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Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The Gospel Of Justification
Yesterday we began reading from Paul's letter to the Romans; we will be
reading from it until
November 5, 2005 in our daily masses. If one listens to
fundamentalist and non-Catholic preachers, one gets the impression that
1:16-3:20 is a strong indictment against the sins of humanity and that
Paul pronounces it in view of the end times that is about to come. I'd
rather look at the section not as a threat but as an introduction to the
heart of Paul's gospel of justification. In effect, Paul presents the
case of humanity's sinfulness to show that God has considered it and
therefore has sent his only Son as a solution to man's existential
problem. The emphasis is not so much the condemnation that hangs on
humankind like the perennial threat of Damocles' sword. The emphasis
rather is on the mercy of God and the grace that he reveals in Christ.
The condemnation is great, the threat is real, but God's love is greater
than this. 1:16-3:20 is better understood in the light of what Paul says
all throughout his Gospel of Justification, especially in the words
which conclude his argument on Justification:
For I am convinced that neighter death nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor present things, nor future things, norpowers, nor
height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. (8:38)
Posted by biblista
at 7:55 AM
Edited on: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:13 AM
, New Testament
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Mt. 22:1-14 The Wedding Garment
Another parable proposed by the Lord as a reply to those who ask about
his authority (cf. 21:23-27) is about a wedding feast. A king's son was
going to be married and so gives out the invitation to those whom he
usually invites. These excused themselves due to other commitments.
Not only that, some of them even killed the king's messengers (vv.2-6).
The king answers with a violent reprisal (v.7). With the usual guests
finished off, the king sends out his messengers once more to call in
anyone -- both good and bad -- into the banquet. And so the banquet did
If we compare the parable at this point to the other parables that Jesus
tells his interlocutors., we can say that the present one is telling the
1. Those who refused, stand for the Jews who turned away from the
invitation to the reign of God. (21:43)
2. The reprisal of the king, already hinted at in the previous parable
about the tenants of the vineyard, represents the judgment that will
laid upon the wicked, i.e., those who refuse the invitation of God's
3. Finally, those who respond to the invitation are like the tax
collectors and the prostitutes in the parable of the two sons (21:28-32)
who respond to the call of the Baptist to conversion. (cf. 21:32)
Apart from this, there are echoes of banquet-sayings uttered by the Lord
regarding the replacement of those normally invited by others as in Mt.
But then, there is a second part to the parable...
During the party itself, the king arrived to meet the guests. He saw one
who was not in the proper wedding garb. Jewish culture demands that
everyone come in the proper attire for a banquet. Since banquets last
for some days, anyone invited can come at one's leisure in the proper
garb. The man had no excuse for coming without the proper clothing. When
asked by the king about his clothing, he shut his mouth (that is what phimotheti
means; other translations settle for "he had nothing to say"). And that
was in the culture of the times very rude. So the king orders that the
man be thrown out of the party.
Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast
him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."
One might as well ask: "Is the punishment proportionate to the
offense? Did the man deserve to be bound hand and foot and thrown out
into the darkness?" If it were just a story, perhaps we can say it was
too much. The problem is, it is not just a story. The parable has all
the elements of a judgment scenario: the wedding banquet, the implied
wedding, the war on the wicked, the white garment for the wedding, the
outer darkness. The last quoted phrase itself occurs in other parts of
Matthew in the context of judgment:
Mt. 8:11-12: I tell you many will come from east and west and sit at
the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while
the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there
men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Mt. 13:41-42: The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather
out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them
into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Mt. 24:50-51: The Master of that (faithless) servant will come on a day
when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will
punish him and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and
gnash their teeth.
Mt. 25:40: Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there
men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Given these facts, therefore, what does the white garment point to? The
answer I think is hinted at that part of the New Testament where the
elements of this parable -- wedding feast, war, white garment -- can be
found one other time: Revelation 19:1-21:8. In this section we find
the clean white robe as representing "the righteous deeds of the saints"
Monday, October 03, 2005
Mt. 21-33-46 The Tenants of the Vineyard
Mt. 21:33-46 is a parable closely following that found in vv. 28-32
which deal with the question: "Who is doing the Father's will?" Both
parables are tied up together by the same image, that of the "vineyard."
In the parable under consideration, Jesus hooks up with the Vineyard
Song in Isaiah 5:1-7 which is actually plaintive song regarding a
vineyard that refuses to give off its fruits inspite of the attention
given to it by its owner. The resemblance however is immediately cut
off after Mt. 21:33, for what follows is the story of a rebellion. The
tenants of the vineyard refuse to give the owner his portion of the
yield. Instead, they kill off the owner's messengers one by one
(vv.34-36). Finally, the owner sends his son, the one who will inherit
the vineyard. But he too was killed by those tenants (37-39). The
parable ends with a question: "What do you think will the owner of the
vineyard do to those tenants?" And the answer should have brought the
parable to a conclusion:
He will put those wretches to a misrable death, and let out the
vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their proper
Transfer of Privileges
At this point in the story, one is reminded of moments in salvation
history where a privilege given by God to a place or to a person is
withdrawn and given to another. This is the case of Shiloh and King
Saul. Shiloh was the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant until it
was transferred to David's Jerusalem. King Saul enjoyed the privilege of
God's election until that privilege was taken away from him and given to
David. The vineyard will be "let out to other tenants..."
In Romans 9-11 we find Paul explaining why the Jews have ceased to be
the People of God since the privilege has been given to the Church. The
parable in Mt. 21:33-46 intimates why: in killing the owner's son and
wanting to inherit the vineyard for themselves, the tenants were
revealing their evil intent towards the owner. They too wanted him
killed so that they can have his property. The graphic illustration of
hatred towards the owner is first acted out against his son. Isn't it
that to accept Jesus is to accept the One Who Sent Him? So conversely,
anyone who hates Jesus, hates the Father. In this story of the Tenants
of the Vineyard, the story of Israel's rejection of God's Messiah is
actually presaged. And the Pharisees and chief priests understood it
quite clearly! (cf. 45-46)
That the story is about Christ's rejection is quite clear in v. 42 where
Jesus quotes from Ps. 118:22-23:
The very stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the
this was the Lord's doing
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Early Christian preaching has used this passage to refer to the
rejection of Jesus by his people and the subsequent vindication he
receives from God in the resurrection (cf. Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7) . A
cornerstone is prepared for a new edifice. The mention of it in the
context of the parable intimates points to Jesus as the cornerstone of a
new building. And God Himself will make this happen. We know when it
does happen: at the glorification of Christ.
The Fruits that will be Rendered Back
The parable mentions the fruits that will finally be made available to
the owner of the vineyard once the proper changes are made. In Matthew,
as in the Gospels, "fruit" is most often associated with righteousness,
hence "fruits of righteousness" and conversely, "fruits of wickedness"
Below are the occurences of the word "fruit" and "fruits" in Matthew's
gospels. Note that it is only in the case of the fig tree that Jesus
curses and the parable of the farmer, where the meaning of "fruit" is
not moral; while in Mt. 26, the reference is to the wine of the Last
Mt 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance.
Mt 3:10 For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree
therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast
into the fire.
Mt 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil
tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Mt 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil
tree bring forth good fruit.
Mt 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut
down, and shall be cast into the fire.
Mt 12:33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good: or make the tree
evil, and its fruit evil. For by the fruit the tree is known.
Mt 13:8 And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit,
some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, and some thirty fold.
Mt 13:23 But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that
heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the
one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty.
Mt 13:26 And when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth
fruit, then appeared also the cockle.
Mt 21:19 And seeing a certain fig tree by the way side, he came to
it and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he saith to it: May no
fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig tree
Mt 21:41 They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end
and let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the
fruit in due season.
Mt 26:29 And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this
fruit of the vine until that day when I shall drink it with you new in
the kingdom of my Father.
Mt 7:16 By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles?
Mt 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.
Mt 21:34 And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his
servants to the husbandmen that they might receive the fruits thereof.
Mt 21:43 Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken
from you and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.
In other words, the "fruit" that is referred to in this passage are not
different from the "fruits of the Spirit" mentoned in Gal. 5 or the
lasting fruits by which the Father is honored in John 15.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Luke For The Week
Below are my reflections on this week's readings from Luke . Only on
Wednesday is their a selection from Matthew.
Posted by biblista
at 9:06 PM
Edited on: Monday, November 28, 2005 4:29 PM
, New Testament
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Build My House
The theme of the weekday readings for the 25th Week in OT Year A is
"Build My House". Readings are selected from Ezra, and two minor*
prophets who are mentioned in Ezra 5: Haggai and Zechariah. The week
starts off with the edict of Cyrus in 538 BC, the end of the exile (Ezra
1:1-6). In this edict, the Emperor calls upon interested Jews** to go
back to their land and rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:7-20
one finds the edict of Darius (521-485) which reiterates the building of
the Temple. He orders that the taxes be used for the financing of the
construction and commands that a steady supply of animals be given to
the priests to offer as sacrifices offered continually in the temple.
Due Darius' support, the temple is rebuilt.
Ephesians 4:1-13 actually continues the theme of building up the Temple
of the Lord but from a different perspective, that of the New Testament.
The Lord's Body is His Temple. Paul urges the Ephesians to live
according to their vocation to holiness, striving at the same time to
preserve their unity. The unity of the Body of Christ is based on the
of the Body itself
of the Spirit that gives it life
of the hope to which Christians are called
of the Lord who is one
of God, who is Father of all
This unity is not to be contrasted with the diversity of gifts that the
Lord has procured for his Church. There are different charisms given to
different members of the Church but all these are for the "building up
of the Body of Christ." It must be noted that here, Paul uses the
language of human growth -- "maturity", "full stature" -- because he is
emphasizing the organically vital dimension of the Mystical Body of
Haggai is mentioned together with Zechariah in Ezra 5 as those prophets
who protested against the discontinuation of the rebuilding of the
Temple. In Haggai 1:1-8, the prophet attributes the economic
difficulties of the Jews to the ruined state of the Temple. The
prophecy can be summarized thus: "Build the temple that all may go well
with you" (vv. 7-11). In Haggai 2:1-9, the prophet answers those who
are saying that the completed Temple looks dismal and that it lacks the
glory of the old one. Noteworthy in this prophecy is the reiteration of
God's promise "I am with you." There is also the words "One moment yet,
a little while" which is echoed in John's Gospel. "A little while" is
the period of time which separates present hardship from future glory.
Finally, God's future temple will be far more glorious than the first
one. This prophecy does not refer to the temple that King Herod will
build and which the disciples will be marvellling at. It refers to the
Temple of the Lord, His Body. Thus, with Haggai's voice, we hear the
announcement of the Church.
Zechariah's prophecy repeats in some ways what Haggai said about God's
dwelling among his people. Alluding to the pillar of fire that
accompanied the Israelites in the Desert, he says that God will once
more protect His people like a surrounding fire. But God will not only
protect His people and exact vengeance on those who have hurt them. He
will dwell in their midst, just as He did before (in the Tent of
Meeting). The prophecy makes sense if one situates it AFTER the
completion of the second temple. The dismal looking temple that the
returning Jews managed to finish -- according to this prophecy -- should
not trouble them for God's presence among His people is much more
important than any temple built for any god whatsoever.
*"Minor" does not mean "less important". The term refers to the books
ascribed to them: these are very short books, so they are called "minor."
**Jews. Technically, "Israel" no longer existed. Only those who were
from Judah returned. The exiles of 721 BC are no longer mentioned.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Sirach On Forgiveness: A Doorway To The Lord's Prayer
The Gospels did not grow out of the Old Testament, we know that.
Between the Two Testaments, there is a jump in quality because of the
figure of Jesus Christ. It would be naive to think that the Old
Testament writings, read in a particular way can lead one to the Letters
of Paul and the Gospels. In fact, we know that the whole New Testament
is a product of the rereading of the Jewish scriptures in the light of
the death and resurrection of Christ. And yet, there are some passages
in the Jewish Scriptures that show some continuity between Old and New
Testaments. A case in point is today's OT reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7*
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them
The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance,
he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray,
your own sins will be forgiven,
Should a man nourish anger
against his fellows
and expect healing from the Lord?
a man refuse mercy to his fellows
yet seek pardon for his own
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and
decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the
commandments, hate not your neighbor,
Think of the Most High's
covenant, and overlook faults.
Note the bold phrases in black. These sentences actually echo the
Lord's Prayer ("Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors")
and the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the merciful, for they shall
obtain mercy."). The lines in blue actually bases forgiveness and
the love (opposite of hate) of neighbor in the commandments,
specifically, in the commandments given at Sinai. Does not Paul echo
this passage in Rom. 13:10 where he writes: "Love does not evil to the
neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."
*The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach is Jewish Scriptures; the Essenes of Qumran
had it among their scrolls. It is inspired writing among the Jews of
the Diaspora (the Alexandrine Old Testament gives witness to this).
The Pharisees excluded it from their Hebrew canon after 70 AD; it is the
Pharisaic canon which is used today by Protestants.
Mt. 18:21-35: Forgiveness From The Heart
We can sympathize with Peter when he asks: "Lord, how many times should
I forgive a brother who wrongs me?" And we find the answer to the
question difficult to accept: "Don't count the times you forgive.*" And
then, so as to quash any objections that may arise from his reply, the
Lord immediately proposes a parable about a man who was freed from a
large debt by his master, the king, but who would not do the same for a
person who owed him a mere paltry sum. When the king heard what the man
did, he had him imprisoned until he paid back all he owed to him. And
the Lord concludes the parable with these ominous words: "My
heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way unless each of
you forgives his brother from the heart."
"To forgive from the heart." Seen within the context of
Matthew 18:21-35, the phrase means both forgiving with compassion and
forgetting the wrong done. The king had compassion on the man who owed
him a large debt and therefore freed him from it. The word for
compassion used here is the same word that the Gospels use for the
compassion that Jesus feels for the crowds who come to him for healing. Splanchnizomai,
is a strong emotion that is felt in the center of one's being. The king
experienced it when the man in the parable pleaded for more time to pay
what he owed. Knowing that the large amount cannot be paid in a
lifetime, anyway**, the king wrote off the debt. But the man, having
been freed from a debt he could not pay, would not write off the debt of
one who can pay his in this lifetime. Thus, the sadness of those who
witness the man who has been treated graciously deal with a fellow in a
similar situation in a cruel manner. Thus, too, the harshness of the
king when he hears about it.
When was the last time you forgave from the heart?
"Forgive us our sins as we forgave those who sin against us."
This is the daily prayer of the Christian. In that short petition, we
are asking the Heavenly Father to forgive us not out of his sheer mercy,
but in the measure that we forgive others. It actually sounds as if we
are saying: "Because I forgive others, forgive me too." I
have written about the Jewish roots of this idea, so I won't repeat
it here. But in the light of this petition, wouldn't it be quite
presumptuous for me to ask God's forgiveness when I have excluded
certain people from forgiveness.
There are people who think that forgiveness means that one stop from
hating a person who given offense. They would accept an apology but
would not forget the offense committed. The memory of the offense is
allowed to remain at the back of one's head like a mine that one has
buried in a field and forgotten there. Sooner or later, one will step on
that mine and detonate it. The memory of an offense can be buried so
deep that one would think it is no longer there. When it is aroused
however (by a similar incident or by the same person) it can still cause
quite a bit of turmoil. How many people are there who go through life
seething with an anger whose cause they can no longer remember, or even
When was the last time you forgave from the heart?
Stop hating, ... forget the reason for the hatred. "Forgive and forget,"
they say. But this isn't forgiveness yet. Until one allows compassion to
be a part of it, then one's act of forgiveness is incomplete. Compassion
in the Gospels moves one to do something good for the other. Remember
the parable of the Good Samaritan? It was compassion that differentiated
the Samaritan from the priest and the Levite who also saw the suffering
man by the roadside. It is compassion too that made the king in the
parable write off the large debt owed to him thereby allowing his debtor
a new lease on life, so to speak. Unless
one's forgiveness actually moves one to also do something good for the
person forgiven, then the forgiveness one offers is like a cold
handshake -- it will not warm the hearts of those who receive it.
Seven times seventy-seven is five hundred and thirty-nine
times. With the figure, it becomes highly impractical to remember how
many times one forgives one particular person. What the Lord is saying
is "as your brother does not count how many times he wrongs you, so too,
do not count how many times you forgive him."
The "talanton" and the "denarii" that are contrasted in the parable as
the respective amounts owed by the man to the king on the one hand, and
that owed by a fellow servant represent huge disproportionate amounts.
The Filipino version I am using actually translates those words in terms
of PHP 10,000,000.00 as opposed to PHP 500.00.
Posted by bible student
at 2:04 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 2:22 PM
, New Testament
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Col. 3:1-11 Life Between Christ's Glorification and His Return In Glory
Col. 3:1-11 is the first part of Paul's theological introduction to the
practical guidelines section of his letter to the Colossians (3:18-4:9).
The second part is in 3:12-17. That these sections dwell on the life
of the baptized between the time of Christ's glorification and his
coming again in glory is suggested in the lines "you have been raised
with Christ"(v. 1)... and "you also will appear with him in glory" (v.
4). Taking these two moments as reference points for the Christian
life, how is the Christian to live?
(1b)Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at
the right hand of God
(2) Set your minds on things that are
above, not on things that are on earth.
Note the parallelism in these lines. To seek the things that are above (ano),
is to set ones mind on things that are above (ano) . Paul is
here actually drawing a conclusion from an idea that should be obvious
to his readers: the Christian has become -- through baptism -- so
united with Christ that he is even now joined with Christ at the right
hand of God. The Christian, in other words, is already among heavenly
things! Hence, he has to fix his gaze and his hopes on those things
which are proper to his new nature.
It is normal for people to think that in terms of "below-above" when we
think of the spiritual life: I am "below" and God is "above". Hence,
in order to be near Him, I should "go up." Isn't it that the whole idea
of "ascesis" is "to ascend" as implied in the words "ascetic" and
"asceticism"? Paul knew this "ascetic mentality" and talks about it in
Col. 2:23, and he dismisses it as "having an appearance of
wisdom in promoting rigour of devotion and self-abasement and severity
to the body but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the
flesh." Rather he points to an asceticism that is more real and
more in accord with the present situation of the Christian, an
asceticism that is possible because rooted in the recreation of the
Paul writes that the Christian's life is "hid with Christ in God" (v.3)
and that the Christian -- in baptism -- "has put off the old nature with
its practices and has put on the new nature, which is being renewed in
knowledge after the image of its creator." (v. 10). The Christian has
been created anew in Christ. The new nature that Paul refers to
is the new humanity created by God in Christ and to which the Christian
shares in by virtue of his baptism. Christ is "the image of the
invisible God" writes Paul in Col. 1:15 and it is in this image that the
new humanity is renewed in knowledge (3:10). The Christian, may look as
human as anybody else outwardly; but this is only because his life is
hid. As Christ when walking among us looked just like us and talked
like us, so too, the Christian is by all appearances human. Only God
can see who he truly is. In the end, Paul writes, when Christ appears
in glory, so the Christian will also be revealed as God knows and sees
him, to all (cf. Romans 7:19).
The new status of the Christian apud Deum has consequences for
his daily life (3:5-17). Since he is no longer an
"earth-bound-and-death-bound" being, he now has a life that is
Christ-like and Spirit-filled. It is this life which Paul describes as
"living IN Christ" (cf. 2:6-11)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
The Gospel of Luke and the Letter to the Colossians
For those who are in the habit of reading the Scriptures as part of
their daily activities: Today, we began reading the Letter to the
Colossians as the first reading for the daily mass. This will continue
until next week and will cover until the third chapter of the letter.
Yesterday, we began reading from the gospel of Luke, and this will
continue until November, when the new liturgical season begins with
Advent. We've just finished reading selections from the first letter to
the Thessalonians. Below is a table showing how the selections are
distributed during the weekday masses:
August 31, Wednesday
September 1, Thursday
September 2, Friday
September 3, Saturday
September 5, Monday
September 6, Tuesday
September 7, Wednesday
The readings for Sunday (September 4) and the feast of the Nativity of
Mary (September 8) was not included since readings for these days follow
a different rationale. Following Colossians is the first letter to
Posted by biblista
at 12:24 PM
Edited on: Thursday, September 01, 2005 1:25 PM
Monday, August 29, 2005
Mt. 16:21-27 -- Being an Alter Christus
Those who have been baptized are called "alter Christus", an "other
Christ". This aspect of the Christian life is underscored in Mt.
16:21-27. The gospel selection for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Year A) can be divided in the following way:
Get Behind Me, Satan: The Reproach To Peter
The Disciples' Way of the Cross
The statement "Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me" (v. 24) is actually a statement of the
lifestyle of the one who wishes to follow Jesus. The central statement
"take up his cross" points forward to the Way of the Cross. As Jesus
will be carrying the cross of humiliation and shame, so too the disciple
will have to carry his. The two outward statements -- "deny himself ...
follow me" -- recalls all the instances when those whom Jesus calls have
to leave something of themselves behind. The first four fishermen to be
called left behind their nets and boats (in the case of James and John,
they also left behind Zebedee, their father, the one who passed on to
them their trade as fishermen); the rich young man had to discover that
it was not enough to just obey the Mosaic law, he also had to give up
his wealth (Mt. 19:16-22, cf. parallels). Given the connection of the
statement to the previous one about Jesus' prediction regarding his own
future, one is tempted to see here a call to the same process that Jesus
will undergo: suffering, death and resurrection. When Jesus says "follow
me" one might as well ask, "To where?" The gospel of John will give the
answer: "Where I am, there you will also be", that is, to be with Him at
the side of the Father. In Matthew Jesus intimates this in verse 27 when
he refers to his return as the Son of Man who will render to each one
The Son of Man is the celestial being in Daniel 7:13+ who receives from
God all authority, power and kingship. This is the glorious Son of Man
who will return as the Groom, King and Master of the House (cf. Matthew
25). He will share with the wise, the faithful and those who cared for
the little ones the joy that is His. It is I think within this context
that one must understand the statements in vv. 25-26.
Whoever will seek his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life
for my sake will find it. For what profits a man if he gains the whole
world but loses his own soul? What can he give in return for his own
Vv. 21-23 is in continuation with the previous story about Peter's
confession of the who Jesus is. After Simon Bar-Jona identifies Jesus
as "the Messiah (the Christ), Son of the Living God" and gets commended
for it, he shows in vv. 21-23 that he has not fully understood Jesus'
Messiahship. He, like the Devil in Matthew 4:1f, thought of a Messiah
without a Cross. Hence, Jesus calls him by the name "Satan", the
Hindrance. Like Peter, the "alter Christus" must give up one's favorite
image of Jesus for one that is in conformity with God's mind. In a
moment of inspiration, Peter saw Jesus as the Christ, but as a Christ in
glory with authority and dominion. He had to learn that that image of
Christ will become true only AFTER Jesus has become the Suffering
Messiah, obedient only to the Father's word. As the Tempter in Matthew
4:1f learned what Son of God meant, so too must the disciple.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
The Faith of A Pagan: Matthew 15:21-28
The story of the persistent Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 is taken
by the Catechism as an example of prayer borne out of deep faith (CCC,
2610). In fact, the figure of the Canaanite woman and her persistence in
asking for the Lord's help reminds one of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52),
the Parables of Persistent Prayer in Luke (cf. Luke 11:5-10;18:2-5). And
while it can be compared to the case of the Roman centurion as an
example of a healing at a distance, (Mt. 8:5-13), the case of the
Canaanite woman is distinguished by the fact that here, her request was
granted after being rebuffed.
Jesus' initial rejection of the request of the woman for help is
justified in 15:24: "I was sent after the lost sheep of Israel." This
has led some interpreters to think that the story probably came from a
time in Jesus' ministry when the restoration of the people of Israel was
foremost in his thoughts. However, the fact that Jesus relents to the
woman at the end in recognition of her genuine faith, the story probably
became an inspiration for the early Christian missionaries when these in
turn found themselves in Gentile lands. Hence, this narrative provides a
type for the Church in mission to the Gentiles.
This gospel narrative is paired with Romans 11:13-15.29-32 for the 20th
Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year A. This is interesting because Augustine
has a sermon on the Canaanite woman where he makes side comments on this
section of Romans (Sermon 77).
But why were the natural branches rightly broken off? (cf. Rom.
11:17a) Pride. And the wild olive rightly grafted in (Rom. 11:17b)?
Humility. That's why this woman said: "Yes, Lord, for even the dogs
eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of the master" and why he
said in reply: "O woman, great is your faith!"
In this sermon, Augustine had been explaining to his audience their
connection to the Canaanite woman:
With these words ("I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel") the
question arises: how did we come from the gentiles into Christ's
sheepfold, if he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel? What is the meaning of this profoundly mysterious maneuver by
which the Lord, knowing full well why he had come, which was of course
to have a Church among all the nations, said he had only been sent to
the lost sheep of the house of Israel?
Thus, from this opening question, he explains the story as a
prefiguration of what happens in the time of the apostles when they --
especially in the person of St. Paul -- preached the gospel to the
Gentiles and made possible the "grafting" of the wild olive branches of
gentility into the tree that is Israel.
The story of the persistent Canaanite woman therefore has a typological
sense. It also has a moral sense which Augustine does not hesitate to
pound into his audience:
So notice, brothers and sisters, how it is above all humility that is
being recommended to us in this woman who was a Canaanite, that is,
who came from gentility and was a type -- that is, a representation --
of the Church.
Let's learn, let's keep humility. If we haven't got any yet, let's
learn it. If we don't have it, let us not lose it. If we haven't yet
got it, let's get it andbe grafted in. If we already have it, let's
keep it and not be broken off.
The story of the Canaanite woman is rich. It can be seen as an example
of the persistence of a mother who loves her daughter or the humility of
a pagan in front of the Lord or even a reminder of how the Lord refuses
a request so as to make one's desire more intense. There is a lot of
meat here but all derives from the humble woman whom the Lord praises in
the end: "Oh woman, how great is your faith!"
Posted by bible student
at 2:05 PM
Edited on: Thursday, August 11, 2005 2:46 PM
, New Testament
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Deuteronomy in the Weekday Liturgy
Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch's book of love
will be read in selections during the coming days. Here is the
Deuteronomy means "Second Law" or "The Law Reiterated". The Israelite
generation that stood at the foot of Sinai has passed away and now Moses
stands before a new generation of Israelites who never saw and
experienced what their fathers saw and experienced in Egypt and in the
Wilderness. This new generation will now walk into the land promised to
their fathers, and so Moses narrates to them how God has loved them and
their fathers and tells them how
to respond to that love.
Love for God is expressed in obedience to the Law. Within the context of
a loving relationship between God and his people, Father and first-born,
the Law becomes the expression of paternal wisdom handed on to the son.
It is thus, that obedience to the Law also becomes an occassion to
really get to know the Great Abba.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Luke 10:38-42 Martha, the One and the Many
Luke 10:38-42 has been interpreted in the past in terms of the active
and contemplative religious life. According to this understanding of the
text, Martha represents the religious who is engaged in various forms of
apostolate while Mary would stand for those who spend their time in
prayer and contemplation. While some may object to this interpretation
because of its anachronism, there is also some reason to accept it.
After all, Luke in his Acts also narrates an event in the early Church
where the job of serving at tables was delegated to a group of chosen
men so that the apostles can devote themselves to "prayer and the
ministry of the Word (cf. Acts 6:3-4)." This narrative in Acts parallels
the case of Martha who is worried and upset over the many tasks of
hospitality vis-a-vis her sister who is at home at the Lord's feet,
listening to His Word.
There is also another way of taking the symbolisms for Martha and Mary,
as St. Augustine would. Martha represents the toil and labor that
characterizes the present time while Mary's "resting" before the Lord
points us to that time when the moment is no longer marked by human
toil. In other words, the contrast between this life and the life to
come. In this interpretation, Martha and Mary are facets of the
Christian life which is marked by worry and hardship now, but tends
towards rest and contemplation in eternity. Here are Augustine's words:
What, in any case did the Lord say to Martha? Mary has chosen the better
part. Not that you chose a bad one, but she chose better. Listen to what
makes it better: which shall not be taken away from her. Some time
orother the burden of need will be taken away from you; the sweetness of
truth is eternal. What she has chosen will not be taken away from her.
It's not taken away, but still it can be increased. Or rather, in this
life it can be increased; in the next life it will be perfected, it will
never be taken away. (Sermon 103, 5c)
Augustine could have expressed here what he refers to as the otium
sanctum and the negotium caritatis -- that balance of the
"Martha and Mary" facets of the spiritual life. Otium
sanctum (holy leisure) is the contemplative aspect of the
Christian life, a foretaste of the joys that God reserves for those who
love Him. This aspect is characterized by prayer and the adoration of
God in His works -- a preparation for the beatific vision. Negotium
caritatis on the other hand is the business of charity to which
the Christian is daily called. In this life, Augustine seems to say, a
balance of both is needed. Holy leisure is the ideal of the Christian
life, but it should not prevent one from responding to the business of
charity. Martha was not told to stop what she was doing; her attention
was called to the one thing necessary. But Mary has chosen the better
part, and that will not be taken away from her.
this article too from Otium Sanctum.
Posted by bible student
at 2:46 PM
Edited on: Saturday, July 30, 2005 3:19 PM
, New Testament
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The Kingdom and the Scribe
Matthew 13: 44-52 may at first appear unrelated. vv. 44-50 continues the
string of parables about the Kingdom that Jesus tells his hearers
beginning in verse 1. Vv. 51-52 is a concluding remark about the
parabolic lessons just heard. In this remark, Jesus refers to a "scribe
instructed in the kingdom of heaven." What is the relationship
between a kingdom and a scribe? Answer: a king always has a scribe
working for him. Scribes are those who keep records of the kingly
administration., records that are both old and new. Scribes are the
memory of a king's reign; through them, the continuity between a
previous administration to a new one is made possible.
This passage is broken down by the liturgy to smaller passages during
the course of the weekday readings for the 17th week in OT. Here is the
Wednesday, Mt. 13: 44-46
Thursday, Mt. 13: 47-53
In Mt. 13:44-46, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a treasure buried
in a field on the one hand and to a pearl of great price. The first of
these parables emphasizes the hiddenness of the treasure that can be
discovered only by "digging up" the earth, that is, by toil and hard
work. The second emphasizes the search that one undertakes before one
finds a pearl of great price. In both cases, when one finds the kingdom
it is with great joy, and with joy also that one gives up all that one
has for it. Both these parables should somehow remind one of Jesus'
teachings about discipleship and most specifically of the story of the
Rich Man who could not be Jesus' disciple because he could not give up
Mt. 13:47-50 is a parable that can be compared to the one about the
darnel and the wheat because of the reference to the day of judgment
(cf. vv.24-30.36-43). Here however the emphasis is on the coverage
of the kingdom of heaven. At first it gathers in all -- both good and
bad -- and only afterwards will the separation between good and bad
occur. The God who lets the rain fall on both good and bad wants his
kingdom to draw in both good and bad. This should be a reminder to all
that while God wants all to be perfect as He is perfect, He also desires
that the "imperfect" be perfected in His mercy and compassion*.
Mt. 13:51-52 is the saying about the scribe who is compared to the
master of the household who has a rich store of supplies that he can
distribute as provision. Since the scribe passes on memories, this
particular saying of Jesus are for the "teachers" of the Matthaean
community who are supplied with these parables so that they can teach
others what the kingdom of heaven means.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Give Me Wisdom
1 Kgs. 3:5.7-12 is this Sunday's Old Testament reading. The selection
emphasizes Solomon's request for Wisdom and how the request pleased God.
As appearing in the liturgy, we find a one-to-one correspondence between
the request that Solomon makes and the response of God to that request.
The text however appears in a more complete form as part of the literary
unit formed by vv. 1-15. vv. 1-4 is a brief summary presentation of what
Solomon did from the time he took power until the time he made his
request, and justifies his presence at Gibeon, "the most renowned high
place" (v.4). Note that high places were used for idolatrous worship,
yet Solomon offered sacrifices to God there and it was there that God
appears to him in a dream.
The dialogue between Solomon and God is found in vv. 5-14, with the
remaining verse (v. 15) providing the conclusion to the whole story. The
dialogue opens up with God commanding Solomon to make a request (v.5).
Solomon's response can be divided into (a) Preface (vv. 6-8) and (b) The
Request (v. 9). The first part of the preface is a narrative that
emphasizes the special favors shown by God to David and his son. The
second part highlights the present situation of Solomon, the son of
David, who feels his own inadequacy in front of the people whom
God has chosen. Solomon's request is in function of his role
towards God's people, and that is, "an understanding heart" to judge,
and to distinguish between right and wrong, so as to govern. God's
response to this request is positive. God notes that Solomon did not ask
for something that enhances himself personally -- long life, riches,
victory in battle -- and was therefore pleased. He grants the request
for an understanding heart, but in addition He would also grant what
Solomon did not ask for, riches and glory as no other kings have, and --
on condition that he is faithful as David was -- even long life.
The Sunday liturgy suppresses a part of Solomon's preface to his
request. "You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David,
because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and upright
heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today,
seating a son of his on his throne." This was done for a simple reason:
the emphasis on the liturgy is on the exercise of kingship, not on the
theme of succession. What is emphasized here is the requirement for a
kingly rule that is pleasing to God. As such the reading actually echoes
something from Wisdom literature: the need for kings and judges to seek
This selection from the OT also sheds some light on the relationship
between religion and politics, a relationship which is often
misunderstood. If all authority is from God, then power and wisdom must
necessarily come from on High. Take this premise as the first one in a
syllogism about earthly rule and one gets to the conclusion that the
best leader is one who is -- in Filipino parlance -- maka-Diyos
(in English, this would be roughly translated as "Godly").
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Isaiah 55:10-11 My Word Never Fails
Isaiah 55:10-11 is from the conclusion of Isaiah's Book of Consolation
(Isaiah 55:1-13). Here the keyword is DABAR which the Septuagint
translates as logoV. Our
modern English translations simply render it as "Word." But this somehow
limits the concept that both the Hebrew original and the Greek
translation containt. In both those languages, the original idea can be
rendered as "Word-Event." God's "Word" is not simply an idea that is
pronounced or written, it is a "happening"; and because it "happens", it
can change, transform, create. The powerful imagery that Isaiah employs
in these two verses compares God's Word with water that becomes either
snow or rain that irrigates the land and makes it produce the food that
one brings at table and from which one is nourished. From water, to
snow, to irrigated land, to vegetation, to bread that one eats -- God's
Word operates the same way once it leaves God's mouth. It brings about a
happening, or like the water, a "life-cycle."
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
the end for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11)
The liturgy for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary time pairs this passage with
the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. By doing this, the Church
is helping us understand the connection between the words of Jesus and
God's Word. In Matthew's parable, the words of Jesus -- symbolized by
the seed of the sower -- can grow and bear fruit in a heart that is
"fertile." The parables that Jesus use to teach the crowd already
"select" those meant to benefit from them: "they
shall look but will not see and listen but will not hear or understand."
Only to the disciples has it been given that Jesus' words are
understood. And it is for them that the Word of God becomes life.
There is another passage from the Gospel of John which echoes Isaiah
55:10-11. The echo is faint, but it is there. "My Word ... shall do my
will ... (shall do ) the purpose for which I sent it" has an echo in "My
food is to do the will of God who sent me to finish His work" (Jn.
4:34). The context of this latter passage is Jesus' encounter with the
Samaritan woman. It was an encounter where He, the Word of God made
flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-18) presents himself as the source of the water that
gurgles unto eternal life (Jn. 4:14). The encounter ends with the woman
going back into town and calling her townsmates to where Jesus was so
that they too may encounter Him. The evangelist John composed the story
in such a way that Jesus' talk about food and harvest in v. 34-38 should
point to the coming of "many Samaritans" (v.30). Thus, by sending God's
Word to this town of Samaria, a woman who sought water helped a whole
town recognize "the Savior of the world. (v. 42)"
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
2 Corinthians For The 11th Week
From June 13-18 we have the following reading selections from 2
Monday, 2 Cor. 6:1-10
Paul is here continuing an argument that he had begun in 5:11. His
ministry is that of applying the graces of the reconciliating already
effected by Christ to the Corinthians. He now invites the Corinthians
to open their hearts to himself and to be reconciled to God. To
himself, because Paul has shown himself to be a minister of that
reconciliation effected by God in Christ (5:18-20.6:3-10). To God,
because He is the one who, ultimately, calls the Corinthians to the
grace of reconciliation (cf. 6:1).
Tuesday, 2 Cor. 8:1-9
The beginning of Paul's discourse on the collection for Jerusalem.
This ends in 9:15. In this introduction, Paul narrates to the
Corinthians how the Christians in Macedonia though at that time were
having problems still insisted on taking on the responsibility of
passing the collection for the mother church in Jerusalem. Paul asks
the Corinthians to do better than the Macedonians since they --
compared to this latter -- are in a better condition to make a
Wednesday, 2 Cor. 9:6-11
Still on the collection. One can take these passages as a collection
of motivations for generosity.
Thursday, 2 Cor. 11:1-11
Paul expresses here a concern that he has also voiced in his letter to
the Galatians: that his community is falling for another gospel. The
concern is due to the appearance of some "apostles" who've come with
credentials and are drawing the Corinthians away from Paul. Against
these credentials, Paul will demonstrate his own (cf. 11:21b ff)
Friday, 2 Cor. 11: 18.21-30
Paul presents the credentials that he has as an apostle. He had
already shown that he is a a minister of the New Covenant (cf.
3:1-4:15) Here he goes directly to the question of whether or not he
is "inferior" to others who come with the credentials supposedly from
the mother Church.
Saturday, 2 Cor. 12:1-10
Paul's "foolishness" is due to the fact that he has allowed himself to
be drawn to "boasting" about his credentials. Here he continues to
present his credentials saying that if the Corinthians think him a
fool, it is because of his love for them. The visionary whom Paul
alludes to here is himself.
Posted by bible student
at 4:20 AM
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
St. Paul This Week
For the 10th week in Ordinary Time we have St. Paul's 2 Corinthians for
the first reading and we stay with it through the 11th week. Below are
Monday, 2 Cor. 1:1-7
The beginning of the letter. Keywords are "comfort/consolation" on
the one hand and "suffering, suffering with Christ, tribulations" on
the other. The idea is that God comforts those who suffer for the
sake of and in union with Christ so that these in turn can comfort
Tuesday,. 2 Cor. 1:18-22
Paul assures the Corinthians that he was not being insincere when he
was prevented from coming to them. He is a man of his word, he
explains, and this for one reason: because Jesus is the man
of the Father's word, the Divine Affirmation which does not waver.
The reading in fact presents Paul's words about Jesus being God's
"Yes" to man, a "Yes" that never changes to "No."
Wednesday, 2 Cor. 3:4-11
Paul describes the new covenant and its superiority over the old one
in terms of the glory that shown on the face of Moses. This theme of
"glory" goes through to the reading on Friday. Here he speaks of the
glory that shown on Moses' face, a glory however that fades. The
allussion is to Exodus 34:29-35 where the glory of God was reflected
on Moses' skin.
Thursday, 2 Cor. 3:15-4:1,3-6
Why can't the Jews discover Christ in the Law of Moses? The answer
that Paul gives is clear: because Moses' glory required that a veil
be put on his face (cf. Ex. 34:33.35). Not so for the Christians who
contemplate the glory of the Lord with their faces unveiled.
Friday, 2 Cor. 4:7-15
The privilege of being able to see the glory of God shining on the
face of Jesus is a treasure. Such a treasure however is held in
earthen vessels to show that the privilege comes from God, not from
men. So the apostle's mortality is exposed in persecution and
hardship, showing in his body the death of the Lord so that it can
become life for the Christian community. (See also 4:16)
Saturday (Feast of St. Barnabas)
From Monday to Friday then, there would be a kind of continuous reading
of 2 Corinthians. It will be broken on Saturday to make way for the
selections of readings for the feast of St. Barnabas.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
The Heart Of Jesus Broken For Us
From today's Office of the Readings, a selection from St. Bonaventure (1221-1274):
It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.
Friday, June 03, 2005
John's Hymn To Love
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the liturgy gives us a love feast. The
second reading is actually taken from 1 Jn. 4:7-19 which is a passage
that brings together in just one place what John's Gospel tells us about
God's love in Christ. The passage echoes a lot of passages in John:
Jn. 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son
Jn. 13:1 ...having loved his own who were in the world, he
loved them unto the end
Jn. 13:34 (cf. Jn. 15:12)... a new commandment I give unto you:
love one another as I have loved you
Jn. 14:21 He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it
is that loves me, and he that loves me is loved by my Father and I
will love him and manifest myself to him
Jn. 15:9 As the Father has loved me so I also have loved you.
Abide in my love.
Jn. 16:27 For the Father himself loves you because you have
loved me and have believed that I came from God
In 19 instances out of 11 verses, a form of the Greek for "love" (agaph
agape) appears in vv. 7-19 which is an exhortation to love. The
members of the Johanine community are to love because love is the nature
of God (v.7); they who know Him show proof of this knowledge in loving
(v.8). God showed that He is love in sending His Son (9-10) as expiation
for sins. The Spirit that He gave, the Son whom the Father sent -- by
these we know that God has loved us (vv. 13-16). To abide in God means
living in love and letting love have perfection in our lives (v.17).
True love drives out servile fear (v.18). We are able to love because of
God's love (v.19)
In the midst of this exhortation we find this Trinitarian formula:
13. This is the proof that we remain in him
and he in us,
he has given us a share in his Spirit.
ourselves have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son
Saviour of the world.
15. Anyone who acknowledges
that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in
The Spirit, the Father and the Son is God going out of Himself in love,
and the disciple knows this and acknowledges this in the way he lives
the life of love that -- in the words of Paul -- has been poured into
him: because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by
the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5).
Here are some snippets from the passage that are worth reflecting on:
"Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God" (v. 7)
"Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love (v.8)
"In this way, the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His Son
into the world so that we might have life through him. (v. 9; Jn. 3:16)
"If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is brought to
perfection in us" (v. 12; cf. Jn. 17:23)
"God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in
him" (v. 16b; Jn. 15:9)
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." (v. 18)
"We love because He first loved us." (v.19)