Jesus, A Promise Fulfilled

Luke 4: 14-22
1 Jn 4: 19 – 5: 4 / Ps 72: 1-2, 14-15, 17

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.
(Luke 4:18)

As His words and works have won us
To this ministry of Jesus,
May God’s Spirit be upon us
To boldly proclaim His Good News.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. (Luke 4: 14-22)

Reflection

The folks in His hometown of Nazareth knew Jesus since childhood as the son of the carpenter Joseph. For them, He surely couldn’t have had as much education about Scriptures as the scribes in their town. So it must have been truly amazing for them to hear the wisdom that issued from His lips. What they didn’t know was that being the Son of God, the Word made flesh, Jesus was totally familiar with all the verses in the Old Testament, as God Himself inspired all of them to be written. In fact all the events in Scriptures presaged His coming. The patriarchs and prophets were all His precursors, and He had first-hand knowledge about all of them.

Jesus came to town “in the power of the Spirit”. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, He knew which passage in Isaiah was appropriate for the occasion, and He read his prophecy. Indeed in everything that He did, Jesus was fulfilling all the prophecies about Himself faithfully. He was preaching the Good News of salvation (to the poor in spirit), and freeing thousands from the bondage of sin; He was restoring sight to the blind, and releasing the infirmed and possessed from the oppression of diseases and evil spirits.

It is in proclaiming the Word of God that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. And the only way we can do this is to be more familiar with our bible. It is in the daily meditation of the Scriptures that we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ, and His role in our salvation. Just as He was the realization of Yahweh God’s promise to the Israelite nation, He is also the manifestation today of God’s Covenant with all of His children. His words are fulfilled in our hearing today. Listen to Him.

Let Your Holy Spirit be upon us, Lord God, so that we may also proclaim Your Good News of salvation to others in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Overcoming Trials with Love

Mark 6: 45-52
1 Jn 4: 11-18 / Ps 72: 1-2, 10, 12-13

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”
(1 John 4:18)

Without love we fear the specter
Of raging storms, wars, or disease;
Let the love of our Protector,
Jesus Christ put our hearts at ease.

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:45-52)

Reflection

The patience of the Lord must have been tested by His disciples’ short memory or their feeble faith. They had just witnessed the feeding of five thousand people from five loaves and two fish. Earlier, Jesus had healed a woman who had an incurable hemorrhage, and brought back to life the dead daughter of a synagogue official. And before that, He had already displayed His power over the forces of nature when He commanded the raging wind and sea, “Quiet! Be still!” and they obeyed (Mark 4:39). His disciples were struggling with the waves and the wind when Jesus followed after them. But seeing Him walking on the water, they struggled even more with their limited faith as they trembled with fear, thinking that Jesus was some kind of specter. Their fears only calmed down like the wind when Jesus came aboard their boat.

All of us experience waves of trials and winds of turbulence in our lives, even if, or perhaps especially when we are serving the Lord. There may even be times when we reach the verge of despair when our efforts seem futile, like the disciples whose struggles against the waves proved unavailing. However, as we have heard in countless breakfast testimonies, it is when these storms have overwhelmed us, that we realize our need for God’s intervention. Jesus assures us: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then our fears fade when we realize how much God loves us. As St. John pointed out in the first reading: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1 Jn.4:18) Therefore, let us lift up our hardships to God, and use them to overcome all forms of hatred and anger in our hearts, forgiving all hurts, misunderstandings and offenses, which are more harmful to us than the trials that we fear. Then God’s love will become the rule of our lives, the gentle wind that will make our boat sail calmly to the other side.

Lord God, You are our Rock of salvation, our protection in times of trouble, and the Source of our strength. Increase the grace of Your love in our hearts, so that we may learn to love without conditions, and without fear, and so live our days in harmony and peace. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The Miracle of Compassion

Mark 6: 34-44
1Jn 4:7-10 / Ps 72:1-4,7-8

He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:34)

No matter how little we give,
With compassion, it will expand.
If we have love and just believe,
We can raise hundreds of thousands.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. When it grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But He answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And He said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before the people; and He divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were satisfied; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men. (Mark 6:34-44)

Reflection

How typical of human nature to avoid the responsibility of taking care of the needs of others, especially when it seems that the odds are too insurmountable. “Send the people away to the surrounding villages so they can buy for themselves something to eat.” But the compassion of Jesus was more powerful than their doubts and anxieties. “You give them something to eat.” (Mk.6:37) How could the apostles fail to anticipate how easily Jesus could solve this simple problem after they had witnessed His changing water into more than 120 gallons of the finest wine in a wedding at Cana (Jn.2:7-10); after He had healed all kinds of disease, including the expelling of demons (Mk.1:32-34); and even giving them the powers to heal and cast out demons themselves (Mk.6:13)? They simply were not “thinking out of the box”. They were always more concerned about their limited resources. “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (6:37) And yet all it took were just five loaves and two fish.

Our Lord’s message in today’s Gospel of Mark is that nothing is impossible in this world if only we have faith and compassion. An old member of our community whose wrong attitude and spiteful remarks kept him estranged from the group had the misfortune of falling very ill, and his operation and medical bills ran into hundreds of thousands of pesos. In spite of his strained relationships with many members, the governance decided to “pass the hat” to help defray his hospital bills, which had prevented his early release. When one member commented that “raising the amount he needs would have been so much easier if he wasn’t so difficult to get along with,” a Spirit-inspired reply came: “But isn’t that exactly what our Lord meant when He told us to love the unlovable? It is when we show compassion and help to those who are hard to love that our loving is made perfect and pleasing to God. We later learned from his doctor, who is one of our community’s leaders that our sick brother was finally released from the hospital and is now recovering from his operation. How blessed we are who witness God’s miracle of compassion in our community.

Sweet Bread of Life, nourish our faith. Make us see that You’ll always bless what we give no matter how little as long as given with love. You will multiply them when we place them in Your hands. Grant us the grace to see that everything comes from You, and must also be shared with others, as much as You shared Your life for our sake. We may not have much to give, but in Your hands the good they do for others will be multiplied. Amen.

His Ministry for Me

Matthew 4:12-17,23-25
1Jn 3:22–- 4:6 / Ps 2:7-8,10-12

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
(Matthew 4:17)

Jesus went all over Galilee
To heal the sick of body and soul;
We too must have a ministry
If we seek to follow the Master’s Goal.

When Jesus heard that John had been imprisoned, he withdrew to Galilee. He moved from Nazareth to make his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in the land under the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” …Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria. People brought to Him all who suffered with various illnesses and afflictions, epileptics, paralytics, and those possessed by demons, and He healed them. And large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River followed Him. (Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25)

Reflection

“He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30)- As Jesus began to expand His ministry John’s role started to diminish. John was the harbinger of the Messiah, but his star must fade first before the Lord’s would shine. “He moved from Nazareth to make His home in Capernaum by the sea” because He was rejected by His own town mates (Jn.4:44 – “A prophet has no honor in his native place”), and to fulfill scriptures: “The coastlands will wait for His teaching” (Isa.42:4). Before Jesus came to Galilee, the people there were in darkness, because the Gospel was yet to be preached to them. His preaching of repentance, coupled with healings of all kinds of disease and affliction was the great light that had dawned upon them.

As we start another year in this journey called life, we thank God for healing us, just as Jesus did the thousands in Capernaum in Galilee. But our healing was just the beginning. After the Spirit tested and strengthened our commitment, we found that it was not only for our deliverance that the Lord had called us; He was also commissioning us into His service, that we may proclaim His message to others, to follow Him perfectly. Writing these daily Gospel reflections to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus may be the fulfillment of a pledge made more than 20 years ago when my wife and I joined the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. It is a unique gift from the Lord for a ministry which I also believe has been a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in my own spiritual formation, because the effort involved would not bear fruit without His guidance and inspiration. Corollary to His gift is the blessing of becoming closer to brothers and sisters in the faith, especially to the members of our chapter, and even to total strangers who share this common passion for God’s Word.

Loving Father, we look back in repentance and look forward in hope, knowing that You have forgiven our sins as we strive to follow Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in all His teachings. Bless our new year with the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Feast of St. John Neumann

John 1: 43-51
1 Jn 3:11-21 / Ps 100:1-5

Can anything good come from Nazareth?
(John 1:46)

Let us walk in humility,
Not be blinded by prejudice;
When we hear God’s call, “Follow me”
‘We shall see greater things than this.’

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Peter and Andrew. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than this.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Reflection

Prejudice is one of the most common flaws of human nature. Our orientation or social upbringing often influences us to pre-judge certain individuals based on their race, color of skin, educational background or place of origin. The apostle Nathanael was an upright and intelligent man, and yet, on impulse, his immediate response to Philip when informed about Jesus was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” To counter this bias, Jesus promised him, “You shall see greater things than this.”

Today is the feast day of St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia (1852-60) and the first American bishop to be canonized. Perhaps it was also prejudice on the part of the bishops of his native Bohemia, as well as all the other bishops in Europe who refused his request to be ordained to the priesthood that St. John Neumann decided to migrate to the United States where he was ordained in 1836. In 1842 he joined the Redemptorist order, and after six years of hard but fruitful work, he was appointed the order’s provincial superior in America. In 1852, John Neumann was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia in Baltimore, Pennsylvania. He was able to organize a Catholic diocesan school system that increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from one to two hundred. He also established many parishes.

St. John Neumann heeded our Lord’s words, “Follow Me” and “Go, and teach all nations.” If the bishops in Europe had asked, “Can anything good come from Bohemia?” St. John Neumann might have answered, “Come and see the hundreds of schools and churches that the Lord had made possible for me to establish.”

St. John Neumann’s life exemplifies what our Lord meant when He said, “You shall see greater things than this.” God does not send His disciples on a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it. Just as He gave John Neumann his exceptional organizational skills, God will also grant us the talents to use in spreading the Good News. All that is needed is to trust Him when we hear the call, “Come and see.”

Thank You, Father God, for the exemplary life of Your saints, like St. John Neumann, whom we honor today. May their example inspire us to be bold in helping build Your kingdom here on earth, and never to be discouraged against all odds. Amen.

Leading Others to Jesus

John 1: 35-42
1 Jn 3:7-10 / Ps 98:1,7-9

“We have found the Messiah.” Then he brought him to Jesus.
(John 1:41-42)

Blessed is the man who leads us,
As Andrew led his brother Peter;
We all find our way to Jesus
Thru another to be His leader.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” Jesus replied, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, t Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas”, which, when translated, means ‘Peter’. (John 1:35-42)

Reflection

When John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to his two disciples, Andrew and John, as the Lord walked past them, the two future apostles followed the Lord without hesitation, and stayed with Him the whole day. Later, Andrew sought out his brother Simon to tell him about the Messiah. Then he brought him to Jesus, Who told him, “You will be called Cephas” (or Peter). John the Baptist did not mind that his disciples would leave him to follow Jesus. He had said earlier, “Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (Jn.1:34), and told them much later, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn.3:30). It was enough for him that he had revealed the Messiah to others.

By his example, John the Baptist had led others to Christ. Have we ever consciously led others to the Lord through our renewal community and by being His model of true Christian living? Have our words and actions been a strong influence in the formation of the Christian values of those under our care?

By the Gospel ideals that we live by, each one of us can be a signpost leading other souls to God, just as much as by our bad example or indifference we might drive others away from Him. When good friends invited us to the breakfast fellowship of their community, we could not say no because they were a couple we held in high esteem. What we have learned and gained, in terms of genuine friends in the brotherhood, and more importantly, for the closer relationship we now have with the Lord we will always be grateful to our sponsors for, as we are sure they must be to theirs.

Lead us, Lord, to others that they too may see what we have seen and learned, and by the guidance of Your Spirit, the favor we received may be returned. Amen.