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Missions 109

Wednesday Reflection

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

(Dt. 4:1,5-9; Mt. 5:17-19)

Helen Swift told this story in 2009 in Homily Helps, p. 27: Jean Donovan was a happy fun-loving child. She grew up in an ideal, well-to-do Catholic family. She was a good student and loved horseback riding. She spent a year in Ireland as an exchange student, received a masters degree in economics and moved into an executive position in an accounting firm at the age of 24. In spite of her successful career, she became a missionary to El Salvador in 1979. By 1980, a regular part of the mission team’s work involved recovering and burying the bodies of victims of the death squads. In October, Jean wrote in her diary, “often there is a lot of frustration and pain involved as one cannot do enough, or anything, at times. One leads, and in spite of fear and uncertainty at times I feel at peace and hopeful. “That December, Jean was one of four American missionary women who were ambushed, raped and murdered because of their Christ-like work. This story helps us understand what fulfillment is all about. There were four fulfilling moments in the life of Jean Donovan: first, she had a wonderful family who raised her up well in the Catholic faith. She belonged to a well-to-do family. Second, she graduated and obtained a Masters degree in economics. A successful career was fulfilling and remarkable. Third, she was a missionary to El Salvador in 1979. In the midst of fear and frustrations, she felt peace and hopeful because everything she did was for Christ and the Church. She was involved in the recovering and burying the dead who were victims of death squads. Finally, she met her own ordeal. She was ambushed, killed and raped. This final fulfillment earned her martyrdom for Christ. A fulfilling life with Christ awaits her. Likewise, today’s readings speak about fulfillment. Christ now fulfills all that was said about Him in the Old Testament.

1. Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets- Jesus reveals a little bit deeper of His identity among the apostles and the rest of His listeners. He identifies Himself as the One referred to by the Prophets. At the beginning of His ministry, He comes to assure His listeners that he is the expected Messiah and He presents Himself to be the object of faith among the Jews who believe in the Law and the Prophets. He comes to rectify the goal and purpose of the Law and the Prophets. The law represents Moses and Jesus is the New Moses who is now a new law-giver. The Prophets represent the Word and Jesus is the Prophet who now speaks the new Word. He is the embodiment of the Word that was spoken of by the Prophets. Therefore, the Law and the Prophets refer to the Scriptures of Israel. For Jews, the Law was primary while the Prophets were secondary in importance. For us Christians, the ancient Scriptures came to be understood primarily as prophetic, as divinely given predictions of Christ and the Church. These indicate that: a) God is true and fulfills His Word; b) His Word is effective and purposeful, c) His Word has a goal and definite direction, d) His Word is divinely inspired beyond any human word.

2. Jesus shows fidelity to the Law and the Prophets- It is imperative of Jesus to consistently fulfill the Word of the Prophets and the Law of Moses. To gain credibility of His teachings and authority behind it, He should be consistent. It would be absurd if one believes in Jesus without due reference from the Old Testament underpinnings. It would also be impossible to believe in Jesus without believing the words that were descriptive of Him in old dispensation because Jesus’ words were absolute truth and scriptures all point to Him as the absolute truth. One is impressed with the fidelity of Jesus when He said “Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Fulfillment comes after fidelity. There will only be fulfillment when fidelity to Jesus is achieved. Besides, Jesus demonstrates He will not abrogate even the smallest part of the law. To His hearers it would have represented the yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet which to us today would appear like an apostrophe. Thus, Jesus illustrates that fulfillment in the Kingdom of God can only be achieved when there is fidelity.

3. Jesus judges from the Prophets and the Law- If Jesus presented Himself as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the one who is faithful to the Law, then He warns everybody that whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. The idea here is that there will be negative consequences to the one who annuls God’s law, making it void, by loosing ourselves from its requirements and standards. The one who loves the Lord fulfills even the last details and requirements of the Law. For Jesus it is not permissible to break the law by ignoring, modifying or disobeying the law for it leads towards the Kingdom of Heaven. Some laws are greater than others, but none are to be disregarded. A disregard to the Law and the Words of the Prophets was tantamount to disregarding the Person (Jesus) who is the emobodiment of the Law and the Prophets.

Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Lk 24:13-35)

The joy of Easter continues to linger on as we trace carefully what have been told to us by the Sacred Scriptures regarding the first Easter. Jesus’ appearance to His disciples in different occasions provided the solid proof that He is alive; He is truly risen. The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John bring us back to the earliest experience of Easter among the disciples of the Lord. Stories were told and narrated that contained the mysteries of the Christ risen from the dead. Within these stories, unforgettable elements of the mystery of the resurrection are evidently noticeable and continue to reverberate because the glorious resurrection of the Lord was something inexpressible and the joy could not just be contained but shared.

3 Remarkable Elements of the Readings Today

1. Name of Jesus

As we follow closely what is handed down to us by Sacred Scriptures regarding the experience of the Resurrection, we come also closer to the mysteries behind this great event. St. Luke in the first reading today makes the connection between the 3 o’clock hour and the healing of the man crippled by birth. As they came to the Temple area, this crippled man beg for money at the “gate of the beautiful” to all those who were heading toward the Temple. But when it came now to Peter as he passes by, Peter said “Look at us.” Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk. Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up.” Integral elements are significant here in relation to the name of Jesus that became the source of power and authority in Peter: 1) the 3 o’clock hour- symbolic of the death of Jesus on the Cross that brought power to destroy death itself. 2) Temple area- symbolic of a new worship and a new grace. There will be a new Temple where people will be worshipping and it will be now the Temple of the Lord’s Body and Blood. 3) Rise- symbolic of the resurrection of the dead. In Jesus’ name all will rise from the dead. As Peter commanded the crippled to rise, the Church that Peter symbolized will also be the resurrected body of Christ. 4) walk- symbolic of mission. Peter took him by the hand and raised him up. When the crippled man was healed, he indeed walked and entered the Temple and people saw him praising God. All were filled with amazement and astonishment. When the Word of God and the healing grace are accompanied by our mission, then the people will be filled with grace. Faith is not just personal, it has to be shared.

2. Journey

The Gospel is an interesting story about the grace of the resurrection. Luke emphasized at the outset of the reading today “that very day, the first day of the week” is symbolic of the Easter day. Two of Jesus’ disciples were from Jerusalem who witnessed all that had happened to Jesus and now are making their way to Emmaus which is 7 miles away. Noticeable elements are worth mentioning as they make their “journey”- Jesus journeyed with them. The resurrection means Jesus continues to journey with us. 1) they were discussing and debating- symbolic of confusion and disappointment about Jesus whom they thought would redeem Israel from the hands of the Romans but was crucified and became even helpless. It was like saying their hope was lost. 2) Jesus walked with them unrecognized- symbolic of God’s desire to be in communion with us. Even at the very beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus was not known to many. Now after He resurrected from the dead, these two disciples did not recognize Him right away. It was only after the “breaking of the bread” that He will be recognized. Faith is a gradual process. It is a transition from blindness to sight. It leads us to a shift from sin to grace. 3) “the third day”- the emphasis of exact time or day is significant. Jesus carefully and constantly mentioned about the “third day” He would rise from the dead. Cleopas mentioned “the third day” but was unaware of it, it will be Jesus now who will draw the connection. Jesus will now reveal the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament and He fulfills now the prophecies He also made earlier with His disciples. This divine disclosure is done now during the “breaking of the Bread.” Jesus brings now the connection between the Eucharist and His resurrection.

3. The Bread

The two disciples who were in their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus needed to understand one of the most important elements in their journey-food. Jesus has to present again what He celebrated during the Last Supper with His apostles. He has to break the bread before their eyes in order for them to remember the miraculous feeding of the five thousand by Jesus, the Last Supper, and the manna Moses had to feed the Israelites in the desert. Jesus comes to present Himself constantly as the Bread of Life for the journey. In the Emmaus story we see these things when the bread was broken: 1) it was already dark- the bread that Jesus broke at the particular time of the day symbolizes the darkness of death and man needs the light and life manifested through the Bread of Life. 2) their eyes were opened and they recognized Him- symbolic of the tangible presence of Jesus through the Bread. God uses creation to make Himself recognized and known. 3) when the disciples recognized Jesus through the Bread, Jesus vanished from their sight- this is symbolic of the truth and consistent meaning of Jesus’ words “this is my body.” Jesus and the Bread are just one in the Holy Eucharist. When one sees the Bread, He sees Christ.