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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

HOLY SPIRIT AS THE PARACLETE

HOLY SPIRIT AS THE PARACLETE

(A biblical reflection on THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [Year A] – May 21, 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21 

First Reading: Acts 8:5-8,14-17; Psalms: Psalm 66:1-7,16,20; Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:15-18 

The Scripture Text

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you.”

“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 RSV) 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, from a Greek word Paracletos, meaning “an advocate or helper”. Judges and lawyers often use this word when describing someone who helps or advises the defense in court. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a Paraclete because the Spirit comes to our defense in our time of need.

Because being a Christian was illegal when the Gospel according to John was written, Roman authorities put on trial many followers of Jesus and condemned them to die a very painful death. While some were fed to the lions and others were crucified or skinned alive, these early Christians needed assurances that God was not abandoning them. Therefore, John says that even though they will be on trial, they will not be alone because the Holy Spirit will be at their side strengthening and inspiring them, helping them understand what is going on, and advising them about what to say. The Holy Spirit will be with them no matter what they have to go through.

Although we are not persecuted for our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit also plays an important role in our lives. We seek the advice of a lawyer not only when someone accuses us of a crime but also when we need to know the correct way to proceed on a given matter. The lawyer points us the right direction and gives us support and encouragement. Since it’s sometimes difficult for a Christian to live in a world that does not acknowledge Jesus as God, we need the Holy Spirit to point us in the right direction and to give us advice and support so we can always choose to love God even when that’s not popular.

The reading ends with Jesus telling us those who love Him will obey His commands. This isn’t always easy because elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus says we should love our enemies, do good to those who persecute us, turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, and give without counting the cost. Living by these standards today can be a very difficult task that we can accomplish only with the help of the Holy Spirit.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels)

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it is indeed a terrifying experience to be left all alone in life. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, however, we need not have that experience, only if we learn to turn to You with simple earnest prayer in all the aspects of our lives. We also pray for those who have difficulty living out their faith in the risen Jesus Christ, especially those who do not enjoy freedom of religion and those experiencing pressures from friends and/or family. We pray this in the most precious name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Jakarta, 18 May 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE

JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE

(A biblical reflection on THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (Year A], 14 May 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: John 14:1-12 

First Reading: Acts 6:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 33:1-2,4-5,18-19; Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-9

The Scripture Text

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; henceforth you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to Him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me; or else believe Me for the sake of the works of themselves.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will He do, because I go to the Father.” (John 14:1-12 RSV)

Theologians sometimes describe the Church as a “pilgrim people” because Christians are like pilgrims on a journey in search of their heavenly home. Because it’s easy for people to get lost when traveling to a place they’ve never been before, they have to look for signs and landmarks that tell them they are going in the right direction or they need someone who has already been there to point the way so they won’t make a wrong turn. A person’s spiritual journey is no different.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can come to the Father unless they come through Him. This means Jesus is our Guide, pointing the way to our heavenly home and calling our attention to the various spiritual signs and landmarks that tell us we are going in the right direction. Without Jesus, we can easily get lost because we do not know where we are going.

One of the lessons in today’s Gospel reading also influenced formation of the Nicene Creed, a summary of beliefs of the Christian faith. In the days of the early church, there was a heresy called Arianism that claimed Jesus is not God in the same way the Father is God and that Jesus is supposedly inferior to the Father. The Nicene Creed is the Church’s response to the heresy.

In this creed, we find the phrase that says Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.” These words mean Jesus is God in the same way the Father is God. Jesus, our light, comes from the Father who is light and Jesus, the true God, comes from the Father who is true God. In other words, Jesus and the Father are one. That’s exactly what Jesus means when He tells Philip in today’s Gospel that whoever has seen Him has also seen the Father.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels.) 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Way and the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father, but by You. Lord, I want to see Your glory at the Holy Mass today – Your majesty, your beauty, and Your goodness. I know that I do not see it as I ought, so I ask You to open my eyes. Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, let me see You! Amen.

Jakarta, 12 May 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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GOD ALWAYS HAS SOMETHING FOR YOU

Jakarta, 5 May 2017

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD

THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD

(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A], 30 April 2017)

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13-35 

First Reading: Acts 2:14,22-33; Psalms: Psalm 16:1-2,7-11; Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21 

The Scripture Text

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, name Cleopas, answered Him, “Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 RSV)

Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking down a road when a stranger approached them and engaged them in a conversation. Later, the disciples managed to persuade the stranger to join them at dinner. During the meal the stranger took bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they realized the stranger was Jesus.

Throughout the history of Christianity, the breaking of the bread has been the most important sign of belief in Jesus. Despite great personal risk (being a Christian in the first century was illegal and was an offense punishable with death), the early Christians gathered at someone’s house before sunrise on the first day of the week to share a meal that included fruits, nuts, cheeses, bread, and wine. In the course of this meal, they read from Scriptures and recalled some of the things Jesus said and did but the most important action occurred when they took the bread, blessed it, and shared it with each other just as Jesus did with His apostles on the night before He died on the cross.

The breaking of the bread soon became a sign of the unity and fellowship of those who followed Jesus. Just as many grains of wheat are used to make flour and many grapes are needed to make wine, many different individuals come together to form the Christian community. Thus, sharing of the one loaf and drinking from the same cup became a visible expression of Christian unity (see Acts 2:41-42).

Historically, Christians haven’t always been as united as they should be. Disagreements over doctrine or discipline have led to splinter groups and factions that compete for converts and donations. In many ways, the unity expressed in the breaking of the bread is not a present day reality, but it is something we must continually strive for.

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to know You more deeply. I want to hear Your voice in Scripture. I want to recognize You in the “breaking of the bread”, to see Your face in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Come and show me Your ways so that I may have life. Amen.

Jakarta, 28 April 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE

(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A] – 23 April 2017)

[SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY]

 

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31 

First Reading: Acts 24:42-47; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; Second Reading: 1Peter 1:3-9 

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.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But He said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)

Our knowledge is so far from being absolute, and our information so limited, that we have to treat all data with humility. It is precisely with such humility that we must approach the scriptural accounts of Christ’s resurrection, and not with the kind of obstinacy shown by Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe until he had touched the wounds of Christ’s body.

Thomas failed in two ways: he wanted to verify the faith by physical means, and as well he was not prepared to accept what the rest of the Christian community had by now come to believe. However, we should never imagine that, because of visions of the risen Christ which all the Apostles were privileged to experience, the road to faith was an easier one for them than it is for us. Indeed Luke states quite clearly that when Christ, in the Upper Room, had shown them His hands and His feet, “they still thought it was too good to be true”. It was not only Thomas who doubted. They all had to grapple with the question of what really had occurred (see Luke 24:36-41). And their message for us, and that of Mary Magdalene also in her search for the body of Christ, could well be summed up in the inspired words of the prophet Jeremiah: “You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). This risen Lord was no phantom or hallucination, but rather so real that one could touch or cling to Him. The Jesus who had died was in very truth the Christ who had risen again.

At the Last Supper, Christ had said to the Apostles: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). And in today’s Gospel reading we can see how Christ kept His promise, “then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). For us also, Jesus must be, not a figure in a book, not a memory from the past, but rather a living presence, one who is with us here and now. To those who, like Thomas, would argue that this is making too great a demand on our credulity, Christ replies, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). Faith is like taking a step in the dark while trusting absolutely in what God is promising to us as the consequence.

The resurrection of Christ was a unique happening that lies beyond all human reasoning or understanding. The writer of “the Letter to the Hebrews) says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11:1,3). The first chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the universe began in a single flashing act of creation.

The resurrection of Christ, of which we are celebrating the octave, is a mystery also. The risen glorified body of the Lord is a new creation. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Faith, joy – a faith which leads to and is the cause of joy – that is the message for us today. But there is more. For in our following of Christ, even though we have not as yet passed through the portals of death, we also can become part of this new creation initiated by Christ. We might even begin to speak off a third creation, for by our faith in the saving effect of Christ’s death and resurrection, as Paul tells us, we become something extra (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We are made children of God Himself. We are no longer slaves, but friends, and so on this day we should ask that we may receive and  our joy, like that of the Apostles, may be full (John 16:24).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour the living water of the Holy Spirit over my heart, so that I may bear fruit for You. Come, Holy Spirit, and reveal Jesus to my heart today. Let me know the Lord and the power of His resurrection. I want to become a new creation today. Amen.

Jakarta, 21 April 2017 [EASTER OCTAVE: FRIDAY] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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SET OUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, NOT ON THINGS THAT ARE ON EARTH

SET OUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, NOT ON THINGS THAT ARE ON EARTH

(A biblical refection on EASTER SUNDAY [YEAR A], 16 April 2017) 

One of the various readings at the Easter Sunday: Colossians 3:1-4 

The Scripture Text

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

O, how easy it is to lift our eyes to heaven today! Jesus is risen! He has defeated death, conquered the devil, and disarmed sin! Heaven’s gates have been opened wide for us! Now baptized into Christ, we can share in His victory and walk in our freedom.

Truly, we all should rejoice today, but what about tomorrow? How can we hold on to our Easter joy? Let’s be realistic. We should expect “bumps” in our daily path. Days will come when our minds will seem like a battlefield of temptation and anxiety. But these bumps don’t have to rob us of our inheritance. Grounded in the knowledge that we “have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1), we can face the battle directly, and overcome!

Imagine that a co-worker or friend hurts any of us in some way. What will we do? It would be easy to feel deflated, angry, or defensive. But remember that Jesus has raised each and every one of us up with Him. If we keep filling our minds with the truths of God’s love – both for us and for the other person – there will be no room left for resentment or revenge.

Perhaps we feel that the demands for our times are overwhelming. Still, make time for prayer. When we take our eyes off everything we have to do and contemplate heaven instead, we’ll find ourselves better able to keep our tasks in perspective. We may even become more efficient!

Let’s resolve now to let our Easter celebration take deep root in our lives. As the Holy Spirit fills our minds with the reality of what happened on the first Easter Sunday, we will become a “heavenly minded” people, strong, peaceful, and hopeful no matter what our circumstances. We will become living witnesses to the power of the resurrection.

Prayer: Lord Jesus I praise You on the Easter day! You have risen from the dead and overcome sin and death! You have opened heaven for me! I rejoice with all the heavenly host for all You have done! Amen.

Jakarta, 14 April 2017 [GOOD FRIDAY] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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WE NEED JESUS’ PERFECT SACRIFICE FOR OUR SALVATION

WE NEED JESUS’ PERFECT SACRIFICE FOR OUR SALVATION

(A biblical reflection on PASSION SUNDAY [YEAR A], 9 April 2017) 

Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11 

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalms: Psalm 22:8-9,17-20,23-24; Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Matthew 27:11-54) 

The Scripture Text

Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 RSV) 

If we could have been in the upper room with Jesus during the Last Supper, we would see that Jesus knew. He knew the one who would betray Him. He knew that he would not drink again of the vine. He knew that Simon Peter would deny Him. And yet, when we read the passion, something within us always wishes it had all been different. If only Pilate had known who Jesus was! If only the Pharisees had been more open!

Would we have tried to save Jesus from His fate? Even if all humanity’s blindness could be removed, and we all realized our sinful condition before God, we would still need Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for our salvation. Without the gift of the cross, we would be condemned. Reading the passion can help us to reckon with the desperate condition that humankind was, and still is, in.

Jesus was so close to His Father that, although falsely accused and crucified, He forgave His persecutors and bid others not to weep for Him. We may be repulsed by thoughts of Jesus sweating blood and the imminent sense of death He must have felt in Gethsemane. Yet at the same time, we can be filled with gratitude as we recall that He endured all this for us. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to Jesus’ passion, our revulsion will be turned on our own sin, knowing that it was because of the darkness within us that Jesus suffered so greatly.

Let’s spend some time today reading the passion, asking the Lord to show each of us His love. Let’s place ourselves in the upper room, or n Gethsemane, or on Calvary. In faith, let’s gaze upon the One who offered His life to win our release. By placing ourselves with Jesus in the midst of these events, we can experience our redemption in a powerful, life-changing way.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open to us the mystery of Your cross. Help us to empty ourselves, trusting that one day we will be lifted up with You to share in Your unending glory. Amen.

Jakarta, 8 April 2017  

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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