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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:59 pm
by evolution8
August 10, 2010

St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr

2 Cor 9:6-10
Ps 112
Jn 12:24-26

The Paradox of the Grain of Wheat

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 24“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”


Jesus takes his parables from the workings of nature and the ordinary activities of men and women. In view of the mystery of his coming death, he sketches out the paradox of life through death using the image of the grain of wheat. When the farmer sows, the grain is “buried” in the ground; it “dies.” We should not push the imagery too far and question whether the seed really “dies” or gets corrupted. The parable focuses on the productivity of a grain of wheat: it bears much fruit if it is sown, but is barren if it remains just a seed.
The parable is an illustration of Jesus’ own fate. Before his passion and death, Jesus is limited to his earthly ministry. But after the resurrection, his life gains a cosmic dimension. The Holy Spirit is sent, and the disciples are given a deeper knowledge of Jesus. They are also inspired to spread and give witness to the Gospel to all peoples: Jews and pagans alike. The grain of wheat—Jesus—which was sown in Israel produces an abundant harvest among the Samaritans and the Gentiles.
The imagery of the grain of wheat also illustrates the life of Lawrence, deacon and martyr of Rome. Tertullian writes that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of martyrs and of the heroic virtues of believers.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:11 am
by evolution8
August 11, 2010

St. Clare, virgin

Ez 9:1-7; 10:18-22
Ps 113
Mt 18:15-20

A Brother Who Sins

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 15“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. 18Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


“Sin” renders the Hebrew word hobah which is better translated as “debt” (see the rendition in the Lord’s Prayer: Mt 5:12). And debt does not just refer to money owed, but encompasses offenses to a person’s honor. And in a culture that prizes honor, it is very easy to “sin” against the honor of the individual person or group.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus advises three steps to achieve reconciliation and to avoid fatal consequences that may arise when an offense is committed.
The first is confrontation in private. If a person feels dishonored or offended, he is to confront the sinner in private to avoid placing the alleged offense in the public arena. If the perception of dishonor has been cleared (not intentionally intended, or accepted with the petition for forgiveness), the conflict has been successfully defused.
The second is negotiation with two or three witnesses. The conflict has become semiprivate and legal with the calling of witnesses (Dt 17:1-7). The witnesses have a serious role to play and should never bear false witness (Dt 19:15-21). It is hoped that the witnesses-negotiators succeed where private efforts failed.
The third, and last, resort is adjudication. The event has become public, and at stake are the honor of the individual and the good of the community. The community acts as the final arbiter. If the offender disregards the community’s judgment, he is expelled and no longer treated as a part of God’s people. He is designated as an “outsider,” considered as “a Gentile and a tax collector.” And in a culture where life depended on the support networks of family and community, to be excommunicated and lumped with “the enemies” would be the ultimate tragedy.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:12 pm
by evolution8
August 12, 2010

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, religious
Thursday of the 19th Week

Ez 12:1-12
Ps 78
Mt 18:21—19:1

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21Peter approaching asked [Jesus], “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. 26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ 27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” 1When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.


If the behavior of the king (who cancels a huge debt) is “too good to be true,” that of the forgiven slave (who exacts payment for a very small debt) is both shocking and sad. He refuses to imitate the mercy of the king-patron. This time, the sense of honor of the king makes him punish the “wicked servant.” If the servant gets away with his deed, the king will be dishonored before his servants and his subjects. To protect his honor, the king hands the servant to the torturers.
The parable is part of a collection of Jesus’ teachings called the Community Discourse (Mt 18). Matthew here teaches that the members of the Christian community must treat one another as God has treated each of them. As they were called to be believers and forgiven of their sins at the cost of Jesus’ blood, so they must forgive one another “from the heart.”


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:21 pm
by evolution8
August 13, 2010

St. Pontian, pope, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyrs
Friday of the 19th Week

Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63
Is 12
Mt 19:3-12

Marriage and Divorce

3Some Pharisees approached [Jesus], and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” 4He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 7They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” 8He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” 10[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”


The Hebrew leb, literally “heart,” connotes the “inside” of the human being in a far wider sense. The heart is the source of emotional activity and the seat of intelligence and decision.
The expression “hardness of heart” (Greek sklerokardia) refers to the willful refusal to listen to and obey the word of God. It was the attitude of the Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who would not let God’s people go. The rebellious Israelites were constantly warned against it. The psalmist invites the people to be more faithful than their ancestors: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice; do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert” (Ps 95:7-8). After the Babylonian exile, Trito-Isaiah makes a confession of the people’s sins and asks the Lord to once more visit his people: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants” (Is 63:17).
The Jews do not take marriage lightly. They are not in favor of divorce because it is something that God hates (Mal 2:16). Here, the Pharisees test Jesus by drawing him into the controversial issue of divorce. They cite the teachings of Moses in an attempt to make him declare publicly that he rejects the Law. But Jesus recalls teachings that antedate even those of Moses. Jesus points out that Moses allowed divorce (Dt 24:1) only to control the consequences of sinfulness, of “hardness of heart.”


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:50 am
by evolution8
August 14, 2010

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr

Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32
Ps 51
Mt 19:13-15

Blessing of the Children

13Children were brought to [Jesus] that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, 14but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15After he placed his hands on them, he went away.


After the episode about the “hardness of heart” (Mt 19:1-12), probably directing to the disposition of “learned men” like the Pharisees, Jesus welcomes the children and blesses them by laying his hands on them. The laying on of hands intends the sense of imparted power. The ceremony of the laying on of hands represents God’s commission, blessing, and equipping for service. So that the community of Israel may not lack a leader after him, God tells Moses to take Joshua, a man of spirit, “and lay your hand upon him… Invest him with some of your dignity, that the whole Israelite community may obey him” (Nm 27:18, 20). The imposition of hands is also a ritual used in paternal blessings. In the presence of Joseph, Jacob lays his hands on the former’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and blesses them (Gn 48:14-15).
Often, Jesus’ healing is conveyed by his touch (Mt 8:3; Lk 4:40). In the Gospel, he blesses the children by placing his hands on them. Children are a negligible component of Jewish society. They have no social claims, having no achievements to speak of. The disciples think that the Master should not be disturbed by those of little account. But Jesus not only gives them importance and his blessing. He also proposes them as models of belonging to God’s kingdom. Children are his example about how to accept the good news of God’s love with an open, simple, and humble attitude.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:51 am
by evolution8
August 15, 2010

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Ps 45
1 Cor 15:20-27a

Lk 1:39-56

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
46And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;/ 47my spirit rejoices in God my savior./ 48For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;/ behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed./ 49The Mighty One has done great things for me,/ and holy is his name./ 50His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him./ 51He has shown might with his arm,/ dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart./ 52He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones/ but lifted up the lowly./ 53The hungry he has filled with good things;/ the rich he has sent away empty./ 54He has helped Israel his servant,/ remembering his mercy,/ 55according to his promise to our fathers,/ to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”/ 56Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.


High above the beautiful image of the Blessed Mother at the chapel of the Society of Saint Paul Retreat House in Ariccia, Italy, are Latin inscriptions. The words form a litany of accolades for Mary: Conceived without sin, Mother of God, Mother Ever-Virgin, Assumed into Heaven, Mediatrix of Graces, Mother and Teacher, Queen of Apostles. This litany of titles makes us realize how greatly the Church—the Western Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church—reveres the Mother of Jesus.
In fact, the feast we celebrate today is one which our brethren in the Eastern Church have long observed with great solemnity. They call this feast “The Dormition of the Blessed Mother,” since in essence it commemorates how Mary passed on from this life to the next without having to go through corruption of the body in death. She “slept” and was taken up body and soul to heaven.
This belief may not be directly witnessed to by any text of the New Testament, but the Jewish tradition in the Old Testament admits that persons used by God in a powerful way were, at the end of their lives, accorded the unique privilege of being “zoomed” up to heaven. The Jews believe that such is the case for Moses whose grave is said to be nowhere (cf Dt 34), for Elijah who was taken up in a chariot of fire (cf 2 Kgs 2), and for Enoch (cf Gn 5:24).
The Blessed Mother’s privilege of being taken body and soul to heaven, in the thought of theologians, is first because of the fact that her body was indeed the immaculate vessel that bore the Mystery of the Incarnation. Mary is the New Eve that gave birth to the New Adam. It is then proper that she witness to God’s gift of life, full and glorious.
The gospels, however, consistently proclaim that blessedness is not simply due to blood or natural relationship with Jesus (cf Mk 3:31-35; Mt 12:46-50; Lk 8:19-21). True blessedness is rather the fruit of a relationship of faith, that is, being a partner of Jesus in hearing and doing the will of the Father.
Here is found the deeper reason of Mary’s exaltation: her identification with Jesus in fulfilling the Father’s will. Her words in the gospels, though few, witness to the alliance that Mary has with Jesus in doing the Father’s will. At the Annunciation, Mary declares her fiat: “Let it be done to me according to the Father’s word.” In her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, Mary sings her Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” At Cana, where Jesus performs his first sign, turning water into wine, Mary gives the instruction, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The feast of the Assumption is, then, about Mary’s reward as servant of the Word of God. In the same way that Jesus, servant of the Father’s word, was exalted for his obedience (Phil 2:5-11), so Mary, the handmaid of the Father’s will, is now also honored.
Mary assumed into heaven is a feast for us, too. The First Reading assures us that Mary is our “type” as the Church. When amid pain and danger, like a woman in labor, we give birth to God’s Word, God’s eternal reward also awaits us.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:55 am
by evolution8
August 16, 2010

St. Rock (Roque), healer,
St. Stephen of Hungary, king
Monday of the 20th Week

Ez 24:15-23
Dt 32
Mt 19:16-22

The Rich Young Man

16Someone approached [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” 17He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.


Jesus initially meets the inquirer on his Jewish self-righteous terms. The young man proudly claims that he has kept the commandments concerning morality and just conduct with fellow human beings. He considers these as basics which must be surpassed and thinks there is still something to gain. Jesus drops a bombshell on him. If there is such a thing as perfection or apex of maturity as regards religion, then it involves renunciation of property and wholehearted acceptance of Jesus’ radical lifestyle. From the terms of gaining, Jesus shifts the emphasis on not gaining material possessions in view of the evangelical demands.
To enter into life, that is, to be on perfect terms with God, the disciple must be on right terms with Jesus and his gospel. One should concern oneself not with strict observance of Judaism’s commandments but with existential relations with Jesus. The young man who claims to have observed the commandments is exposed as one who has no heart for the essential commandment of loving God wholeheartedly.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:00 am
by evolution8
August 17, 2010

St. Clare of Montefalco
Tuesday of the 20th Week

Ez 28:1-10
Dt 32
Mt 19:23-30

The Rich and the Kingdom of Heaven

23Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” 26Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 27Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”


In the cultural world of Jesus, the main rule of life is: family first! Living in a society based on patronage, without the benefit of social services, a person gets his or her support and livelihood from a social network based on blood ties. And so when a person leaves behind family to follow Jesus, he is in fact giving up everything, even if he has only modest possessions. He deliberately cuts ties with family and social network on which he ordinarily depends for his living. He jeopardizes his very existence.
The disciples, however, are not defenseless. When a follower leaves behind his family, he is actually joining a new one, a fictive family consisting of other disciples of Jesus. He gains father and mother, brothers and sisters in the community of believers. The ties are no longer based on blood, but on common allegiance to Jesus who promises a hundredfold reward to the faithful ones. Their living of the word of God makes of them the new family of Jesus and sharers of his power when he comes again in glory.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:55 pm
by evolution8
August 18, 2010

St. Helena
Wednesday of the 20th Week

Ez 34:1-11
Ps 23
Mt 20:1-16

The Workers in the Vineyard

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ 5So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. 6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ 8When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ 9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ 13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Hired laborers were usually peasants who had lost their ancestral lands through debt. They drifted into cities and villages hoping to be hired. The sense of honor in their culture prevented them from looking for work; they had to be approached and asked to work.
In the parable, the landowner does not treat the workers in the same way. To those hired first, he acts as an employer: he promises the usual daily wage, and he does exactly that. However, to those hired last, the owner chooses to act as a patron: a person of means who treats other people “as if” they were members of his family. Such treatment is free and gratuitous; it is not “earned” by the workers.
That those hired last are paid first is an important narrative point: it prepares for the expectation on the part of those hired first, and their disappointment when they are treated as “hired hands” rather than “family members.”
The parable shows us something about God from the perspective of Mediterranean people. God acts as our “patron”: he deals with us not according to what we truly deserve but according to his gracious mercy.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 8:13 pm
by evolution8
August 19, 2010

St. Ezechiel Moreno, bishop
St. John Eudes, priest
Thursday of the 20th Week

Ez 36:23-28
Ps 51
Mt 22:1-14

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

1Jesus spoke to [the chief priests and the Pharisees] in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. 4A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.” ’ 5Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. 6The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. 9Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ 10The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. 11But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. 12He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. 13Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ 14Many are invited, but few are chosen.”


In the Middle East, the cultural values of honor and shame reign supreme. Jesus presents God as a king deserving of the highest honor from his subjects. The king shows himself to be overly generous in bestowing honor to others. In those times the few who get invited to the royal wedding feast are considered the most honorable in society. To turn down a royal invitation is a grave insult, and the king is justified in punishing those who have put him to shame. When the holy city Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, not a few blamed it to the Jews’ refusal of Jesus.
The former outsiders who are invited next honor the king by accepting his invitation. But among their ranks are those who fail to dress up properly, meaning, they fail to do good deeds. This is just as bad as turning down God’s invitation in the first place! Accepting God’s offer of salvation in Christ opens to us the honorable life that gives glory to God. But salvation has its own demands. A Christian who does not live up to the demands of an honorable life is just as bad as the one who fails to accept the offer of salvation.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:28 pm
by evolution8
August 20, 2010

St. Bernard, abbot and doctor

Ez 37:1-14
Ps 107
Mt 22:34-40

The Greatest Commandment

34When the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”


The Pharisees who are learned in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) have identified 613 commandments in it—248 positive (“thou shalt”) and 365 negative (“thou shalt not”). Obviously, no one can remember them all, and not all commandments are of the same weight. The Pharisees themselves distinguish the “heavy” (serious) from the “light.” The “Ten Command­ments” are heavy ones. An example of a “light” command­ment would be not plowing with an ox or an ass harnessed together (Dt 22:11).
Others would try to sum up the Torah’s commandments in a small number of precepts or a summary statement. David proposed eleven (Ps 15), Isaiah six (33:15), Micah three (6:8). Amos simply says: “Seek the Lord” (5:4). Tobit gives a parting advice: “Serve God faithfully and do what is right before him” (14:9).
In reply to a Pharisee’s question about the “greatest commandment,” Jesus cites Dt 6:5, the Shemah-prayer (“Hear, O Israel”) which the Jews recite daily. This is the basic principle of the Mosaic Law. Since the Lord alone is God, all must love him with an undivided heart. Jesus, however, attaches to it the second commandment, equal in importance, citing Lv 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And by “neighbor,” Jesus means not just a fellow Israelite, but anyone, especially when the person is in need (see Lk 10:29-33, the parable of the Good Samaritan).
Elsewhere, Jesus gives another summary of the Torah: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12). The believers, in turn, echo Jesus in summarizing the Law. Paul writes: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:25 am
by evolution8
August 21, 2010

St. Pius X, pope

Ez 43:1-7ab
Ps 85
Mt 23:1-12

Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees

1Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. 5All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ 8As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you must be your servant. 12Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


In a culture where not many could read and write, those with skills like the scribes (Greek grammateis) were the possessors and the transmitters of learning. In Israel, the scribes were a class of professional exponents and teachers of the Torah, held in respect and addressed as “my lord” or “master” (rabbi). While some scribes came from the priestly aristocracy, the vast majority were from every other sector of society. They taught the people the Law, spoke in the synagogues, settled cases in the community, copied Scriptures texts, and acted as guardians of tradition.
Though not necessarily Pharisees, most scribes belonged to the Pharisee party who adhered to the strict interpretation of the Law. The Pharisees (Hebrew perusim, the “separated ones”) were probably connected with the Hasideans who fought with the Maccabees against the Syrian Hellenizers. They conceived of religion as centered upon the observance of the Torah, and gave a strict interpretation of the Law.
In his time, Jesus was also addressed as rabbi. But his teaching was recognized to be more authoritative than that of the scribes. He often came into conflict with them.
In the Gospel, Jesus denounces the scribes and the Pharisees. Scholars believe that the speech reflects not just the deep opposition between Jesus and the teachers of the Law in his time, but also the conflict between the followers of Jesus and the Pharisaic Judaism that arose after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. In their effort to rebuild the Jewish nation around the Law, the Pharisees excluded the Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. In turn, the Church criticized the rabbis, just like Jesus did.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:23 am
by evolution8
August 22, 2010

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 66:18-21
Ps 117
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13

Lk 13:22-30

Salvation and Rejection

22[Jesus] passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. 25After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ 27Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ 28And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. 29And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Discipleship Demands Discipline

In the last chapter of the book of Isaiah, the prophet relates three very important prophecies. First, fugitives from pagan nations will converge towards the holy city Jerusalem. Second, the pagans who come to Jerusalem will be sent to the whole world to preach the message of salvation. Lastly, God will take some of the pagans and make them priests and Levites.
Any right-thinking Jew in Isaiah’s time must have cringed in disbelief and considered this grand finale downright absurd. The Jews always believed that God’s predilection for them was something exclusive. The Jews believed that as God’s chosen people, they alone deserved God’s blessing.
Isaiah nixes the narrow-mindedness of the Jews by proclaiming that God’s salvation is meant for everyone. Jesus in today’s Gospel communicates the same message of universality. In the kingdom of God, Jesus says, we will find not only Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets. There will also be people from the east and the west, and from the north and the south.
Someone asks Jesus: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus replies: “Many… will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” He dismisses mere theological curiosity and addresses the more important issue of how one can actually be saved: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
Jesus minces no words. He says that to enter the kingdom of God, a person has to struggle. One does not simply chance upon God’s kingdom. One cannot saunter into it casually, nor will it fall magically on one’s lap. Discipleship requires “discipline.” This word is mentioned five times in today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. Discipline describes the kind of struggle one must make for the sake of the kingdom. Hebrews reminds us: “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart. Endure your trials as discipline” (Heb 12:6-7).
To be Jesus’ disciple entails listening intently to his message and striving to put his teachings into action. Our focus, however, must not be on our enormous efforts or on our success or failure to follow Jesus, but on the grace given by God as he shapes us into a new creation. Entering the kingdom of God is not the survival of the fittest, reserved only to the best and the brightest. God disciplines all people out of his great love for us, and his only aim is for our own well-being.
Discipline also happens when one learns how to handle trials in life. We do not rant and rave against them, but accept trials as a realistic part of our existence on earth. As the saying goes, “To one’s life, some rain must fall.” The discipline of Christ challenges us not simply to “make it through the rain,” but to see the rainbow after the rain and emerge as emboldened disciples.


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 6:11 am
by evolution8
August 23, 2010

St. Rose of Lima, virgin Secondary patroness of the Philippines

2 Thes 1:1-5, 11-12
Ps 96
Mt 23:13-22

Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees

[Jesus said,] 13“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. [14]
15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ 17Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? 18And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ 19You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; 21one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; 22one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”


The temple that Jesus refers to is the Second Temple, built by the returnees from the Babylonian exile under Zerubbabel. Construction began in 537 BC. It was dedicated in 520 BC. It was of the same dimensions as the temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC, but much inferior in the richness of its decorations. However, beginning in 19 BC, Herod the Great began a massive reconstruction of this temple; he spared no expense in producing a grand complex. In John, the Pharisees observe that “this temple has been under construction for 46 years” (Jn 2:20). When completely finished in 64 AD, it was a truly impressive sight.
The temple is the seat and symbol of the presence of Yahweh among his people. It is here that the prophet Isaiah had a vision of Yahweh (Is 6:1ff). Ezekiel enhanced the holiness and glory of the temple by his image of the temple as the source of living water (Ez 47:1ff).
The temple and the altar are the basic realities of the religious life of the Jews, therefore “greater” than the gold and the gift offered there. In view of the principle that for an oath to be valid, one should swear by something greater (Heb 6:16ff), oaths taken by the temple and the altar are in themselves binding. But the Pharisees teach that oaths are binding when taken by the gold or the gift. Indeed, the Pharisees are “blind guides,” unable to focus on the “weightier matters of the Law” (Mt 23:23).


Re: Daily Bible Reflections

PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:36 am
by evolution8
August 24, 2010

St. Bartholomew, apostle

Rv 21:9b-14
Ps 145
Jn 1:45-51

The Call of Nathanael

45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” 48Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


Nathanael is from Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turns water into wine (Jn 2:1-11). He is introduced by Philip to Jesus. He does not appear in any other New Testament book except in the Gospel of John. A harmonized reading of the gospels tends to identify Nathanael with Bartholomew of the Synoptic gospels. This is because in the Synoptic listings of the Twelve, the name Bartholomew comes after that of Philip. In addition, Bartholomew is a patronymic name, one that gives the name of the father, thus leaving open the possibility that this disciple has another name, precisely: Nathanael Bar-Talmai.
In the Gospel, Jesus refers to Nathanael as “a true Israelite.” There is a contrast here between Nathanael, who has no duplicity, and Jacob, the first to bear the name “Israel.” The popular etymology of the name “Israel” was “the one who sees God.” Indeed, Jacob had a heavenly vision (Gn 28:12-15). But he was a man of duplicity (Gn 27:1-45). On the other hand, Nathanael is promised a vision of heavenly things, similar to Jacob’s, but this time the messengers of God ascend and descend not on a stairway but on Jesus, the Son of Man. Nathanael is about to recognize who Jesus truly is. He will experience the full impact of the messianic titles he uses of Jesus: “Son of God” and “King of Israel.”