The Cleansing of the Temple

Luke 19: 45-48
Rev 10:8-11 / Ps 119

My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.
(Luke 1)

As God’s Word pours out like concrete
To build our “temple’s” foundation
Our prayers and good works complete
Our spiritual transformation

Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling things. “It is written,” He said to them, “’My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.” Every day He was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were seeking to put Him to death. But they could find no way to accomplish their purpose, because all the people were hanging on His words. (Luke 19:45-48)

Reflection

Our Lord Jesus was always faithful to Scriptures even when He had to take drastic measures against those who defiled God’s temple. As He drove the merchants out of the temple grounds, He quoted Isaiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer” (Isa 56:7), and Jeremiah: “Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves?” (Jer 7:11). By quoting Holy Scriptures, Jesus made it clear that His actions were fully justified, because they were the fulfillment of the prophecies of those ancient heralds of God.

Today’s brief Gospel account of Luke about the cleansing of the temple inspires us to see that we all undergo a continuous process of purification. The Word of God (the Bible) is not only a great source of inspiration, but its lessons also strengthen the foundation of our faith. Still, we must strive to purge our temple of all materialistic and venal influences if we want to reach the level of holiness that God calls us to attain. Today’s Gospel also reveals how serious a crime against God’s sacred institution is when we defile it with the commerce of a marketplace. Imagine mammon taking precedence over GOD in the sacred place of worship? We must keep holy both our spiritual and physical temples. Both are dwelling places of God.

My own “house” used to be a “den of thieves”. All sorts of sins and vices once took quarters in it, and on my own efforts I could not rid it of its many iniquities. The vilest thief that once ruled the place was the sin of immorality, and many trusting hearts did that thief steal to satisfy its lust. Then one day, Jesus came to take lodging in my heart. By the simple principle of displacement, all the thieves were driven out. By the power of His Word and His indwelling Spirit, this house has now been swept clean; the Lord has transformed it into the temple of His Holy Spirit. Now, every day, before taking our lunch, my wife and I go to the noon mass of our parish church nearby, and receive our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. This habit we faithfully practice to ensure that our temples will never be defiled by sin again.

“By wisdom a house is built, by discernment the foundation is laid; by knowledge its storerooms filled with riches of every kind, rare and desirable.” (Prov.24:3-4) These are what the Lord has done, and “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Psalm 23:6)

You tell me in today’s Gospel, Lord, that my house, this temple of Your Holy Spirit must always be a house of prayer, because there is always the danger that without prayers my body can turn into a ‘den of thieves’. Help me to be vigilant in my prayers, because to be faithful to Jesus is victory, as falling into sin is defeat. Come, Holy Spirit, always abide within it. Amen.

Tears of Joy and of Sorrow

Luke 19: 41-44
Rev 5:1-10 / Psa 149

As Jesus drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what makes for peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes.”
(Luke 19:41)

If Christ could weep for all our sins
And even died for our salvation,
Should we not try with all our means
To win souls by our invitation?

As Jesus drew near and saw the city (of Jerusalem) He wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what makes for peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will raise a palisade against you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)

Reflection

Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted by the multitudes by throwing their cloaks along his path, and praising God with joy, proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord… peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!” (Lk.19:36-38). It comes as a big surprise therefore to read in the following verses that Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem! How could such a triumphant entry suddenly turn into an occasion of grief? This moving passage in the Gospel of Luke certainly provokes some reflection on the kind of person our Lord Jesus was.

First of all, we all know that God is omniscient, and Jesus, being the Son of God, saw the terrible desolation that would befall Jerusalem forty years into the future, when the great armies of Rome would lay siege on the city and destroy it, “leaving no stone upon another stone.” His compassionate and loving nature as God and as a sensitive human being drove Him to tears, overcome with grief over the obstinacy, blind pride and the lack of faith of the Jews that led to their ruin. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus lamented with a similar prophecy, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone those sent to you, how often I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate” (Mt. 23:37-38).

Secondly, today’s Gospel passage reveals the passion that Jesus had (and still has) for sinners. He shed copious tears because the people He loved rejected Him as their Savior. Even though He had foreknowledge of His coming pains and death in Calvary, it was not because of the injustice, fear, or self-pity that Jesus felt such deep sorrow, but His great concern for the loss of so many souls. Such is the great love that God has for sinners that their unwillingness to repent literally drives Him to tears.

In yesterday’s reflection, we highlighted the “third type” of Christians, the majority of God’s children who are still uncommitted, in terms of establishing a more personal relationship with Christ, our Lord. It is for them that Jesus pines for and weeps, because more than anyone, He knows how vulnerable we are unless our lives are anchored on His Word and in the sacraments of His Church. He alone knows how devious the enemy is, and what sin can do to those who take God’s love for granted.

Today we see how Jesus is both God and man. He loves more deeply, and feels more intensely than any human being can. Is it any wonder then that He feels so much pain and sorrow over a sinner’s refusal to accept Him? Let us fill the heart of Jesus with joy by winning sinners over to His flock through our prayers and good example. Let’s set aside our inhibitions, and take bold steps to invite them to our community.

Grant, Lord God, that we may never take Your great love for granted, lest we fall into the same fate as those unfaithful Jews who rejected our Lord Jesus Christ. We repent of all our sins, and pledge our lives to Your holy will. Amen.

Parable of the Ten Gold Coins

Luke 19:11-28
Rev 4:1-11 / Ps 150

…from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
(Luke 19: 26)

Thank God for talents we received,
And His Word we’ve come to believe.
May these talents lead us to give
More worth in each day that we live.

They were nearing Jerusalem, where the Jews were hoping a new kingdom would be established if Jesus was truly the Messiah. Thus, Jesus told them this parable about a nobleman who went abroad to receive a kingdom and then return: Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten gold coins, and said to them, `Invest these till I return.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.’ Upon his return with the kingship, he summoned the servants that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him, saying, `Lord, your money has made ten additional ones.’ And he said to him, `Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, `Lord, your gold coins have made 5 more.’ And he said to him, `Come rule over five cities.’ But one came saying, `Lord, here is your gold coin, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him,`Your own words have condemned you, you wicked servant! If you knew I was a severe man, then why did you not put my money in the bank, and I could have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, `Take the gold coin from him, and give it to him who has the ten. I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'” And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (Luke 19:11-28)

Reflection

Jesus told this parable to illustrate four kinds of people. The first two are His true and faithful servants who make good use of the gifts He has entrusted to them, each according to his capabilities. The third type are the unreliable followers, those who just “come along for the ride” but are sadly lacking in any personal commitment or even initiative. The last kind are the worst of the lot, who reject Him as their Master, and even conspire against Him. These deserve the most severe punishment.

I believe our Lord taught this parable not so much for the benefit of His apostles and closest followers, (who gained authority over cities), nor for His enemies, (the scribes, Pharisees and high priests), who rejected Him. His lesson was intended for the great masses of people who are uncommitted or complacent, or for some reason are afraid to take the leap of faith. Jesus seems to be telling them: “From him who hesitates, even the little faith that he has will be taken away.” Most Christians belong to this “third category”, who fill up His churches on Sundays and holy days of obligation, but are mostly ignorant about His Word. Their idea of God is a Severe Disciplinarian Whose rules and statutes must be strictly followed, but Whose Good News of salvation is “kept laid away” like their unopened Bible, gathering dust on a shelf. God has given each one of us a ‘gold coin’ or gift that we can use in propagating His kingdom here on earth. He does not expect that we can multiply His capital in our life five or ten times over. But at least let us give back to Him some interest for His investment, lest we lose this priceless possession.

Thank You, Father God, for Your gift of faith. May we use the talent that You have given us to propagate Your Good News in our community and places of work. Amen.

An Invitation to Conversion

Luke 19: 1-10
Rv 3: 1-6. 14-22/ Ps 15: 2-5

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
(Revelation 3:20)

Lord Jesus, You have made us see
That none is beyond redemption,
Once chained to sin You set us free,
To help in others’ conversion.

Jesus entered Jericho, and was passing through on the way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector was there, and wanted to see Him, but being of short stature, he could not because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see Jesus, since He was passing that way. When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to Jesus, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Reflection

Similar to the blind man in yesterday’s Gospel, Zacchaeus also had a handicap (he was short) and he also desperately wanted to see. And like the former who shouted to attract Jesus, Zacchaeus also succeeded in catching the attention of Jesus, albeit unintentionally, by climbing a tree. One was a beggar, and the other a wealthy chief tax collector, but both were determined, and for their perseverance, both were transformed. There are other lessons that can also be seen in this story:

First, like Jesus, we must regard others not for what they are, but for what they can be. Jesus never treated anyone as a hopeless sinner beyond redemption. We must never allow bias or prejudice to influence our mission to bring others to Christ. Who is a good prospect to invite to our breakfast meetings or bible sessions? Are we afraid to get a negative response? Are we afraid that “he might not fit in with the group?” A true disciple never hesitates. He invites other men who are seeking Jesus.

Secondly, love and acceptance can change most people. In all His encounters, Jesus showed us that He was always open and caring. We may fail to make a Christian example by being too concerned about the superficial rather than the essential. Our Lord offered love and acceptance to the hated, squat Zacchaeus, and a great transformation happened. This was the experience of many secular Christians, business people who were once skeptical about joining “Charismatic fanatics”, until they were converted to a new life because “servants” in our community sacrificed quality time away from their children to hold Christian Life Programs for them.

Finally, our Lord shows us that our mission must be active, not passive. Jesus did not wait for people to come to him; He actively sought out the lost in order to save them. He did not wait for an invitation; He invited Himself in (“I must stay at your house today”). The Holy Spirit gives us insights into people so that we might be bold to help them. By His grace we are able to see a soul that needs salvation. That is why we can set aside social “niceties” to get into the essential purpose of the encounter.

Lord God, help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Good News of salvation to others. Take away our prejudices against their perceived sinfulness, so that more of our friends, associates and even enemies may come to know of Jesus’ love. Amen.

Faith Makes Us See

Luke 18: 35-43
Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5 / Psa 1

Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.
(Luke 18:42)

God’s Word dispels the darkness of sin,
By its power, evil takes flight;
God alone heals our blindness within
In our prayer receive His light.

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:35-43)

Reflection

The man begging by the roadside might have been blind, but he was definitely not in the dark with regard to his faith. He believed that Jesus could heal him, and he had faith in His great mercy. It was not the case with “those who led the way (who) rebuked him and told him to be quiet” (Luke18:39). These people were spiritually blind for censuring the poor beggar just because of his handicap. The Jews then had the erroneous belief that the poor and handicapped deserved their lot because of their sins or the sins of their parents. The disciples of Jesus once asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) Our Lord healed their blindness by showing mercy to the beggar’s plight, saying for all to hear: “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:43).

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” (John 9:39). It is significant to note that we can find no other account in the bible of a prophet or apostle healing a blind man. The apostles Peter and Paul performed many wonders, even bringing the dead back to life (Acts 9:40, 20:10-12), but only Jesus, as the “True Light of the human race” (John 1:3) “Who enlightens everyone” (1:9) can dispel the darkness of sin in the world. As He alone can judge us, He alone can make us “see”.

As we enter the season of Advent, let us pause to examine our spiritual vision: does our faith have a 20/20 insight on the significance of the coming Yuletide season? The blind man of Jericho had been preparing himself for the arrival of his Healer, and at the moment of Jesus’ passage, he shouted with all his might for the miracle that he believed was forthcoming. There are many Christians among us who still do not see the importance of Advent, their preparation consisting simply of planning what gifts to buy for their loved ones this Christmas. How about us, who are leading the way? How do we treat the beggars in the streets who seem to grow in number during the season of giving? Do we chastise them when they approach us with their crude caroling paraphernalia? Or do we open our gates or car windows, and like Jesus our Lord ask them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Open our eyes, dear God, when we fail to see the message that our Lord Jesus wants to impart to us in His Gospel. Lead us from the darkness of our prejudices to the light of Your love and compassion to understand the true meaning of Advent. Amen.

Persistence in Prayer

Luke 18: 1-8
3 Jn. 5-8 / Ps 112

I tell you, God will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
(Luke 18: 8)

A prayerful heart is tranquil,
Confident that God hears its plea;
All our requests God will fulfill
If we but pray persistently.

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He be slow to answer them? I tell you, God will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

Reflection

Our Lord taught this parable to impress upon His disciples the importance of praying without ceasing until they had received what they were praying for. It was meant to highlight the truth that if a corrupt judge could relent and give in to the persistence of a widow, wouldn’t our God, Who is a loving and compassionate Father listen to the prayers of His children? “Will He be slow to answer them? I tell you, God will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Lk. 18:7). Our God is a God of justice Who rewards the virtuous and punishes all wrongs. However, unlike the corrupt judge that Jesus cites in His parable, our God is also a God of mercy and compassion Who sees to it that all things will work for our good.

I visited my cousin in the hospital who had a mild heart attack after discovering that his son (outside wedlock) who was under the influence of drugs had viciously murdered his fiancee’. The siblings of the victim had included him as principal in their charge sheet. Policemen stood guard at his hospital door, ready to whisk him to jail the moment he was sufficiently recovered. It seemed as if the whole world had conspired against him and he did not know where to turn. He had reached the ultimate crossroads in his life, I told him. “The path to the left is despair, and to the right is prayer, persistent prayer. God will never refuse the prayers of a desperate man, lest he falls into despair, so you must believe that your and our prayers will prevail.” My cousin was incarcerated without bail for a year, even as there was no evidence to support the charge filed against him. The corrupt judge in the parable only rendered a just decision in favor of the widow out of fear– “so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” (Luke 18:5). On the other hand, I believe that the judge in my cousin’s case finally relented to grant him bail because of our persistent prayers in his behalf. Jesus said, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Thank God for His gift of faith; it is what makes us heed the message in today’s Gospel – that we must pray, and pray continuously, so that our loving Father will grant our pleas.

Most merciful Father, we fervently pray for Your guidance during these uncertain times when evil men threaten the very stability and peace of our family, our church, and the institutions of society. We pray for the power of your grace, dear God, to influence all our officials in government, especially those in our justice system to be steadfast in the implementation of their sacred duties, and in resisting the temptations and/or coercions of evil men. Let your Holy Spirit shield them, Lord, with Your gifts of courage, prudence, integrity and wisdom. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.