Jesus’ Claim to Divinity

John 5: 17-30
Is 49:8-15 / Ps 145

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent him.
(John 5:23)

Jesus is one with the Father
In purpose, honor and power;
With faith in His Word, we gather
And follow Christ, our Redeemer.

Jesus said to them, “My Father is at work to this very day, so I am at work. . . . I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; but only what he sees his Father doing, for what He does His Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does. Yes, to your amazement He will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whoever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but He has given all judgment to His Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, Who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. . . And He has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.” (John 5:17-30)

Reflection

Three times our Lord emphasized that He was telling the truth: that what He was doing was a continuation of His Father’s work. And His work of mercy extended even on the Sabbath. His miracles should have been enough proof of His divinity. How could One who knew that His claim of being the Son of God would mean certain death be telling a lie? When the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. (Mk.14:61-64). The Jews chose to condemn Jesus for blasphemy rather than give the benefit of a doubt that He was really telling the truth.

Some religious cults, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God. But this belief is what defines our Christian faith. As we believe that the Bible IS the Word of God, so we believe that every word that Jesus says in the Gospel is true. We believe that by taking His Word we will “have eternal life and will not be condemned.” If you believe these, then you must also believe in the last days of the Resurrection, when our bodies will rise from their graves when we hear His voice, and be joined with our souls for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This is one of the great mysteries of our faith, when those who follow and believe in Jesus Christ will rise again incorruptible in the last days as described by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor.15:50-56). Little is lost if these things will not come to pass, but a great treasure is our gain if what we believe in is true.How hard a choice can that be?

All the words that you have spoken in the Gospel, Lord Jesus, are words that apply for all time. That is why we have no doubt that you are truly the Son of God, Who was sent by the Father for our salvation. Thus, we believe in the resurrection of our body, and in life everlasting. Amen.

The Healing Power of His Word

John 5: 1-16
Ez 47:1-9,12 / Ps 46:2-3,5-6,8-9

Do you want to get well?
(John 5:6)

As water is life, so is God’s Word
Healing me and nourishing my soul;
Steadfast is the promise of our Lord,
In our brokenness, making us whole.

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He proceeded to the pool of Bethesda, at the Sheep Gate, where a multitude of disabled people gathered —the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One of them had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus learned of his condition He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. . . someone else goes down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. It was a Sabbath, so the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” He replied, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat and walk.” So they asked him who this man was. But the healed man had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd. Finding him later at the temple, Jesus said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Instead, the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because He performed healing like that on the Sabbath. (John 5:1-16)

Reflection

God helps those who cannot help themselves. Even those who have little faith, like the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, who should have known better that after 38 years, that pagan place of healing offered no hope; the reason perhaps why Jesus had to ask him if he still wanted to get well. Some people get so stuck in the rut that they no longer know what they need. Just like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their lack of faith. It was God’s way of weeding out the old generation, so that a younger Chosen People under Joshua, with stronger faith in Him would enter the Promised land.

Jesus asked the cripple, “Do you want to get well?” Missing our Lord’s intention, the man answered, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool…” Such is our human nature to put our trust in our own strength, in others, or in some material assistance, instead of looking up to the proffered Hand of God, our beloved Father, Who is just waiting for us to seek His help when everything else fails. The crippled man put his faith in the stagnant pool of Bethesda, just like the Jews whose man-made traditions like their strict observance of the Sabbath kept their faith withered, blind and crippled. It is only in Jesus Christ, and in the life-giving fresh waters of His Church that the prophet Ezekiel described in the first reading (Ezek. 47:12) where we can find true sustenance and healing for our body and soul. Our Church is the temple that Ezekiel prophesied about, and the fresh waters that flow from underneath are the sacraments, like Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, and the Holy Eucharist that our Lord Jesus instituted to make us bear fruit and be healed of all our infirmities. How sad that so many Christians today leave our life-giving Church, deluded by glib-talking charlatans who are only after their tithe money. May the Holy Spirit grant them His grace of discernment to see the error of their ways.

We praise You, Lord, for making us realize that the healing of our soul’s paralysis, such as the forgiveness of our sins, is more important than the healing of our physical ailments, or even the observance of our man-made laws and traditions. Please enlighten our brothers and sisters who cannot help themselves to find their way back to You. Amen.

Not by Miracles Are We Saved

John 4: 43-54
Is 65:17-21/Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13

Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will not believe.
(John 4:48)

All it took was for him to believe,
As doubting would be an obstacle;
Indeed the official’s son would live,
Faith is the way to God’s miracle.

When Jesus returned to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival. He came again to Cana where he had performed His first miracle, changing water into wine. An official from King Herod’s court, whose son lay ill in Capernaum, heard that Jesus had arrived from Judea, and he went to Jesus and begged him to come down and heal his son, who was at the point of death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe.” But the official replied, “Sir, come before my little boy dies.” Seeing his faith, Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live.” The man believed Jesus, and started on his way. Along the way, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them when he began to recover, and they told him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. This was the second sign that Jesus did after returning to Galilee. (John 4:43-54)

Reflection

It seems at first glance that Jesus was admonishing the royal official. This, however, was not the case. Our Lord was merely pointing out the general attitude of the Jews in Galilee, as when He had earlier said, “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” (Mk.6:4) Unlike the Samaritans and the Gentiles who were willing to take Him at His word as the Messiah, the Jews were not. Instead they kept asking for more proof through signs and miracles. Being omniscient, Jesus already knew the condition of their hearts, even as far back as their ancestors who came from Egypt. In the Book of Numbers, God said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” (Num.14:11)

Faith that depends on miracles is shallow and superficial. It is what we might call an external kind of faith. The faith that God wants us to have is an internal one that is not influenced by what our senses perceive. True faith springs from the hunger of one’s heart to experience God’s love. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, stirring the longing of our soul, after it has been nourished by the Word of God. Yes, faith comes after hearing and reading the precious messages of the Father in Holy Scriptures. During this Lenten season, let us spend more time reading the Bible, that we may fully understand that God wants to heal our soul more than our physical ailments.

Thank You, Lord for making us see that it is not miracles that can change our hearts, but the truth of who Jesus is, and why He came, as we read in Your Word. Amen.

The Annunciation

Luke 1: 26-38
Is 7:10-14;8:10/Ps 40:7-1/Heb 10:4-10

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’

Her virtues that we emulate
Will shield us from all tribulation;
Today let’s pause to meditate
Her ‘Yes’ that led to our redemption

In the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the young maiden Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel to announce her role in God’s plan of salvation. Pledged to be married soon to Joseph, Mary would have been placed in a great quandary by the angel’s news that she would be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. But this awesome news that she would become the mother of “the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, to reign over the house of Jacob forever” was a divine privilege that a simple village girl like her could hardly refuse. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” After hearing these revelations, Mary could only reply in total submission, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me as you have said.” Then the angel departed. (Luke 1:26-38)

Reflection

The Church celebrates this day as the Feast of the Annunciation. It is a special day worth commemorating because this day in human history marks the Incarnation of the promised Redeemer, Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) It was in relation to the date of the Savior’s birth on December 25 that the Church selected March 25 (exactly nine months before) as the day when the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took place, the same day that the great news was announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We do not know if Mary was well versed with the prophetic writings, particularly the words of Isaiah in the first reading: “. . . the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14) But her canticle in vs. 46 to 55 revealed her ecstatic feelings to her cousin Elizabeth, knowing that she occupied a unique place in the whole of mankind, because she was now bearing the Son of God. And yet this special honor in no way affected her humble disposition. She even took pains riding a donkey to visit her aged cousin, and stayed to serve her for three months until Elizabeth delivered her own baby.

The Annunciation highlights what we admire most in our Mother Mary: her humility, submission, and obedience to God’s will. Her example clearly defines the meaning of discipleship, which all followers of her Son should strive to emulate.

We thank You, Father for the example of our Mother Mary, providing a beacon for us in times of darkness and trials, for no woman ever felt the pains that she had. Amen.

The Greatest Commandment

Mark 12: 28-34
Hos 14: 2-10/ Ps 81: 6-11, 14 and 17

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(Mark 12:30,31)

Greater love there can be no other,
Nor is there greater mystery:
That sacrifice of God our Father
For His Son’s death in Calvary.

This passage is the only occasion in the Bible where a scribe agreed completely with Jesus when he asked Him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” After our Lord answered him that loving God and one’s neighbor are the two greatest commandments, the scribe said, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than He.’ And ‘to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And seeing his wisdom, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)

Reflection

There is no argument, no clash of opinions, as far as the subject of love is concerned. The scribe had in mind the Ten Commandments that Yahweh God gave to Moses (Deut.5:6-21) when he asked Jesus which was the first of all the commandments. But Jesus’ answer is not found in the Ten Commandments at all! Instead, our Lord quoted Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5), and added a passage from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the laws handed down to Moses were intended to serve God, by avoiding what was sinful, and performing the duties expected of His people. Loving God and neighbor are the greatest commandments because they are done not in obedience to laws, but in imitation and adulation of the Father’s nature, Who is Love. Love is the greatest commandment because it is not just a commandment, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God gives to His faithful children. It is not a task to perform, but a commitment to give of oneself without conditions, without limits.

To love God with all our heart is to love Him above everything that we hold dear, including friends, family, and self, holding nothing back, even life itself. To love God with all our mind is to meditate constantly on His Word, and employ all the talents and abilities that we possess for the purpose that He has laid out for us to propagate His love. To love God with all our strength is to acknowledge our own weakness, and then to use the strength of the Holy Spirit to propagate the Good News of Jesus. And to love our neighbor as ourself is to love him as Jesus has shown us in the Gospel.

Father God, our Lord Jesus has taught us what pleases You most. Grant us the grace to love all the people in our life, including those we’d rather not, for Your sake. Amen.

Love and Obedience

Matthew 5:17-19
Deut 4:1,5-9 / Psa 147

Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:19)

Those who prefer not to obey
God’s laws forfeit heaven’s treasure,
Those who submit will find the way;
Obedience is love’s true measure.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter, or the smallest part of a letter, will by any means pass from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

Reflection

Jesus always emphasized the sacredness and validity of Scripture. “Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law until all things have taken place.” (Mt.5:18) Obedience to God’s laws and love are the two recurring themes in His teachings, two vital keys that we need to open the gates of heaven. His love has transformed us, but we still need God’s decrees and ordinances in Scripture to guide us to His kingdom. Together with the strength, perseverance and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, we strive to follow and learn God’s Word assiduously, and in the process, earn the gifts of the Spirit in order that we can also teach His Good News to others. It becomes our major preoccupation, our mission, our joy and our life.

The love that our Lord Jesus teaches is our most potent tool for sanctification. It transforms our mediocrity into a passionate desire to keep God’s commandments.

Love inspires humility and obedience to the law, and makes it easy to submit ourselves to authority, and be receptive to its teachings. Love for our Brotherhood makes submission sweet and natural. We know the difference between obedience dictated by fear and obedience dictated by love. We submit to our elders not because we fear them, but because we love them.

Obedience also comes easy because in our Brotherhood we experience our spiritual growth in the truths of the Gospel, and we credit this to the teachers of our community. St. Peter wrote, “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely with a pure heart.” (1 Pet 1:22)

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments… He who has received My commandments, and keep them, is the one who loves me…If a man loves me, he will keep my words…He who loves me not keeps not my commandments.” (Jn.14:15-24)

Our greatest model of faith and total obedience in the Old Testament is Abraham. Out of His love, trust and obedience to God, He was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac whom he loved (Gen. 22). His love for God was far greater than his own life.

Those who fear the Lord disobey not His words; those who love Him keep His ways. (Sirach 2:15) Thank You Father for all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that keep us faithful to all Your commands and decrees. Amen.