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Missions 109

Friday Reflection

Friday of the 4th Week of Lent

(Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)

A story was told: “after thirty-five years of marriage Sam’s wife died. At the end of a proper mourning period, Sam looked at himself and said, ‘Life is not over. I can go our and have some fun and perhaps meet a nice, younder woman and-who know what?’ Over an eighteen-month period Sam joined a gym to tone up, lost forty pounds, bought a toupee, had all his teeth capped, got a nose job, had a little tuck taken in his chin, grew a mustache, got contact lenses and bought a new youth-oriented wardrobe with elevator shoes. Finally one day he was ready to step out-he loved what he saw in the mirror. Unfortunately, that night Sam died and went to heaven, whereupon he met God. “God,” said Sam, “I was a kind and loving husband, a wonderful father and grandfather, a charitable person, and honest and hardworking in my business. I was just about to start a new life. Why did you do this? “Sam,” replied God, ‘to tell you the truth, I didn’t recognize you.” (taken from A Triumph of Over 50s’ Jokes, by Fred Shoenberg) In many occasions we feel life has to be better in many ways and to live a meaningful life was thought of by acquiring a new house, a new car, new business, new friends, new trips, new clothes and new lifestyle, and a new look after a total makeover of the face yet the inner life was forgotten. People do not anymore recognize you by new look or appearance you make. Many people are attracted by the inner disposition or character of a person rather than the outer manifestations he projects. Both readings today speak about the value of an inner way of knowing and loving God. In the first reading, the book of Wisdom illustrates that a person who has a lack of moral value views things negatively and is pessimistic. It shows lack of inner depth of virtue and goodness. John records in the Gospel that the lack of witnessing Jesus and knowing Him leads lack of faith and respect. Let us reflect more on the readings today and extract things to make us journey in the Season of Lent inwardly and meaningfully.

1. Words- Both readings today speak of words as a way of indicating the depth of our dispositions and character. In the first reading, the wicked who has negative view of life elicits unfavorable words of judgment on life, people, and even God. Here the wicked speaks against the righteous while the righteous speaks for reproach and rectification of thoughts and actions. The words of the wicked are not words about the Wisdom of God they speak words that belong to the world. The wicked negatively reacts while the righteous positively corrects. For the wicked is incredulous and doubts the words of the righteous. He says: “Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.” In the Gospel, Jesus spoke words to bring people to identify Himself and know Him through the way and the kind of words he speaks.  Commentaries say that the reasonsing of the wicked takes on a life of its own and focuses with a frightening consistency on the righteous, who oppose their way of life.

2. Opposition- As Jesus makes His final journey from Galilee towards Jerusalem, He will make His final proclamation about the Father and His Kingdom, perform miracles as signs of the Kingdom at hand which will lead toward the ultimate sign of the resurrection, and He will meet varied oppositions which will lead toward the Cross as the final form and effect of opposition. Both readings today speak about opposition. The Book of Wisdom records the various attacks of the wicked against the righteous because the righteous exposes the evil and wrongdoing of the wicked. If might makes right and what is weak is useless, then whoever opposes the wicked will be subject to the weapons of their wrath. What had begun as an exhortation to seemingly innocent pleasure ends in calling for an unambiguous act of injustice, the brutal death of the just. In the Gospel, Jesus was under attack and what He received from the Pharisees and the Chief priests was a reaction of contempt. During the time of the Pharisees, the ordinary man would not have the chance to assert himself against the Pharisees. Jesus was threat to them. The Pharisees looked down in contempt on the ordinary man. The masses who do not know the law are accursed. William Barclay says that the Pharisees had a phrase by which they described the ordinary, simple people who did not observe the thousands of regulations of the ceremonial law. They called them the People of the Land. The Rabbinic law said: “six things are laid down about the People of the Land: entrust no testimony to them, take no testimony from them, trust them with no secret, do not appoint them guardians of an orphan, do not make them custodians of charitable funds, do not accompany them on a journey.” The Lenten season helps us to reflect that all the good we do for Christ may always be opposed by the world. We expect to be contradicted when we stand for the truth. Jesus will be our inspiration as His Cross was the great sign of contradition in the world yet all vindication and victory was His.

3. Image of God- One of the overwhelming things that the wicked has against the just ones is envy. The wicked envies the just because: the just claims to have knowledge of God; they are children of God; their end will be happy; and they boast that God is their father. These claims are interpreted by the wicked with disdain as opposing their way of life. Hence, the just one is considered to be refproof of their thoughts, a burden for them simply to behold. The Book of Wisdom illustrates well the contrast between the wicked and the just in their thoughts and image of God. The just has a clear idea of God and they have a clear idea of sonship. The book says that the just “professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.” The same thing is reflected in the Gospel today. Jesus, who is the Just One has a clear image of the Father and of God. He shouted at the Temple area: “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” In this season of Lent, one of the things clear as Jesus makes His final journey to Calvary was His relationship with the Father. His journey was a journey to the Father. Even on the Cross, Jesus continues to reflect His relationship with the Father. His last word was “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The season of Lent is our journey to the Father.

Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent

(Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a; 17-28a; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46)

A story is told of a boy and his mother who went to a shopping mall. The boy acted badly-demanding this and that, running away from his mother, hiding so she couldn’t find him, whinning that he wanted something to eat or drink, interrupting her while she was attempting to talk to sales clerks or make a purchase. In total exasperation, she finally gave up and returned to the car. As they were driving homne, the boy could sense her displeasure and he said, “I learned last week in Sunday school that when we ask God to forgive us when we are bad, He does. Does He really do that?” the mother replied, “Yes, He does.” The boy continued, “And the teacher said that when He forgives us, He throws our sins in the deepest sea. Does He do that, Mom?” the mother responded, “Yes, that’s what the Bible says.” The boy was silent for a mpment and then he said, “I’ve asked God to forgive me for acting bad at the mall, but I bet when we get home, you’re going to go fishing for those sins, aren’t you?” (from God’s Little Devotional Book, p.205) When children become naughty and unruly they make parents worry and anxious. Parents may express their dismay through scolding, or just patiently accepting any ordeal, just being keeping silent, or fishing for wrongdoings. When the children become adults and wrong decisions are made, parents again would feel bad in spite of that, parents love their children. The Gospel speaks of Israel, though unfaithful son, it is a story of God still loving him. Throughout the history of Israel, God had manifested His love. This parable is interesting because it is historical and predictive. Let us look into the message of the Gospel today.

1. Envy kills the person and his soul- Both the first reading and the Gospel speak of the deadly result of envy. Joseph became the object of murder by his 11 brothers which led to be sold into Egypt instead. Envy is one of the capital sins. They are called capital because they lead to other sins. In the Gospel today, the son of the landowner was beaten, stoned, and killed because of envy of the tenants who focused on the inheritance and the produce of the land. Today, the readings allow us to look into one of the things we should rectify in the Season of Lent. We have to purify ourselves from all forms of envy. The word envy comes from two Latin words “en” which means “within” or “upon” and “videre” which means “to see.” Envy therefore, has something to do with the sins of the eyes. When we see others possessing things more than we have then we become envious. It is different from jealousy because envy refers to things while jealousy has something to do with people. Jealousy springs from fear and loneliness while envy comes from covetousness or greed or avarice. Thus, the season of Lent teaches and guides us to the purification of our eyes and our visions. We have to gaze on the images of Christ that would lead us to spiritual things rather than inordinate possessions. This is the reason why the Catholic Church has images to rectify our senses especially our eyes to rid ourselves from all forms of envy. May Jesus whom we gaze in every Eucharistic celebration be the object of our gaze as the Body and Blood of Christ are raised up. Our eyes will have power to see heavenly things when they are purified in Christ.

2. History of love in Israel- The images here are: the landowner is God, the vineyard is Israel, true Israel is the people of God, the tenants are the religious leaders of Israel; the servants are the prophets; and the Son is Jesus Christ. The parable centers on the love God has for Israel. God desired to bring His people to His own heart so He sent prophets, kings, religious leaders as instruments to communicate His love to them and hoping that in return, they too will love God. But all these messengers were killed by the people. God was not outdone of His love, He sent His Son thinking that they will respect and love the Son, and Him too they beat and killed. Love is most fundamental revelation of who God is. God gave His Son as a sign of His immense love for the whole world. Benedict XI says that we ought to go to God with love. St. John the evangelist leads us to respond and say”we have come to believe in God's love”: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life” (3:16).

3. God’s care for the Vineyard- Since the vineyard is understood as the Christian community, God did three marvelous things to show His love for His people. First, God “put a wall around it.” A wall indicates God’s protection for the community. A wall is built to keep the vineyard away from animals and it secures growth of the vine and its fruitfulness. Second, God dug a winepress. A winepress is a device to press the grapes for wine. The winepress indicates the equipment and the instrument he provides to accomplish His work. In other words, God provides instruments in order for man not be work in vain but to facilitate the work. Third, God built a watchtower. A watchtower is built to protect the vineyard from thieves. It stands as the symbol of the assurance and security of God’s care which He gives to His tenants. Love provides, protects, and secures the beloved. In the first reading today, we hear about Israel who loved the youngest son Joseph but because human weakness, his 11 other brothers were envious and sold him out into Egypt. Love secures, while hate alienates one from the other.

4. Being the cornerstone- Love does not end in death. After the rejection, crucifixion, death of Christ, God made Him the cornerstone of the faith. He is the cornerstone because He will inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth. Frist, Jesus as the cornerstone because He will be the first stone to be laid. All other stones are place after it. It is the preeminent stone in time. Christ becomes the first of God’s new community. Second a cornerstone is one that supports the rest of the structure. Since it holds other structures and other stones, then it has power in itself. Jesus is the cornerstone because He possesses the power to hold all things together in Himself. Yet before one could be the cornerstone and receive power and authority to hold structures together must undergo trials in life. The stone had to be rejected first. It might be thought of as unsuitable, useless for the building, and so the builders cast it aside but when the builders find suitability of the stone for sometime, then it becomes important and even the cornerstone. Love entails pain because the power of love makes one renew his life. Change is painful, renewal is uncomfortable, reconciliation is uneasy, humility is sacrifice, and transformation is even fearful. Yet all these things can only be realized if the goal of every person is love.