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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

TO PREPARE FOR JESUS’ COMING

TO PREPARE FOR JESUS’ COMING 

(A biblical reflection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT [YEAR B], 10 December 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-8 

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Psalms: Psalm 85:9-14; Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14 

The Scripture Text

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8 RSV)

In 2 Kings, we find Elijah, one of the most important figures in the Old Testament, clothed in the traditional garb of a prophet, a garment of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. Because 2 Kings 9 tells us that God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, some of the Jewish people believed God was saving Elijah for a special mission and that one day God would send him back to the earth to prepare the way for the Messiah.

The author of Mark’s Gospel begins today’s reading by quoting a passage from the prophet Isaiah that the Jews often understood as referring to Elijah’s return and he also informs us that John the Baptist dressed the same way Elijah dressed. In this subtle way, the author tells us that John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah. He was the one God sent to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.

In the first sentence of the first chapter of Mark, the author calls his work a Gospel about Jesus, who is both the Christ and the Son of God. The word “gospel” means “good news”, and Mark is the only one of the four evangelists to refer to his writing in this way.

The word “Christ” means “Anointed One”, a title the Jews used for the Messiah. This reference to Jesus’ being both the Christ and the Son of God indicates the Gospel is not an unbiased account of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. It is clear that Mark is a person of faith who wants to share that faith with others. This type of writing is called “salvation history”, a term biblical scholars use to describe an account of how God is working in the world.

Finally, some Jewish people went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. For many Jews, baptism was a sign of sorrow for one’s sins and an indication the person would try harder not to offend God. It was not a requirement for being a member of the Jewish faith.

Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 122-123.)

Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for sending John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah, Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who came to the world for our eternal salvation. Amen.

Jakarta, 8 December 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

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WE DO NOT KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR WHEN HE WILL RETURN TO THE EARTH

WE DO NOT KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR WHEN HE WILL RETURN TO THE EARTH

(A biblical reflection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year B], 3 Deeember 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Mark 13:33-37 

First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17,19;64:1,3-8; Psalms: Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 

The Scripture Text

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” (Mark 13:33-37 RSV) 

As the Advent season begins, Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that we must always be ready because we do not know the day or the hour when He will return to the earth. In Greek, the original language of the Gospels, parousia is the word for the second coming of Jesus.

The early Christians believed that parousia would occur within their own lifetime. Jesus would return to conquer the world and the world as we know it would end. With Jesus in complete control, the reign of God would begin and there would be no more wars, hunger, or suffering. God would then transform the earth into a new garden of Eden, just as it was before the first sin.

This belief in Jesus’ imminent return caused a problem for the early Church. Some Christians who concluded there wasn’t much sense in working if the world was going to end some time soon, relied on others to support them while they spent their time praying and waiting for the parousia. This led the author of the second letter to the Thessalonians to lay down the rule that anyone who would not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

The belief in Jesus’ quick return also delayed the writing of the Gospel stories. Instead of recording what Jesus said and did, the early Christians verbally passed on stories about Jesus. They were not afraid that Jesus’ teachings would get distorted because they expected the parousia to occur before the apostles and other eyewitnesses were all dead. One of them would always be around to insure the accuracy of what was being said.

Only after it was clear that the parousia was not going to occur as soon as they first thought, did the early Christians finally begin writing the Gospels. Because of this, the first Gospel (Mark) was not written until about 65-70 A.D. That’s thirty-five to forty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus!d

The early Christians went to an extreme by believing the parousia would occur at any minute but most modern Christians act as if the world cannot  end in our own lifetime. Today’s Gospel reading warns that this isn’t necessarily true. 

Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 120-121.) 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, especially for this Advent send Your Holy Spirit to help us prepare our hearts by welcoming Jesus into our lives as we begin each day during this holy season. By knowing and experiencing Jesus and His love for us more closely, we can know the joy of awaiting His second coming (parousia). Amen. 

Jakarta, 1 December 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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CHRIST THE KING

CHRIST THE KING

(A biblical reflection on the SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING [YEAR A] – Sunday, 26 November 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46 

First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-3,5-6; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28 

The Scripture Text

“When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will place the sheep at His right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will say to those at His left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me,  naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to Thee? Then He will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 RSV) 

The scene in the parable in today’s Gospel reading is the judgment at the end of the world. The parable begins with a reference to the Son of Man coming in His glory. The term “Son of Man” refers to the Messiah, the military/political leader through whom God would rule the world and establish His Kingdom. The Messiah will come in his glory at the end of the world when he will be victorious over all his enemies.

In the parable, Jesus says that the Messiah will sit upon his royal throne and all the nations will assemble before him as he separates them into two groups like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. In Palestine, the shepherd usually allowed the sheep and the goats to graze together but separated them whenever he took them home or moved them to another pasture.

The King/Messiah tells those he places on his right side that he will give them a spot in God’s Kingdom prepared for them since the beginning of the world. According to the Jewish rabbis, God created His Kingdom even before the world began and those He will judge righteous He will reward with everlasting life in this Kingdom while the wicked He will send to a place of fire reserved for the devil and his followers.

Notice that Jesus does not say judgment will be based on how well known or popular a person iss, how much money or power one has, or even where someone worships, but on how the individual responds to those who are in need. By telling us that whenever we do something for others we are really doing it for Him, Jesus identifies Himself with those who are suffering and is saying that to serve God we have to serve each other. We cannot separate our responsibilities to our neighbour from our responsibilities to God.

The parable should make us a little uncomfortable because it means we cannot sit back and expect to enter heaven simply because we believe in Jesus and go to church every Sunday. Jesus demands more from His followers. He demands we live out our faith in service to others. Unless our faith finds expression in visiting the lonely, comforting the grieving, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, we cannot expect to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 116-117.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I adore You as my King! I am thankful that You protect me, care for me, and hear me when I call You. Grant me Your goodness and mercy all the days of my life. May I dwell with You in Your Kingdom forever! Amen.

Jakarta, 24 November 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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GALATIANS 2:20

Jakarta, 24 November 2017

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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GOOD MORNING – WEDNESDAY BLESSINGS

Jakarta, 22 November 2017

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE PARABLE OF TALENTS EXPLAINED

THE PARABLE OF TALENTS EXPLAINED

(A biblical reflection on the 33rd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 19 November 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:14-30 

First Reading: Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-5; Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 5:1-6 

The Scripture Text

“For is will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talent made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your  talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30 RSV)

When you find a difficult story in the Bible, reading what comes immediately before and after helps since the evangelists often grouped parables or stories together because they had something in common. For example, a parable preceded and followed by stories about judgment probably also has something to do with being judged. The parable in today’s Gospel reading is a perfect example of this.

The parable is about a man who gave three of his servants different sums of money and then went on a journey. When he returned, he summoned his servants and demanded an accounting of the funds he had entrusted to them. The master was pleased with the first two servants who doubled their money but he was furious with the third servant who had the same amount he started with. The master then took the money from this last servant and gave it to one of the others.

Taken by itself, it’s difficult to determine what this parable is supposed to mean. Whom does the master symbolize? Who are the servants supposed to stand for? What is the moral of this story? These are questions we can best answer only after examining the context in which we find the parable.

Other parables and stories about the reign of God and Jesus’ second coming precede and follow today’s Gospel. They are about judgment and our relationship with others. It’s logical to assume the parable in today’s Gospel has a similar theme.

The master stands for Jesus, and we are the servants. The money represents the talents and abilities God has given us. Just as the master went away for awhile and then returned, Jesus will one day also return to the earth and will demand an accounting of the gifts God has given us. He will ask if we used our talents and abilities for good or for evil or if we wasted them by not using them at all. How we answer these questions will determine if we will share in the master’s joy (be called into God’s Kingdom) or if we will find ourselves in the darkness outside, wailing and grinding our teeth (experience the pains of hell).

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 110-111.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for all the gifts You have given me. Help me to be aware of these gifts, that I may surrender them to You and use them cheerfully and generously to build up Your Kingdom. Amen.

Jakarta, 18 November 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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EVERYONE SHOULD ALWAYS BE PREPARED

EVERYONE SHOULD ALWAYS BE PREPARED

(A biblical reflection on the 32nd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 12 November 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:1-13 

First Reading: Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalms: Psalm 63:2-8 Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 4:13-17 

The Scripture Text

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)

In first century Palestine, Jewish wedding celebrations were very special events involving the entire town. The festivities began after dark with the bridegroom and his friends making their way to the house of the bride. As they walked through the dark streets, members of the wedding party carried torches of oily rags wrapped atop brass poles. They often needed an extra supply of oil to keep these torches lit.

The groom usually tried to catch everyone by surprise by keeping secret the day and the time he chose to claim his bride. However, someone usually went ahead of the wedding party to announce that the groom was on his way.

The bride joined the procession when the groom arrived at her house and – accompanied by much singing, dancing, and merry making – they returned to his home for both the wedding ceremony and the seven day celebration that followed. During this return procession, people came out of their homes and into the street to join the festivities and to offer their congratulations to the happy couple.

Once the wedding party arrived at the home of the groom, only the invited guests went inside. Because the door was barred shut with a heavy beam, making it difficult to open and close the door, latecomers were not allowed in. This explains why the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel were not admitted to the celebration when they arrived at the groom’s house. The ceremony had already begun and removing the beam not only would have been a chore but the resulting noise would have disrupted the proceeding. Thus, the foolish bridesmaids missed the long-awaited wedding ceremony because they were unprepared.

The bible often uses a wedding as an image for the reign of God. In the parable in today’s Gospel, just as no one knows the time of the bridegroom’s arrival, so no one knows the day or the hour Jesus will return to the earth to establish the reign of God. It could be today, tomorrow, next year, or ten years from now. Since no one knows when Jesus will return, everyone should always be prepared and should not be caught sleeping like the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel parable.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 108-109.)

Short Prayer: Thank You, God the Holy Spirit, for dwelling in me! Enkindle in me the fire of Your love. Refresh me, so that I may be ready to meet Jesus when He returns! Amen.

Jakarta, 10 November 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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