December 25, 2010
Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
God in a Human Family
Besides the direct communication with the angel, everything about the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is typical of any human family.
There are challenges and difficulties. There are moments of uncertainty and the unknown. There are even life-threatening dangers.
Then there are the love and sacrifices. Joseph did everything he could to protect the child and his mother. And while they were in Egypt, far from homes and relatives, the parents must have worked hard to provide for the family. Then there must have been the sufferings of being away from everything and everybody that was familiar.
There is also the use of human intelligence, thinking and initiative. When Joseph "heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod" he thought of not going back there.
Archelaus was in fact a "cruel" ruler. In addition, his territory suffered from such "political chaos" that eventually the Romans replaced him with their own governors. On the other hand, Galilee, which was ruled by Herod Antipas, another of Herod's sons, was relatively more peaceful .
All of these took place in the Holy Family. The Son of God truly came to live among us and shares with us all things that are human but sins. He calls Nazareth, an earthly town, his own home. "He shall be called a Nazorean."
Let us think of our own families. We share so many things in common with the Holy Family. And the Emmanuel is also in our families. He is God-with-us.
 Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina Series). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 45.
December 24, 2010
Luke 2: 1-14
True Love is Not about Me
Caesar Augustus decreed "that the whole world should be enrolled." It's typical for an earthly ruler to exercise his control over his subjects. Moreover, a census would give the emperor a count of the population under him and thus how much tax revenue he could expect.
The local governor Quirinius of Syria carried out the emperor's degree as he exercised his control over his territory. Obedience to the emperor was both his duty and the security of his job, and possibly even his life.
Earthy rulers subject others to their control.
It's not so with the newborn savior and those who are called to serve him.
The Son of God was born to Joseph and Mary. They were two ordinary people who obeyed earthly authorities  even though they had been told by the angel of their unique roles and special mission in God's plan. In their obedience to earthly rulers, they rendered the control of their lives over to God.
The Son of God was born and "wrapped in swaddling clothes." This practice was "to keep the limbs straight by mean of restraint" . This one detail proves that the Savior, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance" (Philippians 2: 6-7).
The Son of God was then "laid in a manger" a humble indication that he himself is the nourishment for God's children . In appearance, there is no glamor here.
The Savior's humble birth is the result of his obedience to the Father and of his love for humanity.
Thus, the angel's "good news of great joy" to the shepherds, "a savior has been born for you." In fact, the news of great joy is not for the shepherds to keep. It is "for all the people."
Yes, for the newborn Savior and those who are called to serve him, it is never about me!
It is then we give "glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke; Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 52.
 Ibid.; p. 50.
 Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings - Year A. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1992; p. 73.
December 18, 2010
Matthew 1: 18-24
Emmanuel - God is with us
Matthew 1: 18-24 is one of the rare Scripture passages where the translation or interpretation is provided right in the text for all the Hebrew words.
This was done not just for a practical reason, but, more importantly, for a theological one. The evangelist apparently wanted to make sure that his readers understand the meaning of the names given to the main figure of his writing - the child to be born.
The angel tells Joseph, "you are to name him Jesus." What the angel says next is more than just a translation of the name Jesus, which means "Yahweh helps." The name itself is rather common, and the most famous of the Biblical characters with the name is probably Joshua, the assistant of Moses who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites.
The child to be born, and entrusted to Joseph's care, is not just another Jewish male whose name echoes the religious faith and understanding of God's role in the life and history of the people. Rather, this child "will save his people from their sins.” He is different than all the others with the same name. And he will fulfill this mission of saving his people from their sins on the cross.
Then the name Emmanuel is given with a whole lesson on the fulfillment of God's plan.
The name was first mentioned in Isaiah 7:14, at a time of "distress" in Jewish history, was then understood as the fulfillment of God's promise to the House of David in 2 Sam 7:12-16 with the birth of "the ideal king." 
However, in Matthew's understanding, the child to be born is the real fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He is not like any other king from the House of David, good, bad or mediocre, who comes and goes. In this child, God's promise truly reaches its completion.
In fact, the very last sentence in Matthew's Gospel is "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (28:20). Jesus says this as sends his disciples out to continue his mission before his ascension into heaven.
Such is the grandeur of God's plan. Yet, every little detail in that plan counts.
And Joseph and Mary, two human beings, are each entrusted with a part in that plan.
So am I.
And I am not alone trying to fulfill what God plans for me. "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age," says the Emmanuel.
Quotes taken from the footnotes in The New American Bible
December 11, 2010
December 5, 2010
Matthew 3: 1-12
Produce good fruit
The Pharisees and the Sadducees appeared to be doing exactly what other people are doing. Like the rest of "Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan," they had come to John to be baptized.
The people, as Matthew describes, "were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins."
The Pharisees and the Sadducees, however, in John's words, did not seem to have the right motivation. Were they just going through the motion? Was it because people were going to John to be baptized, they may as well? If that is the case, then it is not enough what we do.
Nor is it enough who we think we are. The Pharisees and the Sadducees cling to their membership in Abraham's family. And John points out clearly that being children of Abraham by heritage is not enough. In fact, though it is not mentioned in this text, the Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious leaders at the time. That did not seem to matter to John either.
Moreover, John denounces them as evildoers with the metaphor "brood of vipers." 
The demand John sets for them is not to cling to who they are nor what they do. Rather, the imminent coming of God's Kingdom demands a change of heart and attitude, resulting in fruit of repentance. True repentance must produce fruit.
 Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina Series). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 55.
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
Beginning ............... Completion.
With Advent we prepare to celebrate the two comings of the Messiah.
The first time the Messiah came as the child born in Bethlehem. And that's the beginning.
The second coming of the Messiah is the completion, which will happen "at an hour you do not expect" on a day "you do not know."
To remind us of this faith reality, this passage from the Gospel According to Matthew was proclaimed to us today.
As we live in the in-between time, we know that the Messiah already came to save us. And that is why we celebrate Christmas.
We also know and believe that "the Son of Man" will return. Our guarantee of this is his words: "the Son of Man will come."
God's salvation of the human race and, in fact, of the whole universe, has begun with the coming of the Messiah at Bethlehem. God's loving plan of salvation will reach its completion when the Son of Man returns. This we know for sure.
So, while there is a sense of uncertainty of the when and how, we have the certainty that he is coming. And then, God's plan for us reaches its completion.
That is the journey and destiny of human history.
That is also the journey and destiny of our individual history. It has begun with God coming into our lives. It will reach its completion when He returns.
That is also the meaning of our daily life. The things we do, like the two men working in the field or the two women at the mill, have meaning and a destiny. They will be completed only if we place them in God's plan for us.
November 19, 2010
What Expected of a King
The refrain of this Scripture passage is "save oneself." In fact, in 8 short verses, the idea is repeated three times.
The first time, the rulers "sneered at Jesus" and commented to each other, "let him save himself."
The second time, the soldiers "jeered at" Jesus, "Save yourself."
The third time, one of the criminals "reviled Jesus" challenging him to "save yourself and us."
It is clear in the mind of all these people that saving oneself is what expected of a king: "if he is the chosen one," "If you are King of the Jews," and "Are you not the Christ?"
Jesus Christ, the Annointed of God, the King of the universe, however, does not come to save himself. Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, after the encounter with Zaccheaus, Jesus declares his mission, "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." (19:10)
And now, at the moment of the cross, the moment of his victory over selfishness and sins, he proves himself ever true to his mission. He shows no concern for himself. Rather, he saves the criminal who seeks his mercy and brings him into the Kingdom.
November 13, 2010
Luke 21: 5-19
What, When, and How
For some reasons, people have been fascinated with the end of time for generations. It ranges from myths, writings, and movies about armageddon, the rapture... to the Y2K, 2012, and others.
Most recent in our memory is all the hype about the Y2K, which came and went.
In this Gospel passage of Luke 21: 5-19 and else where, Jesus tells us that there will be an end of the created world. The what is a certainty. We know and experience that in our own life. Nothing last forever. Our human life itself also ends.
However, we, with our human limitations, do not know the when, and the how. In fact, it is not in our power to know. Jesus warns us of the danger of being deceived by those who claim to know when the end comes.
Moreover, rejection and persecution can happen to believers. To affirm his followers, Jesus says, "Do not be terrified." Our assurance is the love and care of the all-knowing God, "not a hair on your head will be destroyed."
God's love is the certainty we have to carry us through the uncertainty of the when and how.
November 6, 2010
Earthly Life Without Resurrection
St. Luke describes the Sadducees as "those who deny that there is a resurrection." Their denial of a resurrection affected them on two levels - human and spiritual.
Without a faith in a resurrection, our understanding of life would be limited to the life we know now, our earthly life. Just imagine if there were nothing after this earthly life. What would happen to us then? And if there were nothing after this life, then what is the meaning of life?
The little we know of the history of the Sadducees seems to confirm how sad it would be for those who live this life without anything to look forward to. The Sadducees were the priest rulers of Israel. After the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD, they disappeared. Future generations only know of them mostly through what their opponents, particularly the Pharisees, thought of them, which was mostly negative .
October 30, 2010
Luke 19: 1-10
The True Seeker
St. Luke describes Zacchaeus as one who "was seeking to see who Jesus was." As a resourceful person, he does all the could to fulfill his plan.
But it's not the physical obstacles alone that Zacchaeus overcomes in his seeking by running ahead and climbing a tree. He, a man of social status and authority, should never be running and climbing trees in public. In his seeking, he is willing to make himself the crowd's laughing stock.  He overcomes people's opinion and his pride to see Jesus.
In addition, Zacchaeus is willing to give away half of his wealth and to make up for any injustice he might have committed. Here, it is significant to note that he uses a conditional phrase, "if I have extorted (other translations use "cheated") anything from anyone." Does that mean he never cheats anyone intentionally? Whatever the case might be, he is seriously seeking not only to see Jesus, but to respond to Jesus' call to conversion.
Zacchaeus is a seeker.
However, it is Jesus, the Savior, who "has come to seek and to save" people like Zacchaeus. In fact, it is in God's plan of salvation of the whole human race that Jesus has come. As he tells Zacchaeus, "Today, I must stay at your house." There is a sense of a plan designed by God being accomplished here. (The same verb must is used by Luke elsewhere for the same theological point throughout his gospel, for example, Jesus' response to Joseph and Mary when they found him in the Temple at the age of 12 in 2:49, or in his prediction of his passion and death to the disciples in 9:22). 
Jesus is the true seeker.
So, it is important for us to seek and to overcome the various obstacles to find God in our lives. It is more important, however, to know that Jesus is the true seeker from God who "has come to seek and save what was lost."
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 285.
October 23, 2010
Luke 18: 9-14
Prayer or Self-Promotion
This is the second parable on prayer that Jesus teaches in chapter 18 of the Gospel according to Luke.
"Jesus addresses" this second parable (verses 9-14) "to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everone else." There, we have the two key elements that make the Pharisee's words uttered in the temple not prayer but self-promotion.
The Pharisee tells God what he has accomplished. More accurately, he brags about what he thinks he has done on his own. There is no credit attributed to God.
Since he is not praying to God but bragging about himself, he ignores God and what God has done in his life. Instead of praying to God, he glances at and looks down upon the tax collector who "stands off at a distance."
Unlike the Pharisee who is full of himself, the tax collector knows and accepts that he is a sinner. He knows that God alone can forgive him. So he "stands off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven." He humbly "beats his breast and prays, 'O God, have mercy on me a sinner."
He goes home "justified." Note that Jesus puts the verb here in the passive voice.
Yes, "it is God who does the justifying."  And those who are full of "their own righteousness" have no room for God's mercy. Only those who know and acknowledge their sinfulness and God's boundless mercy have room for God in their lives.
Wonder with what attitude I have been praying lately.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 272.
October 16, 2010
Faith and Perseverance in Prayer
Most parables that Jesus tells use something positive from our human experience to relate to a similar aspect of God.
Today's parable is of a different kind. It is not a parable that compares similarities. Rather, it contrasts differences. More accurately, it uses the example of a corrupt and self-centered judge to draw the listeners to trust in their God who is just, generous and loving.
With this understanding in the background, St. Luke introduces the parable with the comment, "Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray without becoming weary."
This kind of perseverance presupposes the faith that Jesus asks for in his final question "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
The parable, by contrating the judge and God, invites us to put faith in God who pours out his blessings even before we ask.
Therefore, it is more important that we should pray for the faith to recognize the blessings God already pours out on us than for the perseverance in praying for the things we want or ask for.
October 9, 2010
Luke 17: 11-19
The Content of Prayer
In this short passage, at least three different forms of prayer are mentioned: petition, thanksgiving, and praise.
The ten lepers make a prayer of petition asking Jesus to have pity on them.
Later, the Samaritan returns praising (glorifying) God and thanks Jesus.
Other common forms of prayer include prayers of blessing and intercession. We "bless God who is the source of every blessing."  And when we pray on behalf of others, we intercede for them (compared with petition as a prayer for oneself).
The outcast Samaritan leper, as Jesus points out, is a man of faith. His faith is shown in the fact that he knows how to pray. He becomes for us a model of one who puts his faith in God and nourishes that relationship through prayer.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2645.
Note: The Catechism has an entire section on various forms of prayer.
October 2, 2010
Luke 17: 5-10
When do We Ask the Lord, "Increase our Faith"?
For some time now (since chapter 9, verse 51; or 14 Sundays if we follow the Sunday gospel readings), the disciples of Jesus has been journing with him to Jerusalem, the journey to the cross.
They have experienced great success in the missions that Jesus sent them out to do. They returned and reported to Jesus, "Even the demons are subject to us because of your name." (10:17)
Jesus, in response, told them that their true blessing is more than that. In fact, they were seeing the things that prophets and kings wanted to see (10: 23-24) Moreover, their names are written in heaven (10:20).
They have also known people who want to follow Jesus but stopped short because of their various attachments to people or things (9: 57-62). Then there were those who rejected Jesus and his teaching, usually due to selfishness, self-righteousness, or pride.
At the same time, Jesus has been encouraging them and the other followers with the example of the Good Samaritan, his healing miracles, and his powerful teaching.
He also was straightforward with them in telling them that nothing should take God's place of priority in their lives (14: 25-30) and the danger facing those who allow the passing things of this world to replace God (the parable of the rich person whose only concern is what to do with his wealth and forgets that life does not belong to him). In addition, the disciples' way to the kingdom is through the narrow gate.
Finally, Jesus has taught them how to pray and urged them to have faith in God (11: 1-13). He also affirmed them of God's incredible love for humanity with the "parables of the lost and found"  (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the father and the two sons).
And Jesus gives the disciples the mission to "set the earth on fire" with him inspite of the rejection they might face (12: 49-53). Together, they are called to serve the like of Lazarus who cannot return the favor (14: 7-14, 16:19:31).
The disciples are humans with shortcomings and weaknesses. Reality of life is challenging. Yet, their mission is awesome. And the blessings are incredible. Is it the awareness of who they are in the face of all of these enable them to ask the Lord to increase their faith?
When do we ask the Lord most sincerely to increase our faith?
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 234.
September 25, 2010
Luke 16: 19-31
Condition of Faith in The One Who Rises from the Dead
It is quite clear from the parable that the rich man does not treat Lazarus cruelly. He could have ordered his servants to chase Lazarus away. He could have requested the authority to remove Lazarus. Worse, he could have sent his dogs to attack Lazarus. He does none of these.
On the contrary, he knows Lazarus' name, as evident in the request he makes to Abraham. 
His fault is his inactivity. He does nothing to help Lazarus. Jesus tells us "of the closed mind, heart and even eyes of the satiated man who does not even see the shocking poverty of Lazarus outside his very door."  He seems to be consumed with his "purple garments and fine linen" (the outfits of the royal and weathy  ) and his daily sumptous dinners.
And this lifestyle prevents him from listening to Moses and the prophets who repeatedly call Israel to care for the poor of the land (Ref. Exodus 22:21-22 , Amos 6: 1, 4-7 - today's first reading).
Jesus is clear in his explanation that if one fails to listen to Moses and the prophets and neglects the poor, one will not be able to have faith in the Risen One.
One cannot believe in the Risen Christ if one fails to see Him in the poor. It is the same Risen Christ who is present in the words of Scriptures, the Eucharist, and in the people around us, especially those who are poor and marginalized.
 Magnificat, September 2010; p. 354.
 Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings - Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 166.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 251.
 Ibid., p. 253.
September 18, 2010
Luke 16: 1-13
Dishonest Wealth and True Wealth
For a couple weeks now we have been reading various passages from Luke with Jesus addressing the great crowds that travels with him or those who oppose him.
Today's gospel is a lesson from Jesus to "his disciples."  This means the lesson is for those who have been invited to follow Jesus and those who want to do so lovingly and faithfully.
It is to Jesus' followers a great treasure has been entrusted: the Kingdom of God.  This is the true wealth because it is God's gracious gift to us, and it lasts forever. This wealth is what Jesus refers to as "What is yours."
We are the stewards of this true wealth. How are we managing it?
In addition, we are also stewards of the "dishonest wealth" of this passing world. This dishonest wealth is passing, therefore it "belongs to another." Sooner or later, it will be taken away.
The dishonest wealth gives us both opportunities and challenges. As followers of Jesus, we can choose to use dishonest wealth to "make friends" for the Kingdom. Or we can allow ourselves to become "not trustworthy with dishonest wealth;" and as a result, not trustworthy "with true wealth."
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 247.
 Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings - Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 165.
September 11, 2010
Luke 15: 1-32
The Lost and the Finder
The three parables that Jesus tells us in today's Gospel are quite well-known. Phrases like "the good shepherd," or "the prodigal son" are even found in secular circles.
So is the phrase "lost and found." It may not have its origin in these parables, but for sure we hear it enough. Consequently, we tend to pay more attention to the "lost and found" characters/objects in these parables - the lost sheep, the lost coin and, especially, the younger of the two sons.
The central character of the parables, however, is not the lost and found, but the finder.
The shepherd, in order to find the one lost sheep, "would leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it." He actively searches out for the lost one. When he finds it, with great joy, he invites his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him.
The woman, losing one coin, "would light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it." She, too, rejoice with her friends and neighbors when she finds the lost coin.
And the ultimate finder is the father. While his son "is still a long way off," the father catches sight of him. He has been looking out, searching for his wayward son to return. "Filled with compassion" he runs to his son, embraces him and kisses him. He then tells people, "Let us celebrate with a feast" because he has found his son. There, the focus is not on the lost son who is found, but the finder.
But the finder's search is not yet over.
The father goes out searching again a second time for the other son who feels alienated and refuses to enter the house. He even "pleads" with his son.
The Father is not to be found in a celebration as long as one of His children is still lost.  God is the Finder, still searching outside for His sons and daughters who are not yet in the fold.
 Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings - Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 163.
September 4, 2010
Luke 14: 25-33
The Cost of Following Jesus
This Gospel passage has an odd beginning, "Great crowds were traveling with Jesus." Even if a middle-school level essay were to begin in this way, any teacher would ask the writer to add the destination of the journey. The essay would be considered confusing and poorly written without poiting out where Jesus and the crowds are going.
Similarly, we can properly understand this Gospel passage only when we take into consideration the destination of the journey the crowds are traveling with Jesus. Since Luke 9:51, Jesus has been on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill the mission that God the Father sent him to do.
St. Luke describes the way Jesus began that journey in these words, "When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." And with that same attitude, Jesus has been on his way for the last five chapters.
Contrary to Jesus' determination, there are people who could not follow him because of their various concerns, including family ties and responsibilities (9: 59-62). These concerns and responsibilities, while legitimate, become obstacles for their following of Jesus.
Besides, in the Hebrew language and culture, "there is no word for loving someone slightly less." Due to that reason, "'to hate' is the opposite of 'to prefer.'" 
There, the challenge of following Jesus and the cost of the Kingdom of God. To have the Kingdom is to have won everything. To lose it is to have lost all things.
Therefore, nothing and nobody, including oneself, should become an obstacle on one's journey of following Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 160.
August 27, 2010
Luke 14:1, 7-14
"The people there were observing him carefully"
Reading the first sentence of the Gospel passage, we find the common equation in the life of Jesus: Jesus + Sabbath + to dine + Pharisees = troubles.
And it's not accidental.
As St. Luke tells us, "the people there (at the home of the leading Pharisee) were observing him carefully." The sentence can also be translated as "they kept him under close scrutiny" with a sense of "hostile preparedness." Luke uses the same verb in 6:7 and 20:20 to describe the Pharisees' hostility toward Jesus. 
Any human encounter with such an attitude cannot be positive. The people who oppose Jesus give him no chance to prove himself. Nor do they give themselves any chance to see Jesus as he is. They only see him with their own preconceptions.
Do I enter any relationship in my life with the same attitude? Do I label people and fail to see beyond my prejudice?
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 226.
August 24, 2010
August 19, 2010
Luke 13: 22-30
The Narrow Gate
In 9:51, Luke reports Jesus' determination to fulfill the mission that the Father has given him. "When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem."
It's been more than 3 chapters since Jesus began that journey. The Gospel passage for this Sunday opens with "Jesus passed through towns and villages,teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem."
This is not just Luke's way of keeping the stories together. Moreover, Luke seems to make sure that we, the readers, not forget the key aspect of Jesus' life and mission. 
Jesus has a very clear focus of what his life is about. And he does not lose sight of that purpose.
Am I that clear and focused about my life?
It's not always easy to go through the narrow gate. It's tempting to take the wide and easy way. But the narrow gate may be the focus of my life that I need to have.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 216.
August 18, 2010
August 14, 2010
The Lowly Servants who Carry the Lord
Elizabeth praises Mary as "blessed." She is blessed among women because she has been chosen to be the Mother of the Lord. The writers of the psalms in the First Testament and Jesus, in teaching the Beatitudes, both use the word "blessed" to speak of God's action and "the condition of righteous existence before God." 
Mary, in her response, humbly acknowledges hersef as the "lowly servant" of the Lord.
Mary's life and vocation is the best illustration of how God reverses the social and wordly orders. The lowly servant becomes the Mother of her Lord. God has bestowed on her the greatest blessing.
God's action in her life gives us a two-fold challenge:
1. To see people who may be considered lowly by our world as God's dwelling place. In them, the world continues to encounter its Savior, just as Elizabeth did when Mary came to visit her.
2. To see ourselves, no matter what we think of ourselves, or what others may think of us, as God's dwelling place. Like Mary, we are bringing God's Word-made-flesh into the world.
The Lord has done great things for us all. If we accept God's reversal order, we can all become the lowly servants who bring the Savior to the world.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 41.
August 7, 2010
Your Father Is Pleased to Give You the Kingdom
Those words of Jesus should be more than enough for us to reflect on, not just today, but for a while.
A couple weeks ago, we heard Jesus teaches us to pray for the coming of God's Kingdom (11:2). And today, he gives us the assurance, "Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom." It is God's joy, God's pleasure, to give us the gift of the Kingdom.  Because God loves us, God wants to draw us into union with God. That is the guarantee Jesus gives us so that we do not have to be afraid or worry.
Then later, during the Last Supper, Jesus gives the disciples His Body and Blood in the Eucharist as the foretaste of that Kingdom. He says to them, "I confer a kingdom on you just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom."
It is at the table of the Eucharist that we experience the impossible: the master girds himself, has his servants recline at table, and proceeds to wait on them. In the Eucharist, we experience God's joy to give God's only Son to us. Through the Son, we receive the gift of God's Kingdom.
There, in the Eucharist, the impossible made possible. The Master serves us, his servants, the gift of the Kingdom. With the gift of himself, Jesus tells us "Do not be afraid any longer."
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p.200.
July 31, 2010
What's on my mind?
In order to understand the passage of Luke 12:13-21, it may be helpful to go back a few verses of Chapter 12. In 12:1, Luke reports that thousands of people have gathered around Jesus.  Another English translation reads "so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot."
In the course of his teaching to the disciples with that large crowd around, Jesus tells them to trust in God's providential care for them. He says, "Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." (verses 6-7)
Keeping in mind that background of the crowd being drawn to the power of Jesus' teaching, and the words he has just spoken to them, one wonders, "How could the man have the nerve to come in front of everybody and ask Jesus to tell his brother to share the inheritance with him?"
Is it because he has been standing too far away from Jesus, and the physical distance prevents him from hearing Jesus' words?
Or is it the distance in his heart and on his mind?
From Jesus' response, it seems quite obvious that the man has not heard a word that Jesus speaks. His preoccupation with the inheritance has blocked his ears, his mind and his heart from hearing Jesus.
And just imagine what it must be like in his family with such dispute over wealth and inheritance.
And so, just like the man in the parable that follows in verses 16-22, he fails to pay attention to the most important thing, namely life itself.
Is there anything that keeps me from living my life as God's precious and gratuitous gift?
Is there anything on my mind that prevents me from listening to God's words of eternal life?
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p.198.
July 24, 2010
Luke 11: 1-13
Jesus the Pray-er
"Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray.'"
Think of a time when a child or a friend saw you do something that was so "wow!" and the question came out of awe, "How did you do that?" Then, "You gotta show me!"
Seeing Jesus at prayer must have been so impressive that the disciple asks Jesus to teach them to pray. 
But Jesus' prayer is not just impressive in that one occasion. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus is found at prayer often, especially before any major decision or event.
Moreover, his life is the living prayer. In his life, others could see his deep relationship with God. 
Let's just have a careful look at the prayer he teaches the disciples,
"Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."
His life, every word, every action is about building the Father's kingdom. From the very beginning of his public ministry, he proclaimed in the Synagogue at Capernaum the good news of liberty for the poor and an acceptable year of the Lord. At that very moment, he told the people, "Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:17-21). His mission is not about him or his name. It's always about the Father's name and the Father's kingdom.
Then, how does he go about glorifying the Father's name and building the Father's kingdom? He feeds the people's physical and spiritual hunger. He forgives sinners. He overcomes the tempter in the desert.
And he will continue to do so until he completes his earthly mission. In the end, he will forgive those who persecute him and his friends who abadon him. He will win the final victory over not just temptation, but sin, death, and evil itself.
Jesus is a man of his word.
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 148
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p.179
July 17, 2010
The Person First, Not the Action
This passage from Luke's gospel has so often been misinterpreted to make one way of being Christian better than another. Namely, religious life is better than the life of a Christian "in the world," or "the contemplative life is better than the active life." 
The context of the passage in the Gospel should help us undertand it more appropriately. In Luke's structure, the story of Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary comes immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan (last week's gospel). At the end of the parable, Jesus tells the scholar of the law to go and do what the Samaritan does -- serving those in need.
In this context, it would make Jesus contradict himself to suggest that he scolds Martha for doing an act of charity, in this case, being hospitable in serving Jesus. Would Jesus be that mean and ungrateful?
On the contrary, Jesus points out to Martha that as a disciple, she needs to do both serving and sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen.  Doing one without the other is not enough.
In addition, Jesus' observation of Martha could also be translated as "You make such a fuss of yourself."  In fact, in her worries and anxieties, it seems more about herself than about taking care of her guest.
If we lose sight of the person we are serving, we can lose sight of why we are doing it. And in the end, it can be just about us, our ego, or our ideas, and no longer about the other.
Only attentive listening and learning from Jesus can keep our eyes focused on him present in our brothers and sisters whom we try to serve.
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 146.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 adapted from Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 174.
July 10, 2010
Being or Doing. What is First?
In the gospels, those who oppose Jesus often try to justify themselves.  In the case of the scholar of the law in this passage, the attitude of self-righteousness leads him to ask for what he "must do to inherit eternal life." There is a paradox here. If eternal life is something to inherit (from God, that is), how can it be gained by what he does? Because he relies on his action, and not God's free gift of love, he cannot be satisfied with Jesus' answer. And so he keeps asking.
The Samaritan is well-known for his actions in taking care of the victim. As a result, we, as readers and listeners of the parable, often overlook the more essential description of the man, namely his attitude. When Jesus introduces him, Jesus first points out that "he was moved with compassion at the sight." This is the same attitude of Jesus when he meets the widow of Nain who is on her way to burry her only son in Luke 7:11-13. 
Acts of charity have their place in Christian living. But first, we must be grateful to God for God's gracious love and God's free gift of salvation. The gift of life, both now and in eternity, is truly our inheritance from God.
Then, if we adapt Jesus' attitude like the Samaritan, then we become more like Him. In this way, our actions will be more authentic acts of love and not the result of our self-righteousness. Thus, what we do on behalf others becomes both a response and an extension of God's love for us.
 Here, and Luke 16:15, as pointed out by Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 172.
 Ibid., p. 173
July 3, 2010
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
The Consolations of Discipleship
Last week, we began reading the second part of Luke's Gospel, and we now find Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.
As he travels, "the Lord appoints seventy-two others whom he sends ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intends to visit." This plan gives the disciples the first consolation. The mission of the disciples is to prepare the way. A disciple does not have to do it all, from start to finish. A disciple only prepares the way for the master to come and complete the mission. (We, modern disciples, enjoy even a greater consolation in this area. The Risen Lord has already gone before us to wherever we are sent. He is the Lord of all creation, of heaven and earth).
Before the seventy-two departs, Jesus instructs them to pray to the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. The disciples always have somebody who backs them up. And that somebody is the master of the harvest. The disciples do not go out on their own initiative. The disciples are sent as laborers. And the master of the harvest takes care of both the laborers and the harvest. That gives them the second consolation.
Therefore, the disciples can be sent out "like lambs among wolves." And they do not need money bags, sacks, sandals. The mission is never easy, but they are never left to be on their own.
The third consolation comes with the mission itself. The seventy-two return rejoicing because of what they have been able to perform. They, however, forget that the greater consolation is the mission given to them to proclaim to the people, "the kingdom of God is at hand for you."
Yet, that consolation is not even the greatest. Jesus rewards them with the greatest consolation, even greater than the power over the spirits: "Your names are written in heaven."
June 26, 2010
Most Scripture scholars consider Luke 9:51 the turning point in the Gospel according to Luke. Jesus has finished his ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God in Galilee through his words and deeds. That was the first part of his mission.
It's now time for him "being taken up" in order to fulfill the second part of his mission, which is to die on the cross and to return to the Father. And so "he resolutely determines to journey to Jerusalem." He knows what awaits him in Jerusalem, yet he "resolutely determines" to go there.
Jesus has come into the world out of obedience to the Father's will and of his love for humanity. He does that freely. And he now resolutely determines to complete that mission.
That context clarifies the other stories in the passage of Luke 9:51-62.
First, the Samaritan villages reject him "because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem." James and John want to destroy these people but Jesus rebukes them. Jesus does not force anyone to follow him. 
Then, there are people who who want to follow Jesus, while another called by him. None of them could, however, because of various reasons holding them back. "Jesus leads the way to Jerusalem and back to the Father."  Jesus' disciples must also resolutely determine to follow him to the Father, knowing that there is a cross waiting for them. But that is the only way. There is no resurrection without the cross.
There are many good things in life, but nothing, and nobody, should get in the way of us following Jesus to the God who loves us.
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 140.
 Ibid., p. 141.
June 19, 2010
Does the Messiah Still Matter?
In response to Jesus' question "Who do the crowds say that I am?" the disciples have an answer. Earlier, Jesus sent them out to preach and to heal (9:2). Moreover, they have been following Jesus, and heard the people's reaction about this powerful prophet.
The people of Israel have been waiting for the Messiah for generations now. Their history of slavery and exile, and their current status of being an occupied nation give them a hunger for God to free them (even if it is just on a worldly and political level). They have been told that a prophet will come to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:18 and Malachi 3:1).
More significantly, their longing for the Messiah expresses their faith in God, in God's promise to their ancestors, and the importance of God in their lives.
And so, though they have not yet fully understood who Jesus is, he might be for them at least the promised messenger who prepares the way. And that means their freedom is near.
The disciples share with their fellow Israelites the longing for the Messiah. They, however, are ahead of the people in their recognition of Jesus "not just any Christ" but "the Christ of God."
Jesus still has much to teach them of what it means for him to be the Christ of God, and for them to "come after" him.  Nevertheless, they are on the right track.
The prerequisite of discipleship is faith. The prerequisite of faith is a longing for God. And the prerequisite of this longing is an real awareness of our situation and of God's power.
Where am I on this journey?
 Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 138.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 154.
June 11, 2010
Luke 7:36 - 8:3
Who Can Follow Jesus?
The list of people who "accompanied" Jesus in Luke 8: 1-3 includes "the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others."
The personal history of the Twelve is better known to modern readers. Each of them had a unique a past - like any other group of people. Some were common people. Some were more educated than others. At least one was a public enemy (Matthew). Some carried Jewish/Hebrew names, while others had Greek names. These twelve men were by no means identical or perfect.
So were the personal stories of the women. Luke made it a point to mention that they "had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities." There is the detail about Mary's struggles but nothing is mentioned about the other women. Joanna, considering her husband's position, must have been "a person of position and means." 
These men and women, each with a unique past, all have been called by Jesus. Their well-being and their calling are signs of "the power of God's kingdom in Jesus."  And they are now his followers. They will witness Jesus' life, his teaching and action as they journey with him "from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God." (8:1)
These women will later witness Jesus' sacrifice of love at the cross (23:49). Mary and Joanna, in particular, with "the other women," will be the first messengers of Christ's resurrection. (24:10) 
Such is the life story of the first generation of Jesus' followers. What is my story as a follower?
 New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prencite Hall, 1990, p. 697
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 131.
June 5, 2010
"Give them some food yourselves."
This passage from chapter 9 of Luke's gospel follows the sending out of the Twelve with "power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and ... to proclaim the kingdom of God" (9:1-2).
Luke reports that "When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. " (v. 10)
After such a success, the apostles think it was them who had done the work, so they "explained to [Jesus] what they had done."
How misled they are thinking that they have done it all?
And so, facing the hunger of the crowds of thousands of people, with only five loaves and two fish, the only thing they could think of is to send the people away.
The miracle teaches the Twelve a lesson on the reality of Christian mission. It is the Lord Jesus who indeed has done it all.
For us, disciples of today, this passage, appropriately selected for this celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, draws us to the greatness of the Eucharist and the reality of what we, as followers of Christ, have to offer.
The five loaves and two fish that we have is all Jesus needs. And he is commissioning us to give the hungry people some food ourselves. We have little to offer the hungry crowds. But it is we who Jesus is sending. It's not what we do. It is the Lord who uses us to feed the multitude.
May 29, 2010
The Truth of God's Love
In this passage from John's gospel, selected for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the one element that the three persons of the Godhead share is truth.
The Father and the Son shares everything. "Everything that the Father has is mine." The Holy Spirit speaks to us nothing else but what Jesus has, which is from the unity of the Father and the Son. "He will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
It is the truth that the Spirit of truth shares with us from that unity. And it is to that truth that the Holy Spirit guides us. "The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth."
And what is this truth? It is the truth of the Trinity's love. John gives it to us in the key phrase of his Gospel, "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." (3:16)
So, we are drawn into this truth of God's love.
May 25, 2010
May 21, 2010
Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
If You Love Me
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (v. 15)
"Whoever loves me will keep my word." (v. 23)
Jesus told the disciples these two sentences during the Last Supper. He had washed their feet, and told them to learn from his example of humble and loving service. He then told them that one of them, "to whom I hand the morsel" would betray him. He also warned Peter of his denial of Jesus.
This context can help us understand more deeply the meaning of Jesus' invitation of loving him. He has loved us first. He even laid down his life for his friends.
He also gives us, in his own death, the example of loving the Father to the point of death to fulfill the Father's loving plan of salvation for humanity.
In this context, Jesus teaches us the true meaning of love. Often times, God's commandments are seen as restrictions and burden. People have accused Christianity of taking away freedom. Understood correctly, however, God's commandments are the result of God's love for us. The commandments give us true freedom and the dignity of God's children, who are capable of loving.
And we can truly keep the commandments and listen to God's word only if we love God first.
It's not an easy task. Therefore, the Risen Christ gives us a helper. "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
May 15, 2010
"You Loved them Even As You Loved Me"
Today, we proclaim and listen to the very last verses in the Gospel of John before Jesus goes to the garden to begin his passion. These words bring the Last Supper to a close. In that context, we can see the importance of the prayer Jesus offers to the Father here.
This prayer shows us who we are in Jesus' eyes, how he cares for us, and how God the Father loves us.
He prays, "Father, they are your gift to me." That's who we are in Jesus' eyes. We are the gift that the Father gives to the Son. Knowing the perfect love between the Father and the Son, what do these words say to us? We are the Father's precious gift to the Son!
As Jesus is about to be taken from his friends, he assures them, and us, all future generations who "believe in [Jesus] through their words," that we have a powerful friend and intercessor in Jesus. He prays to the Father on our behalf. Again, knowing the perfect love between the Father and the Son, what do these words say to us? The Son prays to the Father for us!
Finally, in this prayer, Jesus reveals the depth of the Father's love for us. "You loved them even as you loved me." Think of that. "Even as!" It's with the same love that the Father loves us and the Son.
And Jesus prays that the Father's love may be realized in us. "I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
There, the mission of Christ! To draw us into a loving relationship with the Father, just as Christ is in that love.
 Kyle Zinno, one of our Salesian seminarians, offered this reflection during our weekly lectio divina.