Jan 28 Monday St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church): Mk 3:22-30: 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ crushing reply to the slander propagated by the observers from the Sanhedrin, that Jesus expelled devils using the assistance of the leader of devils.
Jesus refutes the false allegation raised against him by the Sanhedrin scribes with three counter-arguments and a warning: 1) A house divided against itself will perish and a country engaged in civil war will be ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his co-workers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons, then the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils just as a strong man guards a house and its possessions from the thief. 4) Finally, Jesus gives a crushing blow to his accusers, warning them that by telling blatant lies they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and, hence, that their sins are unforgivable.
Life messages: 1) Jesus teaches that we can be influenced by the evil spirit if we listen to him and follow him. 2) Hence, we have to keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Jan 29 Tuesday: Mk 3:31-35: 31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his mother and cousins came to take him to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that he would be arrested and put to death.
Jesus’ plain statement: Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled a long distance to talk to him. But everyone in the audience knew that Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her for thirty years. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” was actually a compliment to his mother who had always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those who hear and keep the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58). Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson about their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of mutual love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. Jesus has changed the order of relationships and shows us here that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters. This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and His kingdom. “Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Him who fulfilled the will of His Father. But he who not only obeys but converts others, begets Christ in them, and thus becomes like the Mother of Christ” (“Commentary on St. Matthew”, 12:49-50.)
Life message: 1) Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God. Hence, let us observe our obligations of treating others with love and respect and of sharing our love with them in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are also His disciples, and so are obliged to be hearers as well as doers of the word of God. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Jan 30 Wednesday: Mk 4:1-20: 1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty-fold and sixty-fold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 ……………………..19
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives us the parable of the sower, the seeds sown, and the yield depending upon the type of soil. It is the first parable of Jesus in the New Testament about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also a parable interpreted by Jesus himself. This parable was intended as a double warning: to the hearers to be attentive and to the Apostles to be hopeful about Jesus’ preaching in the face of growing opposition to Jesus and his ideas. Jesus wants them to open their hearts generously to the word of God and then to put that word into practice. The sower is God, the Church, the parents, the teachers and we ourselves. The seed sown is the high-yielding word of God which is “a sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23:29).
Soil type & the yield: The hardened soil on the footpath represents people with minds closed because of laziness, pride, prejudice or fear. The soil on flat rock pieces represents emotional types of people who go after novelties without sticking to anything and are unwilling to surrender their wills to God. “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ez 11:19). The soil filled with weeds represents those who are addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, those whose hearts are filled with hatred or jealousy and those whose greed focuses on acquiring money by any means and on enjoying life in any way possible. The good and fertile soil represents well-intentioned people with open minds and clean hearts, earnest in hearing the word and zealous in putting it into practice. Zacchaeus, the sinful woman and the thief on Jesus’ right side, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier, among others, fall into this category of the good soil.
Life message: Let us become the good soil and produce hundred-fold yields by earnestly hearing, faithfully assimilating and daily cultivating the word of God we have received, so that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruits in our lives. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Jan 31 Thursday (St. John Bosco, Priest): Mk 4: 21-25: 21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Mark’s version of Jesus’ teaching after he had told the parable of the sower. Jesus reminds us that we are the light of the world and that our duty is to receive and radiate around us Christ’s light of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
The image of light and lamp: Lamps help people to see and work in the dark, and their light prevents our stumbling and falling down. For the Jews, Light represented the inner beauty, truth and goodness of God. God’s Light illumines our lives with Light, celestial joy and everlasting peace. The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem (Lk 2:9). Paul recognized the presence of God in a blinding Light (Acts 9:3; 22:6); God “dwells in inaccessible Light” (1 Tim 6:16). That is why Jesus claimed that he was the Light of the world. When the Light of Christ shines in our hearts, we are able to recognize who we are, who our neighbors are and who God is and to see clearly how we are related to God and our neighbors. When we live in Christ’s Light, we do not foolishly try to hide truths about ourselves from ourselves, from our neighbors or from God. Christ’s Light will also remind us of the consequences of our sinful ways and bad habits.
The paradox of the rich getting richer: In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the comment “for to him who has, more will be given,” following the warning “Take heed how you hear….” Jesus is telling us that if we listen to him with open minds and open hearts and walk in his Light, the tiny bit of wisdom and understanding that we’ve already gained will grow and grow with his help. If, on the other hand, our hearts are closed to him, even the little bit of wisdom that we think we’ve got will be lost. Jesus is not talking about money or wealth in any form. He is talking about the extent and depth of our connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord is only superficial, our spirits certainly won’t grow, and our connection to Him may well not last at all.
Life message: As “light of the world” it is our duty to remove the darkness from around us and to show others the true Light of Jesus, his ideas and ideals from our model Christian life. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Feb 1 Friday: Mk 4:26-34: 26 Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
The context: Using the mini-parables of the growth of wheat seeds and mustard seeds in the field, Jesus explains the nature of the growth of the Kingdom of God or rule of God in human beings and human societies.
In the case of both wheat and mustard seeds, the initial growth is slow and unnoticeable. But within days a leafy shoot will emerge, and within months a mature plant with numerous branches and leaves, flowers and fruits will be produced. The growth is silent and slow but steady, using power from the seed in the beginning and transforming absorbed water and minerals in the later stages. Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God grows this way in human souls. The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. It is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But it grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God, the Sacraments and our prayers. Finally, God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people doing His will in His kingdom.
Life message 1) As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the word of God, so let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Feb 2 Saturday (The Presentation of the Lord): Lk 2:22-32: The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted appear elsewhere in the liturgical year, but are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus). This is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22), to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd, we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. The same day, we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use).
Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), with the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22). In addition, (Nm 18:15) every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and the sacrifice of a lamb (or two turtle does for the poor) in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna who had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation were present in the temple the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Present Him to the Father. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a Light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, Simeon warned that her child would be “a sign of contradiction” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.
Life message: Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. Let us also remember and pray for our godparents who presented us to the Lord on the day of our Baptism. (Fr. Tony) L/19