DAILY SCRIPTURE REFLECTION (weekdays only)

Pondering the word with Our Lady

December 1 2020

(scroll down for the November 30 reflection)

For today's Scripture readings, go here (If you happen to be in a different time zone than us, just choose the correct readings by going forward a day or back).

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the first reading we hear the beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah foretelling the coming of the Messiah

 

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us:

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike. 
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

It is an interesting contrast: the first reading promises the Messiah; and in the Gospel, the Messiah appears, the one to whom "all things have been handed by the Father". What is surprising, maybe, is the nature of this Saviour. His central characteristic is childlike obedience to his Father. 

And, you know, it all makes perfect sense. In the Garden of Eden, humanity broke its relationship with the Father by its lack of obedience. Now Jesus restores us to a filial relationship with God through his childlike and humble submission to the Father. Mary, our mother, is the perfect disciple who imitates Jesus in his humble adherence to the Father's will. We are called to do the same.

November 30 2020

Today is the feast of St Andrew the Apostle. The first reading (from Romans) has the words: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." This is the classic text used by Luther and other reformers to argue that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, that works avail nothing. However, a fuller reading of sacred Scripture reveals that Jesus is asking for a more integrated life than the reformers tried to suggest. Certainly, we must believe in Jesus from the heart, be personally committed to him from the depths of our being. But the sincerity of my attachment to Jesus is borne out and concretised in specific works. As Jesus himself says:“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7,21)

 

St Andrew the Apostle had the interior attachment to the Lord, but also the actions to prove it. He is known as the Protkletos by the Byzantine Church because he was the first to be called. He wasted no time in introducing his brother Peter to the Lord. Eventually, he would make the ultimate sacrifice when he was crucified on an x-shaped cross.

 

Also in the first reading we hear, "'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!' But not everyone has heeded the good news". In this time of Advent, it is good to reflect on the mission of someone like St Andrew. He laid down his life for the proclamation of the Gospel. Advent is a time to be vigilant, to wake up and rediscover the good news that has been proclaimed to us, probably at the cost of other people's blood. How do we wake up and be vigilant? By laying aside our phones, social media and other shallow entertainments that fill our hearts with emptiness, hearts that can only be satisfied by God!

November 28 2020

Today is the last day of the liturgical year. In the Gospel today, Jesus exhorts us to be vigilant so that we will have the strength to endure the immanent tribulations and stand before the Son of Man. It is the perfect reading for the end of the year! At this time, we recall the fact that the ultimate end of all things is Christ. We must wake up, take stock of our lives, consider what is essential and live this last day of the year with the Lord who made us and redeemed us and is waiting for us.

For the psalm of the day, we have the refrain:"Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!" This expresses our trust and abandonment to Christ, whose coming among us two thousand years ago is our salvation, and whose future coming is our ultimate end. In this psalm, we pray: "Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us, for he is our God". On this last day of the liturgical year, let us not be distracted by social media, cellphones, or any form of shallow entertainment. Let us remain vigilant and use this last day to bow down in worship in our hearts before the Lord who made us.

November 27 2020

Right at the heart of today's Gospel are the words "know that the Kingdom of heaven is near", whilst the psalm says "my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God". We are in the last week of the liturgical year. All of the readings are oriented to our definitive encounter with the Lord. How have I lived this past year? Have I wasted time on empty and superficial things? If so, it is time to take stock and become aware that "the Kingdom of heaven is near". Have I gratified my worldly yearning for things? Have I devoted my energies to projects and schemes that really just revolve around myself? Has my worldliness dimmed the spiritual desires of my heart that "cries out for the living God"?

In whatever ways I might have failed during this past year, these last few days before Sunday are an opportunity to recuperate my losses and make 2020 a worthy and valuable time. The Lord has created you and me in his image and likeness. We have been bestowed with incredible beauty and grace. With Mary, who is full of grace, let us respond to the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts during these coming days. Let us permit the Lord's word to be fulfilled in us so that the Kingdom may become a reality in our daily lives.

 

November 26 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus continues to speak of the great tribulation that will soon be experienced by the people of Jerusalem. The city will be surrounded by armies and many people will be put to the sword. In one important sense, Jesus is preparing his disciples for historical events that, for us today, have already passed. However, in another sense, the words of Jesus are still very much relevant. Most of the apocalyptic writings and sayings of Scripture have a relevance that goes beyond any particular historical event. The fathers of the Church and great spiritual writers have always seen in these sayings a reference to the moment when each one of us must present ourselves before God.

 

The last lines of the Gospel for today tell us: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."  This is always the bottom line for Christians. We have already been redeemed and have nothing to fear! It is right and good that we reflect on the end of our lives so that we already begin to detach ourselves from that which is transitory, that which is superficial, that which does not bring true life.

As always, Mary is our model when it comes to having our minds focussed on that which truly matters. She spent her spare moments "pondering in her heart" the redeeming action of God in her life.

November 25 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that we can expect rejection and persecution on account of our fidelity to his name. However, he says, "By your perseverance, you will secure your lives". St Claude del la Colombière was the spiritual director of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (to whom Jesus revealed his Sacred Heart). St Claude has a beautiful reflection on perseverance. Once we resolve to become saints, he tells us, it is incredible the number of enemies that present themselves to us: the devil with his schemes; the world with its seductions; our nature with its weaknesses. Holiness, however, doesn't demand that we remain faithful for a day, or a year, but to persevere in spiritual growth until the end of our lives. To this end, we need God as our shield, because we are assailed from all sides! God must do everything, and it is better that he does. We must simply recognize our weakness and be faithful in asking the intercession of Mary , to whom God refuses nothing.

November 24 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple, as well as future wars and insurrections. Jesus has two very clear messages about these future apocalyptic times. Firstly, he tells us not to be afraid. Secondly, he instructs us not to listen to nor follow those who make predictions about the end times. How many people are fixated with such matters! I just had someone write a comment on a blog post about how the prophecies of St Malachy prove that Pope Francis is the anti-Christ and the end times are upon us! Jesus is very clear in the Gospels that we are not to indulge in idle speculation of this sort. We are called, instead, to be vigilant, to wait humbly for the Lord, to trust in him, to be without fear, to abandon ourselves to him, especially in moments of tribulation.

Maybe it might seem harder to abandon ourselves to the Lord when difficult times are here, but these are the very times when we are most called to trust. This is what Mary did in all the most challenging moments of her life. Truly, her faith and trust were as great as those of Abraham who continued to believe even when the Lord asked him for the sacrifice of his son, Issac. Mary, too, handed over her son to humanity so that he could be the balm that brings peace and healing to our troubled world.

November 23 2020

Today's Gospel is about the widow who gives her last coin to the Temple treasury. Jesus sees what she does and declares that she has been more generous than anyone else because she has given all that she possesses. St Gertrude the Great had many visions of Jesus. At one time she asked him what she could give him in return for the riches that he was giving her. Jesus told her that he asked nothing of her but that she come to him completely empty and ready to receive, because everything that she possessed already was received from him as a pure gift.

This was the attitude of the poor widow. She gave the Lord everything, and then placed herself in his providential hands, possessing nothing, trusting that he would take care of her, ready to receive his blessing. This Gospel is not about how much we give to the Church, or how much we give to charity. It is about abandoning ourselves with trust into the hands of the Lord, even if we have nothing ourselves. In fact, when we have nothing, when we cease to trust in our own paltry resources, then we begin to place ourselves in his hands. And when we place ourselves into his hands, then our lives begin to bear fruit in a way that would never happen while we seek to depend on ourselves.

Mary is the poor "widow" who gave everything she had and possessed into the hands of the Lord. "Let it be done to me according to your word". She emptied herself before him and in return she was filled with the Holy Spirit and brought into the world the Saviour of humanity.

November 21st 2020

In the Gospel, the Sadducees try to trap Jesus with the story of the woman who marries seven times. "At the resurrection", they asked, "whose wife will she be?" They did not believe in the resurrection of the body, and they considered this situation to be a proof of their position.

Jesus dismisses their scheme effortlessly, pointing out that the situation in the Kingdom of Heaven is completely different to the relationships that prevail down here on earth. The fact is that we will never understand or accept the resurrection if our thinking is too worldly! St Augustine once said, "In no other discourse does the Christian faith encounter such opposition as with its belief in the resurrection of the body". 

God is calling us to a different kind of existence than the egoistical and hedonistic misuse of our bodies that is the norm in our culture. How can we understand the resurrected body if we are fixated with using the body for our own designs and our own pleasures?

To reflect on the resurrected body, and on the need to change our thinking away from a purely materialistic viewpoint, there is no better way than with the words of St Paul in 1 Cor 15:

“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. . .  So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor 15, 35-45).

November 20th 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus drives the sellers out of the area of the Temple and says to them: “It is written,
My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” This act of the purification of the Temple is very significant. Soon afterwards, Jesus would die on the cross, rise again and then send the Holy Spirit upon the new Church. The Temple would no longer be the privileged place of the presence of God. The community of believers, gathered around the Eucharist, would be the new model of how God would dwell in the midst of his people.

But not only that: each baptized person would become a temple of the Holy Spirit. The regenerative waters of baptism wash away original sin and restore us to a relationship of sonship with the Father. It is dizzyingly awesome - God dwells within us!

 

Let us now reconsider the Gospel. Jesus drives the sellers away and purifies his Temple. He wishes to do the same with you and me! We make our bodies into a marketplace. We sell ourselves with our focus on superficial looks, fashions and poses. The human body has been transformed by our culture into an object for gratification and for the promotion of business.

 

In complete contrast to our culture's unhealthy fixation with "healthy" and "beautiful" bodies, Jesus is telling us: Your body is precious regardless of how it looks or how strong it is. It has dignity. It does not belong to you alone. It is the dwelling place of God. It is called to chastity, temperance, modesty and sacrifice.

 

Jesus is the one who really values our bodies. Our culture, with its superficial approach to the body, is very willing to dispose of the unborn child or the elderly person, to sacrifice them on the altar of wellbeing and progress. Lord Jesus, that we may open our eyes to the reality of who we are, created in your image and likeness, endowed with your Spirit. May we respect our bodies, temples of your presence, and the bodies of everyone we encounter. Amen.

November 19th 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus mourns over Jerusalem and her future destruction. St Augustine, the great Doctor of the Church, reflects on this passage as follows: Two very different kinds of love result in the construction of two very different kinds of city. Earthly love, which seeks the glory of human beings and which follows human passions, gives rise to a city that is indifferent towards God. Heavenly love, by contrast, which seeks the glory of God and is characterised by self-control and charity towards others, gives rise to the city of God, a community characterised by the presence of the Spirit, the exercise of virtue and indifference towards self.

 

Jerusalem rejected Jesus and went the way of all flesh - hardly a stone was left standing upon another because she "had not recognized the day in which she was visited" by the Lord. We are confronted with the very same situation. Each one of us has been visited by the Lord, in the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Reconciliation, in the words of Sacred Scripture, in the generous Providence of the Lord which has gently sculpted our lives. Let us build a heavenly city with the grace that has been poured into us, through works of kindness, forgiveness, tolerance and charity. Let us always remember that we have been visited by the Lord and he invites us to respond to him in spirit and in truth.

 

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary as she visited her cousin Elizabeth. Mary, bring the Lord Jesus into our lives; bring us into the life of the Lord Jesus! You are blessed among women and full of grace. May the grace that overflows from your soul be poured into each one of us so that we too will cry out: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

November 18th 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the king who goes on a journey and gives his servants gold coins to invest while he is gone. It is St Luke's version of the parable of the talents that we heard last Sunday from Matthew's Gospel.

 

Are these parables designed to motivate us to perform a frenzy of activity for the Lord? Is Jesus trying to encourage us to "get busy" with the work of the Kingdom? Mother Teresa of Calcutta had an interesting reflection on this parable, a reflection that might surprise you. Mother Teresa was all about charitable work, surely, heroic activity for the poorest of the poor? So she would probably subscribe to an "activist" interpretation of the parable, an interpretation that emphasizes the need to get busy, right? Wrong! Here is what she wrote:

No matter how beautiful your work might seem, be detached from it; be always ready to renounce it. That which you do does not belong to you. The talents that God gave you are not yours; they were given to you so that you would use them for the glory of God. Be generous and do everything in you that might please your Master. What must we learn? To be meek and humble. If we learn to be so, then we will learn to pray. If we learn to pray, then we will belong to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus, we will begin to believe, and, believing, we will learn how to love, and loving, we will learn how to serve.

According to Mother Teresa, everything must happen in the correct order, and activity of service is actually the culmination of a process that begins with humble attachment to Jesus in prayer. In this, Mother Teresa is completely in union with our Blessed Lady. Mary's life was one of humble attachment to God's word - "Blessed is she who believed that the word of the Lord would be fulfilled" - and her life of loving service was grounded in her relationship with the Lord. This grounding enabled her to transform the riches of graces she received from the Lord into super-abundant fruit - and the same can happen for you and me.

November 17th 2020

Today's Gospel tells the story of Zacchaeus. The tax collector was short of stature so he climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. Our Lord spots him, calls him down and invites himself to the house of Zacchaeus, where the tax collector renounces his evil ways and promises to reimburse those that he has cheated. St Ephrem of Syria (306-373 AD), Doctor of the Church, has a beautiful reflection on this reading. When Zacchaeus climbs that tree, he is already leaving behind him the lowliness of his previous life. He is rising to a new height in order to behold the divinity of Jesus.

Today, that we too might ascend from our lowly state, giving time in prayer and contemplation to behold the divinity of Jesus. When we do that, the Lord will enter our hearts and our homes, like he did with Zacchaeus. And when Jesus enters, we too will spontaneously want to be changed, to leave our sinful habits behind and make amends to those we have offended.

The Blessed Virgin was without sin but she considered herself nothing before the majesty of God - "he has looked on his servant in her nothingness, henceforth all ages will call me blessed!" Every day, Our Lady "climbed that tree" to behold the divinity and beauty of her Lord. Let us unite ourselves to her in prayer that we too might experience the joyful interior conversion of Zacchaeus.

November 16th 2020

In today's Gospel, a blind man calls upon Jesus repeatedly to have pity on him. Even when the onlookers rebuke him and tell him to be silent, the man continues to call upon the name of Jesus. Eventually Jesus goes to him and says "Have sight! Your faith has saved you!"

 

Too often we look on miracles of healing of this sort as depending on "faith" in the sense of belief. People wonder why they are not being healed in response to prayer and they think, "Maybe my faith wasn't strong enough. Maybe I didn't really believe that the Lord would heal me. Maybe I doubted too much".

 

But this is an incomplete understanding of what faith is. It is clear from the whole picture of the New Testament that faith involves a relationship of trust and abandonment to the Lord, not simply belief in his power. In today's Gospel, the blind man continues to call out, despite being rebuked, despite adversity. In so doing, he is expressing through his actions his trust in the Lord. Faith is not simply intellectual belief. It involves having recourse to the Lord, especially amid adversity, doubt, opposition.

 

Note that Jesus makes here a distinction that he makes after other healings too. The distinction is between being healed and being saved. First of all he says "Have sight!". This is a reference to the physical act of healing. Then he says "Your faith has saved you!" Being saved is much more important than being healed. Even after being healed, our health will eventually deteriorate again and one day we will all die. Healing is a benefit that will last for a limited time. Being saved, by contrast, has to do with our eternal wellbeing. This blind man, by abandoning himself in trust to the Lord, begins that relationship of faith that will constitute his salvation. 

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary will always be our model of faith, not just in the sense of intellectual assent to the Lord, but a life of abandonment to his will - "I am the servant of the Lord. Be it done onto me according to your word".

November 14th 2020

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the widow who keeps pestering the judge until he gives her a just decision against her adversary. The intention of the parable is to encourage us to pray continually without becoming weary. At the end of the Gospel, Jesus says something which might sound a little curious: "But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What does this statement have to do with prayer? Faith is about belief in Jesus, confessing him as our Saviour, right? Not quite! This passage from the Gospel gives us one more reason (as if any were needed) for asserting that faith in the New Testament is something richer and more personal than the mere confessional belief that it became after the reformation.

 

Faith is about trusting in the Lord, having recourse to him continually, placing ourselves in his providential care, seeking humbly to discern his will and submit to it. The relationship between the widow and the judge is not of this sort, because the judge, as Jesus tells us, is "dishonest"; he does not really care that the widow receives justice. However, in our case, the relationship we are called to with the Lord is one of real faith. Faith and trust that he loves us; conviction that he is working to establish justice and righteousness in our lives, above all by the forgiveness of our sins; abandonment to his will.

So why does Jesus begin with a parable about constancy in prayer and end with a question about finding faith on earth? Because constancy in prayer is the sure foundation of an authentic relationship of faith and trust in the Lord. As always, the Blessed Virgin is our model. She lived this life of radical faith, so wonderfully expressed at the Annunciation. She is the good "widow", constantly in communication with the just judge, our Father in Heaven, who wishes to bring perfect justice in our lives.

November 13th 2020

Jesus' words in this Gospel are very dramatic and disconcerting. He is telling us that the end will come at a moment when we least expect it. I remember a few years ago some Protestant friends of ours attended a service in which the minister gave a homily on this very Gospel passage. It was all about the "rapture" when the Lord would come to take to glory those who were faithful to himself.

 

But what Jesus is telling us in this Gospel is actually the exact opposite! He is asking us NOT to be preoccupied with the details or dates of the last times. The point he is making is that at every cataclysmic moment in history - Noah's flood, the destruction of Sodom, etc. - people were caught completely unawares because they were so preoccupied with earthly things. And so it will be with us. If our lives are devoted to purely earthly things, then we will not be ready to meet the Lord. In fact, the most important words of this Gospel occur just past the midway point: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it."

Just consider the irony! There are people who are very preoccupied by the date of the end of the world, apocalyptic events, omens and disasters. But such preoccupations can often be of a very worldly sort and they do not prepare us spiritually to meet our Saviour. By contrast, if we have the attitude of detachment - not seeking to preserve our life, our wellbeing, our prosperity - then we are perfectly prepared for the "end". It is important to face the fact that the end comes soon for all of us. Our earthly pilgrimage passes swiftly. Let us be prepared for our encounter with our Saviour by detaching ourselves from worldly and empty things, passing fashions, superficial social media trends and movements.

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her attitude of humble obedience - "Do whatever he tells you" - is in sharp contrast to those who frantically seek to preserve and enhance their material wellbeing at all costs. The obedience of this new Eve - which contrasts so sharply with the disobedience of the original Eve - is the pattern of behaviour that all of us must seek to emulate in order to be ready to meet the Lord when he comes.

November 12th 2020

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17,20)

How many times in the course of history, people have thought that they could establish the perfect kingdom here below! Sometimes this error was made by Christians, with an alliance between altar and throne that very often ended in corruption and disaster. Nowadays, the error tends to be of a different sort. Many seem to think that we can establish an earthly paradise by marginalising and privatising our relationship with God. But what sort of kingdom is established when God is marginalised? A kingdom of free choice, even the choice to terminate the lives of the most vulnerable in society? A kingdom of self-realisation, the unlimited capacity to choose my own identity and the meaning of my existence, even to the extent of choosing my sexuality, my values, the meaning of right and wrong?

Without God, there will be no paradise, no utopia, only confusion and error. It is our relationship with God that grounds us in the truth of who we are, the meaning of life, the nature of right and wrong. When Jesus says, "the Kingdom of God is among you", he is not referring to a political entity but to the kingship of God, as Benedict XVI pointed out in Jesus of Nazareth. God's kingdom is already breaking into this world whenever a believer places himself under the Lordship of Christ, whenever he lets go of the reins and allows God to take control, whenever I allow my identity to be based on the fact that God is Creator and I am his creature, whenever I look to him for the understanding of the nature of right and wrong, and the meaning of my life.

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary. When she said, "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done onto me according to your word", she was expressing in a perfect form the mantra of all those who place themselves under the Lordship of God. Today, the Lord is speaking his word to you and me in various ways, in the things that happen to us, in the manner in which people treat us, in the silence and darkness in which we find ourselves at various times of the day. At these moments, let us join with our beautiful Mother and say, "Your will be done in me!"

At the end of the Gospel passage, Jesus says that he must "suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation". He is pointing to the Cross. It is the acceptance of the Cross that confirms the Lordship of God in my life and makes the Kingdom already a reality.

November 11th 2020

Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

In this Gospel passage, ten lepers are healed, but only one leper is saved. What is the difference between being healed and being saved? Our culture puts so much effort into finding health and wellbeing. It seeks healing of the body but all too often it ignores the question of salvation. Which would you prefer to possess, physical wellbeing or spiritual wholeness? Your physical wellbeing will only last for a few years, at most, but spiritual wellness will lead to the fullness of life, eternal life!

How does this one leper make the transition from being healed to being saved? And in what way do the other nine fail to find salvation? After discovering that they have been cleansed of leprosy, they go about their lives without seeking out the Lord to thank him. In other words, their healing leads them to resume a normal material existence, nothing more. The Samaritan, by contrast, seeks out Jesus and thanks him. He is entering into a relationship of trust and love with the God who has blessed him. When Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you", the word "faith" does not refer to some sort of abstract act of belief in Christ. It refers to a relationship of trust. It is this relationship which is the basis of our salvation.

It is interesting to consider the number of people who go to Lourdes seeking the healing of a physical condition but return home having experienced something even more profound. They do not always receive the physical cure that they sought. Instead, they experience a conversion of heart, a deepening of their relationship with God and his Blessed Mother. They are not "healed" but, in a very real sense, they are "saved".

Our world needs to discover this distinction between healing and salvation. We are fixated by the search for a physical solution for Covid-19, but the Lord is inviting us, especially in this tribulation, to enter into a relationship of trust with him. It is ironic, really. Sometimes the lack of physical healing leads us to abandon ourselves even more into his hands. Tribulation, sickness, pandemic can lead to trust, can help us find salvation. In the midst of this pandemic, may we have the faith and trust of the tenth leper so that the Lord will say also to us, "Go. Your faith has saved you".

November 10th 2020

MEMORIAL OF POPE ST LEO THE GREAT

Jesus sounds very severe in today's Gospel passage! He says to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?

Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat . . You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Whoa! We know that Jesus loves us. We know from the wider Gospel picture that he is not a severe taskmaster, so what is going on in this Gospel passage?

 

What Jesus wishes to teach us here is something absolutely fundamental! Did you know that humility is the key to acquiring all the other virtues? When I am humble, I am grounded in the truth, the truth that the Lord is my creator and redeemer, and I am a mere creature, deserving of nothing. Even though I deserve nothing, the Lord is willing to give me everything! But if I am presumptuous, thinking that I merit the Lord's blessings, then I am not grounded in the truth, and this lack of humility, or pride, or arrogance, or whatever it may be, will be an obstacle to the Lord's grace in my life.

When Our Lady was visited by the Angel Gabriel, she bowed her head and said "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done onto me according to your word". Effectively, Mary behaved exactly as Jesus is telling all of us to behave in today's Gospel. He is asking us to consider ourselves as servants, willing to do whatever the master requires of us. When we are humble of heart, we become the perfect ground for the Lord to sow his potent seed of life in us.

Consider the alternative attitude. If we think that the Lord is beholden to us, that we have done something to deserve his blessings, then we will be lacking in this fundamental attitude that is the gateway to the grace of God breaking in to our lives. It is no accident that the first of the Beatitudes is: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!"

When we know our place, when we appreciate that we are mere creatures who deserve nothing, when we bow humbly before the Lord and are open to his word, then the Holy Spirit can operate in us and produce great fruits, as happened with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who considered herself only a "servant in her lowliness".

Is Jesus being severe in today's Gospel? No! As always, he wishes us to embrace the truth of our condition. This is not with the intention of humiliating us; rather it is to instil in us the attitude of humility so that we can be fertile ground for the action of his grace.

 

 

 

November 9th 2020

November 9th is the Feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran, Cathedral of Rome. The story of the building of that basilica is an inspiring one, but we will focus on something very simple in today's reflection. In the second reading from the letter to the Corinthians, St Paul says, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" Church buildings are places where the presence of God dwells, but he dwells also in each one of the baptized. In the Gospel reading from St John, then, Jesus does something remarkable. He takes a whip and drives all of the money-changers and merchants away from the Temple, crying aloud "Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" In the other three Gospels, he says something even stronger:"You have turned my Temple into a den of thieves!"

Let us put two and two together! St Paul says that our bodies are the Temple of God, and Jesus decries those who turn his Temple into a marketplace. How we have turned our bodies into marketplaces! Even a cursory look at television, magazines and the internet will demonstrate that the human body has become one of the principal vehicles of commerce. There is a general obsession with the way people look, their clothes, hairstyle and accessories. Models are dressed and presented in various poses, all in the service of marketing and material gain. When people post photos on social media, these are selected and designed to present a certain image, and we can be sure that the motives are superficial.

How far this superficial fixation with the appearance of our bodies is from the truth that Christ reveals to us! We are created in his image and likeness and the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Today, as we read the Gospel, let us permit Jesus to drive the "moneychangers" and "merchants" from within us. Jesus purified the Temple in Jerusalem and he wishes to purify each one of us as well, so that we will be worthy tabernacles of his holy presence.

Lord Jesus, cleanse my soul! Help me to realize my great dignity as a temple of your Spirit. Amen.