Jakarta, 26 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES OR AM I LIKE THE BLIND MAN?
(A biblical refection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 26, 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 (longer version: John 9:1-41)
First Reading: 1Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth.
As He said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used and sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened His eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about Him, since He has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered Him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him. (John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 RSV)
In first-century Palestine, physicians treated a variety of illnesses with saliva because they believed it had curative powers. In today’s Gospel, Jesus approaches a man who was born blind, spits on the ground, makes a paste of dirt and saliva, and smears this paste on the man’s eyes. After washing off this mixture in the pool of Siloam, the man is able to see.
Some overly legalistic Pharisees objected to what Jesus did because He did it on the Sabbath. Since they considered making paste with saliva and dirt to be work, they interpreted Jesus’ actions as a clear violation of the command to keep the Sabbath holy.
The Pharisees interrogated the man born blind about what had happened, but when the man defended Jesus, they became indignant and accused Him of being a sinner from the moment of his birth. Because people in biblical times did not know about viruses and germs, they believed sin was the cause of all pain and suffering. The Pharisees, therefore, concluded the man was born blind because God was punishing him for something either he or his parents did. He was a sinner, they reasoned, because he had experienced the effects of in from the day he was born.
This story is one of seven miracles reported in the Gospel according to John. Most of these “signs” (that what John calls them) lead into one of the seven discourses or sermons of Jesus we find in this Gospel. Although physical in nature, each miracle also has a spiritual meaning which becomes clear in the discourse that follows it.
Jesus gave sight to the blind man and this individual then preached to those who were spiritually blind (those who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah). Thus, a physical cure set the stage for a teaching about the need for spiritual healing.
The reading ends with Jesus saying He came to divide the world and that some people will be blind because of Him while others will regain their sight. In the original Greek language of the Gospels, Jesus clearly is not talking about the purpose of His mission but rather about its effect. There will divisions because some people will believe in Jesus and others won’t. Some of those considered spiritually blind will see Jesus as their Messiah while the respected spiritual leaders will not accept Him. Historically, that’s exactly what happened.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, pages 26-27.
Short Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Forgive me Jesus, because sometimes – like the Pharisees – I believe that I am spiritually superior to others. Today’s Gospel tells me that I should be like the blind man who needed You instead. Lord, please heal all aspects of my blindness, so I can serve God and my neighbors with genuine love according to His commandments. Amen.
Jakarta, 25 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD UNWANTED PEOPLE
(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A], 19 March 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42
First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2,5-8
So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Just then His disciples came. They marvelled that He was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do You wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to Him.
Meanwhile the disciples besought Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His words. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:5-42 RSV)
After King Solomon died, the land of the Jews divided into two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, with each kingdom having its own king, its own army, and its own capital. The capital in the northern kingdom was Samaria and the capital of the southern kingdom was Jerusalem, the city where the Jewish Temple was located. Citizens of both kingdoms visited the Temple because it was only place where the Jews could offer sacrifices to God.
In 721 B.C., the Assyrians attacked and conquered the Jews of the northern kingdom and took all able-bodied Jewish men, women, and children into exile. Assyrians immigrated to the northern kingdom and some of them converted to Judaism after marrying Jewish woman. Because these Assyrian/Jewish couples lived in Samaria, we call their children Samaritans.
Since the Samaritans were only half Jewish and were descendants of the Assyrians, the Jews in the southern kingdom despised them and even called them dogs.
Because of their mutual dislike, Jews and Samaritans normally did not talk to each other and some rabbis even went so far as to teach that Jews who passed through Samaritan territory should shake dust from their feet before entering Jewish lands so Jewish soil would not be contaminated with Samaritan dust.
Since the Jewish religious leaders did not allow them to offer sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim and claimed it was the only place sacrifices could be legitimately offered to God. Gerizim is the mountain the woman refers to in today’s reading (John 4:20).
Finally, because first-century Palestinian Judaism was a male-dominated religion, some Jewish men thanked God every morning they were not females, and the rabbis occasionally debated if women had souls. The social customs of the time even frowned on a Jewish man speaking to a woman in public. When you consider all of this, it’s easy to understand why the Samaritan woman was surprised Jesus talked to her.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc., 1992, pages 24-25)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in our society there are also unwanted people, others don’t want to associate with. Thank you Lord Jesus for today’s Gospel. Here, You give us the example of the correct attitude toward these people. Jesus, today I invite You to be the Lord of my life. I will leave behind my old water jar, my old ways of seeking fulfilment. I seek You instead. Fill me with Your living water today so that I will never thirst again. Amen.
Jakarta, 19 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – 12 March 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9
First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalms: Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if You wish, I will make three booths here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no on but Jesus only.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9 RSV)
Spiritual journey is a common expression used to refer to one’s religious life. From the French language, jour (day), it describes one’s daily progress in walking with the Lord and each other as a woman or man of faith. The word “journal”, also from the same root, means a daily record of events. Each person’s journey is unique and must always be treated as such. We have different times of beginning and ending, and a lifetime of varieties in between. The important similarity of all journeys is that we move through life according to the same measured pace of time. We know that change is inevitable and that we are subject to it, willingly or otherwise.
We can appreciate the unwavering faith of Abraham in the first reading, as he obeys the call of his God to leave behind his father’s house and native land, to journey into the uncharted future, into a totally new type of life. We increase our admiration when we realize that he was 75 years old at that time.
Abraham is for us an inspiring model of faith, who was willing to trust God completely by letting go of earthly securities, as he ventured out of what is currently Iraq to Palestine. There, he was given a new name and became the father of a new nation and a new religion. Because of Abraham, we should never say or even think that we are too old to make a change for the better.
Another type of spiritual journey occurs in today’s Gospel, in the lives of three chosen apostles. They climb up a high mountain with the Master and, once on top, soar into ecstasy as they behold the transfigured Savior conversing with Moses and Elijah. Their doubts are for the time being removed, for they have seen the glory of the Lord. It was a mystical journey into the brilliance of paradise.
God promises this same reward to any of us willing to abandon the safe place and familiar faces for a faith-filled journey into the night of the unknown. An act of simple trust is the first step that will bring us face to face with the transfigured Jesus.
The season of Lent is a constant reminder of our invitation from the Master to always seek the better life. We hear the Church reassuring all pilgrim people that their efforts are far outweighed by the divine glory to be gained. The stories presented in today’s liturgy are not meant to glorify Abraham or the Apostles, but to make us believe that these grace-filled adventures can also be ours. Our journeys can all have happy endings, provided we are willing to venture forth each day with trusting faith.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, from Your transfiguration, You teach me that my spiritual journey can have a happy ending, provided I am willing to venture forth each day with an unwavering and trusting faith in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 10 March 2016
A Christian Pilgrim
BREAD, GLORY AND POSSESSIONS
(A biblical refection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 5, 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 51:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
The Scripture Text
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him to the holy city, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord You God.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord Your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11 RSV)
Today’s Gospel shows that Jesus was tempted by the devil in three areas, they are “bread”, “glory” and “possessions”.
BREAD. This is the lure of catering to bodily comforts, giving free rein to all our appetites for food, drink, sex, leisure, etc. the easy and comfortable life. It is only natural to want the best if we can get it, and forget about self-denial and discipline. Jesus knew, however, that this was not the way to prepare for the cross, where He would be thirsty, naked and tortured. So Jesus resisted the temptation.
GLORY. Here Jesus was tempted to show off and be spectacular. He could, if He had wanted, put on a dazzling display and the people would have jumped with excitement and applause. He could even convince Himself that it would be good for His cause, for it would have attracted an enthusiastic following.
How often we love to be the center of attention and be popular in the eyes of others. Sometimes this clouds our minds, causing us to say and do foolish things. Jesus had to be in control, for later He would be challenged to come down from the cross and save His life. He would not do that, either. In resisting this temptation, Jesus manifested the divine strength which destroyed our sins.
POSSESIONS. Just imagine all the things that people do for the sake of money. They kill for pay; endure cold, darkness and fear to obtain gold and riches. Soe sacrifice every decent principle to obtain and exalted position. The devil does not truly own the world and could not give it to Jesus. But he could remind Jesus of His freedom to forsake His Father’s will and take possession of the world. Abandoning the Father was tantamount to worshipping the devil and the tough Redeemer told His adversary to get lost. “The devil made me do it”, has no application here.
Today’s Gospel reading causes us to ask: Can Jesus really be tempted? Some would say “no”, for He is divine. Others respond “yes”, for He is human. But one thing is sure. We can be tempted, but when the mind is resolute, evil will flee. Then peace, like a ministering angel, will gently settle within our souls.
Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Thank You for your victory over the devil! Teach me to recognize my enemy’s strategies and to overcome through faith and trust in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim