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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2021

I WILL BE TO HIM A FATHER, AND HE SHALL BE TO ME A SON

I WILL BE TO HIM A FATHER, AND HE SHALL BE TO ME A SON

(A biblical reflection on the NATIVITY OF THE LORD – Saturday, 25 December 2021)

Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-6

First Reading: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalms: Psalm 98:1-6; Gospel Reading: John 1:1-18

The Scripture Text

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, who He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by His word of power. When He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty of high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee”? Or again, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” (Hebrews 1:1-6 RSV)

The greatest gift you have is your life. But this gift is also a mystery, something that we can’t completely figure out on our own. How do you unwrap a mystery? The answer is found wrapped in a manger, in the mystery of the One who is fully God and fully man. As we unwrap the mystery of Jesus’ life, the mystery of our own lives will make more and more sense.

Scripture tells us that from all eternity, Jesus, the Word, was with God, and that He was God (John 1:1). The Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). But why did He choose to come among us? A clue is found in His name, Yeshua, which means “God saves.” In Jesus, God has come among us to save us, to rescue us.

From what did Jesus come to save us? From the death that entered the world when our first parents embraced the lies and envy of the devil (Wisdom 2:23-24). We were created to become like Jesus in all His purity and holiness, but because of sin, our vision became clouded. Restlessly, we search for what might increase our happiness and satisfy the desires of our hearts. But we pursue narrow goals. We strive to fill our lives with meaning and still do not feel complete. There, resting in the manger, is the “Bread of Life,” the only one who can satisfy our hunger.

What does it mean? Take a moment to think of all that this infant child of Bethlehem means. His coming among us as man is the fulcrum of all God’s action, the center from which all His blessings flow out to us. Imagine: If God had only created us in His image, that would have been enough. If He had only sent us His word through the prophets, that would have been enough. If He had only come among us to comfort us and teach us a new way to live, that would have been enough. If He had only forgiven our sins, that would have been enough. If he had only sent His Spirit to guide the Church, that would have been enough. But God has done all these things and more. He has given us Christ Himself to live in our hearts. He has promised us that Jesus will return to take us into His glory.

In the incarnation of His Son, God restored every blessing we forfeited when we fell into sin. From the very beginning, the Son of God was destined to be the source and goal of our lives. In love, God made us like Himself, with the powers of intellect, emotion, and will. In love, He placed within us a hunger for Himself. How could He help but do everything in His power to satisfy that hunger – even to the point of sacrificing His only Son for our sake?

This is a day of great rejoicing, for our destiny has been restored! As we look into the manger, we see innocence, purity, and divine life. This seemingly vulnerable child is the way of our salvation. He died for our sins, was raised for our justification, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. In a sense, the manger is a mirror of our lives, for there we see the glorious power of the indestructible life that God has intended for all of us.

What do you see when you look at the manger? Has your heart thrilled to the good news that this Child has restored you to God? Do you see your greatest Christmas gift here? He has come to give you divine life. Hold Him in your heart. Ask Him to warm your heart. Accept this gift humbly and gratefully. This is the gift that conquers death. This Child is the hope of glory for all of us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life, and for the gift of Your Son in whom we have eternal life. By Your Holy Spirit, reveal to us the treasures held in the mystery of incarnation. Move us to love today, even if we do not feel like loving. Teach each and every one of us to live like this Child, who teaches us that to give is to receive. Amen.

Jakarta, 24 December 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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MARY VISITED ELIZABETH

MARY VISITED ELIZABETH

(A biblical reflection on the FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year C] – 19 December 2021)

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-45

First Reading: Micah 5:1-4; Psalms: Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19; Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10

The Scripture Text

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45 RSV)

The beautiful story of the visitation began after an angel informed Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Upon hearing the news that her relative, Elizabeth, was also expecting, Mary hurried off to visit her. The Gospels say Mary and Elizabeth were kinswomen, a term ancient Jews used to describe a variety of different relationships.  Although popular tradition calls the two women cousins, there is nothing in Scripture to support this belief. However, because there is nothing to refute it either, we will never know the exact relationship between these two women.

In her greeting, Elizabeth says that both Mary and the fruit of her womb are blessed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”(Luke 1-42). The term “fruit of the womb” has an interesting history.

Because ancient people did not have the benefit of all the sophisticated medical equipment we have today, their understanding of the human reproductive system was rather primitive. They believed life was in the man’s sperm which, they reasoned, was like a seed. Just as the seed contained life within itself and just as this life emerged once someone planted the seed in the ground, the man had to plant the sperm in the woman’s womb. Therefore, they thought of the womb as the garden in which the seed would take root and grow. With all of this agricultural symbolism, the next logical step was for them to begin calling the baby “the fruit of the womb”. Thus, Jesus was the fruit of Mary’s womb.

Sometimes, Luke’s Gospel is called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit because it talks so much about how the Spirit is working in the world. At times, biblical scholars also call it the Gospel of Great Joy because the word “joy” appears so frequently. We find one of those occurrences in today’s Gospel reading in which Luke quotes Elizabeth as saying the baby in her womb was moved with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Clearly, Luke considered the birth of the Messiah a happy event.

Mary went to see Elizabeth to share the news of how God was working through her. How is God using us (you and I)? Share that news with someone this week.

Every Advent, we are invited to witness this dramatic moment. We come with the wounds and sins of a long year. Will we refrain from embracing the new, afraid of disappointment and frustration? Or will we imitate Elizabeth and joyfully welcome the Savior Jesus who has come among us?

Prayer: Lord God, I believe that You are all-powerful. Thank You for giving me the grace to see Your work in my life. Apparently Your gifts to me are all good things for me and my life as a disciple of Christ. Give me the courage that I may share Your good works in me with others I meet. Amen.

Jakarta, 18 December 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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JOHN THE BAPTIST REMAINED CLEAR ABOUT HIS MISSION

JOHN THE BAPTIST REMAINED CLEAR ABOUT HIS MISSION

(A biblical reflection on the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year C] – 12 December 2021)

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:10-18

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Psalms: Isaiah 12:2-6; Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7

The Scripture Text

And the multitudes asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” and he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” and he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but He who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.(Luke 3:10-18 RSV)

When John the Baptist began preaching in preparation for the promised Messiah, he caused quite a stir. People began crowding around him, asking him for more advice and accepting his baptism of repentance. John the Baptist caused such a sensation that many even began to wonder whether he himself was the Messiah.

But John the Baptist remained clear about his mission. He was only sent to baptize with water, not with the Holy Spirit. His was a preliminary baptism in preparation for the full baptism that Jesus would give.

John the Baptist’s words today cast an important light on Jesus’ mission, one that is at the heart of Christmas, but which can get overlooked from time to time. He understood that Jesus had come not only to do away with sin, but also to baptize His people with the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Messiah was not simply to remove sin from our hearts, but to fill us with the life and power of God.

According to John the Baptist, Jesus came to separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” in our lives so that there would be room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit. As Christmas approaches, now is a good time to take stock of our own relationship with the Holy Spirit. Let’s ask to ourselves whether we have experienced the Holy Spirit revealing to us areas of sin (“chaff”) that block the flow of God’s love in our hearts? Do we know and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in leading us to repentance and freedom? Do we know and experience inner peace, even in trying situations? Are the truths of Christ coming to life for us as we pray? All of these are signs of the Spirit’s work, and they are all promised to anyone who embraces Jesus in their hearts.

The more we live in communion with the Holy Spirit, the more the heavens will be opened to us. The Holy Spirit is our way to the very heart of God. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ coming at Christmas, and as we prepare for His return in glory, let’s welcome the Holy Spirit more deeply into our hearts.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank You for revealing Christ to me. In You I can find God’s eternal love, in You I can turn away from sin, and in You I can draw deeply from God’s life. Come, Holy Spirit, and continue Your work in me. Amen.

Jakarta, 11 December 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 
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THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

(A biblical reflection on the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year C] – 28 November 2021)

Gospel Reading: Luke 21:25-28,34-36

First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalms: Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14; Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2

The Scripture Text

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

“But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.”(Luke 21:25-28,34-36 RSV)

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. The very word “Advent” means coming. But there are two comings of Jesus Christ: His first coming, when He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, and His second, when He will come again in glory at the end of time. And so the Church divides Advent into two parts.

The first part which begins today and goes until December 16, emphasizes preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. The second part, from December 17 through Christmas eve, emphasizes preparation for the celebration of His birth.

Advent should be a joyful time, since expectation of a happy event is always a happy thing. Though the “Gloria” is not said in the Holy Mass, it is omitted not because we are sad or sorrowful, but only so that on Christmas our singing of this great song of the angels may in a certain sense be a new experience for us. Today we begin the joyful expectation of the final coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time.

There is, however, something of a problem here. The picture that many of us have of the final coming is, at best, short of joy. We have the idea that it will be a terrifying experience: a great, awesome cataclysm with the world engulfed in fire and the fearsome judge of all men calling us to account for the least wrong we have done. How can we be expected to want the end of the world, and to look forward to it? And yet the early Christians had an intense yearning for it. That is strange to our present outlook. If the early Christians looked forward to the end of the world, and we dread it, it seems obvious that our notion is different from theirs.

It is not surprising that we are troubled by the thought of the end of the world. In the Gospel we have just heard, St. Luke paints an awesome picture. Frankly, we are not quite sure what this picture means. The images in the Gospel are taken largely from the Old Testament, and they refer to a judgment by God. But God’s judgment destroys one thing only: sin, not goodness. And the world, the universe is good. That is the view the early Christians had. That there will be a change, even an upheaval, at the end of time seems clear, but not in the sense of the annihilation of the universe, but in the sense of the final fulfilment of all things in Jesus Christ. All sin, all evil will be removed from the universe by the coming of Jesus Christ.

Notice what Jesus says in the Gospel: “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). “Redemption” here refers not only to people, but to all of creation. Jesus saves us not by taking us out of the world and out of our own history, as if the world and all that men have done are evil. Rather His redemption purifies and perfects all created things. Complete redemption means that in Jesus Christ this universe will reach the purpose for which God created it, and in Jesus Christ all of human history will find its meaning and fulfilment. We do not know just how all this will happen any more than we know when it will happen.

There is much fear in our times that the whole world may just blow up through nuclear explosions. There is no guarantee that this will not occur. But we must not be afraid that God is going to lose control of His creation or that men through their foolish genius will upset God’s plans for the universe. Whatever may happen from the human angle, God will send His Son in glory again when He has decided that the time has come for the end of our present world. But that time will be a new beginning for all of creation, a time of perfection without sin.

And, what of ourselves? Naturally, we live in hope that we will be part of that perfection without sin. And we will be, if we live according to the words of today’s Gospel: “Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life …… But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength …” (Luke 21:34,36). We will have confidence and joy if we try to live in accord with the prayer of St. Paul in today’s epistle: “May the Lord make you increase and bound in love to one another and to all men, …… so that He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus ……” (1Thessalonians 3:12).

Today we begin a new Church year. During this year, we will celebrate all the saving events of the life of Jesus Christ. But today as we begin, we look to the end. We look to the completion of all the good that Jesus began by His life on this earth, a completion that will come only at the end of time.

Like the early Christians, we should have an intense yearning for the final coming of Jesus Christ. As we will pray in the Preface, we should “watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in His glory” (Preface of Advent I, the Sunday Missal [A New Edition], page 62).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, send Your Holy Spirit to renew Your Church. May we grow in faithfulness and godliness as we enter into this time of expectation. Revive us all with Your great power. Amen.

Jakarta, 27 November 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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CHRIST THE KING

CHRIST THE KING

(A biblical reflection on the solemnity of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, UNIVERSAL KING [Year B] – Sunday, 21 November 2021)

Gospel Reading: John 18:33-37

First Reading: Daniel 7:13-14; Psalms: Psalm 93:1-2,5; Second Reading: Revelation 1:5-8

The Scripture Text

Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if My kingship were of this world, My servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but My kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to Him, “So you are a King?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a King. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:33-37 RSV)

When asked by Pilate. “Are you the King of the Jews?”, Jesus replied that He was a King but immediately added that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33,36). Jesus entered into His Kingdom and into His glory when the Father raised Him from the dead, seated Him at His right hand in heaven, and conferred on Him all sovereignty, authority, power, kingship and glory. Christ’s Kingdom, unlike the transient kingdoms of this world, will never pass away. It is immovable, not subject to corruption, decay or conquest.

At the end of time, Jesus will return in glory. Then we shall see Him glorious, majestic, and powerful. His faithful servants shall be joined to Him forever. At that time, all of creation will be subjected to His reign; all will be fulfilled and complete in Him.

The foundation of Jesus’ Kingdom is truth. Jesus bore witness to the truth before Pilate: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37). He witnessed to the truth of the eternal reality that is God Himself – God who is holy, pure and good.

In turn, Jesus’ disciples witness to the eternal reality of Christ by proclaiming that He is a King of all creation; that all can enter His Kingdom by bowing down before the holiness and glory of God. They witness by accepting Christ’s rule in their lives and serving Him and His people, in that way advancing God’s Kingdom. Until He comes again, Christ has empowered His disciples to build His Kingdom here on earth. As we work to liberate the weak and the powerless, the oppressed and the exploited, Christ’s Kingdom of justice, peace and love is built up among us.

Pope John Paul II taught about our share in the kingship of Christ: “Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the universe, they share in His kingly ministry and are called by Him to spread the Kingdom in history. They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve, in justice and in charity, Jesus who is Himself present in all His brothers and sisters, above all in the very least (Christifideles Laici, 14).

Prayer: Jesus Christ, King of heaven and earth, I do love You, and I want to love you more and more each day. You are my heart’s deepest desire. I consecrate myself to you today. Come, my King, and make me into the person you want me to be. Amen.

Jakarta, 20 November 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2021 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2021

 

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THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN

(A biblical reflection on the 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [Year B] – 14 NOVEMBER, 2021)

Gospel Reading: Mark 13:24-32

First Reading: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 16:5,8-11; Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14,18

The Scripture Text

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that He is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time with 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 13:24-32 RSV)

Every now and then people speculate and try to predict the end of the world. And, we could find doomsday prophets keep coming and going – but the end of the world has not come.

As we are about to end the Church calendar, the Gospel message this Sunday douses cold water on all predictions and prognostications. Listen to the words of Jesus Christ: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

Instead of frittering away precious time speculating on the end of the world, Jesus Christ exhorts us to live as Christians in the present. What matters is NOW!

A Catholic priest was once playing badminton with a friend. During the break, their talk shifted to a more serious vein with his partner asking, “Father, suppose the end of the world suddenly came and we were out there playing, what would you do? Get down on your knees and pray? The priest paused for a moment and said, “I’d go right on playing.”

What the priest is trying to say is that one should not worry about the end of the world. Worry rather whether or not you are holding on to your faith or living as a Christian should despite the harsh adversities.

According to the Scriptures, on Judgment Day we shall be judged on the question: What have you done for people in need? (please read Matthew 25:31-46). How about us? Have we enough good works to deliver us from the fires of hell?

As we end the Church’s calendar this month, it might be wise and proper to pause and do some soul-searching. Am I preoccupied only with my personal needs, caprices and pleasures? Do I have time for God, my family, and for some outreach project? Am I contributing to building Christian communities of justice, love and peace or am I the cause of pain and suffering to others?

Everything we do now has eternal consequences. Judgment will be nothing else but God’s confirmation of the choices, decisions or actions we have made in life. What we sow now, we reap later.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, when we truly respond to Your love by loving one another, then already now, in this world, we receive Your blessing. Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be Your holy name, now and for ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 13 November 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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TWO SMALL COPPER COINS ARE VERY PLEASING TO GOD IF THAT’S ALL WE CAN AFFORD

TWO SMALL COPPER COINS ARE VERY PLEASING TO GOD IF THAT’S ALL WE CAN AFFORD

(A biblical reflection on the 32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [Year B] – 7 NOVEMBER 2021)

Gospel Reading: Mark 12:38-44

First Reading: 1Kings 17:10-16; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28

The Scripture Text

And in His teaching He said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him, and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”  (Mark 12:38-44 RSV)

The worshippers calmly entered the Temple, depositing their donations into the venerable-looking container near the door. Sitting in a chair nearby, Jesus noted the amounts of money each dropped into the treasury. Then He called His disciples over to share His insights about the wealthy and the poor, the big checks and the small coins.

One person had deeply impressed Him – a poor widow, who had given a mere pittance, compared to most of the others. No doubt, He prefaced His remarks with the reminder that He was not condemning the big gifts by praising the small ones. That would have been foolish, for the Temple needed large donations to continue as a place of worship.

Although the widow gave only two paltry coins, worth but a few cents, Jesus was impressed. He praised her because it was a high percentage gift. The others, He said, “gave from their surplus wealth, but she gave from her want ……” The wealthy gave a tiny fraction of what they possessed, but she gave nearly everything she had. The value of the gift was practically nothing but Jesus saw the value of the giver.

Today, many people feel that money is a forbidden topic in the pulpit, that it is unspiritual and unworthy to be associated with worship. Some even say that’s why they avoid church. However, Jesus apparently saw no conflict between scrutinizing the collection basket and preaching the Kingdom of God.

Granted that “money sermons” are overdone by some preachers, generosity is still a valuable virtue. Furthermore, if religion is to speak to our needs, hopes and worries, we must talk of money – which is at the heart of many of our dilemmas. “How much does it cost?” is a phrase continually on our minds and lips. The cost of “running the church” is a heavy burden for all pastors.

Today’s Gospel reading is not trying to embarrass the rich to donate more to the church and charity but is a call for all of us to be generous. Being poor does not absolve one from this. “Two small copper coins” are very pleasing to God if that’s all we can afford. Regardless of the amount, each should make some offering, and it will be valuable if it flows from a spirit of sincere generosity.

Prayer: Lord, we are all poor before You. Why should we be afraid to share of what we have received? Please forgive us because sometimes we fail to trust You, even though we know Your return is always more than our small gift. Amen.

Jakarta, 6 November 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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WE HAVE A MERCIFUL GOD WHO HAS GONE TO GREAT LENGTHS TO SAVE US!

WE HAVE A MERCIFUL GOD WHO HAS GONE TO GREAT LENGTHS TO SAVE US!

(A biblical reflection on the ALL SOULS DAY, 2 November 2021)

Gospel Reading:  John 6:37-40

First Reading: 2 Maccabees 12:43-46; Psalms: Psalm 130:1-8; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

The Scripture Text

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me; and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”(John 6:37-40 RSV)

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39)

These words of Jesus should gladden our hearts. We have a merciful God who has gone to great lengths to save us! Not even sin can deflect His desire to rescue us. Right up until our last breath, God offers us the way to freedom and then, in a different way, He shows mercy even after we die. Celebrating ALL SOULS DAY, we reflect on Purgatory, that “final purification of the elect” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1031), where the mercy of God has its ultimate, hidden expression. Sometimes described as a cleansing fire (1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Peter 1:7), Purgatory lays to rest the effects of sin in us.

Of course, the existence of Purgatory does not exempt us from combating sin here and now. As Saint Paul wrote, “We have been buried with [Jesus] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

How does this union with Jesus’ death work itself out in daily life? As we decide over and over again to unite ourselves with Christ and allow His cross to sever us from sin and death. We experience freedom from sin as we assert, in situations small and large, that we have indeed been crucified with Christ and are now dead to sin. As we allow Jesus’ cross to penetrate our lives, we will become more purified, less attached to our fallen nature.

Purgatory is simply an extension of the work of the cross, a continuation of God’s desire to bring us into His Kingdom. We should be grateful for such grace – yet not forget that God wants to purify us every day. Do not wait for Purgatory! Let Jesus’ love pierce your heart today! You will reap a double benefit: a less painful passage into eternal life and a more joyful, fruitful life here and now.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I exalt Your mercy and compassion. Instead of treating me as my sins deserve, You offer me purification through the cross. Help me to become as committed to You as You are to me. Amen.

Jakarta, 1 November 2021 [ALL SAINTS DAY]

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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SALVATION BELONGS TO OUR GOD, AND TO THE LAMB

SALVATION BELONGS TO OUR GOD, AND TO THE LAMB

(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of ALL SAINTS, 1 November 2021)

First Reading:  Revelation 7:2-4,9-14

Psalms: Psalm 24:1-6; Second Reading: 1John 3:1-3; Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

The Scripture Text

Then I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they felt on their faces before the throne and worshiped God for ever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”(Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 RSV)

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10)

If we were to remember one thing about ALL SAINTS DAY, it should be this: The women and men we honor today take no credit for their triumph. They know that salvation is God’s work. They know that they are standing before the throne of God only because they trusted in and held fast to His promises and His power during times of hardship, persecution, and temptation. The mark on their foreheads is a constant testimony to Jesus, who empowered them to remain faithful.

You will not find most of these spiritual victors on any official list. This is a celebration of the countless saints in heaven whose faith and works are known only to God and perhaps a few other people. And this is this is their message to us. Their hiddenness shows that we too can be saints, if only we hold tenaciously to the truth that “salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).

Every day, we face decisions about whom we will trust, believe in, and obey. Every day, we are called to lift our hearts to the Holy Spirit and let Him strengthen and transform us. Even when we sin, our trust in God’s mercy can enable us to repent and stand firm, confident that we remain the beloved of God. Throughout our day, we can repeat the saints’ rallying cry, “Salvation belongs to God, and to the Lamb!” and know that the outcome of the battle is first and foremost God’s business.

On this great festival day, let the saints convince each and everyone of us that holiness is not meant just for a select few. Let them show us that all things are possible with God. What happens when everyday people are faithful to their call, take God at His word, and allow Him to work through them? They join all the other saints in joyful celebration around God’s throne.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to be faithful in running the race, to never turn back or grow weary. May I one day be counted among that joyful, heavenly multitude who praise and worship You forever. Amen.

Jakarta, 31 October 2021 [31st ORDINARY SUNDAY – YEAR B]

A Christian Pilgrim

 
 

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THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT

THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT

(A biblical reflection on the 31st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [Year B] – 31 October 2021)

Gospel Reading: Mark 12:28-34

First Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalms: Psalm 18:2-4,47,51; Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28

The Scripture Text

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that He answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher; You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other but He; and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that He answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask Him any question.(Mark 12:28-34 RSV)

Jesus praised the scribe for understanding that love is God’s most important commandment. Love of God and love of neighbour – these were the great commandments, Jesus told him. And the man agreed wholeheartedly.

But it is not as easy as it sounds. Real love is a great challenge to us – modern women and men – greater than ever before. We – especially people of big cities – have too many material comforts, and that tends to make people selfish. In the old days people had to struggle hard and give up much for the basic family and community needs. Children had to work hard on farms to help keep the family alive; families had to give generously of their own time and materials to build churches and community centers. This had its drawbacks, but it was a genuine gift of self, a human response, cooperation for the common needs. And it developed a sense of responsibility.

Today we do not automatically feel this great for each other. And how many people are lonely and starved for true love! An increasing flood of false literature gives a wrong picture of what human love is. If you do not have shiny teeth and soft hair and rosebud perfume, nobody will love you. We laugh at these ridiculous TV commercials, but they seep into our thinking. They make us want to get instead of give. Love then becomes a mere surface attraction which has nothing to do with real love.

What a tragedy if a beautiful home with color TV, two fine cars and all the rest, is an unhappy home, because true love is missing. There is no real love which is not open and generous and sacrificing and well-disciplined. God is love, and only those who live in real love can live in God. True love goes out of self to others. If genuine love does not actively grow and flourish in the family, how can it go out to others? Here is the parents’ first responsibility: to teach real love to their children, by having it themselves. They must learn love in order to learn of God, for God is love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to love because God is love, and only those who live in real love can live in God. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.HisHis

Jakarta, 30 October 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

 
 

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