Sunday, 31 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Why did Peter rebuke Jesus in today's gospel? IMHO this is how people dealt with loved ones who talked of early deaths. To talk of death is in some cultures akin to inviting death, and death is something to be shunned. But our human ways are not God's ways. Preventing the deaths of loved ones is a very human way, but sometimes God's way include letting loved ones die. It is the difficulty of this truth that has led many to be angry with and reject God. It is as if God is less important than their loved ones. But God wants us to set our minds on His interests, not ours.

Today's reading from Jeremiah talks about persecution- a social and emotional persecution so intense that it causes one to want to leave God. Many of us suffer similar persecutions in our lives as Christians. It's easy to feel righteous when we are persecuted in this way by non-believers, to say, "This is my vocation; this is what the Lord wants of me." But what if the persecution comes from fellow Christians? What if the actions of fellow Christian ministry leaders and helpers leave us feeling numb, rejected and lonely? And I' m not talking about fake Christians here, but good Christians who serve the Church regularly and well. Is such a 'persecution' from God or because one is not a good Christian? However let's take heart in the reading from Jeremiah. Jeremiah wanted to stop serving the Lord, but His message became like a fire locked up inside Jeremiah. Thus Jeremiah had to continue on serving the Lord. Thus it is with us. If the Lord wants us to serve nothing can stand in His way, no matter how numb, rejected and lonely we feel. And who knows, as we continue to serve we may end up feeling less of these feelings and become happier.

Memorial of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

St Aidan of Lindisfarne (the Apostle of Northumbria) is one of the saints celebrated today by Catholics everywhere. Here is something on this saint taken from Wikipedia:

- an Irishman - possibly born in Connacht
- a monk at the monastery on the Island of Iona in Scotland- sent as missionary to the kingdom of Northumbria
- founder and first bishop of the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne (close to the royal fortress of Bamburgh) in England
- by patiently talking to the people on their own level Aidan and his monks slowly restored Christianity to the Northumbrian communities.
- also took in English boys to train at the monastery in order to ensure that the area's future religious leadership would be English
- died on August 31 651 in the 17th year of his episcopate - died leaning against the buttress of a church on a royal estate near Bamburgh

Today's Bible Reading (31 Aug, Sun - 22nd Week)

Jeremiah 20: 7-9
Lord, you coerced me into being a prophet,
and I allowed you to do it.
You overcame my resistance and prevailed over me.
Now I have become a constant laughingstock.
Everyone ridicules me.
For whenever I prophesy, I must cry out,
“Violence and destruction are coming!”
This message from the Lord has made me
an object of continual insults and derision.
Sometimes I think, “I will make no mention of his message.
I will not speak as his messenger any more.”
But then his message becomes like a fire
locked up inside of me, burning in my heart and soul.
I grow weary of trying to hold it in;
I cannot contain it.

Romans 12: 1-2
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Matthew 16: 21-27
From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Why Doesn't the Pope Do Something about "Bad" Bishops?

I recently read an article with the above title and I wanted to share it here. It's taken from the online magazine This Rock (Volume 17, Number 2: February 2006) by Fr. Robert Johansen.

A question I have heard frequently among conservative Catholics is "Why doesn’t the pope do something about those bad bishops?" The question usually is prompted by frustration with a perceived lack of orthodoxy or zeal on the part of some bishop. Catholics in some places face situations in which it seems the bishop turns a blind eye to heterodoxy and dissent—or even appears to give them his blessing. Faced with such dysfunctional diocesan environments, they naturally look to Rome for relief and redress, but often are disappointed to find that help is slow in coming, if it ever comes at all.
By "do something" people usually mean that they want the pope to discipline the bishop, to apply pressure on him to adhere more closely to Church teaching, or even to remove him. But most of us—while from time to time sharing such wishes or even voicing them—don’t know exactly what can be done about a bad bishop. So I’ll address a couple of common misconceptions about the bishop’s role and his relationship to the universal church, and I’ll explain how the Church sees these things, both in its teaching and tradition.

Misconception #1:
The Pope as CEO
Most of us have a boss. Many of us work in large companies where our boss also has a boss, and so on, up the ladder to the president or CEO. If you mess up at work, you’ll be called to account for it, and if you make too many mistakes, you risk being fired. Your boss is in the same position with regard to his superior, etc. So it’s rather natural for us as Americans to assume the hierarchy of the Church functions in a similar way.
But having a hierarchy of organization is where the similarity between the Church and the corporation begins and ends. One reason the Church is different from a corporation is the sacrament of holy orders. When a man is ordained, he is changed in his very being; he is "configured" to Christ as head and shepherd. This new identity is permanent and cannot be removed. Even if a priest is removed from the priesthood ("defrocked"), he remains a priest, sacramentally speaking, so a priest or bishop can’t be fired in the sense that a corporate employee can.
A department head or vice-president of a corporation has authority by delegation: his authority is given from the next higher level of the organization and ultimately comes from the president, CEO, or board of directors. The department head has authority only insofar as it is "borrowed" from above; it does not belong to him. But this is not the case regarding the Church. The bishop enjoys the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders (cf. Lumen Gentium 26) and as such is head of the local Church, the diocese. A bishop’s authority within his diocese does not operate by delegation: The bishop is not merely exercising a power "borrowed" from the pope. Canon 381 of the Code of Canon Law states:

"In the diocese entrusted to his care, the diocesan bishop has all the ordinary, proper, and immediate power required for the exercise of his pastoral office."

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church explains:

The pastoral charge . . . is entrusted to [the bishops] fully; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman pontiff, for they exercise the power that they possess in their own right and are called in the truest sense of the term prelates of the people whom they govern (LG 27).

A bishop, then, should not be thought of as a middle-level executive, carrying out the instructions of his Vatican superiors. Each bishop governs his diocese in and by virtue of his own authority. The policies and directives of each diocese are not set in Rome, to be executed by local officials. Bishops are not employees of the pope, and they do not have to get approval from higher authority for the vast majority of their decisions. While each bishop is accountable to the Holy Father and the whole college of bishops, the terms of that accountability are actually quite narrow.

Misconception #2:
The Bishop as Manager
A corollary of seeing the pope as a CEO who delegates his authority to his department heads, the bishops, is to see each diocesan bishop as a manager—someone responsible for meeting goals and deadlines, keeping the organization "on message," and delivering the product. In the corporate world, a manager who fails to do these things will be fired and replaced. By analogy, Americans are tempted to think that a bishop who fails in his responsibilities needs to be fired as well.
But the Church sees the bishop as the father of his diocese. In the Second Vatican Council’s document on bishops, Christus Dominus, the Church, "the Lord’s flock," is compared to a "family of which the bishop is the father" (CD 28). Elsewhere, the bishop’s office is defined as "father and pastor" (CD 16). This identification of the bishop as father goes back to the earliest Church Fathers, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 115), who, in his Letter to the Trallians, described the bishop as "the image of God the Father." This identification of the bishop’s office as fatherly in turn derives from the witness of the apostles themselves. The apostles referred to themselves as "fathers" of the faithful and to their flocks as their spiritual children. For example, Paul writes to the Church in Corinth, "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15). The spiritual fatherhood of the bishop has profound theological and ecclesiological implications. Once again, the early Fathers bear witness to the centrality of the episcopate. Ignatius of Antioch writes:

As therefore the Lord, although united to him, did nothing without the Father, neither by himself nor yet by his apostles, so neither should you do anything without your bishop and presbyters (Letter to the Magnesians, 7).

Ignatius even links our unity in the Eucharist to our unity with the bishop:

Wherefore let it be your endeavor to all partake of the same holy Eucharist. For there is but one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, one cup in the unity of his blood, and one altar. As also there is one bishop, together with his presbytery and the deacons my fellow-servants, so that whatever you do, you may do it according to the will of God (Letter to the Philadelphians, 4).

It is quite clear from Ignatius that the bishop is the center of unity for the local Church. Without the bishop exercising his fatherly office as successor of the apostles, nothing happens in the Church. The strongest expression of this principle might be found in Ignatius’s Letter to the Smyrneans:

Wherever the bishop will appear, there let the congregation also be; as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans, 8).

This centrality of the bishop is reiterated constantly throughout our Tradition—through the Fathers, the Council of Trent, Vatican II, and up to the present.

Can You Make a Case for Amputation?
There is a temptation to view the expressions of the truths of our faith as metaphors or figures of speech. But this is a capital mistake. For example, when we hear the statement that "the Church is the body of Christ," we may be tempted to ultra-spiritualize it and turn it into a nice saying rather than recognize it as a profound revelation of our status as members who have been incorporated (literally em-bodied) into Christ and living in him.
Likewise, when we say that the Church is a family, we mean it quite literally. The Church is not a reflection of the reality that is "family"—quite the opposite. The family is a reflection of the reality that is the Church. We must always bear in mind that spiritual realities are more real, not less real, than physical or natural realities. In Christ we are more truly connected, more truly in communion with people than we are with our own family members.
So if in Christ the Church is truly a family, then the bishop is truly a father to his flock. Now think about fatherhood for a moment: Is a father’s identity dependent on how well he fulfills it? Not really. A father is a father, almost regardless of how well he fulfills his responsibilities. We might say that John is a better father than Sam, but we don’t say that Sam is therefore not a father. There are some very good fathers; there are the majority of fathers who muddle along doing the best they can; and, unfortunately, there are a few bad fathers out there. Now, in the natural sphere, a father has to be very bad indeed before he is relieved of his office. Mere incompetence is insufficient. While we may look at him as a sad case, most reasonable people wouldn’t say that the father who lets the house get run down or who doesn’t effectively discipline his children should be removed from his family. No, in order to justify separating a father from his family, we require substantial evidence of actual abuse or neglect. The father of a family is so integral to its identity that before removing him we have to be sure he is actually causing harm to the family. That determination is made in a court of law, with evidence and witnesses, and the father has an opportunity to defend himself. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, removing the father from his family is not so much like firing a bad manager as it is like amputating a limb from one’s body: It’s justifiable only under the direst circumstances. So it is in the family of the Church.
The citations above from Ignatius of Antioch show that the father of the Church family, the bishop, is integral to its identity and functioning. And so the Church contemplates removing a bishop only when circumstances are grave—mere incompetence is insufficient. The bishop must be shown to be actually harming the faithful in his diocese—and the Church demands a very high threshold of evidence to make such a judgment. Canon law stipulates that only the pope can appoint or depose (remove) a bishop (CIC 377, 401–402). Given the nature of the sacrament of holy orders and the spiritual identity of the bishop as father to the people of his diocese, one might expect that papal intervention in the affairs of local dioceses would be rare. A perusal of Church history bears this out. While some Catholics may desire to see the pope "clean house" and remove a number of inadequate bishops en masse, you’d be hard pressed to find historical precedent for that kind of sweeping measure. Popes throughout history have removed bishops here and there, one or two at time. But those who imagine a pope setting episcopal heads to roll simply are misunderstanding how the papacy and the Church work.

Obligation to Charity; Necessity of Evidence
When it comes to dealing with an erring bishop, a pope is far more likely to employ methods such as persuasion, fraternal correction, and gentle chiding than he is to wield the club of discipline—much less the atomic bomb of removal. There are at least three reasons for this.
The first is charity: If a bishop is saying or doing bad or dumb things, we are all—especially the pope—obliged to assume in charity that he is well-intentioned and is acting either out of ignorance or confusion, barring evidence to the contrary (supposition, conjecture, and probability do not count as evidence). The experience of the church bears out the wisdom of this approach, as does my own experience as a pastor: In my experience, most Catholics who embrace positions at odds with Church teaching are well-intentioned—they want to follow Christ. But they are either uninformed, misinformed, or malformed (in their conscience or intellect). All three of those conditions can be remedied with great patience and love. John Paul dedicated a good amount of his energy to correcting the errors to which many Catholics, including bishops and priests, had succumbed. His approach was to teach, explain, and correct. This approach does not yield a quick fix, but there is evidence that his work has already begun to bear fruit: in the throngs of young Catholics who fervently embrace the Church’s teaching, in the rise of dynamic orthodoxy, in the founding and growth of authentically Catholic colleges, and in the signs of a resurgence of vocations in dioceses and religious communities that make no compromises on Catholic teachings.
The second reason that a pope will be reluctant to attempt to discipline a bishop is that of evidence. As I pointed out above, the Church always has viewed removing a bishop as drastic surgery, fraught with danger in and of itself. So there needs to be very strong evidence that the damage done by removing a bishop will be less than the damage caused by his remaining. The problem is that this sort of evidence is not easy to come by. If we think about the kinds of things Catholics frequently complain about regarding episcopal inadequacy, they’re usually "sins of omission"—rarely does the bishop openly advocate dissent or preach rank heresy. Usually the complaint is that the bishop isn’t reining in the heterodox elements in the diocese: He allows that dissenting theologian to speak in his diocese; he isn’t doing anything about Fr. Warmandfuzzy’s liturgical abuses. The problem with this kind of episcopal inaction is that it usually falls under the heading of prudential judgment. A bishop could quite sincerely judge it imprudent to intervene in a situation. He may be wrong, objectively speaking, but he may have plausible reasons for his decisions. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t meet the threshold of evidence necessary to remove him. Now, it’s also possible that a bishop inwardly is applauding and encouraging the dissenters or Fr. Warmandfuzzy, but short of an open admission from him or the ability to climb inside his head and heart, how are you (or the pope) supposed to determine that?
The third reason popes are reluctant to depose bishops is the danger of schism. Whenever a bishop is removed, there is at least the possibility that he may elect to leave the Church altogether and set up on his own church, taking many of the faithful with him. Going back to our Lord’s prayer that "they all be one" (John 17:20–21), the Church regards schism as great evil and precipitating or fomenting schism as a grievous sin. Ignatius, in his Letter to the Smyrneans, wrote "Shun divisions as the beginning of evils." As long as people are kept within the Church, even tenuously, there is the possibility of correction and conversion. But if they depart, they may be lost for good. And the larger the dissenting element, the more prevalent the heterodoxy, the more grave the danger. Msgr. George Kelly, in his book The Crisis of Authority, argued that, because dissent had become so widespread, the danger of schism was very real in the United States in the 1970s and ‘80s. Any papal "crackdown" against dissent, he argued, likely would have led to the separation of a large body of the faithful from communion with Rome.
And so John Paul II seems to have adopted a "gradualist" approach: He largely avoided direct confrontation, save in the realm of ideas. He taught, corrected, and exhorted his brother bishops, and all of the faithful, to holiness and to the embrace of the fullness of the faith. The gradualist approach may turn out to have been a mistake, but I don’t think so. The majority of episcopal appointments under John Paul II have been very good, even outstanding. Bishops of unquestioned orthodoxy, such as Raymond Burke of St. Louis and Charles Chaput of Denver, are now to be found in many of the major U.S. sees. And in a host of smaller sees one can find many excellent young bishops who are zealous and courageous exponents of the faith. These bishops, along with the many renewal movements, are beginning to reorient the Church toward a more authentic expression of the Catholic faith. Dissent and heterodoxy are being recognized as the dead ends that they are; their proponents are aging, and they are not attracting new adherents. In time, they will likely wither. While the struggle is by no means over, I think we can say that the tide is beginning to turn: As the dissenters fade away and diminish in influence, they are being replaced by younger, wholeheartedly Catholic bishops, priests, and laypeople who will set the direction for the next generation. In this respect, a wise saying commends itself: Many times, the solution to the Church’s problems is found in the funeral rite.

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Today's gospel reading sounds scary, as in if-you-don't-use-your-God-given-talents-you're-not-only-going-to-lose-it-but-also-your-pass-to-Heaven scary. This is as the servant who didn't invest what his master gave him was punished by having what was given him taken away and he thrown into the outer darkness, which can be presumed to mean Hell. But such a reading forgets the other two servants, the ones who invested their talents wisely and got amply rewarded. This is why we need guidance from God to understand the Bible. It's human to be afraid and to have a fight-or-flight response to anything remotely scary. But the Bible isn't meant to scare people into doing good things. We need to integrate the scary parts, the good parts, and all other parts into a saving whole, and the only way to do that fully and all the time is to let God help us through His Holy Spirit. Let Him tell you how to read the Bible.

Anyway, back to today's reading. We were not told why the first two servants used the money given to them in the way they did. But we were told why the third servant chose to hide the money given to him. He considered his master to be an unfair person who would not reward him for his efforts. If he would not be rewarded then why take the trouble, right? This is exactly what God doesn't like in us. He doesn't like people coming up with strange notions about Him, acting as if those notions were proven facts, and use those notions to do either nothing or wrong things. We know our God is a loving God. We know that he wants us to have fullness of life. We know that He doesn't want us to hurt ourselves or others. We know that He wants us to depend on Him to help us in living our life on earth. Thus thinking that He set us tests just to see if we would fall or not and that He will not reward us abundantly and justly for our efforts to please Him is plain wrong. So let us not be like the third servant. Let us offer our time, talents and treasures to Him who gave them to us in the first place and use them righteously, trustingly, and faithfully.

Bible Readings for Today (30 Aug, Sat - 21st Week)

1 Corinthians 1: 26-31
Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Matthew 25: 14-30
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Friday, 29 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings of the Day

Today's gospel reading is about martyrdom, specifically the martyrdom of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a martyr because he stood up for his faith- he saw an act against God's laws and didn't hesitate to condemn it publicly, even when the wrongdoers are Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee and Perea) and his wife Herodias- and died because of it.

Martyrdom is the act of dying for one's faith. The Catholic Church considers martyrdom to be the greatest act of love. If a Christian is killed because he/she will not renounce their faith he/she immediately enters Heaven. Thus martyrdom can be considered a gift from God given to a select few. Think about it. There are many cases in the Bible about people who are imprisoned and in danger of being executed for not renouncing God, but not all of them were martyred. Consider the three friends of Daniel (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). They were thrown into a blazing furnace for not renouncing their God. Yet they were not martyred.

Do we contemporary Christians and Catholics consider martyrdom to be a gift from God? If people point a loaded gun to our heads and tell us to renounce Christ or die, do we rejoice? Or do we deep down in our hearts consider those martyred for their faith in Jesus to be unfortunate, even slightly foolish? How would we respond if God offers us the gift of martyrdom? Let us decide to accept this gift if God ever offers it to us. After all, it guarantees instant and immediate access to Heaven.

Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

We Catholic honor the memory of the beheading of John the Baptist, who along with our Lord Jesus Christ and Mother Mary have the distinction of their birth and death being celebrated by the Catholic Church. Today's gospel reading relates the circumstances of his execution. He had the courage to blame Herod to his face for the scandal of his illegal union with his sister-in-law Herodias, whose husband was still alive. Herodias contrived to make Herod imprison him and took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to obtain through her daughter Salome the beheading of the saint.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch:
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: "I am the truth"? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ. — Saint Bede the Venerable

(the above is taken from Catholic Culture)

Bible Readings for This Day (29 Aug, Fri - 21st Week)

1 Corinthians 1: 17-25
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Jeremiah 1: 17-19
“But you, Jeremiah, get yourself ready! Go and tell these people everything I instruct you to say. Do not be terrified of them, or I will give you good reason to be terrified of them. I, the Lord, hereby promise to make you as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. You will be able to stand up against all who live in the land, including the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and all the people of the land. They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you,” says the Lord.

Mark 6: 17-29
For Herod himself had sent men, arrested John, and bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had repeatedly told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not because Herod stood in awe of John and protected him, since he knew that John was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him, he was thoroughly baffled, and yet he liked to listen to John. But a suitable day came, when Herod gave a banquet on his birthday for his court officials, military commanders, and leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” He swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother said, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she hurried back to the king and made her request: “I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter immediately.” Although it grieved the king deeply, he did not want to reject her request because of his oath and his guests. So the king sent an executioner at once to bring John’s head, and he went and beheaded John in prison. He brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard this, they came and took his body and placed it in a tomb.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Today's gospel reading talks about vigilance- vigilance in watching out for thieves, and vigilance in waiting for the Lord to return. Lack of vigilance on a householder's part would allow a thief to break into the house and steal the householder's valuables. Similarly, lack of vigilance on our part against sin would allow it to fester in our hearts, minds and souls until we lose a most valuable treasure- God's Spirit in us. Lack of vigilance on waiting for the Lord's return would mean behaving as if there is no final accounting for good behaviour and sinful deeds. Think about it. The servant who thinks his/her good deeds will go unrewarded (even with a simple 'Thank You') would become unmotivated to do such deeds. The servant who thinks his/her sinful behaviour would go unpunished would succumb to the desires of the flesh, of which cruelty and drunkenness are examples of. There IS a final accounting. This accounting causes dismay for those who are unprepared, but it brings joyful hope to those who eagerly wait for the Lord's return in glory. The Lord's judgment is good news for those who are ready to meet him. Their reward is the Lord himself, the source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love and everlasting life.So let us be vigilant against sin, always doing good deeds as the Lord prompts us, as He gives us the Holy Spirit in order that we may have the wisdom, assistance, and strength we need to embrace God's way of love, justice, and holiness.

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

Many Christians would know this saint, Catholic he may be. In Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is a saint (called Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed).

So who is this saint? Let's turn to Wikipedia:
- descended from the Berbers, a major ethnic group native to North Africa
- born in 354 A.D. in Tagaste (present-day Algeria)
- although raised as a Catholic, he left the Church to follow the controversial Manichaean religion (which believes that there is no omnipotent good power, but two equal and opposite powers, being Good and Evil, and that the human person is a battleground for these powers)
- as a youth he lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time and developed a relationship with a young woman named Floria Aemilia who would be his concubine for over fifteen years
- in 375 moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric, and though he remained there for the next nine years, he was disturbed by the unruly behavior of the students in Carthage, and thus in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, he was again disappointed as he found the Roman schools apathetic.
- though he had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers, he felt the tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor that a drunken beggar he passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he did.
- in the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, he underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy
- in 387 he was baptized along with his son Adeodatus on Easter Vigil in Milan
- in 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, Algeria and became a famous preacher noted for combating the Manichaean religion
- in 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop) and became full bishop shortly thereafter
- converted his family house into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends, but left his monastery after he was ordained, though continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy", i.e. Clergy who live by a monastic rule.
- died on August 28 430 during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals
- influential quotations:
  • "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo)
  • "For many it is indeed easier to abstain so as not to use [married sexual relations] at all, than to control themselves so as to use them aright." (Multi quidem facilius se abstinent ut non utantur, quam temperent ut bene utantur)
  • "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."
  • "Love the sinner and hate the sin." (Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum)
  • "Love, and do what you will." (Dilige et quod vis fac)
  • "Take up [the book], and Read it" (Tolle, lege)
  • "There is no salvation outside the church" (Salus extra ecclesiam non est)

Bible Readings for Today (28 Aug, Thu - 21st Week)

1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus. For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge – just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you – so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 24: 42-51
Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings for Today

In today's gospel readings Jesus talked about tombs. In Palestine tombs were often placed by the sides of roads. They were painted white which made them glisten in the midday sun, especially around the time of the great feasts, so that people would not accidentally touch them and incur ritual impurity. Jesus compared the scribes and Pharisees of His day to tombs- beautiful to look at, but filled with emptiness and death. They were intensely, scrupulously and meticulously religious in their lives, but their desires and practices did not help others to grow spiritually and to be happy. Thus their religiosity is worse than useless- their rules and behaviors actually led their people far away from God.

It's easy to say that if one had lived in the past one would not repeat the mistakes of one's ancestors. But how can one know that? How can one know the pressures (time, peer, etc.), the blindness of vision, the narrowness of mind, etc. that one's ancestors suffer from that cause them to behave wrongly in the first place? Can one honestly say that under the same things one would not err? Thus we should not judge our ancestors. We should only learn both from their mistakes and their righteous deeds. Besides, putting oneself over others is a sign of pride, and pride is NEVER right in the eyes of God. Being happy that one has certain gifts, life circumstances, etc. is one thing. Believing that these make one better, luckier, etc. than anyone else is another. So let us give back everything we received from God (and that really is EVERYTHING) by serving Him and others with love.

Memorial of Saint Monica of Hippo

Here's something I found on this saint of today (taken from Wikipedia):

- born at Tagaste (located in modern-day Algeria) in 332 A.D.
- though brought up as a Christian, she was married off to an older, pagan man named Patricius who was given to violent tempers and adultery- eventually she converted him to Christianity and calmed his violent nature
- bore three children, among them Saint Augustine- joined him in Italy when Patricius died
- died in 387 A.D. at the port of Ostia
- her saying to women who had bad marriages: "If you can master your tongue, not only do you run less risk of being beaten, but perhaps you may even, one day, make your husband better."
- her last words to her son Augustine: There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?"

Bible Readings for Today (27 Aug, Wed - 21st Week)

2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10, 16-18
But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us. For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, which is how I write in every letter. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Matthew 23: 27-32
Jesus said, “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have participated with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ By saying this you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Today's gospel reading mentioned tithing. God had commanded a tithe of the first fruits of one's labor as an expression of thanksgiving and honor for his providential care for his people [Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:30]. The experts of the law during Jesus' time, however, went to extreme lengths to tithe on insignificant things (such as tiny plants) with great mathematical accuracy. Kinda missing the point, Jesus told them. Did more giving mean more thanksgiving? Extremely accurate tithing sounds like a mask for greed, don't you think?

What about "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel"? Gnats were considered the smallest of insects and camels were considered the largest of animals in Palestine. Both were considered ritually impure. The scribes went to great lengths to avoid contact with gnats, even to the point of straining the wine cup with a fine cloth lest they accidently swallowed a gnat. In other words, they would do anything to ensure they stay ritually pure. What's the point of all this, Jesus asked them. God is more interested in what people do for others than what they do for themselves. And according to Jesus these experts are definitely not ritually pure when it comes to the way they treat others.

So let us not use laws as masks for bad attitude and habits (greed, apathy, etc.) Let us interpret laws with an eye to love (God's love, not lustful love). Let us be merciful and jjust in our dealing with others.

What do I think of contraceptive use by couples suffering from AIDS?

First of all, this topic will NOT touch on contraceptive use by unmarried sex partners or unmarried couples suffering from AIDS. The focus is strictly on married couples with at least one partner suffering from AIDS. In other words, should such a couple use contraceptives to avoid spreading of AIDS? What if they want children?
IMHO, I don't think it's Catholic to put more concern on not spreading AIDS compared to not getting in the way of God giving such couples children. Confused? Read on...
"It is in cases in which sexual expression is sought outside sacramental marriage, or in which the procreative function of sexual expression within marriage is deliberately frustrated, that the Catholic Church expresses grave moral concern." (Wikipedia). Looking at the above teaching on sex within marriage, it is clear that married couples having sex without opening the door to having children is very bad indeed. I would assume this applies too to couples with STD. In such cases the couples should not fear death by AIDS so much that they do not allow God to give them children. After all, simple medication is enough to prevent the baby in the womb from getting AIDS.
Some parents may say that having children while the parents are going to die from AIDS is irresponsible. My answer? Trust in God. Let Him deal with it. After all, He would not give them children if they are incapable of dealing with children, right?
In conclusion, it is my opinion that all those complaints by people on the Church's harsh stand on condom use even in the case of AIDS sufferers are not going to be heeded by the Vatican. If I'm correct, then the Church will not make policy that will directly contravene God's will. The Church will not allow Catholic married couples suffering from AIDS to get in the way of God when it comes to child-bearing. That's all, folks.

Today's Bible Readings (26 Aug, Tue - 21st Week)

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, 14-17
Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way.
He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good thing you do or say.

Matthew 23: 23-26
Jesus said: "Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel! Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too!"

Monday, 25 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Today's gospel reading tells the religious leaders of Jesus' time that they are not only ineffective, but with their laws and customs actually leading people into sin. No wonder they wanted to kill Jesus! These people have spent years learning and practicing their religion and here comes this young upstart that they are and had been 100% wrong, even sinful. Their reaction to this news could have been to listen to Jesus' rebuke, considered their actions, and changed what was wrong. But since they were all too human, they didn't do that. Think about it. What group of people in the history of mankind, especially one set in their ways and thinking themselves better than everyone else because of the group they belong to, ever listened to outsiders who tell them they are wrong?

Why did the Pharisees and scribes go so far from the ways of God? IMHO, it's because of fear. They looked at the Old Testament with all its rules and demands and punishments and such and concluded the only way for people to survive was to follow everything to the letter. The parts about God's love were ignored. In other words, they were far more afraid of losing salvation than winning life through God's forgiveness. They feared death more than they loved God. In fact, they feared death so much that, faced with unbending Law on one hand and sinful desires on the other, they came up with loopholes in the Law so they can follow their natural inclination to sin and yet not be condemned. And why not? They were not worshiping a living Person who can see all they do but a set of dead rules which cannot protest at being raped! In fact they were having such a good time having their way with the Law that they forgot to ask the Person who gave them the Law whether He agreed with what they did. And when this Person appeared in the form of Jesus to tell them that no, He did not, their fear of death surfaced. So instead of asking for forgiveness they struck back like creatures whose survival are endangered.

The question we need to ask ourselves is that do we fear death more than we love God? If someone were to come up and tell us off, do we immediately try to shut him up so our fear of death stay submerged? Or do we listen to that someone and ask God what to do next? If we love God we must depend on him for our every decision. Let us walk forth with God at our side.

Memorial of Saint Louis IX of France and Saint Joseph Calasanctius

So who are these saints? Let's look to Wikipedia:

- Saint Louis IX is the only canonized King of France - often considered the model of the ideal Christian monarch
- born on 25 April 1214 at Poissy (near Paris)
- crowned king at age of 12 when his father died on November 8 1226 - his mother ruled France as regent during his minority
- died at Tunis on August 25 1270, canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297
- exemplary religious deeds:
  • built the Sainte-Chapelle ("Holy Chapel") as a shrine for the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, precious relics of the Passion of Jesus
  • conducted two crusades, in 1248 (Seventh Crusade) and then again in 1270 (Eighth Crusade), both were complete disasters
  • expanded the scope of the Inquisition in France, especially against the Cathar heresy

- Saint Joseph Calasanctius, a.k.a Joseph Calasanz, José de Calasanz, and Josephus a Matre Dei, was the founder of the Pious Schools and the Order of the Piarists
- born in Peralta de la Sal, Aragon, on September 11, 1557
- ordained priest on 17 December 1583 after recovering from a serious sickness
- began his ministry in the Diocese of Albarracín, where Bishop dela Figuera appointed him his theologian and confessor, synodal examiner and procurator
- joined the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in Rome - gathered the boys from the streets and brought them to school- in November 1597, opened the first free public school in Europe (a radical break from the class privileges involving education that kept the masses marginalized and in poverty) - opened “Pious Schools” in the center of Rome in 1600
- rented a house at Sant'Andrea della Valle in 1602, commenced a community life with his assistants, and laid the foundation of the Order of the Pious Schools or Piarists
- in 1610 wrote the Document Princeps in which the fundamental principles of his educational philosophy were set out - the text was accompanied by regulations for teachers and for students
- the Congregation of the Pious Schools (the first religious institute dedicated essentially to teaching) was made a religious order with all the privileges of the mendicant orders on 18 November 1621 by a Brief of Gregory XV under the name of Ordo Clericorum regularium pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum
- was a friend of Galileo Galilei- shared and defended Galileo's controversial view of the cosmos
- factors including opposition to the Piarist education of the poor by many among the governing classes in society and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, internal struggles within the order, and the Piarists' espousal of Galileo's heliocentrism, led to Calasanctius' removal from office
- died on August 25 1648 and buried in the church of San Pantaleo- 8 years later Pope Alexander VII cleared the name of the Pious Schools
- beatified in 1748, canonized on 16 July 1767, and declared Universal Patron of all Christian popular schools in the world on August 13th 1948

Bible Readings for Today (25 Aug, Mon - 21st Week)

2 Thessalonians 1: 1-5, 11-12
From Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith flourishes more and more and the love of each one of you all for one another is ever greater. As a result we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you are enduring. This is evidence of God’s righteous judgment, to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which in fact you are suffering.
And in this regard we pray for you always, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness and every work of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 23: 13-22
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves! Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing. But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.’ Blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing. But if anyone swears by the gift on it he is bound by the oath.’ You are blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and the one who sits on it.”

Sunday, 24 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings for Today

It seems the business of God giving people full authority is not found only in the gospels. Today's reading from Isaiah demonstrates clearly this fact (compare God giving Eliakim son of Hilkiah the key to the house of David with Jesus giving Peter the keys of Heaven). Nor is the fact that Jesus made Peter the rock on which he will build his church something new. There is a tradition in ancient Israel which said that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: "I have discovered a rock to found the world upon". See the similarities?

Why is it that only Peter out of so many of Jesus' disciples journeying with Him and other Jews flocking to Him who identified Jesus as "the Anointed One, the only begotten Son of God"? It's because Jesus' heavenly Father chose Peter not only for this but also to be the rock on which Jesus will build His church. Why is Peter chosen? We have no idea, but IMHO one of the reasons may be because Peter was flawed. He was impulsive, attention-seeking, fearful, quick to anger, etc. (note the number of times in the gospels when Jesus praised Peter for one action and immediately rebuked him for another). But God is not looking for perfect people to serve Him, but rather flawed sinners so that in guiding that sinner to serve Him He would not only heal that sinner but also show the world how powerful He is (after all, what power is demonstrated in polishing what is already perfect?) For His power is perfected in our weaknesses.

Memorial of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

- Bartholomew [Greek: Βαρθολομαίος, transliterated "Bartholomaios", Aramaic: bar-Tôlmay (תולמי‎‎‎‎‎-בר‎‎), meaning son of Tolmay (Ptolemy) or son of the furrows (perhaps a ploughman)] was one of the 12 Apostles of Christ Jesus.
- Bartholomew is one of the apostles on whom no word is reported nor any individual action recorded in the New Testament, though he appears here and there in the New Testament.
- according to Syriac tradition, Bartholomew's original name was Jesus, which caused him to adopt another name. Other traditions have him erving as a missionary in India, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia after the Ascension of Our Lord.
- A local tradition in Armenia has him martyred at the site of the Maiden Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan by being flayed alive and then crucified head down (this fate has led to him being adopted as the patron saint of tanners).
- After his martyrdom in Armenia, his body is said to have been washed to Lipari (a small island off the coast of Sicily), where a large piece of his skin and many bones are kept in the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew the Apostle.
- St. Bartholomew is credited with many miracles having to do with the weight of objects.
(The above is taken from Wikipedia)

Bible Reading for Today 21st Sun of Ordinary Time (Memorial of St. Bartholomew the Apostle)

Here's the reading for today Sun 23 Aug:

Isaiah 22: 19-23
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will remove you from your office; you will be thrown down from your position. At that time I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. I will put your robe on him, tie your belt around him, and transfer your authority to him. He will become a protector of the residents of Jerusalem and of the people of Judah. I will place the key to the house of David on his shoulder. When he opens the door, no one can close it; when he closes the door, no one can open it. I will fasten him like a peg into a solid place; he will bring honor and respect to his father’s family.”

Romans 11: 33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.

Matthew 16:13-20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD) and bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin tongue, comments on Matthew 23: 1-12 (i.e. today's gospel reading): "No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, 'Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?' Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity. For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father." [taken from Daily Reading and Meditation]
In other words let us not call anyone rabbi, father or teacher unless that person is a rabbi, father or teacher in nature or profession. Respect is one thing, putting people on pedestals is another. Similarly we are not to encourage others to put us on pedestals, that is to lift us (our knowledge, skills, piety, etc.) above others. After all we are called to be servants, and what servant is higher in position than his/her Master? Or his/her fellow servants? Or those he/she serves? Respect and idolization has nothing to do with authority, though. Though Jesus did not like the way the scribes and pharisees commanded the respect of their fellow Israelites, He acknowledges that they do have authority to tell others what to practice and observe. It's just that this authority should not lead to idolization (i.e. putting people on pedestals).

Memorial of Saint Rose of Lima

Let's look to Wikipedia to know more about this saint (the first Catholic saint of the Americas):

- born on April 20 1586 in the city of Lima (the capital of Peru) under the baptismal name of Isabel Flores de Oliva
- her nickname Rosa (Rose) came about because when she was a baby a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose
- began to tell of visions, revelations, visitations and voices when she started her penitential practices, e.g. fasting three times a week with secret severe penances
- was determined to take a vow of virginity in opposition to her parents who wished her to marry
- helped the sick and hungry around her community by bringing them to her home and taking care of them- sold fine needlework, grew beautiful flowers to sell to help her family
- entered a Dominican convent in 1602- donned the habit and took a vow of perpetual virginity
- redoubled the severity and variety of her penances to a heroic degree- this self-martyrdom continued without relaxation until she died at the age of 31 on August 30, 1617
- beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1667 and canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X
- patroness of Lima, the Americas, the Philippines, and Sittard (in the Netherlands)- patron saint of Santa Rosa, California

Today's Bible Reading (Memorial of Saint Rose of Lima)

Below are more readings, this time for Sat 23 Aug:

Ezekiel 43: 1-7
Then the angel brought me to the gate that faced toward the east. I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east; the sound was like that of rushing water; and the earth radiated his glory. It was like the vision I saw when he came to destroy the city, and the vision I saw by the Kebar River. I threw myself face down. The glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate that faces east. Then a wind lifted me up and brought me to the inner court; I watched the glory of the Lord filling the temple. Then I heard someone speaking to me from the temple, while the man was standing beside me. He said to me: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will live among the people of Israel forever.”

Matthew 23: 1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Friday, 22 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

In today's gospel reading Jesus summarized the entire law of Moses and its ritual requirements (there are all in all 613 precepts of the Torah, being the books of the Old Testament containing the Law of Moses) into two simple yet profound Commandments: the first (found in Deuteronomy 6: 5) being "you must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength." and the second (found in Leviticus 19: 18) "you must love your neighbor as yourself".
It's interesting that these two commandments talk about love. Not service, submission, duty, finding of self, rejection of evil, etc., but love. IMHO Jesus is saying that the laws of God start with the fact that we must love God above everything else and the we must love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves. If we don't obey any other of God's laws with these two facts in mind then we break them all. But the Bible takes it further. Consider these verses:
1 John 4:8 - The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love
1 John 4:16 - God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him
1 Corinthians 13: 3 - If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
The above verses make it impossible for anyone to be a Christian without love in his/her heart and actions.
So how do we love? The problem with human love is that it easily becomes obsessive, possessive and as easily ended. Think about it. What good can come from obsessive love? Possessive love? Love which is here today and gone tomorrow? None (at least not good that lasts forever). That's why we need to love like God, and the only way to do that is to ask Him to help us do so, to draw from the source of that love- Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God. Thus to interpret the two Commandments as something we must prove to God is simply not right. No way we could love like that. Rather we need to start our everyday Christian life with a freely-bestowed experience of love from God, a love which because it comes from God unites us to God, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others.

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Taken from Wikipedia) Today we Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a devotional name used to refer to the physical heart of Mary, the mother of Jesus as a symbol of Mary's interior life, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for her God, her maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people. Now why is Mary's heart so important? Let's look to the gospels. The gospels recount the prophesy delivered to Mary at Jesus' presentation at the temple: that her heart would be pierced with a sword. The gospel of St. Luke also records that Mary kept all the sayings and doings of Jesus in her heart, that there she might ponder over them and live by them.
Now some history. Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 to be celebrated on 22 August. Pope Paul VI moved the celebration of the Queenship of Mary from 31 May to 22 August, bringing it into association with the feast of her Assumption. He also closely associated the celebrations of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

(Taken from Catholic Culture)
- Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar this feast was celebrated on May 31 and today was the feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is now celebrated on the Saturday following the Second Sunday after Pentecost.
- Pius XII, by his encyclical letter of October 11, 1954, granted the unanimous desire of the faithful and their pastors and instituted the feast of the Queenship of Mary, giving sanction thus to a devotion that was already paid by the faithful throughout the world to the sovereign Mother of heaven and earth.
- With the certainty of faith we know that Jesus Christ is king in the full, literal, and absolute sense of the word; for He is true God and man. This does not, however, prevent Mary from sharing His royal prerogatives, though in a limited and analogous manner; for she was the Mother of Christ, and Christ is God; and she shared in the work of the divine Redeemer, in His struggles against enemies and in the triumph He won over them all. From this union with Christ the King she assuredly obtains so eminent a status that she stands high above all created things; and upon this same union with Christ is based that royal privilege enabling her to distribute the treasures of the kingdom of the divine Redeemer. And lastly, this same union with Christ is the fountain of the inexhaustible efficacy of her motherly intercession in the presence of the Son and of the Father.

Today's Bible Readings (Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Here are the readings for today Fri 22 Aug:

Ezekiel 37: 1-14
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and placed me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. He made me walk all around among them. I realized there were a great many bones in the valley and they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said to him, “Sovereign Lord, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the sovereign Lord says to these bones: Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. I will put tendons on you and muscles over you and will cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will live. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. There was a sound when I prophesied – I heard a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I watched, I saw tendons on them, then muscles appeared, and skin covered over them from above, but there was no breath in them.
He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, – prophesy, son of man – and say to the breath: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these corpses so that they may live.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded, and the breath came into them; they lived and stood on their feet, an extremely great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. Look, they are saying, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope has perished; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to open your graves and will raise you from your graves, my people. I will bring you to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. I will place my breath13 in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord – I have spoken and I will act, declares the Lord.’”

Matthew 22: 34-40
Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Thursday, 21 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Today's gospel reading talks about a king giving a wedding banquet for his son. Usually when Jesus speaks of a king he means God, and the wedding business ties in neatly with St. Paul calling the church "the Bride of Christ". What about the guests who had been invited but would not come? I'm guessing these are the people who heard God's Word but do not respond, ranging from Jews who stray away from their God to atheists round the world today. These people are indifferent because they put their needs and worldly ambitions as more important than God, or they simply do not believe His servants (prophets and priests/pastors).
I've read opinions from a few atheists saying that one of the reasons they don't believe in God is that they couldn't reconcile a loving God with a God who condemns and tortures those who didn't believe in Him or sinned against Him. But doesn't God have the right to get angry? Doesn't He have the right to punish as He sees fit? So we see with the king in the parable. He was furious with those who mistreated his servants, so he killed them and destroyed their homes. We see this happening many times in the Old Testament. Then the king decide to invite all and sundry to his feast. These would be the Gentiles, or just simply anyone, rich and poor, clever and foolish, powerful and weak, bad and good.
But just because one is escorted into the feast hall doesn't mean one can stay there. Look at the man who did not wear wedding clothes. I interpret this as a person (or people) who became Christians but did not wish to change their lifestyles to suit God's laws. These people continue their pre-Christian ways and thus did not put on the wedding garment of true Christian discipleship. In the parable such people were ejected from the feast into the outer darkness. If we see the feast as Heaven / Paradise, then the outer darkness is Hell. If we want to belong in Heaven then we must be worthy of Heaven and our daily lives must reflect this worthiness.

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

So who is this pope turned saint? Here's what Wikipedia has on him:

- born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto in Riese, province of Treviso, Italy on June 2, 1835
- attended the Seminary of Padua after which he was ordained a priest on September 18, 1858 and became chaplain at Tombolo
- became Arch-Priest of Salzano in 1867
- was made Canon (or Chancellor) of the Cathedral and Diocese of Treviso
- was elected to the position of Bishop of Treviso in 1879
- was made Cardinal-Priest of Saint Bernardo alle Terme on June 12, 1893 by Pope Leo XIII
- three days later was publicly named Patriarch of Venice
- On 4 August 1903, was elected to the 257th Pontificate- took as his Papal name Pius X, out of respect for his recent predecessors of the same name
- was a fervent reformer of Church practices and regulations such as the Canon Law, his most important reform, which for the first time codified Church law in a central fashion
- was a Marian Pope - to him, there is no safer or more direct road than Mary, who is uniting all mankind in Christ
- down to earth and practical teachings, favoured the use of modern language in Catechesis
- defended the Catholic faith against popular 19th century views such as indifferentism (a condemned heresy that holds that one religion is as good as another, and that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation), relativism (denial of the capacity of the human mind and reason to arrive at absolute truth, i.e. God), and modernism (a theological school of thought which claimed that Catholic dogma itself should be modernized and blended with modern philosophies)
- often referred to his own humble origins: I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor.
- died on 20 August 1914, declared "Venerable" on 12 February 1943, beatified on 17 February 1952, and canonized on 29 May 1954 - was the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized

Bible Readings for Today (Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope)

Today is Thu 21 Aug, and here are the readings:

Ezekiel 36: 23-28
Thus says the LORD: I will magnify my great name that has been profaned among the nations, that you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I magnify myself among you in their sight. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Matthew 22: 1-14
Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”’ But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings of Today

The call of the Lord in Ezekiel in today's bible reading to feed His sheep should be familiar, as it was what Jesus said three consecutive times to Peter. And the last part of the reading (I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out) sounds like a foreshadowing of the coming of God the Son. But let's move on to the gospel reading.

First some background. In Jesus' time laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day's job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. Thus the landowner was generous in giving the laborers hired last money for a day's food for an hour's work. Nothing wrong with that scenario right? It is after all his money. So why did the laborers hired earlier complain? I guess they wanted an equal share in that generosity. The fact that they who worked longer did not get more generosity than those who did not work as long galled them. But they forgot that they did not sign on for generosity or equality, but for a day's wages. The amount of work that needs to be done to deserve that wage is entirely dependent on he who pays the wage, not he who works.

Now I'm going to be less literal and shift into allegory mode. Aren't many of us like the first workers to be hired? We voluntarily sign on to serve the Lord for imprecise rewards, yet when we see other servants become "luckier" in their service we complain that the Lord is unfair. But the very fact that we are created different with different gifts to live out different parts in God's plan means some will be "luckier" than others. Furthermore, how do we measure the "luck"? By material things, i.e. how rich, how spiritually gifted, how high in position, how clever, how beautiful, how happy and so on. But God never promised us these things when we enter His service, just fullness of life on Earth and eternity in Heaven. Shouldn't we leave other rewards up to Him? After all, He knows best.

Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

So who is this particular St. Bernard? Let's look to Wikipedia:

- born in 1090 A.D. in Fontaines, France
- sought admission into the Cistercian order, and 3 years later (on 25 June 1115) was sent to found a new house that Bernard named Claire Vallée, of Clairvaux
- in 1128 assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar
- was chosen to judge between rival popes (Innocent II and Anacletus II) when a schism broke out in the Church after the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130
- in 1139 assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran
- denounced the teachings of Peter Abelard to the Pope who called a council at Sens in 1141 to settle the matter. There Bernard won a public debate against Abelard, causing Abelard to retire
- preached against various heresies in France
- was commissioned to preach a Second Crusade, though it failed.
- died on 20 August 1153 after 40 years spent in the cloister
- canonized by Pope Alexander III 18 January 1174 & was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints
- Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church.

Today's Bible Readings (Memorial of Saint Bernard)

These are the readings for today Wed 20 Aug:

Ezekiel 34: 1-11
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them – to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them. They were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beast. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.
“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will no longer let them be shepherds; the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore. I will rescue my sheep from their mouth, so that they will no longer be food for them. For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out.”

Matthew 20: 1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings of the day

Today's gospel reading talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle. Some interpret this as Jesus referring to a certain gate in Jerusalem called Needle's Eye. This entry-point was built like the eye of a needle and was so low that a camel could pass only if it entered kneeling and unencumbered with baggage. The lesson would then be that an eternal inheritance awaits those who unburden themselves of sin, and in particular, the things of this world. Also, kneeling represents submission and humility, which are required to enter into heaven. Unfortunately (though this interpretation is beautiful) there is no such gate in Jesus' time, so this interpretation is implausible to say the very least.

Another possible interpretation is that Jesus used the physical impossibility of a camel passing through a needle to hyperbolically express the difficulty of entering Heaven. This one is especially possible when you consider the fact that Judaism has reference in its Babylonian Talmud to "the eye of a needle":

They do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle.

Imagine the disciples' horror at hearing that it is impossible for a rich man to enter Heaven! You see, the Jews of Jesus' time see rich people as especially blessed (and thus righteous) in God's eyes. Thus they should have it easier when it comes to entering Heaven. Jesus overturned that idea: to enter Heaven one must allow God to make it possible for him/her. Wealth and holiness had nothing to do with it. Only with total submission to the will of God (i.e. living life according to His laws and His plans for us) to the point of leaving all other concerns behind (yes, even loved ones and pursuit of happiness) can God help us to enter Heaven. And God can do it! For Him nothing is impossible.

Memorial of Saint John Eudes

According to Wikipedia, Saint John Eudes was:

- born at Ri, France on November 14, 1601
- took a vow of chastity at the age of 14
- on 25 March 1623 joined the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri a.k.a. the Oratorians
- ordained a priest on 20 December 1625
- in 1641 founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge to provide a refuge for prostitutes who wished to do penance
- founded the Society of Jesus and Mary (Eudists) for the education of priests and for missionary work at Caen on 25 March 1643
- established the Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable
- composed the Mass and Office proper to the feasts of the Holy Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus was given the title of "Author of the Liturgical Worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Holy Heart of Mary" in 1903
- died at Caen on 19 August 1680
- canonized in 1925

Bible Readings of the day (Memorial of Saint John Eudes )

Today is Tue 19 Aug and here are the readings:

Ezekiel 28: 1-10
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: “‘Your heart is proud and you said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas” – yet you are a man and not a god, though you think you are godlike. Look, you are wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you. By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself; you have amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart is proud because of your wealth.”
“‘Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Because you think you are godlike, I am about to bring foreigners against you, the most terrifying of nations. They will draw their swords against the grandeur made by your wisdom, and they will defile your splendor. They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die violently in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, “I am a god,” before the one who kills you – though you are a man and not a god – when you are in the power of those who wound you? You will die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the sovereign Lord.’”

Matthew 19: 23-30
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Monday, 18 August 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

I wonder how a man of this age would have answered if God told him that he would lose his dearly beloved wife but is not supposed to mourn her openly? That the losing of his wife is part of a message from God to so-and-so? I bet his reaction would be extremely non-religious :) Anyway, I think the reading from Ezekiel speaks for itself- the day would come (and did) when the people of Israel would lose everything and everyone they loved and not have time to mourn their loss.

Moving on to the gospel reading, the question that the young rich man asked Jesus was interesting : what good thing must I do to gain eternal life? As in: how can I earn the right to enter Heaven? He should have known that no one earns the right to enter Heaven. God wants us in Heaven, i.e. be with Him for all eternity. That doesn't mean He allows sinful people in Heaven just because He loves them. And sin comes easily when we put something as more important than God. Even if that something is good like family and love. However if we put God first we don't break His laws and if we do we quickly come back to Him.

Memorial of Saint Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

So who is this saint? Wikipedia says:

- he was born Luis Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga on January 22, 1901 in Viña del Mar, Chile
- studied at the all-boys Jesuit school of St. Ignacio, Santiago from 1909 to 1917
- entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1923 and ordained as priest on August 24th, 1933
- his ministry expanded to the pastoring of the Chilean poor, especially disadvantaged children, teenagers and young adults- had his mind and heart set on tackling social issues and problems
- founded an organization similar to the present-day Girls and Boys Club in the United States
- his shelters, called Hogar de Cristo [Christ's Home], took in all children in need of food and shelter, abandoned or not
- monitored the streets at night in an old green van to help those in need that he could find
- founded the Chilean Trade Union Association, meant to train leaders and instill Christian values in the labor unions of his country
- diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - died in Santiago on August 18, 1952
- beatified on October 16, 1994 by Pope John Paul II & canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 23, 2005

Daily Bible Verse

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