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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES OR AM I LIKE THE BLIND MAN?

AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES OR AM I LIKE THE BLIND MAN?

(A biblical refection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 26, 2017) 

Gospel Reading: John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 (longer version: John 9:1-41) 

First Reading: 1Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14 

The Scripture Text

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth.

As He said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used and sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened His eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about Him, since He has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered Him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him. (John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 RSV)

In first-century Palestine, physicians treated a variety of illnesses with saliva because they believed it had curative powers. In today’s Gospel, Jesus approaches a man who was born blind, spits on the ground, makes a paste of dirt and saliva, and smears this paste on the man’s eyes. After washing off this mixture in the pool of Siloam, the man is able to see.

Some overly legalistic Pharisees objected to what Jesus did because He did it on the Sabbath. Since they considered making paste with saliva and dirt to be work, they interpreted Jesus’ actions as a clear violation of the command to keep the Sabbath holy.

The Pharisees interrogated the man born blind about what had happened, but when the man defended Jesus, they became indignant and accused Him of being a sinner from the moment of his birth. Because people in biblical times did not know about viruses and germs, they believed sin was the cause of all pain and suffering. The Pharisees, therefore, concluded the man was born blind because God was punishing him for something either he or his parents did. He was a sinner, they reasoned, because he had experienced the effects of in from the day he was born.

This story is one of seven miracles reported in the Gospel according to John. Most of these “signs” (that what John calls them) lead into one of the seven discourses or sermons of Jesus we find in this Gospel. Although physical in nature, each miracle also has a spiritual meaning which becomes clear in the discourse that follows it.

Jesus gave sight to the blind man and this individual then preached to those who were spiritually blind (those who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah). Thus, a physical cure set the stage for a teaching about the need for spiritual healing.

The reading ends with Jesus saying He came to divide the world and that some people will be blind because of Him while others will regain their sight. In the original Greek language of the Gospels, Jesus clearly is not talking about the purpose of His mission but rather about its effect. There will divisions because some people will believe in Jesus and others won’t. Some of those considered spiritually blind will see Jesus as their Messiah while the respected spiritual leaders will not accept Him. Historically, that’s exactly what happened.

Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, pages 26-27.

Short Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Forgive me Jesus, because sometimes – like the Pharisees – I believe that I am spiritually superior to others. Today’s Gospel tells me that I should be like the blind man who needed You instead. Lord, please heal all aspects of my blindness, so I can serve God and my neighbors with genuine love according to His commandments. Amen. 

Jakarta, 25 March 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD UNWANTED PEOPLE

JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD UNWANTED PEOPLE

(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A], 19 March 2017) 

Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42 

First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2,5-8 

The Scripture Text

So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Just then His disciples came. They marvelled that He was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do You wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to Him.

Meanwhile the disciples besought Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His words. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:5-42 RSV)

In today’s Gospel reading, a Samaritan woman is surprised when Jesus asks her to give Him a drink of water from Jacob’s well. The reason for her surprise needs to be explained.

After King Solomon died, the land of the Jews divided into two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, with each kingdom having its own king, its own army, and its own capital. The capital in the northern kingdom was Samaria and the capital of the southern kingdom was Jerusalem, the city where the Jewish Temple was located. Citizens of both kingdoms visited the Temple because it was only place where the Jews could offer sacrifices to God.

In 721 B.C., the Assyrians attacked and conquered the Jews of the northern kingdom and took all able-bodied Jewish men, women, and children into exile. Assyrians immigrated to the northern kingdom and some of them converted to Judaism after marrying Jewish woman. Because these Assyrian/Jewish couples lived in Samaria, we call their children Samaritans.

Since the Samaritans were only half Jewish and were descendants of the Assyrians, the Jews in the southern kingdom despised them and even called them dogs.

Because of their mutual dislike, Jews and Samaritans normally did not talk to each other and some rabbis even went so far as to teach that Jews who passed through Samaritan territory should shake dust from their feet before entering Jewish lands so Jewish soil would not be contaminated with Samaritan dust.

Since the Jewish religious leaders did not allow them to offer sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim and claimed it was the only place sacrifices could be legitimately offered to God. Gerizim is the mountain the woman refers to in today’s reading (John 4:20).

Finally, because first-century Palestinian Judaism was a male-dominated religion, some Jewish men thanked God every morning they were not females, and the rabbis occasionally debated if women had souls. The social customs of the time even frowned on a Jewish man speaking to a woman in public. When you consider all of this, it’s easy to understand why the Samaritan woman was surprised Jesus talked to her.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc., 1992, pages 24-25)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in our society there are also unwanted people, others don’t want to associate with. Thank you Lord Jesus for today’s Gospel. Here, You give us the example of the correct attitude toward these people. Jesus, today I invite You to be the Lord of my life. I will leave behind my old water jar, my old ways of seeking fulfilment. I seek You instead. Fill me with Your living water today so that I will never thirst again. Amen.

Jakarta, 19 March 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – 12 March 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9 

First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalms: Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 

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 on 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.” (Matthew 17:1-9 RSV) 

Spiritual journey is a common expression used to refer to one’s religious life. From the French language, jour (day), it describes one’s daily progress in walking with the Lord and each other as a woman or man of faith. The word “journal”, also from the same root, means a daily record of events. Each person’s journey is unique and must always be treated as such. We have different times of beginning and ending, and a lifetime of varieties in between. The important similarity of all journeys is that we move through life according to the same measured pace of time. We know that change is inevitable and that we are subject to it, willingly or otherwise.

We can appreciate the unwavering faith of Abraham in the first reading, as he obeys the call of his God to leave behind his father’s house and native land, to journey into the uncharted future, into a totally new type of life. We increase our admiration when we realize that he was 75 years old at that time.

Abraham is for us an inspiring model of faith, who was willing to trust God completely by letting go of earthly securities, as he ventured out of what is currently Iraq to Palestine. There, he was given a new name and became the father of a new nation and a new religion. Because of Abraham, we should never say or even think that we are too old to make a change for the better.

Another type of spiritual journey occurs in today’s Gospel, in the lives of three chosen apostles. They climb up a high mountain with the Master and, once on top, soar into ecstasy as they behold the transfigured Savior conversing with Moses and Elijah. Their doubts are for the time being removed, for they have seen the glory of the Lord. It was a mystical journey into the brilliance of paradise.

God promises this same reward to any of us willing to abandon the safe place and familiar faces for a faith-filled journey into the night of the unknown. An act of simple trust is the first step that will bring us face to face with the transfigured Jesus.

The season of Lent is a constant reminder of our invitation from the Master to always seek the better life. We hear the Church reassuring all pilgrim people that their efforts are far outweighed by the divine glory to be gained. The stories presented in today’s liturgy are not meant to glorify Abraham or the Apostles, but to make us believe that these grace-filled adventures can also be ours. Our journeys can all have happy endings, provided we are willing to venture forth each day with trusting faith.

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, from Your transfiguration, You teach me that my spiritual journey can have a happy ending, provided I am willing to venture forth each day with an unwavering and trusting faith in You. Amen.

Jakarta, 10 March 2016 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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BREAD, GLORY AND POSSESSIONS

BREAD, GLORY AND POSSESSIONS

(A biblical refection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 5, 2017) 

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11 

First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 51:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19 

The Scripture Text

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him to the holy city, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord You God.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord Your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11 RSV)

Today’s Gospel shows that Jesus was tempted by the devil in three areas, they are “bread”, “glory” and “possessions”.

BREAD. This is the lure of catering to bodily comforts, giving free rein to all our appetites for food, drink, sex, leisure, etc. the easy and comfortable life. It is only natural to want the best if we can get it, and forget about self-denial and discipline. Jesus knew, however, that this was not the way to prepare for the cross, where He would be thirsty, naked and tortured. So Jesus resisted the temptation.

GLORY. Here Jesus was tempted to show off and be spectacular. He could, if He had wanted, put on a dazzling display and the people would have jumped with excitement and applause. He could even convince Himself that it would be good for His cause, for it would have attracted an enthusiastic following.

How often we love to be the center of attention and be popular in the eyes of others. Sometimes this clouds our minds, causing us to say and do foolish things. Jesus had to be in control, for later He would be challenged to come down from the cross and save His life. He would not do that, either. In resisting this temptation, Jesus manifested the divine strength which destroyed our sins.

POSSESIONS. Just imagine all the things that people do for the sake of money. They kill for pay; endure cold, darkness and fear to obtain gold and riches. Soe sacrifice every decent principle to obtain and exalted position. The devil does not truly own the world and could not give it to Jesus. But he could remind Jesus of His freedom to forsake His Father’s will and take possession of the world. Abandoning the Father was tantamount to worshipping the devil and the tough Redeemer told His adversary to get lost. “The devil made me do it”, has no application here.

Today’s Gospel reading causes us to ask: Can Jesus really be tempted? Some would say “no”, for He is divine. Others respond “yes”, for He is human. But one thing is sure. We can be tempted, but when the mind is resolute, evil will flee. Then peace, like a ministering angel, will gently settle within our souls.

Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Thank You for your victory over the devil! Teach me to recognize my enemy’s strategies and to overcome through faith and trust in You. Amen. 

Jakarta, 4 March 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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RETURN TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH FASTING, WITH WEEPING, AND WITH MOURNING

RETURN TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH FASTING, WITH WEEPING, AND WITH MOURNING

(A biblical refection on ASH WEDNESDAY, 1 March 2017)

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First Reading: Joel 2:12-18 

Psalms: Psalm 51:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

The Scripture Text

“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repent of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Then the LORD became jealous for His land, and had pity on His people. (Joel 2:12-18 RSV) 

Once again, we begin the season of Lent, a time when God waits with outstretched arms for us to come to Him: “Return to me …… with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” We know that Lent is a season of fasting and penance, but what does God urge first of all? “Return to me with all your heart …… Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12,13). In this special season of grace, our Church offers more liturgies and services that invite us to slow down for a time and allow the Holy Spirit to work cleansing miracles in our hearts as we repent and turn back to our heavenly Father.

Our sins can cause us such grief and shame not only because they cause human suffering but also because they separate us from the Lord. This is why repentance is so important in our day-to-day Christian lives. But make no mistake, real repentance is not just feeling sorry for our sins! It is an understanding that sin offends God’s holiness. It is a decision to ask God to help us make changes in our behavior. That is why God keeps calling us to rend our hearts – to split them open and not try to change them ourselves. The goal, however, is not make ourselves flawless. Who could do that anyway? Indeed, as we humble ourselves, we allow the Holy Spirit to give us new hearts and right spirits.

Jesus told us not to practice our piety before men in order to be seen by them (see Mt 6:1). God does not just want to forgive our sins. He wants to pour out blessing as well. He wants both to pardon us and transform us supernaturally “in secret”. Rather than see us concerned about every little thought and action, God wants us to make our hearts fertile ground for His Holy Spirit. Could there be greater joy than knowing our heavenly Father loves us and experiencing His power transforming our hearts?

How does this transformation happen? When we give alms and pray and fast, we can invite the Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. By adopting these traditional practices with hearts that are focused on the Father’s love and not on our sacrifices, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. We allow Him to make us more passionate for Jesus and more compassionate toward others. And as a result, we begin to think and act just as Jesus did.

The Holy Spirit wants to make us confident in God’s love. He wants to make us merciful toward those who need mercy; steadfastly opposed to sin, both in us and in the world; and open to the miraculous. And it all begins as we rend our hearts, plowing up ground for the Holy Spirit to sow His seeds. Let us embrace this Lent as a time overflowing grace! In the quiet of our hearts, let us take up Jesus’ thrice-given promise: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4,6,18).

Short Prayer: Holy Spirit-God, I welcome You this Lent. I want to rend my heart, so that You have room to work in me. Amen.

Jakarta, 28 February 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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JESUS TELLS US TO SEEK HIS FATHER’S KINGSHIP OVER US

JESUS TELLS US TO SEEK HIS FATHER’S KINGSHIP OVER US

(A biblical refection on THE 8th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 26 February 2017)

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:24-34 

First Reading: Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalms: Psalm 62:2-3,6-9; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 

The Scripture Text

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Salomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things shall be yours as well.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (Matthew 6:24-34 RSV)

A king demands total and undivided loyalty from his subjects who pledge their allegiance to him and promise to serve him all their lives. In turn, the king protects and takes care of them, showing special concern for the poor, the homeless, and the needy.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us to seek the Father’s kingship over us and assures us the Father will take care of us if we acknowledge Him as our Lord and King, giving Him our undivided loyalty and trust. As proof, Jesus points to the loving care the Father bestows on the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. If God takes such great care of His less significant creations, we can trust He will give us all we really need.

The Church has taken today’s Gospel reading and those of the last few Sundays from the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7 of Matthew). In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus delivers this same sermon no on a mountain but on a flat stretch of land, leading biblical scholars to wonder if the mountain in Matthew has any special significance.

Most of the early Christians were originally Jewish and one of the biggest events in the history of the Jewish people was Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Jewish laws on top of Mount Sinai. The Jews treasured these laws as the way to holiness, a blueprint explaining how a person could have a close relationship with God.

Matthew’s symbolism was clear to the early Jewish Christians. Just as Moses ascended to the top of Mount Sinai to get the laws from God, Jesus ascends to the top of a mountain and gives the people a new law, a new way to holiness, making Jesus a new Moses. Just as Moses was the mediator between God and the Jewish people, Jesus is the mediator between God and all people. Just as Moses showed the Jews the way to the earthly Promised Land, Jesus shows us the way to the heavenly Promised Land. Moses was the most important figure in Jewish history and Jesus is the most important figure in the history of the world. The early Jewish Christians recognized all these similarities and more.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I lay every concern before You and seek Your blessing on me and everyone I meet. Lead me in the footsteps of Your beloved Son, the New Moses, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit continue to draw me further away from sin, and grant me Your peace. Amen.

Jakarta, 24 February 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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JESUS DEMANDS EVEN MORE THAN WHAT THE LAW DEMANDS

JESUS DEMANDS EVEN MORE THAN WHAT THE LAW DEMANDS

(A biblical refection on THE 7th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 19 February 2017)

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:38-48 

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; Psalms: Psalm 103:1-4,10,12-13; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 

The Scripture Text

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have you cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise  on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:38-48 RSV)

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s reading. Again, Jesus answers the charge that He is teaching His followers to disregard the Jewish law. In response, Jesus shows He demands even more than what the law demands.

The quotation about “taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is taken from Exodus 21:24 and is one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture. Although people usually quote it when trying to justify revenge, its original purpose was to prevent unjust punishments by placing limits on the penalty imposed on a convicted criminal. Therefore, the authorities could not put the guilty party to death for knocking out someone’s tooth. The worst thing they could do to him was knock out his tooth also. Thus, this passage was never intended to be but only a limitation on what it could be. The punishment could never exceed the crime.

Although the law permits revenge, Jesus does not advocate it. In explaining that his followers should not offer resistance to injury, Jesus says they should give not only their shirt to someone who wants it but their coat as well. The coat was an outer garment a person slept in at night. Although Palestinian days were usually warm, the temperature often dropped dramatically after the sun went down. The coat was all the poor man had to keep him from freeing at night and it was so important that, according to Jewish law, if a man gave his coat as collateral for a loan, the lender was supposed to return it to him before nightfall so he wouldn’t freeze to death.

In His preaching, Jesus sometimes used exaggeration, an accepted Near Eastern teaching technique, to stress and important point. Jesus’ comments in today’s Gospel about giving up one’s coat and in last week’s Gospel about gouging out one’s eyes if they are a source of temptation are examples of exaggeration. Thus, in today’s reading Jesus is not saying that His followers should deliberately expose themselves to physical harm but that they are to forgo any revenge they might be entitled to and should even be willing to put up with injustice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, it is difficult for me to respond to hate with love but that is what Jesus, Your Son, is asking of me in today’s Gospel. If there is someone in my life I do hate, let the Holy Spirit guide me when I go out of my way this week to do something nice for that person. Praise the Holy Trinity, Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 17 February 2017  

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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