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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2019

HE SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE

HE SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE

(A biblical reflection on the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [Year A] – Sunday, 29 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 

First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-5; Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21

The Scripture Text

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called My son.”

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and to to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 RSV) 

Herod the Great ruled Judea (a region in Palestine inhabited by the Jews) from about 37 BCE – 4 BCE. Because the Romans who controlled Palestine sometimes sold kingdoms to the highest bidder, some historians believe Herod obtained his position of power only after making some very well placed bribes.

Buying one’s way to the top often led to sleepless nights because there was always the chance someone would come along with a bigger bribe. That thought must have crossed Herod’s mind because he was paranoid that someone was out to take his place as king. We know that he arrested and put to death anyone whom he suspected (including some of his own sons).

Herod must have gotten pretty nervous when the wise men from the East visited his palace asking where they could find the newborn king of the Jews. Because he was afraid the child they were looking for would one day take the throne away from him, Herod made plans to locate this new king and kill him. When the wise men from the East failed to return to him with the information he requested, Herod protected his power by killing all the boys who were two years old or younger.

Matthew also tells us that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus did much traveling because of Herod. There’s a good reason why Matthew includes this detail.

In the book of Exodus, we hear about how God rescued the Jews from enslavement in Egypt and brought them back to the Promised Land (the land of Israel). Matthew goes out of his way to tell us Jesus made a similar trip from Egypt to the Promised Land as a symbolic way of saying that God is once again rescuing the people. Through Jesus, God is about to save not only the Jews, but all those who believe in Him.

Jesus came to save all people, including Herod. Like Herod, is there anything in your life you are unwilling to ever give up? Why is this so important to you? Is it possible it is getting in the way of your salvation?

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 12-13.)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please hold each family in Your heart. Where there has been hurt, bring Your healing touch. Where there is struggle, send Your Holy Spirit. Empower us all to withstand the evil one’s attempts to rob us of our hope. Amen.

Jakarta, 28 December 2019 [Feast of the Holy Innocents]  

A Christian Pilgrim

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2019 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2019

 

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SOME NOTES ON THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST

SOME NOTES ON THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST

(A biblical refection on CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS – Wednesday, 25 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-14

First Reading: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 96:1-3,11-13; Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14 

The Scripture Text

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” (Luke 2:1-14 RSV)

The Gospel according to Luke tells us the shepherds were guarding their flocks at night when the angels appeared to them to announce the birth of the Messiah. This little detail tells us Jesus could not have been born in December, a month during which the Palestinian nights are too cold for sheep and shepherds to be out in the fields. Most likely, Jesus was born in the early spring because that was the birthing season for the sheep, a time when the shepherds would be in the fields with their sheep throughout the night just in case one of the sheep experienced a difficult delivery.

Why, then, do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25? Strangely, the answer to this question lies in a pagan feast.

Some pagan peoples viewed the world as a battleground for a struggle between the powers of darkness (the evil gods) and the powers of light (the good gods). These pagans became alarmed in early December because they noticed the days getting shorter, a situation they interpreted to mean the evil gods were overcoming the good gods. Therefore, these people held a feast at which they partied and made lots of noise in an attempt to rouse the good gods from their sleep and encourage them to fight back. They celebrated this feast on December 25.

As the days began getting longer, the pagans concluded their strategy apparently worked. For them more daylight was an indication the good gods, the powers of light, were defeating the powers of darkness. Of course, today we know longer days had nothing to do with their feast but with the winter solstice which occurs on December 22.

Some of the early Christians were once pagans who celebrated this feast with their neighbors. After they converted, they believed in one God instead of many gods who were fighting, but they were reluctant to give up the partying that they once did on this occasion. What were they to do? They solved this dilemma by giving the pagan feast a Christian meaning. This was easy to do since Jesus is the light who came into the world to overcome the darkness of sin. By adapting the feast to Christianity, the followers of Jesus were able to celebrate with their pagan neighbor without giving up their faith in the one true God.

The exact day Jesus was born is really not important. In fact, Jesus’ birth was not even celebrated in the early days of the Church (Easter was and still is the most important Christian feast). What does matter, however, is that God became men and lived among us. Take time today to thank God for the gift of the Son. 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 10-11.)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You and thank you wholeheartedly for giving me Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Give me a “Mary” Christmas. May I love Jesus as Mary does. Amen.

Jakarta, 24 December 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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YOU SHALL CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS

YOU SHALL CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS

(A biblical refection on the FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 22 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 1:18-24

First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalms: Psalm 24:1-6; Second Reading: Romans 1:1-7 

The Scripture Text

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her  away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife. (Matthew 1:18-24 RSV)  

Marriage customs in Palestine in Jesus’ time were much different from what we are accustomed to today. Back then, there were two parts of a Jewish marriage ceremony – the engagement and the consummation.

The engagement, which usually lasted at least a year, was a time for the bride to make her dress and prepare for the wedding. During this period, the bride and the groom could not see each other so they communicated through messages delivered by the best man.

The engagement began with the signing of a formal marriage agreement or with the groom giving gifts to the bride’s family. After this took place, the bride and the groom were legally husband and wife even though they did not yet live together.

The consummation occurred when the groom took his wife into his home to live with him. The consummation completed the marriage contract.

The story in today’s Gospel tells us Joseph found out about Mary being pregnant while they were engaged but before they consummated the union. The engagement year had not ended and they were not yet living together. Since Joseph could not visit his wife during this period, she obviously wasn’t pregnant with his child.

With Joseph and Mary legally becoming husband and wife at their engagement, divorce was the only way Joseph could end the relationship. Another alternative was for him to publicly accuse Mary of adultery, which according to Jewish law, would have led to her being stoned to death. The whole mess is finally cleared up by an angel who tells Joseph Mary conceived the child by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the child has divine origin. The angel gives the child the name Jesus, a name that means “Yahweh saves” or simply “salvation”. How appropriate that name is!

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 8-9.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are Emmanuel, meaning God with us. I adore You and bless Your Holy name, dear Lord Jesus, and now I surrender my life to You. I humbly ask that You come and dwell within me forever, so that I may give You glory. Amen.

Jakarta, 20 December 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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GO AND TELL JOHN WHAT YOU HEAR AND SEE

GO AND TELL JOHN WHAT YOU HEAR AND SEE

 (A biblical refection on the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 15 December 2019)

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:2-11 

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Second Reading: James 5:7-10 

The Scripture Text

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You He who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me.” 

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in king’s houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written. ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than he.” (Matthew 11:2-11 RSV) 

Some modern Christians wonder why some Jewish people in the first-century Palestine did not recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The answer is that Jesus was not the type of Messiah they were expecting.

Many of the Jewish people were looking for a political/military Messiah who would form an army, lead then in battle against their enemies, and conquer the world. Through the Messiah, God would establish His Kingdom on earth, transforming the world into a new Garden of Eden where there wouldn’t be any sickness or suffering. Scripture calls this period of time when God rules the world “the reign of God” or the “Kingdom of God”.

In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist sends his messenger to ask if Jesus is the one who is to come of if they should expect someone else. Since the Jews sometimes referred to the Messiah as “the one who is to come”, John is asking if that’s who Jesus is.

John, being Jewish also anticipated a Messiah who would form an army and free the Jews from foreign rule, however, Jesus did not fit this stereotype because He chose to preach about forgiveness and love of one’s enemies instead of taking up arms. Thus, John was probably a little confused and must have wondered when Jesus would start acting like the Messiah for whom everyone was waiting.

At first, it appears Jesus not answer John’s question because instead of coming right out and plainly saying yes or no, He points to His ability to the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Jesus began to restore the world to what it was like in the Garden of Eden when there wasn’t any pain and suffering. Because all this is supposed to happen only after the Messiah comes into the world, Jesus is saying that’s who He must be. So, even though Jesus didn’t perfectly fit the messianic stereotype, His answer to John’s question was a definitive “yes”. 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 6-7.) 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless all who hunger and thirst for You. Fill them with joyful hope in the eternal prize that awaits each of us in You. I love You, Lord, and patiently await that glorious day when I will see You face-to-face. Amen.

Jakarta, 13 December 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND

REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND

 (A biblical refection on the SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 8 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:1-12 

First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalms: Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17; Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9 

The Scripture Text

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of Lord, make His paths straight.” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not pressure to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father; for I tell, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:1-12 RSV). 

In ancient times when a king decided to travel through the land he ruled, he always sent his servants to prepare the way for him. These servants had two functions. First, they announced that the king was about to pass by so the people could line the streets for a glimpse of their ruler. The servants also prepared the way for the king’s chariot, making sure the road was clear of all obstacles so the chariot would not have to stop unnecessarily.

Some of the Jews believed the Messiah was going to be a king and, like other kings, he was going to send his servant before him to prepare his way. According to a Jewish belief based on Malachi 3:23-24, this servant was supposed to be the prophet Elijah.

In the first chapter of the second book of Kings, Elijah wears a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist. Today’s Gospel reading begins by describing John the Baptist as also being dressed this way. By drawing attention to the similar clothing worn by these two men and by quoting a verse about Elijah from the book of Isaiah, Matthew suggests that John was fulfilling the role of Elijah. John was announcing the coming of the Messiah and was preparing his way just as Elijah was supposed to.

John’s message was that the Jews should prepare for the Messiah by reforming their lives. The  Greek word for reform is metanoia and it refers to a complete change in a person’s life. John was telling those who came out to hear him preach that admitting their sinfulness and saying they’re sorry is not enough. Their metanoia must go beyond words and must extend to how they act.

In today’s Gospel, John singles out the Pharisees and the Sadducees for particularly harsh criticism because they took too much pride in being part of God’s chosen people. Some of them believed that being a descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews, guaranteed them a place of honor in the Kingdom of God. John warned that this was not necessarily true and they could find themselves excluded from the Kingdom unless their actions reflected their beliefs. They, too, needed to reform.

Is your belief in Jesus evident in how you live your life? Identify one area in which you need to reform. Work on that area during the Advent season.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 4-5.) 

Prayer: Holy Spirit, come! I give You the freedom to purge the chaff from my life. Fill my heart with wisdom, strength, and all your gifts, so that I might endure separation from sin and be made a fit vessel of the Father’s love. Amen.

Jakarta, 6 December 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

(A biblical refection on the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year A] – 1 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 24:37-44 

First Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalms: Psalm 122:1-2,4-9; Second Reading: Romans 13:11-14 

The Scripture Text

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is  left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:37-44 RSV)

Christians usually call Jesus “the Son of God” but that was not Jesus’ favorite to describe Himself. Jesus actually preferred the title ”Son of Man”, which occurs 82 times in the Gospels. To this day, Scripture scholars cannot agree about what this title means.

The book of Daniel and another Jewish writing called the Similitudes of Enoch contain the term “Son of Man”. In both places, it refers to a Messiah-like figure God will send at the end of the world to bring salvation and judgment to all people. Some scholars believe this term applies to an individual while others think it stands for Israel. Jesus may have used this title to identify Himself as the Messiah.

Some of the Jewish people expected the Messiah to be a political and military figure who would lead them in battle against their enemies. They believed he would be a human being who, because he was gifted with God’s own Spirit, would be victorious in battle and would conquer the world. Through him, God would  establish a new order in the world, in which there would be no more wars, famines, or evil of any kind. This new order is what some Jews called “the reign of God” or “The Kingdom of God”.

Although Jesus did not fight any human enemies, He did score a victory over the most powerful enemy, the devil, and He promised to return one day to finish the job. When that happens, God will be in complete control of the world, and because the reign of God will be here in its entirety, there won’t be any more wars or evil of any kind.

In today’s Gospel, when Jesus tells us to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man He is really telling us to prepare for His own return. We do not know when this will happen so we must always be ready.

Two sentences in today’s Gospel particularly interest some Christian groups. Jesus says that two men will be in the field and two women will be at the grindstone. One man and one woman will be taken and the other two will be left. Because of this passage, some Christians believe that at Jesus’ second coming He will snatch up bodily those who are faithful to Him and will take them to heaven so they will spared the suffering that will take place at the end of the world. This is what some Christians call “th rapture”.

If the world ended today, would we (you and I) be ready to meet Jesus, the Messiah? How will you and your family use this Advent season to prepare for Jesus’ return?

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 2-3.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to devote Advent to preparing for Your coming into the world. Help me to immerse myself in Your love through the sacraments, prayer, Scripture, and repentance. Let the darkness of my sins give way to Your irresistible light. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jakarta, 30 November 2019 [Feast  of Saint Andrew, Apostle]  

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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CHRIST THE KING

CHRIST THE KING

 (Biblical reflection on the 34th and Last Sunday of the Year [C] – 24 November 2019)

 

Gospel Reading: Luke 23:35-43 

First Reading: 2Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 122:1-2,4-5; Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20 

Scripture Text:

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him vinegar, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” There was also an inscription over Him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other rebuked Him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man had done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in your kingly power.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:35-43 RSV) 

Because a king is the embodiment of his kingdom, whatever you do to him, you also do to his subjects. Thus insulting the king is just like insulting all the people he rules, and honoring him is like honoring the entire kingdom. The king, for his part, acts in the name of all of his subjects. When he forgives or pardons, the entire kingdom forgives or pardons through him.

Being our King, Jesus died on the cross not as an individual but as our representative. In a way, we were also tortured and nailed to the cross with Him. That is why Jesus’ suffering and death atoned for our sins, something that would not have been possible if Jesus were not our King.

Just as we can say we hung on the cross and died with Jesus, we can also use the same reasoning to claim we have risen from the dead with Him. Death no longer has power over Jesus nor any power over us. At the end of the world, we will rise from our graves, never to die again. This is a central teaching of our Christian faith.

In today’s Gospel, the crowd, the soldiers, and one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus mock Him, contemptuously asking if He is the Messiah they are expecting. Because God was supposed to anoint the Messiah with His Spirit, some of the Jews believed the Messiah would lead them in battle against their enemies and would eventually gain control of the world. Jesus, who was neither a successful  military leader nor a powerful political figure, failed to meet these expectations when He suffered a very disgraceful death as a common criminal. It seemed like Jesus was the exact opposite of what the Messiah was supposed to be.

When the Romans led a man outside the city for crucifixion, a soldier usually went before him carrying a sign announcing the man’s crime. The soldier later nailed his sign to the top of the cross. In today’s Gospel, the inscription above Jesus’ head identifies Him as the King of the Jews, a charge that, according to John’s Gospel, appeared in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. In pictures of the crucified Jesus, this sign usually contains the letters INRI, the first letters of the Latin words Iesus Nazaraenus, Rex Judaeorum, which means “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals crucified next to Jesus recognized Him as the Messiah after everyone else gave up on Him. How easily do we (you and I) give up on Jesus when He doesn’t respond as we expect? We must have the faith to accept Jesus as our own Messiah – Lord and Savior – even when things do not go our way.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 340-341.) 

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we adore You as our King! We are indeed thankful that You protect us, care for us, and hear us when we call to You. Grant us Your goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. May we dwell with You in Your Kingdom forever! Amen. 

Jakarta, 22 November 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2019 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2019

 

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NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH

NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH

 (Biblical reflection on the 33rd Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 17 November 2019)

Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19 

First Reading: Malachi 3:19-20; Psalms: Psalm 98:5-9; Second Reading: 2Thessalonians 3:7-12 

Scripture Text:

And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, He said, “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked Him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” And He said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and, ‘The time is at hand1’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” 

Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put death; you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:5-19 RSV) 

Today’s Gospel contains a special type of writing biblical scholars call “apocalyptic”, a writing heavy with symbolism intended to give hope to a persecuted people. Because many of the early Christians who heard or read Jesus’ words lived in fear of the Romans arresting and/or killing them for their faith, they needed the evangelist to reassure them that Jesus was with them no matter what happened That, in a nut shell, is the message of today’s Gospel.

The reading begins with Jesus and His apostles talking about the Temple in Jerusalem. There was only one Temple and it was God’s home, so the Jews used finest wood and marble from distant lands and made the sacred vessels out of the most precious metals. They even made the curtains in the Temple and the high priest’s vestments from the most expensive cloth and thread. Nothing was too good for God!

The walls of the Temple were yellow and white marble measuring approximately 177.5’ x 120’ x x 177.5’. Huge plates of gold that reflected the morning sun covered the facade of the Temple, almost blinding anyone who looked directly at the Temple during a sunrise. Gold plates also covered the lower part of each of the other three sides. No other building matched the Temple’s magnificent appearance.

Jesus’ words about the destruction of the Temple may refer to both a specific historical event and the end of the world. When the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem in 70 A.D., many Christians recalled the words Jesus spoke in today’s Gospel and concluded that everything Jesus said was about to come true. Thinking the end of the world was near, they saw no need to defend the city. Instead, they fled to the mountains and let their Jewish neighbors battle the Romans.

Even with the help of the Christians, the Jews would not have been able to prevent the Romans from destroying both the city and the Temple. Nevertheless, this incident caused the already strained relationship between the Jews and the Christians to deteriorate even further until Christianity and Judaism became two completely separate religions.

Jesus was not trying to give us clues about the exact day or hour when the world would end but was reassuring us that we have nothing to worry about if we just put our faith and trust in Him. Jesus will be with us whenever and however the end comes.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 334-335.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me the passing nature of this world and its glory. Give me a hunger for the glory that is to come. You have assured me that I need not worry, because my life is completely in Your hands. Amen. 

Jakarta, 15 November 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2019 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2019

 

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JESUS VS THE SADDUCEES ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

JESUS VS THE SADDUCEES ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

 (Biblical reflection on the 32nd Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 10 November 2019)

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:27-38 

First Reading: 2Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; Psalms: Psalm 17:1,5-6,8,15; Second Reading: 2Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 

Scripture Text:

There came to Him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked Him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.”  (Luke 20:27-38 RSV)

Today’s Gospel reminds us of two religious groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees taught that the dead will rise from their graves at the end of the world and at that time God will reward those he judges to have lived good lives by giving them new life in his Kingdom. The Sadducees, who were theologically almost the exact opposite of the Pharisees, did not believe a bodily resurrection or in a life after death. Many of Jesus’ teachings had more in common with the Pharisees’ beliefs than with those of the Sadducees.

In the long form of today’s Gospel, the Sadducees ask Jesus’ opinion about matter that may sound a little strange to us. A woman in first-century Palestine normally could not inherit property, so it was very important for a man to have a son to whom he could leave all his accumulated wealth. If a man died without an heir, his closest male relative was to marry the widow and produce an heir for him. The first male child born of this union would legally be the son of the dead man and would inherit all his property. The Jews called this regulation the Levirate Law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

The Sadducees ask Jesus to consider a hypothetical situation. A man who has six brothers dies without having children. The dead man’s oldest brother does what the law expects of him and marries the widow but he also dies before a son is born. Likewise, this happens to the rest of the brothers. Since all seven marry this woman, the Sadducees want to know whose wife she will be when everyone rises from the grave at the end of the world. With this question, the Sadducees challenge the belief in life after death.

Jesus first points out that the Levirate Law is supposed to solve a problem in this world (inheriting property) and has nothing to do with what it will be like after the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. With that out of the way, Jesus then defends His teaching about life after death by quoting a passage from the book of Exodus in which God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These three men were the patriarchs of the Jewish people and had been dead for almost 1,900 years. Jesus points out that if there is no life after death, then God would have been claiming to be the God of the dead, a claim that would not make any sense because only the living could serve Him and give Him glory.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 332-333.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are in awe of Your love for us. Continue to reveal to us who You are so that we can become more and more like You. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, remind me often of how things look at the end of the book, so that I will plan the rest of my life accordingly. Amen. 

Jakarta, 9 November 2019 

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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THE STORY OF ZACCHAEUS, THE CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR

THE STORY OF ZACCHAEUS, THE CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR

(Biblical reflection on the 31st Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 3 November 2019)

Gospel Reading: Luke 19:1-10 

First Reading: Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalms: Psalm 145:1-2,8-11,13-14; Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 

Scripture Text:

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man name Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to Him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore if fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”  (Luke 19:1-10 RSV) 

Believing God was their king, the Jewish people thought their tax money should pay for the upkeep of God’s house, the Temple. Unfortunately, the Roman emperor did not agree with them and used Jewish tax money for building projects throughout the Roman empire. These projects included not only roads and acqueducts in distant lands but also pagan temples to Roman gods; therefore, most pious Jews were greatly upset over how the emperor was using their money.

To make matters worse, the emperor also claimed to be a god. This made paying taxes even more objectionable for most Jews because to do so willingly was just like worshipping a false god, a clear violation of the first commandment.

zakheus-004Oftentimes, Roman officials awarded contracts to foreigners who bid the highest for the privilege of collecting taxes in certain regions. The foreigners then hired local men to do the actual collecting. The Jews called these tax collectors “publicans” and considered any Jew who became a publican the worst kind of sinner because he was helping the emperor steal from God. Other Jews would have nothing to do with such a traitor.

Since a publican had to pay any taxes not collected, he often collected more than he was supposed to, anticipating that some people in his territory would not pay him. The publican either pocketed anything left over after meeting his quota or used the excess to bribe his bosses into giving him a more lucrative territory in which to collect. Thus Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in today’s Gospel, may have bribed his way to his position and then accepted bribes from the publicans who worked from him.

Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus is interesting. According to Jewish law, anyone who steals from someone else and then voluntarily admits it and offers to pay restitution, must pay back what he stole plus twenty percent. The penalty was more if the person did not admit it but was found guilty (Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). By offering to pay back fourfold and promising to give half of what he owns to the poor, Zacchaeus goes beyond what the law expects of him and shows how sincere he really is.

Not only does Jesus say He will dine with Zacchaeus but He also calls him a son of Abraham, a fancy way of identifying him as a faithful Jew. Jesus was willing to forget about Zacchaeus’ past and wipe his slate clean, giving Zacchaeus a chance of a new beginning.

For Reflection: Do you forgive and forget as Jesus did or do you have the memory of an elephant? Ask Jesus to teach you to forgive as He forgave Zacchaeus so you can give someone a chance to start anew.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 330-331.) 

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for the great gift of salvation You have given me. May I never take this gift for granted. May I never become complacent in my love for you or in my service for other people. Today I want to make a return to You, dear Lord, for all that You have done for me. Amen. 

Jakarta, 2 November 2019 [ALL SOULS DAY] 

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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