Heavenly Food

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:51-58)

Scripture Study

6:51 I shall give: The future tense points both to the Cross, where Jesus surrenders his life for human sins, and to the eucharistic liturgy, where Jesus offers himself as living bread to a starving world.

6:52 his flesh to eat?: The crowd is thinking of cannibalism, i.e., the sin of eating a human corpse, an idea thoroughly repugnant to them (Deut 28:53). This is a misunderstanding. Jesus gives us, not his mortal flesh as it was during his earthly ministry, but his glorified humanity as it was after rising from the dead. This is why he calls himself the “living bread” (6:51).

6:53 eat the flesh … drink his blood: Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentally. If he were speaking metaphorically or figuratively, his words would echo a Hebrew idiom where consuming flesh and blood refers to the brutalities of war (Deut 32:42; Ezek 39:17–18). no life in you: i.e., divine life. ● Drinking the blood of animals is forbidden under the Old Covenant (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10–13; Deut 12:16). To do so is to consume “life” that is merely natural and of a lower order than human life. Jesus’ injunction does not fall under these prohibitions. The “life” he imparts is not natural but supernatural; it does not pull us down to the level of animals; it elevates us to become sharers in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) (CCC 1391).

6:58 will live for ever: The expression occurs rarely in the Bible, only twice in John (6:51, 58) and once in the Greek version of Gen 3:22. ● A comparison is thus implied between the Tree of Life, which bore the fruit of immortality, and the Bread of Life, which tradition calls the “medicine of immortality” (CCC 1331).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel passage is one of the most shocking in the New Testament. Those who heard it were not only repulsed intellectually, they were disgusted, viscerally. For a Jewish man to be insinuating that you should eat his own flesh and drink his blood was about as nauseating and religiously objectionable as you could get.

So what does Jesus do? Does he soften his rhetoric when he hears these reactions? Does he offer a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation? Does he back off? On the contrary, he intensifies what he just said: “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” As all the scholars point out to us, the verb used here in Greek is trogein, which indicates the way an animal eats.

So what do we do? How should we understand this? If we stand in the great Catholic tradition, we honor these mysterious and wonderful words of Jesus. We resist all attempts to soften them or explain them away or make them easier to swallow. We affirm, with all of our hearts, the doctrine of the real presence.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Impelled by His Love

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
(2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

Scripture Study

5:14 the love of Christ urges us on: The sacrificial love of Christ displayed on the Cross was overwhelming to Paul as it should be to us (Rom 5:8). This same divine love is poured into our hearts through the Spirit (Rom 5:5) and urges us to spread it among others by word and example (Jn 15:12–13) (CCC 851).

5:15 no longer for themselves: Christians are born to a new life of grace that enables them to conquer selfishness and the tendency to live solely for private, personal interests. Purchased for God at the price of Christ’s blood (1 Cor 6:20), believers should strive to live the rest of their days for him (CCC 655, 1269).

5:16 according to the flesh: According to some, this implies that Paul knew the historical Jesus during his earthly ministry. More likely, Paul is claiming that life in the Spirit brings a new perception of things, more penetrating than natural reason (1 Cor 2:12–15). Whereas the crucified Christ appears dead and defeated from a human viewpoint, from a spiritual viewpoint his Cross is a powerful sign of victory and life.

5:17 a new creation: Baptism transfers us from the bondage of sin and slavery to the blessings of salvation and sonship. The New Covenant thus begins a new order in history where creation is steadily renewed, beginning with our souls and extending into every corner of the cosmos (Rom 8:19–25; Rev 21:1–5). Christ does not destroy the old order of creation but heals it, perfects it, and elevates it with supernatural life (CCC 1214, 1265). ● The prophets of Israel envisioned this renewal far in advance of Christ’s coming. Isaiah announced that Yahweh would restore the world, beginning with Israel (Is 42:6–9; 43:18–21; 65:17; 66:22). Other oracles foretold a return to the conditions of creation in Eden before sin and decay entered in (Is 51:3; Ezek 36:33–35).

5:18 ministry of reconciliation: The ministry of the apostles is to reunite the human family with the Father. For this to happen, the barrier of sin that separates them must be torn down by the sacramental and evangelistic actions of the Church (Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23; Acts 2:38) (CCC 981, 1424, 2844).

5:19 not counting their trespasses: Essential to our reconciliation with God but not equivalent to it. Forgiveness, though it includes the nonimputation of sin (Rom 4:6–8), is based on a true removal of guilt (Ps 103:12) by the cleansing power of the Sacraments (Jn 20:23; Acts 22:16; Jas 5:14–15). This is why Paul describes the believer as “a new creation” in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

5:20 ambassadors: The term refers to envoys who represented Roman emperors in distant territories. These representatives carried the authority of the reigning ruler with them wherever they went. Similarly, Christians in general and the apostles in particular bear, each in their own way, the royal, priestly, and prophetic authority of Christ to the world (Mt 18:18; Rom 15:16; Rev 5:9–10) (CCC 859).

5:21 made him to be sin: Jesus was not made a sinner or personally counted guilty of sin on the Cross. Rather, he bore the curse of death that mankind incurred because of sin (Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:22–24), even though he himself knew no sin, i.e., committed no sin (Jn 8:46; 1 Jn 3:5) (CCC 602–3). ● Paul adopts the idiom of the Greek OT, where “sin” is a shorthand expression for a Levitical “sin offering” (Lev 4:21; 5:12; 6:25). Isaiah uses this same language for the suffering Messiah, who was expected to make himself an “offering for sin” (Is 53:10). the righteousness of God: An important expression in Paul’s writings. It can refer (1) to God’s own righteousness that is manifest to the world when he is faithful to his covenants (Rom 3:25–26) and (2) to the gift of righteousness that God imparts to the baptized (Phil 3:9).

Scripture Reflection

“The love of Christ controls us.” With these words, Paul sums up what motivates his tireless apostolic activity—the love of Jesus. The love of Christ should also inspire all other Christians to commit themselves to respond to Christ’s love, and it should fill them with a desire to bring to all souls the salvation won by Christ. It is impossible to live according to the heart of Jesus Christ and not to know that we are sent as the light to the world to bring others to Christ. We need to trust in the mercy of God more and more every day. As a result, we will foster in ourselves a vehement desire to live as co-redeemers with Christ, to save all souls with him.

– St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By

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), 318-320.

New Life In Christ

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,”
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-15)

Scripture Study

4:7 in earthen vessels: At present, our human bodies are frail and corruptible, like jars made of clay. The difference between earthenware and treasure points to the distinction between the perishable nature of our bodies and the imperishable riches of grace they contain. Paul fills others with this treasure through his ministry of preaching and administering the Sacraments (CCC 1420). ● Paul is using a cultic expression from the OT that refers to the sacred vessels in which sin offerings were cooked (Lev 6:28). In a similar way, we carry the sacrificial “death of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:10) in our suffering bodies.

4:8–11 The grace of apostleship safeguards Paul against despair. Although in constant distress, he is not shattered or overcome by anxiety as a result of it. Hardships conform us to Christ when we follow his example of suffering (Phil 1:29; 1 Pet 2:21), while endurance is inspired by the hope of resurrection (2 Cor 4:14; Heb 11:35).

4:12 but life in you: The sacrifices of Paul are united with the sacrifice of Jesus and, for this reason, unleash the blessings of God (Col 1:24). As Christ’s death brought life to the world, so the apostle’s ministry of daily “dying” becomes a channel of life for others as well.

4:13 I believed, and so I spoke: A citation from the Greek version of Ps 114:7. ● Psalm 116 is a hymn of thanksgiving in which David recalls his faith in Yahweh during times of distress and remembers how he was rescued. Paul and the other apostles share this faith that God will deliver them from mortal dangers—and even death itself—and expect to thank him in return.

Scripture Reflection

St Paul again stresses that the effectiveness of all his apostolic activity comes from God, He it is who places his treasures in poor earthenware vessels. The image the Apostle uses—which is reminiscent of the clay which God used to make Adam, helps Christians realize that through grace they bear in their souls a wonderful treasure, God himself; like earthen vessels they are very fragile and they need to be put together again in the sacrament of Confession.

The Apostle’s words assure the Christian that he or she can always count on God’s help; no matter what trials they must undergo, victory can be attained with the grace of God. Moreover, St Paul’s example reminds us that more or less severe suffering and tribulation will be a normal thing in the lives of Christ’s followers; theirs will never be a comfortable, trouble-free life.

What should inspire all Christians is the firm belief in the resurrection glory, the basis and cause of which is Christ’s. This provides us with the hope of sharing this happiness in heaven, in the presence of God, with all the faithful for whose salvation he is working on earth.

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

But I Say

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
(Matthew 5:20-26)

Scripture Study

Following Christ’s elucidation of the law, his disciples must pursue a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. In terms of external obedience to the law’s regulations, the scribes and Pharisees were known as model followers of the Torah. But Jesus’ teaching calls for “a radical interiorization, a total obedience to God, a complete self-giving to neighbor, that carries the ethical thrust of the law to its God-willed conclusion.” Thus the standard of righteousness demanded of disciples goes beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees. It requires much more than external conformity to the law’s regulations. Jesus calls his followers to wholehearted trust and obedience toward the heavenly Father that radiates God’s love to the world.

In the first example, Jesus does not want us merely to avoid killing one another; he calls us to remove the attitudes and actions that lead to killing and, indeed, every obstacle to unconditional love. He quotes the fifth commandment You shall not kill (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17 LXX), which prohibited murder, not capital punishment or killing in war (Exod 21:12–17; Num 31:3–8). But Jesus goes beyond the letter of the law, calling people to avoid even the kind of anger and critical speech that seeks to wound another person and thus destroys relationships. Whoever is angry with his brother or publicly dishonors him by calling him Raqa (meaning imbecile or idiot) or You fool will face severe punishment. The next two illustrations underscore the importance of not letting anger persist. Jesus addresses the person who is about to offer sacrifice but remembers an unresolved problem in a personal relationship. Jesus says, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother. Spoken in Galilee, this dramatic picture might suggest a Galilean leaving his animal at the altar and going all the way back to his home to be reconciled with his brother before returning to complete the sacrifice. This hyperbole would accentuate the urgency to resolve any tensions in a relationship rather than letting them fester.

With his next illustration, Jesus challenges his disciples to Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. If you succeed in reaching an out-of-court settlement, Jesus suggests, you avoid the risk that the divine judge will render judgment against you. The RSV translates the word for “settle” as “make friends.” Responding to your accuser with anger only increases hostility, but good will and a desire to be reconciled helps restore friendship. The dramatic image of being thrown into prison points to the consequence of not seeking reconciliation with one’s opponents (18:23–25).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has established himself symbolically as the new Moses, giving a law upon a mountain. His “you have heard it said, but I say…” has revealed that he has authority even over the Torah. The law is not being abrogated; it is being intensified.

The law was always meant to bring humanity into line with divinity. In the beginning, this alignment was at a fairly basic level. But now that the definitive Moses has appeared, the alignment is becoming absolute, radical, complete.

And so, “You have heard it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” Killing is an action, but that action is rooted in a more fundamental dysfunction: a hateful attitude, a disordered soul, a basic misperception of reality. To be like God utterly, we have to eliminate, obviously, cruel and hateful actions, but we have to go deeper, eliminating cruel and hateful thoughts and attitudes, for God is love, right through.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Fulfillment

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:17-19)

Scripture Study

5:17 Jesus speaks of the law and the prophets, a reference to the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures (see 7:12; 22:40). In saying that he has come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them, he claims to bring to realization all that the Old Testament anticipated. In Matthew the verb “to fulfill” is rarely used in the sense of “to carry out.” Most often it refers to Christ’s bringing Old Testament expectations to fulfillment. Jesus declares that “the law prophesied” (11:13), which implies that the law, like the prophets, pointed ahead to a future fulfillment. Jesus fulfills the law and prophets in one way through his entire life, death, and resurrection, as Matthew’s fulfillment quotations indicate. In another sense Jesus brings the law to fulfillment in his teaching, by showing the kind of life to which the law ultimately pointed (5:17).

5:18–19 “Amen, I say to you” is Jesus’ way of solemnly introducing an authoritative statement. It is used thirty-one times in Matthew. Here, it introduces Jesus’ teaching about the law’s enduring validity. Jesus sees himself and his teaching as being in continuity with Israel’s religious heritage. As 5:21–48 will make clear, Jesus is the authoritative interpreter of the Torah, transcending some traditional understandings of the law and revealing that to which the law was ultimately directed. He explains that true faithfulness to God’s underlying purpose for the law sometimes demands an interiorizing of the legal precepts without diminishing their literal force (5:21–30). Sometimes faithfulness to God’s purpose requires following a higher standard than is expressed in the law—a standard that reflects God’s ultimate intention for his people (5:31–37). It even demands setting aside one’s rights under the law (5:38–42) in order to practice charity in imitation of the Father (5:43–48). In sum, the law itself is not abolished but its role changes as Christ brings forth its deeper meaning. It is in this sense that the smallest letter of the law remains until heaven and earth pass away and until all things have taken place. The law retains its status as God’s revealed word, and one must continue to teach and obey these commandments (5:19). But disciples must now follow the law in light of Christ’s authoritative interpretation.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in our Gospel today, Jesus declares that he would not undermine the Law and the Prophets, but fulfill them. Jesus himself was an observant Jew, and the themes and images of the Holy Scriptures were elemental for him.

But what is going to fulfill? Protestant theologian N.T. Wright has pointed out that the Old Testament is essentially an unfinished symphony, a drama without a climax. It is the articulation of a hope, a dream, a longing—but without a realization of that hope, without a satisfaction of that longing. Israel knew itself to be the people with the definite mission to become holy and thereby to render the world holy. But instead, Israel fell into greater and greater sins, and instead of being the catalyst for the conversion of the world, the world was continually overwhelming and enslaving Israel.

And then came Jesus, who turned out to be, in the most unexpected way, the fulfillment of the dream. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus affected the gathering of the tribes of Israel through conversion and the forgiveness of sins.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

A Light to the World

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
(Matthew 5:13-16)

Scripture Study

5:13–14 Two illustrations show that disciples must be true to their calling lest they render themselves useless for the kingdom. Being the salt of the earth, they are to season and preserve the world with peace (Mk 9:50) and gracious speech (Col 4:5). Being the light of the world, they are to bear witness to Jesus and his message (Jn 1:9; 8:12). ● Both images have links with the OT. Salt is associated with the covenant of priesthood made with Aaron and his descendants (Num 18:19) as well as the covenant of kingship made with David and his descendants (2 Chron 13:5). Light is associated with the OT vocation of Israel to make the truth and justice of God shine out to all nations (Is 42:6; 49:6).

5:14 a city set on a hill: An allusion to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. It is a visible sign of the eternal city that awaits the saints in heaven (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; Rev 21:2).

5:16 your Father: Earlier chapters make no mention of the Fatherhood of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, however, Jesus calls God “Father” a total of 17 times (chaps. 5–7). ● God’s Fatherhood is the deepest mystery of his identity; from eternity he fathers a divine Son (Jn 1:1), and throughout history he adopts us as his children in Christ (Jn 1:12; Gal 4:4–7).

Scripture Reflection

In the face of the many problems in the world—violence, materialism, poverty, moral relativism—Jesus challenges us to ask, “What can I do to share God’s love in the world?” Christians are called to be light to the world, and the world will be impacted for better or for worse by the way we live our lives. When we as Christians fail to be saints, when we fail to live the beatitudes and be light, the world suffers. But when we imitate Christ’s love, mercy, and generosity, the world will see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father.

St. John Chrysostom invites us to ponder what the world would be like if the entire Christian community lived in imitation of Christ: “Assuredly, there would be no heathen, if we Christians took care to be what we ought to be; if we obeyed God’s precepts, if we bore injuries without retaliation, if when cursed we blessed, if we rendered good for evil. For no man is so savage a wild beast that he would not run forthwith to the worship of the true religion, if he saw all Christians acting as I have said.”

– Curtis Mitch

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

Blessed

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Matthew 5:1-12)

Scripture Study

5:1 on the mountain: The setting recalls the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19–24). However, Moses brought the Law down the mountain to the people, whereas Jesus delivers his teaching to disciples who have come up the mountain. ● The mountain signifies the higher precepts of righteousness, for the precepts given to Israel were lower. God gave lesser laws to those requiring the bonds of fear, but higher laws to those ready to be set free by love. The higher precepts are for the kingdom of heaven, just as the lower precepts were for a kingdom on earth. he sat down: The posture of a Jewish rabbi speaking with authority (cf. 23:1–2; Jn 8:2).

5:3 the poor in spirit: Those who recognize their need for God and his grace. Unattached to this world, they find their security in the Lord and rely on his mercy rather than their merits or material wealth. The spiritually poor can also be economically poor, for these are often rich in faith (Jas 2:5). Full possession of the kingdom will be theirs at the final Judgment (Mt 25:34) (CCC 2544–47).

5:4 those who mourn: Those who lament the present state of this life. This includes weeping for sins as well as the grief that comes when the saints are made to suffer for their faith. In the life to come, they will be comforted by God, who wipes away every tear (Rev 7:17).

5:5 the meek: Those who appear powerless and insignificant in the eyes of the world. Far from being weak, however, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity. Meekness is exemplified in the life of Moses (Num 12:3) and especially Jesus (11:29; 21:5). In the end, the meek will inherit the earth (or “the land” as in Ps 37:11). This refers either to heaven itself, envisioned as a new Promised Land (Heb 11:16), or to the new creation that is to come (Rom 8:21; Rev 21:1).

5:6 those who hunger and thirst: Those who yearn to live rightly according to the will of God. Their first priority is to seek the Lord’s kingdom and righteousness (6:33) as the most necessary sustenance of life (cf. Jn 4:34). Ultimately, they will be satisfied by God in eternal life (25:46).

5:7 the merciful: Those who imitate the Father’s mercy (Lk 6:36) by extending forgiveness to others (Mt 18:21–22, 33). The merciful are patient and understanding in bearing with others’ faults, and they are generous in aiding the needy by works of charity and compassion (6:2–4; 25:34–40). When the final Judgment comes, they will receive the mercy that lasts forever (6:14; Jas 2:13) (CCC 2447).

5:8 the pure in heart: Those who act with integrity and serve the Lord unselfishly. In biblical terms, the heart is the hidden center of the person where one’s thoughts, words, actions, and emotions are said to originate. A pure heart is undefiled by evil and lustful thoughts (5:27–30; 15:18–20) and finds its true treasure in heaven (6:19–21). In eternity, the pure in heart will see God as the angels do even now (18:10; 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4).

5:9 the peacemakers: Those who sow peace in the world (Jas 3:18). Partly, this means striving to live at peace with others (Heb 12:14); ultimately, it means sharing the gospel so that others can be reconciled with God and live in the peace of Christ (Rom 5:1; Phil 4:7). Peacemakers will be called children of God (Mt 5:45). The gift of divine sonship is both a present possession of believers (Rom 8:14–16; 1 Jn 3:1) and a future hope linked with the resurrection of the body (Rom 8:23) and the glory of eternal life (Rev 21:7) (CCC 2305).

5:10 those who are persecuted: Those who are slandered, abused, or oppressed for their public witness to Christianity. They are targets of the world’s hatred (Jn 15:18–19) because of their commitment to the righteousness of the gospel (1 Pet 3:14). Persecuted disciples can expect a great reward in the coming kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:12).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in the Beatitudes we hear a series of paradoxes, surprises, and reversals. A topsy-turvy universe is being set aright. Let me propose a key for translating these beatitudes. The word found in all of them is makarios, rendered “blessed” or “happy” or perhaps even “lucky.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” How lucky you are if you are not addicted to material things. Here Jesus is telling us here how to realize our deepest desire, which is the desire for God.

“Blessed are they who mourn…” We might interpret it this way: “How lucky are you if you are not addicted to good feelings.” Doing the will of God sometimes involves the acceptance of enormous pain. “Blessed are the meek…” One of the greatest seductions the world holds out to us is power. But what I ought to do is eschew worldly power, so that the power of the will of God might reign in me.

Why would the Father have done such a terrible thing? Out of love. He wanted to bring the divine life even into the darkest places. He wanted to hunt us down. But notice, please, that what kept the Son tethered to the Father, even on his downward journey, was nothing other than the Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and the Son. And this is precisely why we are saved in the Holy Spirit.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

His Only Son

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
(John 3:16-18)

Scripture Study

3:16 gave his only Son: The earthly mission of Jesus is part of the heavenly plan of the Father, who displays the depth of his love through the sacrifice of his Son (Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 3:16; CCC 219). This verse marks a transition from the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus (3:1–15) to an extended monologue by either Jesus or the evangelist himself (3:16–21). eternal life: The expression refers both to the divine quality of new life in Christ as well as its duration. We receive this gift already on earth in the hope that we will possess it irrevocably in heaven (10:10; 1 Jn 5:13).

3:18 already been condemned: Unbelief is a form of rebellion that puts offenders outside the safety of the covenant. To reject the Son of God is to reject the light of faith in preference to spiritual darkness, death, and disinheritance (3:20; CCC 679).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for Trinity Sunday tells us that the Father sent his Son to save the world. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the Trinity is invoked by us every time we make the sign of the cross. This juxtaposition of Trinity and cross is by no means accidental. For the cross is the moment when the tensive unity of the three divine persons is on most vivid display.

The Father, in short, sent the Son all the way into time, history, and the human condition. But then the Father sent him further, into our sin and dysfunction, and finally all the way down into hatred, violence, rejection, and death itself.

Why would the Father have done such a terrible thing? Out of love. He wanted to bring the divine life even into the darkest places. He wanted to hunt us down. But notice, please, that what kept the Son tethered to the Father, even on his downward journey, was nothing other than the Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and the Son. And this is precisely why we are saved in the Holy Spirit.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

Giving Your All

In the course of his teaching Jesus said,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext,
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”
(Mark 12:38-44)

Scripture Study

12:38–39 As Jesus continues teaching in the temple courts he now takes direct aim at the scribes, who have been among his fiercest opponents. Earlier he had warned his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (8:15 RSV); now he tells his listeners, Beware of the scribes (using the same Greek verb, blepō). His point is not for people to stay away from the scribes, one of whom he has just praised (12:34), but to take care to avoid conduct like theirs. Such conduct—the opposite of what Jesus enjoins on Christian leaders (9:35; 10:15, 42–44)—will be severely condemned.

12:40 That the scribes devour the houses of widows could refer to their mismanaging widows’ estates, or sponging off their hospitality, or charging excessive legal fees, or other ways of fleecing them.10 Such financial abuse recalls Jesus’ denunciation of the temple as a “den of thieves” (11:17). In an empty show of piety, and perhaps as a cover for their fraudulent activity, the scribes recite lengthy prayers.

12:41 After denouncing the counterfeit piety of the scribes who “devour the houses of widows” (v. 40), Jesus now shows his disciples an example of true piety, on the part of a widow.

12:42 The poor widow who comes along is an example of the anawim (lowly ones) often mentioned in the Old Testament, the poor and afflicted who find their joy in God alone (Isa 29:19; 61:1; Zeph 2:3). Widows had no inheritance rights in ancient Israel, and usually had to rely on their children, male relatives, or charity for survival. The rich had drawn attention to themselves with their noisy donations, but Jesus’ attention is drawn to this lowly widow.

12:43–44 Jesus calls his disciples to himself—Mark’s signal that important instruction is about to take place—and makes a solemn declaration: this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors. One can imagine the disciples’ jaws dropping, as they had when Jesus declared the danger of riches (10:25–26). Had not the wealthy contributed far more toward the adornment and maintenance of the temple? Was not this woman’s donation practically worthless, so insignificant as to be beneath mentioning? Jesus explains: God measures the gifts given him on a basis totally different from human calculations. He looks at the inner motives of the heart (see 1 Sam 16:7; Luke 16:15).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel we read about the poor widow who gave her all to the Lord. Her simple generosity, her offering her whole livelihood, was a response to God’s unconditional love. God’s love comes first. When we get this wrong, everything else in the spiritual life is thrown off kilter. Listen to how St. John expresses this predilection: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as the expiation of our sins.”

If we play the game of loving God in order to get God to love us, then we are lost. If we think that we can earn salvation or we can work our way into God’s heart, then we are lost. Here’s a good way to think about it: we wouldn’t exist were it not for God’s love. God needs nothing; therefore whatever exists outside of God exists because God desires some good for it. Love precedes, therefore, our intelligence, our courage, our wills, our designs and purposes, indeed our very existence.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Trust In God

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.

The LORD keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts
The LORD shall reign forever,
your God, O Zion, through all generations! Alleluia.
(Psalm 146:1-2, 6-7, 8-10)

Scripture Study

A hymn of someone who has learned there is no other source of strength except the merciful God. Only God, not mortal human beings (Ps 146:3–4), can help vulnerable and oppressed people (Ps 146:5–9).

146:1–2. The psalmist’s words sound particularly forceful if one thinks about the brevity of life on earth: “The contemplative life of the Prophet compels him—if such an expression may be used—to place himself at the end of time. There, seeing the frailty of all things, which because they are of this world wither with age, he dedicates himself to giving praise to God. The end of the world will come quickly to us all: it will come at the moment of our death, when the ties that bind us to everything around us are severed. We will then turn our desires to the activity that will be ours eternally—the giving of praise” (Cassidorus, Expositio psalmorum, 146).

146:5–9. Man may be frail, but God is powerful. The God proclaimed here is the God of Israel (“of Jacob”: cf. Ps 46:7); there is no other: he is the maker of all things. Moreover, it is he who shows mercy to those in every kind of need (vv. 7–9). Therefore he can always be relied on.

146:10. The psalmist’s God (“my God”: v. 2), is the God of Israel (v. 5) and the God of Zion (“thy God”: v. 10), of Jerusalem, to whom he proclaims God’s eternal kingdom.

Scripture Reflection

The contrast between God and humankind is often used in psalms as a way of dealing with the problem of fear before human threats: Trust God and be unafraid of mortals. Here the contrast is used to address the problem of trusting in leaders to save us from the predicaments of human and historical existence.

The problem with human leaders is that they don’t “keep faith forever”; their plans and projects die with them. With their death the hopes of those who trusted in them are dashed. Perhaps Israel’s experience with its leaders is reflected in this wisdom. Their kings and officials were unable to deliver them from the dangers of existence and history. The exile set its seal on their ultimate inability.

The psalm does not say that leaders are unnecessary or not useful. It does warn against trusting them for salvation. Hope based on what passes away is doomed to disappointment. The temptation to put ultimate trust for salvation in human leaders and institutions is perennial. In Psalm 146, praise becomes a critique of such misplaced trust and a proclamation of the only right use of trust—in God who keeps faith!

– James Mays

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