A Different Measuring Stick

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
(Luke 14:12-14)  

 

Scripture Study

14:14. A Christian acts in the world in the same way anyone else does; but his dealings with his colleagues and others should not be based on pursuit of reward or vainglory: the first thing he should seek is God’s glory, desiring heaven as his only reward (cf. Lk 6:32–34).[1] 

Reflection

“when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”

Most people are familiar with the term quid pro quo, a latin phrase that means if I do something for you, it is with the understanding between us that you in turn will do something for me. In our narcissistic society, with a total focus on the self leads, relationships are not valued but are seen as mechanisms for individuals to obtain personal pleasure or personal gain. 

God calls us to a different type of relationship – one that seeks honor all people through mutual respect and love of neighbor. In a world driven by a false sense of individuality and freedom, it is only in embracing humility that we can experience the true freedom which comes from God. Because in reality, our idea of freedom is warped. We become slaves to an unending and unquenchable desire of self-pleasure. True freedom only comes from an intimate and loving relationship with God. 

Our measuring stick is found in the imitation of Christ and the saints. Let us hold fast to the teachings of Christ as we daily seek to live a life in harmony with the beatitudes and Our Lord’s Prayer.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 134.

Worthiness

Brothers and sisters:
We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. 

We ask you, brothers and sisters,
with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our assembling with him,
not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed
either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2)   

 

Scripture Study

1:11 we always pray: Paul and his coworkers practice what they preach on the subject of continuous prayer (1 Thess 5:17).
1:12 our God and the Lord Jesus Christ: Several times Paul mentions the close relationship between the Father and the Son in his Thessalonian letters (1:1, 2; 2:16; 1 Thess 1:1; 3:11).
2:1 the coming of our Lord: The return of Christ, who will come again in glory (Acts 1:11) to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). our assembling: Believers, both living and deceased, will be taken up with the Lord into heavenly glory (1 Thess 4:16–17).
2:2 shaken … or excited: False prophets are unsettling Paul’s readers, whose suffering and affliction seem to reinforce allegations that the tribulation of the last days is under way and is about to give way to the Second Coming (1:6; 1 Thess 2:14). by spirit or by word: I.e., by charismatic revelations. These need to be measured against apostolic teaching in order to test their authenticity (1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thess 5:20–21). by letter: I.e., by a forged document claiming to come from Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy (1:1). Paul considers this a form of deception (2:3). the day of the Lord: The Day of Judgment. See note on 1 Thess 5:2.[1]

 

Reflection

“We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling.”

I think we suffer from an unhealthy and misinformed understanding of worthiness when it comes to our relationship with God. We are pretty tough on ourselves, some more so than otherswhen it comes to who is and is not worthy. And we use the sacraments as rewards and punishment in judgment of the worthiness or unworthiness of individuals. We judge others as we judge ourselves. But we judge according to our standards, not according to God’s standards.

What this all means, brothers and sisters, is that the matter of WORTHINESS before God does not depend on our efforts as humans, sinners and imperfect that we are before the Lord and before one another. Worthiness before the Lord is God’s initiative to make us worthy before Him. He takes us imperfect human beings, he takes us sins and all, and make us worthy. Worthiness is God’s initiative.

The misconception and misunderstanding of this Divine initiative has caused many of us a lot of heart aches and grief. We ourselves by our self-imposed rules and regulations, or by the Church’s overly legalistic and rigid interpretation and application of the law especially in recent years has hurt many Catholic Christians. As a result, many have gone without the sacraments for years believing that they are unworthy. Many have left the Church and either joined other Churches of stop going to Church altogether.

It is time that we recognize who is ultimately in charge, who is ultimately making us worthy. Let the compassionate God take care of the matters we cannot or should not handle. Let God be God. Let God read the hearts, the sincerity or insincerity of other people. We must allow good Catholics to use their conscience. We ought not to judge lest we be by judged harshly by God.

– Fr. Fred Bugarin

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 382.

True Strength

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited, 
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 14:1, 7-11)   

Scripture Study

14:1 One sabbath: Luke narrates five episodes when Jesus heals on the Sabbath (4:31–35, 38–39; 6:6–11; 13:10–17). See note on Lk 6:1. watching him: Jesus was the object of his enemies’ constant surveillance (6:7; 11:53–54).
14:10 sit in the lowest place: It is dishonorable to presume that one’s position, social or otherwise, will automatically win the favor of God (Prov 25:6–7).
14:11. Humility is so necessary for salvation that Jesus takes every opportunity to stress its importance. Here he uses the attitudes of people at a banquet to remind us again that it is God who assigns the places at the heavenly banquet. “Together with humility, the realization of the greatness of man’s dignity—and of the overwhelming fact that, by grace, we are made children of God—forms a single attitude. It is not our own efforts that save us and give us life; it is the grace of God. This is a truth which must never be forgotten” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 133).
14:14 You will be repaid: God will look favorably on works of mercy at the Judgment (6:32–36; Mt 10:42; 25:34–36). resurrection of the just: i.e., the general resurrection (Jn 5:28–29; Acts 24:15).[1]

Reflection

“the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility is an attitude of lowliness and obedience, grounded in the recognition of one’s status before God. Humility is not something we can fake. God sees into the depths of our soul and knows the true intentions of our heart. Sometimes, in this journey through life, we can become proud and arrogant for what we have accomplished or we can become self-absorbed with the messages the world keeps feeding us about how important we are. This creates behaviors of dismissiveness and hardness of heart that distances us from others and God.

But in God’s compassion, he will often break us of this self-made pride, so that in our humility and brokenness, we may come to repentance and restoration with him and our fellow man. In today’s culture, we can struggle mightily with being humble as this is often associated with weakness, and the world today keeps telling we need to be ‘strong.’ But we have to accept the reality that this idea of humility is simply a mask for our need to control life. It takes more strength to acknowledge our need for God and others than it does to remain self-absorbed with ourselves.

Remember, the truest expression of obedience was the submission of Jesus Christ to the Father. Christ was willing to become human for humanity’s sake. He gave up his freedom of self so that he could serve others. In a world run amok of narcissistic behavior, Jesus shows us what real strength is all about.

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 135.

A Dwelling Place of God

Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God, 
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:19-22)   

Scripture Study

Rather than elaborate on household relationships, Paul shifts metaphors to speak of the house itself. He describes the universal Church as a structure built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Since the foundation stones are humans, it is quite likely Paul is implying that his readers are also stones placed on this foundation (see 1 Pet 2:5). The apostles are those whom Christ himself appointed to proclaim the gospel and to exercise leadership in his Church. This number is not limited to the Twelve—Paul, an apostle, was not one of the Twelve—but includes a broader group whom Christ had authorized (see 1 Cor 15:5, 7–9; see sidebar on p. 116). The prophets are most likely New Testament prophets, judging by other references to them in this letter (3:5; 4:11; see sidebar on p. 88). Although in 1 Cor 3:11 Paul speaks about Jesus Christ as the only foundation that can be laid for the Church, here he chooses a different metaphor and speaks of the apostles and prophets as the foundation stones with Christ as the capstone.

There is a disagreement among translations regarding whether the Greek word should be interpreted as “capstone” or “cornerstone” in this context. According to ancient building practice, the cornerstone was laid first and then the other foundation stones were lined up to it; the capstone was the trapezoidal-shaped stone placed at the top of an arch, typically at the entrance to a building, that held all the other stones in place. Since in this text Paul identifies the apostles and prophets as foundation stones, it is quite possible that he distinguishes Jesus’ role by referring to him as the capstone, which occupies the highest place. This fits well with the next phrase: Through him the whole structure is held together. Christ’s role in his Church remains crucial for uniting all its parts and keeping them together. Paul shifts the metaphor once again and says this structure grows into a temple sacred in the Lord. The temple grows because it is a living organism. The Church is simultaneously a temple and the body of Christ.

2:22 Paul now applies this final image to his readers by saying in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. All three of the verbs in verses 21–22 are present tense: the Church is held together, grows, and is being built together. Although the Church is already the temple of God and the body of Christ, it is a work in progress—God has not finished building us yet! The phrase “a dwelling place of God” is used to describe God’s temple on earth as well as his heavenly dwelling. We Christians, the Church, are being made into a community in which God himself resides.

The Gentiles have come a long way. From standing far off, having no relationship with Christ or with the people of God and no covenant with God, they have now been united with Jewish believers in the body of Christ, have gained access to God through Christ in the Spirit, have obtained full citizenship and membership in God’s family, and have themselves become a flesh-and-blood house where God lives. That, to say the least, is extraordinary.[1] 

Reflection

“. . . a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

It is harder for Christians today than for those in the first century to grasp the significance of the Church being the temple or dwelling of God on earth. Because God is present everywhere, we sometimes fail to appreciate that he chooses to make himself present in a special way in particular places and in particular people. In ancient times, Jews and pagans shared an awareness that places could be sacred because they were inhabited in a special way by a god. Catholics have an inkling of this because we reverence the presence of Christ in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacles in our churches. The New Testament, however, teaches that God is really present and can be accessed in every gathering of Jesus’ disciples in his name (Matt 18:19–20). Reverence and faith are the appropriate responses to God’s holy presence in the universal Church, in our dioceses and parishes, in our small communities, and even in our own bodies. We do not adore him in one another and in the Church as we adore the Host, because there still exists in us a mixture of what is divine and what is sinful; the temple of the Church is still under construction (2:21–22). Nevertheless, God is truly present in Christ’s body, the Church, and we must treat our brothers and sisters and the life of the Church with an awareness that God lives within and among us. [2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Peter S. Williamson, Ephesians, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 80–81.

[2] Ibid.

The Armor of God

Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.
(Ephesians 6:10-20)   

Scripture Study

Paul warns readers of the spiritual warfare that rages unseen in the Church. For Christ’s kingdom does not spread free of opposition or enemies; rather, it is daily attacked by malevolent spirits under the command of Satan. Our first defense is the armor of God, i.e., the graces given to protect us in times of temptation. Our weaponry is both offensive (sword) and defensive (breastplate, shield, helmet, protective footwear), enabling us to ward off the powers of darkness and to guard ourselves from exposure to their tactics (2 Cor 6:7; 10:3–5; 1 Thess 5:8). Although the devil and his demons were defeated by Christ on the Cross (Col 2:15), they remain dangerous until he comes again to destroy them (1 Cor 15:24–25; Rev 20:10). ● Paul alludes to Wis 5:17–20 and Is 59:17. Both passages depict Yahweh as a warrior suiting up for battle against the ungodly. The Church joins him in this holy war as believers are enlisted among his troops and equipped with his divine armory. This OT background suggests that Paul’s imagery is more closely linked with Yahweh’s spiritual armor than with the military gear of a Roman soldier. ● To put on the armor of God is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Called truth and righteousness, our Savior is our belt and our breastplate. Called the living Word of God, he is the sword who is sharp on both sides (St. Jerome, Commentary on Ephesians 3, 6).[1]                   

Reflection

“In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

As kids, one of the first TV series we got hooked on was the sci-fi show, Outer Limits. It literally scared us so much that we would have nightmares that caused us to run into our parents’ room and jump into their bed. Needless to say, our father put an end to watching that show.

Today’s reading from Ephesians reminds me of an episode from that show in which an alien appears and possesses a personal force field that protects him against harm from others. Paul’s letter is urging us to put on the armor that is our personal ‘force field’ that will protect us from the spiritual warfare that rages unseen in the Church.

For Christ’s kingdom does not spread free of opposition or enemies; rather, it is daily attacked by malevolent spirits under the command of Satan. Our first ‘force field’ is the armor of God, the graces given to protect us in times of temptation.

To put on the armor of God is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Called truth and righteousness, our Savior is our belt and our breastplate. Called the living Word of God, he is the sword who is sharp on both sides, enabling us to ward off the powers of darkness and to guard ourselves from exposure to their tactics (2 Cor 6:7; 10:3–5; 1 Thess 5:8). Although the devil and his demons were defeated by Christ on the Cross (Col 2:15), they remain dangerous until he comes again to destroy them (1 Cor 15:24–25; Rev 20:10).[2]  

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 353.
[2] Ibid

Intimacy Desired

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them, 
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After 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.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And 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.
And 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.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”
(Luke 13:22-30)   

Scripture Study

13:24 the narrow door: Salvation depends first on God’s grace, then on our cooperation and obedience (Eph 2:8–10; Phil 2:12–13). Jesus here stresses the difficulties of the spiritual life, where few will enter God’s glory while the door remains open (Mt 22:14). See note on Mt 7:13.
13:27 depart from me: Although heirs to the kingdom, the impenitent of Israel will be shut out from God’s blessings (Mt 21:43; Rom 2:9).
13:28 weep and gnash: The suffering of the damned. See note on Mt 8:12.
13:29 east … west … north … south: Christ invites his family from the ends of the earth to celebrate with the patriarchs. ● Jesus evokes OT prophecies that depict Yahweh regathering the exiled children of Israel from the four points of the compass (Ps 107:3; Is 11:12; 43:5–6). The celebration banquet will include Israelites and Gentiles in the one family of God (24:47; Rev 5:9). See note on Lk 1:33.[1]

Reflection

“‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me . . .’”

Having lived in Japan for almost six years, we learned how a different culture viewed friendship. In our western culture, we have a tendency to freely and easily imply having a relationship with someone when we only just met. You have probably experienced this at work or school. A person is introduced to you. You chat, depart, and go about your life. Before you know it, this acquaintance is referring to you as ‘best friends.’

Our Japanese host found this behavior both humorous and challenging. Friendship in their eyes required a lengthier time together, so that you truly got to know who this person was. Friendship was viewed as a commitment to each other and therefore was not given away lightly. It required a trust that only came from spending intimate time together.

This is what Jesus is telling us today. We cannot simply view our relationship with him like some adoring fan of a popular public figure. For if that is the way we base our relationship with people, knowing only the public picture and nothing of who they are personally, how do we build the trust that is the foundation of a lasting relationship? How do we really ever know each other?

Christ wants us to know all about him. He wants us to know and trust him with our entire life. This takes a real commitment on our part to give ourselves totally to him, investing time in prayer and reading of scripture, to build the intimate relationship he so desires for each of us.

So will Christ know that it is you when you knock on his door?

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 134.

Husbands and Wives

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the Church,
he himself the savior of the Body.
As the Church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the Church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the Church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the Church,
because we are members of his Body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.
In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself,
and the wife should respect her husband.
(Ephesians 5:21-33)   

Scripture Study

5:22–33 Paul views Christian marriage through the lens of Christ’s covenant love for the Church. This analogy of faith highlights (1) the indissolubility of Christian marriage, since Christ will never withdraw from the Church or disown her, (2) the sacramentality of Christian marriage, since marital love is a living sign of Christ’s love for the Church, and (3) the reciprocity of Christian marriage, since the Church submits to Christ’s leadership even as Christ the bridegroom acquiesces to the prayers of his beloved bride.
5:22 Wives, be subject: The Greek implies her submission is free and voluntary, not degrading, servile, or coercive (Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1). Since a wife entrusts herself to her husband as part of her devotion to the Lord, her submission cannot be unconditional, especially if her husband commands what God expressly forbids (Acts 5:29).
5:25 Husbands, love: The husband’s mission is to build up his marriage and family, not to dominate or demean them for selfish ends. His model is Christ, whose love was put into action by sacrifice.
5:26 washing of water: A reference to Baptism, which cleanses the soul of sin and beautifies it with grace (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Tit 3:5). Paul’s comments recall the symbolic imagery of Ezek 16:8–14, where Yahweh entered a covenant of marriage with Jerusalem after bathing her in water and clothing her with beautiful garments.
5:27 without spot or wrinkle: Evokes the image of a garment that is clean and pressed.
5:29 nourishes: The concern of a husband to meet his physical needs should likewise bring him to cherish his wife.
5:31 two shall become one: A citation from Gen 2:24.
5:32 mystery: Marriage is an earthly image of the heavenly union between Christ and the Church. This spiritual symbolism was hidden from the beginning in the marital covenant and is now manifest in the New Covenant.[1]

 

Reflection

In any case, each one of you should love

Most husbands and wives can recall the first time they heard this passage and that interesting quiet that suddenly came upon them. As they mulled over the meaning of this passage, the husband could easily fall into the all too human understanding that God was merely stating the hierarchal relationship of marriage. The wife could also be wrapped in a very human understanding that the message “you should love me like Christ” was clearly meant for her husband.

St Paul reminds us that our relationship as husband and wife should mirror the relationship of all members of the Church in our subordination to Christ. We are in a shared love relationship, living in mutual respect, submitting to each other as we are to submit to Christ – our true judge. The basis of the supernatural grandeur and dignity of marriage lies in the fact that it is an extension of the union between Christ and his Church whereby the husband represents Christ and the wife the Church.

Saint Pope John Paul II noted that “Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children as witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament of marriage makes them sharers” (Familiaris consortio, 13).[2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 353.
[2] Saint Paul’s Captivity Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 74.

Children of Light

Brothers and sisters:
Be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place,
but instead, thanksgiving.
Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person,
that is, an idolater,
has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments,
for because of these things
the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
So do not be associated with them.
For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light.
(Ephesians 4:32-5:8)   

 

Scripture Study

5:5–7. The Christian also has to fight against covetousness and greed, vices which make one a slave to power and money, which can become a kind of idol (cf. Mt 6:24). When using the things of this world, the Christian must avoid growing attached to them: “The Lord does not command us to demolish our house and have no truck with money. What he does desire is that we remove from our soul the priority given to possessions, uncontrolled greed and desire for riches, the cares, the thorns of this life, which smother the seed of the true life” (Clement of Alexandria, Quis dives salvetur, 11).

5:8–9. In contrast to the Christian’s previous situation, which St Paul describes as “darkness”, he now goes on to speak about the proper course for a believer, for someone enlightened by faith. The Christian is in a different position from that of a pagan; he knows our Lord Jesus Christ and he has a new way of thinking: he is a “child of light”, because Christ has given him insight into the criteria which should govern his behavior. In his new life, he should be light; he has been reborn to be the “light of the world” (cf. Mt 5:14–16; Jn 1:5; 8:12), a pursuer of all that is good and right and true; this means that he has a new way of being and thinking and acting, and is an example and a help to those around him. St John Chrysostom preached; “if you are truly a Christian, it is impossible for you not to be able to do so […]. If we act properly, everything else will follow as a natural consequence. Christians’ light cannot be hidden, a lamp so brilliant cannot fail to be seen” (Hom. on Acts, 20).[1]

Reflection

 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

Do you recall the first time you really recognized the power of light and darkness? There was a period of time when our family lived in the pacific northwest, where it would stay light to almost 10 o’clock at night during the summer months.

As you might imagine, our children were pretty certain that we had lost our senses when we uttered those words “time for bed” when they could see it was still daylight outside. Even when we showed them the clock was at 8 o’clock, the time when they always went to bed, they were certain something was amiss. Our daughter confidently told us one night, “I think God wants us to stay up as he hasn’t told the sun to go to bed yet!”

Light is more powerful than the darkness, just as love is more powerful than hate. As “children of light” we are reminded by St Paul that our task is to shine the light of love to all. It is not always an easy thing to do. We can become trapped by the darkness that lurks in the shadows of life. When we find ourselves in those dark spots, we need to remember that Christ’s love drives away all darkness. His light is love – embrace the light!

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] Saint Paul’s Captivity Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 67–68.

The Crown of Righteousness

Beloved:
I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. 
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18)   

Scripture Study

4:6 the point of being sacrificed: Or “being poured out as a libation”. The description alludes to the cultic liturgy of Israel, where daily drink offerings of wine were poured out at the base of the Temple altar (Ex 29:38–40; Num 28:7). Evoking this imagery, Paul sees martyrdom as an act of sacrifice and liturgical worship (Phil 2:17) (CCC 2473). my departure: A metaphor for death, which in Paul’s case is both imminent and personally desirable (Phil 1:23). According to tradition, Paul was condemned during the Neronian persecution that began in the mid 60s and was beheaded just outside the city of Rome along the Ostian Way.

4:8 crown of righteousness: The reward of everlasting righteousness (Gal 5:5) that awaits the saints, who have persevered in the grace of God (Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4). The image alludes to the garland or victory wreath used to crown winning athletes in the ancient Olympics (1 Cor 9:25). Paul’s confidence that such a reward awaits him rests on his sense of accomplishment, since after 30 years of ministry, toil, and suffering, he has remained firm in the faith without straying from the course set for him by Christ (2 Tim 4:7; Acts 20:24). He was not nearly so assured of his salvation while the race was still in progress (1 Cor 9:16). ● Is not a crown the reward of good deeds? Yet, this is possible only because God accomplishes good works in men. It is through his mercy that we perform the goods works to which the crown is awarded (St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 21). that Day: The Day of Judgment. his appearing: Either the future return of Christ in glory (4:1) or, possibly, his first coming in the flesh (1:10).[1]

 

Reflection

 “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
At some point, all of us will face the consciousness of our inevitable death. Will we be able to reflect on our faith journey with a similar story as St Paul? Will our story be one of the good fight or the avoided one? Life is a battle of good and evil. In our earthly competitions, we fight and strive for days and the only reward we receive is a crown which withers in a matter of hours. The spiritual battle of the virtuous versus unprincipled life, leads to a heavenly crown we are given of glory and honor whose brilliance lasts forever.[2]

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 400–401.
[2] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians, and Pastoral Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishing, 2005), 122–123.

Christian Maturity

Brothers and sisters:
Grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:

He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants,
tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching
arising from human trickery,
from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
Rather, living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:7-16)   

Scripture Study

4:7 given to each: Every baptized believer is given spiritual gifts or charisms to be exercised for the good of the Church (1 Cor 12:4–11; 1 Pet 4:10). In this context, Paul focuses on the varied graces connected with ecclesiastical offices (Eph 4:11) (CCC 913).

4:8 When he ascended: A reference to Ps 68:18. Although the wording of Paul’s citation differs from both the Hebrew and Greek versions of this text known to us, it approximates other renditions of the psalm in Aramaic and Syriac. ● Psalm 68 celebrates the triumphal procession of biblical history, when Israel, filing out of Egypt behind Yahweh, was led on its march to the summit of Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The victories won by the Lord along the way earned him the right to distribute gifts and spoils of war to the Israelites. For Paul, the psalm points forward to the ascent of Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem after disarming the forces of evil on the Cross (Col 2:15). The Church began to share in this victory when Christ poured out the gifts of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:33).

4:9–10 A parenthetical explanation of how Jesus fulfills Ps 68. Interpretations differ over the meaning of lower parts of the earth. (1) Some view this expression as a reference to earth itself, to which Christ descended in his Incarnation (Jn 3:13). (2) Others take it to mean the underworld, to which Jesus descended on Holy Saturday before rising again on Easter Sunday. The second view is more likely correct in light of similar expressions in the Greek versions of Ps 63:9 and 139:14 that clearly refer to the underworld of the dead. In this case, Paul is stressing that Christ has charted the extremities of the cosmos, descending to its deepest depths in his Passion and rising above its highest heights at his Ascension. This is not simply a journey through space; rather, it is an expression of Christ’s supreme humiliation and exaltation. ● Several Church Fathers connected this verse with Christ’s descent to the dead, in which he released the captive souls of the righteous and led them up to heaven (1 Pet 3:18–19; CCC 632–33).

4:11 apostles … teachers: Ecclesial ministries associated with the proclamation of the Word. These positions are established to promote unity in the Church by (1) preserving doctrinal purity, (2) warding off false teaching (4:14), and (3) sanctifying people in truth (Jn 17:17–19). These spokesmen of the gospel build up the Body of Christ when they bring believers from immaturity to spiritual adulthood (Eph 4:15; CCC 1575, 2003–4). Other ministerial graces are listed in Rom 12:6–8 and 1 Cor 12:4–11. See note on 1 Cor 12:28.

4:15 speaking the truth: Or, “doing the truth”. By bracing ourselves with the truth, we can resist the wind and waves of false teaching that unsettle the faith of immature believers. Paul is urging readers to grow in their knowledge of Christ (1:17; 4:23; Rom 12:2); otherwise their minds will remain childish, underdeveloped, and vulnerable to dangerous novelties that are contrary to the gospel (Eph 4:14). Here and elsewhere Paul insists that love is the surest means to build up the Church (4:16; 1 Cor 8:1; 13:1–13).

4:16 joined … growth: The same Greek verbs, which here describe the unity and growth of a body, also appear in 2:21, where they describe the integrated construction of a temple. The double use of this language in Ephesians points to a close connection between “body” and “temple” in Pauline theology (see also 1 Cor 6:19). This connection originates with Jesus, whose human body was the temple of his divinity (Jn 2:19–21). Applied to the living assembly of believers, it implies that the Church is a mystical extension of the Incarnation.[1]

 

Reflection

 “the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God
The building up of the body of Christ occurs to the extent that its members strive to hold on to the truths of faith and to practice charity in the lives. The “knowledge of the Son of God” refers not only to the object of faith—which is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as true God and true man, but also to a vital, intimate, and loving relationship with him. The recognition of our personal obligation to this on-going growth in our relationship, implies the mark of maturity. It is this maturity in discipleship we should all seek to attain.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 349–350.