Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15)
A story was told: A Norwegian anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, won world recognition by floating a small raft, the Kon-Tiki, across 4,300 miles of oceans. Earlier, as a young man, he nearly drowned when a canoe capsized near a waterfall. As the raging river pulled him down relentlessly toward the falls, the words of the Lord’s Prayer unexpectedly flased into his mind. With them came a burst of energy and the feeling of a presence greater than himself. Thor battled the river with new strength. Eventually, totally exhausted, he made it to safety. That experience was a turning point in Thor Heyerdahl’s life. (taken from Mark Link, Daily Homilies, p. 19) The readings today focus on the value and power of God’s Word. The Lord’s Prayer are words that Jesus taught His disciples as they pray and address the Father. Besides, the Prophet Isaiah emphasized that the Word of God will not remain unimportant and ineffective to those who have faith. God’s Word is creative and true. Let us look into the readings today and how the Word is emphasized for us to meaningfully celebrate the season of Lent.
1. Words to address the Father- Jesus taught the disciples how to pray and the formula to address the Father are very important for the disciples to learn because at the heart of the prayer is the new understanding of God as Father. The “Our Father” shifts our perpectives toward understanding God as Personal and loving God. To call God as “Father” is something new to the Disciples because they always had the image of God as far in the heavens; a myterious God, a moral God, or a punishing God. With Jesus, God has a new name: “Father.” It is an image of personal and intimate form of human contacts. The fatherhood of God implies care, love, protection, truth and mercy. A father is expected to provide the needs of the children and how much for God, thus Jesus had to teach his disciples the right words to address the Father. When Jesus taught His disciples the words to call the Father, these words should be effective. God’s word is effetive and we recall Him saying “Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) Thus, the prophet Isaiah also said in the first reading today: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will.” The Lord’s prayer is also called the disciples’ prayer.
2. Ascending Petition. The “Our Father” has three petitions in the ascending way. The first three petitions are in behalf of God’s name, His Kingdom, and His Will. Primarily, the purpose of prayer is to glorify God first. The benefits of prayer come not what we receive from prayer but what is said to magnify God and glorify Him. Thus, prayer is first of all should be for the sake of God and to call God by a concrete name, “Father” was a new revelation for the disciples because in the Old Testament, the people called God by different names and in fact, God should almost have no name because He has to remain incomprehensible. To have a name would make God limited and imperfect. However, Jesus revealed that the Father is linked to a Kingdom and we ought to do His Will. The ascending petition reveals the vocation of man to “call on God.”
3. Descending Petition. The second part of the “Our Father” reveals the three descending petitions for daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from temptation. It is imploring divine help for man’s life on earth. The three petitions are illustrative of dependence. They show that man cannot live without the love and assistance of God. As a Father, He provides for our needs which the world cannot provide. To call on the Father for daily bread shows the Father as a provider for material needs of man. To call on God for forgiveness shows the Father as merciful and compassionate. To call on the Father for protection from the evil one shows the Father as the only powerful One over evil spirits and their works.
Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time Year 1
(Jgs 6:11-24a; Mt 19:23-30)
Mark Link, SJ opens his reflection for today’s reading with this reflection: George Burns starred in a film called Oh, God! He played the part of God and wore thick glasses and a funny little hat. John Denver played a supermarket employee. One day God appeared to the employee with a message for the people of the world. Getting people to take the message seriously turned out to be difficult. Soon the supermarket employee found himself on the verge of losing his job. He turned to God and said, “preaching your word is costing me my job!” God replied, “that’s not a bad trade, is it? Lose your job and save the world.” (taken from Illustrated Daily Homilies, by Mark Link, p.83) Both readings today speak of the difference between the effects of life with God and life with the world. Man may be attached to God and be detached from the world or be detached from the world and be attached to God. “No one can serve to two masters” which means to be attached to both at the same time. In the first reading, we were told about Gideon who was called by God to rescue the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites. He considered himself as “nobody” to be God’s instrument but “somebody” before God. Likewise, we were told that Jesus who said to His disciples the rich with the world will find it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God while the one who is rich with God in one’s life would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us reflect into details here.
1. Human and divine- The human person is shaped according to his human and spiritual life. He does not live purely human or only focus on the spiritual while he lives in this world. The balance between the human and the spiritual has to be maintained. If the human side is only emphasized well then, life would just be materialistic. If the spiritual side is only emphasized then life would not be a good experience and every human action would scrupulously be evaluated as occasion for sin and not an occasion for God. Jesus becomes a true example of what is to be human and divine. It is Jesus who “tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human… He is also the life which all of us are seeking. He also shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life.” (Spe Salvi 6) In the Gospel today, Jesus brings about the difference between what is only to be human and what is to be with the divine. “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” For the rich who just remain to live a life that is purely human without transcending from his humanity will find it difficult to pass through the eye of a needle.
2. Impossibility and Difficulty- the Gospel helps us reflect on the value of God’s word in our day to day living. Through Jesus’ words we become acquainted with the Kingdom and the path towards it. Jesus today reminds us of the danger of riches. Biblical scholars say that the departure of the youth is the occasion of sad warning of Jesus to His disciples. It is with difficulty that the rich shall enter the kingdom of heaven. The saying surprises after our Lord’s distinction of moral precept, and counsel of poverty. He speaks, however, not of impossibility but of difficulty. Nor does he condemn the rich young man but illustrates from his case how riches may grip and even suffocate the heart. (taken from A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture by Dom Bernard Orchard, ed. Et al., p. 886)
3. Signs and symbols- Man lives in the mystery of God. He needs signs to be assured of God’s mysterious presence and he searches for symbols to remember and create in order to remember, respond, and reach God. In the first reading, we were told that Gideon wanted signs from the Lord to be assured in his mission of saving the Israelites from the hands and power of the Midianites. Two important signs were made by God to assure Gideon of His presence: first, the presence of an angel who appeared and greeted him “The Lord is with you, O champion!” second, the image of fire. Fire was always linked with God’s presence and His desire to speak to man. As a sign of Gideon’s faith and trust in God, he built an altar which he called Yahweh-shalom as a symbol of his gratitude and faith in God. Symbols are concrete manifestations or responses of faith to the benevolence of God. They become tangible elements to remember important people, events and dates.