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Missions 109

Thursday Reflection

Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time Year 1

(Col 1:9-14; Lk 5:1-11)

A story was told: On January 19, 1750, Isaac Watts, the brilliant London pastor who is remembered on September 21 as the “Father of the English Hymn,” sa down and wrote the foreword to a new edition of Samual Clarke’s book, Precious Bible Promises. In describing biblical promises, Watts called them “the constant food of a living Christian, as well as his highest cordials (medicines) in a fainting hour.” He wrote, “In such a world as this, where duties perpetually demand our practice, and difficulties and trials are ever surrounding us, what can we do better than to treasure up the promises in our hearts? Here are the true riches of a Christian, and his highest hopes on this side of heaven.” (taken from Journey, by David Jeremiah, p. 278) When trials and deep problems beset our lives, the best way is to deepen one’s faith in God, in the Words of Christ and the promises of Heaven. Deepening one’s faith is a grace to those who could hardly fathom the mystery of pain and suffering. The promises of the Bible are relieving and encouraging. The readings today speak about deepening one’s faith: the first reading speaks of the value of prayer in order to have sufficient knowledge to do God’s will and to grow in faith while the Gospel speaks of Jesus challenging Peter to “Put out into deep” (duc in altum) and it is no longer about the fishing net but his journey of faith in Christ. When one puts out into the deep or deepens one’s faith, Jesus illustrates its effects.

1. Abundance in life- Jesus spoke the words to Peter and his companions “put out into the deep for a catch,” they went back fishing and did exactly what Jesus said and when they trusted in Jesus’ words, they understood and experienced the effects of trusting God’s Words- abundance. The trust that is needed in God’s words made them witnessed the benevolence of God. Peter was witness to this as “ they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.” The abundance was also witnessed by others. Peter “ signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them.” Deepening one’s faith in Christ is experiencing the abundance of God’s grace. With the abundant catch of Peter, he became inspired and brought him to a new perspective in life. We were told that “for astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee”; this brought them to a new mission and a new commitment. Peter, James and John should now begin to follow a new person in their lives as they were “seized” with astonishment. Before they would be able to appreciate the call of Jesus for them and their future vocation, they have to discover Jesus as one who is the Master of creation. From just merely “Master,” they come to acknowledge Him as the Master of their life possessing the “virtus divinitatis” or divine grace or a quality of divine power that all creatures should be subject to it.

2. Sorry for one’s sins- The miraculous catch of fish led Peter to begin his vocation with a solid and deep foundation. It is worth noting that the first disciple called by our Lord begins with an avowal of sinfulness; though Jesus has cured the sick and reigned over the lower nature, his true mission is to cast out sin and make God reign in the souls of men. Peter became the first recepient of a direct forgiveness from a direct confession of sins. He receives a new penance which is now to lead other’s to the same compassion he received from Christ. Henceforth, he will be “cathing men” for Christ. Like the Colossians who were living as good examples of faith, Paul went to write and admire them for growth in faith. He prayed for them to grow and be filled with the knowledge of God’s will for three purposes: first, is to walk in the manner of God; second, to be fully pleasing in every good work and bearing fruit; third, to give thanks to the Father who made them fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones.

3. New mission- Peter, James and John saw something new in Jesus which they had not seen before. Peter has fished all night, the proper time of fishing, without success; Jesus fishes in daylight, the wrong time, with marvelous success. God’s way is not man’s way. This incident indicated Jesus possessing divine power which becomes the key toward Peter’s exclamation: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Peter received this new leadership, for to him alone is addressed “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” The primacy of Peter among the others will now be confirmed by the direct address of Jesus the mission of Peter. No one can be a true leader and missionary without a deep journey of faith with Christ. Peter had gone immediately into a deep journey toward himself that enabled him to confess the deepest self-his sinfulness.

Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time Year 1

(1 Thess 3:7-13; Mt 24: 42-51)

A story about Jesse Lasky delivering a speech in New York. Jesse Lasky, whose career as a holly wood producer and studio executive streched from 1913 to 1951, was making a speech welcoming Maurice Chevalier at a dinner in New York when kept losing his place. Each time he looked up in confusion and said, “now where was I?” He did this so many times that comedian George Jessel finally called out, “You’re at the Hotel Astor and your name is Jesse Lasky.” (taken from 1,000 Unforgettalbe Senior Moments, by Tom Friedman, pp.58-59) Life is full of anticipations and expectations. Life has to be lived with a relation to what was experienced yesterday, enjoy for what is today and it visualizes of what we desire for tomorrow. Man is capable of looking forward to the direction where he is going. Today’s readings focus on a futuristic attitude which all Christians should develop. St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians carefully reminded them of the Judgment day that they had to look forward to while Jesus in the Gospel exhorts his disciples to “stay awake” and be “prepared” for the hour the Son of Man would come unexpectedly. What are concrete signs of being prepared and futuristic. Let us look at these in details a little bit.

1. Glimmering faith- Faith that is sincerely lived out is one that is evident and noticeable. St. Paul in the first reading today affirms the faith of the Thessalonians. The faith was properly lived which reached Paul through Timothy and Silas while Paul was in Corinth this time. Paul wrote this letter in the winter of the year 50-51 AD. The Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is the earliest Pauline text in the canon of Scripture. This means that it is one of the letters that was accepted as part of the New Testament group of books. When faith is lived with all sincerity and gratitude, it radiates. Paul commented “we have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith.” In other words, because of the faith of the Thessalonians in the midst of their afflictions and distress, Paul was strengthened also in his faith and that made him happy about it. Commentaries say that the fact that the Thessalonians are steadfast in the faith in spite of their persecutions and burdens is not due only to their own merits; the credit must go mainly to the grace of God; and so St. Paul thanks the Lord for the help he has given them. This illustrates that faith is a gift; then, as a gift it is also given and received. The best way of giving out faith is to live it by example and the best way to receive faith is to be influenced by the faith that was lived out.

2. Enduring faith- Faith endures to the end. It journeys through a path that leads to God. It endures the trials of life and the pains of a journey. Pope Francis says that faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. (Lumen Fidei, 4) Jesus reminded His disciples to “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” We cannot endure to the end by our own abilities but our life had to be aided with the grace that is infused in us, and that is faith. If God is strong and enduring then, the only way to be strong and enduring like God is to have that faith that connects to Him. Paul cites three major signs for faith to endure: a) to love one another, b) to be blameless in holiness, c) to strengthen our hearts through the faith and love of others.

3. Renewing faith- It is faith that renews the person. From the two readings today we notice the following points that allows the person be renewed through faith: a) faith sees the future. When faith has something to do with the future, it renews the person today to prepare and make him worthy of the future he would be receiving. Faith sees the future because it sees the path in which we journey. It leads the person to the direction he should go; b) faith commits. Faith is advanced and visionary of the future. Thus, a man of faith commits to the future that fulfills all promises. Faith makes the person commits to the future that is greater than himself. Faith allows the person to leave everything behind and looks forward to the future that makes him possess everything. Faith is a remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope; c) faith stays with those who have faith. St. Paul expressed that he would see the Thessalonians again. St. Paul’s first stay in Thessalonica was a short one due to the unrest caused by the Jews who would persecute him and his followers. This caused him to leave in a hurry (cf Acts 17:5-10) That meant that he was unable to give any advanced religious instruction to the believers. So, he told them that he will be seeing them again especially of the faith the Thessalonians had. Faith makes us live in harmony with people especially those who also express sincere faith. Paul prays for the Thessalonians that God may renew them in the deficiencies and he prays that he may be able to meet them in person: “Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.”  d) faith leads to love. Love is the concrete expression of faith. As the Thessalonians grow in faith, Paul prays that they may also grow in “love for one another and for all.”