” – Living in loving obedience to God. It is important that God’s people demonstrate righteousness in their lives, but that is impossible without divine enablement. 



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8                          (Praise for the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  This hymn of praise may have been written in thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest. It is chosen today because of its strong universalistic theme, thereby connecting it with Reading 1 and the Gospel reading.


R. – O God, let all the nations praise You!
May God have pity on us and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us. So may Your way be known upon earth; among all nations, Your salvation.
(The psalmist requested God’s blessing on Israel so that other nations would learn of His favor, turn to Him in faith, and experience His salvation themselves)
R. – O God, let all the nations praise You!
May the nations be glad and exult because You rule the peoples in equity; the nations on the earth You guide.
(God’s people should praise Him because He rules justly. Because He does rule justly all nations should look to Him for guidance.)
R. – O God, let all the nations praise You!
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You!
May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear Him! R. – O God, let all the nations praise You!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2.     Romans 11:13-15,29-32                       (Irrevocable Gifts and Call)          

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 – Paul is hoping that the crowds of Gentiles joining the New Way will arouse so much envy in his fellow Jews that they will also accept Jesus and His message. Paul expresses his hope and profound desire that all who have initially rejected Jesus will, at some time in the future, accept Him. Like Isaiah and Jesus, Paul wants all people to be included in God’s saving plan.


Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race (the Jews) jealous (wanting) and thus save some of them. (Paul evangelized to the Gentiles, addressing himself to them and showing that the prophets had predicted their acceptance by God many centuries before – see Reading 1. He also wanted to make the Jews jealous/wanting this same evangelization, and thus encourage some of them to convert to Christianity also.) For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world (The Jews’ rejection of the gospel has led to the reconciliation of the Gentiles to God. This does not mean that if the Jews had not rejected the gospel that the Gentiles would not have been reconciled, again see Reading 1.), what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (The Jews’ acceptance of the gospel will mean for them passage from the status of death to life in Christ.) 

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (God does not change His mind.) Just as you (the Gentiles) once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their (the Jews) disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience (God gave all of us Free Will to do good or to do bad.) that He might have mercy upon all. (He might have mercy but we must first repent of our disobedience.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          In thinking about all of the ex-Catholics in the world who have not as yet come back “home”, if St. Paul were alive today, I believe that he would re-write this passage, above, and substitute the word “non-Catholics” in place of the word  “Gentiles” and substitute the word “ex-Catholics” in place of  the word “Jews”. The result being: “Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you non-Catholics. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the non-Catholics, I glory in my ministry in order to make the ex-Catholics jealous (wanting) and thus save some of them.



Gospel     Matthew 15:21-28                (Reward of Faith)

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 biggest pastoral issue in the early Church had to do with the antagonistic treatment of Gentiles, especially those Gentiles who embraced Jesus and His New Way. In Jesus’ time, Gentiles are despised by Jews. Matthew has Jesus confine His mission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But Jesus is also open to showing God’s mercy to non-Jews. We can feel the tension in the story as the Gentile woman      refuses to go away as she searches for deliverance for her daughter with an evil spirit. The real point of this story is the woman and her wonderful tenacity and faith. The tenacity and persistence of the woman should be a source of inspiration to all people who are in any way oppressed and put down. The Canaanite woman lives in a male-dominated society. She is a foreigner who ventures alone into a Jewish milieu. She persists until she gets what she wants.  Despite her background, she ends up as one of the most highly commended persons in the Gospel.  Christ came for all.  God really wants all at the table – Universalism. The woman’s wonderful faith in Jesus’ saving power is the central point of this story.


At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Northern Israel on the Mediterranean coast -pagan Gentile territory). And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked Him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (A good teacher may sometimes aim to draw out a pupil’s best insight by a deliberate challenge which does not necessarily represent the teacher’s own view.). But the woman came and did Jesus homage (bowed down in reverence and respect), saying, “Lord, help me.” (This woman’s desperate feeling of helplessness and her confidence in Jesus’ ability to meet her need are obvious in her posture and her words.). He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs (Gentiles).” (Jesus again clarified the difference between Jews and Gentiles to challenge her.). She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (She acknowledged the truthfulness of what He said and then appealed to Him on the basis of its implications. Her words reveal great faith and spiritual wisdom. She did not ask for help because her case made her an exception or because she believed she had a right to Jesus’ help. She did not argue about God’s justice in seeking the Jews first. She simply threw herself on Jesus’ mercy without pleading any merit.). Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour. (Jesus responded emotionally to her trust; it moved Him deeply. The woman’s faith was great because it revealed humble submission to God’s will, and it expressed confidence in Him, the Messiah, to do what only God could do. Jesus healed the girl with His word, and immediately she became well.) 


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          This miracle was another important lesson for the disciples. The Jews had priority in God’s kingdom program. However, God would deliver Gentiles who also came to Him in humble dependence and relying only on His power and mercy for salvation – see Theme – Universalism.

Another lesson from this reading is the necessity of perseverance in our prayers of petition. Do we ask with the fervor and perseverance which prove that we have “great faith”? That faith is the proof which Christ needs before He grants our requests. The Canaanite woman of whom we have just heard is for us an example of that deep-seated faith and trust in Christ’s power and Christ’s goodness.



Catechism 2610 – Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving His gifts, so He teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.” Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of His own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples as He is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.

Catechism 448 – Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach Him for help and healing. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”



 

SR-2017-08-13

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 13, 2017
 


“Be it understood that those who are not found living as He taught are not Christian –
even though they profess with their lips the teaching of Christ.”
(St. Justin)
“Deeds come first, then the words.”
(St. Peter Claver)


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Trust in God in Days of Affliction.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading teach us that God’s presence in the gentle breezes and major storms of life calls us to place our trust in Him.  In Reading 2, Paul shares with us his grief concerning his Jewish brothers and sisters who have rejected the Messiah.


  • Reading 1 – 1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a      The Lord appears to Elijah in a whisper.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 85:9-14      The Lord is the source of salvation.
  • Reading 2 Romans 9:1-5      Paul speaks of the blessings that have come to the Israelites.
  • Gospel Matthew 14:22-33     Jesus walks on water, and the disciples acknowledge Him as the Son of God.


Reading 1.     1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a              (Coming of the Lord)

Context – Kings 1 & 2, records the events of the reign of Solomon (970 – 930 BC) and then the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel (930 – 588 BC). (When Solomon died, the 12 Jewish tribes – ie. the 12 sons of Jacob,  split into two separate Kingdoms – Judah, the southern Kingdom – made up of two tribes, and Israel, the northern Kingdom – made up of ten tribes.) After King Solomon, God no longer used the kingship to be the medium through which He governed His people but instead chose to use prophets for this function. Elijah was one of the most outstanding prophets and was from the northern Kingdom.

Today’s Reading – This nineteenth chapter of 1st Kings is the Elijah story which has close parallels with the story of Moses on the same mountain (the mountain of God – Mt. Sinai – a.k.a. Mt. Horeb). Both journey to the mountain to meet God; Moses while fleeing from the Egyptians, and Elijah while fleeing from Queen Jezebel. Elijah in his flight from the Queen, ends up in a cave in Mt. Horeb, in a state of a discouraged and broken man. God meets him there in a gentile and accepting manner. In and through this gentle experience of God’s presence, Elijah’s faith and hope are restored and he returns to his role as God’s prophet.


At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound (a voice, calm and soft. Elijah’s experience of the presence of God was not in those events popularly thought to describe divine power and to inspire awe (e.g. wind, earthquake, and fire), but rather in “a tiny whispering sound.”). When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave (Among the Orientals, to cover the face has the same import as when we remove our hats out of respect. Also, in this case, since Elijah knew that God was present, he covered his face because no one can look at God and live. Exodus 33:20 ).


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.””The Lord knows when we are in trouble/distress/affliction and in need of His help. This passage tells us to put ourselves in a state of trust in Him and be quiet and receptive to listening to Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and  help prepare yourself to listen to and help understand the Lord’s message. As the following Responsorial Psalm states –  “Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.”



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 85:9-14                     (The Lord is the Source of Salvation)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm announces peace and salvation for the faithful.


R. -Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims
(Hitherto the psalmist had been distracted by the thought of his people’s misery. – St. Augustine); the LORD — for He proclaims peace. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him (See PAUSE, below), glory dwelling in our land.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss
(God’s loyal kindness and truth will yield justice and peace for his people.). Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
The LORD Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase
(God bestows grace upon us, then we can yield its fruit.). Justice shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps (The holy John the Baptist shall prepare the way of the Lord.).
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.     “fear Him”How to fear the Lord:
Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit , depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”.
Also:
– Discover Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him (devotion).             – Seek His will in all matters and act upon it (service).
– Be obedient to Him in both good and bad times.             – Love Him and give Him thanks.
– Reflect Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds (by our character, conduct, and conversation/ by our heart, deeds, and lips/ by our thoughts, purpose, and actions  Romans 6:18).             – Do justly, love kindness, be merciful, humble yourself, and walk humbly with your God.
– Tell others about Him.             – Hate evil.

The “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2).
“As a father has compassion on his children, the Lord’s compassion is on those who fear Him”. (Psalm 103:13)
“But the mercy of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold Him in fear.” (Psalm 103:17)



Reading 2.     Romans 9:1-5                (Blessed be God)     

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 – God’s conversion of St. Paul opened his eyes and helps him to see that Judaism is a preparation for the fullness of God’s revelation. Paul hopes all Jews would come to this conclusion and open their hearts to Jesus. Unfortunately, this is not happening. The rejection of Christ by his own people breaks Paul’s heart.  His grief is so deep that he is willing to be separated from Christ if this means that his people will accept Christ.


Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ (Saint Paul is swearing an oath.), I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart (He is saddened at the spiritual condition of his fellow kinsmen.). For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption (God’s selection of them as His people), the glory (God’s presence with them), the covenants (the Old Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David), the giving of the law (Ten Commandments), the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons – the heads of the twelve Tribes), and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ (the crowning gift, the Messiah), who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           When we contemplate how grateful we are to God for all of His graces, mercy, and blessings that have been bestowed upon us, do we also include the things St. Paul mentions in this passage which is also part of our rich heritage?



Gospel     Matthew 14:22-33                (Jesus Walks on Water)

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 –  After Jesus spends the day with the multitudes, He feels a need for quiet time.  So while He goes off to the mountain to be alone, He sends His disciples off to get into a boat and precede Him to the other side of the lake. During their journey across the lake, a big storm erupts. In Jesus’ time, a stormy sea is symbolic of chaos and evil which has the power to destroy people caught in its grip. In the midst of the storm, Jesus comes to His frightened disciples and tells them to “have courage.”


After He had fed the people (fed the 5,000), Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while He dismissed the crowds. After doing so, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray (Jesus’ solitary nocturnal prayer is a model for all Christians – besides prayer in common, we also need time for personal prayer.). When it was evening He was there alone. Meanwhile the boat (the Church), already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it (In this scene the headwinds could represent the hostile forces of the world which will buck them every step of the way). During the fourth watch of the night (prior to dawn – between 3 and 6 AM), He came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I (Literally “I am”; Jesus is possibly alluding to God’s self-revelation with Moses at the burning bush.); do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him in reply, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did Him homage, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God.” 


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Trust in God in Days of Affliction  – The apostles overpowering fear that was caused by the rampant storm and Peter’s momentary distraction caused by the towering wind, both took away their focus/reliance upon Jesus. (Note – The storm and the wind are symbolisms for the trials, tribulations, and crosses that we have to bare in our daily lives.) Today’s passage helps us understand that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Thank God that it is possible to receive His salvation even though we at times get distracted or separated from His direction and power. All believers find their focus wandering at times, but some have strayed so far that it’s hard to see their way back.

If you discover your heart is loyal to something besides Christ, it’s vital to acknowledge that this has happened. Identify which attitudes or activities are drawing you away from Him. Then repent and get whatever help is necessary to set aside diversions, insecurity, worldly desires, or anything else that draws your attention away from the Lord.

Once the distraction is gone, refocus on Jesus by reading the Word, praying, learning from biblical messages, attending Church services, and spending time with godly friends who will encourage you. After living outside of God’s best for a while, it can be hard to discipline yourself to function as the Lord desires. But remember that those who abide in God will bear much fruit. (John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”.

Don’t delay. As Hebrews 12:1 urges, “lay aside every encumbrance” so you can run with endurance the race set before you. Acknowledge anything that is keeping you from living passionately and fully for Jesus Christ. Following His plan—in His strength—is the way to peace, joy, and contentment in life. Ask for His help and commit to action. There is nothing like living fully for God. (From Charles Stanley)



Catechism 301 – With creation, God does not abandon His creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

            “For You love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that You have made; for You would not have made anything if You had hated it. How would anything have endured, if You had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by You have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are Yours, O Lord, You who love the living.” (Wisdom 11:24-26)



 

SR-2017-08-06

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the Feast of the Transfiguration in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 6, 2017


” Paul refers to Jesus as the “icon of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15)
“Mary Magdalene’s tears at the empty tomb can serve as a reminder to us that
sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.”
(Pope Francis)


Feast of the Transfiguration: He Was Transfigured before Them .

When the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6) falls on a Sunday, it replaces the Sunday in Ordinary Time (in this case, the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time). This Sunday’s readings focus on the glory of God as seen in Jesus (as stated above, Jesus is the icon of the invisible God).

In Reading 1, we behold God’s glory through a vision of Daniel speaking to a persecuted people. We celebrate God’s glory in the Responsorial Psalm. In the Gospel, along with the Apostles, we are dazzled as we behold the transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor.  And, we affirm God’s glory in Reading 2 as a promise of the Second Coming.

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ  =  divine radiance;  displayed the glory of God incarnate in the Son;  Jesus’ face was brighter than the sun and His clothes shined brighter than anything else on earth. Jesus’ brilliance, in this miraculous episode of transfiguration, was a visual glimpse of His future glorification, which in the Gospels will be defined by His Paschal Mystery (the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, the arrest-trial-passion-crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection, and His ascension), and by Pentecost (Jesus requesting God to send the Holy Spirit upon all believers), and by Jesus’ Second Coming.


  • Reading 1 – Daniel 7:9–10,13–14      The prophet Daniel describes his vision of one like the Son of Man who received dominion from God.
  • Responsorial Psalm Psalm 97:1–2,5–6,9      A Song of Praise to God our King.
  • Reading 2 2 Peter 1:16–19      Peter says that the voice heard from Heaven confirmed the truth of his testimony about Christ.
  • Gospel Matthew 17:1–9     Jesus is transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James, and John.


Reading 1.     Daniel 7:9–10,13–14                            (Clothing White As Snow)

Context – Daniel has been called the prophet of dreams. God revealed to him His secrets. The Book of Daniel (~606 BC) is quoted most in the Book of Revelation. One cannot understand the great signs of Revelation without looking at their meaning in Daniel. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off during the exile to Babylon. Daniel interpreted dreams and visions of kings and he had visions of his own that have been interpreted as the “Four Empires”. Some of the most famous accounts of Daniel are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah surviving a consuming fire, “The Writing on the Wall”, and Daniel surviving the lion’s den. Basically the tribulations and sorrows of Daniel’s current time are due to the Jews’ unfaithfulness but the future is projected to have triumph and peace. The aim of the book is to show that the God of Israel, the one true God, is greater than the pagan gods.

Today’s Reading –  This reading is a part of a vision in which the Son of Man, who represents the Kingdom of the holy One of God (Jesus), comes down from heaven and is given dominion by the “Ancient One,” who represents God.


As I watched: Thrones (chariots) were set up and the Ancient One (God and His eternality – without beginning nor end; eternal) took His throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on His head as white as wool (His pure white clothing pictures His purity and holiness, and His pure woolly hair suggests His mature judgment.); His throne was flames of fire (symbolic of knowledge, purity, and judgment), with wheels of burning fire (The wheels probably imply that the throne and God can go in any direction, that He can do anything He pleases). A surging stream of fire flowed out from where He sat (symbolizing judgment proceeding from Him.); Thousands upon thousands were ministering to Him, and myriads upon myriads attended Him. The court was convened and the books were opened.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw:

One like a Son of Man (i.e. in human form – Jesus) coming, on the clouds of heaven; When He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, The One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and Kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His Kingship shall not be destroyed. (This eternal dominion of Jesus could not be expressed in stronger terms.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.    



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 97:1–2,5–6,9                        (The Lord Most High)

Today’s Psalm –  This is a hymn of praise to God as King.


R – The Lord is King (my Lord and my God), the Most High over all the earth.
The LORD is King; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about Him
(Clouds and thick darkness picture awesome power),  justice and judgment are the foundation of His throne.
R. – The Lord is King, the Most High over all the earth.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the LORD of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, and all peoples see His glory.
R. – The Lord is King, the Most High over all the earth.
Because You, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods.
R. – The Lord is King, the Most High over all the earth.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2.     2 Peter 1:16–19                         (Peter, an Eyewitness)        

Context – The Second Letter Of Peter was written as a warning about false teachers, especially their denial of Christ’s divinity and His second coming.

Today’s Reading – Peter, among other things, is combating heretics and scoffers who regard Jesus’ Resurrection and Second Coming as empty fantasies conjured up by mere human beings to control the lives of the people. Refuting accusations that the early Christians perpetuated a lie, Peter recalls the Transfiguration experience on Mt. Tabor when he heard God Himself speak and affirm Jesus as His beloved and favored Son. Hence, Peter’s readers should embrace the message that they have been given about Christ as the true Word of God.


Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His majesty (Apostolic tradition is not a collection of myths, but is based upon the actual experience of eyewitnesses.). For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic glory, “This is My Son, My Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain (This is a reference to the Transfiguration.). Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



 Gospel     Matthew 17:1–9                               (Face Like the Sun)

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 transfiguration occurred shortly after the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. In this indescribable event, Jesus and His three apostles experience the glory of God.  They are, as it were, transported into another reality. The heavenly voice tells the apostles to listen to Jesus for He is God’s anointed Messiah.  In the dark days ahead, this mountaintop experience will sustain both Jesus and the apostles.


Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John (Peter, James and John are the inner circle of the apostles.), and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light (The brightness of the illumination recalls the brightness of the face of Moses after the Sinai revelation – Ten Commandments). And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him (See PAUSE, below). Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I will make three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Peter desired to prolong this heavenly experience.). While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (A similar proclamation from God was made at Jesus’ baptism with the addition of “Listen to Him”. Which was meant for the apostles and for us! Sort of like our Blessed Mother Mary’s “do whatever He tells you” at the wedding in Cana.). When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate (the posture of those overwhelmed by God’s glory)  and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (At this time, the apostles did not understand the requirement nor impact of Jesus’ upcoming death and resurrection for our eternal salvation. So Jesus asked them to wait until all of this would transpire, then they could understand this transfiguration, along with everything else, and proclaim to us that Jesus is our New Covenant, our path (The Way) to our eternal salvation!)


 PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him” –  Moses and Elijah represent respectively the Law and the Prophets. The term “the Law and the Prophets” was used to designate the entire collection of Old Testament books (The old Covenants with – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David plus all the OT Prophets) , and thus the fullness of the revelation of God to Israel. Jesus joins the two as the fulfillment of the New Covenant (Jesus as our Savior) with the Law and the Prophets. Elijah was assumed bodily into heaven and Hebrew legend has it that Moses was also assumed. This may explain how both can appear here in bodily form. Neither Matthew nor Mark tell us what was discussed, but Luke 9:31 says “They spoke about His departure (exodus – death and resurrection; Jesus’ Passion), which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”

Why was Christ transfigured? 1. That by means of this glory and brightness, and by the testimony of Elijah and Moses He might prove His Divinity to His Apostles. 2. That He might forewarn His disciples not to lose confidence, when they should behold Him nailed to the cross. 3. That He might indicate that He shall come after this manner with great power and majesty to judge the world. 4. That He might animate the faith and hope and courage and zeal of the Apostles and the rest of the faithful. to bravely undergo all crosses for the sake of the Gospel through the hope of obtaining glory like His at the resurrection. (From “The Great Commentary” by Cornelius À Lapide a 17th century Jesuit priest.)



Catechism 554 – From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, before three witnesses chosen by Himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of His departure, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem”. A cloud covers Him and a voice from heaven says: “This is My Son, My Chosen; listen to Him!”

Catechism 555 – For a moment Jesus discloses His divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that He will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to “enter into Hs glory”. Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings. Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant; the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud.”

          You were transfigured on the mountain, and Your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld Your glory, O Christ our God, so that    when they should see You crucified they would understand that Your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that You truly are the splendor of the Father.



 

SR-2017-07-30

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – July 30, 2017


“Victory over temptation to violate God’s good will depends on a thorough knowledge of God’s word  and unwavering confidence in God’s goodness. Satan tempted Jesus but Jesus overcame victoriously  by accurately using the word of God to remain faithful to the will of God. True wisdom comes by obeying,  not disobeying, God’s word.”
(Thomas Constable)


17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Priority of Values .

In today’s Bible readings wisdom, which originates from both heart and intellect, is considered the supreme value of human life – the priority value. Wise and mature Christians have a sound judgment and are able to determine priorities, that is – what is more versus what is less important in life, since they blend human insight with God-inspired wisdom from the Bible acquired through their Bible Study.

  • Reading 1 – 1 Kings 3:5,7-12 Solomon pleases God when he asks for a wise and understanding heart to better govern the people.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130 The law of the Lord is more precious than silver and gold.
  • Reading 2 Romans 8:28-30 God chose us to be conformed to the image of His Son.
  • Gospel Matthew 13:44-52      Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Reading 1.     1 Kings 3:5,7-12                       (The Gift of Understanding)

Context – Kings 1 & 2, records the events of the reign of Solomon (970 – 930 BC) and then the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel (930 – 588 BC). (When Solomon died, the 12 Jewish tribes – i.e. the 12 sons of Jacob,  split into two separate Kingdoms – Judah, the southern Kingdom – made up of two tribes, and Israel, the northern Kingdom – made up of ten tribes.) After King Solomon, God no longer used the kingship to be the medium through which He governed His people but instead chose to use prophets for this function. Elijah was one of the most outstanding prophets and was from the northern Kingdom.
Remember – at the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses appeared representing the OT Law and Elijah appeared representing the OT prophets with Jesus representing the New Covenant.

Today’s Reading –  Our reading today comes from the beginning of Solomon’s reign as king. God asks Solomon what gift he desires most of all. He answers, “Wisdom and understanding heart.” God gives Solomon wisdom and a discerning heart.  In Israelite tradition, wisdom has to do with having the ability to achieve success in any field of endeavor. Solomon illustrates this very well, being successful in governing, construction, foreign trade and diplomacy, and writing proverbs. Unfortunately, his service as king does not conclude as well as it began, which clearly shows that God’s gifts are not bestowed automatically and permanently, but require continual tending and cooperation on the part of the recipient.


The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream (See PAUSE, below) at night. God said, “Ask something of Me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O LORD, my God, You have made me, Your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth (denotes humility, it is thought he was  20 years old at this time), not knowing at all how to act. I serve You in the midst of the people whom You have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give Your servant, therefore, an understanding heart (willing to hear, and to obey God) to judge Your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of Yours?” (He asks for judicial wisdom; the ability to judge well when cases are appealed to him as supreme arbiter of justice in the kingdom. The king ideally rules not on the basis of his own understanding but administers his realm in the light of God’s revealed will.)

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this— not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right— I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”  (Because Solomon’s request is an unselfish request – one which serves for the benefit of the people, God grants his request.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream”  – Dreams are recorded in the Scriptures 17 times (12 in the OT and 5 in the NT). All 5 in the NT deal with taking specific action: Joseph – “Marry Mary”, Wise Men – “Do not return to Herod”,  Joseph – “Flee to Egypt”, Joseph – “Return to Israel”, Pilot’s wife – “Have nothing to do with Jesus”. In the OT: 2 deal with taking specific action, the other 10  are  private intellectual revelations – allegories (an expression, by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions, of truths or generalizations about human existence). 



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130                             (The Lord’s Decrees)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm glorifies the wonder, beauty and wisdom of God’s law. The lesson to be learned above all others is that knowledge and practical application (wisdom) of God’s Word will keep us from sin and thus enable us to know and serve God appropriately.


R. – Lord, I love Your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part is to keep Your words. The law of Your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces
(See PAUSE, below).
R. – Lord, I love Your commands.
Let Your kindness comfort me according to Your promise to Your servants. Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law
(commandments) is my delight.
R. – Lord, I love Your commands.
For I love Your command
(authority)
more than gold, however fine. For in all Your precepts (principles, standards, guidelines) I go forward; every false way I hate.
R. – Lord, I love Your commands.
Wonderful are Your decrees
(rulings)
; therefore I observe them. The revelation of Your words (which comes through Bible Study) sheds light, giving understanding (gives us wisdom so that we can make proper priorities in our life) to the simple (the humble, those open to hearing and following God’s Word).
R. – Lord, I love Your commands.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           The law of Your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces” –
I’d Rather Have Jesus Than Silver Or Gold

“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.”   
(by Rhea F. Miller)



Reading 2     Romans 8:28-30                         (All Things Work for Good)           

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 – God has a plan for our lives and He is in control of everything. It is His desire that we be refashioned in the image of Christ in a progressive process which He Himself directs. When Paul speaks about those whom God has predestined, he does not mean that God whimsically chooses some to be saved and others to be lost. God’s plan is for all to be saved. This means it is God’s active will that all be saved, but God gave all of us our personal Free Will which permits individuals to accept or reject God’s salvation.


Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined (see PAUSE, below), to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn (the elder, more mature, leader) among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined He also called (an invitation given to us by God to accept salvation in His kingdom through Jesus Christ); and those He called He also justified (to deem righteous and worthy of salvation); and those He justified He also glorified (to honor with praise and admiration) .


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “For those He foreknew He also predestined” – Paul says in this passage that God predestined all those that God foreknew.  Since God  foreknew everything and everyone (He knows the end from the beginning.), therefore He predestined everyone BUT our misuse of our Free Will makes it possible for us to reject God’s plan for us.



Gospel     Matthew 13:44-52                            (The Kingdom of God)

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 –  This Gospel offers three more parables intended to give us some insight into the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not give us a definition of the reign of God. Instead, He offers some images of what the Kingdom of God is like. [Note – The Kingdom of God is the same as the Reign of God.]


Jesus said to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field (In the ancient world there was always danger of invasion or plundering. Many householders buried their savings in the hope of returning after the danger had passed. Some didn’t return.), which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net (Church) thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. (The Church is not entirely a community of the elect; it has unfaithful members. God will tolerate such members in the Church as He tolerates them in the world at large (hoping that they will eventually repent); but the judgment will determine the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked.)

“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And He replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Every scribe relates here to the apostles instructed for the Kingdom. Jesus equips them to evangelize and catechize the world about the treasures hidden in the old Covenant and manifest (revealed) in the new.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 



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 (mysterious).