Stay Awake!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
(Matthew 24:42-51)

Scripture Study

24:42. Stay awake Jesus himself draws from this revelation about the future the practical moral that a Christian needs to be on the watch, living each day as if it were his last. The important thing is not to be speculating about when these events will happen and what form they will take, but to live in such a way that they find us in the state of grace.

24:43–44 When it finally arrives, the hour when the Lord comes will catch many by surprise. His arrival will be “like a thief at night” (1 Thess 5:2). The danger is that disciples will be lulled to sleep, like the master of a house who settled down to bed, only to discover in the morning that a nighttime burglar made off with his valuables. Preparedness for the Lord’s return requires spiritual alertness and vigilance.

24:45 The first of the three parables contrasts opposite responses of a servant who is put in charge of his master’s house during his absence. The master is Jesus himself, a point more obvious in the Greek text, where the same term kyrios is rendered “Lord” in the preceding section (24:42). The household is presumably the Church, the community of disciples that Jesus embraces as his spiritual family (12:49–50; see 1 Tim 3:15). Within this ecclesial frame of reference, the servants are naturally viewed as spiritual shepherds, and the distribution of food probably alludes to their ministry—the proclamation of the word and the administration of the sacraments. The question is whether the Church’s leaders will prove faithful and prudent.

24:46–47 Crucial to the storyline is the day of the master’s return, which is unknown to the servant in charge. Blessed is the one who proves responsible in discharging his duties while his master is away. Such a one is prepared to meet the Lord and to render an honorable account for his actions. Notice, however, that readiness is not reduced to standing lookout. The faithful servant is not praised for sitting by the window, peering out at the horizon for the first glimpse of the master’s homecoming. Preparedness is a matter of doing the work of the Lord.

Should the master find his servant faithful, he will put him in charge of his entire estate. Fulfillment of one’s responsibilities is thus rewarded with greater responsibilities. The servant is thus promoted to a higher level of service.

24:48–49 Jesus then considers the failings of the wicked servant. The servant’s initial misstep is the unfounded confidence that his master is long delayed when, in fact, the day and hour of his return is simply unknown (v. 50). Obviously the servant is dishonorable, for he exploits the lack of supervision by setting aside his duties to engage in some harsh and profligate activities. He misuses his authority by roughing up fellow servants who are subordinate to him; then he indulges in food and drink in the company of drunkards (see 1 Tim 3:1–5).

24:50–51 When the unexpected day arrives, and the master returns to discover his trust and his servants abused, he will punish the wicked servant severely. The Greek is more graphic, indicating that the master “cuts him in two.” The seriousness of the servant’s mission is underscored by the severity of the retribution meted out for non-fulfillment. The wicked servant is assigned a place among the hypocrites of the world. This is where the damned spend eternity wailing in torment and grinding their teeth. Frightful indeed is the prospect of Christian leaders failing the master by pleasing themselves and abusing the authority entrusted to them.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus says that “no one knows” the day of his glorious return. It is enough for us to know that his coming is certain, even if we cannot mark it on the calendar. Of course, from time to time we hear of people who claim to know when the Second Coming will occur, as if somehow they’ve been privileged to pry into the mind of God and discover the undiscoverable. Apart from the impossibility of penetrating a mystery kept secret by God, these misguided efforts miss the whole point of what is revealed for us to know.

Instead of trying to predict the future, Jesus wants us to prepare for it. The former is a waste of time; the latter is an exercise of wisdom that every disciple should take to heart. The Lord is calling each of us to a state of readiness. Had he revealed the timing of his return, we would surely become complacent in serving God, in ministering to the needs of others, and in making continued efforts at repentance. Christians must keep awake, spiritually speaking, if they are to secure their inheritance as sons and daughters of God (24:13). The sober reality is that Jesus’ coming “could be accomplished at any moment” (Catechism 673).
– Edward Sri

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

 

 

Woe To You

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
(Matthew 23:27-32)

Scripture Study

23:27–28 The sixth woe, like the preceding one, deals with concern for externals and neglect of what is inside. Since contact with dead bodies, even when one was unaware of it, caused ritual impurity (Nm 19:11–22), tombs were whitewashed so that no one would contract such impurity inadvertently.

23:29–32 In spite of honoring the slain dead by building their tombs and adorning their memorials, and claiming that they would not have joined in their ancestors’crimes if they had lived in their days, the scribes and Pharisees are true children of their ancestors and are defiantly ordered by Jesus to fill up what those ancestors measured out. This order reflects the Jewish notion that there was an allotted measure of suffering that had to be completed before God’s final judgment would take place.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus launches a blistering attack on the scribes and Pharisees. What are the underlying problems that bother Jesus?

First, “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to help them.” Some religious leaders burden people, making demands that are terrible, exulting in their own moral superiority.

Secondly, “All their works are performed to be seen.” They use the law and morality as a means of inflating the ego. A pious Jew would wear Phylacteries as a sign of devotion. Well, they think, why not widen them, draw attention to them to show people how pious they are.

Third, “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces and the salutation, ‘Rabbi.'” Titles, privileges, places of honor, marks of respect. Like any drug, these provide a rush. The trouble is that this drug wears off rather quickly, and then we want more of it. A greater title, more respect, more recognition. What is Jesus’ recommendation for those caught in this dilemma? Be satisfied with doing your work on behalf of God’s kingdom, whatever it is.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

You Know Me

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
(Psalm 139:1-3, 4-6)

Scripture Study

139:1–6. All actions are included in these references to opposites—sitting down and getting up, walking and lying down (vv. 2–3). Behind these actions are thoughts (v. 2), and God knows these even before they become words (v. 4). The psalmist cannot understand God’s actions in his regard (vv. 5–6). He feels the presence of God all around him, and senses that everything that happens to him comes from God, but he cannot fathom its underlying meaning. The passage deals with feelings somewhat similar to those expressed by Job in Job 13:27.

139:1 you have probed me God has examined the psalmist very closely and knows him in detail (see Prov 18:17).

139:2 thoughts The Hebrew word used here, rea’, is one of the most common Hebrew words in the ot for thinking.

139:3 all my ways A common way to refer to someone’s habits.

139:5 You hem me in It is unclear what connotation the psalmist intends when using the Hebrew word tsur here; it can mean “to bind,” “encircle,” or “lay siege to.”

139:6 the psalmist indicates that he accepts close scrutiny from God, but that he does not understand it.

Scripture Reflection

This is the most personal expression in Scripture of the Old Testament’s radical monotheism. It is a doctrinal classic because it portrays human existence in all its dimensions in terms of God’s knowledge, presence, and power. It reflects an understanding of the human as enclosed in divine reality. The psalm is even more a devotional classic, because used as prayer it bestows and nurtures an awareness of the LORD as the total environment of life. It teaches and confesses in the fullest way that “my times are in your hand.”

The psalmist confesses that he is never free of God in his total existence, but the relation is described in such a way that neither is a prisoner of or mere function of the other. The psalmist is free for and to God. God is the limit of his existence, yet he is himself a real person to God—accountable, confronted, known. God is free for and to the psalmist. The motions of God’s relation to the psalmist transcend the psalmist’s understanding. What he knows, he knows he does not know. His knowing is an unknowing; its achievement is wonder, and its only certainty is “I am with you.”

The composer of this psalm seems to have meditated on the vision of the LORD as the righteous judge who knows, searches, and tests the hearts of human beings. The psalm is composed of the implications of that vision for the existence of the psalmist, voiced as praise and prayer. The vision of God to whom every aspect of one’s life from conception is present can be terrifying.

The psalm shows that the vision inspires wisdom and trust for those who want nothing else than to be led in the way everlasting. The apostle Paul once said of himself, “Now I know only in part; then I will fully know even as I have been fully known.” Perhaps this psalm is a knowing only in part, but it is a knowing that knows already that it is fully known by God. It is a prayer that will lead all who make it their own into that knowing.

– James Mays

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

 

 

Do I?

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”
(Matthew 23:12-22)

Scripture Study

23:13 You lock the kingdom of heaven: cf. Mt 16:19 where Jesus tells Peter that he will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the authority expressed by that metaphor is to give entrance into the kingdom (the kingdom is closed only to those who reject the authority); here the charge is made that the authority of the scribes and Pharisees is exercised in such a way as to be an obstacle to entrance. Cf. Lk 11:52 where the accusation against the “scholars of the law” (Matthew’s scribes) is that they “have taken away the key of knowledge.”

23:14 Some manuscripts add a verse here or after Mt 23:12 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. Because of this, you will receive a very severe condemnation.” Cf. Mk 12:40; Lk 20:47. This “woe” is almost identical with Mk 12:40 and seems to be an interpolation derived from that text.

23:15 In the first century a.d. until the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (a.d. 66–70), many Pharisees conducted a vigorous missionary campaign among Gentiles. Convert: literally, “proselyte,” a Gentile who accepted Judaism fully by submitting to circumcision and all other requirements of Mosaic law. Child of Gehenna: worthy of everlasting punishment; Twice as much as yourselves: possibly this refers simply to the zeal of the convert, surpassing that of the one who converted him.

23:16–22 An attack on the casuistry that declared some oaths binding (one is obligated) and others not (it means nothing) and held the binding oath to be the one made by something of lesser value (the gold; the gift on the altar). Such teaching, which inverts the order of values, reveals the teachers to be blind guides; cf. Mt 15:14. Since the Matthean Jesus forbids all oaths to his disciples (Mt 5:33–37), this woe does not set up a standard for Christian moral conduct, but ridicules the Pharisees on their own terms.

Scripture Reflection

The Lord’s indictment of the Pharisees should lead us, especially those involved in Christian leadership, to a sober examination of conscience. What is most alarming about the Pharisees is their total unawareness of their dire condition. Given this human capacity for spiritual blindness, we have every reason to pray for the grace of self-knowledge.

The questions that follow are based on Jesus’ reproof of the Pharisees. Using them to examine ourselves, we can strive to avoid the conduct that Jesus found so displeasing:

  • Do I practice what I preach?
  • Do I help others live by God’s standards, or do I simply instruct them on what those standards are?
  • Do I perform religious actions to impress others or to obtain God’s approval?
  • Do I desire salutations of honor?
  • Do I relate to people in a way that welcomes them to conversion, or do I imply by my actions that they are not welcome in the kingdom?
  • Do I evade responsibilities by legalistic reasoning?
  • Do I emphasize lesser matters to the neglect of justice, mercy, and fidelity?

These questions identify the typical faults of people who are trying to live the Christian life on their own strength. To rise above them—and so avoid the failings of the Pharisees—we need the grace that God wants to give us through prayer and regular confession.

– Curtis Mitch

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

 

Who Do You Say I Am?

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
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.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
(Matthew 16:13-20)

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. 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).

16:16 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. This, among other things, supports the view proposed by many scholars that Matthew has here combined his source’s confession with a post-resurrectional confession of faith in Jesus as Son of the living God that belonged to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter; cf. 1 Cor 15:5; Lk 24:34.

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.” The Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple’s new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Although the two words were generally used with slightly different nuances, they were also used interchangeably with the same meaning, “rock.” 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. In Mt 18:18 all the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing, but the context of that verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.

16:20 Cf. Mk 8:30. Matthew makes explicit that the prohibition has to do with speaking of Jesus as the Messiah.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples that devastating question: “But who do you say that I am?” But the disciples don’t speak. Are they afraid? Perhaps. Finally Simon Peter speaks: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You are the Meshiach, the anointed one, the long-awaited savior, but more to it, you are the Son of God, not just a human hero. This is the mystical faith that stands at the heart of Christianity. To hold this Petrine faith is to be a Christian; to deny it is to deny Christianity.

And then those amazing words of Jesus: “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” This insight did not come from Simon’s own intelligent speculation. It came from above, through grace, from God. And this is why Peter is a rock.

The Church is built, not on a worldly foundation of any kind, but on a mystical foundation, born of Peter’s faith in the revealing God. The Church is neither democratic nor aristocratic—it is charismatic. And this is where its power comes from.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Exaltation of Self

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Matthew 23:1-12)

Scripture Study

23:2 Moses’ seat: This may be an actual “chair”, like those used in later synagogues, or only a symbol of teaching authority. The Pharisees thus preach the Mosaic Law with authority, but their failure to practice its “weightier matters” (23:23) should not be followed by others.

23:5 their phylacteries: Small leather boxes containing Scripture verses. These are tied to the forearm and forehead while praying (Deut 6:8; 11:18). Making them broad, the Pharisees sought to parade their piety for public recognition. fringes:

23:7 rabbi: A Hebrew word meaning “my great one” and a title for revered Jewish teachers (Jn 1:38).

23:9 call no man your father: Jesus uses hyperbole to post a warning that no one should pridefully desire honorific titles. His words are not meant literally. The NT writers elsewhere use father for natural fathers (Heb 12:7–11) and spiritual fathers in the Church (1 Cor 4:15; Philem 10). ● The spiritual fatherhood of New Covenant priests is an extension of its application to Old Covenant priests (Judg 17:10; 18:19).

Scripture Reflection

Catholics are sometimes criticized for addressing their priests as Father. On the surface the practice does appear to contradict Jesus’ teaching in Matt 23:9. However, there is reason to think that Jesus is stressing the fundamental equality of his disciples, rather than establishing a literal prohibition against the use of religious titles. The earliest Christians did not understand Jesus to forbid such a practice. Both Stephen and Paul address Jewish crowds with the words, “Brothers and fathers” (Acts 7:2; 22:1), and the word father appears in other New Testament passages with reference to natural fathers (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21; Heb 12:9) as well as spiritual fathers (1 Cor 4:15; Phil 2:22; Philem 10). Likewise, spiritual leaders in the ascetic movement of the third and fourth centuries were addressed as Father, just as tradition commonly refers to the great teachers of the early centuries as the Church Fathers. The practice of the Catholic Church is consistent with these biblical and historical precedents.

Nevertheless, Jesus’ words contain a salutary warning against a sinful desire or affection for honorific titles. Even the greatest spiritual fathers and teachers among us should never be (or want to be) esteemed in a way that compares to our reverence for the Father in heaven or the world’s true Teacher, the Messiah. Likewise, those of us who are called Father or Teacher (Professor or Doctor) must not love those expressions of honor or let them cause us to forget that our fundamental relationship to other Christians is that of fellow disciple, brother, or sister.

– Edward Sri

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

 

The Greatest Command

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:34-40)

Scripture Study

22:35 [A scholar of the law]: meaning “scribe.” Although this reading is supported by the vast majority of textual witnesses, it is the only time that the Greek word so translated occurs in Matthew. It is relatively frequent in Luke, and there is reason to think that it may have been added here by a copyist since it occurs in the Lucan parallel (Lk 10:25–28).

22:36 For the devout Jew all the commandments were to be kept with equal care, but there is evidence of preoccupation in Jewish sources with the question put to Jesus.

22:37–38 Cf. Dt 6:5. Matthew omits the first part of Mark’s fuller quotation (Mk 12:29; Dt 6:4–5), probably because he considered its monotheistic emphasis needless for his church. The love of God must engage the total person (heart, soul, mind).

22:39 Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to him and joins to the greatest and the first commandment a second, that of love of neighbor, Lv 19:18. This combination of the two commandments may already have been made in Judaism.

22:40 The double commandment is the source from which the whole law and the prophets are derived.

Scripture Reflection

In reply to the question, our Lord points out that the whole law can be condensed into two commandments: the first and more important consists in unconditional love of God; the second is a consequence and result of the first, because when man is loved, St Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God.

A person who genuinely loves God also loves his fellows because he realizes that they are his brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, redeemed by the same blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord establishes as the guideline for our love of neighbor the love each of us has for himself; both love of others and love of self are based on love of God. Hence, in some cases it can happen that God requires us to put our neighbor’s need before our own; in others, not: it depends on what value, in the light of God’s love, needs to be put on the spiritual and material factors involved.

From all this we can deduce that self-love of the right kind, based on God’s love for man, necessarily involves forgetting oneself in order to love God and our neighbor for God.

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

 

Greater Things

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:45-51)

Scripture Study

1:45 Moses … the prophets: Introduces a theme of scriptural fulfillment that runs throughout the Gospel narrative (2:22; 5:46; 7:38; 10:35; etc.).

1:46 Nazareth: A small and secluded Galilean village considered unimportant to many in Israel.

1:47 A true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him: Jacob was the first to bear the name “Israel” (Gn 32:29), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (Gn 27:35–36).

1:48 Under the fig tree: a symbol of messianic peace (cf. Mi 4:4; Zec 3:10).

1:49 Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (2 Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:27), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf. Jn 20:28).

1:50 Possibly a statement: “You [singular] believe because I saw you under the fig tree.”

1:51 The double “Amen” is characteristic of John. You is plural in Greek. The allusion is to Jacob’s ladder (Gn 28:12).

Scripture Reflection

A Christian may find that, in trying to communicate his faith to others, they raise difficulties. What should they do? What Philip did—not trust his own explanation, but invite them to approach Jesus personally: “Come and see.” In other words, a Christian should bring his brothers and sisters into Jesus’ presence through the means of grace which he has given them.

Nathanael, a sincere person, goes along with Philip to see Jesus and makes personal contact with our Lord. The outcome is that he receives faith, the result of his ready reception of grace, which reaches him through Christ’s human nature. It’s about intimacy with the Lord.

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

 

A Most Generous God

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
(Matthew 20:1-16)

Scripture Study

20:4 What is just: although the wage is not stipulated as in the case of those first hired, it will be fair.

20:8 Beginning with the last … the first: this element of the parable has no other purpose than to show how the first knew what the last were given (Mt 20:12).

20:13 I am not cheating you: literally, “I am not treating you unjustly.”

20:14–15 The owner’s conduct involves no violation of justice (Mt 20:4, 13), and that all the workers receive the same wage is due only to his generosity to the latest arrivals; the resentment of the first comes from envy.

20:16 Different interpretations have been given to this saying, which comes from Mk 10:31. In view of Matthew’s associating it with the following parable and substantially repeating it (in reverse order) at the end of that parable, it may be that his meaning is that all who respond to the call of Jesus, at whatever time (first or last), will be the same in respect to inheriting the benefits of the kingdom, which is the gift of God.

Scripture Reflection

The parable of the vineyard workers shines a spotlight on the extravagant generosity of God. The late hires received from the divine landowner the same compensation as the early arrivals, yet this was neither earned by their efforts nor owed to them according to the terms of the contract. It was not something they deserved or merited. It was simply a gift that the Lord was free to bestow at his good pleasure.

The early hires, however, mistook divine generosity for divine injustice. Theirs was an instinctive human reaction to an unfulfilled expectation (“we should have gotten more than the latecomers”) combined with a perception of unfairness (“the latecomers got a better hourly rate than we did”). Many of us can relate to the perspective of the disgruntled workers; their initial reaction—and perhaps ours—is to think they have been cheated.

But this is not the case, as the landowner explains in verses. The injustice lies instead with the grumbling laborers, who have become envious of the others. Envy is not simply jealousy, which is the desire to attain or possess what another person has. Envy is the sin of being upset at another’s good fortune. The Book of Wisdom traces its beginning back to the devil himself.

The parable thus conveys a theological message about God’s goodness as well as a moral message that cautions readers against envy. The challenge is to rejoice at the liberality of God manifest in the lives of others. None of us is deserving of his grace or has a claim on his blessings. We all have reason to be grateful that the Lord is “generous.”

– Curtis Mitch

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

Our Hope

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
(Psalm 85:9, 11-12, 13-14)

Scripture Study

85:9 those who put in him their hope Refers to those who honor God by worshiping Him and following His commandments.

85:11 Truth shall spring out of the earth Israel is faithful to God from below; justice shall look down from heaven God cares for Israel from above.

85:13 Justice shall walk before him This phrase may have an intentional double meaning: God’s righteousness (tsedeq in Hebrew) enables Israel’s faithfulness, and Israel’s righteousness makes it so that Yahweh can express His love without violating His character (compare vv. 10–11).

Scripture Reflection

This description of salvation is one of the most beautiful to be found in Scripture. “The people of the Old Covenant experienced this misery [of sin] from the time of the Exodus, when they set up the golden calf. The Lord himself triumphed over this act of breaking the Covenant when he solemnly declared to Moses that he was a ‘God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex 34:6). It is in this central revelation that the chosen people, and each of its members, will find, every time that they have sinned, the strength and the motive for turning to the Lord to remind him of what he had exactly revealed about himself and to beseech his forgiveness.

Thus, in deeds and in words, the Lord revealed his mercy from the very beginnings of the people which he chose for himself; and, in the course of its history, this people continually entrusted itself, both when stricken with misfortune and when it became aware of its sin, to the God of mercies. All the subtleties of love become manifest in the Lord’s mercy towards those who are his own.”

– Saint Pope John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 4

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