To hear the Audio reflections of Sunday, February 25, 2018 the Second Sunday in Lent click HERE
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Sunday, February 25, 2018 -0 Gen 22: 1-2, 9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 22: 1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
I still remember that night, eight years ago, when I received a call at 11.45 p.m. I knew immediately that it would be from someone with a very great need or someone in great despair. It was. The father of a young man was calling to tell me that his 23 year old son had just died. He was his only son. The boy was coming home from work when a drunk driver knocked him down and fled the scene. He was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival. At the funeral Mass the next day, there was not one person in the church who was not moved by tears by the sight of that young man in his coffin. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “How could God…” and “Why”?
I do believe that the answer to our every “How could God…” and “Why” is provided for us in God sending his only son.
The first reading also speaks to us about a father and his only son. Abraham was asked to give up his only son, and this, after being promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. How could God, who had made such a promise, expect it to be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed? This kind of sacrifice would result in cutting Abraham off from his future. Abraham did not know that God was actually testing him. He heard the command from God as something that he was being called to do. However, he did know that God would provide and find a way. He believed that God could do even what was impossible. This is why his constant response to God was “Here I am”. This willingness and faith of Abraham resulted in God being able to work in and through him. It resulted in the promises of God being fulfilled in the life of Abraham. He did, indeed, become a great nation and his descendants were as numerous as grains of sand on the seashore.
The willingness and faith that Abraham showed was exemplary. However, it pales in comparison with the willingness and faith that Jesus showed when he took up his cross. This is what God commanded Jesus to do and this is what he did. While in Abraham’s case, he was stopped before he could complete the act of offering his son, in the case of Jesus, he had to go the full way to show his obedience to God’s will and fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.
We are given a foretaste of this obedience in the scene of the Transfiguration. The figures that appear with Jesus on the mountain are Elijah and Moses. These were prophets who were considered (along with Enoch) as alive in the presence of God. The voice from heaven, after addressing Jesus as beloved son, asks the three disciples who were with Jesus on the mountain to listen to him. Despite being God’s beloved son, Jesus would have to go to his suffering and death and, only then, enter his glory. There was no other way. Jesus did not simply obey God; he obeyed God because he trusted. He knew that God was in charge and, even in what seemed like defeat and death, there would be victory and new life.
We sometimes tend to think that Jesus is most clearly Son of God only in glory, not in suffering. The transfiguration challenges us to revise our understanding of how God’s presence comes to the world. Even as he stands transfigured, Jesus is aware that the cross is a certainty in his life. He is aware that, though he is beloved son, he will have to suffer and die. The command to silence, given by Jesus to the disciples, reminds us that glory and suffering cannot be separated.
Yes, Jesus was able to go to the cross in the full knowledge that God would always do what was best for him. He was aware that the God who delivered Elijah and Moses would also deliver him. He was able to go through the cross because he knew that, in and through the cross, he would save the world. That Jesus continues to live today is proof that his faith and confidence in the goodness of God was affirmed and confirmed. It was a proof that Paul experienced when he told the community in Rome that “neither death nor life…. nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
The message then, on this second Sunday of Lent, to every one of us, is that God continues to be in charge. He continues to want what is best for each of us at every moment of our life. Even at those times when we cannot see his hand as clearly as we would like, or cannot feel his presence as tangibly as we would want, he is still working for our good. This was confirmed in the life of Abraham, but fulfilled in the most perfect way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to look at his Son.
Friday, 23 February 2018
Saturday, February 24, 2018 - Mic 7:14-15, 18-20; Lk 15; 1-3, 11-32
Saturday, February 24, 2018 - What names do you use to address God? What does this tell you about your relationship? God has FORGIVEN YOU, have you FORGIVEN YOURSELF/OTHERS?
To read the texts click on the texts: Mic 7:14-15, 18-20; Lk 15;:1-3, 11-32
The setting for the Parable of the Prodigal son (more correctly called “The Prodigal father”) is the same as at the beginning of Chapter 15 and concerns the murmuring of the Pharisees and scribes because Jesus eats with “tax collectors and sinners.”
Direct taxes (poll tax, land tax) were collected by tax collectors employed by the Romans, while tolls, tariffs, and customs fees were collected at toll houses by toll collectors, the group that appears frequently in the Gospels and is not entirely accurately identified as “tax collectors.” Toll collectors paid in advance for the right to collect tolls, so the system was open to abuse and corruption. The toll collectors were often not natives of the area where they worked, and their wealth and collusion with the Roman oppressors made them targets of scorn.
Those designated as “sinners” by the Pharisees would have included not only persons who broke the moral laws but also those who did not maintain the ritual purity practiced by the Pharisees. The scandal was that Jesus received such outcasts, shared table fellowship with them, and even played host to them.
The beginning of the Parable which speaks of “two sons” indicates that the focus is on their relationship to the Father and not to each other as “brothers”. The demand of the younger son is disrespectful and irregular. There is no rationale here. He was breaking family ties and treating his father as if he were already dead. The father divides his life among them. As soon as the younger son receives his share, there is a progressive estrangement. He goes into a far away country which indicates gentile land and mismanages the money given to him. He spends it all on loose living. His descent into poverty and deprivation is swift. He descends as low as to agree to work for a gentile and in a gentile land. Swine were an abomination to Jews, and they were prohibited from raising swine anywhere. The man who would dare to breed swine was considered cursed. Human beings even ate carob pods, which were used as animal fodder, in times of famine. This is an indication of the complete destitution of the younger son. He comes to his senses when he is at the depth of his degradation and in the midst of mire and filth.
There are four parts to the speech that the younger son prepares
1. An address – “Father”
2. A confession – “I have sinned”
3. Contrition – “I am no longer worthy”
4. A Petition – “treat me as one of your hired servants.
The journey begins with coming to himself and ends with his going to his Father. It means learning to say ABBA again, putting one’s whole trust in the heavenly Father, returning to the Father’s house and the Father’s arms. That the younger son is serious about his return is shown in his action. He gets up from the mire and begins the return to his father.
The father’s response is mind boggling. While the son is still a long way off, he runs to meet him. In the first century it was considered undignified for grown men to run. The father sets aside respect and dignity. His only focus is his son. The son begins his speech but is not allowed to complete it. The father interrupts his son even before he can finish. He gives instructions to his servants for a robe, ring and sandals all of which indicate that the son is given back his original place as son. The call to kill the fatted calf is a sign that the return of the son is to be regarded as a time of celebration. The dead son has come alive, the lost son has been found.
Even as the celebration is on, the elder son is introduced. When he is informed about the reason for the celebration, he sulks and refuses to enter the house. Like in the case of his younger son, the father goes to meet his elder son. However, while he does not have to plead with the younger son, he does so with the elder son. The elder son does not address his father as “Father”, nor does he refer to his brother as “brother”. He argues his case on the grounds of merit and what he thinks he rightfully deserves. Even as he does this, he points to the failings of the younger son. What then is the point of being good?
In his response to the elder son, the father first addresses his son as “Son” though he was not addressed as “Father” and also reminds him that the younger son is also his brother. Reconciliation for the younger son meant reconciliation with his father, but for the elder son it means reconciliation with his brother. There is thus both the vertical dimension and the horizontal dimension of reconciliation.
Much of the fascination of this parable lies in its ability to resonate with our life experiences: adolescent rebellion; alienation from family; the appeal of the new and foreign; the consequences of foolish living; the warmth of home remembered; the experience of self-encounter, awakening, and repentance; the joy of reunion; the power of forgiveness; the dynamics of “brotherly love” that leads to one brother’s departure and the other’s indignation; and the contrast between relationships based on merit and relationships based on faithful love.
Unfortunately, we usually learn to demand our rights before we learn to value our relationships. The younger son was acting within his rights, but he was destroying his closest relationships in the process. How many times a week will a parent hear one child say to another, “This is mine. Give it to me”? Children quickly learn to demand their rights, but it often takes much longer for them to learn how to maintain relationships. Governments and law courts defend our civil rights, but how do we learn to defend our civil and familial relationships?
From a distance, the “far country” can be very appealing. Young people leave home for fast living. Spouses move out to form liaisons with exciting new partners. The glow that surrounds the far country is a mirage, however. Home never looks as good as when it is remembered from the far country.
The journey home begins with coming to oneself. That means that the most difficult step is the first one. The younger son had to face himself in the swine pen of his own making before he faced his father on the road. Pride can keep us from admitting our mistakes; self-esteem may require us to take decisive action to set right the things we have done wrong.
Although the opportunity to restore relationships and remedy wrongs begins with coming to oneself, it requires more. We must go to the person we have wronged. Was the younger son just seeking to improve his situation, or was he seeking reconciliation with his father? The direct confession in his interior monologue confirms the sincerity of his intent. Neither the younger son’s pride nor his shame mattered as much as his need to restore his relationship to his father. He did not ask for his filial privileges to be restored. He did not even ask for forgiveness. He merely stated his confession. When the prodigal son came to himself, he came to his father. . . .
The temptation a parent faces is to allow the child’s separation to become reciprocal. If the child separates from the parent, the parent may be tempted to respond in kind. The parable’s model of parental love insists, however, that no matter what the son/daughter has done he/she is still son/daughter. When no one else would even give the prodigal something to eat, the father runs to him and accepts him back. Love requires no confession and no restitution. The joyful celebration begins as soon as the father recognized the son’s profile on the horizon.
Insofar as we may see God’s love reflected in the response of the waiting father, the parable reassures all who would confess, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” The father runs to meet his son even before the son can voice his confession, and the father’s response is far more receptive than the son had dared even to imagine. The father’s celebration conveys the joy in heaven. The picture is one of sheer grace. No penance is required; it is enough that the son has come home.
If this is the picture of God’s joy in receiving a sinner coming home, then it can also give assurance of God’s love to those who face death wondering how God will receive them. In the end we all return home as sinners, so Jesus’ parable invites us to trust that God’s goodness and mercy will be at least as great as that of a loving human father.
The elder brother represents all of us who think we can make it on our own, all of us who might be proud of the kind of lives we live. Here is the contrast between those who want to live by justice and merit and those who must ask for grace. The parable shows that those who would live by merit can never know the joy of grace. We cannot share in the Father’s grace if we demand that he deal with us according to what we deserve. Sharing in God’s grace requires that we join in the celebration when others are recipients of that grace also. Part of the fellowship with Christ is receiving and rejoicing with others who do not deserve our forgiveness or God’s grace. Each person is of such value to God, however, that none is excluded from God’s grace. Neither should we withhold our forgiveness.
The parable leaves us with the question of whether the elder brother joined the celebration. Did he go in and welcome his brother home, or did he stay outside pouting and feeling wronged? The parable ends there because that is the decision each of us must make. If we go in, we accept grace as the Father’s rule for life in the family.
Thursday, 22 February 2018
Friday, February 23, 2018 - Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26
Friday, February 23, 2018 - How many times did you get angry yesterday? Will you attempt to make it one less time today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26
The righteousness of the disciples of Jesus must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees whose standard of religious piety and practice was high. These of course did what they did only to be seen by people and to show off their piety. The disciples are called not merely to avoid being hypocritical.
In the six antitheses (-48) that follow, Matthew shows what it means in practice for the righteousness of the disciples to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Each of the six begins with what was said of old and what Jesus is now saying. In these verses (-26) Matthew narrates first of the six, which is about the Torah’s prohibition of murder (Exodus ; Deut ). The supplementary “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement” is not found verbatim anywhere in the Old Testament, and seems to have been added by Matthew to introduce the word “judgement” which he uses in the next verse. After stating the law and adding a supplementary, the Matthean Jesus then radicalises the law and calls for an interiorization of it (). The call seems to be to submit one’s thoughts about other people, as well as the words they give rise to, to God’s penetrating judgement. It is a call to realize that God wills not only that human beings not kill each other but also that there be no hostility between human beings. The next verses (-26) are an application of what Jesus says. Reconciliation is even more important than offering worship and sacrifice. The disciples are called to work for reconciliation in the light of the eschatological judgement toward which they are journeying.
If we come to worship God and there are feelings of anger, revenge or hatred in our hearts, then our worship remains incomplete. It is only an external worship and not true worship. God does not need our adoration, but if want to adore him it must also come from within.