The Crown of Righteousness

Beloved:
I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. 
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18)   

Scripture Study

4:6 the point of being sacrificed: Or “being poured out as a libation”. The description alludes to the cultic liturgy of Israel, where daily drink offerings of wine were poured out at the base of the Temple altar (Ex 29:38–40; Num 28:7). Evoking this imagery, Paul sees martyrdom as an act of sacrifice and liturgical worship (Phil 2:17) (CCC 2473). my departure: A metaphor for death, which in Paul’s case is both imminent and personally desirable (Phil 1:23). According to tradition, Paul was condemned during the Neronian persecution that began in the mid 60s and was beheaded just outside the city of Rome along the Ostian Way.

4:8 crown of righteousness: The reward of everlasting righteousness (Gal 5:5) that awaits the saints, who have persevered in the grace of God (Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4). The image alludes to the garland or victory wreath used to crown winning athletes in the ancient Olympics (1 Cor 9:25). Paul’s confidence that such a reward awaits him rests on his sense of accomplishment, since after 30 years of ministry, toil, and suffering, he has remained firm in the faith without straying from the course set for him by Christ (2 Tim 4:7; Acts 20:24). He was not nearly so assured of his salvation while the race was still in progress (1 Cor 9:16). ● Is not a crown the reward of good deeds? Yet, this is possible only because God accomplishes good works in men. It is through his mercy that we perform the goods works to which the crown is awarded (St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 21). that Day: The Day of Judgment. his appearing: Either the future return of Christ in glory (4:1) or, possibly, his first coming in the flesh (1:10).[1]

 

Reflection

 “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
At some point, all of us will face the consciousness of our inevitable death. Will we be able to reflect on our faith journey with a similar story as St Paul? Will our story be one of the good fight or the avoided one? Life is a battle of good and evil. In our earthly competitions, we fight and strive for days and the only reward we receive is a crown which withers in a matter of hours. The spiritual battle of the virtuous versus unprincipled life, leads to a heavenly crown we are given of glory and honor whose brilliance lasts forever.[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), 400–401.
[2] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians, and Pastoral Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishing, 2005), 122–123.

Christian Maturity

Brothers and sisters:
Grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:

He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants,
tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching
arising from human trickery,
from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
Rather, living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:7-16)   

Scripture Study

4:7 given to each: Every baptized believer is given spiritual gifts or charisms to be exercised for the good of the Church (1 Cor 12:4–11; 1 Pet 4:10). In this context, Paul focuses on the varied graces connected with ecclesiastical offices (Eph 4:11) (CCC 913).

4:8 When he ascended: A reference to Ps 68:18. Although the wording of Paul’s citation differs from both the Hebrew and Greek versions of this text known to us, it approximates other renditions of the psalm in Aramaic and Syriac. ● Psalm 68 celebrates the triumphal procession of biblical history, when Israel, filing out of Egypt behind Yahweh, was led on its march to the summit of Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The victories won by the Lord along the way earned him the right to distribute gifts and spoils of war to the Israelites. For Paul, the psalm points forward to the ascent of Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem after disarming the forces of evil on the Cross (Col 2:15). The Church began to share in this victory when Christ poured out the gifts of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:33).

4:9–10 A parenthetical explanation of how Jesus fulfills Ps 68. Interpretations differ over the meaning of lower parts of the earth. (1) Some view this expression as a reference to earth itself, to which Christ descended in his Incarnation (Jn 3:13). (2) Others take it to mean the underworld, to which Jesus descended on Holy Saturday before rising again on Easter Sunday. The second view is more likely correct in light of similar expressions in the Greek versions of Ps 63:9 and 139:14 that clearly refer to the underworld of the dead. In this case, Paul is stressing that Christ has charted the extremities of the cosmos, descending to its deepest depths in his Passion and rising above its highest heights at his Ascension. This is not simply a journey through space; rather, it is an expression of Christ’s supreme humiliation and exaltation. ● Several Church Fathers connected this verse with Christ’s descent to the dead, in which he released the captive souls of the righteous and led them up to heaven (1 Pet 3:18–19; CCC 632–33).

4:11 apostles … teachers: Ecclesial ministries associated with the proclamation of the Word. These positions are established to promote unity in the Church by (1) preserving doctrinal purity, (2) warding off false teaching (4:14), and (3) sanctifying people in truth (Jn 17:17–19). These spokesmen of the gospel build up the Body of Christ when they bring believers from immaturity to spiritual adulthood (Eph 4:15; CCC 1575, 2003–4). Other ministerial graces are listed in Rom 12:6–8 and 1 Cor 12:4–11. See note on 1 Cor 12:28.

4:15 speaking the truth: Or, “doing the truth”. By bracing ourselves with the truth, we can resist the wind and waves of false teaching that unsettle the faith of immature believers. Paul is urging readers to grow in their knowledge of Christ (1:17; 4:23; Rom 12:2); otherwise their minds will remain childish, underdeveloped, and vulnerable to dangerous novelties that are contrary to the gospel (Eph 4:14). Here and elsewhere Paul insists that love is the surest means to build up the Church (4:16; 1 Cor 8:1; 13:1–13).

4:16 joined … growth: The same Greek verbs, which here describe the unity and growth of a body, also appear in 2:21, where they describe the integrated construction of a temple. The double use of this language in Ephesians points to a close connection between “body” and “temple” in Pauline theology (see also 1 Cor 6:19). This connection originates with Jesus, whose human body was the temple of his divinity (Jn 2:19–21). Applied to the living assembly of believers, it implies that the Church is a mystical extension of the Incarnation.[1]

 

Reflection

 “the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God
The building up of the body of Christ occurs to the extent that its members strive to hold on to the truths of faith and to practice charity in the lives. The “knowledge of the Son of God” refers not only to the object of faith—which is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as true God and true man, but also to a vital, intimate, and loving relationship with him. The recognition of our personal obligation to this on-going growth in our relationship, implies the mark of maturity. It is this maturity in discipleship we should all seek to attain.

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), 349–350.

We Live What We Believe

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace; 
one Body and one Spirit, 
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:1-6)   

Scripture Study

Paul plunges into describing a type of conduct that might appear to have little in common with the exalted state of being filled with “the fullness of God” (3:19): with all humility.2 The Greek word Paul uses for humility, tapeinophrosyne, comes from phroneō (“to think”) and tapeinos (“low,” “insignificant,” or “poor”). The verb form of this word, tapeinoō (“to make oneself low”) is used by Jesus in his teaching: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Humility was an attitude that the pagan world despised; Christians were the first in the ancient world to regard it as a virtue.3 In Philippians as well, Paul urges humility for the sake of unity, expressed in his exhortation to “regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). He points to the attitude of Jesus, who was willing to become low through his incarnation and the cross, and whom God exalted “because of this” (Phil 2:9).

Paul next recommends gentleness, prautēs, sometimes translated “meekness” (RSV), which does not mean being soft or weak. Aristotle described this virtue as the desired middle ground “between being too angry and never being angry at all.”4 It can have the character of kindliness. When ascribed to someone in authority, it means a reasonable lenience. Gentleness is a virtue of peacemakers, namely, the inner strength not to retaliate when provoked. It enables a person to bring correction in a fraternal manner when it is needed (Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:25). Paul speaks of the “gentleness” of Christ (2 Cor 10:1) and includes gentleness among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).

The word translated patience literally means “long-tempered.” Many times in the Septuagint (e.g., Exod 34:6; Ps 103:8 [102:8 LXX]) this word is used to depict God as “slow to anger,” that is, someone who has a long fuse. Paul uses this word in describing Christ’s attitude toward him: “I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience” (1 Tim 1:16 NRSV). The book of Proverbs teaches that patience marks a person who is wise (14:29; 16:32; 19:11) and that “those who are slow to anger calm contention” (15:18 NRSV). This peacemaking potential of patience is probably what Paul has in mind, since he links it with bearing with one another through love. This means kindly putting up with people’s faults and idiosyncrasies rather than reacting the way we instinctively feel like reacting. Paul is well aware that relationships even among Christians can be trying and sometimes require extraordinary charity and self-restraint.[1]

 

Reflection

 “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.
St Paul’s foremost plea is that Christians demonstrate their understanding of all that has been given them through Christ’s birth, death and resurrection by living a life “worthy” of their baptismal call.

Since he has said this more than once (1Thessalonians 2:12; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10), it must be something of importance and concern of Paul that we, as believers, live our lives in humility, gentleness, patience and love for all.  

We need to see that our conduct reflects what we believe and understand about the grace freely given by Christ. What we believe about the call itself will manifest itself in the walk we make. Let us ask the Lord each day for the strength and focus to walk in His way – not ours.

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

 

 

 

2 The JB translates this as “selflessness.”
3 Jews also, to some degree. This precise Greek word is not found in the LXX, but the concept is present (2 Sam 22:28; Ps 25:9; Isa 66:2).
4 William Barclay, Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 158.
[1] Peter S. Williamson, Ephesians, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 108–109.

Breadth and Depth

Brothers and sisters:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21)   

Scripture Study

3:14–21 The apostle prays that those he is addressing may, like the rest of the church, deepen their understanding of God’s plan of salvation in Christ. It is a plan that affects the whole universe (Eph 3:15) with the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love in Christ (Eph 3:18) or possibly the universe in all its dimensions. The apostle prays that they may perceive the redemptive love of Christ for them and be completely immersed in the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). The prayer concludes with a doxology to God (Eph 3:20–21).

3:14–15 Every family: in the Greek there is wordplay on the word for the Father (patria, patēr). The phrase could also mean “God’s whole family” (cf. Eph 2:21).[1]

 

Reflection

 “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth.
St Paul asks God to give Christians understanding of the “mystery of Christ”, which essentially is the outcome of his love. In referring to the vast dimensions of this mystery he uses an enigmatic phrase—“the breadth and length and height and depth”. These and similar terms were used by Stoic philosophy to designate the cosmos as a whole. Here they express the immense scale of the “mystery” which embraces the entire plan of salvation, the actions of Christ and the activity of the Church. St Augustine interpreted these words as referring to the cross, the instrument of salvation which Christ used to show the full extent of his love.

St Paul may indeed be trying to sum up all the richness of the “mystery” of Christ in a graphic way—in terms of a cross whose extremities reach out in all four directions seeking to embrace the whole world. The blood which our Lord shed on the cross brought about the Redemption, the forgiveness of sins (cf. Eph 1:7). It did away with hostility, reconciling all men and assembling them into one body (cf. Eph 2:15–16), the Church. Therefore the cross is an inexhaustible source of grace, the mark of the true Christian, the instrument of salvation for all. When, through the action of Christians, the cross of Christ is made present at all the crossroads of the world, then is that “mystery” implemented whose purpose it is to “unite all things in Christ” (cf. Eph 1:10).[2]

 

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), 1658.
[2] Saint Paul’s Captivity Letters, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 52.

Entrusted With More

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly. 
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
(Luke 12:39-48)   

Scripture Study

12:40. God has chosen to hide from us the time of our death and the time when the world will come to an end. Immediately after death everyone undergoes the particular judgment: “just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment …” (Heb 9:27). The end of the world is when the general judgment will take place.

12:41–48. After our Lord’s exhortation to vigilance, St Peter asks a question (v. 41), the answer to which is the key to understanding this parable. On the one hand, Jesus emphasizes that we simply do not know exactly when God is going to ask us to render an account of our life; on the other—answering Peter’s question—our Lord explains that his teaching is addressed to every individual. God will ask everyone to render an account of his doings: everyone has a mission to fulfil in this life and he has to account for it before the judgment seat of God and be judged on what he has produced, be it much or little.

“Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9:27), we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed (cf. Mt 25:31–46) and not, like the wicked and slothful servants (cf. Mt 25:26), be ordered to depart into the eternal fire (cf. Mt 25:41)” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 48).[1]

 

Reflection

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

Living faith is the vantage point for a believing Christian. It opens our eyes to see all of life differently because of who Jesus is, and who we are invited to become, in Him, through Him and with Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We are here today, in Church. We have just heard the Gospel proclaimed. Soon, we will participate in the heavenly banquet, joining with myriads of the faithful and countless scores of heavenly hosts at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

When we are dismissed at the end of Mass, we will not leave Church, we will be Church, sent into the world which God still loves so much that he sends His only Son. (John 3:16). We are His arms, His legs, His message, for a world still waiting to be born again. We have the message of true freedom for an age which longs to be liberated from the shackles of relativism and nihilism. We are sent to a people who long to hear the words of the Master saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) 

God has withheld nothing from us. In Jesus Christ, and in his Body the Church, we have been given everything we could ever ask for or imagine. We are the ones to whom much has been given. We are the ones who have been given much. It has been entrusted to us. Now, much more is required.

– Deacon Keith Fournier

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), 125–126.

Send Me Lord?

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter,
first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
(Luke 10:1-9)   

Scripture Study

Christ wants to instill apostolic daring into his disciples; this is why he says, “I send you out”, which leads St John Chrysostom to comment: “This suffices to give us encouragement, to give us confidence and to ensure that we are not afraid of our assailants” (Hom. on St Matthew, 33). The apostles’ and disciples’ boldness stemmed from their firm conviction that they were on a God-given mission: they acted, as Peter the apostle confidently explained to the Sanhedrin, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, “for there is no other name under heaven … by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Apostolate calls for generous self-surrender which leads to detachment; therefore, Peter, following our Lord’s commandment, when the beggar at the Beautiful Gate asked him for alms (Acts 3:2–3), said, “I have no silver or gold” (ibid., 3:6), “not so as to glory in his poverty”, St Ambrose points out, “but to obey the Lord’s command. It is as if he were saying, ‘You see in me a disciple of Christ, and you ask me for gold? He gave us something much more valuable than gold, the power to act in his name. I do not have what Christ did not give me, but I do have what he did give me: In the name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk’ (cf. Acts 3:6)” (Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.). Apostolate, therefore, demands detachment from material things and it also requires us to be always available, for there is an urgency about apostolic work.

“And salute no one on the road”: “How can it be”, St Ambrose asks himself, “that the Lord wishes to get rid of a custom so full of kindness? Notice, however, that he does not just say, ‘Do not salute anyone’, but adds, ‘on the road.’ And there is a reason for this.

“He also commanded Elisha not to salute anyone he met, when he sent him to lay his staff on the body of the dead child (2 Kings 4:29): he gave him this order so as to get him to do this task without delay and effect the raising of the child, and not waste time by stopping to talk to any passer-by he met. Therefore, there is no question of omitting the good manners to greet others; it is a matter of removing a possible obstacle in the way of service; when God commands, human considerations should be set aside, at least for the time being. To greet a person is a good thing, but it is better to carry out a divine instruction which could easily be frustrated by a delay”[1]

 

Reflection

“behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves

I believe a great many of us are challenged to accept this reality of our baptismal call – to go forth and spread the Good News – precisely because we fear the wolves that are out in the “real world.” It is far easier to stay in our comfortable world, within the confines of the known, the safe bastions of our churches. We conjure up all kinds of reasons for not heading the call, much like Moses and prophets of old. We say to God “not me, for I am unable to do this” instead of saying, “take me God, for you are with me always.” How big is the God we serve, that we doubt he will provide us with all that we need? Hasn’t he shown he faithfulness to us in so many ways? How much to we really trust God?  

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), 105–106.

What Matters?

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”
(Luke 12:13-21)   

Scripture Study

12:13 the inheritance: Jesus is asked to arbitrate a fraternal dispute over an inheritance. Seeing that family wealth is causing family divisions, he responds with a parable on the danger of riches (12:16–21).

12:19 eat, drink, be merry: i.e., indulge in earthly pleasures and comforts (Tob 7:9; Eccles 8:15; Is 22:13). The foolish man hoards his resources, makes them the basis for his security, and then adds laziness to his greed. Death will expose his folly by stripping him of all that he owns (6:24; 16:13; 18:25).

12:20 Fool!: A harsh rebuke for someone unconcerned with God or his Law (Ps 14:1; Prov 1:7).[1]

 

Reflection

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.’

After his statement in v. 15, Jesus tells the parable of the foolish rich man: what folly it is to put our trust in amassing material goods to ensure we have a comfortable life on earth, forgetting the goods of the spirit, which are what really ensure us—through God’s mercy—of eternal life.

This is how St Athanasius explained these words of our Lord: “A person who lives as if he were to die every day—given that our life is uncertain by definition—will not sin, for good fear extinguishes most of the disorder of our appetites; whereas he who thinks he has a long life ahead of him will easily let himself be dominated by pleasures” (Adversus Antigonum).

This man’s stupidity consisted in making material possession his only aim in life and his only insurance policy. It is lawful for a person to want to own what he needs for living, but if possession of material resources becomes an absolute, it spells the ultimate destruction of the individual and of society.[2]

 

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), 132.
[2] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 123.

Persevere

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. 
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’” 
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night? 
Will he be slow to answer them? 
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. 
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luke 18:1-8)   

Scripture Study

18:1–8. The parable of the unjust judge is a very eloquent lesson about the effectiveness of persevering, confident prayer. It also forms a conclusion to Jesus’ teaching about watchfulness, contained in the previous verses (17:23–26). Comparing God with a person like this makes the point even clearer: if even an unjust judge ends up giving justice to the man who keeps on pleading his case, how much more will God, who is infinitely just, and who is our Father, listen to the persevering prayer of his children. God, in other words, gives justice to his elect if they persist in seeking his help.[1]

18:3 a widow: Widows were often powerless and vulnerable in ancient society, and many were supported by fellow Israelites (Deut 26:12). Both Jesus and Luke take a compassionate interest in their plight (2:37; 4:25–26; 7:12; 20:47; 21:3).

18:5 her continual coming: The parable encourages persistent prayer (18:1). As the widow pleaded for justice, so we should persevere in faith and tirelessly petition God for our needs (Rom 12:12; 1 Thess 5:17).

18:6 the unrighteous judge: His indifference to the widow’s distress was a violation of justice (Deut 27:19). The parable’s outcome is thus a mere shadow of God’s concern for us. If an unjust and callous judge will vindicate a persevering widow, the Father will much more come to the aid of his prayerful children (Sir 35:12–17).[2]

 

Reflection

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

Recalling the interactions of Jesus and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, we know that Jesus goes off to pray and he asks the disciples to stay near him while he prayed. After an hour of intense prayer, Jesus returns to find his disciples asleep. Did they fall asleep because it was dark, or late, or that they had just eaten food and wine of the Passover meal, or was it the emotional stress of dealing with Jesus impending prediction of his death? What caused them to be weary?

Weariness can come in many forms and with many intentions. In this lesson, Jesus is warning the disciples to remain firm in the faith, as faith and prayer go hand in hand. St Augustine comments, “In order to pray, let us believe; and for our faith not to weaken, let us pray. Faith causes prayer to grow, and when prayer grows our faith is strengthened” (Sermon, 115).

Our Lord has promised his Church that it will remain true to its mission until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20); the Church, therefore, cannot go off the path of the true faith. But not everyone will remain faithful: some will turn their backs on the faith of their own accord. In this way our Lord warns us, to help us stay watchful and persevere in the faith and in prayer even though people around us fall away.

 

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), 152.
[2] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 140.

Acknowledging the Lord

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say. 
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
(Luke 12:8-12)   

Scripture Study

12:8–9. This follows logically from Christ’s previous teaching: worse than physical evils, worse even than death, are evils of the soul, that is, sin. Those who out of fear of temporal suffering deny our Lord and are unfaithful to the demands of the faith will fall into a greater evil still: they will be denied by Christ himself on the Day of Judgment; whereas those who are penalized in this life because of their faithfulness to Christ will receive the eternal reward of being recognized by him and will come to share his glory.

12:10. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in maliciously attributing to the devil actions that have God as their origin. A person who does that prevents God’s pardon from reaching him: that is why he cannot obtain forgiveness (cf. Mt 12:31; Mk 3:28–30). Jesus understands and excuses the weakness of a person who makes a moral mistake, but he is not similarly indulgent to someone who shuts his eyes and his heart to the wonderful things the Spirit does; that was the way these Pharisees acted who accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul; it is the way unbelieving people act who refuse to see in Christ’s work a sign of the goodness of God, who reject the invitation God offers them and who thereby put themselves outside the reach of salvation (cf. Heb 6:4–6; 10:26–31).[1]

Reflection

“I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Jesus encourages the disciples to be faithful to their Christian commitment and to their faith in Christ as Lord. When we publicly acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord, Jesus too will acknowledge us as his faithful disciple. Of course, it will be difficult during times of abuse and persecution but they must always be ready to acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus. To deny that allegiance may win them a reprieve in this life but not in the next. “He who saves his life will lose it,” as Jesus said on an earlier occasion. The word for ‘deny’ here is the same word used in Peter’s denial and disowning of his Master (Luke 22:34 and 61).

Most of us will not have to suffer severely for our faith. But there will likely be times when we may find our religious beliefs and practices ridiculed and made fun of. We can be tempted at such times to go into hiding, to conceal our Christian identity. We may even fail to come to the support of people who are under attack, refuse to stand by them, refuse to stand up and be counted as committed followers of the Gospel.

If that has happened in the past, let us ask forgiveness. Let us pray that in future we may have the courage and integrity in word and deed to let people know who we are and what we stand for.

 

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), 121–122.

Our Inheritance

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14)   

Scripture Study

1:12–13 Here and elsewhere Paul alternates between we and you. Among the options, (1) “we” could refer to Jewish Christians (us, 2:14), and “you” to Gentile Christians (2:11); or (2) “we” might refer to Christians known by Paul, and “you” to those unacquainted with Paul personally (1:15; 3:2); or (3) “we” might refer to believers long since converted (1:12), and “you” to more recent converts. None of these possibilities is mutually exclusive of another, so it is quite possible the groups in question fall into more than one category.

1:13 sealed: In the ancient world, seals were marks of ownership and protection (4:30; Ezek 9:4–6; Rev 7:4). Believers are divinely sealed by the Spirit. The Church Fathers employed this language to describe the indelible mark impressed upon the soul in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders (CCC 698, 1272–74, 1296). See note on 2 Cor 1:22. In Pauline theology, Baptism does to the soul what circumcision did to body: it marks it with the sign and seal of the covenant (Rom 4:11).

1:14 guarantee: An expression derived from a Hebrew term meaning “pledge” or “down payment” (Gen 38:17–18). The Spirit received in Baptism (Acts 2:38) is thus a first installment of the fullness of God’s life and blessing we hope to possess in heaven (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; CCC 1107).[1]

Reflection 

were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance.”

Whose inheritance? God’s! The Christian community is God’s possession. What is the Christian’s possession? The same God whose possession is the Christian. There is a deep and a wonderful relation between the believing soul and God, and however different must be the two sides of that relation, the resemblance is greater than the difference. Surely that is the deepest, most blessed, and most strength-giving conception of the Christian life. My faith corresponds to His faithfulness and veracity. My obedience corresponds to His authority. My We possess God, and God possesses us, and it is the same set of facts which are set forth in the two thoughts, ‘We were made an inheritance, … the earnest of our inheritance.’

 

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), 346.