Material Obsession

Scripture Reading

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother
.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
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.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

(Mark 10:17-27)

Scripture Study

10:18 Why do you call me good?: Jesus repudiates the term “good” for himself and directs it to God, the source of all goodness who alone can grant the gift of eternal life; cf. Mt 19:16–17.

10:23–27 In the Old Testament wealth and material goods are considered a sign of God’s favor (Jb 1:10; Ps 128:1–2; Is 3:10). The words of Jesus in Mk 10:23–25 provoke astonishment among the disciples because of their apparent contradiction of the Old Testament concept (Mk 10:24, 26). Since wealth, power, and merit generate false security, Jesus rejects them utterly as a claim to enter the kingdom. Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift (Mk 10:27).

Scripture Reflection

The reaction of the rich young man gives our Lord another opportunity to say something about the way to use material things. In themselves they are good: they are resources God has made available to people for their development in society. But excessive attachment to things is what makes them an occasion of sin. The sin lies in “trusting” in them, as if they solve all life’s problems, and in turning one’s back on God. St Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Col 3:5). Christ excludes from the Kingdom of God anyone who becomes so attached to riches that his life is centered around them. Or, more accurately, that person excludes himself.

Possessions can seduce both those who already have them and those who are bent on acquiring them. Therefore, there are—paradoxically—poor people who are really rich, and rich people who are really poor. Since absolutely everyone has an inclination to be attached to material things, the disciples see salvation as an impossible goal: “Then who can be saved?” No one, if we rely on human resources. But God’s grace makes everything possible.

 

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

 

Why Do You Worry?

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
(Matthew 6:24-34)

Scripture Study

6:24. Man’s ultimate goal is God; to attain this goal he should commit himself entirely. But in fact some people do not have God as their ultimate goal, and instead choose wealth of some kind—in which case wealth becomes their god. Man cannot have two absolute and contrary goals.

6:25–32. In this beautiful passage Jesus shows us the value of the ordinary things of life, and teaches us to put our trust in God’s fatherly providence. Using simple examples and comparisons taken from everyday life, he teaches us to abandon ourselves into the arms of God.

6:27. The word “span” could be translated as “stature”, but “span” is closer to the original (cf. Lk 12:25). A “cubit” is a measure of length which can metaphorically refer to time.

6:33. Here again the righteousness of the Kingdom means the life of grace in man—which involves a whole series of spiritual and moral values and can be summed up in the notion of “holiness”. The search for holiness should be our primary purpose in life. Jesus is again insisting on the primacy of spiritual demands.

6:34. Our Lord exhorts us to go about our daily tasks serenely and not to worry uselessly about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. This is wisdom based on God’s fatherly providence and on our own everyday experience: “He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Eccles 11:4). What is important, what is within our reach, is to live in God’s presence and make good use of the present moment.

Scripture Reflection

We worry about our lives ultimately because we do not really trust God. This point, which Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount, was echoed in the dialogue God had with St. Catherine of Siena: “Why do you not put your trust in me your Creator? Because your trust is in yourselves. Am I not faithful and loyal to you? Of course I am.… But it seems they do not believe that I am powerful enough to help them, or strong enough to aid and defend them against their enemies, or wise enough to enlighten their understanding, or merciful enough to want to give them what is necessary for their salvation, or rich enough to enrich them, or beautiful enough to give them beauty, or that I have food to feed them or garments to re-clothe them. Their actions show me that they do not believe it.”

– St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue

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

 

Let the Children Come

Scripture Reading

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them
(Mark 10:13-16)

Scripture Study

10:13–16. This Gospel account has an attractive freshness and vividness about it which may be connected with St Peter, from whom St Mark would have taken the story. It is one of the few occasions when the Gospels tell us that Christ became angry. What provoked his anger was the disciples’ intolerance: they felt that these people bringing children to Jesus were a nuisance: it meant a waste of his time; Christ had more serious things to do than be involved with little children. The disciples were well-intentioned; it was just that they were applying the wrong criteria. What Jesus had told them quite recently had not registered: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mk 9:37).

Our Lord’s words express simply and graphically the key doctrine of man’s divine sonship: God is our Father and we are his sons and daughters, his children; the whole of religion is summed up in the relationship of a son with his good Father. This awareness of God as Father involves a sense of dependence on our Father in heaven and trusting abandonment to his loving providence—in the way a child trusts its father or mother; the humility of recognizing that we can do nothing by ourselves; simplicity and sincerity, which make us straightforward and honest in our dealings with God and man.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus declares that the kingdom of God belongs to children. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

How so? Well, children are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously, uncomplicatedly. They are in accord with God’s deepest intentions for them. The challenge of the spiritual life is to realize what God wants us to be and thereby come to the same simplicity and directness in our existence. To find out what is in line with the deepest grain of our being.

Let me put this another way: children haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, conscious of the reactions, expectations, and approval of those around him. The best moments in life are when we lose the ego, lose ourselves in the world and just are as God wants us to be.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

True and False Friendship

Scripture Reading

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.
(Sirach 6:5-17)

Scripture Study

6:5–17 One of several poems Ben Sira wrote on friendship; see also 9:10–16; 12:8–18; 13:1–23; 19:13–17; 22:19–26; 27:16–21. True friends are discerned not by prosperity (v. 11), but through the trials of adversity: distress, quarrels (v. 9), sorrow (v. 10) and misfortune (v. 12). Such friends are rare, a gift from God (vv. 14–17).

Scripture Reflection

With its sweetness it is a foundation for all the virtues, and with its virtue it destroys the vices. Friendship so cushions adversity and chastens prosperity that among mortals almost nothing can be enjoyed without a friend.

Since a friend is the partner of your soul, to whose spirit you join and link your own and so unite yourself as to wish to become one from two, to whom you commit yourself as to another self, from whom you conceal nothing, from whom you fear nothing, surely you must first choose, then test, and finally admit someone considered right for such a trust. For friendship should be steadfast, and by being unwearied in affection, it should present an image of eternity.

– Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship

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

 

Worldly Distraction

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”
(Mark 9:41-50)

 

Scripture Study

9:42–48 Jesus uses hyperbole (overstatement) to emphasize that drastic measures are needed to avoid sin (CCC 1861, 2284–87). Because public sin can embolden others to sin likewise, the consequences that await those who cause scandal are worse than drowning by the weight of a great millstone (9:42). Because grave (mortal) sins merit hell (9:43, 35, 47), avoiding them requires us to take action so serious that it can be compared to bodily dismemberment (Mt 5:29–30). ● Morally (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Matt. 59): severing bodily limbs signifies the amputation of intimate friends. When close companions drag Christians away from holiness, they must be cut away. It is better for us to enter heaven without them than to maintain their company in everlasting misery.

9:49 salted with fire: Probably a reference to the trials and temptations that face believers. Given the preceding context (9:42–48), it may include the purifying suffering of penance needed to avoid sin and turn away from impure habits. Such fire is meant to test the genuineness of our Christian commitment and lead us to perfection (Sir 2:5; 1 Pet 1:6–7; CCC 1430–31). In the end, those refined by the temporal fires of this world will be spared the unquenchable fires of the next.

Scripture Reflection

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks, with incredible bluntness, about cutting off one’s hand and foot and the plucking out of one’s own eye. If these things are a block to your salvation, get rid of them, for it is better to enter life maimed than to enter Gehenna with all of your limbs and members. The hand is the organ by which we reach out and grasp things. The soul is meant for union with God, but we have, instead, reached out to creatures, all of our energies, grasping at finite things.

The Lord also speaks of the foot. The foot is the organ by which we set ourselves on a definite path. We are meant to walk on the path which is Christ. Do we? Or have we set out down a hundred errant paths, leading to glory, honor, power, or pleasure?

We are designed to seek after and look for God. Have we spent much of our lives looking in all the wrong places, beguiled by the beauties and enticements of this world? And are we willing to pluck out our eye spiritually, to abandon many of the preoccupations that have given us pleasure?

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

The Rock

Scripture Reading

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19)

 

Scripture Study

16:13 Caesarea Philippi: situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory ruled by Philip, a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch from 4 b.c. until his death in a.d. 34. He rebuilt the town of Paneas, naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?: although the question differs from the Marcan parallel (Mk 8:27: “Who … that I am?”), the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man (cf. Mt 16:15).

16:14 John the Baptist: see Mt 14:2. Elijah: cf. Mal 3:19; Sir 48:10. Jeremiah: an addition of Matthew to the Marcan source.

16:16 The Son of the living God: see Mt 2:15; 3:17. The addition of this exalted title to the Marcan confession eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah.

16:17 Flesh and blood: a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness. Has not revealed this … but my heavenly Father: that Peter’s faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God is similar to Paul’s description of his recognition of who Jesus was; see Gal 1:15–16, “… when he [God] … was pleased to reveal his Son to me.…”

16:18 You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kēpā’ meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as CEphas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:4; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) except in Gal 2:7–8 (“Peter”). It is translated as Petros (“Peter”) in Jn 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, “You are the Rock (kēpā’) and upon this rock (kēpā’) I will build my church.” Church: this word (Greek ekklēsia) occurs in the gospels only here and in Mt 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hadēs, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.

16:19 The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Is 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts” (Mt 22:22). Whatever you bind … loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel spells out the importance of Peter’s confession. For it is upon this inspired confession that the Church is built. Not, mind you, on popular opinion, which is shifting and indecisive, and not on personal holiness, which is all too rare. It is built upon the inspired authority of Peter—and I say, “thank God!”

We make this troubling and extraordinary claim that it is through a special charism of the Spirit that Peter and his successors govern the Church. Now I realize that I have many Protestant readers and that this text has been, between Catholics and Protestants, a stumbling block. Let me clarify what is and is not at stake here.

What is the focus of Peter’s confession? It has to do with who Jesus is. This is the rock upon which the Church is built. We don’t say for a moment that all of Peter’s practical decisions are right, that everything he says is right. But we are saying that he is right about who Jesus is: a man who is also the Son of the living God. And this is the source and ground of the whole operation.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

When You Serve

Scripture Reading

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.
(Sirach 2:1-10)

 

Scripture Study

2:1–11 Serving the Lord is not without its trials (v. 1); but no matter what happens, the genuine believer will remain sincere, steadfast, and faithful (vv. 2–3). Misfortune and humiliation are means of purification to prove one’s worth (vv. 4–5). Ben Sira believed that patience and unwavering trust in God are ultimately rewarded with the benefits of God’s mercy and of lasting joy (vv. 6–11).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Ben Sira warns his disciples about the adversity that the Lord allows as a test of whether or not fear of the Lord is genuine. The idea of preparing oneself for testing even though one serves the Lord is part of the Deuteronomic theory of retribution that legitimated probationary suffering for the virtuous.

In adversity, one must be patient and wait for God’s mercy; if one becomes impatient and turns away, one falls or sins. The “lasting joy” is not the blessedness of the afterlife but rather the well-being of this life. Ben Sira appeals to the testimony of past generations, and the rhetorical questions he asks all demand the answer “No.” The experience of the Ancestors and of the upright men and women of Israel’s history bears eloquent witness to the truth that trust in the Lord will never be in vain.

– Patrick W. Skehan, The Wisdom of Ben Sira

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

The Wisdom of God

Scripture Reading

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.
(Sirach 1:1-10)

 

Scripture Study

1:1–10 This brief poem serves as an introduction to the book. The Lord is the source and preserver of all wisdom, which he pours out upon all. See Jb 28:20–28; Prv 2:6; 8:22–31; Wis 7:25–27.

1:1 Wisdom: throughout the book Ben Sira describes in great detail just what wisdom is: sometimes divine (1:6, 8), sometimes a synonym for God’s law (24:22–23). Ben Sira makes clear that all wisdom comes from God.

1:8–10 In contrast to Jb 28, wisdom is not only with God, but given to all, especially Israel.

Scripture Reflection

As as a backdrop to the whole book, there is the exhortation in these opening verses to seek divine Wisdom; to understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning and the climax of true wisdom.

Wisdom as fear of the Lord is shown in its various manifestations: trust and a lively hope in the Lord; patience in suffering and adversity; reverence and respect for parents; humility in one’s attitudes and conduct toward others; docility, almsgiving, and concern for the disadvantaged.

Wisdom is something divine and all-embracing. That is to say, Wisdom resides in God (1:1–8) and it is God himself who has imbued all created things with it.

– Michael Adams, Wisdom Books

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

 

The Perfection of Love

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles. 
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:38-48)

 

Scripture Study

5:38 An eye for an eye: Jesus forbids the misuse of Mosaic civil law to justify private vengeance. Exodus 21:24 was meant to limit retribution; it was never an invitation to inflict punishment for personal injuries or extend personal vengeance beyond the injury suffered (cf. Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). The punishment had to fit the crime but not exceed it. Jesus eliminates such a policy of retaliation from personal life (cf. Rom 12:17).

5:41 if any one forces you: Roman soldiers in NT Palestine reserved the right to recruit and compel Jews into temporary service. Simon of Cyrene was forced under this custom to carry Jesus’ Cross in 27:32. Jesus calls for ungrudging generosity beyond the required call of duty.

5:43 love your neighbor: A reference to Lev 19:18. Jesus considers it one of the two great commandments of the Mosaic Law (22:39). Unlike Jesus, however, some Jews held a narrow interpretation of neighbor, restricting it only to one’s fellow Israelite (cf. Lk 10:29–37) (CCC 1933). hate your enemy: Probably a reference to Israel’s warfare laws in Deut 20. Because Gentiles in Canaan worshiped false gods, they were enemies of God. Moses thus called Israel to exterminate them under Joshua and the Judges, lest Israel imitate their idolatry (cf. Ex 23:32–33; Ps 139:19–22). Against this background, Jesus counters Jewish disdain for Gentiles who continue to live in Palestine. He broadens the meaning of neighbor to include Gentiles, even their Roman persecutors. The Father’s impartial treatment of all people is a model for Christian mercy (5:45).

5:48 You … must be perfect: Jesus advocates moral righteousness higher than the Old Covenant—it is a standard of mercy. Just as Israel was to imitate God in being “holy” (Lev 19:2), so Jesus calls the Church to imitate God’s perfect compassion (Lk 6:36). The Father is kind and merciful to the good and evil alike, so his children must extend mercy even to their enemies (5:7; Lk 10:29–37; Jas 2:13).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Jesus is telling us today that mere outward observance of the law does not produce love. Imagine a couple that merely kept the Ten Commandments in their marriage, saying: “Our marriage is wonderful. We don’t steal from each other, lie to each other, or cheat on each other. And we haven’t even killed each other yet!” Would that make an ideal marriage? Of course not. God does not want spouses simply to avoid hurting one another. He wants them to grow in love.

And that is what God desires for all his disciples. Certainly, we should avoid doing things that directly hurt other people, such as killing, adultery, and lying. Obeying the moral law is a necessary minimum. But in order to live as members of God’s kingdom, we need to do more. True disciples need to cultivate the inner attitudes and dispositions that transform the heart and build up love, such as the kind of patience, meekness, purity, and mercy that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. This is why Jesus calls us to go beyond external conformity to the requirements of the law and imitate the perfect love of the heavenly Father, who is love himself (5:48; 1 John 4:8).

The love to which Jesus calls us is beyond the capacity of our fallen human nature, but the gift of the Spirit received through faith and the sacraments makes it possible. Jesus summons us to a heavenly way of life; the saints show that it is possible to live this way on earth.

– Adapted from Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, The Gospel of Matthew

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), 16–17.

The Transfiguration

Scripture Reading

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.” 

(Mark 9:2-13)

 

Scripture Study

9:2–8 The Transfiguration balances out the shock of Jesus’ first Passion prediction in 8:31–33, strengthening the faith of three apostles (9:2) destined for special leadership positions in the early Church. Beholding the glory of Jesus assures them of his divine Sonship and foreshadows their own glorification at the resurrection (CCC 554–55). Like Jesus’ Baptism, this event reveals the Trinity: the Father’s voice is heard (9:7), the Son is transfigured (9:2), and the Spirit is present in the cloud (9:7). ● Morally (Origen, Comm. in Matt. 12, 36): Christ led the disciples up the mountain after six days to show that we must rise above our love for created things, which were made by God in six days, to enter on the seventh day into the vision of Christ’s glory.

9:10 rising from the dead: The belief in a collective resurrection was accepted by many Jews during NT times (Dan 12:2; Jn 11:23–25; Acts 24:15). Only the Sadducees expressly denied it (12:18). The disciples are here perplexed that Jesus speaks of an individual resurrection, since they as yet had no clear understanding of a dying and rising Messiah (8:31–33).

9:11 first Elijah must come: Elijah’s reappearance was a common expectation based on the prophecy of Mal 4:5. ● In context, God promised to send Elijah to prepare Israel for his scheduled arrival on the “day of the Lord”. His mission was to restore family relationships (Mal 4:6) and the tribes of Israel (Sir 48:10). John the Baptist fulfills this prophetic role as the forerunner to Jesus (9:13). 

9:13 as it is written of him: As Elijah suffered at the hands of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1–10), so John the Baptist suffered martyrdom by Herod Antipas and his mistress Herodias (6:27).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel presents the Transfiguration of Christ. What is the Transfiguration itself? Mark speaks literally of a metamorphosis, a going beyond the form that he had. If I could use Paul’s language, it is “the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” In and through his humble humanity, his divinity shines forth. The proximity of his divinity in no way compromises the integrity of his humanity, but rather makes it shine in greater beauty. This is the New Testament version of the burning bush.

The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.

Note how this same Jesus then accompanies his disciples back down the mountain and walks with them in the ordinary rhythms of their lives. This is the Christ who wants to reign as Lord of our lives in every detail. If we forget about this dimension, then Jesus becomes a distant memory, nothing more than a figure from the past.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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), 81.