Cleansing

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
(Luke 11:37-41)  

Scripture Study

11:38 did not first wash: Jesus disregards Pharisaic customs of cleansing. These washing rituals were religious in nature, not hygienic. These religious customs were manufactured by the Pharisees and added to the Mosaic Law. Sometimes called the oral Law, this body of rituals was designed to supplement God’s written Law and intensify its requirements of ritual purity.

11:39 cleanse the outside: The religious zeal of the Pharisees focused on the exterior of the body and often failed to penetrate to the heart.[1]

Reflection

“Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”

In this passage (one of the most severe in the Gospel) Jesus determinedly unmasks the vice which was largely responsible for official Judaism’s rejection of his teaching—hypocrisy cloaked in legalism. There are many people who, under the guise of doing good, keeping the mere letter of the law, fail to keep its spirit; they close themselves to the love of God and neighbor; they harden their hearts and, though apparently very upright, turn others away from fervent pursuit of God—making virtue distasteful. Jesus’ criticism is vehement because they are worse than open enemies: against open enemies one can defend oneself, but these are enemies it is almost impossible to deal with.

It is not easy to work out what these verses mean. Probably our Lord is using the idea of cleaning the inside and outside of dishes to teach that a person’s heart is much more important than what appears on the surface—whereas the Pharisees got it the wrong way round, as so many people tend to do. Jesus is warning us not to be so concerned about “the outside” but rather to give importance to “the inside”. Applying this to the case of alms: we have to be generous with those things we are inclined to hoard; in other words, it is not enough just to give a little money (that could be a purely formal, external gesture); love is what we have to give others—love and understanding, refinement, respect for their freedom, deep concern for their spiritual and material welfare; this is something we cannot do unless our interior dispositions are right.

 

 

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), 131.
[2] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 118–119.

Set Free

Brothers and sisters:
It is written that Abraham had two sons,
one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.
The son of the slave woman was born naturally,
the son of the freeborn through a promise.
Now this is an allegory.
These women represent two covenants.
One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
this is Hagar.
But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
For it is written:

Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children;
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband.

Therefore, brothers and sisters,
we are children not of the slave woman
but of the freeborn woman.

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

(Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1)   

Scripture Study

The Law of Moses, which was divinely revealed, was something good; it suited the circumstances of the time. Christ came to bring this Law to perfection (cf. notes on Mt 5:17–19 and Gal 5:14–15). All the elaborate legal and ritual prescriptions in the Mosaic Law were laid down by God for a specific stage in salvation history, that is, the stage that ended with the coming of Christ. Christians are under no obligation to follow the letter of that Law (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, 108, 3 ad 3).

Although in this letter to the Galatians the Apostle is emphasizing, as we have seen, freedom from the Law of Moses, obviously this liberation cannot be entirely disconnected from freedom in general. If someone submits to circumcision after being baptized, it amounts to subjecting oneself to a series of practices which have now no value, and to depriving oneself of the fruits of Christ’s Redemption. In other words, subjection to the Law brings with it a loss of freedom in general. Paul is using the full might of his apostolic authority when he says, “If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Christ’s Redemption alone is effective; it has no need of the rites of the Old Testament.[1]

Reflection

For freedom Christ set us free.”

How do we define personal freedom? Is it about having the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want to? Does this type of freedom truly set us free? How can such an inward, self-focused view of life set us free? Do we not become a ‘slave’ to our insatiable desires? “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.” (I Cor 6:12)

Christ asks us to see freedom from an externally focused lens, set on being free from selfishness and living a life of selfless love. We are set free when we understand that true freedom comes in living the love of Christ in all that we are – through our words and actions. 

 

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

 

 

[1] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 166.

Faithfulness

Beloved:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:
such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,
even to the point of chains, like a criminal.
But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,
so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, 
together with eternal glory.
This saying is trustworthy:
If we have died with him
we shall also live with him;
if we persevere
we shall also reign with him.
But if we deny him
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:8-13)   

Scripture Study

2:8 Remember Jesus: Christ is the center of Paul’s gospel. Through his natural birth in the line of King David and his miraculous rebirth in the Resurrection, the Jesus that Paul preaches is none other than the Messiah (CCC 436–37). ● In Paul’s mind, Jesus fulfills God’s covenant oath to raise up the Messiah from David’s descendants and enthrone him over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:12–16; Ps 89:3–4; 110:1; Lk 1:32–33).

2:9 the word … not chained: Paul himself is shackled in prison, but his saving message continues to spread through trustworthy preachers such as Timothy. In this context, the “word of God” is equivalent to the gospel proclaimed by word of mouth (1 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:25).

2:10 eternal glory: Everlasting life in heaven, where the saints enter the fullness of their inheritance (Mt 25:34; Col 3:23–24).

2:11–13 Possibly an excerpt from an ancient Christian hymn (CCC 2641). It sets forth in conditional propositions the blessings and curses that await us at the Judgment: those who persevere in faith will live and reign with Christ, but those who deny him will be disowned and disgraced in the end. Our ultimate certainty is that Christ will follow through on his promises and threats and so exercise his justice and mercy in perfect faithfulness to the terms of the New Covenant. Several of these statements echo Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels (Mt 25:31–46; Mk 8:38; 13:13).

2:11 If we have died: Refers (1) to Baptism, where we die to sin and are filled with new life (Rom 6:2–4; CCC 1262–64), (2) to the Christian life, where we struggle with God’s help to put to death our selfish and sinful inclinations (Rom 8:13), and (3) to death itself, which admits us into the presence of Christ our Judge (Phil 1:21) (CCC 1010).[1]

Reflection

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful.”

The act of faith is more than merely an act of belief. We believe many things—for example, that the Rangers will still beat the Blue Jays, that a sunrise is beautiful, that cauliflower really taste better than it smells – but we are not willing to die for these beliefs, nor can we live them every moment.

Faith begins in that obscure mysterious center of our being that Scripture calls the “heart.” Heart in Scripture does not mean feeling or sentiment or emotion, but the absolute center of the soul, as the physical heart is at the center of the body. The heart is where God the Holy Spirit works in us.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance,” advised Solomon, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). With the heart we choose our “fundamental option” of faithfulness to God, and thereby determine our eternal identity and destiny.[2]

 

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

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 398.[2] Adapted from Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Patience and Obedience

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied, “Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”
(Luke 11:27-28)  

Scripture Study

These words proclaim and praise the Blessed Virgin’s basic attitude of soul. As the Second Vatican Council explains: “In the course of her Son’s preaching she [Mary] received the words whereby, in extolling a Kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mk 3:35; Lk 11:27–28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Lk 2:19, 51)” (Lumen gentium, 58). Therefore, by replying in this way Jesus is not rejecting the warm praise this good lady renders his Mother; he accepts it and goes further, explaining that Mary is blessed particularly because she has been good and faithful in putting the word of God into practice. “It was a compliment to his Mother on her fiat, her ‘be it done’ (Lk 1:38). She lived it sincerely, unstintingly, fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice of each day” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 172).[1] 

Reflection

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Our challenge and opportunity in discipleship (driven by your individual perspective) is as St Paul said, to “fight the good fight of the faith” each day. The Blessed Mother showed us through her lived life how she daily set her heart on obeying God’s ordinances and words to her. This is what the Lord is asking each of us to focus on each day – the observance of his commandment to love God and our neighbor to the best of our ability.

We all stumble in this effort. While its necessary to reflect on these lapses, we should not allow them to hold us back from continuing our daily efforts. In keeping our eyes fixed on the eternal prize, we are strengthened through God’s grace to walk in obedience to his Word, always trusting in his patience with us.

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

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 117.

The Blessings of Abraham

Brothers and sisters:
Realize that it is those who have faith
who are children of Abraham.
Scripture, which saw in advance that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith,
foretold the good news to Abraham, saying,
Through you shall all the nations be blessed.
Consequently, those who have faith are blessed
along with Abraham who had faith.
For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse;
for it is written, Cursed be everyone
who does not persevere in doing all the things
written in the book of the law.

And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear,
for the one who is righteous by faith will live.
But the law does not depend on faith;
rather, the one who does these things will live by them.
Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,
that the blessing of Abraham might be extended
to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,
so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:7-14)   

Scripture Study

3:10–12. At what is called the Council of Jerusalem, St Peter had said, “Why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10): the Jews could not, despite their efforts, keep the Mosaic Law—the Law which they thought justified them in God’s sight. Therefore, those who place their hope of salvation in the Law are subject to the curse which the Law itself places on those who infringe it: “Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of the Law by doing them” (Deut 27:26).

The curse of the Law falls on anyone who fails to keep it, given that every commandment involves a penalty for its transgressor. That is why the Apostle argues that those who rely only on the Law are subject to the risk of being cursed, of being punished—“are under a curse”. He then goes on to recall once more the passage in Habakkuk which says that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4; cf. note on Rom 1:17). If the righteous or justified man lives by faith, the Apostle concludes, he does not live by the Law, for the Law does not call for faith but for fulfillment of its precepts.

3:13–14. Christ, who was innocent, wished to offer the Father perfect atonement and thereby blot out our sin. To this end he voluntarily turned upon himself the curse that the Law laid on its transgressors. He bore the curse of the Law on our behalf and thereby set us free from the curse. What was for our Lord punishment was for us salvation. As St Jerome puts it, “the injury suffered by the Lord is our glory. He died so that we might live; he descended into hell so that we might ascend into heaven. He became folly so that we might be reaffirmed in wisdom. He emptied himself of the fullness and form of God, taking the form of a slave, so that this divine fullness might dwell in us and we might be changed from slaves into lords. He was nailed on the the cross so that the sin committed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil might be blotted out, once he was hung on the tree of the cross”.

With our Lord’s death, the world’s redemption is achieved, God’s promise is fulfilled and the blessing he gave to Abraham multiplies his posterity, making them more numerous than the stars of heaven or the sand of the seashore (cf. Gen 15:5–6; 22:17),[1]

Reflection

“those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith”

Do we realize that we are also the children of Abraham, inheriting the blessing from God given to him? The Lord wants each of us to be a blessing but we must be open to receiving it. We receive the blessing by doing what Abraham did – listening for the voice of the Lord. He has promised this to all of his children but we must be persistent and patient in our prayer life to hear his direction.

Seek the Lord – listen for his voice – and let the blessings flow.   

 

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

 

 

[1] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 154–155.

Trusting God

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”
(Luke 11:5-13)  

Scripture Study

One of the essential features of prayer is trusting perseverance. By this simple example and others like it (cf. Lk 18:1–8) our Lord encourages us not to desist in asking God to hear us. “Persevere in prayer. Persevere even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful” (St J. Escrivá, The Way, 101).

 “Do you see the effectiveness of prayer when it is done properly? Are you not convinced like me that, if we do not obtain what we ask God for, it is because we are not praying with faith, with a heart pure enough, with enough confidence, or that we are not persevering in prayer the way we should? God has never refused, nor will ever refuse, anything to those who ask for his graces in the way they should. Prayer is the great recourse available to us to get out of sin, to persevere in grace, to move God’s heart and to draw upon us all kinds of blessings from heaven, whether for the souls or to meet our temporal needs” (St John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Fifth Sunday after Easter).

Our Lord uses the example of human parenthood as a comparison to stress again the wonderful fact that God is our Father, for God’s fatherhood is the source of parenthood in heaven and on earth (cf. Eph 3:15). “The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men—their desires, their struggles, their sufferings. He is a Father who loves his children so much that he sends the Word, the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man he may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 84).[1]

Reflection

“We can swallow God not giving us what we ask for when we’re asking for a Ferrari, a new house or for our favorite team to win the big game. But it gets real when our health, or the health of someone we love, begins to fail, or when we’ve been looking for employment for months and the bills are due. These are the moments when God’s answers are hard to accept. So hard, that we reject His answer.

But our prayers should be reminders of our trust in God and His wisdom, of our belief that nothing is happening that He is not aware of, or even allowing.

Trusting God is an admission of our limited perspective. God is good. And He is the giver of good gifts. Trusting Him through His answers that don’t make us feel great provides us an opportunity to show that we can love and trust Him despite the hurt from painful circumstances.

After all, that’s the way He loves us.”

– Antwuan Malone in Relevent

 

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

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 115.

Tell It

Praise the LORD, all you nations,
glorify him, all you peoples!

For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

(Psalm 117:1-2)  

Scripture Study

117:1. The call made to all the nations to offer praise includes acknowledgment that the Lord is the God of all of them (cf. Ps 47:1–2; 67:2–4; etc.). Association of the Gentiles in praise of God, and God’s faithfulness to his promises are seen by St Paul as reaching fulfillment in Jesus Christ and in the Church, when he quotes this verse to show that Scripture confirms his teaching: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Therefore I will praise thee among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name; and again it is said, Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people; and again, Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him” (Rom 15:8–11). These words encourage Christians to strive to bring all nations to acknowledge the Lord. Saints are noted for this zeal for souls: “The zealous man desires and seeks, by all the ways available to him, that God would always be more widely known and served in this life and in the next, because this holy love is boundless. He does the same for those close to him, and desires that all would be content in this life, and happy and blessed in the world to come; so that all may be saved, and no one lost for all eternity” (St Anthony Mary Claret, El egoismo vencido, 60).

117:2. The praise is offered on account of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness which he has shown the people of Israel. It is stronger than the people’s sin and means that God’s promises and the Covenant endure for ever.[1]

Reflection

“Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.”

The line above comes from today’s responsorial psalm and joyfully encourages us to go and tell the world about the greatness of our Lord. Yet this core aspect of our baptismal commitment can challenge us. Many of us do not feel qualified or capable of being that missionary disciple we so often associate with this statement.

Are we using this as an excuse? Do we look at our own perceived shortcomings in the knowledge of our faith, in how we are living our faith, and allow it to prevent us from sharing it?

We need to realize that the world is our neighbor next door, our co-workers at work, and friends in the community; that we are all broken and doing the best we can; that all the Lord is asking us to do is tell “our story” about God – in all its messiness. Isn’t that something we can all do?   

 

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), 389.

Set Apart

Brothers and sisters:
You heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it, 
and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,
since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.
But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
and called me through his grace,
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem
to those who were Apostles before me;
rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas
and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.
(As to what I am writing to you, behold,
before God, I am not lying.)
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea
that are in Christ;
they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us
is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
So they glorified God because of me.
(Galatians 1:13-24)   

Scripture Study

In this moving parable, which only St Luke gives us, our Lord explains very graphically who our neighbor is and how we should show charity towards him, even if he is our enemy.

Following other Fathers, St Augustine (De verbis Domini sermones, 37) identifies the good Samaritan with our Lord, and the waylaid man with Adam, the source and symbol of all fallen mankind. Moved by compassion, he comes down to earth to cure man’s wounds, making them his own (Is 53:4; Mt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5). In fact, we often see Jesus being moved by man’s suffering (cf. Mt 9:36; Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13). And St John says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:9–11).

This parable leaves no doubt about who our neighbor is—anyone (without distinction of race or relationship) who needs our help; nor about how we should love him—by taking pity on him, being compassionate towards his spiritual and corporal needs; and it is not just a matter of having the right feelings towards him: we must do something, we must generously serve him.

Christians, who are disciples of Christ, should share his love and compassion, never distancing themselves from others’ needs. One way to express love for one’s neighbor is to perform the “works of mercy”, which get their name from the fact that they are not duties in justice. There are fourteen such works, seven spiritual and seven corporal. The spiritual are: To convert the sinner; To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To comfort the sorrowful; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive injuries; To pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To visit the imprisoned; To bury the dead.[1]

Reflection

“But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart.”

People who enjoy the art of cooking will often set apart a particular item for a special purpose. I can recall my mother washing Roma tomatoes before she cut them up to put in a pot. Every now and then she would set would set one aside. I asked her why she did that and she replied, “That’s too good to put in the pot. We’ll use that for our special sandwiches.”

Mother could always spot those things that were created for a more valued purposes. In our reading from Galatians, we see how the Lord set Paul apart for his special purpose – to be an apostle.

Did you know that we are given special and unique gifts designated specifically for us? Your opportunity is to discover your gifts and embrace them. Only then will you find your special purpose – just as Paul did!

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

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 110.

Go and Do Likewise

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, 
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37)   

Scripture Study

In this moving parable, which only St Luke gives us, our Lord explains very graphically who our neighbor is and how we should show charity towards him, even if he is our enemy.

Following other Fathers, St Augustine (De verbis Domini sermones, 37) identifies the good Samaritan with our Lord, and the waylaid man with Adam, the source and symbol of all fallen mankind. Moved by compassion, he comes down to earth to cure man’s wounds, making them his own (Is 53:4; Mt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5). In fact, we often see Jesus being moved by man’s suffering (cf. Mt 9:36; Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13). And St John says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:9–11).

This parable leaves no doubt about who our neighbor is—anyone (without distinction of race or relationship) who needs our help; nor about how we should love him—by taking pity on him, being compassionate towards his spiritual and corporal needs; and it is not just a matter of having the right feelings towards him: we must do something, we must generously serve him.

Christians, who are disciples of Christ, should share his love and compassion, never distancing themselves from others’ needs. One way to express love for one’s neighbor is to perform the “works of mercy”, which get their name from the fact that they are not duties in justice. There are fourteen such works, seven spiritual and seven corporal. The spiritual are: To convert the sinner; To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To comfort the sorrowful; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive injuries; To pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To visit the imprisoned; To bury the dead.[1]

Reflection

“The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The challenge in today’s Gospel reading is understanding the enormity of what the Samaritan did from our twenty-first century view. Can we imagine today seeing a person we have witnessed spewing hateful and discordant views against minorities then giving of their time and treasure to assist those same people? That action would significantly perplex us today as the the actions of the Samaritan was similarly perplexed to the Jews.

Jesus is telling us that we need to step back and see that we are all children of God – that we are all capable of sinful and virtuous behavior. The opportunity for each of us is to look for the good in everyone and not expect otherwise just because they live a life different from our own. Our accountability is to respond as Jesus taught – always with kindness and mercy.  

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

 

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 110.

Unprofitable Servant

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
(Luke 17:5-10)   

Scripture Study

17:5. “Increase our faith!”: a good ejaculatory prayer for every Christian. “ ‘Omnia possibilia sunt credenti. Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ The words are Christ’s. How is it that you don’t say to him with the apostles: ‘Adauge nobis fidem! Increase my faith!’?” (The Way, 588).

17:6. “I’m not one for miracles. I have told you that in the holy Gospel I can find more than enough to confirm my faith. But I can’t help pitying those Christians—pious people, ‘apostles’ many of them—who smile at the idea of extraordinary ways, of supernatural events. I feel the urge to tell them: Yes, this is still the age of miracles: we too would work them if we had faith!” (The Way, 583).

17:7–10. Jesus is not approving this master’s abusive and arbitrary behavior. He is using an example very familiar to his audience to show the attitude a person should have towards his Creator: everything, from our very existence to the eternal happiness promised us, is one huge gift from God. Man is always in debt to God; no matter what service he renders him he can never adequately repay the gifts God has given him. There is no sense in a creature adopting a proud attitude towards God. What Jesus teaches us here we see being put into practice by our Lady, who replied to God’s messenger, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).[1]

Reflection

What is Jesus telling us when he says, When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Our first response might be to step back and wonder why Jesus would rebuke our servant efforts. But that is not what is being said. The Lord wants us to understand that all we do in His name is for the glory of God. Our reward is in the participation of building up His Church and deepening the maturity of our discipleship.

What we do in serving God can ‘earn’ us salvation. All of our efforts should be approached with the same humility that Christ exemplified in his life on earth.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-10)

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

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 148–149.