Monday 26 February 2024
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 1:10, 16-20; Mt23:1-12
addresses the people and his disciples and speaks of the hypocrisy of the
scribes and Pharisees. Scribes were a professional class with formal training.
They were schooled in the tradition and its application to current issues.
Pharisees were a group within Judaism defined by strictly religious rules,
composed mostly of laypersons without formal theological training. Some scribes
were also Pharisees, but few Pharisees were scribes. Moses’ seat is a metaphorical expression
representing the teaching and administrative authority of the synagogue leadership,
scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemns only the practice of the scribes and
Pharisees and not their teaching. The Matthean Jesus makes three points about
the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. The first is that “they say but do not do”, which means that
there was no consonance between their words and actions. They did not act on
their words. The second is
that “they burden while failing to act
themselves” which means that they lay law upon law upon the people and make
life so much more complicated than it really is, and the third is that “they act for the wrong reasons: to make an
impression on others”. This they did by wearing broader phylacteries.
“Phylacteries” is the term Matthew uses for the “tephillin”, which were small
leather boxes containing portions of the Torah (Exod 13:1-16; Deut 6:4-9;
11:13-32) strapped to the forehead and arm during the recitation of prayers in
literal obedience to Deut 6:8. The “tassels” were attached to the prayer
shawls, and the most important seats in the synagogue refer to the place of
honour at the front facing the congregation, occupied by teachers and respected
leaders. The term “Rabbi” was a title of honour. The Scribes and Pharisees
wanted to be noticed, commended and honoured more than to pray.
In contrast the disciples of Jesus ought not to go for
external titles and especially those which heighten distinction since they were
brothers and sisters and there was to be no greater and smaller among them.
They were to be one in God who alone is father. Authority and leadership were
to be expressed in selfless service.
It is easy to say, but difficult to do, it is easy to
preach but difficult to practice. There must be a correlation between our words
and our actions. The way to ensure that there is a correlation between the two
is to first do and then say, or better to let people hear not what we say but
what we do. This doing, if it is to be regarded as a genuine work of love must
be done not to earn titles or the approval or commendation but because one is a
disciple of Jesus who has shown through his life and actions what true
Sunday 25 February 2024
Monday, February 26, 2-24 - How often have you done something for someone else without any expectation whatever? Will you do something like this today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Dan 9:4-10; Lk 6:36-38
injunction to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” which begins the
text of today adapts the Old Testament command to “be holy, for I the LORD your
God am holy” (Lev 19:2), which in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew has become
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).
Whereas this injunction stands at the conclusion of the six antitheses in
Matthew 5, here it concludes the section on love for one’s enemy by placing the
challenge to be merciful in a theological context. Just as God’s love for all
is indiscriminate, so must the love of the true disciple be. If love is given
only in return for love, it is not love at all. To be called love, it must be
next two verses move to the theme of not judging and not condemning. The reason
for this is that the one who does not judge and condemn will not be judged or
condemned him/herself. Instead, the disciple of Jesus is called to forgive and
let go of hurts and resentments as these block the receipt of pardon and forgiveness
that is freely available from God. The section ends with a call to a kind of
giving which does not count the cost, but which gives generously and freely.
The result of such giving will be God’s unbounded generosity.
forgiveness and love are in short supply today. Most relationships between
people are built on what one can gain from the other and how the relationship
will help one. It is rare to see (even in relationships between members of one
family) selflessness and generosity. Yet, this is what Jesus calls the disciple
to and expects that the disciple will live such a generous life.
Saturday 24 February 2024
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 22: 1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10
I still remember that
night, eight years ago, when I received a call at 11.45 p.m. I knew immediately
that it would be from someone with a very great need or someone in great
despair. It was. The father of a young man was calling to tell me that his 23-year-old
son had just died. He was his only son. The boy was coming home from work when
a drunk driver knocked him down and fled the scene. He was taken to hospital
but declared dead on arrival. At the funeral Mass the next day, there was not
one person in the church who was not moved by tears by the sight of that young
man in his coffin. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “How could God…” and
I do believe that the
answer to our every “How could God…” and “Why” is provided for us in God
sending his only son
The first reading also
speaks to us about a father and his only son. Abraham was asked to give up his
only son, and this, after being promised that his descendants would be as
numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. How could God, who had made such
a promise, expect it to be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed? This kind
of sacrifice would result in cutting Abraham off from his future. Abraham did
not know that God was actually testing him. He heard the command from God as
something that he was being called to do. However, he did know that God would
provide and find a way. He believed that God could do even what was impossible.
This is why his constant response to God was “Here I am”. This willingness and
faith of Abraham resulted in God being able to work in and through him. It
resulted in the promises of God being fulfilled in the life of Abraham. He did,
indeed, become a great nation and his descendants were as numerous as grains of
sand on the seashore.
The willingness and faith
that Abraham showed was exemplary. However, it pales in comparison with the
willingness and faith that Jesus showed when he took up his cross. This is what
God commanded Jesus to do and this is what he did. While in Abraham’s case, he
was stopped before he could complete the act of offering his son, in the case
of Jesus, he had to go the full way to show his obedience to God’s will and
fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.
We are given a foretaste
of this obedience in the scene of the Transfiguration. The figures that appear
with Jesus on the mountain are Elijah and Moses. These were prophets who were
considered (along with Enoch) as alive in the presence of God. The voice from
heaven, after addressing Jesus as beloved son, asks the three disciples who
were with Jesus on the mountain to listen to him. Despite being God’s beloved son, Jesus would
have to go to his suffering and death and, only then, enter his glory. There
was no other way. Jesus did not simply obey God; he obeyed God because he
trusted. He knew that God was in charge and, even in what seemed like defeat
and death, there would be victory and new life.
We sometimes tend to
think that Jesus is most clearly Son of God only in glory, not in suffering.
The transfiguration challenges us to revise our understanding of how God’s
presence comes to the world. Even as he stands transfigured, Jesus is aware
that the cross is a certainty in his life. He is aware that, though he is
beloved son, he will have to suffer and die.
The command to silence, given by Jesus to the disciples, reminds us that
glory and suffering cannot be separated.
Yes, Jesus was able to go
to the cross in the full knowledge that God would always do what was best for
him. He was aware that the God who delivered Elijah and Moses would also
deliver him. He was able to go through the cross because he knew that, in and
through the cross, he would save the world. That Jesus continues to live today
is proof that his faith and confidence in the goodness of God was affirmed and
confirmed. It was a proof that Paul experienced when he told the community in
Rome that “neither death nor life…. nor anything else in all creation will ever
be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
The message then, on this
second Sunday of Lent, to every one of us, is that God continues to be in
charge. He continues to want what is best for each of us at every moment of our
life. Even at those times when we cannot see his hand as clearly as we would
like, or cannot feel his presence as tangibly as we would want, he is still
working for our good. This was confirmed in the life of Abraham, but fulfilled
in the most perfect way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Every time we are tempted to ask “Why” or “How could God….” we have only to
look at his Son.
Friday 23 February 2024
Saturday, February 24, 2024 - How often has the expectation of some “reward” been your motivation for “doing good”? Will you “do good” without any expectation of reward today?
To read the texts, click the the texts: Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48
In the last of
the six antitheses, Matthew focuses on the love command. . While there is no
command to hate the enemy in the Old Testament, yet, there are statements that
God hates all evildoers and statements that imply that others do or should do
the same. Jesus, makes explicit here the command to love enemies. This is the
behaviour expected of a true disciple of Jesus. They cannot merely love those
who love them, since one does not require to be a disciple to do this.
Everyone, even the vilest of people can do this. The conduct of the disciples
of Jesus must reveal who they are really are, namely “sons and daughters of
The command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is
perfect” does not mean to be without faults, but means to be undivided in love
as God is undivided in love.
The love we have for others is more often than not a
conditional love. We indulge in barter exchange and term it love. We are willing
to do something for someone and expect that they do the same or something else
in return. It is a matter of “give”, but also a matter of “take”. When Jesus
asks us to be like the heavenly Father, he is calling us to unconditional love.