December 27, 2008

Commentary

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Luke 2: 22-40

"My eyes have seen your salvation"

Simeon represents the people of Israel, who for generations have been "awaiting the consolation" that God promised His people. He now sees that promise fulfilled the very moment he holds the child Jesus in his arms, and he cries out, "My eyes have seen your salvation." He also recognizes that God's promise of salvation and glory to Israel is now extended to the Gentiles as their "light of revelation."

God's promise begins its fulfillment when Mary and Joseph say "Yes" to God's plan for them to be the parents of God's Son. They collaborate with God to bring about salvation to humanity. Then, when they carry out the prescription of God's law to dedicate the firstborn to the Lord, they enable Simeon and Anna to see salvation. In this way, the whole Holy Family becomes the sign and instrument of God's salvation.

The Holy Family, in this way, becomes a model for all Christian families of their call to witness to the presence of God's Kingdom and to bring about God's salvation in our world (1). By collaborating with God in their family life, love and dedication to one another and to their children, as well as to others, especially those in need, Christian couples live the reality of God's Kingdom and share that reality with others (2). Through Christian families living out God's love, people can see God's salvation with their own eyes.

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(1) Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), paragraph 35.

(2) John Paul II, Familiaries Consortio (Apostolic Exhortation on The Role of the Christian Families in the Modern World), paragraphs 12 & 13 .

Holy Family (Dec. 28, 2008)


December 20, 2008

Commentary

4th Sunday of Advent - B
Luke 1: 26 – 38

“The Lord is with you”

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Through this greeting of the angel, we learn the real meaning of Mary’s honor – God is with her. That makes her full of grace.

We too share Mary’s blessing because the Trinity is truly with us.

God the Father dwells within us and among us, his people. God is no longer present in our midst in a tent as with the people of Israel during the days in the desert. Nor is God confined to any physical structures and buildings. As Jesus affirms us in the last supper discourse, God now dwells among his us, his beloved.[1] That is a part of our Christian faith. Therefore, we apply the same greeting to ourselves many a time in our liturgical celebrations, most notably at the beginning and at the end, to remind ourselves that we too are full of grace because God has chosen to be with us.

God the Son enters into human history at Bethlehem and remains with us. As the angel announces, “Of his kingdom, there will be no end.” And Jesus reassures his followers before the Ascension, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”[2] In the Eucharist, we receive and bear within us the same Jesus whom Mary conceived and bore in her womb.

God the Holy Spirit dwells within us since we are His temples. St. Luke seems to stress this reality in his writings. To Mary’s question, the angel explained the impossibility “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Jesus would use these very words in Acts 1:8 as he instructs the Apostles to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."[3] Yes, the same Holy Spirit who enabled the virgin to be a mother now enables us to bring Jesus into our world.

And who are we? Mary saw herself as God’s lowly servant (Luke 1:48). “She is young in a world that values age; female in a world ruled by men; poor in a stratified economy. Furthermore, she has neither husband nor child to validate her existence.”[4] But “she found favor with God.” Just like Mary, we are God’s instruments and witnesses only thanks to the fact that God has chosen us. We are full of grace because God is with us.

--------------------------------
[1] “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” John 14: 19 - 20, 23.
[2] Matthew 28:20
[3] Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 38.
[4] Ibid.

December 13, 2008

Commentary

3rd Sunday of Advent – B
John 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28

A witness sent from God

“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony.” This is probably one of the shortest descriptions of any human being with some importance. But it is enough to tell us who John is.

As one sent from God, John’s testimony is authentic and reliable. Because he is from God, he does not hesitate to tell people who he truly is, or rather, who he is not. It is interesting to note that all of his answers are in the negative. He openly “admits” that he is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet. He does not need to put on airs.

As one sent from God, John’s testimony has God as its authority. Consequently, he does not need to explain the reason behind his action. Moreover, there is a strong sense of certainty when he speaks of himself and of the One who is to come (verses 26 – 27).

Today, as Pope Benedict XVI has often pointed out, we face “the terrorism of relativism.” Everything can become just a matter of opinion. And everyone is entitled to his/her own ideas and feelings. Worse, the view of the majority is often considered the truth even if that view is morally wrong.

In such circumstances, John the Baptist has much to teach us. We must constantly scrutinize the authority behind many issues that we face. At the same time, if we speak God’s word, we need no extra authority or any air to back us up. Before we arrive there, however, we must allow God’s word to speak to us and change our hearts. Then, we can “testify to the light, so that all might believe.”

December 3, 2008

Commentary

2nd Sunday of Advent - B
Mark 1: 1 -8

The Gospel of Mark begins with a very solemn tone. It is solemn in both style and word choice. It tells us from the very outset of what and who the book is about - this is the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The author bases his solemn proclamation on two authorities - the word of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah and the testimony of John the Baptist, who is well-known to Mark's audience. (1)

God's word continues to be an authority in our time. It is an authority on its own because "God's word is alive and active." God's word is also an authority in people's acceptance of it. Most Jews and Christians believe and honor the Bible as the revealed word of God.

The challenge for us, then, is to identify the new John's for our time. In his appearance and his message, people recognize John as the promised messenger. That is why "people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins." Who in our time have that authority and authenticity? Will we be willing to listen to them?

But the call to be messengers for Jesus is not reserved to a chosen few. It is the vocation of all the baptized. Here is another challenge for us, namely to be the new John's for our time. The Messiah is coming; and there is still the need for people to be his messengers. People may recognize the authority and testimony of God's word. But do they see us as John's, the messengers of the Messiah? Moreover, are we the type of messengers as authentic and well-known to our people as John was to his?
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(1) Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 37.

2nd Sunday of Advent - B (Dec. 7, 2008)



November 27, 2008

Commentary

1st Sunday of Advent – B

Mark 13: 33 – 37

In the Gospel of Mark, this passage comes immediately before the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. With this placement, the parable of the master’s unexpected return and the warning to the servants to keep watch take on a different meaning than just any generic story or warning. We should read this parable in light of the events surrounding the last days of Jesus and his disciples before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus has warned the disciples to “Be watchful! Be alert!” and to “Watch” because the lord of the house might come in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. The events of the Passion, as recorded by Mark, unfold during those moments. First, the Last Supper takes place in the evening. During the meal, Jesus predicts that Peter would deny him, and the rest will be scattered. Then, in the night, Jesus takes the disciples to Gethsemane. There he prays, while the disciples fall asleep. Still in the night, the high priests and the scribes put Jesus on trial. And the disciples disappear out of fear. Peter follows Jesus at a distance. Yet, in the courtyard, Peter denies Jesus, and the cock crows. Then “as soon as it [is] morning,” Jesus is led to Pilate’s court. All throughout Jesus’ ordeal, the disciples fail to heed his warning.[1]

Consequently, for the disciples of Jesus and the early Church, this parable and Jesus’ warning to watch must have been very real. They learned the lesson from painful experiences. And in faith in Jesus’ promise and mercy, they passed on the lesson to us. Now, we should “be watchful and alert.”

And Jesus, in this short parable teaches us how to be watchful and alert. That is by carrying out the order the lord of the house gives to each of us, according to our responsibilities and our own work.
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[1] Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 271.

November 22, 2008

Commentaries

Christ the King – A
Matthew 25: 31 – 46

The King Present in the Least Ones

The parable begins with a description of the majestic Son of Man coming in glory. He is identified as Son of Man, king, shepherd, and Son of God (indirectly, in referring to God as “my Father”). He is portrayed with phrases like “comes in glory,” “sits upon his glorious throne,” with the nations “assembled before him.”[1] He is definitely the majestic and victorious king.

It is then even more remarkable that this majestic king identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the naked, the sick, and prisoners. Moreover, he even lowers himself to the level of “one of these least ones.”

In this way, through this parable, Jesus reminds us more than a moral demand of caring for the needy. In fact, he teaches us how we can live the mystery of the incarnation in our daily life. The Emmanuel, God-with-us, lives among us in the least ones. That is why he makes the second commandment of loving our neighbor “like” the first, namely, loving God. (Matthew 22:39)
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[1] Meier, John P. Matthew. New Testament Message Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press; p. 302.

November 15, 2008

Commentaries


33rd Sunday - A

Matthew 25: 14 - 30


Do it immediately, and keep going.


After the master leaves, the servant with the five talents immediately goes and trades with them and makes another five. Likewise, the one with the two talents makes another two. They waste no time. They are on a mission. They are willing to take risks. And they succeed.


Interestingly, after the master returns, a part of the rewards that he gives the faithful and productive servants is great responsibilities. They still have work to do. It seems that their risk taking has won the master’s trust.


The third servant, on the contrary, plays it safe. He goes off and buries his master’s money in the ground. What he does is a common practice in unstable war-torn Palestine. Some scholars even suggest that the practice is considered “the best security against theft.” In addition, the servant would be “freed from liability”[1]


One wonders if the master is also a risk taker. Jesus tells us that he entrusts his money to the servants according to their ability. Moreover, he rewards the servants who are more adventurous. Now, he even entrusts them with great responsibility.


In contrast, the servant who plays it safe is punished.


Think of the talents we all have receive as the gift of faith and the mission to spread the Kingdom of God. We can’t play it safe. We have to take risk. And we have no time to waste. We have to do it immediately. And even when we have succeeded in some areas, there is more to do. We will then be entrusted with great responsibilities. We can’t just return what we have received as is.



[1] Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, p. 352.

November 8, 2008

Commentaries

Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

John 2: 13 –22


Zeal for God’s House


For the Pharisees, as well as the animal sellers and the money-changers, the Temple is a temple. It is an object or a building. No surprises then when they treat it the way the Gospel passage describes, and turn it into “a marketplace” (v. 16)


For Jesus, the Temple is “my Father’s house.” This belief is not new, since for the Jews, the Temple is the dwelling place of God among his people.[1] The difference is not in the belief but in one’s attitude toward the Temple.


At the same time, Jesus expands the understanding of the Father’s house from a building to the Temple his own body when he speaks of his resurrection in verse 19. In this way, he shows his audience the presence of God in him.


This understanding that Jesus gives to the presence of God in his own Body gives us some insights as we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. This basilica is the mother church of Christianity and the Cathedral of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. As Christians, we believe that God dwells in His Church, the Body of Christ. Therefore, we are invited to love, respect the Church, and do all we can to make it more truly the dwelling place of God.


The Christian family is the domestic church. In our family, God truly dwells. We pray and work to bring that divine presence to all members of our families, as well as to those who come in contact with our families.


Then, each Christian, by the grace of Baptism, is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s dwelling place. (St. Paul emphasizes this point in 1 Corinthians 3: 16 – 17, today’s second reading). The life mission of each Christian, consequently, is to show others that presence of God in the way we live our lives. In this way, God’s salvation will reach our brothers and sisters and give them life.


Finally, God is present in all men and women God has created in God’s own image and likeness. Now, this is the source of human dignity. Thus, we are invited to find the presence of God in all.



[1] Moloney, Francis J, SDB., The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 81.

November 7, 2008

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome (Nov. 9, 2008)


Readings










(Photo source: http://cache.gettyimages.com/xc/52773567.jpg?v=1&c=ViewImages&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF19390335F8FA9CA92A6427C5A95FCD5F5218BC3F87336C851A1)

November 1, 2008

Commentaries

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
(31st Sunday - A)

John 6: 37 - 40

It's the Father's will

One of the major themes in the Gospel of John is that Jesus and his death to save us are gifts of love from God the Father. In John 3:16, this theme is introduced, "God so loves the world that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal live." Here we see that the Father has sent the Son "to bring the possibility of eternal life and the salvation of the world."[1]


The Prologue refers first to this theme in 1: 12, “To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.”


That gift of being adopted by God begins for us here in this life. And it does not end with earthly death.


Now in chapter 6, to the people who have tasted the bread that Jesus gave them from the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus speaks to them of a greater gift, the gift of the bread of eternal life. Jesus also reaffirms what he has earlier said in chapter 3, it is the Father’s will that Jesus came to save those who believe in him. Twice Jesus says, “This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.”


Yes, it is the Father's will that the Son came, so that by his death on the cross out of obedience to the Father, all those who believe in him may live as God’s children.



[1] Moloney, Francis J., The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, p. 96.


All the Faithful Departed - Nov. 2, 2008













Readings

October 25, 2008

Commentaries

30th Sunday - A

Matthew 22:34 – 40


What is the bottom line?


We always want proofs. That seems to be a part of our human nature. An academic essay must have quotations with authoritative source. In a serious discussion and debate, one always needs to back up one ideas or statements with statistics and facts.


The same goes with our moral principles. We want to know why, what the source is, etc. Try to get in a debate with somebody on moral or religious issue. The common question is often, “Where do you find that in the Bible?” (or the teaching of a faith tradition, for that matter).


The people in the time of Jesus seemed to have the same mentality. The Jews practiced as many as 613 regulations and precepts, all with backups found in the Torah. Since they are all in Scriptures, they must be valid. But with so many laws, no wonder why there was a need to divide them according to different levels of importance. That was why the Pharisees asked Jesus the question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest.”


Jesus again gives us the answer that goes beyond the question. It is not the issue which law is the greatest. It is not where we find a law or regulation. The bottom line is all laws and regulations are only expressions of the two equally important commandments of love. In fact, in the words of St. Matthew, “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” In the original language, the word for “depend on” can be translated as “hang on.” Think of a line that hangs on 2 poles, or a door held up by the two hinges. For Jesus, the two commandments of love work in a similar way. In this way, Jesus did not toss out the law and commandments. They remain valid. Yet, they are only meaningful if we observe them out of love.

30th Sunday - A (October 26, 2008)













Readings

October 18, 2008

Commentaries

29th Sunday - A

Matthew 22: 15 - 21

Is it convenient for me?

The Pharisees and the Herodians are at odds with each other when it comes to the issue of paying taxes to the Roman authorities, especially what known as the toll tax . For the Pharisees, who staunchly defend the Jewish religion and national identity, the only true ruler for Israel is God. Therefore, paying taxes to a human ruler, worse, a foreign ruler, is the equivalence of denouncing God. The Herodians, on the contrary, who have come to power thanks to Roman protection, Roman taxation is a matter of survival.

Yet, surprisingly, the two opposite groups join force in questioning Jesus' position on the issue of paying taxes. They decide to work together because it's convenient for them to destroy the common enemy - Jesus.

Jesus catches them at their very act. They want to trick Jesus, but it backfires. They are ready and willing to enjoy Ceasar's economic system. The fact is that they carry his coins with them. Yet, they want to appear righteous when they challenge Jesus. Again, they do things that are convenient to them.

In the second reading for this Sunday, St. Paul reminds us, as he reminded the Thessalonians, that we are "chosen and loved by God" (1 Thess. 1:4). We should ask ourselves, "Do I strive to live as a child of God all the times, or only when it is convenient?"

October 11, 2008

Commentaries

28th Sunday - A

Matthew 22: 1 - 14

I have prepared my banquet


A great banquet for all people was a Jewish idea to describe the age of the Messiah. Jesus took the idea and made the banquet a royal wedding feast.[1] It is the king who has prepared this banquet and now he invites the guests, “Come to the feast” (v. 4).


The age of the Messiah has come among us. Though we have not yet experienced its fullness in this life, it is here. The royal wedding feast has begun, and it is an occasion of great joy. “To enter the Kingdom is as joyous a thing as to go to a banquet.”[2]


Since the Kingdom of God has begun, we do not need to wait to the next life to experience it. The Lord has already given us a foretaste of the “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”[3] in the Word of God and the Eucharist. From these two tables, God serves us each and every time we gather to celebrate Mass.


The Mass then should never be seen as an obligation, but a joyous event that we are privileged to have been invited. It is the King Himself who prepares the banquet and invites us to the wedding feast of His Son. That is why we celebrate.


[1] Meier, John P. Matthew. New Testament Message, Volume 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1980; p. 247.

[2] Barclay, William. And Jesus Said: A Handbook on the Parables of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970; p. 152.

[3] Isaiah 25: 6 – First Reading for this Sunday.


October 4, 2008

Commentaries

27th Sunday – A

Matthew 21: 33 – 43


The Kingdom of God given to a people that will produce its fruit


It must be really nice to be the tenants in this parable. They have it made. The landowner does not just lease them the land and they would have to do all the work. Instead, it is the landowner who plants the vineyard. He then puts a hedge around it to protect it. Next, he digs a wine press. And he even builds a tower as a place for the guards to keep watch over the vineyard as well as a place of refuge in bad weather. Such is God’s care for his vineyard, which as we learn from the first reading from Isaiah 5:1 – 7 is Israel of the first covenant and the New Israel of the new covenant.


This New Israel is the Kingdom of God, and it is now entrusted to us. God does not just hand it to us uncultivated. God gives to us a vineyard ready to bear fruits. So much does God trust us.


The Kingdom is in our hands, unworthy as they are. The corner of the Kingdom entrusted to us could be our families, our circle of friends, our neighborhood, and our church community? Will we do our best to cooperate with God and make sure the vineyard produces fruits?

September 27, 2008

Commentaries

26th Sunday - A

What a Father!

What father would respond like that to the kind of behavior of those two sons described in the parable? To the kid who insolently says, "I will not" to his father's command (v. 29), he just walks away and turns to the other son. And to the son who fails to keep his word, the father does not appear to do anything to punish him either.

Only our Heavenly Father has that kind of loving patience to us, his disobedient, insolent, and unfaithful children. In fact, He has more than enough patience to wait for us to turn back to Him and do the right thing.[1] He does not even force on us what is good for us.


We often find ourselves behaving as one, or both, of the sons. We all have said no to God at one time or another in our lives. Or we say yes, and then fail to do what we have promised. We can be both tax collectors and prostitutes, and chief priests and elders of this parable. The ideal is to both say yes and willingly do what God asks of us.[2]

We know the ideal that we are supposed to live by. Yet, we find ourselves living nowhere near that ideal. That is where God's mercy and love enters
. God is always there, waiting for us to freely come to Him and enjoy the happiness that He alone can give us.



[1] This reflection is from Kyle Zinno, a Salesian seminarian currently living in Orange, NJ.

[2] Barclay, William. And Jesus Said. Philadelphia, Westminster, 1970; p. 203.





26th Sunday - A (September 28, 2008)













Readings

September 20, 2008

Commentaries

25th Sunday

Matthew 20: 1 – 16a


Do I haggle with God?


Fr. Francis Moloney, SDB., describes the scene at the end of the day as he expands on the parable of Jesus. “One must imagine the queue, with the newly-arrived workers at the beginning, and those employed earlier, tired after a full day in the vineyard, watching them as they go off with their denarius. If we put ourselves in the place of those who are at the end of the queue, we can understand how they rightly expect to receive more than the agreed denarius. We can also share their disappointment and indignation when they do not (vs. 11-12).[1]


Let’s go back to the beginning of the parable. We find the landowner hiring the first group of laborers “after agreeing with them for the usual daily wage” (v.2), which is one denarius. There is apparently some negotiation going on here. These laborers make and agree on a deal with the owner.


There would be no such negotiation or agreement with the other groups of workers. Or at least, there is no mention of any demands on the part of the hired hands. To the second group, the owner tells them “I will give you what is just” (v. 4). And he does “likewise” (v.5) to the group he hires at noon and at three o’clock. Most interestingly, to the last group hired at five o’clock, all he says is “You too go into my vineyard” (v.7). There appear to be no negotiation whatsoever with these groups.


Then only two groups of laborers are mentioned in details at the time of payment. The group that began last comes, and we are simply told, “each [receives] the usual daily wage” (v. 9). Obviously, they should appreciate that generous pay. So, they take it and go.


The attention is now focused on the first group of laborers. They receive the pay they have agreed with the owner, yet they complained. They have expected to “receive more” (v. 10), and they are now disappointed.


The laborers attitude would be understandable if the parable were about regular business dealing, even though the landowner is in the right. However, this is not about a business agreement, but as Jesus introduces the parable, it is about the kingdom of heaven (v. 1). And membership of the kingdom is God’s gratuitous grace. It is a totally free gift.


On the contrary, when one fails to acknowledge the kingdom as God’s gift, one can take it for granted, or worse, presumes that one is entitled to it. Nobody can negotiate with God here. If one haggles with God, one already has the wrong presumption. And that will lead to the disappointment, a disappointment at God’s boundless generosity (v. 15).



[1] Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings Year A. p. 178 – 179.

September 13, 2008

Commentaries

Exultation of the Cross
September 14, 2008

John 3: 13 – 17

The Cross of Jesus - Revelation and Instrument of God's love

Reading a preface or introduction of a book often gives the reader the summary of the topic and major themes of the book. Similarly, the prologue of John’s gospel (1: 1 – 18) provides the major themes of the rest of the gospel. One of those themes, indeed, one of the major one, is found in 1:12, “to those who did accept him (here, referring to “the Word”) he gave power to become children of God.” In the fullness of time, the Word of God came to live among us so that we can become one with God.

Now, in chapter 3, we find Jesus discussing this theme of salvation with Nicodemus. Moreover, here we learn of two aspects of this theme. First, the Son was sent to save the world by the Father. And it was out of love that the Father sent the Son. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In other words, the Father and the Son are united in this act of love.

This act of love reaches its climax on the cross. Here is the second aspect of the theme of salvation. The cross is both the moment of God fulfilling his plan of love and the revelation of God’s love. By the Son’s cross, we learn and receive the love of God, the love that saves us, and gives us the eternal life of God’s children. For the people who once wandered in the desert of sins and death, the cross gives them salvation and God’s love. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The cross, then, is both the revelation and the instrument of God’s saving love. By his cross, not only did Christ save us, but he made us children of God.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross


September 14, 2008






Readings




(Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Berg_der_kreuze_01.JPG)

August 31, 2008

Commentaries

22nd Sunday - A
Matthew 16: 21– 27

Your cross, my cross. It’s real.

The Gospel passage of this week follows immediately what we heard last week. It was in Caesarea Philippi when Peter, as the leader and the voice of all the disciples, professed his faith in Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus told him that he was the rock on which Jesus would build his church.

It is the same Peter who, in today’s Gospel, becomes “a stumbling stone” (obstacle) “over which [Jesus] might stumble.” And to Peter the stumbling stone, Jesus said almost the same words he ordered Satan at the end of the temptations in the desert. To Peter it was, “Get behind me Satan.” While to Satan, “Get away.” (4:10)

It seems easy to profess the faith in a victorious and “cool” Messiah, the one who commands over evil and illnesses. The environment of the city of Caesarea Philippi, a city built by a ruler (Philip the Tetrarch) and named after 2 world leaders may have led Peter to a worldly view of the Messiah.

The real Messiah is one who carries the cross and suffers in fulfilling his Father’s plan of salvation for the entire humanity. And it’s much tougher to accept this Messiah. And Jesus could not have been clearer on what Messiah Peter and all his disciples, then and now, must follow.

It is easy to fall in the temptation of an easy and fuzzy Christian life. But that is not the life Jesus invites and demands us. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

We often fail, but there is always a second chance for us. Unlike the words to Satan “get away,” Jesus tells Peter to get behind him. This means that even when Peter’s faith is at its weakest moment, Jesus still invites him to follow Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and to the cross. And the proper place of a disciple is following, not getting in the way of the Lord.

August 23, 2008

Commentaries

21st Sunday - A

Matthew 16:13 - 20

"Who do YOU say that I am?"

Matthew makes it a point to tell us where Jesus is at this point in his ministry. He is in Caesarea Philippi, 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee "the northernmost limits of ancient Israel."[1] This location is significant in Matthew’s Gospel. He has traveled the whole region of Galilee. His name is out there. People know him. Many have seen and heard him. They talk about him. The disciples know all of these. And so Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The disciples know what people say about Jesus. He is an outstanding preacher and a miraculous wonder-worker. He is famous. In fact, he is a celebrity of sort. But it does not matter what people say about him, or who they make him out to be. The question Jesus asks them is, “Who do YOU say that I am?” That is what matters.

The location of Caesarea Philippi also provides another aspect of this question that Jesus asks his disciples. Caesarea Philippi was located on the site of an older city. Here, Herod the Great built a temple of white marble in honor of the Roman emperor Caesar Agustus. When Herod’s son succeeded him as ruler of the region, he went further than his father in enlarging the city. He then renamed it after Caesar. He added the second name Philippi to distinguish this city from another Caesarea, Caesarea of Palestine, a city where most residents were Greek, which his father had built. This son of Herod happened to be Philip, therefore the double name of the city.

Here, we have a prime example of what the rulers of our world do to make a name for themselves and for those who are important to them. In this case, the benefactor is an emperor who Herod and Philip depended upon to hold on to their tiny territories.

What kind of ruler is Jesus? Immediate after this conversation, Jesus makes the first of three predictions of his passion and death. He tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and there he will suffer and be killed (16:21). We are now near the end of Jesus’ ministry of in Galilee. His day of suffering and death is fast approaching. And, at this moment, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Do you really know me? Or do you only know of me through what other people think and say about me? Do you know what makes me different than any other human being?



[1] Meier, John P. Matthew. New Testament Message: v. 3. Liturgical Press, 1980, p 179.

21st Sunday - A


Readings










(Note: I've been silent for 10 weeks due to my summer ministries and participation in the World Youth Day in Sydney. I'm sorry for any "missed" visits)

June 8, 2008

Commentaries

10th Sunday – A

Matthew 9: 9-13

The Same Call, The Same Love


Jesus offers Matthew, the tax collector, the same invitation that he gave Peter and Andrew, the two fishermen in 4:21. All of them receive the same calling. The teacher offers it in the exact same manner, regardless of what type of people they are and what they do. There is no distinction of treatment here.

Then Jesus shares a meal with Matthew’s friends, who are “tax collectors and sinners.” He is willing to identify and associate himself with them.

Jesus shows us that he loves all equally. There is no distinction in God.

In addition, maybe the name of Matthew adds more to the meaning of the passage. His name means “the gift of Yahweh.” In the life and story of this sinner - turned apostle we experience the gift from Yahweh to all, namely, Jesus, God’s only Son, who is the revelation and sacrament of God’s love for us.

May 31, 2008

Commentaries

Ninth Sunday - Year A

Matthew 7: 21-27

Doing the Father's will

What does the Father want us to do?
It is significant to note that the passage chosen for this Sunday comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5 - 7). In this Sermon,
he reaffirms the validity of God's commandments, "Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (5:19). He then goes beyond the Jewish understanding of the law to give his teaching regarding divorce, adultery, oath taking, and avoidance of sin ("if your hand causes you troubles ...). And very significantly, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. He also tells us that we are the salt of the earth and light of the world. Chapter 5 ends with the revolutionary commandment, "I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father" and the demand "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In Chapter 6, Jesus teaches us how to pray, fast, and give alms as children of God. He also teaches what to pray for with the Our Father. Chapter 6 ends with the reassurance that God, our Father, cares for us.

The early part of Chapter 7 tells us what it means to trust in God with the parables of the son asking his earthly father for fish and bread. Jesus also warns us not to judge, and to avoid the wide and easy way.

With the content of the Sermon on the Mount in mind, we can recognize what Jesus refers to as "these words of mine." Jesus does not talk theory when he exhorts us to act on his words. He does not speak theory when he teaches us to "do the will of my Father." God's command is not something in the sky. It is in the concrete things of our daily life that we find God's will. It is in the concrete things of our daily life that we can live as God's children.