Radiating Christ

Scripture Reading

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

5:13-16 Jesus summons his disciples to be what God’s people were always meant to be: salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt was used to flavor and preserve food. Through living the beatitudes, Jesus’ disciples become salt of the earth, preserving goodness in the world. The disciple who does not embody the beatitudes is like salt that loses its taste: he becomes no longer good for anything. Similarly, the disciples are to be light of the world. In the Jewish tradition Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 60:1–3; Bar 4:2). Jesus calls his disciples to fulfill this role by living the beatitudes in such a way that the world may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus uses the images of salt and light to show how we are to bring salvation to the world. In our rather privatized and individualistic culture, we tend naturally to think of religion as something for ourselves designed to make our lives richer or better. Now there is a sense in which that is true, but on the Biblical reading, religiosity is like salt, light, and an elevated city: it is meant not for oneself, but for others.

Perhaps we can bring these two together by saying that we find salvation for ourselves precisely in the measure that we bring God’s life to others. The point is that we followers of Jesus are meant to be salt, which effectively preserves and enhances what is best in the society around us. We effectively undermine what is dysfunctional in the surrounding culture.

We are also light by which people around us come to see what is worth seeing. By the very quality and integrity of our lives, we shed light, illumining what is beautiful and revealing what is ugly. The clear implication is that, without vibrant Christians, the world is a much worse place.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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“Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee; none of it will be mine; it will be Thou shining on others through me. Let me thus praise Thee in the way Thou dost love best by shining on those around me. Let me preach Thee without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to Thee. Amen.”

– Cardinal John Henry Newman, “Radiating Christ”

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

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 92.

His Compassion

Scripture Reading

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:30-34)

 

Scripture Study

6:30 After the interlude on the death of John the Baptist, Mark picks up where he left off with the mission of the †apostles (6:7–13), who now return to Jesus and report to him all they had done and taught. Although Jesus’ recent instructions (6:7–11) did not mention teaching, it was part of the ministry for which he had appointed them (3:14).

6:31–32 Jesus recognizes that after their period of intense apostolic labors, the Twelve need to be refreshed once again in his presence and in their fellowship with one another. To “be with him” remains a requirement of fruitful apostleship that must be constantly renewed (3:14; see John 15:4). The deserted place recalls the desert of 1:3–13, a place of testing but also a place of solitude and retreat where God’s people withdraw from the world for special intimacy with him. Jesus’ desire to give them rest evokes the rest that God pledges to give his people in the promised land (Exod 33:14; Deut 12:10; see Heb 4:9–11). It also shows his concern for the practical, physical needs of those who spend themselves in his service.

6:33 The moment word gets out that Jesus is taking off by boat the people anticipate where he will go and run there on foot, arriving before them. By the time the boat lands the shore is no longer deserted but lined with a “vast crowd.”

6:34 The hoped-for retreat has been sabotaged. But instead of reacting with exasperation Jesus is moved with pity at the sight of the needy crowds. This is one of the few occasions where Mark gives us a glimpse into the emotions of Jesus, here using a verb that connotes a deeply felt, gut reaction (see 1:41; 8:2). Pity, or compassion, is one of the most distinctive attributes of God (Ps 86:15; Isa 54:7–8; Hosea 11:8). Jesus recognizes that the people are like sheep without a shepherd, a phrase often used to describe the condition of God’s people in the absence of sound leadership. Mark hints that Jesus himself is the divine Shepherd (see John 10:1–18), the fulfillment of God’s promise to care for his people directly and no longer through an intermediary.

In Matthew’s version of this incident, Jesus responds to the people’s need by healing the sick (Matt 14:14). But for Mark, Jesus exercises his saving power first and foremost by teaching. Indeed his teaching is healing, since it liberates people from their captivity to evil (see Mark 1:27). At the same time, his teaching is feeding, since by proclaiming the good news of the kingdom Jesus is satisfying their spiritual hunger.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ compassion for the multitude in the desert. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

There is the motif of the people Israel in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Isolated, alone, afraid, without food, they clamored for something from Moses. Here we see people who are dying to be fed, and a prophet who is under threat of death. This crowd around the threatened Jesus is a metaphor for the Church. We have come to him because we are hungry, and we stay even when things look bleak.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 124–125.

My Light and Salvation

Scripture Reading

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid? 

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.

For he will hide me in his abode
in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.

(Psalm 27:1,3,5,8,9)

 

Scripture Study

27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The inner man, enlightened in this way, does not waver; he follows the right path, and can endure all things. He who contemplates his final homeland from afar can bear all adversity; he is not saddened by worldly things; rather he finds his strength in God; he humbles his heart and is persevering, and his humility makes him patient. The true light, which comes into the world to enlighten all men, is the Son, revealing himself to all; he gives his light to those who fear him; he infuses it into those who desire it, when they desire it.”

27:2–3. These verses suggest a king hard-pressed by his enemies (who “eat up my flesh”: v. 1); he regains his morale by remembering his God.

27:4–6. His first desire is to be with the Lord in his temple, where he can obtain his help and give him thanks. Desiring to dwell in the house of the Lord is the same thing as desiring to be saved and to see God (cf. v. 8).

27:7–9. This prayer spoken aloud (v. 7) stems from the heart of a man who yearns to see the face of God, to obtain his indulgence (v. 8), by having recourse to the temple (cf. v. 4). Commenting on this psalm, St Augustine writes: “In the most hidden place, where only you may hear it, my heart says to you: Lord, I seek your face: and I will continue in this search, without ever taking rest, so that I may love you freely, for I will never find anything more precious than you [your face]” (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 26, 8).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Trust is possible for those who know the LORD as the savior of their life. The psalm articulates that knowledge at the very beginning where it calls the LORD “my light, my salvation, the stronghold of my life” (v. 1). Salvation concerns life; life is in question in some way where salvation is needed. Salvation is intervention that makes life possible in the face of all that threatens, weakens, and corrupts life. The LORD is called “light” because light drives darkness away. It is in the light that life revives and flourishes; it is in the light that one can see the way.

Trust is nurtured and strengthened by the exercise and discipline of religion. In his time of trouble the psalmist asks one thing: to be in the temple, where he can visualize the beauty of the LORD and seek the direction for his life that comes with the instruction given there through oracle and precept (v. 4). To make his prayer, he goes to the place of the presence of God, obeying the exhortation of Israel’s religion, “Seek ye my face” (v. 8). When trust is kept a private matter, unspoken and unshared, it becomes a personal project and may decay into no more than our own resolution and willpower. Trust needs the stimulus and renewal that come from confronting and contemplating religion’s representation of the revelation of God in liturgy, architecture, and proclamation. In its praise and prayer it evokes the reality in whose life faith chooses to live—the salvation of the LORD.

– James Mays

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

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 108–110.

Freed From Deaths Grip

Scripture Reading

Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels
but rather the descendants of Abraham;
therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.
(Hebrews 2:14-18)

 

Scripture Study

2:14 flesh and blood: A Semitic idiom for “human beings” or “human nature”, with some emphasis on man’s weakness and limitations (Mt 16:17; 1 Cor 15:50). partook of the same: The Son of God assumed our mortal nature in order to die and, through this means, to rob the devil of his claim over our lives (Wis 2:24; 1 Jn 3:8; CCC 635, 2602).

2:15 fear of death: Human nature cowers from pain, privation, and death. This can overpower our desire to love and obey God in the face of suffering. Even Jesus feared death as a man; nevertheless, he gave consent to suffering and death out of a reverential fear of God (5:7). In this respect, he was prefigured by those saints of the OT who preferred persecution and martyrdom to apostasy (11:17–38). Such heroism speaks directly to the original readers, who had already endured hostility for their faith (10:32–39) and were edging closer to shedding their blood (12:4).

2:16 descendants of Abraham: This could be taken in a biological sense, referring to the family of Israel descended from Abraham, or, more likely, in a Christian sense of the family of Jews and Gentiles who together imitate the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:9–13) and inherit the blessings that Yahweh pledged to the patriarch by oath (Gen 22:16–18; Gal 3:6–29). Either way, the point is that Jesus came to rescue, not angels, but fallen men.[1]

Scripture Reflection

The death of Christ, the only one who could atone for man’s sin, wipes out sin and makes death a way to God. “Jesus destroyed the demon”, St Alphonsus writes; “that is, he destroyed his power, for the demon had been lord of death on account of sin, that is, he had power to cause temporal and eternal death to all the children of Adam infected by sin. And this was the victory of the cross—that Jesus, the author of life, by dying obtained Life for us through that death” (Reflections on the Passion, chap. 5, 1).

Christ has freed men not from physical but from spiritual death and therefore from fear of death, because he has given us certainty of future resurrection. Man’s natural fear of death is easily explained by his fear of the unknown and his instinctive aversion to what death involves; but it can also be a sign of excessive attachment to this life.

“To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” St Paul explains (Phil 1:21). “Don’t be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously … when God wills it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Don’t doubt what I say: it will come in the moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God. Welcome be our sister death!” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 739).

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

 

 

[1] The Letter to the Hebrews, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 44-45.

Truthfully Speaking

Scripture Reading

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. 

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished. 
They said, “Where did this man get all this? 
What kind of wisdom has been given him? 
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! 
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? 
And are not his sisters here with us?” 
And they took offense at him. 
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.” 
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
(Mark 6:1-6)

 

Scripture Study

6:1 His native place: the Greek word patris here refers to Nazareth (cf. Mk 1:9; Lk 4:16, 23–24) though it can also mean native land.

6:3 Is he not the carpenter?: no other gospel calls Jesus a carpenter. Some witnesses have “the carpenter’s son,” as in Mt 13:55. Son of Mary: contrary to Jewish custom, which calls a man the son of his father, this expression may reflect Mark’s own faith that God is the Father of Jesus (Mk 1:1, 11; 8:38; 13:32; 14:36). The brother of James … Simon: in Semitic usage, the terms “brother,” “sister” are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters; cf. Gn 14:16; 29:15; Lv 10:4. While one cannot suppose that the meaning of a Greek word should be sought in the first place from Semitic usage, the Septuagint often translates the Hebrew ’āh by the Greek word adelphos, “brother,” as in the cited passages, a fact that may argue for a similar breadth of meaning in some New Testament passages. For instance, there is no doubt that in v 17, “brother” is used of Philip, who was actually the half-brother of Herod Antipas. On the other hand, Mark may have understood the terms literally. The question of meaning here would not have arisen but for the faith of the church in Mary’s perpetual virginity.

6:4 A prophet is not without honor except … in his own house: a saying that finds parallels in other literatures, especially Jewish and Greek, but without reference to a prophet. Comparing himself to previous Hebrew prophets whom the people rejected, Jesus intimates his own eventual rejection by the nation especially in view of the dishonor his own relatives had shown him (Mk 3:21) and now his townspeople as well.

6:5 He was not able to perform any mighty deed there: according to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel develops a theme that is uncomfortable. It tells how the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus. Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed. The logic behind this is simple and unanswerable: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore, when someone comes speaking the truth to us, we will think that they are crazy and dangerous.

Think for just a moment what would happen to you if you consistently and publicly spoke the word of God to our culture. If you spoke out against abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, human trafficking, rampant materialism, and ideological secularism, what would happen to you? If you presented, in a full-throated way, the full range of Catholic social and moral and spiritual teaching, what would they do to you? Today’s Gospel offers a clue.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1410.

Great Faith

Scripture Reading

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him
and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” 
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” 
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
(Mark 5:21-43)

 

Scripture Study

5:21–43 Two miracle stories connected chronologically and thematically. Both highlight Jesus’ power over physical sickness (5:29, 42) and his favorable response to faith (5:23, 34, 36; CCC 548, 2616). The accounts are also linked by the figure twelve years, which represents the duration of the woman’s illness (5:25) and the age of the young girl (5:42).

5:23 lay your hands on her: Often in the Gospels Jesus responds to the persistent pleas of parents whose children are suffering or in danger (7:25–30; 9:17–27; Mt 17:14–18; Jn 4:46–54). His mercy touches these distressed parents whenever they turn to him in faith. Jesus also displays a deep affection for children (10:13–16; Mt 18:5–6).

5:25 a flow of blood: A condition that makes the woman and everything she touches legally unclean (Lev 15:25–30).

5:37 Peter … James … John: Three of Jesus’ closest disciples, who were also present with him at the Transfiguration (9:2) and in the garden of Gethsemane (14:33). They are likewise the only apostles Jesus renamed: Simon became “Peter”, which means “rock”, while James and John were called “Boanerges”, which means “sons of thunder” (3:16–17).

5:39 not dead but sleeping: Biblical writers often speak of “sleep” as a euphemism for biological death (Mt 27:52; Jn 11:11; 1 Cor 15:6). Jesus uses this description to emphasize that the girl’s condition is only temporary and reversible.

5:41 Talitha cumi: One of several Aramaic expressions preserved in Mark (7:11, 34; 14:36; 15:22, 34). He regularly translates these expressions for his non-Jewish readers in Rome.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, the centerpiece of today’s Gospel is Jesus healing the hemorrhaging woman. Having a flow of blood for twelve years meant that anyone with whom she came in contact would be considered unclean. She couldn’t, in any meaningful sense, participate in the ordinary life of her society.

The woman touches Jesus—and how radical and dangerous an act this was, since it should have rendered Jesus unclean. But so great is her faith, that her touch, instead, renders her clean. Jesus effectively restores her to full participation in her community.

But what is perhaps most important is this: Jesus implicitly puts an end to the ritual code of the book of Leviticus. What he implies is that the identity of the new Israel, the Church, would not be through ritual behaviors but through imitation of him. Notice, please, how central this is in the New Testament. We hear elsewhere in the Gospels that Jesus declares all foods clean, and throughout the letters of Paul we hear a steady polemic against the Law. All of this is meant to show that Jesus is at the center of the new community.

– 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), 74.

Hope in the Lord

Scripture Reading

How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.

You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.

Blessed be the LORD whose wondrous mercy
he has shown me in a fortified city. 

Once I said in my anguish,
“I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried out to you.

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.

(Psalm 31:20-24)

 

Scripture Study

31:20. His petition is followed by a proclamation of God’s goodness towards those who fear him (meaning, as we can see, those who have recourse to him in the temple).

31:21–22. The psalmist bears witness to the fact that the prayer of the temple—“the fortified city” or Jerusalem (v. 21)—was heard at times when the people felt abandoned by God—“cast out of your presence” (v. 22).

31:23–24. Therefore, he calls on those whose faith has wavered to love the Lord and to hope in him.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Like its companions, Psalm 31 is an individual prayer for help from distress. The theme of the whole is stated in the formulaic sentence: “In you, LORD, I take refuge.” The motif of refuge is continued in metaphors like rock, stronghold, fortress, and crag and is resumed at the end in verses 19–24. Indeed, the prayer as a whole is a “taking refuge in the LORD.”

The psalm has been called a model of a prayer that is confident of being heard. This confidence informs the prayer from start to finish; to pray this psalm is to be led into and instructed in this confidence. But the confidence of the prayer is not in any respect a virtue of the one who prays. It is, rather, a possibility that is based on the character of the one to whom the prayer is made.

So the one who prays run of course to Jesus. Prophet and Messiah are both scriptural illustrations of the identity of the servant who in the face of opposition commits his life to the LORD. Their examples show how even through failure and death, the providence of the faithful God determines the “times” of his servants. They encourage and exhort us through the words of verses 23–24 to find love, strength, and courage in life and death through making a commitment of trust in the Lord.

– James Mays

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

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 120–121.

The Beauty of the Beatitudes

Scripture Reading

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.”
(Matthew 5:1-12)

 

Scripture Study

5:1–2 Unlike Luke’s sermon, this is addressed not only to the disciples but to the crowds.

5:3–12 The form Blessed are (is) occurs frequently in the Old Testament in the Wisdom literature and in the psalms. Although modified by Matthew, the first, second, fourth, and ninth beatitudes have Lucan parallels (Mt 5:3 // Lk 6:20; Mt 5:4 // Lk 6:21, 22; Mt 5:6 // Lk 6:21a; Mt 5:11–12 // Lk 5:22–23).

5:3 The poor in spirit: in the Old Testament, the poor (anawim) are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God (see Is 61:1; Zep 2:3; in the NAB the word is translated lowly and humble, respectively, in those texts). Matthew added in spirit in order either to indicate that only the devout poor were meant or to extend the beatitude to all, of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence on God.

5:4 Cf. Is 61:2 “(The Lord has sent me) … to comfort all who mourn.” They will be comforted: here the passive is a “theological passive” equivalent to the active “God will comfort them”; so also in Mt 5:6, 7.

5:5 Cf. Ps 37:11, “… the meek shall possess the land.” In the psalm “the land” means the land of Palestine; here it means the kingdom.

5:6 For righteousness: a Matthean addition. For the meaning of righteousness here.

5:8 Cf. Ps 24:4. Only one “whose heart is clean” can take part in the temple worship. To be with God in the temple is described in Ps 42:2 as “beholding his face,” but here the promise to the clean of heart is that they will see God not in the temple but in the coming kingdom.

5:10 Righteousness here, as usually in Matthew, means conduct in conformity with God’s will.

5:12 The prophets who were before you: the disciples of Jesus stand in the line of the persecuted prophets of Israel. Some would see the expression as indicating also that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as prophets.[1]

Scripture Reflection

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:10

The Greek word for happy (makarios) denotes blessedness or happiness not in the sense of an emotional state but in terms of being in a fortunate situation. The beatitudes announce that the blessings of the New Covenant will be fully realized in heaven. Some do promise blessings that are partly enjoyed in this life, but all of them look beyond the struggles and hardships of this life to the eternal blessedness of the life to come. Jesus’ beatitudes represent a reversal of values, turning the world’s standards for happiness upside down.

Many of the people whom the world would consider to be among the most miserable—the poor, the mourning, the meek, the persecuted—Jesus proclaims to be in an advantageous situation, for God looks now with favor on them and assures them of consolation in the future. Jesus thus challenges his followers to see life from God’s viewpoint, not the world’s. When followers of Christ live by God’s standards, they are truly in a fortunate state in life, no matter what their circumstances may be, for they bring a glimmer of the joy and hope of the heavenly kingdom into the afflictions of the present-day world.

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

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1342–1343.

Belief in the Unseen

Scripture Reading

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for 
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested. 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance; 
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; 
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, 
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate, 
even though he was past the normal age
Band Sarah herself was sterileB 
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead, 
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky 
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised 
but saw it and greeted it from afar 
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, 
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, 
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, 
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, 
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, 
of whom it was said,
Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, 
and he received Isaac back as a symbol. 

(Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19)

 

Scripture Study

11:1 things not seen: Such as the heavenly Jerusalem (11:10, 16; 12:22), where Jesus ministers in the heavenly sanctuary (4:14; 8:1–2; 12:2). ● Faith is distinct from all other acts of the intellect. It is defined as assurance, which distinguishes it from opinion, suspicion, and doubt; it adheres to things not seen, which distinguishes it from science, whose object is something apparent; and it is directed toward things hoped for, by which the virtue of faith is distinguished from popular notions of faith, which have no reference to the beatitude we hope to attain (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, 4, 1).

11:8–22 The faithful of the patriarchal age. ● Abraham stands out as the man of faith par excellence. He kept faith when the Lord called him to leave his homeland (Heb 11:8; Gen 12:1–4), to roam around Canaan like a nomad (Heb 11:9; Gen 12:5–9; 13:2–18), and to sacrifice his son as a holocaust (Heb 11:17–19; Gen 22:1–14). Sarah overcame doubts with faith, believing that God could reverse the barrenness of her womb with the blessing of a son (Heb 11:11; Gen 21:1–3). Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons and gave them visions of the future (Heb 11:20–21; Gen 27:26–40; 48:8–20). Joseph peered into the future by faith, foreseeing the Exodus and the transfer of his bones out of Egypt (Heb 11:22; Gen 50:24–25; Ex 13:19) (CCC 2570–73).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Although the text does not aim to provide a precise definition of faith, it does in fact very clearly describe the essence of that virtue, linking it to hope in future things and to certainty concerning supernatural truths. By means of faith, the believer acquires certainty concerning God’s promises to man, and a firm conviction that he will obtain access to heaven.

Faith is “conviction” concerning things not seen. It is therefore different from opinion, suspicion or doubt (none of which implies certainty). By saying that it has to do with things unseen, it is distinguishing faith from knowledge and intuitive cognition.

A feature of faith is that it makes us certain about things which are not self-evident. That is why in order to believe one must want to believe, why the act of believing is always free and meritorious. However, faith can, with God’s help, reach a certainty greater than any proof can provide.

John Paul I said, “Therefore, nothing should dishearten us on this road to our ultimate eternal goal because we put our trust in three truths: God is all-powerful, God has a boundless love for me, and God is faithful to his promises. It is he, the God of mercies, who enkindles this trust within me, so that I never feel lonely or useless or abandoned but, rather, involved in a plan of salvation which will one day reach its goal in Paradise.”

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), 432.

In Small Ways Great Things

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

(Mark 4:26-34)

 

Scripture Study

4:26–29 These verses recount another seed parable, one that is found only in Mark. This time the focus is on the seed’s intrinsic power to grow of its own accord. The sower liberally scatters his seed, then goes on with the routine of his daily life. Slowly, imperceptibly, the seed begins to sprout. The farmer does not know how this happens; even today, with the tremendous advances in microbiology, life remains a mystery. Nor can the farmer control the process. According to its natural stages the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain. The farmer can water, weed, and fertilize the ground as the months go on, but he cannot make the ripe grain appear a day before its appointed time. Farming requires an element of trust and patience. Yet the moment the harvest has arrived, the farmer is ready with his sickle to reap without delay. The harvest is a biblical image for the final judgment (Joel 4:13; Rev 14:14–15).

4:30–32 It is as if Jesus is thinking aloud, searching for ways to help his listeners to grasp the mystery of the kingdom (see 4:11). Because the kingdom is a divine reality, it cannot be defined or contained in human categories. It can be understood only by using analogies, word pictures that force the listener to think and ponder at a deeper level. Once again, the earthly reality most suitable as an analogy to the kingdom is, of all things, a tiny seed. In this third seed parable, the emphasis is on the seed’s smallness. For Jesus’ Jewish audience, the idea of the kingdom as a seed must have been quite a surprise. A more predictable comparison would be a mighty army (see Isa 13:4; Joel 2:11) or a cataclysmic earthquake (Isa 29:6). But no, the kingdom is like a mustard seed, which Jesus describes (using the device of hyperbole, or exaggeration, for effect) as the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants (another hyperbole).

In mentioning large branches that shelter many birds, Jesus is evoking the Old Testament image of a lofty, shady tree, symbolizing an empire that grants protection to peoples of different races and tongues (Ezek 17:23; 31:6; Dan 4:9). The parable of the mustard seed thus points to the future worldwide reach of the kingdom of God.

4:33 Mark’s final word on the parable discourse is another affirmation that Jesus spoke in parables not to obfuscate (as vv. 11–12 might suggest), but to adapt the mystery of the kingdom to the capacity and openness of his listeners.

4:34 Although Jesus spoke to the crowds only in parables, to his own disciples he explained everything in private. Who are these privileged disciples? Mark 3:32–35; 4:10 make clear: not just the Twelve, called to a special mission, but all “those present along with the Twelve”—that is, all those who choose to be disciples by staying close to Jesus to listen to his teachings, and by doing the will of the Father.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel Friends, today’s Gospel compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed that “when it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.” It seems to be a law of the spiritual life that God wants good things to start small and grow over time.

We’re tempted to say, “You’re God. Just get on with it. Do it!” But why would God work the way he does? We might attempt a few explanations. It is a commonplace of the Bible that God rejoices in our cooperation. He wants us to involve us, through freedom, intelligence, and creativity, in what he is doing. And so he plants seeds, and he wants us to cultivate them.

Consider what God said to St. Francis: “Francis, rebuild my Church.” God could have rebuilt his Church without Francis, but he wanted him to get involved. When things start small, they can fly under the radar while they gain strength and heft and seriousness. Also, those involved can be tested and tried. Suppose you want to do something great in the life of the Church and you pray and God gives you massively what you want. You might not be ready, and your project will peter out. So be patient and embrace the small invitations.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 91–92.