Sunday, August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Why Does God Keep Silent?

It is rare that a Sunday Gospel reading naturally follows as a sequel to a previous Sunday Gospel reading. But that is what we have today. Our present Gospel reading is a natural follow up of last Sunday's Gospel reading.

Of course, a connection, even a logical connection, can always be made between Sunday Gospel readings. But it is rare that the connection follows naturally.

In last Sunday's Gospel we learned why Jesus went to a lonely place in order to pray. The basic reason was because he prayed aloud, not silently, as most of us are wont to do and he did not want to disturb others in their sleep and he also did not want to be disturbed during his prayer.

We also learned that that is how Jesus wants us to pray, aloud. He said to his disciples, "When you pray, say", that is, speak out.

A question that some of us may be thinking is: If we pray aloud, will we hear the reply of God? Or to put this question in another way: When we pray aloud why do we not hear the reply of God?

Most of us do not experience an audible reply from God. We do not usually hear with our ears God's reply.

Of course, there have been cases where God's reply is physically heard. Take the case of Moses. The Bible tells us that he spoke with God as a friend would talk to another, face to face (Exodus 33:11).

There have been saints who experienced what theologians call "locutions". These are verbal communications from God, sometimes audibly heard by the human ears, at other times heard spiritually, as was the case with St. Teresa of Avila.

But most of us do not experience locutions. Most of us do not hear a reply from God. And this is where our Gospel reading today helps us to understand how God replies to our prayer.

We are told in our Gospel reading that when the  Canaanite woman prayed to Jesus to help her about her daughter who was tormented by a demon, Jesus did not give any reply. Even when this woman was insistent to be heard by Jesus he still did not give any reply. It was the disciples who came to the rescue of the woman. They wanted Jesus to send her away because she was pestering them with her request. It was only then that Jesus made a reply, a reply that was a virtual denial of her request. In essence Jesus said that he had nothing to do with non-Israelites, like this Canaanite woman.

It was possible that Jesus kept his silence for more than 10 minutes, because this occasioned the irritation of his disciples. If it was less than 10 minutes the disciples would not have bothered about it. A ten-minute is a long time of silence.

In our experience God may be perceived by us as silent for more than 10 minutes. A husband prays for his wife who is sick with cancer. He prays for days, for weeks, for months and even years. And still he does not hear God's reply. God is silent for a long time.

An unemployed single mother of two little children desperately prays for a job that can give food to her children and herself. She prays for what she feels is a very long time and no such job is forthcoming. God is silent to her desperate prayers.

Our Gospel reading tells us why Jesus maintained his silence as a response to the request of the woman with a daughter tormented by a demon. He wanted to give that woman an opportunity to express and increase her faith. And he was right, for he heard the expression of that woman's faith and admired it for its greatness. He acknowledged that this woman had great faith. He said, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."

The silence of Jesus evoked the great faith of this woman.

And that is the purpose of Jesus when he seems not to reply to our prayer, when he is silent about our request. He wants us to build up our faith. This was true when he was still physically present in our world. This is still true now that his presence with us is no longer in a physical manner but only sacramentally and spiritually. He wants to strengthen our faith by his silence.

The first reading tells us that God will bring to his holy mountain the foreigners, the non-Israelites who believe in him. He will make them pray in his house because this house is "a house of prayer for all peoples." There God will reply to their prayers as he builds up their faith.

In the second reading Paul the Apostle tells us that the Gentiles or non-Israelites are now accepted by God. They can now pray to God and God will give a reply.

This reply of God has been made in a person. Our Catechism says that God has said everything in his Word, that is, in Jesus. He has spoken to us by his Son. "In him (Jesus)  he (God) has said everything; there will be no other word than this one." Then it gets this idea from St. John of the Cross: "In giving us his son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say . . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All who is his Son." (65).

God has replied to all our prayers in Jesus. He can remain silent now because he has already given his reply and this reply is for the Jews and for the non-Jews like ourselves.

Jesus told us to pray aloud. We listen to God's reply. This reply is given in Jesus and through Jesus. And Jesus' reply is to build up our faith so that it will be done for us as we wish, just as it was done for the Canaanite woman as she wished.

Why does God keep silent when we pray to him? Because he has already given his reply in Jesus, through Jesus. We need only to look at Jesus and we will know the answer to our prayer. His Spirit bears witness with our spirit what this answer is. If we are attentive we hear his reply in the silence of our heart.

Let the man with a wife stricken with cancer look to Jesus. There a reply has been given to him. Let the single mother look to Jesus. Jesus' Spirit will lead that woman to the job she desperately needs to feed her two young children and herself. As the song goes, God will make a way when it seems there is no way. Jesus builds up our faith. And with this faith all things are possible for us.

Let us pray as we bow our heads. Lord Jesus, usually we do not hear God's reply to our prayers. Make us realize that God has already replied to our prayers in you and through you. Thank you for replying to our prayers by building up our faith. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


Why We Need to Pray Aloud

We now return to the Sundays of the year in ordinary time after the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord last Sunday. This will continue without any interruption of any feast until the last Sunday of the year, which is the feast of Christ the King. That will end the Church's liturgical year. Then we enter into another year with Advent.

I had often asked myself why is it that Jesus had to go out alone to a lonely place in order to pray. For example, in the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 1 verse 35 we read that Jesus rose early in the morning and went off to a lonely place in order to pray. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus "often retired to deserted places and prayed". It appears that that was the habit of Jesus, to pray in a lonely, isolated place. He himself advised us when we want to pray to go to our room, close the door and pray to our Father in private, in Matthew 6:6. But we have no record of Jesus doing this himself. Instead he would leave the house or a crowded place and go to an isolated, lonely place to pray.

So, I asked: Why did Jesus have to go to a lonely, isolated place in order to pray? Could he not just go to a corner in the house and there put himself in a position of prayer so that the others in the house would not disturb him?

I asked this question because I myself would do this. I would go to a private area of the house and there do my prayer. I would go to a church where there were so many people and there I would pray. Until I seriously thought about this matter of Jesus' going to a lonely place to pray I did not go to a lonely place in order to pray. I prayed in my room or in the church or in a classroom.

The Gospel reading today may give us an answer to my question about Jesus' going to a lonely place in order to pray. Matthew's record of how Jesus prayed highlights a detail that is not found in the other Gospels. Mark's record says that Jesus went to the mountain to pray but he did not write that Jesus was alone. John's record says that Jesus went up to the mountain alone, but he did not write that Jesus prayed there. This detail is not recorded by Luke. But Matthew highlights this detail. The reading says, "After doing so, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone." Matthew makes it very clear that Jesus went to that mountain by himself alone to pray.

Again we have a specific case where it is stated that Jesus went to a lonely, isolated place to pray.

Notice, we do not say that Jesus always did this. Luke says that Jesus did this often but not always. Jesus prayed in crowded places. He prayed in the room where he held his last supper. He prayed on the cross before a multitude. But his favorite place for payer was a lonely, isolated place either on a desert plain or on a mountain.

If we say we follow Jesus we follow him to the mountain to pray. But we have also to know the reason why Jesus did this. For him there must have been a great advantage in praying in a lonely, isolated place. If we know this advantage we too will follow him to pray in a lonely, isolated place.

The reason for this is found in the introduction to the prayer which we pray most often, The Our Father. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus replied: "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name." (Luke 11:2). Jesus did not say, When you pray, think. He said, Say. That is, we have to speak out our prayer.

This tells us that when Jesus prayed he did not do what we usually do. We pick out a prayer book and read a prayer with our lips silently. Or we meditate on some teachings and apply this to our life. We get out beads and pray our Rosary but if we are alone we pray in silence, our lips moving without any sound. Jesus did none of these.

When Jesus prayed he spoke out loud words. In fact the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus prayed with loud cries to God (5:7). That was the reason why the writers of the Gospel were able to record the prayers of Jesus because they were spoken out loud. The whole chapter 17 of John's Gospel is a prayer of Jesus. John was able to write this because he heard Jesus speaking out loud this prayer. This was also the case with his prayer in the garden of Gethsemani. We know what he prayed there and how many times he prayed that prayer because his prayer was audible to others.

So now we know some of the reasons why Jesus went to a lonely, isolated place in order to pray.

First, he did not want to disturb others with his prayers because his prayers were with loud words. So while others were asleep he would leave the house and go to a lonely place where no one was there so he could pray aloud.

Secondly, he did not also want to be disturbed in his prayers. He was concentrated in what he was praying about and did not want others to disturb him.

Thirdly, and perhaps this is a more important reason than the first two reasons: When he was alone with his Father he was able to feel more the warmth and love of his Father. There was closer bonding, as we would say now.

Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, wrote, "Those are not Christ's followers who cannot enjoy being alone with God and their own hearts." In other words if we do not enjoy talking alone with the Father of Jesus Christ we really do not belong to Christ, we are not real Christians.

This manner of praying is illustrated by our First Reading. There we heard that God was in the mountain, but he was not in the strong and heavy wind, not in the crushing rocks, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in a tiny whispering sound. This tells us we have to sound off our prayer, even if it is just a whisper.  God wants to hear the sound of our lips, even if it is just a whisper.

And what do we talk about with God? What should be the subject of our prayer? Many of us think that our prayer should be about our needs. Yes, but not primarily about our needs. The Second Reading tells us something different. The things that God is most interested in hearing from us are about his works, his people, the Israelites; their adoption by God, the glory God gave them, their covenant with God, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises he made; their patriarchs, and especially about Christ his son. These are the things God wants to converse about with us.

Prayer is a conversation with God. And we can only converse with God if we speak out our words aloud.

I had no desire to go to a mountain area in order to pray. But God gave me a job where I had to travel to a mountain area by myself. There I was able to see trees as tall as fifty meters and as large as ten feet in diameter. I could see no human being there, only the birds and the lizards and their companions. It was there I understood that God brought me there to speak with me. God still communicates with us on the mountain as he did with Moses and his son Jesus.

Let us bow down our heads in prayer.

Lord Jesus, you often prayed alone in the mountain. There you had sweet conversations with your Father who is also our Father. Lead us to pray as you prayed so that we become like you, obedient children of our heavenly Father. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


A Different Kind of Sun

Today we do not continue the Sundays in the Ordinary Time of the year. Today is supposed to be the eighteenth Sunday of the year. But we do not celebrate it. The reason is because a feast comes along which is always celebrated on August 6. This feast takes over the Sunday celebration because it is a feast of great importance in the life of Jesus. So today we get our readings from the feast of the transfiguration of our Lord.

There is a detail in our Gospel reading which is not in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. All the first three Gospels record the transfiguration of our Lord. But the record of Matthew which is our Gospel reading today has a detail which is not recorded by Mark and Luke. This detail is found in the second verse. It says, “And he (Jesus) was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun”. The clause “his face shone like the sun” is not found in the passages of Mark and Luke. Only Matthew has this clause, this description of Jesus.

In Malachi 3:20 which is 4:2 in the Authorized Version Jesus is described as the sun of justice. In the Authorized Version it is translated as sun of righteousness. Jesus himself said on two occasions before the Jews, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 and 9:5). The physical sun is the light of our physical world. Jesus compares himself to this and claims that he is the light of the spiritual world.

Remember the story of Moses when he finished conversing with God on Mount Sinai? When he returned to the people below the mountain, Aaron his brother and the other Israelites noticed that his face was radiant and they were afraid to come near him. Because of this Moses put on a veil to cover this radiance when he spoke to the people. (Exodus 34:29-35) This was similar to what happened to Jesus’ face at the moment of the transfiguration. The difference is that Jesus’ face shone like the sun, while Moses’ was only radiant, was glowing with light.

This description of Jesus as the sun of justice which was physically shown at the time of the transfiguration by his face shining like the sun is very relevant for us today, as it has been in the course of history.

The physical sun gives light and energy. With this light and energy we are able to see things on earth with our physical eyes. Not only that, the physical sun by its energy maintains life on earth and enables us to use our brain so that we can think and perform mental tasks like studying and creating some things.

Jesus as the spiritual sun gives us also light and energy. With this spiritual light and energy we are enabled to see spiritual realities. Not only do we see spiritual realities. We are enabled by Jesus as the sun of justice to live justly and to give glory to God. We can reflect this glory of Jesus in our life. As the Second Book of Esdras says, "Their face shall shine as the sun". (Second Esdras is part of the Jewish writings but it is not part of our approved Bible.)

Jesus wanted to show to his disciples that he was indeed a sun, but a different kind of sun, a spiritual sun, the sun of justice. By the light of this spiritual sun we are able to see things differently from that of the ordinary person in the world who does not follow Jesus.

Thus it has happened that in history many followers of Jesus saw things differently and did things differently. They changed history.

We have the example of the monk Telemachus who saw the evil in the gladiatorial shows of Rome while other persons enjoyed these. It is related that he tried to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheater, and was stoned to death by the crowd. The Christian Emperor Honorius, however, was impressed by the monk's martyrdom and it spurred him to issue a historic ban on gladiatorial fights. The last known gladiatorial fight in Rome was on 1 January 404 AD, thirteen years after Telemachus’ death.

Or take the case of slavery. From ancient times this was an accepted practice and many well-meaning persons did not see anything evil with it as long as the slaves were treated well. But Pope John VIII saw otherwise. In 873 he commanded under penalty of sin that all Christians who hold other Christians as slaves must set them free. In 1537 Pope Paul III forbade the slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and any other population to be discovered, establishing their right to freedom and property. This led to movements favoring the complete abolition of slavery.

In the nineteenth century William Wilberforce campaigned for the total abolition of slavery in England and its possessions. In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the English Parliament. William Wilberforce was an Anglican Christian who was enlightened by the Sun of Justice to abolish the injustice of slavery. He worked for the abolition of slavery in England for twenty long years. He succeeded and other nations followed by outlawing slavery in their dominions.

There are many other examples of practices which were accepted by people but on being exposed to the Sun of Justice were abolished or modified. Some of these are the elevation of the dignity of women, the humanization of working conditions in factories, the acknowledgement of human freedoms, and so forth.

One of the practices which I want to be scrutinized under the light of this Sun of Justice is boxing. It is an accepted sport by almost everybody and there are many apparently good Christians who engage in it and even promote it. But lately some Christians have been asking if Jesus would favor the sport of boxing.

So far the efforts to ban boxing are mainly in the medical field. Doctors object to boxing as harmful to the human body. While some Christians do object to boxing, I have not yet found someone who objected to it on the reason that what one is boxing is the temple of God, the human body.

Here is one comment about the stand of Jesus on boxing. “Though faith is fervent among modern-day gladiators (and championed by nationally known pastors like Mark Driscoll and Ryan Dobson), make no mistake about it: One would have to be a virtuoso of self-deception to imagine that our Lord Jesus would have been in a front-row seat at the klieg-lit den of voluntary human punishment.” (Kyle Roberts in patheos.com/blogs/unsystematictheology/2015/05.)

May the day come when more and more Christians be enlightened by Jesus the Sun of Justice to see the evils in boxing and put a definite stop to it, like what happened with the gladiatorial shows in Rome.

In our lives Jesus is shining as the Sun of Justice. He shows us practices or even habits we have which do not give glory to him. He sends us his Spirit to convict us of these attitudes or activities. And if we allow him, he will burn these attitudes or activities by the heat of his rays.

In the first Reading we heard that there was one like a Son of man who received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. This is happening now. As the light of Jesus’ face shines on our world we see more and more of ourselves and of our world and are being persuaded to give him rule over all of us, even in the area of boxing and other sports.

In the second reading Peter who was an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Jesus tells us, “You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Peter uses here a very beautiful imagery. As we look closely, attentively to Jesus, the lamp shining in a dark place, our hearts are enlightened and a morning star rises in them. The morning star is a signal that the sun is about to shine. The morning star rising in our heart is a signal that Jesus, the Sun of Justice, is about to shine in our homes, our workplace and other areas of our life.   

Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Lord Jesus, you are the Sun of Righteousness, the Sun of Justice. You shine in our hearts. Continue to enlighten us and to purify us so that like you we will also shine like the stars. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


Only A Threat, Not a Prediction?

We now come to the third group of parables in chapter thirteen of St. Matthew's Gospel, the last group in our Gospel readings. As I told you two Sundays ago, the Church wants us to read the whole chapter thirteen during these three Sundays.

Today's Gospel reading with the Second Reading has sparked heated controversies in our Church for centuries. Our Gospel reading has a parable which some theologians have not understood literally. Here is the second to the last parable in this chapter of Matthew's Gospel.

Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."

Some theologians say that when Jesus said that the wicked will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth, he was only giving a warning to us so that we would mend our ways and do good. That is, he did not really mean that the angels would throw the wicked into a fiery furnace, into hell. He was not predicting that they would end up there, he was only issuing a threat.

As one writer said, Jesus was like the exasperated mother warning her son, “If you don’t clean up your room right now, I’ll kill you!” She does not really mean it but hopes it will motivate her son to change. (themelios.thegospelcoalition.org).

I have brought this topic out into the open today because more and more people think and believe that hell is only a figurative expression, it is not a reality. Their basic argument is that God is absolute love and God cannot condemn or throw people into hell to suffer forever.

Some of you listening to me now may be of this opinion that indeed hell is only the expression of Jesus to warn us so that we do not misbehave in the kingdom of God.

But our Second Reading tells us otherwise. Let us read it in full again.

St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "Brothers and sisters, we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified."

St. Paul tells us that God a long time ago, even before we were born, predestined people to be glorified. To do this he called this people to himself and justified them, made them just, made them holy. Those people whom he did not predestine to be glorified are of another kind.

The mistake of these people who think that there is really no hell because God is all love, and some of them are very intelligent persons, is that they forget that those who will be thrown into the furnace of fire, into hell, are evil from the beginning of their life. They were not good human beings who turned out bad. They were bad from the very beginning of their lives.

The fish and other creatures which were thrown away from the net were useless and bad from their nature. They were not good fish which turned out to be bad. They were bad from the very beginning.

The parable of the bad seeds last Sunday helps to explain this. The seeds were the seeds of the enemy, they were not the seeds of God which turned out to be weeds later as they grew. From the beginning they were weeds but when they grew they appeared to be wheat. But their grains told the farmer they were really weeds.

Where does this lead us to? It leads us to examine ourselves. By baptism God has given us sanctifying grace but this does not mean that we are automatically saved. It means that we are to live as children of God and not behave as children of the devil.

If there are some baptized among who behave like children of the devil as killing others, raping boys and girls, cheating the citizens of their taxes, and so forth, then we pray for their conversion that they may repent and mend their ways. Because if they don't repent, this may mean that they are really children of the devil and their destination is hell, the furnace of fire where they will wail and grind their teeth.
  
That God predestined us to glory is clear from our Catechism. It says, “We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other "Christs." “God, indeed, who has predestined us to adoption as his sons, has conformed us to the glorious Body of Christ. So then you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called "Christs." “The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son." (2782)

Because as the Catechism has just said that we are adopted sons of God, we cannot be thrown into this fiery furnace. But this does not make us too presumptuous of our salvation. Because we might be weeds in the form of wheat.

Again in number 600 our Catechism says, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace.”

This subject of predestination has caused heated arguments in our Church for many centuries, even until now. In 1581, a heated argument erupted between the Jesuits, who advocated Molinism, and the Dominicans, who had a different understanding of God's foreknowledge and the nature of predestination. In 1597, Pope Clement VIII established the Congregatio de Auxiliis, a committee whose purpose was to settle this controversy. In 1607, Pope Paul V ended the quarrel by forbidding each side to accuse the other of heresy, allowing both views to exist side-by-side in the Catholic Church. 

The Molinists or followers of Fr. Molina, a Jesuit, hold that in addition to knowing everything that does or will happen, God also knows what His creatures would freely choose if placed in any circumstance. He said that grace is not intrinsically efficacious. God only knows that the person would accept the grace of God but God does not will him to do that. He only knows that that would be his choice.

On the other side were the Dominicans, followers of Fr. Banez, spiritual director of St Teresa of Avila. Fr. Banez taught that “Grace is intrinsically efficacious”, that is, God has willed to be saved those whom he predestined. (www.newadvent.org)

On the other hand we have the controversy between the Catholics and the Protestants led by John Calvin and his followers. The Calvinists have been interpreted to say that God has predestined some people to heaven and others he foreordained to hell. This is the teaching of double predestination. Our Church does not teach that God ordains some people to hell. The parable of this Sunday tells us that God does not throw good people to hell. These people end up in hell because from the beginning they were bad and useless for the kingdom of God.

What can we say then? Let us thank God for the gift of grace given to us in baptism and the other sacraments. Secondly, let us pray for those among us who behave like they are children of the devil. We pray for their conversion. Their end is terrible if indeed they are children of the devil.

While preparing for this homily I viewed certain YouTube presentations of the torments in hell. Remember, the three children in Fatima were presented by our Lady with visions of hell. The pains there were extreme, to say the least. And they are eternal. While viewing these videos the thought came to me that that is what Jesus suffered for us on the cross so that we would not go there.

For Jesus hell was real. He went there. He suffered the torments there for us. If we are not going there it is because Jesus saved us from that place by his sufferings, death and resurrection.

To know this reality is the wisdom given to King Solomon in our first reading. God made him the wisest of all kings. But God has made us wiser than Solomon because we have the mind of Jesus. And this mind tells us hell is real.

Let us thank Jesus for saving us. Again let us recite a part of our Responsorial Psalm, the prayer of a person who has been found to be a good fish, not the one to be thrown into the fiery furnace. We bow our heads.

Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
Lord, I love your commands.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


No Herbicide, Please!

On March 12, 2000 Pope John Paul the Second led the asking of forgiveness from God for the sins which the sons and daughters of the Church had committed over the last 2000 years, Five cardinals and two bishops confessed specific sins committed by these sons and daughters. The sins included the killing of heretics, those who disagreed with official church teaching.

Last June 22, 2015 Pope Francis in Turin, Italy asked forgiveness from the Waldensians on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the un-Christian and even inhumane positions and actions taken against them. These actions included murdering the Waldensians for their heresies or ideas which were contrary to our Church's teachings.

Then in January 25, 2016 Pope Francis asked Protestants for forgiveness for persecution in the past centuries. This persecution included killing these Protestants for teaching and promoting beliefs different from those taught by our Church.

The killing of these heretics, Waldensians and Protestants is the opposite of what Jesus commanded in our Gospel reading today. He never wanted them to be killed, to be uprooted even if they were as they were supposed to be by Catholics children of the devil for holding on to these heresies or different doctrines.

For us who live in the twenty first century and who do not witness these religious persecution of non-Catholics we do not feel the enormity of these sins. But for the people affected during the time of persecution it was a terrible experience. Here is a passage about what happened during those years of persecution by members and leaders of our church. I will read now excerpts from a passage which depicts these atrocities.

“In the year 1209, When the King of France refused to lead the pope's Crusade, Pope Innocent III put his legate, Arnald-Amalric, the General of the Cistercians (or "Trappist") monks at Citeaux, in charge of the "Christian" forces.  On their way to the Holy Land, they made a stop at the French town of Béziers.

"Arnald called on the Catholics in the town, an Albigensian, (that is heretical,) stronghold, to hand over the 200 or so known heretics.  If they didn't they would suffer with them.  The townsfolk decided to stand together against these foreigners.
        
“The townsfolk took refuge inside the cathedral and the great churches of St. Jude and St. Mary Magdalene. . .  The command went out from Arnald:  'Kill them all: the Lord will look after his own.'

“Behind the locked doors of St. Mary Magdalene's, the clergy tolled the bells, while celebrants vested in black for a requiem.  The churches, places of sanctuary from time immemorial, were crammed.  In that church alone there were 7000 women, children and the elderly.  To the sound of priests chanting Mass was added that of axes splitting the timber of the doors.  When the doors gave way, the only noise in the church was the Latin of the liturgy and the babble of babies in their mothers' arms.

“The invaders, singing lustily Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) spared no one, not even the babies.  The last to be cut down were two priests in the sanctuary.  It was, said Lea, in his book The Inquisition in the Middle Ages, 'a massacre almost without parallel in human history'.

“The crusaders then destroyed everything in the town, including the cathedral.  'All that was left of Béziers was a smouldering heap under which all the citizens lay dead.'

“In the cool of the evening, the monk Arnald settled down to write to his superior (the Pope).  'Today, your Highness, 20,000 citizens were put to the sword, regardless of age or sex.'  Slaughtering babies was bad enough, but it was an unspeakable crime to cut priests down as they celebrated the ritual sacrifice of Calvary.  It has been reckoned that in the last and most savage persecution under Emperor Diocletian, about 2,000 Christians perished, throughout the empire.  (Yet) In the first vicious incident of Pope Innocent III's crusade, ten times that number of people were slaughtered.  Not all were Albigensians or heretics, by any means.  It comes as a shock to discover that, at a stroke, a pope killed far more Christians than (the pagan emperor) Diocletian.” (from jesuswouldbefurious.org)

Now, let us listen to Jesus in our Gospel reading about these people who were murdered by Catholics. 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.' In other words Jesus wanted them to live and grow together with the Catholics. But the Catholics had uprooted them from the earth, murdered them by burning them or drowning them or by other ways of torture.

It was indeed a great sin for Catholics to have persecuted and killed thousands of non-Catholics or people who held different beliefs than us. And the two popes, John Paul the Second and Francis, asked forgiveness for this great sin which we have committed against them and against God.

Incidentally one of our best theologians, a very great doctor of the Church, unfortunately has taught something opposite to what Jesus commanded in our Gospel reading today. This great Church doctor is held up as a model theologian by the Church. He is the Patron Saint of theological studies. His name is St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican. It is most unfortunate and very sad that this passage is found in his writings: "Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death." (Summa Theologica).

Jesus completely disagrees with such statement of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the reasons why our recent Popes have asked pardon for the killing of non-Catholics or would be non-Catholics. This statement of that Saint had sanctioned the killing of thousands of heretics.

But we must be fair. This is not the sin only of our leaders and brothers and sisters in our Church. The Non-Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans and Lutherans and others had also killed Catholics for believing differently than them. We rightly expect that they too reciprocate the actions of Pope John Paul the Second and Pope Francis by asking forgiveness from us for killing our Church leaders and members.

The Lord Jesus does not want to spray us with herbicide in order to kill the weeds among us. He wants the weeds to grow with us.

This parable of Jesus is very instructive because in Palestine the wheat and the weed called darnel look the same as they grow. The Forerunner Commentary says that wheat and darnel are exact in their appearances during growth. Both plants are lush green and can be distinguished only when they mature and produce fruit: Wheat berries are large and golden, while darnel berries are small and gray. Thus, if the farmer attempted to uproot the tares before maturity, he would wreak havoc on his wheat. (bibletools.org)

And that is the real situation among us. The real Christians and the fake Christians are very difficult to distinguish. Both are baptized. Both receive the sacraments. Both do good works. Both appear to love their neighbor. Both seem to be children of the Kingdom of Jesus.

The great difference which cannot be seen is in the heart. The real Christians are motivated by love of God. They do everything for the glory of God. While the fake Christians are motivated by love of self. They do everything for themselves. Both of these Christians may dress the same, even the smile may be the same, but their hearts are worlds apart. Since the difference is in their hearts we cannot really distinguish them.

Sometimes we can distinguish them, but only by their fruits. As the Commentary we cited said, the grains of the wheat are large and golden, while those of the darnel are small and gray. The real Christians are meek and good mannered, while the fake Christians are irritable and abrasive in their manners. But who are we to judge and decide who are the fake and the real?

The message of our first reading is very clear: to have mercy, even on the fake Christians. It is a prayer addressed to God. It tells God that he judges with clemency, and with much lenience governs us, permitting repentance for our sins. He is indeed a God who does not desire the death of the wicked as the Bible tells us.

Some of these fake Christians may be sitting beside us now. They may even be daily church goers. But they do this to be seen by men and to be honored as religious so that on election time people will vote for them.

Jesus tells us, Have mercy on them. Do not kill them as churchmen had killed heretics before. In our parlance Jesus would have said, do not spray them with herbicide. You may kill the real Christians along with the fake Christians.

And that is what actually happened. People have killed saints. King Henry VIII killed Thomas More, venerated by us as a saint. Pope Innocent III killed thousands of real Christians in the time of the Crusades.

And our Responsorial Psalm confirms this view of God. We said to God, Lord, you are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.

Our second reading tells us that it is God who knows what is inside us, for he searches hearts and knows the intention of the Spirit. He only, knows who are the wheat and who are the darnel among us. He alone knows who among us are the children of the kingdom and who among us are the children of the devil.

Let us pray as we bow our heads.

Jesus, you want us to live with disciples who are fake, as you lived with Judas whom you called a devil. May your Spirit bring to fruition your life in us so that we will later on be gathered into your barn after we have lived with those who claim they are yours but are not. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


Multiplication, Not Addition

Today we begin with the parables of Jesus in our Gospel readings. In the next two Sundays we will continue with these parables. So these three Sundays beginning today the Church focuses on the parable chapter of Matthew's Gospel which is chapter 13.

It is important that today we set the background and proper understanding of these parables. All of these parables concern the kingdom or reign of God, his complete dominion over us which Jesus introduced into our world. In these parables Jesus describes the kingdom of God, the central reality he was primarily concerned with since the theme of his preaching was, "Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

The first parable of Jesus which is the Gospel reading for this Sunday is about the parable of the sower. This is how Jesus called this parable. He said, "Hear then the parable of the sower". This then is about the sower who sows seeds in four different places: on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns and on rich soil. Each of these places has a meaning for Jesus which he explains to his disciples.

Let us first listen to Jesus' explanation of these kinds of places where the seed fell. He said that the seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.

He also said that the seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word of the kingdom or reign of God and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. 

According to Jesus the seed sown among thorns is someone who hears the word of the kingdom, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.

Finally, for Jesus the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word of the reign of God and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Notice what Jesus said in the last part of our Gospel reading. He said that the one who hears the word and understand it is the one who bears fruit.

This means that we need to understand what Jesus said. And we can only do this if we take his own explanation of his own parable. Otherwise we may understand something that was not in the mind of Jesus when he taught this parable. That is why we first listened to what he said was the meaning of his parable of the sower.

We notice Jesus' own title of this parable. As I earlier pointed out, Jesus called it the parable of the sower. Most commentators have turned this into the parable of the different seeds, the seeds on the pathway, the seeds on shallow stony ground, the seeds among thorns and the seeds in good soil. Let us stick to Jesus' own understanding of this parable, the parable of the sower.

Bible commentators agree that the sower here is Jesus. And we too agree. The sower is Jesus himself. As he himself states later in that same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, "The farmer sowing good seed is the son of man" (13:37). But it is not only Jesus who is the sower. The sower is any other person who sows the word of the kingdom among other human beings. And when we understand the reason why this time Jesus preached from a boat along the shore we realize that he was preparing others to sow the seed or the word of the kingdom after he would be gone from them physically.

In the beginning of Jesus' ministry he taught in the synagogues. But we notice that the Jewish leaders became more and more critical of him, opposed him, pushing him out of the synagogues. One time he was even almost physically thrown out of the synagogue into a ravine (Luke 4). That was why Jesus resorted to teaching in the open spaces, away from the synagogues.

This was the reason why Jesus took especial care in explaining his parables to his disciples because he knew that they in turn would be the ones to teach the people about the kingdom of God. They would be the sowers of the word of that kingdom later on.

We add to this the fact that in the succeeding parables in that chapter of Matthew Jesus introduces each one saying, "The reign of God may be likened . . .". We can then reconstruct the introduction of the first parable to "The reign of God may be likened to the sower who sowed seeds." If we accept this reconstruction it is clear that the focus here is about the sower, not about the different kinds of soils which have been the focus of almost all commentaries on this parable.

With this focus, on the sower and not on the soil, we get closer to Jesus' idea. He was telling us that the reign of God is like someone who preaches and teaches about the kingdom of God. Some will not understand him, so the devil takes away what they have heard and puts this into oblivion. Others will receive his message with joy but they soon drift away when difficulties arise. Still others will receive his message and will try to understand it but the cares of life are too much for them, they soon turn away their attention from the kingdom of God. The fourth kind of listeners will not only listen but will understand the message and they will persevere to bear abundant fruit, some thirtyfold, sixtyfold and even a hundred fold.

Jesus wants us to understand that that is the kingdom or reign of God. The sower of this kingdom encounters four different people. But he goes on sowing, knowing that sooner or later there will be an abundant harvest.

What kind of harvest Jesus expected? Just like the harvest of grains. We know that if we plant a grain of seed and this grows and bears fruit, one seed can produce thirty more seeds or sixty or even a hundred seeds.

And here we come to a mathematical description of the increase in the number of fruits of the preaching and teaching of the reign or kingdom of God. Jesus envisions an increase by multiplication, not addition, in the word of the kingdom. In the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit says, "The word of God continued to spread while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased" (Acts 6:7). And in Acts 12:24 we read, "Meanwhile the word of the Lord continued to spread and increase."

The word translated as “increased” is the Greek “epleythuneto” which means "multiplied". So the increase was not by addition but by multiplication.

This was now the fulfillment of Jesus' parable of the sower, the word bore fruit by multiplication, not by addition.

This is the desire of Jesus, that the word of the kingdom spread and multiply by leaps and bounds despite the obstacles.

In the first reading we are told that the word of God is powerful. Isaiah says that
the word of God will not return to him void, but shall do his will, achieving the end for which God sent it. It will make us fruitful. It will spread and will be multiplied among us.

In the second reading we are told by St. Paul the Apostle that this word of God has produced already in us the firstfruits of the Spirit, so that we wait for the redemption of our bodies, the release of our bodies from all suffering and decay into the glory of God himself.

Our responsorial psalm tells us that God shall make the soil of our souls fertile so that we bear fruits for God. He has visited our soul and watered it; greatly has he enriched it. He has prepared the soil in our heart, drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield. As St. Paul says elsewhere, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6 AV).

The kingdom of God has come in Jesus. God reigns over our lives, in every detail of our life through his Spirit. We have been reached by God’s word and this word keeps on spreading, multiplying among us and beyond us. Let us rejoice and give thanks to God.

For our prayer let us say again the responsorial psalm which tells us how God has been good to us, as he enriches the soil of our hearts to receive his word of the kingdom of God. Let us bow our heads.

Lord, You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God's watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).


The Primacy of Rest

There is a group of insects which we see are very busy all the time. In fact the Holy Spirit has put up this group of insects as models of industry and antidotes to laziness. In Proverbs 6:6 we read, "Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom."

Yes, we see that ants are very busy looking for food, transporting food, greeting other ants on their way. They seem not to sleep.

But they do. Ants do sleep although they do not sleep like humans. They take naps, plenty of naps. In one YouTube presentation ants are shown sleeping. We know they sleep because when they are touched by a tip of a ballpoint pen they just turn over, while those not fully asleep run.

What do ants have to do with our Gospel reading today? If we live like ants we would need the Gospel reading today. And many of us live like ants, always busy and never properly resting. Jesus invites us to rest. Jesus invites us to rest in him, with him and for him. Let us listen to him again.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

When I looked at the commentaries on this text of Scripture I found out that almost all of the commentators dwelt on spiritual rest. They explained that Jesus was inviting his disciples to rest from sin, from the laws of the Jewish religion, from striving to do good with one's power.

Perhaps the reason why those commentators dwelt on spiritual rest was because they had no problem with their food, clothing and shelter. These were amply provided for them by their type of work, teaching or preaching.

But Jesus did not mean here only spiritual rest. Jesus did not say, "Come to me, all you who labor spiritually and are burdened spiritually by your sins, and I will give you rest from your sins and from worrying about your sins." He simply said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

And remember Jesus here was not talking to Bible commentators, preachers or teachers or priests. He was talking to ordinary people whose main preoccupation was how to get their next meal.

Jesus addressed himself to all who were working and who found their work burdensome. He told them to come to him and get rest from him.

And this brings us to the primacy of rest in our lives. This passage clearly tells us that Jesus wants us to rest. He himself is an example of a person who takes rest seriously.

Genesis tells us that after creating the world and all that was in it for six days, he rested. Let us listen to this book, chapter 2, verse 1 to 3.

"Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation."

Jesus as God worked for six days as he created the world. On the seventh day he rested. He is a model of rest.

Many times Jesus told his disciples to go apart and take their rest. One such instance is recorded in Mark 6:31. There he told his disciples, "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little."

While we read in other passages of the Gospel stories that Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of violating the rest on a Saturday, he made it clear that that was not the rest he wanted us to observe, which for the Jewish leaders was merely ceremonial. Jesus wanted us to have real rest, not a mere ceremonial rest, like not carrying a mat or walking some extra mile, as specified by the religious leaders.

When Jesus created us he built within us a mechanism which would lead us to rest. That mechanism is the feeling of tiredness. When we feel tired, our body is telling us to slow down and take a rest.

This is primarily what Jesus meant in our Gospel passage. In effect he was saying, When you are tired, come to me, take your rest from me. And he was referring to any labor which made us tired, whether physical like plowing a field, or mental like studying, or spiritual like avoiding the occasions of sin. This is plain from the words he used. He said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

This rest is so important that lack of it drove the Israelite nation out of the land God gave them. They were told by God through Moses that on the seventh year they were to make the land rest. "But during the seventh year the land shall have complete rest, a sabbath for the Lord, when you may neither sow your field not prune your vineyard." (Leviticus 25:4). The Israelites did not follow this commandment of God. So God exiled them and by force the land had complete rest for the period when it was not given rest by them. "Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall rest while seventy years are fulfilled." 2 Chronicles 36:21

Even men and women of the world who may have no religious inclination emphasize the importance of rest. Here is one statement from Joshua Becker, in his article "The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week", "Physicians, athletes, philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and corporate leaders all tell us the same thing: take time to rest. It is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life." He also says in that same article, "Rest is as essential to our physical health as the water we drink and the air we breathe." And he gives a quote reputed to have been uttered by Benjamin Franklin, "“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.”

But the rest that Jesus is giving us is not like what most of us think. Most of us think that to rest is to sleep, to sit around quietly observing nature or meditating or going to a movie or watching television or simply doing nothing. No. The rest Jesus gives us is different.

First, he tells us to come to him. It is a rest in him and with him and for him.

Then, he tells us to take his yoke. The yoke was an instrument of work. It was put on the neck of an animal so it could pull something like a cart or a plow. Some commentators explain it this way. We are invited by Jesus to take our yoke as Jesus has already taken his yoke and Jesus and we both do our work. But because Jesus is stronger than us he exerts all the effort while we just go with him. This was the explanation given in the article "The Call To Discipleship: An Invitation To Rest (Matthew 11:28-30)" in bible.org.

And this is also the message of our first reading. It says there that we are to rejoice because our king shall come to us, meek and riding on an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. Jesus gives us rest from war and turmoil.

And in the second reading, Paul the Apostle tells us that we are not in the flesh; on the contrary, we are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in us. The one who raised Christ from the dead gives life to our mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in us. If we live according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, we will live.

This explains the rest Jesus gives us. It is a rest for our mortal bodies also. But it is a rest in the spirit, which puts to death the tensions and anxieties we feel in our bodies.

Thirdly, Jesus told us to learn from him. This is still part of our rest in Jesus. While resting we listen to Jesus as he teaches us. There we find rest. We imitate Mary the sister of Lazarus who just sat in front of Jesus listening to his words. Mary found rest in Jesus. So too can we if we just sit and listen to Jesus.

There was a hymn in our churches before which we sang during communion time. It was entitled “O What Could My Jesus Do More”. It will be worth our while to take that hymn as our prayer. That hymn tells us that true rest, whether physical, mental or spiritual, is only in Jesus.

Let us bow our heads as we listen to the first stanza of this hymn:

O what could my Jesus do more 
Or what greater blessing impart
O silence my soul and adore 
And press Him still nearer thy heart.
Tis here from my labor I'll rest 
Since He makes my poor heart His abode.
To Him all my cares I'll address 
And speak to the heart of my God. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.