Monday of the First Week of Lent
(Lev 19:1-2, 11-18; Matt. 25 31-46)
The word holy comes from the Hebrew word “qadosh” which has two common meanings: first, it meant sacred, sanctified or being a saint; second, it also meant “separation.” The readings today clarify that the holiness of God is the sole reason why the Israelites have to be holy or sanctified. Since God is holy, He is not identified with the world, and Israel is called to be holy then and they had to be separated from the non-“holy” or the non-chosen people. Qadosh means “separation.” It is also word which indicate the act of “of separating” or “cutting off.” We are told in the Gospel by Christ that at the end of the age there will be a great “separation” between those who follow God’s will and those who do not.
Three things that encourage us to be Holy
The primordial reason why the Israelites had to be holy was due to the nature of God who is holy. It was required for Israel to be a holy people because God revealed Himself as a holy God. Israel struggled to be a holy nation and a people set apart from among the nations because it has to project an authentic identity founded on God who reveals Himself as love. If love has to be linked to holiness, then love has to be an encounter. Holiness in this case, means an encounter of an event and a person. In the first reading, it was Moses who became a credible witness of this encounter. God revealed to Moses His nature and acknowledging God’s existence becomes both a vertical and horizontal experience. In the course of the dialogue between God and Moses, Moses received the command that every Israelite has to avoid not to defile the purity of their faith in God. The Israelites are exhorted to a pure and holy life, on the ground that Yahweh, the Holy One, is their God and that they are His people. Lent, then, becomes an opportunity and a privileged time for an interior journey which examines those things that defile us from holiness of life. Many things may have hindered us to know Jesus for a long time now and holiness of life has never finds its way in us and we become spiritually impoverished. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says “the worst poverty is not to know Christ.”
Holiness is not a lofty idea but a concrete mode of action. If holiness is to be concrete, then the venue for concrete action is our neighbor. The virtues of heaven will become tangible and more perceptibly seen in our relationship the neighbor next to us. Thus, the season of Lent brings us to the heart of the celebration: charity. Charity leads one to holiness of life and becomes a journey to everyone; it is going and leading to our neighbor. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24). To be “concerned” towards our neighbors is a journey of leaving the self and traveling toward the “other.” It is an act of forgetting oneself for the sake of the good of the other. New forms of selfishness today destroy our duty of charity. Benedict XVI says that there is “an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for “privacy”. The pursuit of “privacy” has become a new form of selfishness which calls forth a rediscovery of essence of divine charity. Both readings today speak of the primacy of “neighbor” as the gauge for works of charity. Leviticus clarifies that the relationship we make with our neighbor is founded on God who is holy. Thus, our relationship should be blessed and sacred to the Lord. We are told in the Gospel that Jesus makes our relationship with our neighbor as the basis for judgment on the last days. Benedict XVI continued to say that our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.
Man is a hopeful being. He hopes because of an unsure future that lies ahead of him. The uncertainty of the future prompts him to embrace the certainty of hope which comes from the dimension of faith. Faith is the substance of hope. (Spe Salvi 10)Christianity teaches him that hope becomes complete only in God and not in the world. Besides, man does not hope for nothing but he hopes in God for his good. The best good he could ever think for himself is his salvation and yet salvation is not just simply given. It is a goal that entails a journey with trustworthy hope. In the Gospel today, Jesus presents to us the Kingdom of the Father as the goal of human hope. For those who did His will, at the end of time shall have the Kingdom of Heaven as their reward: Jesus declared, “‘come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The road towards great reward presupposes great hope and to achieve great hope means to be ready for sacrifice and suffering. Benedict XVI says that the capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon. The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope. (Spe Salvi 39) The goal of eternal life has become the encouragement for us to live a holy life.
Monday of the First Week of Lent
(Lev 19:1-2,11-18; Mt 25:31-46)
A story was told about two boys were canoeing in the Canadian wilds. They had been roughing it for a week and were tired and in need of rest. Suddenly they spotted a trapper’s cabin. The boys beached their canoe and headed up the river bank toward the cabin. It was open, clean, and vacant. On a table was an open bible lying across the pages was a note saying: “Your cabin saved my life. I had taken seriously ill and needed shelter. Your cabin provided it, I can’t give you money, only God’s blessing. Read Matthew 25:31-46 below:” “Come and possess the kingdom... I was a stranger and you received me... I was sick and you took care of me.” (taken from Mark Link, Daily Homilies, p.19) Today’s Gospel catches our attention with regard to the endtimes. The end will surely come as Jesus reminds His disciples. Thus, it is worth asking: “when was the last time we had assisted or helped someone who was a stranger to us?” Isn’t it that we have to help people in need because the end is near? Let us reflect on the readings today and how the endtimes is illustrated.
1. The return is greater than the end. Matthew recorded the words of Christ who said “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne.” This speaks of one of the basic truths we proclaim in the Apostles’ Creed: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus would like to demonstrate that His return will be His final act He could do with regard to the end. That return will be characterized by His mercy and that will be the final act of God. Pope Francis says that “Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.” Thus, the return of Christ is greater than what will transpire in the end. The end is all about destruction, annihilation, separation, sadness and damnation while Christ’s return will be all about restoration, coming home, and God’s mercy and glory. The return is all about joy, the end is scary and frightening.
2. Time is greater than space. The Second Coming of Christ demonstrates one of the basic truths of God’s revelation: time is all about eternity, space is all about temporariness. Jesus says in the Gospel that those who value space than time will be thrown into eternal fire but those who value time will enter the Kingdom of God. It is true that when we do every undertaking with reference to eternal values and the Kingdom of God, our reward will be greater than any reward the world could offer while if we do things according to what we desire now just for people, things, and our personal horizontal relationships then the temporariness of all these things will dictate our consciences that all these things shall come to a definite end. We should aspire for greater things in this world. The vertical is greater than the horizontal.
3. Divine unity is greater than human collective Unity. While it is very human to congregate with people, yet is also all less human to be isolated, to be private, and to be individualistic when one forgets the integral importance of divine unity. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that our union with Him as the Shepherd is far important and any form of human collectivity. The unrighteous he will send to eternal damnation while “the righteous to eternal life.” At the end of time, Jesus will meet us and we will meet this Jesus whom we serve in the poor and the afflicted. Our desire to meet the Lord is characterized by our desire to serve the needy and those who badly need our help. Though we might think that it might be a priority to help others in their predicaments but it would be of more importance to develop our relationship with God because our mission for others should be preceded by our communion with God. The direction of our mission is dictated by our communion with Him. John Paul II says: “communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion.” (CL 32)
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.