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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

JESUS COUNSELS US TO BE STRONG-WILLED, PRUDENT, PERSEVERING AND FILLED WITH FAITH

JESUS COUNSELS US TO BE STRONG-WILLED, PRUDENT, PERSEVERING AND FILLED WITH FAITH

(A biblical refection on THE 12th ORDINARY SUNDAY (YEAR A) – 25 June 2017)

 Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:26-33 

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalms: Psalm 69:8-10,14,7,33-35; Second Reading: Romans 5:12-15 

The Scripture Text

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the house-tops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. So every time who acknowledges Me before men, I also acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:26-33) 

Jeremiah was a very unhappy and persecuted man, as the book of Scripture which bears his name tells us. Although he desperately tried to do what was right – and precisely because he did – he was denounced, gossiped about and tormented. His condemners constantly tried to maneuver him into a trap.

Many people today suffer the same fate as Jeremiah, especially those with public responsibilities. They are often the objects of vicious attacks and merciless gossiping. These are the odious tactics of small, vicious people too stupid and cowardly to face their supposed opponents and voice their objections in person.

If a person is continually subjected to harassments it can cause them to become bitter and filled with hate. When we meet a disgusted person with a negative attitude about most things, very likely they have been fashioned by someone’s viciousness.

Contrast the reading from Jeremiah with that from the Gospel of Matthew. Here we encounter a bright and cheerful mood, with optimistic thoughts and feelings. Jesus says: “Do not let men intimidate you.” The Lord promoted long ago the type positive thinking which is so common in our time. We have numerous books, tapes and lectures available today, presented by dynamic achievers who want to convey to others their secrets of success. They say that attitude is the most important factor in determining our degree of happiness and success.

If we have a poor and negative attitude toward our jobs, other people and life in general, then we are prone to failure On the other hand, if we exhibit a positive, strong and aggressive attitude toward our tasks, then we will succeed.

The Lord’s insistence that others not intimidate us is so very current and correct. Why should others be permitted to put us down and make us feel inferior? No one is sin-proof and no one lives a life without making poor judgments and other mistakes. Remembering that we are as good as the next person (and especially that God has told us that we are personally worth more than a flock of sparrows) should help us to raise our self-esteem if it has fallen.

Someone has said that it is our attitude rather than our aptitude which will determine our altitude. Jesus counsels us to be strong-willed, prudent, persevering and filled with faith. If God loves His created birds so much that not one will fall without His consent, then we should rejoice that He loves us “more than a whole flock of sparrows.”

When we have to contend with the whisperings and gossip which surely will come our way, we need not be defeated, for the Lord commands us to be unintimidated. Regardless of the evil forces which pull us down, His graces are far stronger to lift us up.

(Adapted from Rev. James McKarns, GO TELL EVERYONE, pages 60-61)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for Your counseling us to be strong-willed, prudent, persevering and filled with faith. Amen.

Jakarta, 24 June 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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CORPUS CHRISTI

CORPUS CHRISTI

(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST [Year A] –  Sunday, 18 June 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 6:51-58 

First Reading: Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16; Psalms: Psalm 147:12-15,19-20, Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The Scripture Text

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6:51-58 RSV)

As the Jews wandered through the desert after escaping from Egypt they started grumbling because they did not have enough food to eat. God heard their complaint and provided them with bread from heaven, which they called manna. 

God saved His people from starvation by feeding them much like a mother feeds her children with food they need to grow strong and healthy. Therefore, the Jews considered manna to be a symbol of God’s saving power and a sign of His great love for His people.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus compares His body and blood in the Eucharist to the manna His Father gave the Jews in the desert. Jesus’ body and blood is special food from heaven which, like the manna, is evidence of God’s saving power and His great love.

Although Jesus’ body and blood and the manna are similar, they are not identical because those who ate the manna in the desert still died but those who eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood will have eternal life. Therefore, Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist is greater than the manna and is an even better expression of God’s saving power and love for His people.

Jesus promised those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will rise from their graves. This promise is the foundation for the Christian belief that at the end of the world we will rise from the dead just as Jesus rose from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. Like Jesus’ resurrection, our own resurrection will be bodily and not just spiritual.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, pages 114-115.) 

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You gave Your Church an admirable sacrament as the abiding memorial of Your passion. Teach us to worship the sacred mystery of Your Body and Blood, that its redeeming power may sanctify us always. We pray this in Your name, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 16 June 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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GALATIANS 6:9

Jakarta, 16 Juni 2017

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE HOLY TRINITY

THE HOLY TRINITY

(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE MOST HOLY TRINITY [YEAR A] –  Sunday, 11 June 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 3:16-18 

First Reading: Exodus 34:4b-6,8-9; Psalms: Daniel 3:52-56;  Second Reading: 2Corinthians 13:11-13 

The Scripture Text

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned, He does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18 RSV) 

In today’s reading, Jesus explains to us the real reason He came into the world. He did not wish to condemn us or to scare us into obeying God’s laws, but rather to show us He loves us and wants us to respond to that love by loving Him in return. The Bible often compares this love between God and His people to the love between a husband and wife.

A husband who knows his wife doesn’t like to pump gas, fills the tank before she uses the car. A wife who doesn’t like science fiction movies attends a Star Trek film festival with her husband because that’s his favorite show. The husband and wife do these things not because they have to but because they want to express their love for each other.

Our relationship with God is very similar. Just as the husband and wife communicate their likes and dislikes to each other, God communicates His likes and dislikes to us through Scripture and just as the couple show their love for each other by doing certain things and avoiding others, we show our love for God by doing what pleases Him and avoiding what makes Him angry. That sounds simple enough but, in reality, showing our love for God is often very difficult.

Sometimes we think of the Ten Commandments simply as a list of do’s and don’ts and maybe only reluctantly follow them because we don’t want to go to hell when we die. When this is how we view the Commandments, we are forgetting the reason God gave them to us.

Because the Commandments are God’s way of telling us what pleases Him and what does not please Him, obeying them is like the wife watching Star Trek or the husband pumping gas. Following the Commandments, then, shows our love for God. If we understand them in this way, we will no longer ask if we have to obey them but will want to obey them because that is what loving God is all about.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, pages 112-113.)

PRAYER: Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us in our misery that we may do for Your sake alone what we know You want us to do, and always want what pleases You; so that, cleansed and enlightened interiorly and fired with the ardour of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and so make our way to You, Most High, by Your grace alone, You who live and reign in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified, God all-powerful, for ever and ever. Amen. (A prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi [1224] at the close of his Letter to a General Chapter).

Jakarta, 8 June 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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JOHN’S VERSION OF THE PENTECOST

JOHN’S VERSION OF THE PENTECOST

(A biblical refection on the PENTECOST SUNDAY [YEAR A], 4 June 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23 

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11; Psalms: Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 

The Scripture Text

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23 RSV). 

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” (John 20:21)

Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fifty days”. It originally referred to a religious feast observed fifty days after Passover, on which the Jews thanked God for the wheat harvest. Today Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter to commemorate the day God sent the Holy Spirit to the early Church.

In today’s Gospel, “Peace” is the first word the resurrected Jesus says to the apostles, a word the Jews used in everyday speech as both a greeting and a farewell. Jesus then shows them His hands and His side to prove that it really is Him. He truly is alive!

During this post-resurrection appearance, Jesus tells His disciples He is sending them out on a mission just as His Father sent Him on one. He then breathes on them and tells them He is giving them the Holy Spirit so they can go out and bring forgiveness to all people.

The word “apostle” comes from a Greek word that means “one who is sent” (John never calls them apostles, but he calls them disciples). In today’s reading, Jesus sends the apostles to tell the world about the forgiveness of sins made possible through His death and resurrection.

Breathing on the apostles like Jesus did may seem a bit crude but this action had much religious meaning. In the book of Genesis, we read that God gave life to the first man by breathing into his nostril (Genesis 2:7) and in the book of Ezekiel the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath of God (Ezekiel 27:1-14) the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath with new life, we should understand Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel as Him giving new life to His Church by breathing the Holy Spirit into it.

Finally, today’s reading is the closest the four Gospels come to describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We are accustomed to hearing about the strong wind and the tongues of fire appearing while the apostles and friends of Jesus gathered in prayer, a story we find not in the Gospels but in the Acts of the Apostles. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all end their Gospels with Jesus promising He will soon send the Holy Spirit but only John, in today’s reading, gives us an account of the Holy Spirit actually arriving. However, since John’s story is so simple and uneventful, we often overlook it.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, “Cycling Through the Gospels”, pages 44-45)

PRAYER: Blessed Holy Spirit, come! Stir up faith and hope in me today. Fill me with confidence how You are working through me when I am with my family or while I am working. I pray to You also with the hope that I will become more aware of how You are working in my life. Amen.

Jakarta, 3 June 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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PSALM 103:11 (Part of the Psalm Reading for today’s Mass)

Jakarta, 2 June 2017

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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WHO IS JESUS AND WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED?

WHO IS JESUS AND WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED?

A biblical reflection on the SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [Year A] – 28 May 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11a 

First Reading: Acts 1:12-14; Psalms: Psalm 27:1,4,7-8, Second Reading: 1 Peter 4:13-16 

The Scripture Text

When Jesus has spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, since Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom Thou has given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. ‘I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do; and now, Father, glorify Thou Me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made.”

“I have manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. Now they know that everything that Thou hast given Me is from Thee; for I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from Thee; and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom Thou hast given me, for they are Thine; all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to Thee.” (John 17:1-11a RSV) 

The Gospel according to John contains several stories and long sermons that do not appear in the other three Gospels. Scripture scholars believe these speeches are actually John’s meditations on the meaning of Jesus’ life and ministry. Today’s Gospel is part of one of these meditations.

The scene in today’s Gospel is the Last Supper and while Jesus is at the table with His disciples (John never calls them apostles) He begins praying aloud to His heavenly Father. John uses this prayer to shed light on who Jesus is and what He has accomplished.

According to this prayer, Jesus, who existed with the Father even before the world began and who has authority over all creation, came into the world to give glory to the Father and eternal life to those who believe in Him. Now that He has fulfilled this mission, Jesus prepares to entrust His message to His followers so He can return to His heavenly Father. This, in a nutshell, is John’s summary of Jesus’ life.

Scripture scholars have difficulty determining when John wrote His Gospel. Some of them believe it first appeared in its final form between 90-100 A.D. but others think 130 A.D. would be a more accurate date. What they do agree on is that John was the last Gospel account written and that John wrote his Gospel after the early Christians had plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ words and deeds.

The authorship of the Gospel is also the subject of much scholarly debate. According to tradition, the authority behind the Fourth Gospel is a man name John. Some people believe this John was John the Apostle but others remind us there were other prominent leaders of the early Church with this same name and that it would have been unlikely for any of the apostles to have lived until 90-100 A.D., the earliest date by which the Gospel is believed to have been written.

Who the author really is will remain a mystery at least for the foreseeable future because nowhere in the Gospel itself is he actually named.

In today’s reading and throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus praying to His Father. If anybody had no need of prayer, it would have been Jesus. Let’s ask ourselves how important is prayer in our lives? 

Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the unity of Christians around the world.  Send the Spirit anew to Your whole Church this Pentecost. We make our prayer in the most precious name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Jakarta, 26 May 2017 [Memoria of St. Philip Neri, Priest] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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