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Missions 109

Monday Reflection

Monday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time Year 1

(1 Thess 1:1-5, 8b-10; Mt 23: 13-22)

An anecdote had been told about money realism. John Wesley’s succinct advice about money has been widely quoted in magazines, books, advice columns, college classes, and the Web. “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” These three phrases provide a snapshot of what Wesley called “Christian prudence” about money. They’re worth closer consideration. Gain all you can. Wesley says that in generating income we should apply ourselves with constant diligence and with all the understanding God gives us. That lays out a broad mandate for study, industry, creativity, and integrity. We are to do all this, he says “without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body.” Save all you can. Wesley advises cutting off every expense that indulges “foolish desire or the desires of the flesh.” He quotes 1 John 2:16 as his authority: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (KJV) Give all you can. Wesley says that we are to give all we can to God. That means whether we are spending on ourselves or donating to God’s work or using money to help the needy, we are to do all in harmony with the Holy Spirit. (taken from The One Year Book of Encouragement, by Harold Myra, p. 37) Personal gain is human. Man seeks for gratification, pride, contentment and personal gain. He searches for fulfillment in the world yet he knows that life does not only consists of material things in life. His soul dictates him to search for what is spiritual and to transcend what is purely human. The two readings today speak of things that we should ultimately seek. In the first reading, St. Paul appreciated the faith of the Thessalonians which help them stand in times of trial while Jesus in the Gospel, rebuked the Pharisees for not seeking the Kingdom of God but for their own gain. Jesus has 7 woes pronounced against the Pharisees and we shall dwell on the first three woes today; the other four are distributed in the next two days.

1. The first woe: Opposition and obstacle to the Kingdom- We notice evidently that Jesus’ source of anger against the Pharisees sprung forth from their insensitivity to those who are lowly and poor. Simple folks were taken advantage by the Pharisees. The formalism of Scribes and Pharisees ha bloked the entrance even to our Lord’ own kingdom. Commentaries say that this darkened the public mind and mad it incapable of appreciating the need for inward religion or even of recognizing its presence. External expressions of true faith are important in genuine religion but the Pharisees and Scribes express outward manifestations of religion not in a sincere way but for personal recognition and false appearances. The Pharisees were labeled by Jesus as hypocrites for the lack of balance between outward and inward manifestations of faith. Jesus abhors such behaviors. St. Paul appreciated the balance between inward and outward expressions of faith among the Thessalonians especially their: “work of faith,” “labor of love” and “endurance in hope.”

2. The second woe: Proselytism to bad purpose. Commentaries say that the Pharisees, not contented with obstructing entrance to the Kingdom, they seek, with immense zeal, to draw ignorant pagans down to their own leven and to make them too consciously sin against the proffered light of Christ. Jesus desired that faith had to be shown by good example. True spiritual life is contagious and sets the person a right path for him. A faith that does not influence people to what is good is not the faith that brings light to every shadow or darkness of human existence. Faith provides new paths for men to trod and walk. St. Paul appreciated the Thessalonians for the faith they exhibit in the midst of their afflictions and trials that influenced him to be strong in his faith. Besides, their faith had influenced others and Paul affirmed this saying to them “in every place your faith in God has gone forth.”

3. The third woe: Casuistry or Deception- Casuistry and deception is the work of the Devil. True faith does not lie nor does it deceive. Commentaries say that the Pharisees and Scribes, blind themselves, have absurdly assumed the role of guide. To illustrate the blindness our Lord chooses an example of their attitude to vows. On the annulment of these they were an ingenious court of appeal. The terms of the vow were closely scrutinized without regard to the original intention of the one who had made it. Their verdict is: either it is nothing or it is obligated. The purpose of the Temple, the Sacrifice, and the Altar is for the salvation of man and not for any monetary purpose as the Pharisees and Scribes were after of. For the Pharisees, vows naming the gold (apparently the votive-offerings) in the temple and the vows naming the sacrifice on the altar are declared valid; vows on the temple or altar itself are declared void. The Pharisees and Scribes deceive their constituents by being more humanistic than being more spiritual. They follow their own interpretation and opinion rather than what God requires from every believer. A wonderful quote we take from Leonardo da Vinci “the greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” We do not live a life of deception but a path towards truth for Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time Year 1

(1 Thess 4:13-18; Lk 4:16-30)

A story was told by Sandy Beauchamp about Helen Packer. She said: “Helen Packer was 17 years when I met her. A devout Christian and much-loved child, she was entering the hospital for the last time. Her diagnosis was lymphoma and all attempts at remission had failed. Helen share with me, her nurse, that she could handle everything but the thought of dying alone. She just wanted a loved one near her to her hand and pray with her. Helen’s mother would stay at her bedside from early morning to late evening, return home for the rest and resume the vigil come morning. Her father traveled in his job but relieved his wife as often as he could. All of the nurses on the unit realized that Helen was precariously near death, as did she and her family. She began having seizures and lapses of consciousness. As I was leaving the hospital at 11:00 one night, I noticed Helen’s mother heading toward the parking garage as well. Our conversation was interrupted by the loudspeaker. “Outside call, Helen Packer. Please call the operator!” Mrs. Packer reacted immediately with alarm. “Everyone know how ill she is!” she blurted. “I’m going back to her room and see who is calling.” With that she left me and returned to Helen. The operator reported that the calling party had hung up but left a message: “Tell Helen her ride will be late but is coming.”  Baffled, Mrs. Parker stayed at Helen’s bedside in anticipation of a mysterious visitor. Helen died at 1:13 am with her mother at her side, holding her hand and praying. When queried the next day, the operator couldn’t remember even the gender of the caller. No other Helen Packer was found, employee or patient or visitor. For those of us who cared for, nurtured and prayed for Helen, there was only one answer. (taken from Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, p.265-266). Images appear when the mysterious is difficult to grasp. God manifests Himself and His intervention in human affairs through images. The images of bread and wine in “the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 1) The human mind left by itself cannot see the mystery of God. God has to meet man through images. Both readings today provide meaningful images for man to grasp the will of the divine.

1. Fallen asleep in hope- St. Paul reminded the Thessalonians about the last days. Human death which will just be temporary for those who have hope while for those who have no hope in Christ will not see eternal life. Those who are still alive when the last days come, they will witness the saving power of God. Hope saves the person from eternal damnation and leads him to the gift of union with Christ. There are two things Paul presents as gifts of those who have hope. First, for those who had passed away, if they believe in Christ who died and rose again, “so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” God will always be in union with the dead who had hope in Him. Second, for those who are still alive, when the last days come, will meet those who passed away with hope and “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” We will be in union with those who have died and Jesus, by His own initiative will meet us to bring us into final union with Him. To fall asleep in Christ with hope is essential to our final rest with Him on the last day. Paul says it is only in hope shall we meet the gift of the resurrection and “the dead in Christ will rise first.”

2. Sounds from heaven- At the consummation of time, sounds will be heard that will mark the imminent end. As the sound of God or the voice of God was heard in the beginning “let there be light” so true at the end shall the voice of God be heard. St. Paul mentioned these various sounds that will be heard: a) the word of God or the word of command, b) the voice of an angel, c) trumpet of God. St. Paul made the connection between the word of God and the resurrection. At the end of time, the Word of God will prevail. Thus, Paul exhorts that we keep the Word of God that brings us salvation and we shall not see death through the word of God: “the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.”

3. Significant gestures- Every gesture describes one’s culture, mentality, emotion, behavior, and idea. Gestures convey ideas. Jesus performs gestures that convey messages and even His identity. The gospel today marks one of the first moments of His ministry. As the foundation of His ministry, Jesus now introduces Himself through His words and gestures. First, are the words describing Himself. Using the words of Isaiah, Jesus reveals Himself as the Anointed One and the One who is sent. He is the Christ and the Missionary of the Father and the Spirit. Second, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. He is the One referred to by the Prophets. Third, is the gesture of sitting down. To sit down is a sign of authority. We witness Jesus in the Gospels that every time he preaches, He sits down. While answering Pilate questions about the truth, identity, and the Kingdom of God, He would sit down. Fourth, all their eyes were fixed intently on Him and “all spoke highly of Him.” The word “all” significantly symbolizes the inclusiveness of Jesus’ ministry and the universality of His mission. To those who “looked” and “spoke,” this became a concrete sign of listening, faith, and desire for something new and a authentic yearning for God. Faith sees Christ as the anointed one while those who did not believe desired to drive Him out. Faith has eyes that see Christ.