Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

Image result for ash wednesday

First readingJoel 2:12-18 ©

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?
Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’
Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 50(51):3-6,12-14,17 ©
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
  In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
  and cleanse me from my sin.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
My offences truly I know them;
  my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
  what is evil in your sight I have done.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A pure heart create for me, O God,
  put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
  nor deprive me of your holy spirit.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me again the joy of your help;
  with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
O Lord, open my lips
  and my mouth shall declare your praise.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Second reading
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ©

Be reconciled to God

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

Gospel AcclamationPs50:12,14
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
A pure heart create for me, O God,
and give me again the joy of your help.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Harden not your hearts today,
but listen to the voice of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18 ©

Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
  ‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
  ‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

Monday, February 24, 2020

Pope for Lent: With God there is always a dialogue of the heart

From Vatican News;

The Vatican releases Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2020, in which the Holy Father invites the faithful to embrace the paschal mystery as the basis for conversion.

In his Message for Lent 2020, Pope Francis points to the paschal mystery – the mystery of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection – as the basis of conversion. The Message bears the title "We implore you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God", a quote from St Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians.

An invitation to relationship with God

“This kerygma [fundamental proclamation of the Gospel message] sums up the mystery of a love ‘so real, so true, so concrete, that it invites us to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue’ (Christus vivit, 117)”, the Pope writes. “Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do as we will”.
Pope Francis says that during this season of Lent, he wants to invite the faithful to fix their eyes on the crucified Lord, and allow ourselves “to be saved over and over again”. “Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer”.

The importance of prayer

The Holy Father emphasizes the importance of prayer during Lent, as a means of responding to God’s love, “which always precedes and sustains us”. We are also called to hear and respond to the Word of Jesus, in order to experience “the mercy He freely gives us”.
God is always engaged in a “dialogue of salvation with us”, despite our weaknesses and failings, the Pope says. This desire to save us “led the Father to burden His Son with the weight of our sins, thus, in the expression of Pope Benedict XVI, ‘turning of God against Himself’ (Deus caritas est, 12)”.

A commitment to building a better world

“Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence”. This means being personally committed to and involved in “the building of a better world”, the Pope says. In commending charitable giving, the Pope notes the meeting he has convened for the end of march “with young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers, with the aim of shaping a more just and inclusive economy”.
Pope Francis concludes his message with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary “that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to Himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with Him”.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Prayers for Today

Lord, I wish to open my heart and let your Gospel message penetrate me and change my life. I believe that you love me and that you died for me; yet when tested by the demands of the Gospel, my faith and generosity waver. Nevertheless, once more I confess my faith in you and my determination to work to please you alone.

Lord Jesus, you are God. You came down from heaven to teach me how to love, but I have such a hard time loving those around me and even loving myself sometimes. By your almighty grace, help me to be more like you, to forgive and to give myself to others so that I can help make their lives just a bit happier.

"Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone."

Reflection for Today

From A Catholic Moment,

At the age of 90, Jona Laks one of the survivors of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp of World war II recalling her experience as she went to participate in the 75th anniversary (27th January, 2020) of the camp’s liberation says:”Walking towards the Auschwitz crematorium after 75 years and gazing at the sparks from the chimney, I could still smell the burning flesh of the millions of Jews murdered in gas chamber.” And walking through the metal narrow gate with its “Arbeit macht frei”, ( work sets you free), she said to her grand daughter in her company, “Through this narrow gate, so many people walked in and never came back, ending their lives behind these barbed-wire fences.” Laks was 15 at this time of the war. She was taken to Auschwitz together with Miriam her twin sister and their elder sister Chana. There she was selected among those to be murdered while two of her sisters were sent to labor camp. But her elder sister Chana intervened and begged Joseph Mengele “the angel of death” (as Laks described him) not to separate her twin sisters. And eventually Laks was retrieved and sent to labor camp…the rest was just the story of survival. And still guessing at the camp, she was overcome by a sense of triumph and said: “I am here with my granddaughter and I overcame. I won the war. We have a future.”
Jesus teaches us today to love and pray for our enemies. If Laks has only one reason to forgive and to love, it should be the fact that she survived. She could have also died. God always gives us reason to love. We only need to discover it so that the world will be a living place.

FIRST READING: Leviticus 19:1-2.17-18
This reading taken from the book of Leviticus is called Holiness Code. “Be holy for I the Lord your God, Am holy” is a testament that the God of Israel is not just a transcendent God but He is also holy. This Code is not only given to underline the holiness of the God of Israel as a factor that distinguishes Him from the corruptibility and carnality of the pagan gods (like the story of Hera, the first Greek goddess who got married to her brother Zeus, or Zeus who had sexual knowledge with numerous nymphs, sea maidens, human ladies and even the random female animals), but it is also a call for His people to configure themselves to their God. This passage is a direct referential message to the story of the fall of man. Hence, it is God’s intention to restore his disfigured image in man, and only holiness can do it. In this way God will not only be different from the pagan gods, but His people will also be different from the pagans. Does the world in which we live really care about holiness? Nothing else makes us different from the rest of the people of this world except our constant quest for holiness.

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
The Greek philosophy, the Socratic and Platonian philosophical thoughts saw the human body as a prison for the soul of man. Therefore, in order to attain the highest good (a state of philosophy), a true philosopher is one who should despise every bodily pleasure. Manichean doctrine which also had a great influence on St. Augustine of Hippo before his conversion also taught how the body should be chastised in order to attain holiness. But the Christian theology of the body as inherited from St. Paul’s teaching today does not see the human person as the soul imprisoned in the body. Man is body and soul, and this man (body in the sense of physical existence) is “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” St. Paul instructs that this temple must be kept holy. This call came as a warning to desist from pagan influence in the metropolitan city of Corinth as well as other pagan cities that perform the temple rite of sexual intercourse as a sacred duty to the goddess “Aphrodite” (as in the Greeks which was a goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation). St Paul will extend this teaching repeating almost the same words in 1 Cor. 6:15-20 where he openly warned against prostitution and the immoral use of the body that has been bought over for the glory of God (v.20).

GOSPEL: Matthew 5:38-48
“Any person who inflicts injury on his fellow, as he did so shall be done to him: a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. However, he injured his fellow, so shall be done to him” (Lev. 24:19-20).
The experience of slavery and contact with pagan nations left certain influences on the Hebrews. One of these influences came from their contact with the Babylonian code of law enacted by King Hammurabi, an ancient lawmaker (1792-1750 B.C). It was strictly a law of raw justice-“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (known as lex talionis, the law of retaliation) as a way of curbing social injustice. Moses encouraged the application of this law among the Hebrews, although he further gave them other laws commanding for a fair treatment of their enemies: “You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against the members of your race, but will love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh” (Lev. 19:18).
Down the history, the rabbinic tradition reflected over the “Lex talionis” and its implication based on Genesis 1:27 which read that God created man in his own image and likeness. Hence, any form of mutilation or inflicting of injury on the other would amount to disfiguring the image of God. So, the root of this reflection was the move to promote the sacrosanctity of life: “One who saves a life saves an entire world; one who destroys life destroys an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). Instead of physical infliction of injury, other laws were created to checkmate social justice, such as the law of monetary compensation which should be determined by the judge base on the offence committed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus who is part of this long tradition teaches something which no other rabbi or sage before him ever taught. Taking the law of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Lev. 24:19-20), the law of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), as well as the rabbinic tradition of compensation, He advanced a new teaching that abolishes any form of revenge, and a teaching that does not just encourage the love of a neighbor but also an enemy and to pray for him. He equally moved the rabbinic tradition of compensation to “abandoning of ones tunic for whoever takes it.” What a radical message we have here!
In the next few days, the Church will begin a very important period, the Lenten season. It is a season that culminates with the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Gospel reading today falls in place. It is Jesus’ invitation to his followers to renew their identity in the face of a banalized Christian identity. He is not teaching an abstract and impossible message. He lived what he taught. His passion and death reveal how he loved his enemies. He did not just love them, but He also prayed for them: “Father forgive them…” (Lk 23:34). But was that all? No! He also died for them. He loved them to the point of death. He never stopped loving them. He died for the sake of love. St Paul puts it better when he says: “So it is a proof of God’s own love for us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rm 5:8). It simply means while we were still God’s enemies; when we still do not merit His love, yet He could not resist loving us.

Let us try to recollect our memory about all those who have lied against us in one moment or the other; and no less than those whom we have loved, and they turned to stab us from behind. What about those whom we have trusted and even confided our secrets and they went about spreading bad rumors about us? So many of us have also been victims of insults, bullies and abuses (physical and psychological), and have even witnessed our loved ones killed under our watch. It is very much natural that we see our enemies suffer. It is gratifying. However, can we really find meaning in the teaching of Christ? Yes, we can. It is easy to think that others are our enemies, but we find it difficult to realize that we are also enemies to others. Everyone of us is an enemy to another. We are enemies to ourselves. We are all owing each other. Do you want to know how? We are connected to ourselves, to others and to God. So, the existence of the other and God obliges my responsibility. When I am not able to love and treat them as I am supposed to, then I am an “enemy” not just to them but also to myself because my life has meaning only when I am in good relationship with God and others.
Meanwhile, there are two ways in which we can express our enmity: Active and passive. It is active when we openly hate people and they are aware that we hate them. On the other hand, it is passive when we hate people without showing it in the open. We often have negative judgment about others-so much prejudice in our hearts. This is when we see the world only from our own perspective; when everything is all about my country, my people, my language, my color. It is called the “My” syndrome. When I decide in my heart not to associate with a set of people simply because they are different from me, it is called hatred. They are often not aware of it, but we bear it in our hearts; and sometimes we smile in pretense so as not to let them know that we hate them. Therefore, we all have someone to forgive, someone to love and someone to pray for because we are all guilty.

One thing we are sure of is that violence has never contributed anything positive to human development. The justice of eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth has done more harm than good. Peace is a difficult but a sure way to human development. A practical example is Europe as a continent. Up until the end of world war II, Europe was a den of antagonism and bloody wars which marred its development as a continent. It was not until 1950 when they sat together to create what will end as European union which paved way for a boom of development that culminated with the treaties of 1990-1999 of an Europe without frontier (though there could still be uncurbed tendency of one feeling superior to the other).
Jesus is not discouraging us from seeking for justice for what rightly belongs to us, but he is simply saying that sometimes we need to let go of that which belongs to us. Sometimes the enemy is weakened through our non-violent active resistance and derives more joy in violence when we show that we are ready for violence. Yes, we must learn to let go. Many people have died fighting for what they claim to be their right thus leaving their families at the verge of suffering which they might have avoided if they had let go. We often call it heroism without counting on the harm it has caused for the innocent ones. To let go is not a sign of weakness. It is not cowardice as the world often tag it. It is also a virtue. Sometimes, letting go opens us up to a greater good. Christ knew that he was innocent of the accusations the Jews levelled against Him. He had all the possibilities to fight back. He could have commanded the heavenly army to fight for Him, or as God wipe away His enemies in a twinkle of an eye. But He chose to let go because of a higher good. He chose to let go because He needed to get down to Calvary to pay the ultimate price that we have all benefitted from. I know this message may not be pleasing to justice and right-minded persons, but let us always pause before we act (weigh the pros and cons of our actions). Yes, “the other cheek must be turned, and the tunic must have to drop.” It is not easy but is it a call from Him who gave everything to the point that the only thing that covered his nakedness on the cross was taken away and shared among the soldiers (Jn 19:23-24).
Prudence, non-violent but active resistance (truly showing a domineering Christian spirit) and letting go is the answer in the face of a world that derives joy in violence.

The message of today will remain a speculation if we try to weigh it on the scale of human standard. One of the challenges I have dealt with in the counselling section of my pastoral ministry is when I hear such words like: “Father you will not understand…I will never forgive him…” How many of us do keep a daily record of our sins? If we can learn to practice this, then we will realize that none of us deserves to live. Let us imagine how the heart of Jesus bleeds in pains and agony over our wickedness after paying the debt we could not pay, yet He forgives us whenever we ask for forgiveness. I have often asked myself; “who am I, and what exactly in me merits the love of God? Absolutely nothing! Then why am I stone-hearted? Why should I say “over my dead body will I forgive him.” Isn’t it a mockery and a test of God’s patience whenever I say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” The reason why it is so difficult for us to forgive and love is because we often look at our image instead of looking at the image of He whom we are following. When it seems difficult, let us look at the “Cross of Christ” then we will realize that love is love when it is crucified; I mean when it is sacrificed and when it makes one shade tears.

Lord we are sincerely sorry for the moments we have not obeyed your words. And today it is even more difficult to understand what you are asking from us. We wish to walk away, but to whom shall we really go to if we leave you since you have the word of eternal life? May your Spirit melt our hearts to accept this challenge to love and to pray for our enemies as you have always loved and prayed for us to the Father. Amen.


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18 ©

You must love your neighbour as yourself

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:
  ‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
  ‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 102(103):1-4,8,10,12-13 ©
The Lord is compassion and love.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
  all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
  and never forget all his blessings.
The Lord is compassion and love.
It is he who forgives all your guilt,
  who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
  who crowns you with love and compassion.
The Lord is compassion and love.
The Lord is compassion and love,
  slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
  nor repay us according to our faults.
The Lord is compassion and love.
As far as the east is from the west
  so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
  the Lord has pity on those who fear him.
The Lord is compassion and love.

Second reading
1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ©

You belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.
  Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

Gospel AcclamationJn14:23
Alleluia, alleluia!
If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Whenever anyone obeys what Christ has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.

GospelMatthew 5:38-48 ©

Love your enemies

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.
  ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Sunday, February 16, 2020

From Pope Francis

I subscribe to a site called the Pope's Missions and daily get a commentary from the holy father and received this yesterday.
 I found it so relevant to our everyday busy lives how dependent we are to our wireless world now but the Holy Father puts everything into perspective;

“Let me share a story with you. Chatting one day with a young man, I asked him what sort of things made him unhappy. “What makes you unhappy?” The context was right for this question. He said to me: “When my cellphone battery runs down or I lose my internet connection”. I asked him: “Why?” He answered: “Father, it’s simple; I miss out on everything that’s going on, I am shut off from the world, stuck. In those moments, I jump up and run to find a charger or a Wi-Fi network and a password to reconnect”.  That reply taught me something. It made me think that the same thing can happen with our faith. We are all enthusiasts, faith is renewed, be it through a retreat, a homily, a meeting, a Pope’s visit; faith grows. But after a while on the journey or after an initial spurt, there are moments when, without even realizing it, our “bandwidth” begins to fade, slowly, and that enthusiasm, that desire to stay connected to Jesus begins to also fade, and we start to lose our connection, our power; then we become unhappy and we lose our faith, we feel depressed and listless, and we start to view everything in a bad light. When we lack this “connection” that charges our dreams, our hearts begin to falter. When our batteries are dead, we feel the way the song describes it – “The background noise and the loneliness of the city cut us off from everything. The world turns backwards, tries to overwhelm me and drown all my thoughts and ideas.””   
Pope Francis

Prayers for Today

Lord, I can be so cold to your salvific presence as I hurry about living the moment and becoming so sufficient unto myself. There is little wonder that I find it hard to bring myself to prayer—to use faith to know you, divine love to live in you, and theological hope to trust in you. I approach you now, wanting only to be a more faithful disciple of your Kingdom.

Lord Jesus, help me to see my brother as you see him: a person so valuable that you laid down your life for him. Help me to love my brother as you have loved us, with humility and generosity, without counting the cost. I pray especially for those who have injured me or those whom I have injured.

"Lord Jesus, begin a new work of love within me. Instill in me a greater love and respect for your commandments. Give me a burning desire to live a life of holiness and righteousness. Purify my thoughts, desires, and intentions that I may only desire what is pleasing to you and in accord with your will."

Reflection for Today

Taken from our friends at Catholic Moment,

God revealed His laws to His Chosen People through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. Today He challenges us to choose freely either to observe the laws He gave to us or not. Yes they are heavy, but his salvation awaits those who choose them with courage.

FIRST READING: Sirach 15:15-20
The book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) was written by Ben Sirach (Sage) to his co-diaspora Jews who were struggling with the Hellenistic cultural influence (Athenian-Greece); Pegan cosmopolitan community who care less about religious values. And there was a diffused belief that humans are nothing but beings in the hands of the gods, in other words their actions are determined and controlled by the gods (this is an influence of stoic philosophy that held the doctrine of determinism-“man has no free-will. His actions are determined”). Ben Sirach writes to his fellow Jews that the Commandment the Lord has given them was out of love, and He has given them the free-will to choose either to act or not to act on the commandment. But more importantly, he affirmed that keeping the commandment attracts God’s blessing: “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him…” (v.19). Finally, Sirach counters the idea that the actions of men are determined by saying: “The Lord has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and He has not given any one permission to sin” (v.20).

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
In consonance with the wisdom book of Sirach in the first reading, Paul also exhorts the Christians living in the metropolitan city of Corinth to seek the wisdom of God against the rising influence of Greek philosophy; for God’s salvation cannot be understood through human reasoning but through the wisdom of God made manifest in Christ; “For what the eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, nor the heart of man conceived, that is what God has prepared for those who love him” (v. 9).

GOSPEL: Matthew 5:17-37
In today’s gospel Matthew presents Jesus as a guarantor of the Law, and equally shows him as a perfection of the law: “I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Matthew equally presents him as the “Eternal wisdom” of God due to his manner of teaching the Torah.That is, he was not just interpreting the Torah but he was teaching it with authority: “You have heard that it is said…but I tell you…”
“I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The the scribes and the pharisees were notable for their strict observance of the Law. Hence, Jesus did not doubt their righteousness as related to this, but his problem with them is “the publicity and the showcasing of their righteousness.” Such tendency is to make the Law a thing of Pride and to attract public attention and praises; but then, Jesus speaks of the righteousness that springs from the heart (being truly righteous) and not righteousness in “the look” (appearance).

Why did Jesus associate the fifth commandment, “You shall not kill” with the sin of anger? He simply reminds his audience about the destructive tendency of anger. Anger is an expression of displeasure over a particular situation. Jesus is not telling them not to be angry because that would be an unrealistic teaching and a conscientious denial of natural tendency. On the contrary, he calls their attention on the need of self-control and the mastery of oneself. Anger becomes a sin liable of condemnation when it ends up destroying the dignity of the other. Anger cannot be Justified when abusive words are used on the other. How many people have regretted their murder act because of uncontrolled anger?

The sin of adultery does not just happen. It often starts from somewhere, and that is lust. Lust is an inordinate craving for or indulgence of, the carnal pleasure which is experienced in the human organs of generation. The wrongfulness of lust is that it searches for sexual satisfaction in an illegal or unrighteous way, (outside wedlock) be it adultery or fornication. The Church classifies it as a capital sin because it engenders or leads to order sin (CCC.1867). Jesus simply tells his audience to tame the perverse carnal desire that often inhabits them. He reminds them that it is easy to say that they are not adulterers because they have not had intercourse with another’s wife or husband without knowing that they have often done it. Hence, adultery and fornication are not limited to physical contact but also distant lustful desire of the other. We have often been victim of this.

“If your right eye or your right hand would lead you to sing cut it off…” Why didn’t Jesus simply say if your eye or your hand without such specification about the right hand and eye? Here we are dealing with a rabbinic tradition. the glorious nature of the right side was so much exalted in the Old Testament (Job 23:9; Jer. 1:4; Ps 14:9; 1 Kgs 2:19; 1 Sam. 11:2; Zech. 11:17; Lev. 14:14.16; Lev. 7:32; Gen. 48:17-19; Ex. 15:6), and Jesus is depicted as seated on the right hand of the Father (Mk 16:19; Acts 1:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3).
The rabbinic tradition disqualified left-handed priests from performing meal offering.
But far from discriminating the usefulness of the left, Jesus’ teaching simply means that it is better to sacrifice that which is most essential to you (that is the idea of the right) than to lose the kingdom of God. He was not in any way referring to a mutilation of ones eye or hand, rather he was simply warning about the seriousness of sin and it’s destructive tendencies.

The Jewish laws which were highly patriarchal found the justification for divorce from the text of Deuteronomy (24:1-3). And the MISHNA (which is the oral tradition and in fact the first major work of the rabbinic literature) gave room for the husband to divorce his wife at will. However, this gave rise to two schools of thought:
SHAMMAI: They Justified divorce strictly on the basis of sexual immorality.
HILLEL: For them the husband can divorse his wife for whatever reason as long as he finds her actions displeasing to him.
And today Jesus seems to support the school of SHAMMAI when he says, “except in the case of unchastity” (Mat. 5:32). This passage has often been misunderstood to mean that Jesus came to support divorce on strict case of unchastity. But on the contrary, Jesus did not in any way give room for divorce. He actually affirmed the indissolubility of marriage.That is why he says: “Anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (v.32). This simply means that on no account should a man or woman be exonerated from their marital bond once the union has been legitimately sealed. This is the teaching of the church. This is the original plan of God in Genesis 2:24.

The rabbis classified two types of oaths as offensive to God: 1) frivolous oaths using God’s name to support a false statement, because this violates the second commandment and 2) evasive oaths using words like Heaven, Jerusalem, or my head, because God is everywhere, and He owns everything (Gen. 42:15; 1 Sam. 15:21; 1 Sam. 20:12; Lev. 19:12).
Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law on oaths to mean that a disciple should have an integrity of character: “Say yes when you mean yes and say no when you mean no” (Mt 5:37). Thus, it is an invitation to live in truth in every instance and to conform ones thought, his words and his deeds to the truth without compromise.


1. There is no shortcut to holiness than obeying God’s Law, appreciating it as God’s gift of love for our salvation.

2. Marriage is not a “let me try” union. For those who are preparing to get married, please let us not be in haste. Let us take time to understand the weight of “for better, for worse.” Let us not allow the wave of secularism to push us to long for divorce simply because we are facing challenges. No vocation is easy. No vocation is already made. We are called to perfection everyday. Above all, when God is at the centre of any union, no matter the storm that may arise, the foundation will not fall.

3. We need to be true to God, to ourselves and to others. Many people have succeeded in constructing the foundation of their lives with lies, and every dealing with the other is always sealed with insincerity. The greater danger is that they cannot but lie in order to achieve their aim. It has become an almost incurable disease. We too, how often have we used the name of God in order to achieve our evil act; afterall we will go to confession afterwards. But let us know that one day, we may get tired of telling the priest the same sin, and this will be the beginning of our total fall. Sincerity pays.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading
Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21 ©

God predestined wisdom to be for our glory before the ages began

If you wish, you can keep the commandments,
  to behave faithfully is within your power.
He has set fire and water before you;
  put out your hand to whichever you prefer.
Man has life and death before him;
  whichever a man likes better will be given him.
For vast is the wisdom of the Lord;
  he is almighty and all-seeing.
His eyes are on those who fear him,
  he notes every action of man.
He never commanded anyone to be godless,
  he has given no one permission to sin.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118(119):1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34 ©
They are happy who follow God’s law!
They are happy whose life is blameless,
  who follow God’s law!
They are happy who do his will,
  seeking him with all their hearts.
They are happy who follow God’s law!
You have laid down your precepts
  to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
  to obey your statutes.
They are happy who follow God’s law!
Bless your servant and I shall live
  and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
  the wonders of your law.
They are happy who follow God’s law!
Teach me the demands of your statutes
  and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law,
  to keep it with my heart.
They are happy who follow God’s law!

Second reading
1 Corinthians 2:6-10 ©

God predestined wisdom to be for our glory before the ages began

We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end. The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.
  These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.

Gospel Acclamation1S3:9,Jn6:68
Alleluia, alleluia!
Speak, Lord, your servant is listening:
you have the message of eternal life.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom
to mere children.

GospelMatthew 5:17-37 ©

You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors; but I say this to you

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
  ‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
  ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.
  ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
  ‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
  ‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Prayers for Today and Meditation

Lord Jesus, once again I come to you to listen to your words. I come as one who is hungry, in need of nourishment. I need you to nourish me, for no one else can. I hunger not for the food of this world but for the food of your grace. May my prayer this day give you glory and be an instrument of grace for my brothers and sisters. Amen.

"Lord Jesus, you guide me by the light of your saving truth. Fill my heart and mind with your light and truth and free me from the blindness of sin and deception that I may see your ways clearly and understand your will for my life. May I radiate your light and truth to others in word and deed."


What does salt and light have to teach us about God and the transforming power of his kingdom?

Jesus used ordinary images, such as salt and light, to convey extraordinary truths that transform our minds, hearts, and lives. Salt was a valuable commodity in the ancient world. People traded with it, like we trade with valuable goods, such as gold and stock. Salt also served a very useful purpose, especially in warmer climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave rich flavor to food, it also preserved food from going bad and being spoiled.
The salt of God's kingdom for all
Jesus used the image of salt to describe the transforming effect of God's work in our lives - and how the Holy Spirit wants to work through us to bring the power and blessing of God's kingdom to others. As salt purifies, preserves, and produces rich flavor for our daily food, we, too, as disciples of Jesus, are "salt" for the world of human society. The Lord wants to work in and through us to purify, preserve, and spread the rich flavor of God's kingdom everywhere - his "kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).
Don't lose your saltiness
What did Jesus mean by the expression "if salt has lost its taste... it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot" (Matthew 5:13)? Salt in the ancient world was often put into ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the ground where it would easily get stepped on and swept away (Matthew 5:13). How can we lose our "saltiness"? When we allow the world, sin, and Satan to corrupt us. The Lord wants us to preserve our "saltiness" - through virtuous living and rejection of sin - not only for our own sake but also for the sake of others. 
The aroma of Christ in the world
Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be "the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ). Do you allow the fragrance of Christ's love, truth, and holiness to permeate every area of your life, your thoughts, words, actions, and relationships?
Light that shines for all to see
Jesus used the image of light and a lamp to further his illustration of God's transforming work in and through us. Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and to avoid stumbling. The Jews also understood "light" as symbol or expression of the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. In his light we see light ( Psalm 36:9). His word is a lamp that guides our steps (Psalm 119:105). God's grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace.
Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God's kingdom. Our mission is to be light-bearers of Jesus Christ so that others may see the truth of the gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception.
There is great freedom and joy for those who live in the light of God's truth and goodness. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God's light?