Saturday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time Year 1
(Dt 6:4-13; Mt 17:14-20)
A story had been told about Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), th world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn’t able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay, it has been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner’s home and offered to buy the violin. The collector sait had become his prized possession, and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. “Could I play the instrument once more before it is consigned to silence?” he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector’s emotions were deeply stirred. “I have no right to keep that to myself,” he exclaimed. “It’s yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it.” (taken from Journey, by David Jeremiah, p. 217) There are many things that we dream to value in the world which we do not yet possess. It is an anxiety to be thinking of those things which even are unreacheable to possess because of its price, rarity of the thing, or somebody has them in his possession. Yet there are valuable spiritual gifts that we should possess in common. Faith, which Christ presents in the Gospel, and the statutes which are enjoined by God that every Israelite should obey. When faith and the statutes are being obeyed and valued, God’s blessing will be endowed to us. Both readings however, stipulate the path towards fidelity to God.
1. Listen- Fidelity to God begins by listening to Him. To listen is the first command of the Lord for Israel and it is the first word of the prayer and profession of faith in Israel. “Shema” is the first word which means “listen” and it is recited every morning and evening by every devout Jew. It contains the profession of the One God and listening is the first virtue in order to be faithful to one God. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” It is understood that listening and fidelity appear to be dependent with each other. Besides being the first virtue, it is the first and greatest commandment God gave Israel in the Old Testament. The imperative of listening to the Word of God speaks of two laws that man should follow. First, is the law that is externally written like the decalogue or any Christian tradition that serves as our moral guide; second, is the law that is written in our hearts-conscience. Benedict XVI wrote: “Listening to the word of God leads us first and foremost to value the need to live in accordance with this law “written on human hearts” (cf. Rom2:15; 7:23).”(Verbum Domini 9)
2. Love- Faith seeks its concrete expression-to love. The opening section of the first reading today focuses afresh the centrality of the law as the climactic gift of God. However, at the heart of the law is love. Fidelity and love are both virtues that are inseparable from one another. God enjoined all Israelites when He spoke personally to them: “Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This kind of love is not an emotional love but it is a personal love that transforms the people of Israel. It is a trustworthy love which surpasses all forms of selfishness and self-centeredness. It triumphs over anti-life and non-life giving situations and conditions. Pope Francis says that ourselves, “transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.” (Lumen Fidei 4)
3. Long- Longing for God is an integral sign of faith. Man has to show his dependence on God if faith has to be true and genuine. In his yearning for God, man builds a relationship and communion with Him. When one does not manifest his dependence on God, then the faith of the person is lacking and he harms his communion with Him. Pope Francis says “harming the faith means harming communion with the Lord.” (Lumen Fidei 48) The Gospel speaks about an example of human longing for God. In the midst of pain, man searches for healing. “A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said, “Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely.” This illustrates man’s longing for God when conditions are no longer in control by man. It is very significant that God manifests signs for man to be able to grasp the immensity of God’s mystery. Jesus becomes now the ultimate sign of the Kingdom. He becomes the object of the yearning of man’s heart, the goal of human journey, and the relief of human suffering. Jesus desired that His disciples should yearn more for Him. Things are always possible when one yearns for God in faith. The disciples exclaimed “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith.” The man whose son was lunatic yearned for healing, and eventually Jesus healed his son for nothing is impossible with God when yearning is elicited through faith.
Saturday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time Year 1
(Jos 24:14-29; Mt 19: 13-15)
A story had been told: a high school senior went to his father in January of the year he was to graduate. “Dad,” he said, ‘for graudation, I think I deserve a new car.” His father thought a minute and replied, “Son, I’ll get you that new car, but first you must do three things-bring your grades up, read the Bible more and get a haircut.” In May, just before graduation the son went to his father and asked, “How am i doing? Am I going to get a new car for graduation?” “Son, you’ve brought your grade average up from a C to an A. That’s great,” answered the father. “I’ve also noticed that you’ve been studying the Scriptures every morning before school. That’s wonderful. But you still haven’t had a haircut.” “But, Dad,” the son retorted, “while studying the Bible, I’ve noticed that Moses is always depicted in the illustrations as having long hair. Even Jesus had long hair.” At that, the father replied, “Son, you must remember that Moses and Jesus walked everywhere they went- so will you, unless you get a haircut!” (taken from Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, by Jack Canfield et al, p. 155) Loyalty to what was said and agreed upon is a virtue. We receive the grace we need if we become faithful and sincere. One of the things John C. Maxwell wrote about loyalty was: make your values visible. He said “Leaders attract who they are. If you want a cohesive team, one that’s loyal to a common cause and to one another, then be a clear and candid about your values.” People indeed become loyal to a person when values are seen and relevant to the person. Both readings today foreshadow loyalty. In the first reading, Joshua gathered the people once again and reminded them about serving the Lord as part of their loyalty to Him while the Gospel implies that the innocent like the children are closest to the virtue of loyalty.
1. Loyalty as a response- God initiated a special love for the Israelites as He rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians and led them to the Promised Land. This initiative and love calls for a response of loyalty from the people. Joshua had to remind the people of the goodness they had received from the Lord. He spells out three things to start with in loyalty: first, they had to fear and serve the Lord. Loyalty begins when one acknowledges God as one who is over and above anyone and anything else. It is first and foremost recognizing a God who saves; second, the worship of God alone and forgetting about other gods. Loyalty demands focus and fidelity to God alone. Joshua said “Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” Loyalty recognizes single-mindedness in service; third, a decision that comes from the heart, authentic and true. Loyalty finds its origin and impetus from a decision that is made. One has to freely decide in order for the virtue of loyalty to be authentic and true. Joshua demonstrated this by saying “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
2. Loyalty as a relationship- Solid relationship is built upon loyalty. It entails constant reciprocity rather than a one-way traffic. Scholars of the Bible say that Joshua’ charge at Shechem highlights loyalty and professions of loyalty. The text suggests reflecting on the character of loyalty and the object of loyalty. Loyalty tended to be objective, definable according to a known norm or expectation, explicitly affirmed, and in principle strictly judged, even if by no one but God. The loyalty of the Israelites should be built upon a concrete action of rejecting other gods and worshipping the true God. It has to be objective as they confessed that “He performed those great miracles before our very eyes.” As God was concrete in showing His love and mercy to the Israelites by performing miracles to be seen, then they have to reciprocate this objectivity with concrete observable response.
3. Loyalty as fidelity- Loyalty is not only a human response but it has to be coupled or accompanied with faith. Fidelity involves two people with equal reciprocity. Both parties who are loyal have to show their dependence on God who could aid them to be blessed for their loyalty. Loyalty should involve faith. The little children came to Jesus to show their dependence on Him. The disciples rebuked them not to come to Jesus but He demonstrated to them that discipleship involves innocence and total dependence “for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus blessed them for their simplicity by laying his hands on them. The children in the Gospel became instruments for the Lord to demonstrate to His disciples that fidelity to Him has to include dependence, simplicity, and innocence.