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July 27th, 2011

You Do Not Know What You Are Asking

You do not know what you are asking

You Do Not Know What You Are Asking (Matthew 20:20-28)

The mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?”. And she answered, “Here you have my two sons. Grant that they may sit, one at your right and one at your left, when you are in your kingdom”. Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?”. They answered, “We can”. Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those for whom the Father has prepared it”.

The other ten heard all this and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations act as tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you; whoever wants to be more important in your group shall make himself your servant. And if you want to be first, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man who has come, not to be served but to serve and to give his life to redeem many”.

Reflection:-

Today, in the fragment of St. Matthew’s Gospel we can find many teachings. I will however limit myself to underline just one, which refers to God’s total control of events throughout time: whether of all men together (mankind), or of each and every human group (in our case, for instance, the family group of the Zebedees), or of any individual person. This is why Jesus clearly tells them: “You do not know what you are asking” (Mt 20:22).

To sit at Jesus Christ’s right is for those his Father has prepared it: “To sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those for whom the Father has prepared it” (Mt 20:23). Just like that, in a clear-cut way. There is an English saying that goes “Man proposes and God disposes”. And it is so, precisely because God is God. Or we could also say it the other way round: if it was not so, God would not be God.

Before this fact, unquestionably overpowering any human determining factor, at the beginning, men are left with nothing else but acceptance and worship (because God has revealed himself to us as the Absolute); while marching on, with confidence and love (because God has revealed himself to us as a Father, too); and at the end…, that grand and definite end: to sit at Jesus’ side (whether at his right or at his left, it does not matter at all).

On our side, the enigma of divine election and predestination can only be solved with confidence. A milligram of confidence placed in God’s heart is worth more than all the weight of the world put on our poor little scale pan.

In fact, “St. James did not live long: this is because from the very beginning he was already burning with a great vehemence: he scorned all human things and climbed to such ineffable ceilings that he died immediately” (St. John Chrysostom).

– – – reflection by Fr. Antoni ORIOL i Tataret (Vic, Barcelona, Spain)

July 24th, 2011

Wheat and Weeds – Let Them Just Grow Together

Wheat and Weeds Let Them Grow Together

Wheat and weeds parable (Matthew 13:24-30)

Jesus told his disciples another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then the servants of the owner came to him and said: ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’. He answered them: ‘This is the work of an enemy’. They asked him: ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’. He told them: ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn’”.

Reflection:-

“Let them just grow together”

Today, we shall ponder over a parable referring to community living, where good and evil, Gospel and sin, constantly get mixed up. Settling this situation as the servant suggests would seem the logical approach: “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?” (Mt 13:28). But God’s patience is infinite, and He waits until the very last moment —as a good father would— for the possibility of a change: “Let them just grow together until harvest” (Mt 13:30).

An ambiguous and mediocre reality, perhaps, but that is where God’s Kingdom grows. It has to do with the feeling of being called to discover the signals of the Kingdom of God so we can boost it, while we are trying to avoid whatever conforms us into mediocrity. However, living in that mixture of good and evil should not hinder nor hamper the advance of our spiritual life; for, otherwise, we should be transforming our wheat into weeds. “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?” (Mt 13:27). It is not possible to grow in any other way, nor can we look for the Kingdom anywhere else than simply in this society we are given to live in. Our task will be to make the Kingdom of God grow in it.

The Gospel invites us not to grant any credit to the “pure”, to overcome the existing aspects of puritanism and bigotry of the Christian community. In all collectivities, no matter how healthy they are meant to be, it is easy to find this kind of attitude. Leaning on ideals, we all feel tempted to think we are the lucky ones that have already achieved perfection, while the rest is still far from it. Yet, Jesus proves that all of us, without exception, are still on our way.

Let us, therefore, be on the alert to prevent the devil to sneak up on us, which is what normally happens when we conform ourselves too much to this world. St. Angela of the Cross said, “we are not to listen to the voices of the world saying there are who do this or that; we stick to our own way, without inventing any variations, and always following our way of doing those things, which are like hidden treasures; for they will open the gates of Heaven for us”. Let the Mother of God help us conforming only to love.

– – – reflection by Fr. Manuel Sanchez Sanchez (Seville, Spain)

July 13th, 2010

Charity

Charity

Charity –  The charity of Christ – Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Reflection:-

The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

“After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” –  (St. Therese, Story of a Soul) “

Christ has given us a share in his own life through death on the cross and Resurrection, and so we must be as Christs for one another and give in the same way. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” To those who call themselves Christian has been given more than to anyone else in the world.

“By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:14).” The charity of the Samaritan made him pleasing in God’s eyes, though to Jews he was a heretic and an outcast, judged condemned. The priest, a leader and holy man among the Jewish people fell short in God’s eyes, for he was without charity.

“Christ died out of love for us, while we were still enemies. (Romans 5:10) The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. Why charity? To share in Gods life and love and thus be happy. Living the virtue of charity bears the fruit of divine love and a foretaste of heaven which is the state of perfect fulfillment and eternal happiness in the presence of the living God.

“The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” (CCC 1829)

How is charity lost? God has given us free will, and therefore we must cooperate with his grace and freely choose to do His will. If we choose to break his law with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will, we loose the virtue of charity having sinned mortally. Venial sins weaken charity and can lead to mortal sin. Charity is our greatest gift and our greatest call. St. Pauls hymn on charity mught be the most beautiful in all of Scripture.

“If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.” We must love all, including our enemies, and must pray for them or we are without charity and therefore without God’s love. Let us begin now the regular practice of prayer for our enemies as well as for those who love us that the doors of heaven may not be shut against us.

Our burden and privilege as Christians is to be held to the very highest standards of conduct in thought, word and deed: Christ Jesus Himself. We desire to live abundantly, that is forever, and only in Christ is found such abundant life. If we would live forever we must begin now to live in Christ and persist in this life until the end.

– – – reflection by Fr Abraham Muruppel

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