DAILY SCRIPTURE REFLECTION (weekdays only)
Pondering the word with Our Lady
February 25 2021
(For the February 24 reflection, please scroll down the page)
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.
As we listen to the words of the Gospel today, we are reminded of a central element of Christ's mission. In Eden, humanity distrusted God; they ceased to believe that he was a loving Father, choosing instead to listen to the lying words of the serpent who told them to rely on themselves, not on God.
Jesus wants to restore trust in his Father: “Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him."
It is not only in his preaching, however, that Jesus shows us the fatherhood of God. He goes on to lay down his life for us on the cross. By his obedience to the Father, he restores us to the filial relationship that we lost through our disobedience in Eden. When Christ is pierced on the cross, blood and water flow out. These symbolize the incredible immensity of graces that flow to us through the sacraments. Where does this grace come from? From the heart of Christ, for he loves us in a complete sense. Yes, how much more will our heavenly Father give good things to us if we only place ourselves with the correct attitude to receive them!
Jesus says: "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,so will the Son of Man be to this generation."
What is surprising about this passage is that the previous pages of the Gospel are chock-full of miraculous healings and exorcisms by Jesus! Why does he say that he will give no sign to this generation? The sign of Jonah, of course, is a reference to the resurrection. Just as Jonah was "dead" for three days in the belly of the whale and then came back, so Jesus would rise on the third day. The resurrection is the greatest "sign" in history because it is much more than a particular event. A miracle of healing is a great sign, but the resurrection of the body is the healing of all humanity's ills: death, sickness, suffering, sin.
In every generation, we look for signs, and more signs! We look for easy ways to believe, concrete proofs, aids to our flagging self-discipline. Why? Because we lack faith. But faith in the resurrection is the basic thing that sets Christians apart. Jesus might seem to be a bit unhelpful and stubborn when he says, "No sign will be given this generation", but the fact is that he has given us the greatest sign in history. However, he can't live the life of discipleship for us. He asks us to live this life because he wants us to have the privilege of following him in faith. If he made it too easy for us with other signs, then we wouldn't need faith. Without faith we do not mature and grow into the people he wants us to be. So we are called to the life of faith, the life of adult maturity. Jesus has performed the greatest sign in history. He has risen from the dead and calls us to follow him in faith and live the life of the resurrection, which is the life of death to sin.
February 23 2021
Jesus teaches the disciples the "Our Father" in today's Gospel. His entire life, in fact, is a lesson on the fatherhood of God. When humanity believed the serpent and disobeyed God in Eden, it lost its filial relationship with the Father. It stopped trusting that God is a loving creator who only wishes for our good. Jesus comes to show us that the heart of the Father.
As is often noted, the first half of the prayer is concerned with spiritual matters on a cosmic scale: that God's name be held holy; that his Kingdom come and his will be done. The second half is concerned with our more immediate temporal and spiritual needs, like our daily sustenance, our moral relationships with God and others, and that we be delivered from evil. But running through the entire prayer is this radical attachment to God as my Father! He alone is worthy of my praise; his will alone is worthy of being followed; he alone can satisfy our spiritual and bodily needs; he alone can restore us to right relationship with himself and others; and he is my protection, my refuge and shield.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan lied to us by claiming that God does not really want our fulfilment, our happiness, our completion. Jesus came to show that God alone is our Father and to restore us to communion with him by his blood on the cross.
February 22 - The Chair of St Peter
For the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, it is appropriate that the first reading should be from the letter of St Peter, exhorting pastors to be humble servants of their flocks. The Gospel is the celebrated account of the "giving of the keys" by Christ to Peter. When Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Peter makes his profession of faith: "You are the Christ the Son of the living God".
In response, Jesus makes a remarkable promise to Peter. This is recorded only in St Matthew's Gospel. According to St Jerome, father of the Church and first great biblical scholar, St Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic - the language of Jesus himself - but this has been lost and what we have now is a later Greek version. However, there are elements of Matthew's Gospel that hint at the original Aramaic. One of the examples given by some scholars is this very response of Christ to Peter:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Scholars believe that the rhythmic nature and structure of this statement point to a sort of earlier Aramaic hymn that lies beneath the Greek text. This promise to Peter would have been so important for the early Church that they set it down in stanzas to make it easier to memorize and pass on. As such, this passage can be considered so ancient that we have no reason to doubt that it originated in Christ himself.
February 19 2021
The first reading is amazing! Did you know that at the time this was written, in the eighth century before Christ, no other ancient religion had a moral code comparable to the one that is contained in this passage? Sure, other religions had sacrifices and rituals and fasts, all directed to appeasing their gods, but those gods didn't really care how the people behaved in their personal lives.
The God of Israel, however, is a different being altogether. He revealed himself to the prophets and demanded that the people live lives of perfect integrity, justice and care for the marginalised. It is the perfect reading for Lent because it demands that our fasting not just be a ritual to appease our consciences but be accompanied by a life of true discipleship of the Lord.
In the Gospel, Jesus confirms the legitimacy of fasting, but qualifies that it must be done at the proper time. It is not done when "the Bridegroom is with us", i.e. at times that are appropriate for celebration, or times when we are still being taught by the Bridegroom and are not yet ready for fasting. However, when the Bridegroom is absent, then there are appropriate times (and Lent is one of them!) to renounce worldly things, so that we can make room for the Lord in our hearts and get closer to him in faith, even if we cannot see or touch him.