Saturday, 24 September 2022
Sunday, September 22, 2022 - Is my faith mere “lip service”? What prevents me from “acting” out my faith?
To read the texts click on the texts: Am 6:1, 4-7; 1 Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
While at first reading, both the text from Amos and the Gospel text of today might seem to indicate that riches are bad, or that luxury is to be shunned, or that one must live an ascetic life. A deeper reading however, indicates that the core question of these texts is “Am I my brother/sister’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Riches and luxury are a problem when they are gained at the expense of others’ misery. They are a problem when they deaden the mind and the senses to responsibility. They are a problem when they become ends in themselves or when those who possess them become insensitive and unfeeling to the needs of others around them.
This is what the readings of today seem to point to. The Gospel parable of today has often been titled as the parable of “Dives and Lazarus”. It may be seen to be divided into three parts. In the first part, the focus is on rich man’s opulence and wealth. The rich man is not named. The Latin term “dives” means “rich”. In the second part, the focus is on the rich man’s death and burial. In the third part, which is the longest, there is, for the first time in the story, a dialogue. It is between the rich man and Abraham and this is the climax of the story.
The story begins by describing the rich man and his dress and food. The “purple and fine linen” may signify that he was a high ranking official, since the Romans had set standards regarding who could wear purple and how much purple they could wear. In contrast to the rich man, there is a poor man, named Lazarus. It is significant that Lazarus is the only character in any of Jesus’ parables who is given a name. The name Lazarus means “God helps”. The fact that he is at the gate of the rich man’s house signifies that, though the rich man could see Lazarus, he was not aware of his existence. He was so caught up in his world of material things; he was so caught up in his luxuries and personal enjoyment, that he was unable to see reality right before him. The problem was not so much the riches or luxuries that the rich man was enjoying but that they had blinded him from the reality around him. They had made him immune to the suffering of those whom he could see.
Amos speaks, in the first reading of today, of this same callous attitude on the part of the rich. These are the ones who, like the rich man of the parable, have lived lives of ease and eaten their fill, without being concerned about the numerous poor and their unmet needs. This is why they are the ones who will be the first to suffer exile and punishment. They have not been their brother/sister’s keepers.
God, however, is the keeper of the poor as is made explicit in the detail found in the Gospel. Lazarus was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man may have deliberately ignored Lazarus and pretended that he did not exist, but God is aware of Lazarus. God indeed came to Lazarus’ help. The death of the rich man, in contrast, is described in a short sentence: “The rich man also died and was buried.” This indicates both that he was forgotten soon after his death and strikingly, how transient is his opulence and wealth. His riches are of no consequence now. He has to leave all that he has behind. He can take nothing with him. No matter how rich he was, or how much he possessed, he had to let go when his time was up.
None of us knows when that time will be, but all know that we can take nothing with us. Paul exhorts Timothy, in the second reading of today, to shun riches which can be as shown, in the case of the rich man and to the people of Amos’ time, as the root of many evils. He must pursue instead that which remains, even when all else has gone, namely, concern for others manifested in unconditional love. It is love alone which is eternal and which does not die. It is love alone which remains forever. This is the love that was manifested by Jesus from the beginning of his ministry right to the time that he stood, witnessed before Pilate, and was put to death. Jesus lived a life that showed that every human being was his brother or sister and he was indeed, their keeper. As disciples of Jesus, we have to realize that each one of us, like Jesus, is indeed, our brother or sister’s keeper.
A number of questions to which there are no easy answers are raised by this parable and we must reflect on them constantly if we are not to lose touch with reality.
Ø Can I be accused of sins of lack of concern, inability to assess the reality of situations, closing my eyes and ears to the injustices around me, being caught up in my own small world? Does my reflection on sin include “sins of omission”?
Ø Is my attitude towards those less fortunate than I one of condescension? Do I regard them as persons, like myself?
Ø Did the brothers of the rich man get the message?
Ø How would you like to conclude the story? Place yourself in the position of the rich man’s brothers and write down what you would do to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as the rich man.
Friday, 23 September 2022
Saturday, September 24, 2022 - Does it make sense to proclaim a “Suffering Messiah” today? How will you do it if it does?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ecclesiastes 11:9–12:8; Lk 9:43-45
The second Passion prediction in the Gospel, which is our text for today, follows immediately after Jesus’ mighty work in exorcising the demon in the previous scene. It is only in Luke that Jesus announces his passion and death while “all were marvelling at everything he did.” Only Luke adds the phrase, “Let these words sink into your ears;” in order to bring out the gravity of the pronouncement. He abbreviates the Passion prediction of Mark, so that his passion prediction simply has “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” Through this shortening, Luke focuses on Jesus’ “being handed over” or “delivered”, and omits any reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Like in Mark, here too the disciples’ are not able to understand. However, Luke gives a reason for this, namely “it was concealed from them”, though he does not say by whom.
It is not easy for us to give up control. Most of us like to be in control of every situation so that we do not need to depend on someone else. These verses are calling us to understand that this is not always possible or even necessary. There may be times when we need to give up control and especially to God acting through humans if we are to be faithful to his will.
Thursday, 22 September 2022
Friday, September 23, 2022 - Can you identify with a “Suffering Messiah”? Would you have preferred that Jesus not go to the Cross? What kind of death would have preferred Jesus to die?
To read the texts click on the texts : Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Lk 9:18-22
Though Luke depends on Mark for this scene of Peter’s confession, he has made some significant changes in order to bring out his meaning of the text. The first is that unlike Mark, Luke does not give the geographical location (Caesarea Philippi), but gives instead the context of the prayer of Jesus. Through this change, Luke makes the confession a spiritual experience. Luke also changes Marks, “one of the prophets” to “one of the old prophets has risen.” Though the difference does not appear to be great, it is for Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, before Jesus everything is old. Jesus makes all things new. Luke has also eliminated Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus as the suffering Messiah and the rebuke of Peter by Jesus. Luke avoids narrating Marcan texts that show Peter and even the disciples in a bad light.
The second question to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” shows on the one hand that the answers given of the crowd’s understanding of Jesus are inadequate, and on the other that Jesus wants to know their understanding of him. In all the Synoptic Gospels it is Peter who answers, but here too Luke adds to Mark’s, “You are the Christ”, the words “of God”. The Greek word “Christos” means in English “the anointed” and this conveys the meaning of royalty. However, by his addition, Luke also brings in the prophetical dimension of Jesus’ person and mission. This prophetical dimension is explicated in the verses, which follow the confession of Peter, in which Jesus explains the kind of Christ/Messiah/Anointed One that he will be. The reason for the rebuke or “stern order” not to tell anyone is because Jesus wanted to avoid any misunderstanding of the term which could be understood only in the glorious sense. Jesus as “the Christ of God” will come in glory, but only after he has gone to the cross, died, been buried and then raised.
Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Thursday, September 22, 2022 - You know a great deal about Jesus, but do you really know him? When did you last meet him personally?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ecclesiastes1:2-11; Lk 9:7-9
This text (9:7-9) forms the meat of the sandwich formed by the sending out of the Twelve (9:1-6) and their return (9:10-17). In a sandwich construction, an event is begun, interrupted by another event and the first event is continued and completed. In this instance, the disciples are sent on mission (9:1-6), the return is interrupted by the question of Herod (9:7-9) and the event of the sending out of the disciples is continued and completed by their return (9:10-17). In such a construction, the first and the third events throw light on the event in the middle or the meat of the sandwich. The first and third events narrate the sending and successful return, and it is in this light that the question of Herod, “Who is this?” which is the second event or in the centre, must be read. Herod’s desire to see Jesus foreshadows coming events. When Herod did meet Jesus, his desire to see Jesus was fulfilled, but he wanted only to see Jesus perform a sign. He never really grasped the answer to his own question. Though John the Baptist has been beheaded and Jesus will also be killed, yet the violence of the wicked will be no match for God’s grace. The success of the disciples’ in mission is only a shadow of the success that Jesus will experience in mission.
Tuesday, 20 September 2022
September 21, 2022 - THE FEAST OF ST. MATTHEW - Matthew wrote a Gospel to share his experience of the Lord. What will you do today to share your experience of the Lord?
If you wish to read the texts click here: Eph 4:1-7, 11-13; Mt 9:9-13
Most scholars hold today that the Gospel of Matthew was written after Mark. Matthew’s Gospel was the one that was used most often in the early Church and so it has been placed before Mark in the Bible. It is known as the Ecclesial Gospel or the Gospel of the Church. One reason for this is that Matthew’s thesis seems to be that since Israel for whom Jesus came rejected Jesus as Messiah, the Church has become now the new and true Israel. Also Matthew is the only one of the four Evangelists who uses the word “Ekklesia” translated “Church” in his Gospel (16:18;18:17). There is however, throughout the Gospel the tension between Particularism on the one hand and Universalism on the other. The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew is sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (15:24; see also 10:6) and the same Jesus can tell Israel “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (21:43).
Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which goes back to Abraham. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary (1:16) since Matthew is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is then narrated, followed by the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. This leads the family to go to Egypt where they remain till Herod’s death and then return to Nazareth. The birth, flight into Egypt and return to Nazareth all fulfil scripture. Matthew then goes on to narrate the Baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ temptations and his overcoming them. Jesus then begins his public ministry in Galilee after calling the first four disciples. Unlike Mark, which is a story, Matthew intersperses his narrative with long discourses. The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7,29). There are four other discourses in the Gospel. These are The Mission Discourse (10:1-11:1), The parable Discourse (13:1-53), The Community Discourse (18:1-19:1) and the Eschatological Discourse (24:1-26:1). Each of these discourses ends in a similar manner with the words, “and when Jesus had finished (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). This is also Matthew’s way of focussing on the teaching of Jesus and giving it as much if not more importance that the deeds of Jesus. Like in Mark, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, but soon encounters opposition, which grows and leads to his arrest, passion and death. The Gospel ends with accounts of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and what is known as the Great Commission, in which the disciples are commanded to go to all nations and make disciples of them and assured of the presence of the ever present Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (28:16-20).
The characteristics unique to Matthew’s Gospel are as under:
1. Matthew mentions five women in his genealogy (Luke has no mention of women). While many explanations have been offered to explain this fact the most plausible one is that in the case of all five women there was something irregular in their union with their husbands.
2. The visit of the wise men from the East (2:1-12) is exclusive to Matthew and probably with the intention to show that though the Jewish leaders “know” the details of the birth of the Messiah, they “do” nothing about it. On the other hand, Gentiles (represented by the Magi) do not “know” the details, but are willing to “obey and do”.
3. Only in the Gospel of Matthew is the tax collector who is called referred to as Matthew (9:9) and is referred to as "Matthew the tax collector" in the list of the disciples (10:3).
4. Matthew uses the phrase "the Kingdom of God" only in 12:28; 19:24; 21:31.43. Instead, the term "the Kingdom of Heaven" is preferred (3:2; 4:17; 5:18.104.22.168; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11.12; 13:22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199; 16:19; 18:1.3.4; 19:188.8.131.52; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1). In some of these, Matthew has changed his Marcan source. The best explanation of this phenomenon is Matthew prefers to avoid use of the word "God," using the circumlocution "Heavens" instead.
5. More than the other synoptic gospels, the Gospel of Matthew stresses the fulfilment nature of Jesus' ministry. The author explicitly cites Old Testament messianic prophecies as having been fulfilled in or by Jesus, often with a formula using the verb "to fulfil." The following are those instances that are unique to the Gospel of Matthew.
6. Matthew often doubles the numbers found in his Marcan source. Thus one demoniac of Mark 5:1-20 becomes two in Mt 8:28-34; one blind man of Mark 10:46-52 becomes two blind men in Mt 20:29-34. Matthew also has in 22:2 an ass and a colt where Mark 11:2 has only a colt. One reason that has been proposed for this is that Matthew wants to ensure the proper number of witness that was required to certify an act.
7. Only in Matthew 16:17-19 is Peter commended by Jesus after his answer that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” and given the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose. This is interpreted here as the authority to determine who is allowed in and for the authority to determine what interpretation of the law is binding. Also Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water (14:28-31) after Jesus has successfully done so and the incident of payment of the Temple tax in which Peter is asked to go to the sea to find a shekel in a fish’s mouth (17:24-27) are exclusive to Matthew. This probably indicates that Peter was an important figure in the Matthean community.
8. Matthew alone narrates that Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for his willingness to betray Jesus (26:14-16). While some see the connection with Zech 11:12-13 where thirty shekels of silver is mentioned as the wages of the shepherd, others see it as related to Exodus 21:32 which is price that had to be paid by the owner of an ox to the master of a slave who was gored to death by the ox. Judas’ repentance and suicide is also exclusive to Matthew (27:3-10)
9. Pilate receiving a message from his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus (27:19) and his washing his hands and declaring himself innocent of the death of Jesus (27:24), are incidents that are found only in Matthew. Some see this as Pilate’s obedience to the command of God communicated to him by his wife’s dream and also as Matthew’s attempt to put the onus for the death of Jesus on the shoulders of the Jews. This is also probably why Matthew alone has the people as a whole answer, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (27:25).
The text chosen for the feast contains the call of Matthew, and Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. It is only in the Gospel of Matthew that the tax collector is called Matthew. In Mark and Luke he is called Levi. However, in the lists of the Twelve in both Mark and Luke, the disciple is named Matthew and Levi does not appear. It is unlikely that Matthew and Levi refer to the same person. It was rare for Jews to have two different Jewish names. The reason for the author choosing the name Matthew remains unknown. However, in the text what strikes one is that whereas most people who passed by the tax office would see a corrupt official; Jesus was able to see a potential disciple. It was Jesus’ way of looking that led to the transformation and the response of Matthew to the call. In his response to the objection of the Pharisees, Jesus responds with a common proverb about the sick needing a doctor, and also quotes from Hoses 6:6, which here is interpreted to mean that the mercy of God in Jesus is extended to all humanity and takes precedence over everything else. All else must be understood in this light.
There are times when we judge people too easily and many of these times our judgement of them is negative. This is also how we often look at the whole of creation and because we put labels on things, people and all else in creation, we may miss out on the uniqueness that each possesses.