Sunday of the First Week of Lent
(Gen 9:8-15;1 Peter 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15)
A story is told: “Teacher: class, we will have only half a day of school this morning. Then, the class responded: Hoooray! Then, the teacher continued: “we will have the other half this afternoon!” (Over 500 Jokes: Just for Boys, p.64) While it is so tempting to have a good life and enjoy the convenience of it, we are also confronted with pain and suffering. Classes and school work might not be pleasing to all students yet they have to accept the incovenience of a student’s life otherwise they will not enjoy a good future. Lent is a season of accepting inconvenience for a greater good. The readings today speak of how God seeks ways to alleviate man’s inconveniences. As He does His part to uplift our uncomfortable situations, we on our part should begin to accept pain and sacrifices in life.
1. God will Control forces of Nature. Since God created the world, He also Has the right and capacity to control it. We witnessed Moses dividing the Red Sea in two through the power of God and Jesus stopping the storm as they were cross the Lake of Gennesaret. God does not only sustain nature, but He has dominion over it. When God manifests His control over nature, we believe that He wills it in order for us not to be suffering from the incoveniences of natural calamities. In the first reading, we are told that God made a covenant with Noah that “never again shall all bodily creatures be Destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” This is to demonstrate that God is not a God who brings ultimate inconvenience to us but rather, He is a God who seeks to emancipate us from pain and suffering.
2. Jesus was the first one to celebrate the Season of Lent. For forty days Jesus went to the desert to fast and pray to His father before He began His public ministry. This is very symbolic because in the first place Jesus did need the bodily discipline of fasting because He was sinless. He demonstrated it that we may grasp the meaning of fasting as a way to overcome evil, the desire to conquer our pride, and to empty ourselves in order to give room for generosity. We can never be altruistic if we are full of our selves. St. Paul in the second reading today illustrates the inner disposition of Jesus: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” Jesus took into Himself the inconvenience of sin in order for sinners to be saved.
3. Jesus proclaims “repent, and believe in the Gospel” to free us from eternal inconvenience. The first two readings may focus on bodily or physical inconveniences which we humanly respond by staying away or seeking convenient lifestyle to fight against forms of discomfort. Jesus proclaims repentance as a way to teach us to transcend from our predicaments and begin to journey facing all inconveniences because our goal is eternal salvation. Jesus demonstrates that one of the most inconvenient situations in our spiritual journey is temptation. The Gospel figures out the temptation and the inconvenience Jesus had to face when He was being followed by the devil. He was with “the wild beasts and angels had to minister to Him” which is indicative of weakness and inconvenience. Yet Jesus freely chose this to demonstrate that man has always the capacity to transcend and to fight against evil. To be able to transcend, the Church proposes three things: a) work or the faithful accomplishment of all our duties of state for the love of God; b) struggle against the sinful passions; c) voluntary acceptance of sufferings and trials, our just punishment, together with a humble prayer.
Sunday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time Year A
(Isaiah 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India webpage opens its reflection today with this anecdote: “A girl named Kristi Yamaguchi was born to a young couple whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, one of her feet was twisted. Her parents tried to heal her by means of physical therapy. To strengthen her legs further they enrolled her in an ice-skating class. Kristi had to get up at four a.m. on school days to do her practice in the ice rink before she went to school. This helped her to develop into a world-class figure-skater. Believe it or not, in 1992 Kristi won the gold medal for the United States in women's figure-skating at the XVI Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, 1992. Kristi thus became one of the several examples of “the stone rejected by the builders” becoming a “cornerstone” of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. Kristi is very passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of children. In 1996, Kristi established the Always Dream Foundation whose mission is to encourage, support and embrace the hopes and dreams of children.” The readings today speak of the images of the people of God which is Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah describes God’s people or Jerusalem as a vineyard. It is a vineyard that is maintained and cared for by the Lord. The Letter of Paul to the Philippians demonstrates that the people of God seek heavenly values and searches for excellence in life. The Gospel speaks of the parable of the tenants were so complacent and were not productive. The son of the owner of the vineyard they killed foreshadowing Jesus as the heir who was murdered. He was the stone who was rejected and now becomes the cornerstone.
1. God cares for His people- The first reading today demonstrates the nature of God and the essence of who the chosen people are. The “vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” reveals that God is the vine grower or vine care taker. God cares for the vineyard. He watches over it by placing a hedge around it and building a tower to oversee it. It is where He shows His love by the fertility of the vineyard. The vines bear fruit and the vine grower produces the choicest wines. It is God who cares and manages the vineyard and therefore surely He expects the vines yield rich harvests. But what if the vines do not bear fruit as expected? The Prophet Isaiah warns us that God has authority and power of His vineyard. He can do whatever he wants if the vines do not bear fruit. God does two things: he can destroy the vineyard and he may not send rain on it.
2. God’s people seek the values of heaven- The people of God seek things that are beyond this world. To be God’s people, St. Paul presents three elements: first, the people of God make their requests known to God through prayer and thanksgiving. If this is done, the peace of God will “guard your hearts and minds.” Second, the people of God think and aspire for things worthy of praise. So seek whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is gracious. The people of God seek these virtues. Third, the people of God is faithful and proactive. The people of God acts on God’s word and avoids pay lip service and “the peace of God” will rest on him.
3. God’s people is the locus of His reward- The parable of the Tenants is important for understanding God’s ability to give rewards. The people of God are the first beneficiary of His benevolence and love. We see three important elements of God’s love. First, God willingly left His land to tenants. This shows that God shares and He is generous to make other people share the bounty of the vineyard. Love is being aware of the “other” who exists. Second, though God was not satisfied of the performance of the first batch, he sends out more tenants and workers more numerous than the first. God does not give up on the people He cares. Love is self-sacrifice. It is willing to give, sacrifice and die for the other. Third, though rejected by man, Jesus was exalted and becomes the cornerstone. This illustrates that God rewards those who are faithful. Therefore, love is one and faithful. God knows what lies in one’s heart. He wants to let those who rejected, misunderstood, ostracized, marginalized and hated most to rely on Him who rewards the just and those who follow Him. It was His experience that “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”