King of the Universe

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” 
Even the soldiers jeered at him. 
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:35-43)

 

Scripture Study

This episode is recounted only in this gospel. The penitent sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus. Jesus’ words to the penitent thief reveal Luke’s understanding that the destiny of the Christian is “to be with Jesus.”

23:38 an inscription: According to Roman practice, criminals displayed a sign inscribed with the charges brought against them. Jesus’ placard was written in three languages (Jn 19:20).

23:42 remember me: The penitent thief may have sneered at Jesus earlier (Mk 15:32). His conversion at the final hour is now manifest by his insight: he does not see Jesus’ death as his demise, but looks forward to the coming of his royal kingdom. The promise of “Paradise” (Lk 23:43) is generously out of proportion to the man’s simple request (CCC 1021).[1]

Reflection

The 1920s were marked by the rise of secularism, in which people increasingly lived their lives as if God did not exist. Dictatorships flourished and many people were taken in by these earthly leaders. Many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt the authority and existence of Christ and to question the relevancy of the Church. Pope Pius XI inaugurated the “Feast of Christ the King” in 1925 as a response to the conditions on the world. It was the hope that in celebrating the kingship of Christ over all humanity, that the declining respect for Christ and the Church would be abated.

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It’s almost 100 years later and conditions in many ways have worsened. Research conducted by PEW indicates that the largest and fastest growing religious denomination in North America are the ‘nones.’ These are individuals who not only distance themselves from any organized religion, but generally to not ascribe to a belief in the Christian God. For many in this group God is simply not relevant in their life.

It is amazing how much the enlightenment of humankind has drawn us further away from God and deeper into becoming the ‘self-gods’ that dominate our narcissistic culture and deny God’s existence or relevancy. We should be affirmed through the today’s Gospel reading that nothing will change the movement of ‘nones’ except love.

No one alone can change this reality. But that is not what the Lord is asking of any believer. He is simply asking us to be his light of love to the world. It is this light that will drive out the darkness that pervades the depths of loneliness and emptiness that is the world devoid God. The truth is that God is more relevant now than ever.

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

 

 

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

Sweet Promises

In the way of your decrees I rejoice,
as much as in all riches.

Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.

The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your decrees are my inheritance forever;
the joy of my heart they are.

I gasp with open mouth
in my yearning for your commands.

(Psalm 119:14,24,72,103.111)

 

Scripture Study

119:9–16. To be able to keep the Law, one needs to know it and to want to delight in it.

119:17–24. Contempt for the Law is a feature of the proud (vv. 21–22); the psalmist, on the contrary, is guided by the Lord’s precepts (v. 24).

119:65–72. Although he has experienced moments of crisis (“I went astray”: v. 67), caused by the “godless”, the proud (v. 69), and was “afflicted”, humbled (vv. 67, 71), it was all a lesson, to help him appreciate the priceless value of the Law of God (vv. 71–72).

119:97–104. The Law, which he loves so much, has made him a wise man. True wisdom (and the maturity that comes with it) does not depend on a person’s age (v. 100); it comes from doing the will of God: “Such wisdom of the heart, such prudence, will never become the prudence of the flesh that St Paul speaks of (cf. Rom 8:6), the prudence of those who are intelligent but try not to use their intelligence to seek and love our Lord. A truly prudent person is ever attentive to God’s promptings and, through this vigilant listening, he receives in his soul the promise and reality of salvation” (St J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 87).

119:105–112. Because the Law lights his way, he does not fail to remember it even when he is ill. He knows that the Law is his “heritage” from the Lord.[1]

Reflection

How sweet to my palate are your promises, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

According to what I’ve read this morning, the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Heth (or Cheth) stands for the chesed (loving-kindness) of the Lord. It’s a concept often translated as “steadfast love” in the ESV (English Standard Version). It appears frequently in the psalms, including the conclusion of this section of Psalm 119. 

The psalmist promises to keep God’s words while asking God to be gracious according to his promise. God promises to love and care for his people; we promise to love and obey him. He steadfastly fulfills his promise; we frequently fail. But God always remains faithful.

Recognition and repentance must be followed by action. We must quickly convert our actions to comply with God’s commands. His law shows us our failings and guides us in our return to righteousness.

May God reveal to you his covenantal promises, fulfilled in Christ, as you study his statutes and experience his steadfast love!

– Glenda Faye Mathes

 

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

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 397-404.

Just love ’em!

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
(Luke 19:41-44)

 

Scripture Study

19:42–44 Jesus foresees what eventually took place in a.d. 70, when the Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it (21:20). Its conquest will be a sign that God is visiting his judgment on the wayward city. ● Jesus clothes his solemn words with the language and imagery of OT prophecy (Is 29:1–3; Jer 6:6; Ezek 4:1–3). Because Jerusalem has become a repeat offender, it will again suffer the devastation that befell the city in 586 b.c. with the Babylonian invasions. ● Mystically (St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Evan. 39): Christ continues to weep for sinners who, like Jerusalem, run after evil and refuse to make peace with God. Their sins hide from their eyes the judgment that is coming, otherwise they would weep for themselves. When it arrives, demons will besiege the soul and the Lord will visit them with his dreadful punishment.[1]

Reflection

because you did not recognize the time of your visitation

Many in today’s culture do not recognize God. God is not relevant in their life. These religiously unaffiliated, called “nones,” are growing significantly. They’re the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the past decade, U.S. nones have overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths.

While many believers are perplexed and discouraged at this phenomenon, this is not a unique thing. Throughout recorded human history, many have failed to see or recognize God. What can we do? I would suggest two things: live our faith as Christ commanded us – love of God and neighbor; and pray unceasingly. WE make God relevant and real by our lived life practices. When we live of life of love and then trust in God’s grace and mercy to change the hearts and minds of the lost, amazing things happen. We must remember, they are also God’s children – whether they acknowledge that truth or not. So just love ‘em.

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), 144–145.

 

Praise Him

Praise the LORD in his sanctuary,
praise him in the firmament of his strength.
Praise him for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his sovereign majesty.

Praise him with the blast of the trumpet,
praise him with lyre and harp,
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with sounding cymbals,
praise him with clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD! Alleluia.

(Psalm 150:1-6)

 

Scripture Study

150:1. Given the parallelism in the verse, “sanctuary” refers directly to heaven, where God dwells, but, given what the psalm goes on to say, it also includes the temple of Jerusalem in which the festive liturgy takes place (vv. 3–5), and also the entire world inhabited by all living things (v. 6).

150:2. All the motives for praise found in the book are summarized in this verse—God’s mighty deeds of salvation and his dominion over the cosmos.

150:3–5. The musical instruments mentioned are those used to convoke solemn assemblies (the “trumpet”: v. 3) and in temple liturgies and pilgrimages (vv. 4–5; cf. Ps 149:3). As regards the various instruments mentioned here, a spiritual writer comments: “All these instruments of giving praise to God are the saints themselves, who offer to God the polyphonic song of their joint glorification. God is praised through all their deeds because every movement made by those who sing is in tune with the Spirit that inspires praise within them” (Prosper of Aquitaine, Expositio Psalmorum, 150, 3).

150:6. The Hebrew term translated here as “everything that breathes” (nesamá) is applied in the Bible only to God and man (cf. Gen 2:7; 2 Sam 22:16). Its use here indicates that only man is able to sing the praise of God on behalf of all creation.[1]

Reflection

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Alleluia.

Do you know that praising God is the best thing to do first before anything else? Have you ever been in a situation that you feel all alone? Or have you encountered a difficult situation in your life and you don’t know what to do, like losing your job or suffering the loss of someone very close to your heart? Consider the good times such as when you receive a raise from your boss or earn high marks at school? What do you usually do during these moments? Praising God makes every circumstance of our lives complete, essential, and eminently worthwhile. 

We praise God because it gets the focus off ourselves and onto God — so we can talk to Him and not at him. That’s why we start with praise. If you want help learning how to praise God, read through the Book of the Psalms. Many of them were written simply to praise God. If you read them aloud, you’ll learn a lot about praising God in prayer. Praise the Lord!

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

 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 477.

Appearances

I, John, heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Sardis, write this:
“‘The one who has the seven spirits of God
and the seven stars says this: “I know your works,
that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die,
for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent.
If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief,
and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.
However, you have a few people in Sardis
who have not soiled their garments;
they will walk with me dressed in white,
because they are worthy.

“‘The victor will thus be dressed in white,
and I will never erase his name from the book of life
but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father
and of his angels.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

“To the angel of the Church in Laodicea, write this:
“‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God’s creation, says this:
“I know your works;
I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’
and yet do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,
and white garments to put on
so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,
and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.

“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
(Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22)

 

Scripture Study

3:1 Sardis: Thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. Sardis was once a wealthy and powerful city struggling to recover its former glory. Though a fortified city, it was twice conquered by surprise nighttime attacks. Christ may allude to this history when he warns readers to stay “awake” lest he come like a “thief” and the Church fare as badly as the unprepared city (3:3).

3:3 like a thief: This image can be traced back to Jesus (Mt 24:43; Lk 12:39).

3:4 soiled their garments: The white garments worn by angels and saints (4:4; 6:11; 7:9; 19:14) symbolize both purity and victory (Dan 11:35; 12:10) and were used in the ancient Church to clad the newly baptized. Some in Sardis had stained their robes by reverting to sinful ways and renewing their friendship with the world.

3:5 the book of life: A heavenly register of the saints. To be erased from this book is to lose the inheritance of eternal life (Ex 32:32; Ps 69:28). See note on Rev 20:12.

3:14 Laodicea: Forty miles southeast of Philadelphia. Laodicea was a prosperous commercial city that rebuilt itself without the aid of government subsidies after an earthquake around a.d. 60. It was known for its banking establishments, its medical academy, and its exported products, such as eye ointment and black wool textiles. According to Jesus, its material prosperity merely disguised its spiritual poverty (3:17). the Amen: A Hebrew acclamation used as a title for Christ. Expressing a sense of reliability and trustworthiness, it indicates that Jesus embodies the covenant faithfulness of God, for through him all the promises of God are carried to fulfillment. See word study: Amen at 2 Cor 1:20. ● The title comes from Is 65:16, where the Hebrew text underlying “the God of truth” is literally “the God of Amen” (CCC 1063–65). the beginning: The Greek term is capable of several meanings, ranging from “starting point” to “first cause” to “ruler”. Christ is the divine Alpha, or first cause, that brought all creation into being (22:13). Identical language is used of God the Father (21:6).

3:16 lukewarm: Unlike nearby Colossae, Laodicea had no cold drinking water, and unlike nearby Hierapolis, it had no hot medicinal springs. On a spiritual level, the Church had become so complacent that the Lord promises to spit them out like a mouthful of tepid water.[1]

Reflection

you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead

No man can look into the heart of another – only God can see into our hearts and know the trueness of our actions. The Church at Sardis was seen as a church who appeared to who could see that they were alive in the faith but Jesus tells us they were really ‘spiritually dead.’ Although their external practice of religion made them look like they were Christian, most of the members were estranged from Christ, devoid of an interior life directed towards the Lord but instead captivated by the world.

What is the reputation of your church? Does it speak to who you are? Have you become complacent as was the church in Laodicea? Has your heart become hardened to the Lord? As we draw close to the season of Advent, it is a good time to check our temperature. Are we lukewarm? Is the desire of our heart an intimate union with the Lord? Does this love drive our daily actions?  

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), 498.

First Love

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him,
to show his servants what must happen soon.
He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
who gives witness to the word of God
and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud
and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message
and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.

John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace
from him who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits before his throne.

I heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Ephesus, write this:

“‘The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand
and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands says this:
“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance,
and that you cannot tolerate the wicked;
you have tested those who call themselves Apostles but are not,
and discovered that they are impostors.
Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name,
and you have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you:
you have lost the love you had at first.
Realize how far you have fallen.
Repent, and do the works you did at first.
Otherwise, I will come to you
and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”’”
(Luke 21:5-19)

 

Scripture Study

2:1 Ephesus: The most prestigious cultural, commercial, and religious center in the Roman province of Asia. Paul established the Church there (Acts 19:1–10) and later commissioned Timothy to build on his foundation (1 Tim 1:3). It is uncertain as to when John assumed pastoral responsibility over Ephesus and the other churches in the region.

2:4 abandoned the love: The Ephesians had turned their hearts away from Christ and let their enthusiasm for Christian living die down (Mt 24:12). According to Jesus, this constitutes a spiritual “fall” from which they must recover (Rev 2:5).

2:5 remove your lampstand: The price of impenitence is divine judgment. The threat of removal may recall the historical plight of Ephesus, a city that was twice forced to relocate because of the silting of its river and harbor.[1]

Reflection

the love you had at first

“The future for me is already a thing of the past / You were my first love and you will be my last.” – Bob Dylan

“It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.” – Jack Schmitt

Two interesting quotes on “first love” which speak to the Greek concept of love – eros – which is centered on the physical, sensual aspects of love. But St John is referring to agape love – the highest level of love known to humanity – a selfless love, a love that is passionately committed to the well-being of the other.

It is so easy at times to fall prey to the ways of the world and lose the joy found in true agape love. Have you fallen away from the intimacy found in union with Jesus? Give over to the Lord that which is distracting you from this loving relationship, so that you may return to the light of love, in order to give that same light to others.

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), 495.

Perseverance

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them! 
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name. 
It will lead to your giving testimony. 
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death. 
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
(Luke 21:5-19)

 

Scripture Study

21:5 noble stones: Herod the Great began to renovate and expand the Jerusalem Temple in 19 b.c. The structure was immense, with many of its stones measuring nearly 40 feet in length. According to Jesus, its indestructible appearance is only an illusion (21:6).

21:8 many will come: First-century Palestine experienced a surge of messianic fervor. Many claimed to be a “military Messiah” who would lead Israel to overthrow the Romans (Acts 5:33–39).

21:12 persecute you: Disciples must fearlessly identify with Jesus despite opposition (Mk 8:38; Jn 16:2–4, 33). Persecution will provide opportunities to proclaim the gospel. Luke recounts several such episodes where believers are locked up in prisons (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 8:3; 12:4; 16:23) and hauled before kings and governors (Acts 25:23–26:32).

21:15 a mouth and wisdom: Unlike professional orators who rehearse their speeches before delivering them, disciples should only prepare to be faithful. Christ will give them words through the Holy Spirit (Mt 10:20; Mk 13:11). Stephen was an example of this by his powerful witness in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9–10), as were other early Christians (Acts 4:8–14; 26:24–32).

21:16 parents … brothers … kinsmen: Jesus demands heroic allegiance that may drive a wedge between family members (14:26). Whether martyred or persecuted, the faithful will “gain” their lives (21:19) by laying them down for Christ (9:24).[1]

Reflection

By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

Jesus foretells all kinds of persecution. Persecution itself is something inevitable: “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). His disciples will have need to remember the Lord’s warning at the Last Supper: “ ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20). However, these persecutions are part of God’s providence: they happen because he lets them happen, which he does in order to draw greater good out of them. Persecution provides Christians with an opportunity to bear witness to Christ; without it the blood of martyrs would not adorn the Church. Moreover, our Lord promises to give special help to those who suffer persecution, and he tells them not be afraid: he will give them of his own wisdom to enable them to defend themselves; he will not permit a hair of their heads to perish, that is, even apparent misfortune and loss will be for them a beginning of heaven.

From Jesus’ words we can also deduce the obligation of every Christian to be ready to lose his life rather than offend God. Only those will attain salvation who persevere until the end in faithfulness to the Lord. The three Synoptic Gospels locate his exhortation to perseverance in this discourse (cf. Mt 24:13; Mk 13:13) and St Matthew gives it elsewhere (Mt 10:22) as does St Peter (1 Pet 5:9)—all of which underlines the importance for every Christian of this warning from our Lord.[2]

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), 147.
[2] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 170–171.

Faithful

Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters,
especially for strangers;
they have testified to your love before the Church.
Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.
For they have set out for the sake of the Name
and are accepting nothing from the pagans.
Therefore, we ought to support such persons,
so that we may be co-workers in the truth.
(3 John 5-8)

Scripture Study

5 You are faithful in all you do: Gaius’s aid to the missionaries is a manifestation of his true Christian faith.

6 Help them … to continue their journey: the Presbyter asks Gaius not only to continue to welcome the missionaries to his community but also to equip them for further travels.

7 The Name: of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 5:41; 1 Jn 2:12; 3:23; 5:13). Accepting nothing: not expecting support from the pagans to whom they preach the gospel, so that they will not be considered as beggars; they required support from other Christians; cf. Paul’s complaints to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:3–12).[1]

Reflection

you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters.

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” When we read this passage, many of us are challenged to understand how we could ever attain such a standard. What our Lord means here is that God’s own perfection should be the model that every faithful Christian tries to follow, even though he realizes that there is an infinite distance between himself and his Creator. The Second Vatican Council tells us that “Lay people have countless opportunities for exercising the apostolate of evangelization and sanctification. The very witness of a Christian life, and good works done in a supernatural spirit, are effective in drawing people to the faith and to God; and that is what the Lord has said: ‘Let your light shine so brightly before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ ((Apostolicam actuositatem, 6).” 

We have a perfect example of the effort the Lord is speaking to as St John praises Gaius for his faithfulness in service. His actions of imitating the love for others that the Lord showed in his life is what we should strive for in our daily walk. Could the faithfulness of Gaius be something we could aspire to as we seek to walk the path of perfection?

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

 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1748.

Brotherly Love

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son.
(2 John 4-9)[1]

 

Scripture Study

4 some of your children: The implication of this statement is uncertain. Either John had made contact with only “some” of his readers, and these he found obeying the gospel, or else he implies that only “some” of those he encountered were doing well, while others were not. The absence of any rebuke in the letter, along with the general affirmation in verse 8, seems to favor the former interpretation.

5 from the beginning: John’s teaching about love is not new but is traceable back to the initial catechesis of his readers (6; 1 Jn 3:11). love one another: The supreme mandate that Christ has laid upon his disciples (Jn 13:34). The meaning of his words is explained by his example, which shows us that Christian love is not an emotion, but an act of the will that adheres to the commandments of God (Jn 14:31) and expresses itself through heroic generosity and sacrifice, even to the point of death (Jn 15:13).

7 many deceivers: Heretical teachers who denied that God the Son came in the flesh as a man. In doing so, they exchanged the truth of the gospel for lies and became “false prophets” who streamed out “into the world” with their errors (1 Jn 4:1) (CCC 465). Behind this warning is John’s concern that these troublemakers might destroy the faith of others, as well (1 Jn 2:26). See note on 1 Jn 4:2. the antichrist: A title given to anyone who denies the Father and the Son and attacks the messianic claims of Jesus (1 Jn 2:22; CCC 675). 

8 what you have worked for: The attainment of salvation (Phil 2:12) as well as additional rewards bestowed for faithful service (1 Cor 3:14).

9 one who goes ahead: The Greek text envisions someone who “goes beyond” the limits of authentic Christian doctrine. No hint is given as to their motives, but such individuals are often described as “progressives” who not only embrace novel teachings, but who leave behind the truths of apostolic faith in the process. does not have God: Faith in God and fellowship with God go hand in hand. John is insistent on this point and warns that breaking away from the true faith means breaking away from the one true God.[2]

Reflection

And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

We are a people of traditions. Our nation has just witnessed a change in leadership – a change that has caused uncertainty, fear, and anger. The words from the Second Letter of John will hopefully remind us all that we are bound to a higher calling of love.

As Christians, we have learned that walking in the truth entails keeping the commandment of brotherly love, which St John emphasizes is a commandment they we have had “from the beginning.” Tradition is so definite on this point that anyone who teaches otherwise is a deceiver who seeks to corrupt the faith by destroying the unity and mutuality of brotherly love.[3]

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

 

 

[1] Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[2] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 477.
[3] The Catholic Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 172.

Social Justice

Beloved:
I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love,
because the hearts of the holy ones
have been refreshed by you, brother.
Therefore, although I have the full right in Christ
to order you to do what is proper,
I rather urge you out of love,
being as I am, Paul, an old man,
and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus.
I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment,
who was once useless to you but is now useful to both you and me.
I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the Gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.
And if he has done you any injustice
or owes you anything, charge it to me.
I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay.
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ.
(Philemon 1:7-20)  

 

Scripture Study

no longer as a slave: Philemon is faced with a dilemma. As a slave owner, he is entitled by law to punish the returning Onesimus to the fullest extent (death). As a Christian, however, he must acknowledge that the recent conversion of Onesimus has put him and his slave on an equal footing in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28). In Paul’s mind, there is only one recommended option: Philemon must embrace Onesimus as his brother in the faith, forgive him his wrongdoing, and give him his freedom. Christ has made them brothers, and this creates a new situation that overrides the social and legal expectations that would normally apply when a delinquent slave returned to his owner. These men were once members of the same household, with one in authority over the other; but now they are children of equal standing in the household of God the Father (Philem 3). This is one example of how Paul, who never condemned the institution of slavery directly, worked against it with the gospel (CCC 2414). (St. Jerome, Commentary on Philemon on Philem 15).[1]

Reflection

“Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.

Sometimes evil circumstances become an occasion for good, and God turns the evil plans of men toward a righteous end. If Onesimus had not fled his master, he would not have come to Paul in prison and there received faith in Christ.

Our modern world rightfully acknowledges slavery as abhorrent. We struggle with the idea that mankind could treat another human being in this manner. But many also struggle with what they read in scripture about slavery as it often seems to condone this practice by failing to condemn it.

This is a struggle for many people to accept Christianity or the idea of God. Why God would allow this type of inhuman behavior to occur. Scripture has told us that God’s ways are not ours and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Is 55:8). So are we capable of trusting God when we do not understand why injustice occurs?

Every Christian, insofar as we can, should contribute to bringing about social justice by living out the example of Christ. He trusted the Father in all things and created change in the world through his lived life of love of the Father and his neighbor. Can we do any less?

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), 411.