Archive for category God's Mercy

Matthew 20 :1-16 The Workers in the Vineyard

Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). “Jesus’ invitation to enter his Kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching (Cf. Mk 4:33-34).

The Parable that was just read is commonly known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mark Bailey calls this parable, “A day on the job in the kingdom of God.” (because the work takes place throughout the day and the payroll is at the end of the day.)

The parable emphasizes the times that the laborers were hired. The Landowner hired laborers early in the morning (6:00) and made an agreement with them to pay them a denarius for the day’s work. It says the owner agreed which makes me think the workers asked for the denarius and he agreed to it.

The Landowner went out again at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 and asked others if they would like to come to work without indicating what they would earn, only that he would be fair (vs. 4). If the first guy is going to get 1 denarius for 12 hours work, what do you expect the 2nd group to get? 3/4, then 1/2 then 1/4 and then 1/12th respectively.

At the end of the day, the Landowner went to pay them and started with the last group. He gave them each 1 denarius. What do you expect the next group to get? Three denarii. The next group six, and the next nine and the first group that was hired expects to get 12 denarii. But he gave everyone the same amount – one denarius – regardless of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours.

It is not surprising therefore, that those were hired first complained and accused the owner of being unfair.

But the owner justifies his actions:

  • on the basis of agreement – they agreed to work for a denarius. The owner calls him “friend” which in Matt is not a term of endearment.
  • on the basis of ownership – can I do what I want with what is mine?
  • on the basis of generosity – can I be gracious to whom I want to be gracious?

Again, is the landowner unjust or unfair? Certainly not. The landowner is just when he paid them all individually with the same amount or salary because that was the thing agreed upon by the landowner and the labourers. The landowner is generous, compassionate and merciful when he paid them all individually with the same amount regardless of of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours. Simply stated, the landowner is not unjust. Rather he is both just and gracious or compassionate or merciful.

This is the message and the challenge for all of us who are adopted children of God: to be just yet gracious, merciful and compassionate. “Mercy without justice is baloney. Justice without mercy is tyranny.”

“Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love, grace to the guilty and undeserving, mercy to the needy and helpless” (John Stott, The Letters of John). Let us, therefore, be merciful as Jesus is merciful (Lk 6:36) for “whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy” (James 2:13).May we have mercy on all, especially to those who are going through a time when they are given little or no mercy.

Prayer: Father, may I love those considered unlovable.

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John 20:1-9 The Empty Tomb (Easter Sunday)

Today, the Christendom celebrates Easter, the feast of all feasts in the life of all Christians. Because of Easter, Christianity becomes a religion of joy, hope, victory and new life in Christ. St. Paul clearly affirmed the singular importance of the Resurrection in declaring: “If Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Cor 15:17). This means that if Christ is not risen, Paul and all Christians would “then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we have borne witness before Him that He raised up Christ” (1 Cor 15:15). In brief, if Christ be not risen, we are all idolaters! But the truth is: Christ is risen!. Indeed “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Ps 118:24).

There are at least five meanings and salvific relevance we can attach to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead:

First, his resurrection confirmed everything Christ has done and taught. It fulfilled both Jesus’ triple prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection in the Synoptics (cf. Mk 8:31; 9:30; 10:32), and his triple prediction of being “lifted up” in John’s Gospel (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32). Christ’s exaltation vindicated all he claimed to be, as he himself asserted in his trial before the high priest (cf. Mk 14:61f; CFC 621).

Second, through his Resurrection, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies promising a Savior for all the world (cf. Ps 110; Dn 7:13). The history of God’s self-revelation, begun with Abraham and continuing through Moses, the Exodus, and the whole Old Testament, reached its climax in Christ’s Resurrection, something unprecedented, totally new (CFC 622).

Third, the resurrection confirmed Jesus’ divinity. St. Paul preached that Jesus was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4; cf. Phil 2:7-8). Upon seeing the Risen Jesus, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28; CFC 623).

Fourth, Christ’s death freed us from sin, and his resurrection brought us a share in the new life of adopted sons/daughters of the Father in the Holy Spirit. “If then we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8; CFC 624).

“Finally, the Risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection” (cf. 624). Jesus’ resurrection is a source, a proof, a guarantee, and a pledge of  a future glory. “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all thing into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:21). “In Christ all will come to life again” (1 Cor 15:22).

By itself, the tradition of the “empty tomb” does not prove anything. But when linked to the Risen Christ’s appearances, it is confirmatory of the resurrection (cf. CCC 640). Let us remember, however, that appearances did not remove all doubts nor the need for faith (cf. CCC 644). Some doubted that the one who appeared was really Jesus of Nazareth, others he was the Christ. A real change of heart, a conversion, was needed to “see” the Risen Christ as the Apostle Thomas and the Emmaus disciples clearly show (cf. Jn 20:27; Lk 24:13-35). Matthew describes how “those who had entertained doubts fell down in homage” (Mt 28:17). This confirms the fact that faith is truly a gift. “No one can say: Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). St. Thomas Aquinas explains that “the apostles saw the living Christ after his resurrection with the eyes of faith: (ST, III: 55, 2 ad 1m).

Yes, since Jesus was risen from the dead, more reasons and meaning for us to heed his call for conversion, faith, and discipleship.

Think about it: “The redemption which our Lord carried out through his death and resurrection is applied to the believer by means of the sacraments, especially by Baptism and the Eucharist: “We have buried with him by baptism and death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). The resurrection of Christ is also the rule of our new life: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Rising with Christ through grace means that “just as Jesus Christ through his resurrection began a new immortal and heavenly life, so we must begin a new life according to the Spirit, once and for all renouncing sin and everything that leads us to sin, loving only God and everything that leads to God” ( St. Pius X Catechism”, 77).

 

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John 18:1-19:42 The crucifixion of Jesus

“”On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church mediates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world” (Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship no. 58)

 Terrorism is nothing new. It’s probably as old as the human race.

 In fact the cradle of civilization, now Iraq, was the home of the most infamous terrorists of antiquity, the Assyrians. Their goal was to conquer their neighbors in a way that would minimize initial resistance and subsequent rebellion. To do this, they knew fear would be their greatest weapon. Simple threat of death for those who resisted was not enough because many would prefer death to slavery. So the Assyrians developed the technology to produce the maximum amount of pain for the longest amount of time prior to death. It was called crucifixion. This ingenious procedure proved to be very effective terror tactic indeed.

 It was the policy of the Roman Empire to adopt from conquered peoples whatever appeared useful. They found crucifixion an excellent tool of intimidation. The humiliation of being stripped naked to die in a public spectacle was particularly loathsome to Jews for whom public nudity was an abomination. Incidentally, crucifixion was deemed so horrible that Roman law forbade that it be carried out on a Roman citizen, even a traitor. It was reserved only for slaves and conquered peoples.

 At the beginning of his last week, Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a heroic savior, someone to free the Jews from Roman authority. By the end of the week, Jesus was no longer seen as a hero. He was even betrayed by Judas, the treasurer of the apostles, for thirty shekels of silver which is the monetary worth of a slave. Denied thrice by Peter, whom he has chosen to be the head of the apostles. Abandoned by the other apostles except John. Demanded to be crucified by the same people who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [Mt. 21:9]. Lastly, “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged and crucified (see Lk 24:26-27. 44-45; Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.) as he prophesied earlier.

 Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). This biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were passive players in a scenario written in advance by God (cf. Acts 3:13, CCC 599).

For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness (cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18). The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Hence, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

Faithful to the saving mission he received from God the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:8] In His Divine incarnation, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  Jesus did not empty Himself of His Divinity but He voluntarily gave up the Divine glory to which He was entitled, a glory that would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8]

]Having humbled Himself, even unto death, God exalted Jesus, giving Him the Name that is above every name. [Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] That at the Name of Jesus, in an act of religious adoration, every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6]

John the evangelist captures the mystery of salvation when he writes, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes will not die but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Hence, it was not the nails that hung Jesus on the cross but God’s love for us in his Son Jesus Christ, the image of God’s compassionate and gracious love for His people.

Have faith in God and in the One whom He sent for us and for our salvation. As John says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Besides, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world” (St. Francis of Assisi). Tell the world of His LOVE.

 

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Jn 3:16-21 Jesus and Nicodemus (God so loved the world…)

 

There is a popular saying and I quote, “The greatest happiness on earth is a conviction that we are loved.” If we inverse this, however, it may go this way, “The greatest sorrow on earth is a conviction that we are not loved.” Indeed, blessed are they who are loved and cursed are they who are unloved!

If you feel nobody loves you, nobody cares for you and the world is too harsh for you today’s Gospel passage is your consolation, inspiration and hope.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish by might have eternal life” (v. 17). Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your status, duties and circumstances in life, God loves you! He loves you no matter what. He loves you even if. He loves you whatever happens.

How does God love us? How can we characterize the love of God for us?

Even in the Old Testament, it has been recognized by the Israelites that Yahweh is a gracious and merciful Father to His people: “For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). Gracious to those who do not deserve his goodness and love. Merciful to those who are guilty, the needy and the suffering.

His love is everlasting: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; so I have keep my mercy toward you” (Jer 31:3). It is faithful and trustworthy:  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be moved from their places, I will not leave you, I will not forget you” (Is 54:10) “Though the heavens may fall and the hills be turned into dust, never will forget you or leave you” (?) “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is 49:15).

God’s love is providential: “As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything” (Mt 10:30). “In him we live and move and have our being” (Act 17:28).

God’s love is universal. God cares for all. It is all-embracing. The evil as well as the good, the unjust as well as the just are the objects of His love (see Mt 5:45). Each individual is precious in his sight: “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:4). “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents” (Lk 15:7, 10). God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love” (St. Augustine).

“The highest proof of the Father’s love is given and manifested in the mission and person of the Son. Through him, we have seen and believe in the love of God for all of us. God gives his Son as savior of the world (Jn 4:42), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), as the one who gives his flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51), as the light of the world (Jn 9:5; 12:46). Hence, God in his infinite love has sent His Son for its deliverance (Jn 3:17).

Throughout the whole gospel there is far more prominence given than in the Synoptics to the fact that Christ has been sent by the Father (Jn 5:37; 7:16; 8:16, 28). He repeatedly refers to himself as Him whom the Father has sent  (Jn 5:38; 6:29; 10:36; 17:3). He is not come of himself (Jn 7:28), but is come in the name of the Father (Jn 5:43) from whom he has come forth (Jn 8:42; 16:27; 17:8). Not only does the Son, as in the Synoptics, claim to reveal the Father as none other, he asserts that he is in the Father and the Father in him (Jn 10:38; 14:10, 20; 17:21, 23). He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30; 17:22). The words that he speaks have been given him by his Father (Jn 17:16f; 12:49f; 14:10, 24; 17:8). The works that he does are the works of his Father who dwells in him (Jn 14:10). He that has seen him has seen  the Father (Jn 14:9). As the Father has loved him, so he has loved his disciples (Jn 15:9). He sets his love before them as an example, and bids them love one another as he has loved them (Jn 13:34; 15:12). The highest proof of his love is given in his death (Jn 10:15; 15:13).

The Son lays down his life willingly in obedience to the commandment of the Father (Jn 10:17f). For this the Father has given the Son; and the result will be the consummation of the gracious purpose which animated the Father in the giving of the Son. The cross will become the center of attraction. Through it Christ will draw all men unto Him (Jn 12:32;; 8:28; 11:52; cf. 10:15f), and gain the victory over the prince of this world (Jn 12:31). Thus will the love which impelled the Father to the sacrifice of the Son gain the end it seeks to attain, man’s deliverance from the destruction which threatens him, and participation in the blessing of everlasting life” (Jn 3:15f; 6:40f;  James Hastings, D.D., A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Love).

Jesus is the love of God the Father made visible and audible to His people. Through him we have seen and believe in the love of God the Father for us. Jesus is both the messenger and the message of God’s love for the world. He is the love made flesh. He is the sign and instrument of God’s love for His people. As a disciples of Jesus, let us also be a living signs and instruments of Christ love for the world, for his people. Let us be living bearers, reflectors and messengers of Christ’s love for the world by fulfilling the new commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:9, 12).”

Jesus makes charity the new commandment (cf. Jn  13:34). By loving his own “to the end” (Jn 13:1), he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9, 12; CCC 1823).

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Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector and a Wealthy Man

The salvation of any is so very difficult (even the righteous scarcely are saved) while the salvation of the rich is seemingly impossible (Mt 19:24). Jesus explicitly teaches that the salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Mt 19:24).  Much more it such a rich man is a tax collector despised by the Jews as traitor and thief.  

Although it is a seeming impossibility for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, with God’s initiative and gift of salvation and man’s cooperation his salvation becomes possible. Indeed, with God what seems impossible becomes possible. 

In today’s gospel narrative, we heard a story about Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector of a wealthy city of Jericho, center of commerce and exporter date palms and balsam. The story of Zacchaeus, is a story of a rich man who finds salvation. As Ryle noted, “Here we see the camel passing through the eye of the needle, and the rich man entering the kingdom of God” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 290)! Although it seem impossible for the rich people to be saved (see Mt 19:24), God can save them. For with God’s grace nothing is impossible. Along with the grace and initiative of God in Christ to seek out and to save what was lost, what saved Zacchaeus from sin and isolation?

First, his humility.  He humbled himself in acknowledging his sinfulness before God to the point of seeking to see Jesus who will save him from slavery to sin and misery caused by sin whose nature is to separate us from God and from one another. Humility is the sure evidence of Christian virtues. Without it, we retain all our faults still, and they are only covered over with pride, which hides them from other men’s observation, and sometimes from our own too (François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680), French writer, moralist. repr. F.A. Stokes Co., New York (c. 1930). Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 358 (1665-1678), trans. London (1706)).

Second, his joyful welcome of Jesus and his gift of salvation and his response of repentance. Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

“Penance requires…the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction” Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673). “Penance is therefore a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds, and then to the Christian’s whole life” (RP, n. 4).

Third, his repentance led him to renewal of life in Christ. “Conversion is accomplished and manifested in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, just and equitable reparation of the damage and harm done to others, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,[Cf. Am 5:24 ; Isa 1:17 .] by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance’ (Cf. Lk 9:23 ).

St. Paul exhorts Christian who repented and converted to Christ:

“I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as pagans do – their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct. That is not what you learned when you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth”  (Eph 4:17-24). 

It was not Zacchaeus’ giving money that saved him but his joyful reception of Jesus Christ and his invitation of salvation into his home and heart. Friends, Jesus has been knocking the door of our homes and hearts, be always ready in letting him in that you, like Zacchaeus, shall received the reward of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10)

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Luke 15:1-32 The Parables of the Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge.

Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you:  love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin;  hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.

In today’s gospel, Jesus  gave us the parables of  the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son. They all illustrate the point that God rejoices  about each sinner who repents. “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one  sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to  repent” (verse 7)… “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  They reveal to us that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion and relenting in punishment (  Ps 103:8, 145:8-9,15-18, Jl 2:12-13).”

Allow me to focus my homily on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the lost son, since it is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and lost coin (verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal father, because of the father’s extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about God’s grace, the father’s willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.

Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful.  Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father.  Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s.  In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age.  That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).

This younger son was guilty of:  (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father  (2) treating his father as if he were dead  (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving.  Such conduct was shameful in that culture.  A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son.  Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.

Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who  is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit.  Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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Lk 15:1-3, 11-32: The Parable of the Lost Son

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge. Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you:  love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin;  hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.

Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful.  Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father.  Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s.  In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age.  That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).

This younger son was guilty of:  (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father  (2) treating his father as if he were dead  (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving.  Such conduct was shameful in that culture.  A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son.  Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.

Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who  is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit.  Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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He ran to his son

When the son returns home, the father runs to meet him. Older men in the Middle East do not run except in emergency; running causes dishonor. But the father does this, not so much to welcome the son as to protect him from hostile villagers who resent his break from family and community and his loss of inheritance to non-Israelites. By meeting the errant son at the edge of the village, and by embracing and kissing him, he puts the son under his protection, safe from the immediate danger of a hostile community. Moreover, the robe, the ring, and the sandals are signs that the son is taken back as a member of the household rather than as a servant.

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2010,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph

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The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the lost son, since it is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and lost coin (verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal father, because of the father’s extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about God’s grace, the father’s willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.

What this parable teaches us about God

The context helps us understand the lessons of the parable. Verses 1-2 tell us that sinners and tax collectors were being taught by Jesus. Pharisees then criticized Jesus — not for teaching them, but for eating with them, which was a sign of social acceptance. The Pharisees tried hard to be righteous, and they were disturbed that Jesus accepted people who hadn’t been trying hard. Perhaps they were worried that Jesus was making it too easy on people, and his acceptance might encourage others to be lazy.

Jesus then gave the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, both illustrating the point that God rejoices about each sinner who repents. “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (verse 7). There’s no such thing as a person who has no need for repentance, but the Pharisees weren’t yet aware of that. There would be rejoicing for them, too, if they would accept it.

The parable of the lost son continues the theme of rejoicing and adds to it. The first half of the parable illustrates rejoicing over a sinner who returned; the second half more directly addresses the situation Jesus faced: criticism about his willingness to be with sinners. Jesus, by telling the parable the way he did, chides those who do not rejoice about the sinners’ interest in being taught (figuratively, returning to God).

In the first two parables, the lost were found by searching. But the younger son was found by waiting. The spiritually lost were already coming to Jesus; he didn’t need to seek them out. They had been spiritually dead and were now showing interest — they wanted to be taught by Jesus. Jesus received them and ate with them. His reception would have encouraged them to keep the laws they already knew and to continue to listen to him for more instruction in God’s way.

But the parable is not just about Jesus in the first century; it is a timeless message about God the Father. He rejoices over (cf. the celebration) and honors (cf. the robe, ring and sandals) every sinner who repents. He doesn’t wait for a full and formal apology; he perceives the attitude and comes toward us. This theme of joyful acceptance, similar to that of the first two parables of this chapter, dominates the first part of this parable. This is the lesson illustrated by the father: He is always ready to welcome a returning child.

The parable shows that sinners can confess and return to God. Since God is gracious, sinners can return to him with confidence that he will warmly welcome them. But in the parable, financial destitution is more prominent than moral fault. Unlike the first two parables, the word repent is not used; only superficial reasons are given for the son’s return. As Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, encouraging sinners to return was not the main issue; the main issue was what to do about sinners who were already willing to return.

Most importantly, the parable shows that God’s people should rejoice at a) the willingness of sinners to turn to God and b) the willingness of God to receive them. This is the lesson of the second half of the parable, illustrated by the father’s correction of his older son. This theme most directly addresses the setting of the parable, the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus’ reception of sinners. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin and the first half of the parable of the lost son are preparatory to this main point.

These themes are timeless. God rejoices over each person who repents, and so should we. We need not kill a calf for repentant persons (Jesus didn’t; the parable illustrates the attitude of rejoicing, not the specific actions we should take). We need to accept repentant sinners to social fellowship (cf. eating with them, verse 2) and religious instruction (cf. allowing them to listen, verse 1). This particular parable does not say we should seek outcasts (that is shown better by the parables of lost sheep and lost coin), but that we should be happy when they come to us to be taught.

In effect, Jesus’ story shows that it is ungodly to refuse to rejoice about repentance. The Pharisees, by insisting on a too-strict standard of righteousness, were being unrighteous. They, too, needed to repent.

Source: http://www.wcg.org/lit/bible/gospels/lostson.htm

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The parable of the prodigal son is perhaps one of Jesus most famous parables and probably the best loved parable of all times. The story has found its way in the arts through paintings, stage plays and sculptures. The parable of the prodigal son has also found its way in literature and even popular music.

The parable of the prodigal son is found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15 verses 11 to 32. The story opens with Jesus telling the story of a man who has two sons. The opening statement of verse 11 will indicate to us that the story is about “Two sons” not just about one son. The error most Christians, readers and even some preachers commit when reading the parable of the prodigal son is focusing on the “prodigal son” only hence the story is often called “the parable of the prodigal son” when in reality the story is not about the parable of the prodigal son, but it is a parable of two sons.

Source: http://www.zdiaz.com/2008/10/the-parable-of-the-prodigal-son-old-story-new-twist/

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MOMENTS
Honesty and humility

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Inquirer
Last updated 00:07am (Mla time) 09/16/2007

LAST WEEK, AN ELDERLY LADY FROM Ilocos told me: “Father, in America I experienced shock culture.”

“Lola, maybe, you mean culture shock,” I corrected.

“No Father, in America siak agluto, siak aglaba, siak aglinis amin! Siak culture!” (Me cook, me wash, me clean, me everything!)

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 15, 1-32), Jesus tells us that the prodigal son came to his senses when he realized how miserable his lot had been in a foreign land, doing everything by himself, living in dire need and hunger, a far cry from the life of the well-fed hired workers in his father’s house. Deprivations and humiliations can lead us to the road of conversion. On the other hand, affluence and prosperity can blind and mislead us from our true vision and mission.

* * *

The story of the prodigal son reminds us that nobody stays on top forever. Money can be lost, position can be taken away, friends can disappear, power and glory can fade away. But what remained in the prodigal son was the memory of his home and his loving father. Humility was the key that opened the door that led him out of his brokenness and drudgery. Unless and until one is humble or is humbled, there can be no real conversion, no real freedom, and no real moving on.

* * *

I look at many of our people in high places today, who continue cheating, robbing and lying; and I often wonder if they realize their folly in their search for worldly riches and glory. I often find myself amused and amazed at how they can blurt out their lies and denials “without batting an eyelash” and—wonder of wonders!—somehow live with them. Or so it seems. But I surmise theirs must be a miserable life deep inside because of that constant and present fear of being uncovered, caught and punished for their crimes.

* * *

What would be necessary to make a call a wake-up call? Sickness, pain, loss of a loved one, deprivation—all these are calling and pointing us to home. But what can we say of people who have gone through all these and more, yet go on sinning anyway?

How long can one go on ignoring God’s call? There is no escaping it, for someday soon, we all will have our final call.

* * *

A person can have all the wake-up calls in life, but if he/she does not pick up the phone and answer, then he/she is a subscriber that cannot be reached. Let us not turn off our mobile phones and let us not keep God’s call “waiting.” It is God who is calling. Answer Him. It is God who is knocking. Let Him in.

* * *

There are two keys we need to set us free from our prisons. The first is honesty. As long as we go on denying and rationalizing, we can never really “see.” Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to set us free from our biases and blind spots. The second is humility. As long as we are arrogant and proud, we can never really accept who we really are and the pathetic situation we got ourselves in. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to set us free from our defiance and false securities.

* * *

The prodigal son came to his senses because in all honesty and humility, he realized his present situation. In other words, he faced the light and came “eyeball to eyeball” with his God. Don’t avoid God’s eyes. Don’t evade God’s all-knowing and all-loving look into your eyes.

* * *

Conversion happens when we accept God’s unconditional love and allow God to embrace us, with all out filth, stench, warts and all. Often, conversion does not happen because we keep thinking of some great tomorrow or some big someday when we will be more “good,” or because we keep regretting some great yesterday when we were good “then.” Forget about your great tomorrows or your glorious yesterdays. There’s only now. There’s only love, unconditional.

* * *

They say there are three signs that tell one is growing old. The first sign is forgetfulness. The second sign is … what was it again? Anyway, our greatest confidence is that our God is not only a forgiving but also a forgetting God when it comes to our sins and iniquities.

* * *

I erroneously wrote in my last column that Oct. 15 is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, which was actually observed last Sept. 14. Sorry, it was an “honest mistake.” By the way, is there such a thing as “dishonest” mistake?

* * *

Inviting you for a pilgrimage to Naju, Korea this Oct. 17-22 to meet the Korean visionary Julia Kim with whom we experienced a “Eucharistic miracle” in May 1991. God willing, 14-year-old blind girl and healer Fatima Soriano will join us in this pilgrimage. We are looking forward to grace-filled moments with Julia and Fatima. For particulars, please call 7217457; 5238581 to 88.

* * *

P.S. How do you say in Japanese a “lowly woman”? Hamburger (humble girl)!

I think, that’s what we need in our country right now.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to be honest and humble so that I can listen and respond to your call. Amen.

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