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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

LORD, HELP ME

LORD, HELP ME

A biblical reflection on THE 20th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 20 August 2017) 

Christ and the Canaanite Woman – c.1784
Germain-Jean Drouais

Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28 

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1,6-7; Psalms: Psalm 67:2-3,5-6.8; Second Reading: Romans 11:13-15,29-32 

Scripture Text

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And He answered, “It is not fair to take children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28 RSV)

The Jews had every reason to be proud that they were God’s chosen people. After all, they were God’s instruments and God was working through them in a special way. However, because of this pride, some Jews looked down at other people as being inferior and sometimes they even referred to Gentiles as dogs.

Some Jewish leaders thought this special relationship with God entitled them to certain honors and privileges. They believed the Messiah (also known as the Son of David because he was supposed to be a descendant of King David) would come only for the Jewish people. Through him, God would lead them in battle, defeat their enemies, and establish His Kingdom on earth. As a Jew, Jesus was familiar with this belief.

In today’s Gospel reading, a Canaanite woman calls Jesus the Son of David. Although she is not Jewish, she acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah because she wants Him to heal her daughter.

At first, Jesus does not reply to the woman. Later, He explains to her that He, the Messiah, is supposed to go to just those who belonged to the House of Israel (the Jews). The woman persists but Jesus does not give in. He replies that He cannot throw the food of the children (the Jews) to the dogs (the Gentiles), echoing the popular belief that the Messiah is just for the Jews.

The Canaanite woman is “stubborn” and she reminds Jesus that even the dogs get what the children do not want. The suggestion is clear. If the Jewish leaders won’t accept Him as the Messiah then maybe Jesus should turn to the Gentiles. Historically, that’s exactly what happened.

In the Acts of the Apostles and in Saint Paul epistles (letters), we find that the apostles first preached to the Jews but then turned to the Gentiles when fewer Jews than expected put their faith in Jesus. Like the woman in today’s Gospel, many Gentiles accepted Jesus and, as a result, Christianity spread throughout the world.

(Note: Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for loving everybody without reserve, including the Canaanite woman and myself. I pray that, by Your grace, I can become more like her. Help us to walk in her ways that, with joy and love, we may follow You and be united to You. I also give my life to You and I trust that You will remove the obstacles that keep me from loving You. Amen. 

Jakarta, 19 August 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY

 (A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY – Sunday, 13 August 2017)

 

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 

First Reading: Revelation 11:19;12:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 45:10-12,16; Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56 

The Scripture Text

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of thos who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. The comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26 RSV)

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not just a celebration of a glorious event in Mary’s life. It’s a celebration of the destiny that awaits all of us. Mary assumption proves that we too can rise again in body and n spirit – just as she was taken body and soul into heaven.

St. Paul taught that through baptism into God’s family, we are set free from the bondage to sin. Yet He also knew that we are still subject to pain and suffering. Living in this world is tough at times, as our bodies and spirits experience the effects of sin and death. One day, however, all of this will be gone – and that’s what we celebrate today. One day, we will die and rise again with Jesus, and all of our wounds will be healed. We will live with Jesus with glorified bodies and divinized spirits, and we will never have to endure the pain and sorrow of this world again.

How should we celebrate this day? By imagining the heaven that was Mary’s destination and that is ours as well. In heaven, we will have never-ending energy to worship God. We will be able to dance and sing and run and jump without ever feeling tired or sick. All the things that have hurt us or could hurt us will not be there. No more sickness or pain. No more tears. No more insecurity. No more distrust or fear or anger or envy. We will know how much we are loved because we will have full communion with God. We will know the acceptance and peace of belonging to our heavenly Father.

In prayer today, let’s us meditate on God’s plan for our resurrection. Imagine what it will be like when we are with Him. Then, as we go about our day, let’s look for ways to bring a little piece of heaven to earth. It only takes one prayer time to begin making a difference. We only need a taste of heaven before we can start spreading the hope and promise of life in Christ to our friends, neighbors, and family. Christ is risen; His mother is in heaven with Him; and we can all join them one day. Who says there’s no good news in the world?

Prayer: All praise to You, Jesus, for conquering death for all of us! You are an amazing, glorious God! Amen. 

Jakarta, 11 August 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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LET’S PRAY THAT GOD WOULD MAKE EACH DAY A FEAST OF TRANSFIGURATION FOR US

LET’S PRAY THAT GOD WOULD MAKE EACH DAY A FEAST OF TRANSFIGURATION FOR US  

(A biblical reflection on the Feast of THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD –  Sunday, 6 August 2017 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9 

First Reading: Dan 7:9-10.13-14; Psalms: Psalm  97:1-2,5-6,9; Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-19 

The Scripture Text

And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if You wish, I will make three booths here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son,” with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.” (Mat 17:1-9 RSV) 

In a scene that sounds very much like the experience of a select few Old Testament prophets, the three apostles saw Jesus suddenly transformed and radiating a heavenly light. And, like the prophets before them, they too were overwhelmed by the vision. Here He was this familiar rabbi, gleaming with the glory of God and talking with Elijah and Moses! They had never seen anything like it before.

The promise of the feast of the Transfiguration is that what only a few prophets were privileged to receive in the Old Testament – what only a few disciples saw while Jesus walked the earth – is now available to each and every member of the body of Christ. We live in the age of the Church, an age of grace and revelation for all the people of God, The barrier of sin has been removed, and heaven can be opened for all of us.

Granted, we may not have visions as dramatic as these three disciples’. Nevertheless, each of us can expect the gift of revelation from God. Each of us can be lifted up above the everyday experiences of life and be filled with “the light of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6). All it takes is consistent prayer and an open heart.

Jesus wants to work through us to build His Kingdom here on earth. Like the apostles, we will become able to share in His mission by coming to know Him. Every day, we can enter into the secret place of the Lord’s presence and be filled with His love. Every day, the Holy Spirit wants to shine the light of Christ into our hearts and transform us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Every day, He wants to fill us with His compassion for the poor and suffering, and His mercy for the sinful. Let us pray that God would make each day a feast of the Transfiguration for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for the precious gift of Your Holy Spirit. Lift us up into the realm of the Spirit every day so that we can bring Your life to our families and to the world. Amen. 

Jakarta, 4 August 2017 [Memoria of St. John Mary Vianney] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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A THOUGHTFUL CONVERSATION BETWEEN GOD AND THE YOUNG SOLOMON

A THOUGHTFUL CONVERSATION BETWEEN GOD AND THE YOUNG SOLOMON

 (A biblical reflection on the 17th ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year A], 30 July 2017) 

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12 

Psalms: Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130; Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30; Gospel Reading: Mathew 13:44-52 (short version: Matthew 13:44-46). 

The Scripture Text

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

“…… And now. O LORD my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people whom Thou has chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give Thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this Thy great people?”

It pleased the LORD that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and non like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:5,7-12 RSV)

We are very foolish to think that we must have an answer to every question, in order to keep our credibility with others. The day we realize and openly admit how pitifully little we really know, is the day we become truly wise.

In today’s liturgy we heard the thoughtful conversation between God and the young Solomon, who has just been chosen as King of Israel. In his dream, he is invited to make a wish and is promised it will come true. Solomon’s prayerful wish is for wisdom, that he may know what is right and wrong and may judge people fairly.

In his position as king, Solomon needed to posses deep understanding to fulfil his office – but don’t we all? Regardless of our particular job or vocation, we are constantly in need of wisdom – both for our personal lives and especially for dealing with others. No matter how intelligent we are, our knowledge has not yet exceeded the limit and there’s plenty of room to grow.

Do we ever think of praying for wisdom, like the young king did? Solomon already showed his intelligence simply by knowing that he should pray for more. If we don’t know that we should pray for wisdom, that shows how much we need it.

God was very pleased with Solomon’s request for most young men, given the opportunity to have anything they wanted, would have asked for a long life, great riches or revenge against their enemies.

When asking for something in prayers of petition, we should say to ourselves, “if it’s God’s will.” It is His will for us to posses wisdom, for the more we acquire the more we become like Him. True wisdom can only benefit us; it is an ideal request. Perhaps we will receive not only our request but also the things we didn’t ask for, as happened with Solomon. After much prayer and study, we still should not be ashamed to admit that we don’t have all the answers. To know that we don’t know is a sign of intelligence. “I don’t know” doesn’t mean that we didn’t try to know.

So what shall we pray for today? A long life, good health, money, power, revenge? Why not go for the valuable gift of wisdom? Then we can better understand our God, ourselves and others. Then, when judgments are necessary we can be fair and honest. 

Prayer:  Almighty, ever-living God, thank You for the lesson of today’s first reading, i.e. thoughtful conversation of the young king Solomon with You. I now realize how precious the gift of wisdom is for one’s life. I humbly ask for such a gift so that I can better understand you, myself and others. I pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Jakarta, 29 July 2017 [Memoria of Saint Martha of Bethany] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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LET BOTH GROW TOGETHER UNTIL THE HARVEST

LET BOTH GROW TOGETHER UNTIL THE HARVEST

(A biblical reflection on THE 16th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 23 July 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:24-30 (long version: Matthew 13:24-43) 

First Reading: Wisdom 12:13,16-19; Psalms: Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16; Second Reading: Romans 8:26-27 

The Scripture Text

Another parable He put before them, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds? He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 RSV)

In a fifth-grade class there were two boys by the name of Fred. One Fred, the smaller one, bothered the teacher with his undisciplined antics and his refusal to study. Because of him, she frequently questioned the wisdom of becoming a teacher.

At the first P.T.A. meeting a polite lady entered her classroom and introduced herself as Fred’s mother. Assuming that she was the mother of the other Fred, who was one of her favorite students, the teacher lavishly praised him and said that he was a fine boy and a real joy to have in class.

The following morning, little Fred came dashing into the classroom before the other students and threw his arms around his teacher. “Thank you,” he half sobbed, “for telling my mother I was one of your favorite students and a joy to have in class.” Shocked by his words but remaining prudently silent, the teacher realized the mistaken identity. “I haven’t been good – but I will be.” She softly patted his down-cast head and turned away in tears. She never revealed that she had thought the nice lady was the mother of the other Fred. Little Fred was changed from that moment. He did become one of her favorite students and a joy to have in class.

The story of the two Freds in a way illustrates the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat in today’s Gospel. In real life, weeds don’t become wheat but ugliness can be changed into beauty. We are naturally proud of the “wheat” people and often irritated with the “weed” people. Like the servants in the story, we might want to pull up the weeds and throw them out. Many good citizens might have grown up to become criminals, had not someone convinced them that they could do better and had encouraged them to try.

Not only children but all people need the affirmation and encouragement of others. The good and the bad are never isolated but live side by side through the years. No one becomes a saint or sinner in an instant. The seed grows slowly, but God is patient.

Every small deed of kindness is like the mustard seed in the Gospel which can lead to great and glorious results, multiplying itself thousands of times. Many giant organizations are the lengthened results of one little idea. Many lifelong friendships have started with one tiny smile. On the other hand, bitter fights and even wars have begun from small misunderstandings the size of a mustard seed.

If we could eliminate the tiny hurts, the giant troubles would not have to be solved. They would not exist. Little seeds of kindness and love, carefully planted by each of us, can make this world a paradise where we could peacefully live and grow together.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me for having written some people off as beyond help. Knowing Your love and patience toward me, I am compelled to pray that every “hopeless case” will make it into Your Kingdom. I pray for an abundant harvest of the finest wheat. Amen.

Jakarta, 21 July 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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A BEAUTIFUL PARABLE OF JESUS IN THE FIELD OF FARMING

A BEAUTIFUL PARABLE OF JESUS IN THE FIELD OF FARMING

(A biblical reflection on the 15th Ordinary Sunday [Year A] – 16 July 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9 (longer version: Matthew 13:1-23) 

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalms: Psalm 65:10-14, Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23

The Scripture Text

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And He told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 RSV) 

Methods of farming in Jesus’ day were very different from the methods modern farmers use. Today’s farmer plows the field before scattering the seed, but in biblical times farmers reversed the process. The first-century farmer scattered the seed on the ground first and then turned over the soil. We must keep this in mind when reading today’s Gospel.

Because the seed rested on top of the ground for a while before the farmer plowed the soil, the wind sometimes blew it to an area the farmer did not intend it to be. This explains how some of the seed landed on the foot path and how some of it ended up on the rocky ground or among the thorns.

In the analogy in today’s Gospel, the seed represents the word of God and the different places where the seed landed represent different kinds of people and their response to the Gospel message. The rocky soil stands for the person who hears God’s word but does not allow it to take root. Letting the seed take root means letting the Gospel message make a difference in a person’s life. It means living out one’s commitment to Jesus by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick or lonely.

Some of the seed landed among thorns which represent worldly cares like fame, power, and money. When these become the center of a person’s life, there isn’t much time or energy left for prayer and spiritual matters.

Some seed landed on the footpath. This symbolizes the person who hears God’s word but doesn’t take time to study Scripture and, therefore, doesn’t understand it. As a result, the Gospel message cannot make much of a difference in this person’s life.

Finally some of the seed fell on good soil where it produced a yield of thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold. The good soil represents people who are spiritually fruitful because they not only hear God’s word but also understand it and live it. Since a farmer in Jesus’ day would have been extremely proud of such a large harvest, we can assume Jesus is proud of us when His word takes root and grows in our lives.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, God, open my heart to the power of God’s word in the Scripture. Help me to learn God’s ways. Make me into good soil that receives the seed of Your precious word and bears in me the fruit of your love.

Jakarta, 13 July 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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EASY YOKE AND LIGHT BURDEN

EASY YOKE AND LIGHT BURDEN

(A biblical reflection on the 14th Ordinary Sunday [Year A], 9 July 2017)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:25-30 

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalms: Psalm 145:1-2,8-11,13-14, Second Reading: Romans 8:9,11-13

The Scripture Text

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was Thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 RSV) 

Many of Jesus’ parables are about fishing, farming and herding because those were the three most common occupations in His day. The parable in today’s Gospel reading is aimed at getting the attention of the farmers in Jesus’ audience.

In this parable, Jesus says we should take His yoke upon our shoulders and learn from Him. A yoke, a type of harness a farmer uses to attach a couple of oxen to a plow or a wagon, looks like the McDonald’s golden arches over the shoulders of the two animals. With the yoke attached, the oxen share the burden of pulling the plow or the wagon.

If one of the oxen is old or sickly, the other ox has to work harder. Sometimes the farmer will team a young ox with an older, more experienced ox so the younger one will learn from the older one how to pull the yoke. Until the younger one gets the hang of it the older ox must do most of the work.

When Jesus says we should take His yoke and learn from Him, He is offering to share our burdens with us With Jesus helping us, our burden will be light and easy to pull. Just as the two oxen work side by side, Jesus is willing to walk beside us and help us as we travel through life. We do not have to face life’s problems all by ourselves.

Because our society values independence, most of us want to prove we can succeed on our own. This pride not only drives us further from each other, but it also drives us further from our God. In our obsession to do it by ourselves, we shut out all help from everyone else, even help from Jesus.

Maybe that’s why Jesus praises the Father for taking what was hidden from learned and the clever, and revealing it to the children. The learned and the clever are those who are those who are self-sufficient and less likely to accept Jesus’ help because they’d rather try to succeed on their own. Children, on the other hand, have no problem with being dependent on others. They are accustomed to looking around for assistance and are therefore more likely to turn to Jesus in their moment of need.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A,B, and C.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess that without You, I am really nothing. I am grateful, however, that You are always present to help me. And,Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. May the Spirit who dwells in You dwell also in me, and lead me to love and trust the Father as You do. Amen.

Jakarta, 7 July 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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