Archive for category Year C
The new millennium has witnessed and continues to witness various and different faces of violence, division and situations of unpeace. Hardly any day passes that we do not hear the sad news of violent aggression and brutality unleashed against innocent people somewhere around the world. To make matters worse, perpetrators of these acts of violence often try to justify these atrocities by claiming that they are fighting a holy war in God’s name. Think of the crusades, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. And the latest is the ISIS or ISIL.
Today’s readings are indeed a call to war: not a war against other people but a war against sin and evil; not a war against people we perceive as evil, but a war against the evil one, the devil.
Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. This is a disturbing word knowing Jesus as the Prince of Peace who has come “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79) and to dispense peace “among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14) Here he makes it clear that he cast fire and brings division rather than peace. In Matthew’s parallel verse (10:34), Jesus brings a sword.
Is Jesus contradicting himself on his teachings about love peace and unity? Is Jesus contradicting himself the fourth precept of the Decalogue or Ten Commandment which is, “Honor your father and mother!” Certainly not. Jesus, in saying those paradoxical words, did not intend to destroy family and other human relations, ties and institutions. Rather he was only telling his disciples, in a forceful language, the following:
First, to choose and to follow Jesus is a matter of personal choice. No can one can make decision for us. Not even the Church or the State. Not even our family. And when we choose, either we choose and follow Jesus or reject him. There is no middle way. There is no half-way. There is no other alternative. There is no other option. Please bear in mind that our sanctification and salvation depend on the kind of choice we make. Choose God and you choose life, happiness and peace.
Second, if we opted to choose and follow Jesus then our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to him must be urgent, exclusive and unparalleled. When it comes to hierarchy of values and priorities in life, God always takes precedence over possessions and relations. To choose and follow Jesus only and always may sometimes bring division and conflict. This is the necessary consequence and cost of following Jesus. This substantially explains the paradoxical words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Third, Jesus’ message of love, peace and unity does not necessarily mean that we compromise with evil and tolerates injustices and wrong-doings. Peace and unity that we rightly desire can be achieved not by compromise, force and violence but by doing the will of God for us and through us. Let this Christian moral principles always guide us: Do good and hate sin! Love sinner and hate evil!
In today’s Mass, Jesus invites all of us to examine who we love first and foremost. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin because it is possible that family and friends can become our enemies when they prevent and hinder us from following and serving the Lord.
Let our “faith in God leads us to turn to him alone as our first origin and our ultimate goal, and neither to prefer anything to him nor to substitute anything for him” (CCC 229).
Our God is not only an almighty (cf. Jer 27:5; 32:17; Lk 1:37; Wis 11:21; cf. Est 4:17b; Prov 21:1; Tob 13:2), merciful, gracious (Ex 34:5-6; cf. 34:9), truthful (Ps 119:160; 2 Sam 7:28; cf. Dt 7:9) and loving (cf. Dt 4:37; 7:8; 10:15; cf. Is 43:1-7; Hos 2; Jn 3:16; cf. Hos 11:1; Is 49:14-15; 62:4-5; Ez 16; Hos 11; Is 54:8,10; Jer 31:3) Father (2 Cor. 6:18); cf. Mt 6:32). He is also a God of freedom (” (Deut 30:19-20; Mt 6:19 ).
Though God wills that all men may be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is, Jesus Christ who is “the way, the truth and the life” (see Jn 16:1; 14:6), He always respect our freedom of choice. That is why we, as His people, are always given a choice to make: life or death, heaven or hell, peace or violence, sinfulness or righteousness and prosperity or misery. Our future, then, depends entirely on the quality and quantity of choices we make today. If we choose death, then death would be ours. If we choose heaven, then heaven would be ours. If we choose happiness, then hapiness would be ours. You are always given a choice but be responsible with that choice. What you are, who you are now and in the future are products of your own choices.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, God confronts His people with decisive moral choices: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deut 30:19-20).
In today’s gospel narrative Jesus also confront his disciples to make a choice. Are you laying up for yourselves corruptible treasures or incorruptible treasures? Whatever option they shall make, Jesus warns them to avoid being preoccupied in acquiring, possessing and hoarding anything that moth can destroy , rust can eat away, thieves can break in and steal. Instead, he admonishes them to store up heavenly treasure which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal (see Mt 6:19).
It is better to understand the text as referring to treasures that are already experienced in this life but continue to be valuable for eternity. “These are things whose fruit one enjoys in this world, while capital is laid up for one in the world to come: honoring father and mother, deeds of loving kindness, making peace between a man and his fellow; and the study of the law leads to them all” (cf. Sir 20:30, 41:14; see JBC 42:43).
Who stores for himself a treasure in heaven while on earth? He, who does not just perform good acts but gives the best of himself. He, who pursues good and chooses it in concrete action. He who freely practices the good. He who practices virtues…like prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and love. He, who lives virtuous life, becomes like God (see St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinis, 1: PG 44, 1200D). This is the reason why “people, in seeing our good works, give glory to God our Father who is in heaven (see Mt 5:16). Hence, “fill your minds with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious. Do everything that deserves praise and admiration” (Ph 4:8).
Jesus, then, exhort his disciples to possess a good eye and a good heart. Or singleness of purpose, purity of heart (Mt 5:8), undivided loyalty. What, then, is our goal that deserves our singleness of purpose and purity of heart? To whom shall we pledge our undivided loyalty? The longing and desire for heaven or the single indestructible longing for God, for an eternity spent in intimate, blessed communion with him is the deepest desire of human heart. Heaven is “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). These deserve our singleness of purpose, purity of heart and undivided loyalty!
God has granted us an amazing freedom to determine our eternal (and earthly) destiny by our choices and actions. To use the beautiful expressions of St Paul: “A man will reap only what he sows” (Gal 6:7). “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). The option will always be ours. But we are forever responsible of the choices we make. As the Pepsi advertisement aptly says: “You are the product of your own choices.”
My dear friends in today’s gospel the Lord is giving us a choice. Are you laying up for yourselves corruptible treasures or incorruptible treasures? Make a choice for a lifetime. Store up heavenly treasure which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal (see Mt 6:19).
As far as the Bible is concern, the rich man mentioned in the Gospel who died while his barns were bulging with goods that he couldn’t use was not an evil man. Jesus didn’t say that he was dishonest, immoral, exploitative and oppressive. The man was rich prior to the harvest, and the harvest simply increased his wealth. Certainly, he appears to have been very successful in his occupation. He must have been an intelligent, resourceful, and industrious worker to have accumulated such great wealth. The Lord didn’t call him a sinner, but sad to say, the Lord denounced him as a fool.
What are some of the sins and failings of the the rich man why he deserved such harsh condemnation from the Lord?
First, the rich failed to restrain his obsession for possession and wealth. In the story we are told that he was so obsessed to hoard more, to possess more and to acquire more not knowing that death awaits him and caught him by surprise and, therefore, he was unprepared for his untimely death. And that costs him his soul. Indeed “Greed never rests from the acquiring of more” (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198) until death puts a stop to it.
Second, the rich man made the mistake of thinking he was the absolute owner of his possessions when in truth he was just a steward of God’s gifts, graces and blessings. In his eyes, they were his barns, his fruits, his goods. He had forgotten, if he ever knew, that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
Possessions or wealth are not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul. Indeed, money is the best servant but a worst master!
Third, he was worried about the present only and forgot about eternity.
Fourth, he was concerned only for the physical and material and forgot about spiritual things.
Fifth, he treasured things more than people. It is not surprising, therefore, if that man is worldly, materialistic, self-centered and self-absorbed. As expected, he lived his life in isolation. The hint of his problem lies in the man’s use of the first-person pronoun. Go through the parable and circle the words “I” and “my” to get a sense of the man’s self-absorption. In his short conversation with himself, he uses the word “I” six times and the word “my” five times. Everything is “I” and “my.”
In sum, the rich man is guilty of greed or avarice which he greatly manifested by his self-absorption and obsession for possession and wealth. To borrow the words of St. Paul, he is guilty of “the love of money which is the root of all evil” (see cf. 1 Tm 6:10). Worst of all, he is guilty of idolatry (see Col 3:5).
“Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life’ (Mt12:15). What does it profit a man if gains the whole world and loses his soul? Rather, be rich in what really matters to God (see Mt 12:21). Be rich in virtues, good works, and holiness. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
“”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.
Thomas Edison, a famous inventor, known for his extraordinary diligence, observes: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
The theme of today’s Gospel narrative is perseverance. Jesus warns his disciples of the coming sufferings, persecutions and divisions as a result of their choice to follow Jesus as their teacher, lord and savior and promises salvation if and when they persevere in the face of trials to the very end: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).
Persecution for righteousness sake is a permanent feature of Christianity. It is indispensable consequence for following the Lord. The call to follow Jesus is the call to take up and carry the cross daily. This is understandable because the more we follow Jesus the more we become like Jesus. And the more we become Jesus, the more the world will hate us. As the Lord was persecuted and suffered in the hands of the Jews, so will his followers be. No disciple is greater than his Master.
Yes, suffering, trials and persecution cannot be avoided but “whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22). Somebody once said that Christianity is not for starter but for finisher. Hence, James assures anyone who perseveres to the end of happiness and eternal life: “Happy is the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promise to those who love him” (Jas 3:12).
What are some of the qualities of a persevering person or a person willing to persevere to the end for the faith he professed? Persevering person possesses a combination of three traits: energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials.
“The call to discipleship is a call to continue. To carry on. To persist. To endure. To finish. The Lord needs finishers, those who make the commitment and then walk the road—no matter the difficulty or challenge—to the very end” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship). Hence, never give up, nor give in. Don’t quit. Take this similar reminder from General Douglas MacArthur: “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
Faithful to the mission received, the Church today needs disciples who are ready and willing to persevere to the end even to the point of sacrifice and death. Be ready, therefore, to suffer and to die for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. Remember, “Christianity is not for the cowards”, said St. Athanasius. In doing so, you will receive the crown of eternal life promised by the Lord at the same time proclaimed, built up and spread the Kingdom of God here on earth. As St. Irenaeus beautifully puts it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”
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)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.” Heaven is the ultimate goal of human existence. It is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of every human being. Why? With God everything is sufficient. With God nothing is lacking. This is what we hope for. This is what we pray for. This is what we strive for.
In the letter of St. Paul to Timothy there it is revealed to us that God wants all men and women to be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:4): Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn 14:6). Yes God wants all men and women of all nations and generations to be happy with him in heaven. Yes we desire to be happy with God in heaven. Yet there is always something that prevents or hinders us from reaching our goal or fulfilling the deepest longing of our inmost being/
What is it that prevents or blocks us from following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life? These are: social and familial relations, lack of perseverance and wealth and possessions.
In order to be happy with God in heaven, believing is not enough. Following the Lord is not enough. To be true disciple of Jesus is necessary. A disciple not on our own terms and conditions. A disciple not on our standard or measure. A disciple not on our qualification and merit. But a disciple based on the grace, measure and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our Lord, Savior and Teacher.
Considering the Gospel as a whole we can somehow conclude that a true disciple of Jesus possesses a combination of three traits: singleness of purpose, undivided heart, and persevering spirit.
Singleness of purpose requires of us that whatever happens our ultimate purpose in life is to be happy with God in heaven. St. Paul reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven and our ultimate goal is to be happy with God. Therefore let us always guard ourselves against the danger of overindulging in worldly pleasure like drugs, alcohol, sex and food and not to be more preoccupied with worldly, material physical and sexual concerns. Else we will be tempted, misled, deceived, lost and enslaved by them.
Undivided heart requires of us that we will follow, love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, freely and generously. Undivided heart reminds us that God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away. The moment we decided to follow the Lord that is also the moment that our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to God must be unparalleled. Therefore, when it comes to priorities in life and hierarchy of values God takes precedence over our relations and possession, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is,” says the Lord.
Persevering spirit means that we will never give in to temptation and sins. It also means that we will never give up our faith, conviction, ideals, values in life even under the pressure of money, power, popularity and pleasure. Lastly, persevering spirit means that we will not quit what we have started even in the face of trials, hardships and persecution. Gen. Douglas McArthur once said, “Old age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul.”
In today’s Mass let us be reminded that we are only pilgrims here on earth. Heaven is our homeland. To be completely and perfectly happy with God in heaven is our inmost longing, Have a singleness of purpose. Love and serve the Lord with undivided heart. Persevere in faith, hope and love.