Reflections

Solemnity of All Saints by Bishop Baron
Friends, our Gospel for today is one of the most beautiful and important in the New Testament: the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the eight Beatitudes. Why is it so important? Because it is the Son of God telling us how to be happy. It is the one who can’t be wrong telling us how to achieve that which each of us most basically wants. What could be more compelling?

At the heart of Jesus’ program are these Beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” These name the very heart of the spiritual program, for they name the ways that we participate most directly in the divine life.

One of the most important words to describe God in the Old Testament is chesed (tender mercy). The New Testament version of this is found in the first letter of John: God is agape (love). Everything else we say about God should be seen as an aspect of this chesed and this agape. Chesed is compassion; agapeis willing the good of the other. Therefore, if you want to be happy, desire to be like God. Do it and you’ll be happy.

Signs of the Times: Reflection by Rev. Benitez

Our weather station, forecasts and reads the weather conditions of our country by using modern technology and gives us somewhat accurate information about typhoons, rain or dry weather and others. The Jews also, they were weather-wise. By just observing the winds and clouds, they could foresee when there would be rain and when there would be hot weather. And because they foresaw the weather would be, they either housed their hay and corn or threw it abroad and equipped themselves for a journey.

Jesus in today’s gospel expects His disciples to read accurately the signs of the times. Jesus uses a clear illustration to point out the urgency of getting right with God. His call is urgent and God’s grace, love and mercy are available for complete transformation. We need not wait until the end of time, for often than not, the end is already too late. If we are up against a bad cause and are likely to get severely penalized, we shall try to settle the case out-of-court now to avoid a worse penalty at the end of our lives.  It is like when we go to Church on Sunday or any day, we make sure that we will be first reconciled with those who wronged us or whom we have wronged or else our attendance in the Mass will be worthless and devoid of meaning. This is our homework and Jesus wants us to do our homework first.

At the end let us also heed this reflection, When I say, “I am a Christian”. It isbecause this reminds us that we need God, His grace, love and mercy in getting right with God. It runs this way:

When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!” I’m whispering, “I get lost! That’s why I chose this way.”

When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t speak with human pride. I’m confessing that I stumble needing God to be my guide.

When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not trying to be strong. I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.

When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not bragging of success. I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t think I know it all. I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught.

When I say, “I am a Christian” I’m not claiming to be perfect. My flaws are all too visible but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian” I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name.

When I say, “I am a Christian” I do not wish to judge I have no authority… I only know I’m loved.

 

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30th Sunday by Rev. Kadavil

The central theme of today’s readings is the overflowing mercy and kindness of a loving and forgiving God to His children. The first reading tells us how a forgiving and compassionate God healed the spiritual blindness of His Chosen People by subjecting them to Babylonian captivity and then liberating them and bringing them back to their homeland. The Jerusalem journey of Jesus in the company of the lame and the blind connects the first reading to today’s gospel. The healing of the blind man Bartimaeus in today’s gospel is also seen as the fulfilling of the joyful prophecy of Jeremiah about the return of the exiled Jews from Babylon to their homeland. Today’s second reading from Hebrews 5 presents Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for sins and as the only high priest of the New Testament. It also gives us the assurance that our high priest Jesus is sympathetic to us because he has shared our human nature. Today’s gospel explains how Jesus shows the same mercy and compassion of his heavenly Father by healing Bartimaeus a blind man. Just as the blind and the lame were God’s concern in the first reading, Jesus is concerned with the blind beggar, Bartimaeus of Jericho. On hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, Bartimaeus loudly expressed his trusting faith in the healing power of Jesus by shouting his request “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” As Jesus invited him to come near him Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak (symbolizing perhaps the baptismal divesting). His meeting with Jesus gave Bartimaeus the gift of physical as well as spiritual sight, and he became a disciple of Jesus.

Life messages: 1) Instead of remaining in spiritual blindness, let us pray for spiritual sight. Each one of us suffers from spiritual blindness, and hence we need the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. Anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, evil habits etc. make us spiritually blind preventing us from seeing the goodness in our neighbors and God’s presence in them. We are blinded by greed when we are never satisfied with what we have and incur debts by buying luxury items. Hence, let us pray to have a clear vision of Christian values and
priorities in our lives and to acknowledge the presence of God dwelling in ourselves and in our neighbors. A clear spiritual vision enables us to see the goodness in others and to express our appreciation for all that they have been doing for us, and stop us from criticizing their performance.

2) “Cry out” to Jesus, as Bartimaeus did. Like Bartimaeus, we must seek Jesus with trust in his goodness and mercy. Sometimes our fears, anger and habitual sins prevent us from approaching God in prayer. At times, we even become angry with God when He seems slow in answering our prayers. In those desperate moments, let us approach Jesus in prayer with trusting faith as Bartimaeus did and listen carefully to the voice of Jesus asking us : “What do you want me to do for you?” Let us tell Him all our heart’s intentions and needs.

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Jesus, Cause of Division: Reflection by Rev. Benitez

Jesus in today’s gospel is so careless with His words when He says, “I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” What is He talking about?

I’m sure many of us are shocked when Jesus declared that He would set the earth on fire.  What kind of fire does Jesus have in mind?  As we all know that fire gives light, warm, purification and cleansing; it can smoothen metals and others. Fire can also be used for domestic purposes such as baking, cooking, warmth and etc. Fire in biblical times was figuratively associated with God’s presence and with His action in the world and in the lives of His people.  For example, in the Old Testament, God sometimes manifested His presence by using fire such as: the burning bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Ex 3:2).  The image of fire was also used to symbolize God’s glory (Ezek 1:4, 13), His protective presence (2Kings 6:17), His Holiness (Deut. 4:24), His righteous judgment (Zech 13:9), His wrathagainst sin (Is 66:15-16) and His word was also likened to a fire (Jer. 23:29).  In the New Testament as well, the influence of the Holy Spirit is likened to a fire (Matt. 3:11) and His descent was denoted by the appearance of tongues as of fire (Acts 2:3).

Today’s gospel tells us of what Jesus is indeed wants us to do specifically. He wants us to be on fire of His love and presence in our lives. It is because His fire of love burns away all the impurities of sin. It purifies us and makes us holy. And love is His greatest expression as shown in His passion and death.

This love and presence of Jesus is like what this unknown author described also as A Love Like No Other. He said: “I never felt a love like this before. It’s a love like no other. Something I have always hoped for. A love with friendship, humor and heart; a bond so strong and would never part. A love that makes you smile from ear to ear; a love that is joyful without any fear. A love that is beautiful from the inside out and a love with no tears, pain or doubt. A love with soul so tender and true and a love that I have found only in You.”

And so through this fire of love and presence Jesus wants to change us from merely passive churchgoers and observers into fully committed and active Christians, willing and open to follow and imitate Him by being obedient to God also and to work for Him and even to die for Him as disciples in the world. At the same time, to make our lives visible tools of His love, goodness, compassion and salvation to the whole world.

To be obedient and fully committed and active Christians is not like this father who won a toy at a raffle but he was passive to his wife. He had five children. Upon arriving home, he called his kids together to ask who among them should have the present. He asked them who is the most obedient, who never talks back to mother and who does everything she says. Five small voices answered in chorus: “You do, Daddy!”

Let us pray that through this love and presence of Christ in our lives we may have a mind that thinks like Jesus, a hand that works like Jesus, a heart that loves like Jesus, an eye that sees people in need like Jesus, a mouth that speaks words like Jesus and a life that is exactly like Jesus.

LUKE 12:49-53 Reflection by Bishop Baron

Friends, the statement of Jesus that we have in the Gospel for today is frightening: “I have come to cast a fire upon the earth; how I wish it were already kindled.” He’s throwing fire down, much like the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Okay, so how do we make sense of all this? I thought the angels on Christmas morning said that he had come as the Prince of Peace? Jesus is the Incarnation of the God who is nothing but love, but this enfleshment takes place in the midst of a fallen, sinful world. Therefore, it will appear as something threatening, strange, off-putting.

The world, on the Biblical reading, is a dysfunctional family. When Jesus comes, he necessarily comes as a breaker of the peace, as a threat to the dysfunctional family. Now we can begin to understand that strange language about setting three against two and two against three.

This is why Jesus wants to cast a consuming fire on the earth. He wants to burn away all that is opposed to God’s desire for us. He has to clear the ground before something new can be built. Is this utterly painful? Yes!

 

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