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Sept 21-26: Sept 21 Monday (St. Mathew, Apostle and Evangelist) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-matthew/ : Mt 9:9-13: 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/xx2_Zpwb7hc
The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others. The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax-collector’s station to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, hated and despised the tax collectors as traitors, considered them public sinners, and ostracized them. But Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. That is why, while everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because, for him, Christ’s invitation to him, to become Jesus’ follower, was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance and protection. Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends who were also outcasts. Jesus’ dining with all these outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. But they asked, not Jesus Himself, but the young disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus, coming to the rescue of his disciples, cut in, and answered the question, stressing his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Hosea 6:6). Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44. Then he went to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where he suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954].
Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven us our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus calls us daily through the Word and through his Church, to be his disciples and, so, to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 2) Just as Matthew did, we, too, are expected to proclaim Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy and compassion. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Sept 22 Tuesday: Lk 8:19-21: 19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/XLxSoW_Yobo
The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his cousins, bringing his Mother with them (as a wedge in the door, so Jesus would listen to them?) came to take him back 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 the long distance of twenty miles, probably on foot, to talk to him. But everyone in the audience knew how Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her until he started his public ministry. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it,” was indeed a compliment to his mother who had always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. It also dismissed, without mentioning them, all claims kindred might make which would interfere with His Messianic Mission. In other words, Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those who heard and kept the word of God as Mary was faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58). Jesus was also using the occasion to teach his listeners a new lesson in their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, means first and foremost having a deep, growing and personal relationship of love and unity with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows us 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, actually or potentially, 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 in absolute, unquestioned, first place. Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he or she is like Jesus who fulfilled the will of his Father.
Life messages: 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, we have the two-fold obligation to treat others with love and respect and to share our love with them by corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
2) Let us grow as true disciples of Jesus by becoming hearers as well as doers of the word of God. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Sept 23 Wednesday: (St. Pius Pietrelcina, Priest) (www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-pio-of-pietreocina/ (Lk 9:1-6): 1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, or bag, or bread, or money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/uskKn0ywgBs
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the commissioning of the twelve Apostles. Sent out with “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,” they exercised their preaching and healing mission according to the detailed action-plan given by Jesus.
Jesus’ instructions and travel tips. By his instructions, it is clear that Jesus meant his disciples to take no supplies for the road. They were simply to trust that God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of their needs. The Jews supported their rabbis, and judged doing so a privilege as well as an obligation, because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine. Jesus’ instructions also suggest that his disciples should not be like the acquisitive Jewish priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches. The Apostles should be walking examples of God’s love and providence in action. They should choose temporary accommodation in a reputable household, they should bless the residents with God’s peace, and they should be satisfied with the food and accommodation they have received, without searching for better.
Life messages: 1) We, too, have a witness-bearing mission: Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle. As apostles, we are sent out to evangelize the world by sharing with others, not just words, or ideas, or doctrines, but our experiences of God and His Son, Jesus. It is through our transparent Christian lives that we are to show the love, mercy and concern of Jesus to the people around us.
2) We also have a liberating mission: There are many demons which can control the lives of people around us, making them helpless slaves —the demon of nicotine, the demon of alcohol, the demon of gambling, the demon of pornography and promiscuous sex, the demon of materialism and consumerism. We need the help of Jesus to be liberated from them ourselves and to help Him liberate others from these bondages. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Sept 24 Thursday (Lk 9:7-9: 7) Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen. 9 Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/IN8Gth0ZBCg
The context: Although King Herod respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet, he was not converted, and he was maneuvered into beheading John by his vengeful, intolerant, immoral, jealous wife Herodias. When his personal staff started reporting stories to Herod about the new prophet, Jesus, as the reappearance of Elijah the prophet, Herod expressed his fear that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist whom he had unjustly killed. So, he wanted to see Jesus to get rid of his fear and feelings of guilt. (Navarre Bible commentary: “It was also commonly believed by Jews at the time that Elijah or some other prophet had to appear again (Deuteronomy 19:15). This may have been why Herod began to think that perhaps John had come back to life (Mat-thew 14:1-2 and Mark 6:14-16), particularly since Jesus worked miracles and people thought this power was the prerogative of those who had risen from the dead”).
The haunting conscience: Herod Antipas was one of the several sons of Herod the Great, the King of Israel who had divided his kingdom among four of his sons. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. The conscience of this immoral oriental tyrant Herod started destroying his peace of mind when he realized the heinousness of his crimes of an illicit and immoral relationship with his niece and sister-in-law, Herodias, in gross violation of Mosaic laws, and his cooperation in the murder of John the Baptist. His discomfort led him, not to repentance, but to the fear that John had come back from the dead to punish him, a fear that might have prompted Herod’s wish to see Jesus in person. His wish was finally realized when Jesus was dragged to him during Jesus’ trial before Pilate. But Jesus did not yield to Herod’s demand for a miracle and kept silence.
Life messages: 1) We need to keep our conscience clean by repenting of our sins and being reconciled with God and His Church. Otherwise, our sins will haunt us, making our lives miserable. We should not make habitual and chronic evil choices so that we become impervious to God’s grace, as King Herod did.
2) It is necessary that we should have a clear understanding of who Jesus really is. We need to see, experience and accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. Such an acceptance should lead us to a total adoption of his ideas and ideals and his way of life. Otherwise, we will be like Herod, who resembled the people who flock to healing services today, looking for miracles but not for Jesus. If our following of Jesus causes in us no change that transforms our souls and radiates Jesus outward from us, our attempts to have mountain-top experiences will be meaningless and vain. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Sept 25 Friday: Lk 9:18-22: 18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” 20 And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” USCCB video reflections:https://youtu.be/92Su0ut5CQI
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the first of the three times when Jesus foretells his Passion, death and Resurrection. It consists of two sections, the Messianic confession of Peter and the prediction of his Passion by Jesus.
Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection. According to Matthew (16: 13-19), and Mark (8: 27-30), this famous profession of Faith by Peter took place at Caesarea Philippi, at present called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts. 1) “What is the public opinion about me? “and 2) “What is your personal opinion? “Their answer to the first question was: “Some say John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” Peter volunteered to answer the second question, saying: “You are the Christ of God.” But Jesus charged and commanded them to tell this to no one and predicted his Passion and death.
Life messages: Let us experience Jesus as our Lord: 1) We experience Jesus as our personal Savior by listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering him our lives on the altar in frequent attendance at Holy Mass, by being reconciled with him every night, asking his pardon and forgiveness for our sins, and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we are in mortal sin.
2) The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Sept. 26 Saturday (Saints Cosmas & Damien) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saints-cosmas-and-damian/ : Lk 9: 43-45: 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Coming down from the mountain after His Transfiguration, Jesus healed an epileptic boy. Today’s Gospel begins with the reaction of the crowds to this cure: “and all were astonished at the majesty of God.” But Jesus uses this occasion of high popularity to explain that, in order to reveal his real majesty, “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.”
Jesus’ least understood prediction: His coming suffering and death: In fact, Jesus foretold three times his great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. The Apostles could not take it in because they were dreaming of a political messiah in Jesus. Besides, Jesus showed his glory to three of them on the mountain and baffled everyone by instantly healing an epileptic boy whom the Apostles could not heal, so plainly, no one could do this to him by their own power. In addition, Jesus’ disciples were really frightened by such a prediction, perhaps fearing the same fate for themselves. They may also have been ignorant of the “Suffering Servant” prophecy of Isaiah, where the Messiah was pictured as making atonement for sins through his suffering and death. When Jesus called himself the “Son of Man,” the Apostles got the impression of the Messiah coming in glory as described by Daniel.
Life messages: 1) Jesus paid the ransom for our sins by his blood and freed us from the tyranny of sin and fear of death. Jesus defeated the powers of death through his Resurrection. Hence, it is our duty to live and die as free children of God, freed from all types of slavery to sin, evil habits and addictions.
2) We should ask Jesus for help to carry our daily crosses in the same spirit of atonement for our sins and those of others that marked Jesus’ willing, sacrificial sufferings and death for all of us. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20