Aug 27- Sept 1: Aug 27 Monday (St. Monica): Mt 23:13-22: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, `If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 -22
The context: It is the third day of the original “Holy Week” in Jerusalem, a day of controversy and personal attacks. Jesus is under fire, and he lashes out at the religious leaders of Israel for rejecting him as the Messiah. In the text chosen for the Scripture reading today, Jesus pronounces the first three of the eight woes he levies against the religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and publicly humiliating them. The Judeo-Christians of Matthew’s early Christian community argued that the Gentile Christians should follow all Torah laws, oral laws and oral traditions. Matthew’s account reminds them of the criticism of Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage.
Sins of the Scribes and Pharisees: Matthew 23 gives us Jesus’ scathing condemnation of the Jewish leadership, as he expresses the rolling thunder of his anger and sorrow at the hypocrisy or double-standard of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus levels three accusations against the Pharisees: 1) they do not practice what they preach, 2) they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and 3) they seek public acknowledgment and glory for themselves rather than for God. Jesus calls them hypocrites because i) although they know that the essence of religion is loving one’s neighbors, seeing God in them, they teach that external observance of man-made laws is the real essence of religion; ii) although they are zealous missionaries in inviting converts to Judaism, they overburden the converts with man-made laws and regulations as the essence of Judaism; and iii) they try to bluff God by misinterpreting the Law and misleading the people. Jesus gives the example of swearing and accuses them of cleverly evading binding oaths and solemn promises by falsified interpretations.
Life message: 1) What Jesus wants is a pure heart, with no element of deceit. We should not follow the dog-in-the-manger policy of the Pharisees by not keeping God’s commandments ourselves and not allowing others to keep them. 2) Let us avoid frivolous swearing and oaths and all forms of hypocrisy and superstition in our religious life. (Fr. Tony) L/18
Aug 28 Tuesday (St. Augustine, Bishop & doctor of the Church): Mt 23: 23-26: 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. 26 You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
The context: Chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel presents the rolling thunder of Jesus’ anger and sorrow at the blatant hypocrisy of the Pharisees, in the form of a series of denunciations. Today’s Gospel passage contains three charges: unauthorized extra tithing, exaggerated zeal for the Law and undue emphasis on external cleanliness as a cheap substitute for internal purity. For Jesus, the essence of religion is offering a clean heart to God, a heart filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Mere external observance of rituals without cleansing the heart is hypocrisy.
The first accusation is that the Pharisees practice non-required and silly tithing of herbs in the kitchen garden, while they fail to observe “the weightier matters of the Law, Justice, Mercy and Faith,” thus missing the spirit of tithing. Tithing was intended to acknowledge God’s ownership of all our possessions, to support the Temple worship, and to help the poor in the Jewish community. The second denunciation is of their exaggerated zeal for observing the letter of the Law, for instance filtering the drinks to avoid unclean insects, while committing serious sins without any prick of conscience. The third indictment is of their exaggerated zeal for ritual, external cleanliness while they leave their minds and hearts filled with pride, evil intentions, prejudice and injustice and do not practice mercy or offer compassion to suffering people.
Life message: 1) Let us not be pharisaical in our religious life by meticulously practicing external observance of piety and devotion while remaining unjust, uncharitable, arrogant, impatient, cruel and stubborn. We are tempted to hide the bad things about ourselves and advertise the good things. So the bad things grow, and the good things are dissipated. Let us try to have noble intentions for all our good deeds. Let us learn to love God living in others by rendering them sacrificial service with agápe love. (Fr. Tony) L/18
Aug 29 Wednesday (The Passion of St. John the Baptist): Martyrdom of John the Baptist: Mk 6:17-29): 14 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. 18 For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her….29
The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last scene of a tragic drama with three main characters, Herod, Herodias and John the Baptist. Herod was a jealous and weak puppet-king of one section of Israel which was at that time, part of the Roman Empire, with a guilty conscience. He feared the prophet John because John had publicly scolded him for divorcing his legal wife without adequate cause and for marrying his sister-in-law Herodias who was his niece, thus committing a double violation of Mosaic Law. Herodias was an immoral and greedy woman, stained by a triple guilt and publicly criticized by John. 1) She was an unfaithful woman of loose morals. 2) She was a greedy and vengeful woman. 3) She was an evil mother who used her teenage daughter for the evil purposes of murder and revenge by encouraging the girl to dance in public in the royal palace against the royal etiquette of the day. John the Baptist was a fiery preacher and the herald of the Promised Messiah. He was also a Spirit-filled prophet with the courage of his prophetic convictions who dared to criticize and scold an Oriental monarch and his proud wife in public.
God’s punishment: After the martyrdom of John, Herod was defeated by Aretas, the father of his first wife. Later, both Herod and Herodias were sent into exile by Caligula, the Roman emperor.
Life messages: 1) Our sins will haunt us, ruining our mental peace, as happened to Herod and Herodias. 2) Brutal sins against others will not go unpunished (Fr. Tony) L/18
Aug 30 Thursday: Matthew 24: 42-51: 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, `My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, 51 and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
The context: The central theme of today’s Gospel passage is the necessity for Faith and vigilant preparedness in the lives of Christ’s followers. The passage contains a pair of short parables in which the chief characters are a master (representing the risen Jesus), and his servants (Jesus’ followers, ourselves). Jesus warns his disciples that they must be prepared at all times because the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour. According to the Fathers of the Church, Jesus’ words in this passage have two senses. In the narrower sense, the words refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, but in the broader sense they refer to the time of our own death, when God will call us to meet Him and to give Him an account of our life on earth. Jesus wants his disciples to be ready at every moment to do God’s will by loving others through humble, sacrificial service.
Steadfast Faith and eternal vigilance: In the first part of this discourse, prior to today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his followers the need for constant vigilance, using the mini-parable of the thief and the treasure. We should not lose our treasure of Divine grace or close relationship with Jesus, like the man who awoke one morning to discover that a thief had stolen his wealth in the night. In the second part (today’s Gospel), Jesus exhorts his followers to be steadfast in their Faith and ever vigilant. When he had to be away from home, a master would make a servant his steward and entrust to him the management of the household. A trusted steward was expected to run his master’s house well, to govern the master’s servants and to administer the master’s estate. When his master was not at home, a wise and trustworthy steward was ever-vigilant. He prepared himself for his master’s return at any time of the day or night by always doing his duties faithfully. Jesus illustrates the same point by using another mini-parable of the foolish and wicked steward who got drunk and was caught red-handed by his master.
Life message: 1) These parables encouraging “wakefulness” and “preparedness” are addressed to all believers. Since the time of our death is quite uncertain, we, too, must be ever ready to meet our Lord at any moment. Our Master should find us carrying out our tasks of love, mercy and service, rather than leaving things undone or half-done or postponed. He should also find us at peace with God, ourselves and with our fellowmen (Eph 4:26) (Fr. Tony) L/18
Aug 31 Friday: Mt 25:1-13: 1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, `Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 …13
The context: Today’s parable, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, brings the usual warnings about preparation for the end of our own world, the end of our own times and our passage to another world. The parable tells us that a searching, watching and growing heart is essential for a lively, dynamic Faith in God and asks us whether we are ready for these events and how we are preparing for them.
The parable: Since a wedding was a great occasion, the whole village would line up at the sides of the road to wish God’s blessings on the bride and groom in procession. The invited ones would join the procession, which started from the bride’s house, and ended at the groom’s house to take part in the week-long celebration. Since the bridegroom might come to the bride’s house unexpectedly, the bridal party had to be ready at any time, with virgins carrying lighted torches and reserve oil in jars. The five foolish virgins who could not welcome the groom’s party lost not only the opportunity of witnessing the marriage ceremony, but also of participating in the week-long celebration that followed. The local meaning is that the foolish virgins represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah but were shut out from the Messianic banquet because they were unprepared. The universal meaning is that the five foolish virgins represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives and for the Final Judgment. They do not put their Faith in Jesus and live it out by keeping his Commandment to love others as he did.
Life messages: 1) We must be wise enough to remain ever prepared: Wise Christians carefully make their daily choices for God. They are ready to put the commandment of love into practice by showing kindness and forgiveness. 2) Let us be sure that our lamps are ready for the end of our lives: Spiritual readiness, preparation and growth come as a result of intentional habits built into one’s life. These include taking time for prayer and being alone with God; reading God’s Word; leading a Sacramental life; cooperating with God’s grace by offering acts of loving service to others; practicing moral faithfulness and living always in loving obedience. (Fr. Tony) L/18
Sept 1 Saturday: Matthew 25:14-30 : 14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, `Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, `Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
The context: The three parables in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew (The Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Talents, The Last Judgment) are about the end times, the end of the world, and the end of our lives. The parable of the talents is an invitation for each one of us to live in such a way that we make the best use of the talents God has given us. Then, at the hour of our death, God will say: “Well done, My good and faithful servant, come and share the joy of your Master.” The parable challenges us to ask the questions: Are we using our talents and gifts primarily to serve God? Are we doing everything we can to carry out God’s will? The story: A very rich person, about to set off on a journey, entrusted very large sums of wealth (talents), to three of his slaves, each according to his personal ability: five, two, and one. Through skillful trading and investing, the first and second slaves managed to double their master’s money. Afraid of taking risk and lazy by nature, the third slave buried his talent in the ground. On the day of accounting, the master rewarded the two clever slaves (“Come, share your master’s joy.”), but punished the third slave whom he calls “wicked and slothful” (v. 26). Life messages: 1) We need to trust God enough to make use of the gifts and abilities we have been given. Everyone is given different talents and blessings by God. So we should ask ourselves how we are using our particular gifts in the service of our Christian community and the wider society. 2) We need to make use of our talents in our parish. We should be always willing to share our abilities in the liturgy, in Sunday school classes and in social outreach activities like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting the sick and the shut-ins. 3) We need to trade with our talent of Christian Faith: All of us in the Church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of Faith. Our responsibility as men and women of Faith is not just to preserve and “keep” the faith but to live it out daily and pass it faithfully to the next generation in our family and in our parish community. (Fr. Tony) L/18