Dire Warnings

Luke 21: 5-11
Rev 14:14-19 / Ps 96:10-13

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”
(Luke 21:11)

We do not need to seek for signs,
The Word of God has said it all. . .
Just trust in God that His designs
Are meant for those who heed His call.

Some of the disciples were speaking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and votive offerings to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” They asked, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then He said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:5-11)

Reflection

In the first reading (Revelation), we read about the visions of St. John: “… Another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested (Rev.14:15-16).

St. Luke’s Gospel imparts a similar message. When our Lord gave His Apocalyptic discourse, He was making a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem fifty or so years into the future. At that time, the Jews believed nothing could destroy their temple, or their Judaic tradition. But at the time when St. Luke wrote his Gospel, the early Christians must have realized that their temple was as temporal as their old Jewish traditions, and that only the words of Jesus would last until the end of time. The words that our Lord spoke were in fact not meant for His generation, but for all future Christians to profit by. Thousands of years later, we can see why the Word of God in Jesus Christ is so essential for our eternal salvation.

All true Christians believe the veracity of Scriptures because they are the Word of God Himself. History bears out the fact that all the predictions of Jesus happened to the Jewish nation and their great temple (once believed was imperishable). But our Lord was not merely talking about the destruction of the old Jewish nation. He was also warning us about His second coming. This apocalyptic discourse is found in the book of Revelation, which speaks about the coming Judgment Day. When the disciples asked Jesus about signs of the coming “end times”, He told them about powerful earthquakes, wars, famines, and plagues that would happen throughout the world. And just as He predicted, (“many will come in My name, saying ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come’”) many have been led astray by false prophets. Others do not take these dire warnings seriously, and maintain their sinful lifestyle. Sadly, as our Lord predicted, only a few are blessed to take the Word of God to heart, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

We thank You, Father for Your Word that has made us steadfast in following Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant us the grace to persevere amidst the chaos and deceptions of the world. Amen.

The Joy of Giving

Luke 21: 1-4
Rv 14: 1-3. 4b-5/ Ps 24: 1-6

While Jesus watched the wealthy bringing their offerings to the temple, He noticed a poor widow go up to the treasury to put in two small coins.
(Luke 21: 1)

To those who practice charity,
God’s blessings flow abundantly;
With grateful hearts let’s strive to be
God’s gifts of generosity.

When Jesus looked up, He saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the temple treasury, and He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their surplus wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

Reflection

The widow’s contribution demonstrates the lesson that our Lord is imparting, that it is not so much what we give that counts, but what we are willing to give up. It is the spirit behind our giving that gives our gift its worth. There are two reasons we can think of why the widow decided to part with her last two coins. The first is out of gratitude. In spite of her poverty, she wanted to express her gratitude to God for some blessing(s) that she might have received. Those who have less in life seem to have more in heart. This is God’s justice. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) Which points to the other reason– her strong faith. She firmly believed that by giving everything to God, He would surely reciprocate her sacrifice by giving back to her ten times or even more than what she had surrendered. She had complete faith in God’s providence and generosity.

Today’s Gospel of Luke teaches us several things about the gift of giving. The first is, it doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, we must never neglect our obligation to support our church, as the widow did for her temple. The amount is not as important as the sincerity of our intention.

The second lesson we learn today is, we must give with total trust in the Lord’s Providence, believing that the cornucopia of God’s bounty will always be available to us. If we really have genuine faith in God, then we should harbor no doubt that He o

The third lesson Christ teaches us is this – “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also get a generous harvest. God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” (2 Cor.9:6,8) Most important of all, by being a gift to others, we become God’s answer to their prayers. This was demonstrated last Saturday during our chapter’s advent recollection. With the approval of our chapter head, I requested our members to donate any amount to support a “Days with the Lord” (BIL) project (a mini concert) that will bring the spirit of Christmas to BIL brothers languishing in the city jail. Most of these young men were apprehended for using or pushing illegal drugs. The large amount raised at the spur of the moment brought to mind the words of Khalil Gibran on “Giving”: “There are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life. . . Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth. . . See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.”

Lord, may the words of St. Paul apply in all our dealings: “The One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor. 9:10) Amen.

To Live is to Hope in God

Luke 20: 27-40
Rev 11:4-12 / Ps 144

God is the God of the living and not of the dead, and for Him all are alive.
(Lk.20:38)

We have hope in eternal life
After this temporal time of pain;
As certain as day comes after night,
And the rainbow after the rain.

Some of the Sadducees came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second married the widow, but also died childless; and then the third married her, and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Luke 20:27-40)

Reflection

The Sadducees were a sect of Jews who did not believe in the resurrection. The question they posed to Jesus about a widow marrying seven brothers in succession was meant to parody the belief of their counterparts, the Pharisees, on the life hereafter. Instead, their belief was put to ridicule by the simple explanation of Jesus that Moses called the Father the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and since He is the God of the living, then those three patriarchs must still be alive in God’s kingdom. Some of the scribes had to concede, saying: “Teacher, You have answered well.”
People who hold no hope that there is an afterlife consign themselves to despair. Thank God for the gift of Faith, because without it there can never be hope. The children of God, followers of Jesus Christ, have hope in eternal life when their time in this life has come to an end. This hope in a final glory with the Father in heaven is the only reason why we strive to be good and remain unaffected by the ways of this world. This should also make us feel joyful and grateful notwithstanding the problems and conflicts that we face daily. Hope is an eternal flame burning in our hearts, keeping us warm against the cold realities of sin, suffering and cynicism in this world. Hope is the light that wards off the darkness of depravity and despair.

Hope and its fruits of joy and peace do not come from this world. Like faith, it is a gift freely given by God to those who are deserving. It cannot be given to one whose heart is bothered by sin, because one is a kin of love, and the other of hate. A sinner must first be freed from his bondage through the sacrament of Penance – asking the Lord for the forgiveness of his sins, and in turn forgiving his enemies before he can expect to receive the gift of hope. It also might take a little time to acquire. One has to have patience and perseverance – but it is certainly worth the wait — what joy it is to possess the hope in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Father in heaven, thank You for giving us Jesus, Your beloved Son. Because of Him, everything has life. His resurrection from the dead has given us the hope of eternal life. We thank You also for the gift of Faith, without which we would have fallen into despair. Though You remain a great Mystery to us, Your gift of Faith is more than knowledge, and though we do not see clearly now, we believe that one day Your great mystery will be revealed to us. This is our fervent hope. AMEN.

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 19:46)

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 believe that all of us 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, with God’s grace, we strive to purge our temple of all materialistic and venal influences in order to reach the level of holiness that God wants us to attain. Today’s Gospel also reveals how serious a crime against God’s sacred institution is (the Church) when we defile it with the commerce of a marketplace. Can you 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 demons. 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 have faithfully practiced through the years 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, just as falling into sin is defeat. Come, Holy Spirit, always dwell within. Amen.

Tears for Jerusalem

Luke 19: 41-44
Rev 5:1-10 / Ps 149:1b-6a,9b

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 wonder what it means
To recognize His visitation?

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 know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)

Reflection

It comes as a big surprise to read Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, when just before entering the city, the multitudes were throwing their cloaks on his path and praising God with joy, proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord… peace in heaven, hosannah in the highest!” (Lk.19:36-38). How could such a triumphant entry suddenly turn into an occasion of grief? This moving passage in the Gospel of Luke certainly provokes some insights on the true nature of Jesus Christ.

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 devastate 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 pity for the obstinacy and pride and the lack of faith of the Jews that led to their ruin. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus lamented the fate of the city 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 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 lack of repentance 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 noncommittal in establishing a 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?

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 Talents

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

I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
(Luke 19:26)

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

Jesus went on to tell them a parable, He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your talent has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ The second came and said, ‘Sir, your talent has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ Then the third servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your talent; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his talent away from him and give it to the one who has ten.’ “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” (Luke 19:11-28)

Reflection

Our Lord Jesus gave this parable of the talents to impress upon His apostles their responsibility as stewards of His kingdom here on earth. Those who have been faithful in taking charge of small assignments will be given greater undertakings and even greater rewards. But those who do not put to good use even the little talents given them will suffer their loss, as well as the inheritance of His eternal kingdom.

Our Lord illustrates 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, 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 lukewarm, or for some reason are afraid to take the leap of faith. Jesus seems to be telling them: “From him who has no faith, even the little that he has will be taken away.” Most Christians belong to this “third category” of Christ’s servants, 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 some “interest” for His investment, lest we lose our most precious possession.

May each day that we live be filled with works that give You glory, Lord, if only to show our appreciation for all the talents that You have given us, and for this gift of life that You have made so precious. Amen.