The Time of Reckoning

Luke 17: 26-37
2Jn 4-9 / Ps 119

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.
(Luke 17:33)

No one knows when the end it’s coming,
The best that we can do is prepare.
What Jesus Christ today is saying:
Repent, have faith and never despair.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:26-37)

Reflection

In the days of Noah, just before the great flood came, as in the days of Lot before Sodom and Gomorrha were consumed by fire and brimstone, people were unaware of the impending doom that would befall them. Similarly, our Lord has given fair warning that it will come, but the Great Retribution will be upon us when we least expect it, when most people are not prepared. Death is as inevitable as the vultures that will gather above it. So “why are dust and ashes so proud? Even during life the body decays. A slight illness – the doctor jests; a king today—tomorrow he is dead” (Sir.10:9-10). So why are we so self-assured and confident about our status in life? The book of Sirach continues: “The beginning of pride is stubbornness in withdrawing the heart from one’s Maker” (Sir.10:12). Only the prudent and wise among God’s children are unperturbed and well prepared. They will not be shaken who follow the will of God. Those who will be taken did not prepare for the disaster.

Jesus was declaring a prophecy that calamities will always strike as a matter of course. The thing is, how prepared are we to meet them? Our propensity for the best that life can offer often drowns the faint voice that points to a more sublime existence. Our material concerns dim our view of the real LIFE ahead, even as we know that this life is quite temporal and easily corrupted. Are we any different from “the birds in the air and the flowers in the field” that are there today and gone tomorrow? In a way we are, because we are more foolish – with all these cravings for material possessions, these aspirations for prestige and power, which are all but “chasing of the wind.” Our Lord Jesus’ fellowship should be our main objective, His Father’s will our life’s sole directive. Our Lord said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life (only for himself) will lose it, but whoever loses it (for the sake of others) will save it” (for eternal life).

Like the flood in the time of Noah, or the fire and brimstone of Sodom, unexpected, as in Gomorrha, the time of Great Reckoning will come. Death has surely come to those who have not found Life in Christ, even if they are still alive. No wealth, fame or power on earth can ever be more important than the promise of spending eternal bliss in God’s kingdom.

Help us, dear God, to keep in focus Your Word for us today. Amen.

The Kingdom of God

Luke 17: 20-25
Philemon 7-20 / Ps 146:7-10

The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe and say of it: ‘Look, here it is! There it is!’ See, the kingdom of God is among you.
(Luke 17:20-21)

God will transform our state of mind
If we seek His will and wisdom;
Then in our hearts one day we’ll find
The majesty of His kingdom.

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, He replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that you can observe, and say of it, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘See, there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is among you.” Then He said to His disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:20-25)

Reflection

Our Lord’s response to the Pharisees’ question about when the kingdom of God was to come seems at first to be incongruous. First, He said, “The kingdom of God is among you,” referring to Himself as already in their midst. (17:21) Then three verses later, He said, “As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man.” (17:24) It would seem that Jesus was making a prophecy about His second coming, when He would suddenly make His appearance like a flash of lightning, for all to see. In the first verse, Jesus was presenting himself as the personification of God’s kingdom, now present before them. The kingdom of God wasn’t merely coming in the future, it was already present in Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God here on earth is not a visible area enclosed by borders, nor with a huge palace with beautiful architecture. His kingdom is in everyone, just as God Himself is everywhere, pervading everything. Everything comes from God, He created all things. His Kingdom is in the hearts of all men who bow to their Heavenly King and offer themselves in service to His rule. When we conform our lives to His will, then His kingdom is “among us.” But when we disobey His precepts and decrees, then we fall away from His kingdom.

The word that best describes God’s kingdom is Wisdom. “She penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty, therefore nothing that is sullied enters into her.” (Wis 7:24-25) When we disobey any commandment of God, we fall into sin, and thus ‘sullied’, we can never hope to gain wisdom, or enter the kingdom of God. But thanks to His mercy, there is always hope available for us through the sacrament of reconciliation, or Penance.

The kingdom of God is something we come to be, as a result of our obedience to God’s will. It is the sum of all our prayers, good works, and meditations on the Word of God. We are all part of the kingdom of God. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, (2:20-22), we are members of a “building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on Him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and we too, in Him, are being built into a house where God lives in the Spirit.”

Every time we receive you in the Holy Eucharist, Lord, we believe that Your kingdom is in our midst. May You always reign in our hearts forever. Amen.

The Grace of Gratitude

Luke 17:11-19
Ti 3:1-7 / Ps 23:1-6

Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?
(Luke 17:17)

The reason why the world’s in strife:
We don’t thank God the way we should;
The secret to a happy life
Is a heart full of gratitude.

As Jesus continued His journey to Jerusalem through Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers met Him in a certain village. Standing at a distance from Him, they called out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when He saw them, He said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. Then one of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice. He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:11-19)

Reflection

Only one healed of leprosy came back to thank Jesus. The other nine were probably so excited about being freed at last from that despicable disease, and being healthy and clean once more that they could hardly wait to tell the good news to their family and friends. In their joy and excitement they forgot to stop and thank the Source of their miraculous healing. Thus, their healing was incomplete. They were healed physically, but only one was healed both physically and spiritually (“Your faith has saved you.”). In their lack of gratitude, the other 9 may have lost the opportunity to gain the greater gift of eternal life.

This is essentially the message that today’s Gospel of Luke imparts. God’s generosity is multiplied in a grateful heart. Many people neglect to thank God once they have received what they are praying for. How would you feel if the person who received your favor never even took the trouble of thanking you? If we displease God with our ingratitude, don’t be surprised if our blessings are short-lived.

Gratitude is the best attitude. Only one out of ten people live to the ripe old age of 80 or more. This healthy 10% of our country’s population are most likely those who possess grateful hearts. Not many people are aware of the power of this grace called thankfulness. The reciprocal action of an appreciative heart can result in exponential returns. They have no problem getting to sleep, and sleeping soundly, they wake up bright and early and ready to face the day. Studies have shown that those who count their blessings feel good about themselves, and seem to be in a state of perpetual joy. They are less prone to contract illness than those who are always complaining, and they have less interpersonal and social problems.

From the moment they wake up, grateful people praise and thank the Lord for another day, and keep in mind the blessings of the Lord in their lives, even for the little things that most people take for granted. In fact, even for the pains and difficulties, problems and emotional hurts that they receive from others, they still thank the Lord for them, if only because they see them as opportunities to share the cross of Jesus that draw them closer to Him. These are the people who are truly blessed. Their wounds heal faster, their lives are happier, and they live longer. Let us learn how to be grateful in everything, for gratitude is the food of our soul, and the vitamin of our faith. Give praise to God, for this grace is a gift from Him.

I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall always be in my mouth. My soul will glory in the Lord that the poor may hear and be glad. Magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His Name together (Psa.34:2-4). Thank You, Father God, for healing us of the leprosy of ingratitude. Let our hearts be grateful for all Your blessings all the days of our lives, that we may never tire in serving You, and loving others. Amen.

St. Frances, the Faithful Servant

Luke 17: 7-10
Tim 2:1-8,11-14 / Psa 37

We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.
(Luke 17:10)

For the gift of life it’s only right
That we serve the Lord in all our ways,
Our hope in His Word our guiding light,
Divine reward by His loving grace.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17: 7-10)

Reflection

At first glance it would seem that our Lord Jesus aimed this parable at the Pharisees and the high priests, who were proud and feeling righteous in their rigid observance of Judaic laws and practices. However, when taken in the context of the preceding verses, this parable is actually a continuation of Jesus’ response to His apostles who asked Him to increase their faith (Lk.17:5). It is only by admitting our unworthiness, and humbly acknowledging God’s power over all our works can we grow in faith.

As St. Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph.2:8-10) It is important to keep this in mind, so that we do not fall into the same pit as the pharisees in Jesus’ time, who thought that their faithful tithing and observance of rituals were enough to gain salvation, if not divine merits. None of our works of mercy, religious devotions, or witnessing to others can be means of attaining grace; instead they are manifestations of the grace of God already at work in our lives.

Today the Church commemorates the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first canonized saint of the United States (1850-1917). Migrating from Italy, this frail nun traveled with six sisters to New York City to help thousands of Italian immigrants living there. From the very start of her mission she faced challenges that would have broken men of weaker faith. Even the New York archbishop advised her to return home when quarters for her first orphanage in the United States seemed unavailable. But the resiliency of her faith never made her waver in her mission. In 35 years she established 67 institutions that cared for the poor, the abandoned, and the sick. She also organized schools for uneducated immigrants in order to increase their faith. Her strong faith also gave her the courage to cross the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times despite her great fear of drowning. She died of malaria in her own hospital in Chicago. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini accomplished so much not because she was seeking to earn credits in heaven, but because she believed that she was merely an obedient servant, doing the works that her Master intended for her to do. She is truly an ideal model of the faithful servant in today’s Gospel.

Lord Jesus, sometimes, we feel that the more we serve You, the more You allow us to share in Your pains and labors while You were here on earth. We consider our ‘stripes’ a great privilege— for the greatest joy is the hope of spending eternal happiness with You in heaven after this short sojourn on earth. Amen.

The Purpose of Wealth

Luke 16:9-15
Phil 4:10-19 / Psa 112

You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
(Luke 16:15)

We can become poor in wisdom,
Or other things like power and health;
But if it keeps us from God’s kingdom,
The worst poverty of all is wealth.

(Jesus said to His disciples), “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with wealth tainted as it is, so that when it fails you may be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and he who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If then you have not been trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? And if you have not been trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this, and they sneered at Him. And He said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:9-15)

Reflection

Like the dishonest steward who was summoned by his master to give an account of his master’s possessions, all of us will also be called one day before Divine Providence to give a report on the stewardship of the Lord’s resources. We will be asked if we made friends with the destitute and the disadvantaged with the wealth that God had entrusted to us. Or did we, like the rich man in the parable, ignore the Lazaruzes who begged for food at our gate?

Most people who have grown rich and powerful tend to forget that we came into this world with nothing. Everything belongs to God, and all the things in our possession and power are only put under our care for two primary purposes: to make this world a better place for others who are not as fortunate, and to help promote the kingdom of God by assisting His workers. Of course God also wants us to enjoy the fruits of our enterprise and to provide for the future of our loved ones. But God wants us to exercise prudence in the management of our resources, and not be ruled by avarice to accumulate wealth for its own sake. That is why Jesus warned us that, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Only one or the other can occupy our hearts, and Jesus teaches us here why man turns from God to mammon. It is greed, that excessive desire for perpetual security. And how blind the greedy are, as there is nothing perpetual in this world. It is not how much we acquire but how much we have given that makes us immortal. Generosity perpetuates our name; greed diminishes it. The poor that we have helped with our money will be our eternal friends who will speak well of us before the throne of God. But if, because of greed or selfishness, we were not generous with that tainted thing called ‘money’, how could we expect to be entrusted with the true riches of heaven?

Who then is the Master in charge of my life? Is it the love of material possessions? The pride and power of position and prestige? Is it the raging passion for women? Or addiction to food, alcohol or drugs? There is only one Master who can free us from our slavery to sin and material obsessions. That Master is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lord and giver of light, and we are the children of light.

Lord, let Your love burn brightly in our hearts so that we may never be distracted. Free us from greed and enslavement to all material things with your grace of generosity. Help us in times of economic difficulties to be more honest in our work, to be models of true service and integrity. For it is only by being good stewards that we can inherit Your kingdom. Amen.

Zeal for the Temple

John 2:13-22
Ez 47:1-2,8-9,12 / Psa 46

“Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples recalled the words of scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(John 2:16-17)

May our church be a font of grace,
Where we honor Christ’s sacrifice;
Don’t treat it like a marketplace,
True worship doesn’t have a price.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple courts people selling oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers seated at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove them all out of the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And to those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples recalled the words of scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this the Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they came to believe the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22)

Reflection

This is one of the few incidents in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ that is related in all the four Gospels. But while the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) placed this event near the end of Jesus’ life, John the evangelist, who was always in the Lord’s company, put the incident at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, just after His first miracle of changing water into wine at Cana (chapter 2). No biblical scholar can accurately explain this plainly ‘chronological discrepancy’, nor can anyone deny its historical validity. Suffice it to say that John was a mystic who was more concerned about the symbolic than the chronological in his Gospel.

In the wedding at Cana, Jesus “overturned” Jewish customs by transforming water used for washing the guests’ feet into excellent wine. St. John showed our Lord’s zeal for maintaining the purity of the Father’s temple by driving out those who would desecrate it, just as He had saved the wedding at Cana from the disgrace of running out of wine. It is also significant to note that the miracle at the wedding in Cana was the first sign that Jesus performed, and after He drove out the traders from the temple area, the Jews asked Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” We know that the sign Jesus referred to was His resurrection from the dead. In the same way, the miraculous changing of water into wine was a sign of our physical cleansing from water to our spiritual purification in the wine (the Blood of Jesus) in the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus reacted the way He did (quite violently) in driving out the animals and the money changers from the temple area to show God’s contempt for those who show no respect for the sacred. Instead of being defiled by the marketplace, where greed and corruption hold sway, we must preserve the sanctity and purity of our place of worship by reacting in the strongest terms against the evil influences of the world. By doing so, we are also making our bodies pure and pleasing to God (Rom.12:1). St. Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1Cor 6:19-20). Let us make our body “a house of prayer, and not a den of thieves.”

Lord, may we honor Your Church as we honor our body as the temple of Your Holy Spirit; make it a worthy tabernacle of the Holy Eucharist, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.