Archive for November, 2011
When Jesus tells us about the end of the Jewish nation, He tells us not to worry. And when He tells us about the end of the world, He tells us that we are to stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand. Why this is so? It because of the following reasons:
The first is due to our faithfulness to God until the end. In the end, there is only one glory that lasts forever. All human honors will pass. All human glories will pass. The laurels will all wither. The only glory that lasts forever is our fidelity to Christ.
In Beyond Hunger, Beals, Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.” Are we faithful to what the Lord has called us to do?
Second, it is because we are grateful to Him. Do you still remember the ten lepers who asked Jesus to be healed? Only one of them came back to Jesus and gave thanks. The other nine might have been guilty of ingratitude and gross neglect of their Savior. Concretely, we are more than eighty eight million Filipinos and as one nation, these eighty eight million Filipinos will thank God for the gifts they have received in their lives. But looking at the Gospel statistics, only 1/10 will have truly thanked God.
What is gratitude? It is a deep and intense feeling of owing God for everything we have. But gratitude is more than feeling grateful, it is being grateful which connotes action as a response to God who gives us the gift. Just look at the gift we have received like our own life, have we ever dared think of what nonexistence would be that we might simply not have existed? This simple thought should inspire us to consider deeply and decide firmly what we can do for God and God’s cause in our short life.
And the third is that we are always hopeful. The Son of Man coming in glory and power was an image of hope for the early Christians and us. The Lord has promised us that He would return and reward our fidelity and love; would rise from the dead and He is faithful to His promise; will do it in our lives when we die to ourselves. He promised that we would undergo persecution and rejection for His name, and these have touched every Christian who has lived the faith authentically. But He also promised He would come again and bring the reward, peace and victory for which we yearn. How do we live our hope in our all-powerful King who is to come?
From an unknown source that a number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should is effect be on our lives.
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Luke 21:24 they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations
Ezra Taft Benson
“I think one of the saddest chapters in history is the account of the dispersion and suffering of Judah.
“I have before me a quotation of Will Durant in his book, The Story of Civilization, in which he states that ‘no people in history fought so tenaciously for liberty as the Jews, nor any other people against such odds.’ He says further, ‘No other people has ever known so long an exile, or so hard a fate.’
“Then referring to the siege of Jerusalem under Titus, lasting for 134 days, during which 1,110,000 Jews perished and 97,000 were taken captive; he states that the Romans destroyed 987 towns in Palestine and slew 580,000 men, and still larger number, we are told, perished through starvation, disease, and fire.
“Nearly all Judea was laid waste. So many Jews were sold as slaves that their price fell to that of a horse. Thousands hid in underground channels rather than be captured. Surrounded by Romans they died one by one of hunger while the living ate the bodies of the dead.
“Scarcely eight thousand Jews were left in all Palestine. And even their banishment and scattering didn’t end their persecution. Efforts were made to drive them from various countries. Some nations made an effort to banish them completely. They were accused of causing the ‘Black Death’ that spread through Europe in 1348, and many Jews were crucified therefore.
“I have said nothing regarding the Crusades and the dastardly deeds perpetrated in the name of Christianity upon the remaining Jews in Palestine. Yes, the prophecies regarding the dispersion and the suffering of Judah have been fulfilled. But the gathering and re-establishment of the Jews is also clearly predicted.” (So Shall Ye Reap, compiled by Reed A. Benson [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960], 66-67.)
Sometimes in the past a friend of mine sent me this text message: “God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I think this is true because Jesus in today’s gospel says that our life in this world is not an easy one. We should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships; we should learn to bear our crosses and find more meanings in difficulties. But we should not worry because God will provide us the means.
He says: “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are we ready to suffer and to shed blood until the end, if necessary, for our faith? It is because Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Christianity is a religion of the cross. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake and He calls us to be martyrs too. The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness.’ Some theologians in the past said something about being a witness like Tertullian and others. Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Cyprian also said: “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” Augustine wrote: “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!”
God may call some of us to be martyrs. But for most of us our call is to be dry martyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord; to witness to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel; by our life, and real-life testimony. What attracts others to the gospel? They are attracted to the Gospel and to Christianity when they see us: Christians love their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless.
What are the marks of a true witness of Christ? David Watson in his, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship (1982 pp. 142-143) said that the marks of a true witness are:
- A witness must have a first-hand experience of Christ. Hearsay is not acceptable in a court of law as well as in the court of this world’s opinion. People will listen only to what we have personally seen and heard.
- A witness must be able to express himself verbally. We may witness effectively through our lives, our work, our relationships, our attitudes, our suffering and even our death, yet we must still “be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.” We must do so “with gentleness and respect,” and with the integrity of our lives demonstrating the truth of our words.
- A witness will have confidence in the power of God. He relies on the power of the message of Christ and him crucified, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows that God can break through any defenses, and change any heart. This confidence will not be brash, but humble and sensitive, marked by much prayer. He knows that without God he can do nothing, but that with God all things are possible.
- A witness will have compassion for the spiritually lost. He will care for them as individuals who matter deeply to God: made in his image, redeemed by his Son and to be indwelt by his Spirit.
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OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
One day I received a text message from a friend. The message is: “”God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I did not know if my friend had any idea about the difficulties I was experiencing in my work but the message was very timely and it just struck me from the heart.
We know that everybody experiences difficulties in life. But can our faith make a difference? I believe that what we can offer is hope. We Christians are people of hope. I remember one of our professors saying that if there is no hope there is no future, then what is the point of life? Indeed our life has meaning because of our hope rooted in Jesus Christ.
Even though Jesus did not promise an easy journey, he assured us a safe arrival only if we hold on to Him. We should not wallow in the problems and trials of life. Rather we should focus our attention on the assurance of Jesus that not a single hair of our head will perish. St. Paul proved this when he said in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Trial of every sort come to us, will perish but we are not discouraged. We are left without answer, but do not despair, persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed.”
We hold on to our hope in Jesus Christ that we will be able to stand firm, steadfast and enduring amidst the tribulations of life. (Jerome S. Montesclaros, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
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“By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are you ready to suffer and to shed your blood, of necessary, for your faith? Christianity is a religion of the cross; it is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed his blood for our sake and he calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means witness. The Book of Revelation says that, “Jesus was the faithful witness…who freed us from our sins by his blood,” (1:5). Tertullian, a 2nd century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church. The 3rd century Bishop, Cyprian, said: “when persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.”.” Saint Augustine wrote: “the martyrs are bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered – and the multiplied!” Why is this the case? The martyrs witnessed to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood. Are you also eager to witness to the joy and freedom of the gospel? Think about it. (Fr. Louie Punzalan, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
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It is said that “Christian life is not a bed of roses.” But come to think of it, the positive version is true as well. Christian life is a bed of roses. But not one that implies ease and comfort. Roses have thorns too signifying the possibilities of risk, blood-letting and pain. A rose is a rose because of its petaled beauty and its thorns. Both make it beautiful and complete.
Those who follow the Lord should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships as He reveals in today’s gospel. But those exactly are the reasons why following Him is a “rosy” and wise decision, “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that…adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” Following him is following a path secure and safe, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”
We are also asked to persevere because Christian life is not how you run fast but how you carry on the journey. For those who keep up the struggle, “perseverance will secure your lives.”
I may be laughed at but not discouraged, I may be persecuted but not disheartened and I may be beaten up but not surrender. (Fr. Ferdinand D. Resuena, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
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“Be thankful with what you have, rather than lose your job and be sent back to the Philippines.” This is what I often tell my countrymen when they complain of work fatigue.
Most Filipinos here in Korea are engaged in Triple D jobs which means: Dirt, Difficult and Dangerous. They have endured everything because of love for their family.
A story is told about a group of devout people who went on pilgrimage to heaven. While on pilgrimage they carried individual crosses along. The going was rough and there was much moaning and groaning. One of the pilgrims found his cross just too heavy to carry, so he cut off a part and shortened it.
After days of walking, the pilgrims approached the promised land of God’s presence. But they still had one obstacle to overcome. Between them and heaven was yawning abyss. How could they get to the other side? Someone thought that they could use their crosses as bridge. Indeed their crosses were just the right length to bridge the gap except the one who shortened his cross to make it lighter.
Life is difficult. The Lord Himself has said our life in this world is not easy, so we should learn to bear our crosses. No shortcuts!
There are times when we are tempted to do “dirty” work in order to have palatial houses, expensive cars, fashionable clothes. In high school, I recall the remarks of our school janitor: “I don’t mind being a janitor because the work is respectable. I may not smell good but I make the CR clean and sweet-smelling.”
Life is surely difficult but it does not need to be dirty. When you choose a dirty life, your next life is in danger. That is why Jesus gives us a very good advice, “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” (Fr. Emmanuel Ferrer, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
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“…And they will put some of you to death.” I write this reflection a few days after Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, a fellow SVD missionary, an Indonesian, was shot to death in a remote barangay in the hinterlands of Kalinga-Apayao. It was a brutal reminder that the danger of death is something a missionary should be prepared for. Taking risks to life and limb is, for the missionary, part of the territory.
For many of us, the death of Fr. Fransiskus was senseless. Some missionaries reacted by proposing that the SVD should abandon the particular place because of its history of violence, especially to missionaries. Yet to do so would be essentially surrendering to the forces of evil. We find ourselves with no choice but to keep on proclaiming the gospel, no matter what it takes. We could only remind ourselves of the early Christian martyrs who gave their lives because of the faith. Because of what they did, the Church flourished, as it were a plant nourished by the life-giving blood of the martyrs. To offer one’s life for the Kingdom is one very convincing act of faith that cannot be easily ignored. For many in the past, it was the one single act that became the turning point for conversion. It is truly an imitation of Christ –no greater love than there is when one lays down his life for his friends.
For me personally, it reminded me of the days when I was a parish priest of Santa Teresa in Occidental Mindoro. Many times we had to go by boat to the remote barangays. Along the way, we would suddenly encounter inclement weather and big waves. It can be a terrifying experience. I remember that in those times, I would sing to myself the song, ‘Be Not Afraid.’ I would also remind myself very often that I am just doing God’s work and that surely, God would not let his worker down. Hence, putting myself in dangerous situations of life-threatening circumstances is an act of faith in God who will take care of His own. Death would not be a frightful prospect. (Fr. Gil Alejandria, SVD Bible Diary 2008)
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To be persecuted in the name of Christ is a special grace. Persecution is a consequence of following Christ who was persecuted and put to death on the cross for our redemption. Persecution can be direct or indirect. Directly, worldly power and authority suppresses the practice of the Christian faith through many forms of expression, including torture and death. Indirectly, worldly values and criticisms compel Christians to abandon the practice of the faith. Where direct persecution is the most common, as in the martyrdom of many Christians during the time of early church, indirect persecution occurs every day in almost all areas of human life.
In a government office, an employer was criticized for taking his job too seriously. While he attends to his tasks with painstaking care, others merely waited for the bundy clock to strike at 5:00PM. For his honest and faithful work, he was isolated from the rest of the employees. Notwithstanding the harsh remarks and reactions of his co-employees, he kept on doing his work as best as he could. One employee challenged him: “What are you trying to prove?” in a humble tone, he replied, “If I maybe offending you, I’m so sorry. But this is who I am and I’m happy with my work.”
Jesus in the gospel tells us that persecution is an opportunity to give authentic witnessing to Christ Jesus. he tells us not to prepare any defense for He Himself will give a wisdom that adversaries cannot refute. Persecution, then, provides good Christians to experience the Lord’s wisdom. Jesus, in the final analysis, invites all Christians to embrace the difficulties of being challenged or persecuted for living their faith in Him. (Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
Fr. Joseph Benitez
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By your perseverance you will secure your lives. My parents, teachers, spiritual directors, and close friends have always advised me that, to succeed, I must persevere. Period. No excuses, no alibis, no other way, no way out but through perseverance.
The best things in life are bought with great pain and perseverance. No guts, no glory! No pain, no gain! No cross, no resurrection! These are all translated into one word: PERSEVERANCE.
As an example of deception, Today in the Word, (July 1995, p.27) told this story that F. E. Smith was a capable lawyer with a quick wit who served as the British attorney general from 1915 until 1919. On one occasion he cross-examined a young man claiming damages for an arm injury caused by the negligence of a bus driver. “Will you please show us how high you can lift your arm now?” asked Smith. The young man gingerly raised his arm to shoulder level, his face distorted with pain.
“Thank you,” said Smith. “And now, could you show us how high you could lift it before the accident?” The young man eagerly shot his arm up above his head. He lost the case.
The church liturgical calendar will come to an end. Soon a new church year will begin and that will be, Advent. At the end of the church annual calendar many bible readings pertain to the end of time and today’s gospel passage is one of them. Jesus describes the signs of the end of time and gives two very important points. He said: “Do not be deceived” when somebody said that he is the messiah or the time has come and “do not be terrified” when wars, insurrections and others happen.
Every so often, some people/groups appear to know more than what the Bible says about the end of the world. Sometimes, these people/groups even announce actual date when the end will come. Others declare knowledge on how person can be saved from often frightening events that come with the end. Unfortunately, many believe them.
What makes people believe in these false prophets who claim that they know exact details about the end of the world? Consider these three things:
First is ignorance of the Bible. If they really know the Bible, they should know that Jesus Himself said that no one knows when the end will be. “No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Matt 13:32). So how can anyone claim he/she knows better than the Son?
Second is distrust in God. If they really trust God, even as they may have some fears about the apocalyptic details of the end times, they would not panic. Believing in false prophets is very often the result of panicking about the end of the world. Panic is the first-born of fear. Fear is the sister of distrust. Distrust is the enemy of faith in God.
Third is laziness. Some people think that by simply being counted in a group they will be spared of the trials that accompany the coming of the end. But when the end comes, it will be the end for all and the beginning of a new order for everyone. No one can run away or hide from it. Affiliation with a particular doomsday prophet/sect will not make things easy for anyone in the end. Even belonging to the Catholic Church or holding positions in it spares no o ne difficult task of remaining vigilant and prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus.
If in my preaching I tell you that I know exactly when the end of the world will be, please do not believe in me. I am lying. Know the Bible. Trust in God. Do not be lazy. (from Fr. Bobby Titco Sabbath 2008)
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In the film “Armaggedon,” we are told about a giant asteroid heading directly towards earth. Unless stopped, the asteroid will hit the earth and will mean the end of the world. A similar story is told in the movie “Deep Impact.” Unless stopped, the fall of the comet will have a tremendous impact of unknown proportions. It will also mean the end of the world. Stories about the end of the world continue to fascinate the people, just like the time of Jesus.
In the gospel today, Jesus tells us about the end of time. In describing its signs the Lord is telling us some important points. First, welcome the event calmly. Here, he is warning us to be on guard against false prophets that will only bring panic and fear in us. Second, he encourages us to bring hope into the world and to keep the faith alive in midst of trials. Third, he is reminding us that everything in this world has an end and that even our lives will come to an end.
Am I ready to face the Lord at the end of my life? When I face the Lord, what can I tell him about the life I have lived or what will the Lord tell me about the kind of life I have lived? (Fr. Jose Mateo, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
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….The church liturgical calendar is about to end. Soon a new church year will begin, Advent. At the end of the church annual calendar many of the bible readings pertain to the end of the world. Jesus makes a picturesque description of the end, in biblical language, apocalyptic – the great battle between good and evil. The war will include the whole universe, the sun and moon, the stars in heaven, light and darkness – frightening images that defy imagination. The Jews who were listening to Him must have felt like the twin that received the box of manure on his birthday. Were it not for the gift of optimism the twin might have looked for the nearest river to drown himself.
To those who hang on to Him, Jesus offers reason for optimism. “Do not be frightened…,” He warns. Those who remain honest in a world where dishonesty is S.O.P., those who hang on to the truth, those who remain faithful to the Lord in prayer and good works in the midst of noise traffic, lack of money for Christmas, etc., Jesus will transform into something new. Behind the “manure” we get daily, a true gift of meaningful and peaceful life awaits us. (Fr. Atilano Corcuera, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
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“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Many have misinterpreted these verses. As a result, they sold everything they own, left their family and career and joined religious sects and cults specializing in the imminent fulfillment of these end-time predictions. Unfortunately, some of these cults ended up in mass suicides. Others, until now, are still waiting for this end to happen and while waiting they serve their leaders for free with the hope that at the end time they will be saved by them. A few realized the hoax and left the community.
The next time you entertain people who come knocking on your door and proclaiming this bad news, stand firm and tell them straight that only God knows when time ends. He assures us in today’s gospel, “Do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” However, these verses also serve as a wake up calls for all of us to re-align our lives to Christ’s teachings. We should not wait until these wake calls really happen before we change our lives. It might be too late. (Frt. Ross P Heruela, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
Fr. Joseph Benitez
Luke 21:6 there shall not be left one stone upon another
“On August 15 (AD 70), Titus ordered the wooden roofs and porches around the Temple to be burned…Flaming brands were tossed into the Temple itself through an open window, and the House of God was burned on the ninth of Ab (August 28).
As the Temple burned, frenzy gripped both attackers and defenders. Roman shock troops burst through, and Titus was able to dash into the Temple just long enough for a brief look; then heat forced him out. His soldiers continued burning whatever could be kindled, and killing all they could reach, whether combatants, women, or children. Many Jews flung themselves into the fire and perished with their Temple. Others, hiding in corners, were burned to death as Roman torches set new fires.’” (Galbraith, Ogden, and Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City, 215)
“[Weeks later] Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury…Caesar (Titus) gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple…[and when they were done] the wall [around Jerusalem and presumably the temple]…was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1)
There will not be left a stone upon another. Do you think you will live and be remembered forever? Do you believe that what you have accomplished will outlive you? It is said that if you want to live forever, you must do three things.
First, plant a tree. Well, suppose your family thinks the tree is an obstruction and has it cut down when you are gone? Second, write a book. With so many books in the market, what if no one buys and reads your book? Third, have a son. What if your son despises you and erases you from his memory?
We want to live long, yet we hold on to things that do not last long even, like a tree or a book or another human being. If we want to live forever, let us look for and hold on to things that really matter and last even after we have long been gone. Or maybe better, let us not look back but look forward to eternal life.
Make your own list of things you want to do before you die.
Somebody said that if you are in need of help seek it not from the rich but from the poor. Many of us have experiences in fund raising. We found out that most of the times poor people, in general, are far more generous than rich people. Well anyway, there is always an exception to the rule and exception always remains an exception. But like for example, the U.S. News and World Report, (December, 1991) said that personal income Americans gave to charity last 1990: poorest households was at 5.5% and wealthiest households was at 2.9%. And also the age group that gives the highest percent of income to charity was ages 65 to 74 at 4.4% and the lowest was ages 18 to 24 at 1.2%. I do not know if this data is true but it is a fact. Logically those who have more shall be giving more than those who have less. And yet what is happening is the opposite.
Today’s gospel presents to us a poor widow but with exceeding generosity because she gave all what she had, her whole livelihood for the temple treasury. And her poverty did not stop her from giving her share. Although her contribution was a tiny sum of money as compared to the contribution of the others but theirs were coming from their surplus wealth.
Why the widow is so poor? Luke 20:46-47, the gospel passage before today’s gospel, gives us the reason why the widow is so poor. It is because the Pharisees and the scribes ‘devour the houses of the widows!’ In other words, social oppression and injustice caused for the misery of the poor. No wonder that God is not pleased with the gifts of those who offer ‘from their surplus wealth’ which they took from the poor instead of sharing what they have with them.
Let us listen to two holy persons of all times, St. Augustine and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta that said something about wealth and giving or generosity: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness,” (St. Augustine) and “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving,” (Blessed Mother Teresa).
God is not interested in how much we give, but in why we give. God does not look at the amount of the gift but at the spirit of the giver.
At the end let us reflect this story from an Unknown author. He said that a man had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He could receive little company and was not to be excited. While in the hospital a rich uncle died and left him a million dollars. His family wondered how to break the news to him with the least amount of excitement. It was decided to ask the preacher if he would go and break the news quietly to the man. The preacher went and gradually led up to the question. The preacher asked the patient what he would do if he inherited a million dollars. The patient said, “I think I would give half of it to the church.” The preacher dropped dead.
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Someone told me, “If you’re in need of help seek it not from the rich but from the needy.” Pure rhetoric, I thought. Surely, it is more of an exception than a rule. Yet, there is some truth in saying so. The poor know what is to be poor. They understand what it is to be in great want.
Let’s take it from the tales of our elderly foreign missionaries. They attest to this fact that majority of those who generously contribute to their mission activities are people back in their home countries who are who are ordinary folks.
The poor widow in the gospel today exemplified the true spirit of love and generosity. She gave up everything she got. She knew for sure how it is to subsist on other people’s generosity. Yet this has not stopped her from giving her share.
Yes, we must never underestimate the poor’s capacity to give. To them also appropriately belong the line: “Kahit walang wala ka, kailangan mo pa ring tumulong.” (Fr. Nielo M. Cantilado, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
.This experience made me understand why Jesus was full of praise for the poor widow who offered what she actually could not afford. Jesus as so often is gain turning upside down the value system of the world. God is not interested in how much you give, but in why you give. God does not look at the amount of the gift, but at the spirit of the giver.
….If you open your Bible and read Luke 20:46-47, the verses before today’s gospel, we come to know why the widow is so poor. It is because of the Pharisees and the scribes, ‘who devour the houses of the widows!’ social oppression and injustice are the cause for the misery of the poor. No wonder that God is not pleased with the gifts of those who offer ‘out of their abundance which they took from the poor instead of sharing what they have with them.
And here another lesson; before we make big donations to the Church or to charities, let us ask ourselves whether we have done enough to alleviate the misery of the have-nots whom Christ is asking us to serve. (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
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James Dobson tells about a friend of his who was constantly irritated by his three-year old daughter. Fist, his friend saw her wastefully decorating a box with an expensive wrapping paper. Then on Christmas morning, his daughter presented to him the box which was empty. The father yelled at her, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside of it?” Her daughter with tears said, “Daddy it’s not empty. I blew kisses in the box. I filled it with love, all for you, Daddy.” The father, chastised, reached for her daughter, hugged her and begged her for forgiveness.”
The widow in the gospel today did something similar. Her two coins could hardly buy a small plastic of mineral water, but she gave them away anyway. “She gave all she had to live on,” not considering where her next meal would come. Would Jesus who saw what the woman did leave her to die of hunger? Would the Creator of all things and the Lord of the universe be outdone in generosity and goodness? “Man does not live by bread alone” was live out by the widow in the gospel. For her God’s kingdom came first. Therefore the promise of Jesus was the woman’s reward, “All the other things will be given to you.”
Many of us give out of our abundance. We give away used clothing, used toys, used furniture, used shoes, etc. I personally give away extra things which I do not need, new and old. But I don’t feel heroic about it. I feel I should thank those who receive them, for helping me clean up my place.
On the other hand, when I go out of my comfort zone to visit the sick, poor families, to organize reluctant leaders of communities, join PPCRV….then it hurts. then I begin to realize what giving is all about according to the mind of Jesus. (Fr. Atilano Corcuera, SVD Bible Diary 2005)
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John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was strong and husky when small. Early on he was determined to earn money and drove himself to the limit. At age 33, he earned his first million dollars. At age 43, he controlled the biggest company in the world. At age 53, he was the richest man on earth and the world’s only billionaire.
Then he developed a sickness called “alopecia,” in which the hair of his head dropped off, his eyelashes and eyebrows disappeared and he shrunk like mummy. His weekly income was one million dollars but he digested only milk and crackers.
He was so hated in Pennsylvania that he had to have bodyguards day and night. He could not sleep, stopped smiling long since and enjoyed nothing in life. The doctors predicted he would not live over one year. The newspapers had gleefully written his obituary in advance just in case all of a sudden….
Those sleepless nights set him thinking. He realized with a new light that he “could not take one dime the next world.” Money was not everything. The next morning found him a new man. He began to help churches with his amassed wealth; the poor and needy were not overlooked. He established the Rockefeller Foundation whose funding of medical researches led to the discovery of penicillin and other wonder drugs.
John D. began to sleep well, eat and enjoy life. The doctors had predicted he would not live over 54. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. lived up to 98!
What do we do with our money? Jesus reminds us not to give out of surplus. Let the life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. be a constant reminder for all of us. He is right: we “could not take one dime the next world.”
Let the poor widow in the gospel, let’s give until it hurts. (Fr. Glenn Paul M. Gomez, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
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Remember last Christmas? Or are you thinking already of next Christmas, just one month from now? Christmas is always connected with gifts. We give and receive lots of gifts, but not all gifts are equal. We may be tempted to sneer at small gifts which don’t cost much and appreciate very much costly gifts. We recycle gifts for someone we do not appreciate so much and go through a lot of thinking and searching to find and buy a gift for someone very dear to us. Involved here is always the giver, the receiver, the gift.
As always, Jesus is a shocker who turns our world and our way of thinking upside down. The giver in today’s gospel is a poor widow, the gift is practically worthless and the receiver is the creator and ruler of the universe. We would expect that Jesus sneers at so small a gift to so great a receiver. But no! He praises the widow and finds her gift more precious that what others put into the collection box. Why?
Ha, there comes the kick! It is not the amount of the gift that counts but the spirit of the giver. That poor widow gave herself; she allowed herself to be given to Him who has everything. What had been given to her, small as it may be, she gave it all back.
We often complain about having not enough money, not enough of this and not enough of that. But we forget easily that what has been given to us is enough to give to Him who gave it to us. And we give it to Him by giving it to others.
Christmas 2007 – another chance to think differently about gifts, giver and receiver. (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
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GIVING. If the essence of Christianity is in loving, the essence of loving is in giving. Therefore if we cannot be Christians without loving, we cannot be Christians without giving. The lesson for today focuses on the widow’s mite as it is traditionally called.
Three lessons about giving. First, the widow gave quietly. Unlike the wealthy people in the temple, she gave quietly, without fanfare, without attracting any attention. That quiet giving has become so extraordinary because we are a people who love attention.
Second, the widow gave cheerfully. She gave cheerfully, without grumbling, without expecting any return, without complaining. She gave cheerfully without sighing and saying: “Now I am left with nothing.” She did not even attempt to dramatize. She gave quietly and she gave cheerfully.
The third adverb about the giving of the widow is that it was total. The poor person is not the one who gives nothing. The poor person is the one who keeps everything. That is not a blessed giving. It is not a blessed poverty when we keep everything. At the sunset of life, according to St. John of the Cross, we will be judged according to how much we love. It is not how much we give but how much we keep that will determine our generosity.
Today, the Lord will give us Himself as an example again. Today let us keep on giving quietly, silently without fanfare, cheerfully with a smile, without any grudge and totally, without counting the cost. (Bp Soc Villegas, Love Like Jesus, p. 81)
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Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: “There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action all-pervasive in its effect. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.” Bishop Desmond Tutu asserted that ‘in the kingdom of God, between the victimizer and the victimized, it is always the victimized that gets the better deal.” These quotations from two great men can be applied to the story of the poor widow.
Jesus praises the poor widow for her sincere and total trust in God, not for the sorry fact the religious establishment was taking advantage of it. He glorifies the poor widow who put into the Treasury of the Temple all she had to live on – her entire means of subsistence. If God gives us the grace of entering Paradise, everyone will be quite surprised to see who will be near God and who will not be there. What a reversal of fortune it will be! How many rich people will there be in Paradise!
To have money, a house, one or two cars, very lucrative employment, none of these are bad in themselves. It is above all one’s intention that counts. It is on this intention that we will be judged. It is the intention of the widow that Jesus glorified in the eyes of his disciples: the two small coins that the widow put into the Treasury were worth her entire life! But the mountain of gold and of the other givers was worth nothing. What can God do with our gold and silver? It is our heart which God wants for Himself! Even if we have nothing, neither gold nor silver, there is still one thing that we can give to God, the only thing which has value in his eyes: our love!
Fr. Daniel Meynen, a canon law expert, rightly suggests the following: ‘Even if a priest, a religious brother or sister, a bishop, even were he, the Bishop of Rome, had nothing to give, neither gold nor silver, the most important thing would be for him to give himself with faith and love! Let us call to mind Peter, the first pope, who had neither gold nor silver but who did not hesitate to perform a healing in the name of Jesus, even at the risk of his own life. ‘I have no silver and gold but I give you what I have; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” (Acts 3:3-6). (Fr. Deva Savariyappan, SVD Bible Diary 2008)
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Imagine showing up weekend and instead of putting money in the collection plate, you take home a crisp $100 bill. You can spend it, however, you want. There is just one catch: the preacher tells you that this money – like all your earthly possessions – is a gift from God. In 2005, fifteen churches in Nashville, Tenn. randomly distributed $50,000 given by an anonymous donor for acts of kindness. In 1ll, 500 people received $100 bills, each with the same instruction: “use the money in the name of Jesus. Oh, and don’t take anything in return or accept any credit.” The project seemed to inspire the recipients to help their friends and those in need. While there was no guarantee the money was used for noble purposes, one pastor said, “We are far less concerned about a $100 bill being misused than in creating an opportunity for a lot more to be used appropriately.”
Let us turn to the widows offering. Imagine the scene again. Jesus sitting there at the temple treasury, studying people’s giving habits! He sat there watching “wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury.” You would think that Jesus would be impressed with that kind of generosity. He was not. But then someone caught His attention. A poor widow we are told. (Without a husband representing her, a widow had the most vulnerable status within society. She was defenseless and often impoverished). She put in two small coins. What were the worth? Around one sixty-fourth (1/64th) of a denarius (a denarius was equal to one day’s working wage). It was a mere pittance, compared to the gifts of the rich donors who visited the treasury on that day. But unlike them her gift was radical and sacrificial. She was giving her substance and not from her excess.
The difference between giving from your excess and your substance is best explained by a small story about a chicken and a pig who wanted to do something special for the farmer. The pig was none too happy when the chicken came up with the idea of making him breakfast. Eggs and bacon, the chicken giving from her excess but the pig had to give from his substance. No doubt the widow’s generosity is praiseworthy and her willingness to give out of her extreme poverty challenges every tight-fisted Christian today. The final question we should ask ourselves, as Christians in the affluent western world is, “Do we really understand the heartbeat of God towards the poor, the vulnerable and those who cannot fend for themselves like this widow? (Fr. Felix Ferrer, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
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Which is better: to share a little of what one has, with a great heart, or to share much from what one has in abundance, with an “ordinary” or casual heart? I believe many of us will easily pick out the first choice! However, which is better for our community: little giving or much giving….regardless of the heart factor? If we are honest with our answer, we will say we prefer much giving! So, the issue about giving is quite tricky, isn’t it?
The short gospel story about Jesus being amused by people making their offerings to the temple treasury, which led to Jesus’ praise about the giving of the widow, is not simply a naïve teaching about “sharing a little with a great heart.” There is more to it:
The poor and the simple are “more generous” in spirit. The rich and the sophisticated often have so many pretensions. They give after much rationalization. They tend to justify the amount of their giving. They tend to make alibis why they ought only to give this or that much to someone or to a cause. The poor give simply based on what they have, and on what have genuinely in their heart. Their poverty and their simplicity make them give not out of rationalization, but out of genuinely empathy.
Real giving is giving that comes from fasting. The widow’s copper coin offerings were meritorious, not because they were little offerings coming from a great heart. Jesus said: the widow gave out of what she had to live on. She was giving what she was sacrificing. She was giving out of what she was denying herself with. In biblical parlance, we note that these two always go together as a diptych: almsgiving and fasting. God-like giving is not simply giving with a heart. It is giving out of what you have fasted on. So, it matters not whether the giving is big or small. The greater question is: does mu giving hurt me? If it is giving without hurt, it is not giving from self, it is not a giving with love. Jesus on the cross gave out of love, and his love for us hurt Him. (Fr. Domie Guzman SPP New Every Morning New Everyday 2006 pp. 337-338)
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Luke 21:2 he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites
Alexander B. Morrison
“Among the long lines of contributors was a poor widow, who cast into the treasure chest all that she had, two small bronze coins, known as mites. Taken together they amounted to less than half a cent in American money. Noting the disparity between what she gave and the much greater contributions of some others, Jesus proclaimed, ‘Of a truth … , this poor widow hath cast in more than they all.’ Though the rich had given from their abundance, ‘she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had’ (Luke 21:1–4). Jesus knew it is not the amount we give that matters. In the arithmetic of heaven, value is determined not by quantity but by quality. It is the intent of the willing heart and mind that is acceptable to God (see 2 Cor. 8:12).” (“For This Cause Came I into the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 26-27)
This poor widow put in more than all the rest. I believe that as a priest I have offered my life for the Gospel. I do things for people—preach, minister to them, sit down with them. This may all be true.
But sometimes, when I look back at my life, now that I am almost 25 years in the ministry, I have found the opposite truer. People minister to me. They sit down for me. They preach to me. They help me live a very comfortable and wonderful life. They talk to me about their God and help me live my life. What I give may just be a cent’s worth. What they offer me is their faith, their life, and their love.
I have been blessed much. And I need to give much. Money and material things are just excuses for the real giving. The real gifts are those that come from the heart: time, care, compassion, faith, trust. The poor widow gives God not two small coins but her all, her life. God expects nothing less. Real giving, they say, starts when it no longer hurts because giving now comes naturally from us.
Plan and work out a community service with your kids.
Solemnity of Christ the King – Year A
Ez 34:11-12,15-17; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46
We call Fernando Poe, Jr. as king of Philippine movies or Miss Gloria Romero as queen of the Philippine movies. We have also princes and princesses of Philippine action movies. We call Sharon CuÑeta as megastar or Maricel Soriano as diamond star or Vilma Santos as star of all seasons and Nora as Superstar.
We call too Inday Badiday as queen of intrigues but I don’t know if there is also king of intrigues. Christy Fermin as somebody says that she’s queen of gossip. But I don’t know if there is king of gossip. How about Jesus Christ? We call Him as King of all nations and today we dedicate this last Sunday of liturgical calendar of the church for this title. Next Sunday we will enter into the season of Advent.
The gospel that is being used is one of the most vivid parables Jesus eve spoke and the lesson is crystal clear that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. His judgment will not depend on the knowledge we have amassed or the fame we have acquired or the fortune we have gained or the success we have achieved but on the help and love that we have given for our neighbor.
This parable teaches us three things about that we must give to the three Ls (the Lost, the Least and the Last) of our society.
First, it must be help in simple things. Giving food to those who are in hungry is simple and very easy. Giving a glass of water to those who are thirsty is very simple and easy too. Everybody can do it. Or giving a bed to those who have none or visiting the sick and the prisoners are very simple and easy which everybody can do everyday. These deeds do not need our names to be written in a replica or to be published in a newspaper or to be flashed in the projector of the church so that others may see and read.
Second, it must be help which is uncalculating. Those who help did not think that they were helping Christ and thus piling up eternal merit. They helped because they could not stop themselves in helping. They help not because they run for public office or so that they may vote for them. They helped because it was natural and instinctive for them to help. Whereas, on the other hand, the attitude of those who failed to help was: “if we have known it was you we would gladly have to help, but we thought it was only common tao (person) who was not worth helping.”
I, myself, I am a victim of this. We back in 1988 when I was in my Spiritual Pastoral Formation Year (SPFY) in Cagayan de Oro City, we have had a one-month hospital exposure where we worked as janitors of the hospital. Some of the doctors and nurses knew that we were seminarians. It happened that I entered the room of a patient belonging to a middle class family in order to clean the room. The patient was sleeping. The mother of the patient got angry with me because I entered the room and I’m disturbing the patient in her sleeping. I reasoned out that it was the time for us to clean the room and I don’t know that she was sleeping but she did not listen. She continued talking and so I went out from the room without cleaning the room too.
Afterwards, she asked one of the janitors about me. The janitor told the lady that I am a seminarian. The following day when I entered the room, the lady was so accommodating and even gave me snack and invited me to have a lunch. She told me: “ I was thinking yesterday that you are just a mere janitor in this hospital that is why I shouted you yesterday and got angry with you. If you have just told me that you are a seminarian, then, I would not do it for you.”
“So, that’s the way you treat ordinary people like janitors?” I told her but she did not answer.
Up to this day, there are those who help because they are given praise, thanks and publicity and in that sense they have already received their rewards. But help like this is not help at all but in order to expand his or her self-esteem. I rather prefer and appreciate those who do not want their names to be published but just considering themselves as anonymous donors because in that sense there is a fulfillment and meaning in life.
Third, all such help given is given to him and such help withheld is withheld from him. Just like St. Francis of Assisi. He was a wealthy man, high-born and high-spirited but he was not happy. He felt that life was incomplete. Then one day he was out riding and met a leper, loathsome and repulsive in the ugliness of his disease. Something moved St. Francis to dismount and fling his arms around this wretched sufferer and in his arms the face of the leper changed into the face of Christ.
May be today we could experience what St. Francis had experienced but there are so many instances that Christ is very much present. What they? You may discover them in others and our conscience will tell us.
Fr. Joseph Benetiz
Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine. It is said that heaven’s gate will be guarded not by Peter but by the poor who will let in only those they recognize who have helped them. There the question will no longer be what we believe in, what we have accomplished, or what we are bringing in. There and then, the question will be simpler: What have you done for these least of my brothers? And it will not be a question only of actions. We may have done charity, we may have donated much, and we may have given our time. But where was our heart? How did we live our life? Was care and concern our language?
It is also said that only two things will be asked at the end of life: First, did you find joy in your life? Second, was your life a joy to others?
Visit an orphanage with your family this Sunday
The resurrection. We have modern-day questions about this. Shall we have our bodies back on resurrection day? How about those who have been cremated? Shall we look like zombies? Shall we be recognized by those who have long been gone ahead of us?
I believe these should be God’s problems, not ours. We should be more concerned with the question whether we are worthy of resurrection in the first place. Will God find our life worth resurrecting after death? Will we have faith enough to survive the afterlife?
I am sure the woman and the brother husbands will have a good laugh when they meet in heaven. In the afterlife, there will be no more stupid laws like the one that forced them all into marriage.
Heaven for me is God allowing us to continue and live on the many good and happy moments we shared on earth, this time sharing them with God himself.
Luke 20:38 he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him
The essence of the Sadducees’ question revolved upon their doctrinal denial of the resurrection. Their question was designed to make this doctrine sound ridiculous. Jesus knew this was the essence of the inquiry and taught them the truth about the resurrection.
“Perhaps the most effective way to handle antagonistic, improper, or irrelevant questions is to use them as a springboard for answering the questions that should have been asked. Even if the questioner objects, you may have been able to plant good seeds in the mind of any listener who is honestly seeking the truth. Effective teachers learn to mold poor or irrelevant student questions into teaching moments.” (Millet and McConkie, Sustaining and Defending the Faith, 115)
“The Savior, sensing that the real question was not whose wife she would be, but whether or not there was indeed a resurrection, answered their direct question but briefly…Then the Master dealt with the real substance of the question: ‘But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living’ (Matthew 22:30-32).
“The honest in heart who were present quickly recognized the unassailable logic used by the Savior: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had all died many years before—yet God still said he was their God and that he was God only of the living. Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must still be living! Certain of the scribes who were present exclaimed, ‘Master, thou hast well said.’ The logic silenced the Sadducees, ‘and after that they durst not ask him any question at all’ (Luke 20:39-40).” (Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 241.)
“How can there be a God unless there is a resurrection? Why would God create men and then let them vanish into nothingness? To be God he must be the God of something, and the dead are nothing; hence, there are no dead, ‘for all live unto him,’ ‘for he raiseth them up out of their graves.’” (Bruce Mc. Conkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 608.)
Background. The “temple” of our text is the temple in Jerusalem. It was not the first temple, built by Solomon (see 1 Kings 6-7), nor the second temple, rebuilt by the Jews returning from their Babylonian captivity (Ezra 6:15).105 It was the third temple, known as “Herod’s Temple.” This temple was built by Herod, not so much to facilitate Israel’s worship, but as an attempt to reconcile the Jews to their Idumaean king. Construction of this temple began in 19 B.C. and continued for 46 years. The temple was largely complete in the time of our Lord, but was fully completed a mere 6 years before it was destroyed in 70 A.D. Perhaps it did not have the glory of the first temple built by Solomon, but it must have exceeded the beauty and splendor of the second temple (compare Ezra 3:12; Mark 13:1).
In His early infancy, Jesus had been taken to the temple in Jerusalem for His purification, and there both Simeon and Anna worshipped Him as the promised Messiah (Luke 2:21-38). When our Lord was 12 years of age, He accompanied His parents to Jerusalem, where He absolutely amazed them and others:
Our Lord’s parents certainly found Jesus a model child, a young man whom they could trust. They felt no need to check on Him, and as they were traveling in a caravan, they didn’t even miss Him on their return from Jerusalem. Eventually, they realized He was not with them and made their way back to Jerusalem, where they found Him in the temple. There He was, sitting in the midst of the Old Testament scholars, not only asking intelligent questions, but giving answers to their questions (Wouldn’t you love to know what some of these questions and answers were?). The scholars were amazed, and most certainly so were our Lord’s parents.
Nevertheless, Jesus caused them considerable inconvenience by not telling them He was staying behind. His absence caused them to leave the caravan of worshippers and return to Jerusalem, a day’s journey away. There was certainly a hint of frustration in their rebuke when they scolded Him for staying behind, but Jesus was not taken aback. He was surprised they had to look for Him. Did they not know where He would be? Did they think it was wrong for Him to be there? He was in His Father’s house,106 doing “His Father’s business” (verse 49). It was not He who was wrong, but they, for not seeing this situation for what it was. Even at the age of 12, our Lord had a good grasp of who He was and what He was sent to do. The “temple” Jesus visited in Luke 2 was the kind of place it should have been, a place to worship God and to study His Word. The “temple” Jesus finds nearly 20 years later seems to have greatly changed, and thus the need for its cleansing.
A Brief Interlude in Capernaum
12 After this he went down to Capernaum107 with his mother108 and brothers109 and his disciples, and they stayed there a few days.
One may wonder about John’s reasons for including this verse. John is not a man to waste time or space. His words are carefully selected (John 20:30-31; 21:25). Why then does he include them? One reason is that we know Capernaum will become our Lord’s headquarters for His ministry (See Matthew 4:13; 9:1). His family appears to have relocated110 there. It is where the centurion (and others—see John 6:24) come to find Jesus, to plead with Him to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Capernaum is deemed worthy of greater condemnation, because the people of this city have seen more of our Lord and His miracles (Matthew 11:23; see Luke 4:23). Another reason is that this seems to have been our Lord’s final stay with His family. His “family” is about to change (see Mark 3:31-35).
Finally, John wants us to see these events as closely following one upon the other. He is maintaining a rather precise account of the timing of the crucial events at the outset of our Lord’s ministry.111 John therefore describes the first few days of our Lord’s public ministry in chapter 1 and the first 11 verses of chapter 2. Then, he tells us that after the wedding, Jesus, His disciples, and His family make their way down to Capernaum. The disciples appear to be taken in by our Lord’s family for the few days they stay in Capernaum. From what we know of our Lord’s brothers at this point in time, they do not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah (John 7:5). They may even resent the intrusion of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus and the men who accompany Him do not stay long in Capernaum. After a few (“not … many”) days, they make their way up to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
The Cleansing of the Temple
The Jewish Passover celebration commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, when the death angel passed over every home where the first Passover was observed and the blood of the paschal lamb was placed on the two door posts and the lintel (see Exodus 12 and 13). The celebration of the Passover also commenced the Feast of Unleavened bread, so that the entire Passover celebration took a week.115 Attendance for adult Israelite males was compulsory:
Every male Jew, from the age of twelve and up, was expected to attend the Passover at Jerusalem, a feast celebrated to commemorate the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage. On the tenth of the month Abib or Nisan (which generally corresponds to our March, though its closing days sometimes extend into our April) a male lamb, of the first year, without blemish, was taken, and on the fourteenth day, between three and six o’clock in the afternoon, it was killed.
It is very difficult to imagine the scene that our Lord’s eyes fall upon as He enters Jerusalem and approaches the temple. We know from the scene at Pentecost, described in Acts 2, that a great many people thronged to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, as they also did to the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Pentecost (or, the Feast of Weeks). It is very difficult to estimate the influx of people to Jerusalem, not only from other parts of Israel, but from all over the world (see Acts 2:5-12). These Jews and proselytes would have to pay the half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple, and thus foreign monies were unacceptable and had to be exchanged for the proper coins. These worshippers also had to offer up their sacrifices, and for many of these travelers, the only solution was to buy a sacrificial animal there in Jerusalem.
In days gone by, they would have been able to purchase these animals and exchange their money in a place outside the temple courts: “At one time the animal merchants set up their stalls across the Kidron Valley on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, but at this point they were in the temple courts, doubtless in the Court of the Gentiles (the outermost court).”For some reason, the animals have now been brought into the temple courts. It is certainly more “convenient.” People can purchase their sacrificial animals right at the temple, and they can also exchange their money. It is very difficult to believe that this is the real reason this is done, however.
It is true, in the abstract, that each worshipper was allowed to bring to the temple an animal of his own selection. But let him try it! In all likelihood it would not be approved by the judges, the privileged venders who filled the money-chests of Annas! Hence, to save trouble and disappointment, animals for sacrifice were bought right here in the outer court, which was called the court of the Gentiles because they were permitted to enter it. Of course, the dealers in cattle and sheep would be tempted to charge exorbitant prices for such animals. They would exploit the worshippers. And those who sold pigeons would do likewise, charging, perhaps, $4 for a pair of doves worth a nickel (A. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York, 1897, vol. I, p. 370). And then there were the money-changers, sitting cross-legged behind their little coin-covered tables. They gave the worshipper lawful, Jewish coin in exchange for foreign currency. It must be borne in mind that only Jewish coins were allowed to be offered in the temple, and every worshipper—women, slaves, and minors excepted—had to pay the annual temple tribute of half a shekel (cf. Ex. 30:13). The money-changers would charge a certain fee for every exchange-transaction. Here, too, there were abundant opportunities for deception and abuse. And in view of these conditions the Holy Temple, intended as a house of prayer for all people, had become a den of robbers (cf. Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11; Mark 11:17).
The view represented here is one commonly accepted by students of the New Testament Gospels. Those who attempted to bring their own sacrificial animals may very well have had them “rejected” by the temple priests, and thereby were forced to purchase “approved” animals at much higher prices. The same gouging no doubt took place at the money-exchangers’ tables. I doubt very much that our Lord later called the temple a “robbers’ den” (Mark 11:17) without having such corruption in mind. In our text, however, John does not focus on the way in which these merchandisers go about their business, but rather on where they are conducting their business—in the temple courts.
Mark’s Gospel seems to take up this theme as well, pointing out that “where” these businessmen are doing business interferes with an essential purpose of the temple. The temple was to be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). The outer courts of the temple are the only places where Gentiles could worship. They are not allowed to pass beyond a certain point (see Acts 21:27-30). If the outer courts are filled with oxen and lambs and doves, there is no place for the Gentiles to pray and to worship God. Can you imagine trying to pray in the midst of a virtual stockyard, with all the noises of the animals and the bickering businessmen? Can you conceive of trying to squeeze in between cattle who are tied up in the courts? Think of what it would be like to have to watch where you walked, lest you step in something undesirable?120 It appears that Gentile worship is functionally prohibited, and I doubt this troubled many of the Jews, who are not all that excited about including the Gentiles in their worship in the first place.
What Jesus sees going on in the temple courts troubles Him a great deal! The place of prayer has become a place of profit-taking. It sounds more like the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange than the outer courts of the temple of God. It smells more like a barnyard than the place where one would seek God’s presence. Jesus enters the outer court of the temple, fashioning a whip from materials at hand (probably from the cords used to tie up the animals). He then drives them all out of the temple area. By the word “all,” I understand Him to have driven out not only the animals, but also those who are selling them as well. The coins of the moneychangers are poured out and scattered on the ground and their tables overturned. To those selling the doves, Jesus says, “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!”
After His death and resurrection, our Lord’s disciples remembered that it was written, “Passion for your house will devour me” (verse 17). The disciples came to view this cleansing of the temple in the light of Psalm 69:
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children; 9 Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on Me (Psalm 69:8-9, NKJV).
Several things catch my attention in these two verses. The first is that this Messianic Psalm speaks of the alienation of the Messiah from his “mother’s children.” Could this be part of the reason for John’s mention of the brief family gathering in Capernaum (John 2:12)? Our Lord’s mother is not mentioned again until the cross, and the reference to our Lord’s “brothers” in John 7:3-5 reveals their skepticism about Jesus and His ministry. Has Jesus already begun to feel alienated from His own brothers?
In addition, you will notice that in Psalm 69:9 David writes in the past tense: “Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” There are some differences in the Greek texts of John, so that the KJV and the NKJV employ the past tense: “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” As a rule, the other versions render it in the future tense, following what appear to be the best Greek texts.125 I like the way the New English Bible renders it best:
“Zeal for thy house shall destroy me.”
Psalm 69 is a psalm of David. It is a prayer for his deliverance, due to his piety. The psalm speaks of David’s imminent danger due to the enemies of God who hate him for his fervent devotion to God, and thus who seek his death. Later portions of this psalm depict events that occur at the crucifixion of our Lord (see Ps. 69:21). It seems clear in this psalm that there is a prophecy of our Lord’s sacrificial death, due to His zeal for pure worship.
Jesus acts out of zeal for His Father’s house, laying claim to the temple and cleansing it in His Father’s name. In so doing, He fulfills a prophecy that our Lord’s zeal for His Father’s house will bring about His death. It is the second cleansing126 of the temple (Matthew 21:10-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-46) that actually sets into motion the events which lead to our Lord’s crucifixion.
Righteous anger against false worship and injustice
People have sometimes taken this to be justification for righteous anger, which we all feel at times when we perceive some great injustice, especially when we ourselves or some people we love, or a group we feel part of, is treated unfairly. There are some very unfair things being done today. One could be justified in feeling angry about someone you know losing their job through no fault of their own. I wonder indeed that people accept an unjust system of industrial relations as quietly as they do. Does not the continuing poverty and poor health of aboriginal people justify anger; and how about the violence and abuse with which women and children are sometimes exploited? Is righteous anger not called for?
I wonder what you think of the words of a new hymn, Inspired by love and anger? When some of us had a talk about it most people thought anger could part of a Christian response in the face of injustice. What do you think of these words:-
Jesus proceeded to drive out those who were selling things. There are things that are proper to particular occasions or situations. A student with an earphone of music stuck to his ear is never proper in a classroom. Summer shorts and undershirt may be cool, but they are not proper in an office or a church. A disrespectful son is not proper in a home as a useless lazy bum is not proper in a society. An ungrateful person is not proper before God. Evil thoughts and plans are not proper for a decent person.
Jesus has an eye for what is proper and has the courage to cleanse the temple.
Dress properly today and feel good about how you look, after donating good old clothes away.
At first sight what Jesus was reacting to in the temple was abuse of a place of worship, rather than to the rights of a minority or the treatment of the poor. Sacrilege, defining a scared place was not, however, far removed from a question of justice. The part of the temple from which Jesus drove the animals and the traders was almost certainly the court of the Gentiles — an outer part of the temple where people who were not Jews could come to pray, though they could not go in further, on pain of death. How would you feel if your prayers were being interrupted by busy traffic and no one seemed to care about your relationship to God? You might even have taken your thoughts a step further and questioned your exclusion from the inner more holy parts of the temple. Even if you were a poor Jewish family you might have thought it unfair that you had to change the ordinary money that you brought with you into special temple currency in order to buy an animal for sacrifice. Some were making money out of the devotion of others. Probably, if you were poor you might only purchase one or two doves, like the parents of Jesus. It was obviously a controlled market. It all seemed rather unfair and exclusive. If you were really radical, and some of the friends of Jesus were radical, having quite revolutionary attitudes, you might even have wondered whether the whole sacrificial system of worship was unjust, for after all you could read in the psalms and the prophets that God does not desire such things.