Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time Year A
(1 Thess 4:1-8; Mt 25: 1-13)
An anecdote was written about what is temporary and what is permanent. Robertson McQuilkin, former esteemed president of Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina, once drove an elderly friend on an errand. She moved slowly and painfully, being crippled with arthritis. “Robertson,” she asked as they drove along, “why does God let us get old and weak? Why must i hurt so?” “I am not sure,” McQuilkin replied, “but I have a theory.” “What is it?” He hesitated to share it, but she insisted. This is what he said “I think God has planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical. But the strength and beauty of age is spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary, so we’ll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty which is forever.” (taken from Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, by Robert J. Morgan, p.15). There are things that indeed had to be mindful on earth especially the ones that are eternal. Yet this discovery sometimes comes late in our lives. Thanks for the tradition handed on to us that spiritual things are become available to us. Both readings speak of traditions that become venues of God’s blessings. St. Paul reminded and exhorted the Thessalonians to keep the faith as the important thing handed on to them which eventually became the source of their holiness while Jesus told a parable of the value of being prepared always. Jesus used a Jewish tradition to bring about a spiritual value that will make us appreciate the endtimes. Holiness of life is value that has something to do with the ultimate goal of man.
1. Tradition- St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be faithful to the tradition that was handed down to them as one of the sources of holiness. He did not focus and refer always to himself as the source of meaningful influence but he points to Jesus Christ. He does not make a plea in his own name or using his personal influence but in the name of the Lord Jesus. He is just an instrument of handing down the faith to the next generations. Those who have positions of authority in the Church should be obeyed for supernatural reasons and not for personal qualities or just simply because they are superiors. It is the tradition that is handed on which counts most because all of these come from a single source-Christ. Fidelity is a virtue that is related to upholding the traditions received by Paul and handed on to them like the Holy Eucharist, the value of Church authority, doctrine, the Word of God, holiness of life, etc. Submission to the Church’s teachings and authority becomes a virtue because of the Tradition that had been handed on. St. Ignatius of Loyola said “laying aside all private judgment, we ought to keep our minds prepared and ready to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother, hierarchical Church.”
2. Refrain from Immorality- the desire and struggle one has to take in order to avoid sin and all forms of immorality becomes remarkable and source of holiness of life. Paul appreciated the way the Thessalonians live out the faith and practice holiness of life. Life of holiness is a grace that becomes contagious and influential by itself. Grace radiates itself to others. The efforts of acquiring holiness of life becomes true and sincere if it starts to influence others because the grace of God permeates the whole of human life. Paul told the Thessalonians that it is the power of God working in one’s life when holiness of life is sought for. “For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.” We can never be holy by our own power; we need the aid of God’s grace. Then, we begin to appreciate the value of the tradition that had been handed on to us like the Holy Eucharist. The Thessalonians already knew the commandments, but knowing them is not enough, they must be put into practice. St. John Chrisostom comments: “Good land does something more than give back the grain put into it; and therefore the soul shold not limit itself to doing what is laid down, but should so further: two things make for virtue: avoiding evil and doing good.
3. Mindful of the end- the kind of faith we embrace vis-à-vis the end will always have influence and impact with our actions in the present. The end is powerful that makes man think of the path, action, and thought he would pursue in the present time. Stephen Covey says in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that man is or can related with the future. Man can envision the kind of future he wants; so, he can work it out. In his second habit, Stephen Covey says we can work out our actions today when we “begin the end in mind.” To be effective means to be mindful of the end or the goal in life. Jesus likewise wants us to be prepared always by being mindful of the end. The parable of the ten virgins pictures out a venue for us to be conscious of the end which comes like a bridegroom who comes to meet his bride in an unexpected hour. Once he comes out and locks the door, then, calling out on Him will not guarantee opening the door for us. Not everyone who calls out “Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We might call “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” but it might be too late.
Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time Year 1
(Jos 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12)
A story had been told about Albert Einstein who was reputed to have had a wholesome disregard for the tyranny of custom. One evening, the president of Swarthmore College hosted a dinner held in Einstein’s honor. Although he was not scheduled to speak during the event-only to receive an award-after the award was made, the audience clamored, “speech, speech!” The president turned the podium over to him. Einstein reluctantly came forward and said only this: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry but I have nothing to say.” And then he sat down. A few seconds later, he stood back up and said, “in case I do have something to say, I’ll come back.” Some six months later, Einstein wired the president of the college with this message: “Now I have something to say.” Another dinner was held, and this time, Einstein made a speech. (taken from God’s Little Devotional Book for Teens, p. 116). Words are important to convey thoughts and ideas. The words we choose and often use describe who we are. In both readings today, words find their important place in God’s revelation and in His divine plan. In the first reading, we find Joshua revealing the entire history of their faith tracing its origin from Abraham then to Isaac and Jacob, then came Moses and Aaron until they possessed the land. In the Gospel, Jesus had to rectify their notion about marriage and divorce and draw their attention to what was revealed in the beginning and not what Moses permitted and written due to the hardness of their hearts. Let us look for more details on how words could be a source of faith and hope from God.
1. Words for a Covenant- The first reading illustrates the covenant Joshua had to facilitate between God and His people. At the heart of the reading we find Joshua presenting God as a faithful God who was with them from the time of Abraham to Moses. God wanted the Israelites to be faithful as God is faithful. The central concern of this passage is the apostacy and idolatry of the Israelites. The rehearsal of the ancestors’ history and the concern for idolatry are both reminscent of the exilic deuteronomist, especially the concern for idolatry and the importance of the “fathers” and “ancestors.” God intervenes and spoke words of fidelity on Israel that they may fix their gazes towards the True God. A covenant had to be established to ensure Israelite fidelity to the Lord.
2. Story about God- We use words to tell a story. Great missionaries are great story tellers. Joshua was a great missionary and story teller. We find Joshua telling the story to the people whom he gathered about the history of their faith in God. Biblical scholars say that the reason for such and exalted telling of the story lies in the religious purpose of the book. Israel was not fighting on its own; it was God who gave the help and strength for this small band of tribes to overcome much more powerful enemies. Even if the battles gave Israel control over only a quarter of the land that the book describes, the victory was unbelievable unless God had helped. Joshua tells a story about God who was the protagonist in the conquest of the land. The Israelites should not forget about God’s benevolence and victory. Faith entails an historical dimension that would demonstrate the tangibility of God who is object of one’s faith. Joshua had to tell a story and the people had to trust in the words Joshua was speaking because it was God who was actually speaking to His people through human instruments. Just as Abraham trusted in God’s word, so too, the people should trust in the words spoken by Joshua. It is faith that makes us accept the words spoken. Pope Francis commented that “ Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel.” (Lumen Fidei, 10)
3. Going back to the original words- Faith prompts us to listen to God’s words rather than to our own and those of others. When we begin to listen and speak our own words to others, rather than God’s words, the tendency would be making ourselves in control of everything. Jesus had to rectify the thoughts of the people tracing their reasons for divorce from Moses who commanded that “the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Jesus explains that Moses had gone too far by allowing a bill of divorce “Because of the hardness of your hearts.” “But in the beginning it was not so.” Jesus desired that His disciples go back to the original words spoken by God from the beginning. Fidelity to God entails fidelity to His word and its original purposes and understanding. As they newly see Christ, the disciples were expected to see in Him a new perspective of faith and a re-orientation of life. By demanding a divorce which was contradicting God’s will was forgetting about God’s commandments. St. Augustine reminds us “"Ab eo qui fecit te, noli deficere nec ad te", “Do not turn away from the one who made you, even to turn towards yourself.” (Lumen Fidei, 19) Once our words dominate in every undertaking, we might forget about God’s goodness and words. Let us always cling to God’s words otherwise we fall apart.