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ARTICLE: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A


Is 55.6-9; Phil 1.20-24, 27; Mt 20.1-16

 The Law of the Seed

Take a look at an apple tree. There might be five hundred apples on the tree, each with ten seeds. That's a lot of seeds. We might ask, "Why would you need so many seeds to grow just a few more trees?"

Nature has something to teach us here. It's telling us. "Most seeds never grow. So if you really want to make something happen, you should better try more than once."

This might mean.

  • You'll attend twenty interviews to get one job.
  • You'll interview forty people to find one good employee.
  • You'll talk to fifty people to sell one house, car, vacuum cleaner, insurance policy, or idea.
  • And you might meet a hundred acquaintances to find one special friend.

When we understand the 'Law of the Seed', we don't get so disappointed. We stop feeling like victims. Laws of nature are not things to take personally. We just need to understand them - and work with them.

Successful people fail more often. They plant more seeds.

Is God Unjust?

Has God been unjust to us? To me? To my family? To my Country? To my community? These questions cannot be answered. But God’s grace is really great. It comes to us without any of our merits.  Whatever we have today has been a gift of God’s grace.

That’s what the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is really about.  God’s grace comes to different people at different times and in different ways. And that includes everyone here.  Perhaps some of us may feel that we have not been the persons we could and should be. Maybe we are correct.  But we haven’t missed our opportunity for salvation.  God’s grace is amazing.  There is still time for him to radically change our lives. The landowner has "hired" (misthoomai) the workers (ergates), which implies an offer to pay (misthos) them for their work. In contrast, Mt 21.28 has a father telling his son, "Go and work (ergazomai) in the vineyard today," which may not involve payment for work done.

An Agreement

"What do you pay your volunteers?" is a question raised by experts in volunteerism. We don't pay them with money, but what kind of recognition, self-fulfillment, joy, sense of accomplishment, etc. do they receive for their work? An agreement (symphoneo) is reached between the landowner and the first workers. (Symphoneo was used in 18.19: "if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.") A denarius for a day’s work does not indicate a generous landowner. It was the minimum wage a family in poverty could exist on. This agreement speaks against interpreting this parable primarily as an illustration of God's generosity. The wages aren't that great. The workers have barely enough to live on. They remain in poverty, but their needs for this day will be met. Thus it may be better to translate agathos (v. 15) as "good" than as "generous". It was good for the landowner to give the workers a minimum wage that was enough to live on for the day. It was not a generous wage.

An interesting picture can be created with the word "idle" (argos = lit. "not working" which can imply "doing nothing" or "being ineffective"). The "cure" for being unemployed (at least in the parable's picture) has to come from someone else being willing to invite you to come and work. This results in two benefits: the hiree is given what is needed (work & wages) and the hirer receives what is needed (work done).

We need to Work

Does God need us to work? That seems to be a theme in Matthew where Jesus says: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (9.37b-38). Perhaps our great emphasis against works-righteousness (which is centered on getting what one deserves, i.e. "What do I have to do to be saved?") has kept us from seeing the importance and necessity of good works (which is centered on responding to God's grace, i.e. "You are saved, what are you going to do?").

The "cure" for our unfulfilled and non-productive lives is not going out and finding something to do to fill up the time that benefits just me; but hearing our "owner's" invitation to work in his vineyard.

The Owner’s Fault

The whole problem at the end of the parable is the landowner's fault - not because he paid them all the same, but because he paid the last first. Remember, as I said near the beginning of these notes, this parable comes as an explanation of Jesus statement: "Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (Mt 19.30). Now we see what happens when this is acted out.

If he had paid a denarius to the first ones hired first, they would have gone home and not seen the last one's hired getting paid the same amount. The payment order allowed the first hired -- the long term workers (or church members?) to witness the last one's getting paid, which resulted in the first hires to think that they would get more (v. 10).

The word for "think" (nomizo) does not refer so much to a rational process (as logizomai), but "to assume," "to presume," "to suppose," based on what one expects to happen or what is "customary" or the "rule" (which are meanings for the root nomos). Usually such assumptions are wrong as in its other uses (Mt 5.17; 10.34).

God’s Ways

Look at some of the amazing ways that God has changed people we know. So often we have all encountered a person who has done serious damage to his or her life and family through alcohol or other chemical dependency.  Then we marvel how God’s Grace not only led that person to recovery, but made him or her, a source of strength for others looking to recover.  That is the amazing Grace of the Divine Employer.

John Paul II was very much aware of the working of God’s Mercy.  He addressed women who had suffered through an abortion and empowered them with the determination to work for life and protect other women from going through what they went through.  This is the amazing Grace of the Divine Employer.

Don’t Give Up

The Gospel encourages us not to give up on ourselves.  God never gives up on us.  We can always start new, whether we have just been lukewarm Christians or whether we have been at war with God.  Not only does God refuse to hold us to our pasts, He forgives us through confession and transforms us to become vehicles of conversion for others.  The Divine Employer does not want us wasting any more time.  Even if we are pretty well advanced in age, and the day is drawing to a close,  He still has work for us to do.

Pride of Performance does not represent ego. It represents pleasure with humility. "The quality of the work and the quality of the worker are inseparable." Half-hearted effort does not produce half results; it produces no results.

What are you Doing?

Three people were laying bricks. A passerby asked them what they were doing. The first one replied, "Don't you see I am making a living?" The second one said, "Don't you see I am lying bricks?" The third one said, "I am building a beautiful monument." Here were three people doing the same thing who had totally different perspective on what they were doing. They had three very different attitudes about their work. And would their attitude affect their performance? The answer is clearly yes.

The Traditional Symbol

The vineyard was a traditional symbol for Israel (see especially the classical text of Isa 5.1-7) and Matthew will present another vineyard story in 21.33-46. Although the story itself does not directly state this, the reader can presume it is the harvest time since the landowner hires a number of day laborers to work in the vineyard. The story begins reasonably enough. At dawn a "landowner" (literally, the "head of the household") goes into the village marketplace to hire laborers and offers them the usual daily wage of one denarius; see 18.28). The fact that the landowner himself hires the laborers (instead of his manager mentioned in 20.8) is somewhat unusual and begins to put the spotlight on the one who is the focus of this story. The landowner goes back to hire additional workers at different periods of the day (literally in the Greek "early in the morning," "noon," "the third hour" and, finally, "the eleventh hour"), tracking for the reader the long day of hard work. No specific wage is promised, only the landowner's word that he would pay "the usual wage" (literally, "what is just"; dikaios, the term so favored by Matthew; see, e.g., 1.19; 27.19). Curiously the laborers hired last, when asked why they are idle, reply that "no one has hired us"-an explanation that suggests they were willing to work but were ignored.

The parable breaks beyond the conventional pattern when at sundown the landowner sends his manager to gather the laborers and gives them their pay (payment was expected at the end of a day's labor; see Lev 19.13; Deut 24.14-15). The manager is instructed to give out the wages "beginning with the last and then going to the first"-words that alert the reader to the words of Jesus framing the parable. The laborers hired last receive a full day's pay of one denarius and when those hired first come for their wages, they expect to receive more and thus complain to the landowner when they receive pay equal to that of the other workers. The expression of their complaint is one of the keys to the parable's interpretation: "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat" (20.12).

The landowner's reply is gracious (he addresses the laborer as "friend," 20.13; see also 22.12) but firm. The laborer received exactly what was agreed and was not treated unjustly. More important, the landowner is supremely free to do what he wishes with what belongs to him and therefore the laborers should not look on his generosity with an "evil eye" (the literal expression behind the "envious"; see above 6.23). Therefore the parable ends with a firm emphasis not on conventional assumptions about a fair wage but on the sovereignty and generosity of the "lord of the vineyard" (the literal words of 20.8). He is the one who determines that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Practical Conclusion

Excellence comes when the performer takes pride in doing his best. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it, regardless of what the job is, whether washing cars, sweeping the floor or painting a house. Do it right the first time, every time. The best insurance for tomorrow is a job well done today.

Michelangelo had been working on a statue for many days. He was taking a long time to retouch every small detail. A bystander thought these improvements were insignificant and asked Michelangelo why he bothered with them. Michelangelo replied, "Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle."

Most people forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well it was done.

 

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ARTICLE: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Sir 27.30-28.7; Rm 14.7-9; Mt 18.21-35

 

First Things First

It is rather comical when the primary things are made secondary. Victor Borge told about a couple going on vacation, standing in line waiting to check their bags at the airline counter. 

The husband said to the wife, "I wish we had brought the piano." 
The wife said, "Why? We've got sixteen bags already!" 
The husband said, "Yes, I know - but the tickets are on the piano!"

We the Churchy People

We need to forgive people and accept the differences. Very often we who pretend to be holy and holier we cannot accept that the other person is different than me. We want all to be just like as I have been. I wish praises, first seats in the Church, best preference, I want people to greet me even when I don’t even look at their faces, I want them to serve me accompany me and take care of me. I cannot bear a comment, a joke, or a homily that stirs my conscience and targets my weaknesses. Hence, I feel everything is bad, disgusting, because I don’t like it. That is where we speak of “forgiveness” seventy times seven. If we are not able to do such adjustments in our own family, community and society, what kind of disciples are we? We spend hours and hours before the Blessed Sacrament praying, but when it’s a question of being with others, I am the first person to cast a stone at others who are so called sinners. We need to learn the best lesson from Jesus, He lived with all kinds of people, all sorts of cultures, personalities, temperaments, characters, with all kinds of criticism, and am pretty sure he listened to pretty base language of the sinners too.. Do we come to church to find fault with others? Do we come to church to see the clothing of others? Or how others behave? Do we come to Church to hear things that are only pleasing to us? Well when someone says something unpleasant do I have the capacity to accept that person as Jesus accepted the tax collectors, prostitutes and the pagans and the publicans? If not, well all that I learn about forgiveness is only to hear and forget, which amounts to creating a lot of “spiritual garbage”.

Levis or Nothing

Long back there was an ad of Levis pants on TV. The words were magical: “Levis or Nothing”. I used to think of this ad and tried to find a sense in it in the following of Christ; I would coin the phrase as: “Forgiveness or Nothing”. In Christianity if there is lack of forgiveness; there is going to be nothing at all. Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.

Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of Christian faith. Not only that we can receive forgiveness from God, but that we must grant it to others too. And we are constantly confronted by the need to forgive people because we all have people sin against us, in big things and in little things. From injustice in the workplace, or some sort of abuse in a friendship or marriage, down to the daily little slights we receive from others, like people pushing in front of us in the checkout line at the supermarket.

And we know that we can allow these things to build up, to make us bitter, to nurse these grievances until all that is left in our heart is a nasty festering mess of hatred. All because of what OTHER people have done to us, not because we've gone out to do wrong to others. And often it doesn't seem fair. After all, sometimes we don't want to forgive, what we want is JUSTICE.

As C.S. Lewis put it, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you". As N.T. Wright puts it, "failing to forgive one another isn't a matter of failing to live up to a new bit of moral teaching"--to fail to forgive means to "cut off the branch we are sitting on". It is to deny the very basis of our own salvation - forgiveness of sin.

I will make all things New

Two peacemakers went to visit a group of Polish Christians ten years after the end of World War II. "Would you be willing to meet with other Christians from West Germany?" the peacemakers asked. "They want to ask forgiveness for what Germany did to Poland during the war and to begin to build a new relationship".

At first there was silence. Then one Pole spoke up. "What you are asking is impossible. Each stone of Warsaw is soaked in Polish blood! We cannot forgive!".

Before the group parted, however, they said the Lord's Prayer together. When they reached the words "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive . . . ", everyone stopped praying . Tension swelled in the room. The Pole who had spoken so vehemently said, "I must say yes to you. I could no more pray the Our Father, I could no longer call myself a Christian, if I refuse to forgive. Humanly speaking, I cannot do it, but God will give us strength!".

Eighteen months later the Polish and West German Christians met together in Vienna, establishing friendships that continue to this day.

Unique to Matthew

The concluding parable, one unique to Matthew, anchors the call for limitless forgiveness in a theological conviction (18.23-35). The story of the king who decides to settle his accounts has certain fantastic features that smack of popular storytelling. The monarch begins his accounting with a "slave," a member of the royal household, who owes a staggering amount, "ten thousand talents." Ten thousand was the highest denomination in ancient accounting and Josephus reports that the entire yearly revenue from the Jewish tax was only six hundred talents! When the slave is unable to pay this amount, the king threatens to punish the slave by having the hapless debtor and his entire family and possessions sold. The slave appeals for more time to pay off his debt even though this, too, seems an act of fruitless desperation. The king is deeply moved by the plight of the slave (the verb splangchnistheis-literally a stirring of one's intestines-implies a profound emotional reaction), and instead of simply giving him more time he decides to forgive the "loan" (curiously Matthew uses "loan" [Gk. daneion] rather than "debt" [Gk. opheilema] here).

Ungrateful Slave

Instead of being overwhelmed by his unbelievably good fortune, the slave goes out and acts brutally toward a fellow slave who owes him only "a hundred denarii" (by contrast, a single "talent" may have been equivalent to between six and ten thousand denarii!), by seizing the man by the throat, ignoring his plea for mercy, and casting him into prison. The rest of the slaves are greatly saddened by this display and report the merciless servant to the king. Judgment comes swiftly-the angry king condemns the slave for his lack of mercy and has him tortured and cast into prison until he should pay his original debt.

Reciprocal Act

This vivid story and its concluding saying illustrate Matthew's fundamental theology of reconciliation: "So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (18.35). The driving motivation for unlimited forgiveness within the community is imitation of God's own way of relating to humanity. Because the slave was already forgiven a staggering and un-payable debt by his king, he should have lived his life in memory of that inaugural grace. Matthew asserts an identical motivation in 5.43-48 where love of enemies is motivated by the realization that the Father in heaven "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (v. 45). Likewise, Matthew's emphasis on the threat of judgment for those who do not forgive echoes previous teaching in the Sermon: The disciple prays for forgiveness of debt "as we also have forgiven our debtors"-a codicil of the prayer amplified in the sayings that are appended to the prayer: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (6.14-15). For Matthew, the divine will remains the guiding ethical principle for the community, a divine will proclaimed in Jesus' teachings and embodied in his actions.

Reluctance to Forgive

Part of our reluctance to forgive, I suspect, is due to this misunderstanding that the purpose of forgiveness is for the benefit of the one who has wronged us. We don't want the person who hurt us to gain anything, so instead of forgiving them, we harbour bitterness. But as Lewis Smedes points out though, "the first and often only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness". The Christians in Poland found that out.

Forgiveness, like all of the other commands of Jesus, is not meant to burden us--it is meant to liberate us. Forgiving others is for our own good.

Forgiveness in the Community

Forgiveness is also for the good of the church. There are a lot of hurting people in this community we live in. Are people staying away from church because they suspect we will make them feel worse? What would happen if we gained a reputation for being a loving and forgiving church? A church full of people addicted to forgiving one another?

Jesus reduced the mark of a Christian to this: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another"(Jn 13.35). Look around the sanctuary. Do you love everyone that is here? Maybe you don't even know the name of everyone here! Maybe you know some people very well, but you still struggle to love them. Perhaps some of these people rub you the wrong way . . . perhaps you are insisting on harbouring bitterness toward them. Have you forgiven them? Or do you simply "tolerate" them?

If love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian, how do we get there? Forgiveness. We learn how to love by forgiving those who have wronged us.

Forgiving and Loving

Let us resolve today to be known as a forgiving and loving church. Where do we start? How about coffee hour. Be good to one another. Love one another. Forgive one another. And do it over and over and over again. Because the more you forgive, the more you will see the benefits of it for yourself, and most importantly, for the Church of Jesus Christ

We are reminded in today’s parable that if we demand justice from others, then we can only expect justice ourselves. And because we, ourselves, have sinned against God, if it is justice we demand, then the justice we will receive, is that we will be condemned and “handed over to the torturers”(Mt 18.34). Because God does not give us justice, He gives us mercy.

Mercy isn’t always easy. Most of us go through some time in our lives when we find it almost impossible to forgive. Sometimes every emotion in our heart, and every bit of logic in our head, screams out at us saying that this person does not deserve our forgiveness. And the truth is that they don't deserve our forgiveness. But we also do not deserve the forgiveness that our heavenly Father gives us. And if we accept forgiveness from Him, how can we refuse to give it others? As we will soon pray in the Our Father. the forgiveness we ask for from God, depends on us forgiving the trespasses of those who trespass against us. God puts forgiveness before us as a moral obligation. We must forgive, or else we will not be forgiven.

But we know that must also forgive for our own sakes, because it is the only way to heal the bitterness that can otherwise possess our hearts. Even though mercy is difficult, not having mercy brings us even more difficulty, it leaves us with a wound in our heart that can eventually destroy us.

When forgiveness is especially hard, we’d do well to remember that it wasn’t easy for Christ either -it led Him to the Cross.

Sometimes, when forgiveness is particularly difficult, and it only comes with time, it has to be the result of a long slow process, of a long way of the cross. Sometimes we need to carry our injuries as part of our own Cross, in union with Our Lord, as we walk the way of the Cross, until we are able to join Him in forgiving, just as He forgave His executioners from the Cross.

With the grace that comes to us from the Cross and the example of Jesus on the Cross, we can find the strength to forgive others.

There is no peace except in the cross, no peace except in forgiveness. So let us think today of those times when we have failed to forgive others, and ask the Lord for the help and grace to be able to forgive as generously as He has forgiven us.

Practical Conclusion

“Hate the sin; love the sinner.”  Such a rule turns out to be the realistic response to sin and injustice.  For only in this way do we renounce our claim to vengeance—both personally and nationally—without abandoning our claim to truth and justice.  Yet putting this rule into practice depends on the experience of having been forgiven by Him to whom we owe everything.  Hence, the more a culture loses contact with this experience, the more it separates itself from wellspring of forgiveness, and the more it makes itself unfit for the “real world.”

 

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ARTICLE: Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordianry time. from Father Rudolf

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A


Eze 33.7-9; Rm 13.8-10; Mt 18.15-20

Triple Doorways

Over the triple doorways of the cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath it is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment."

Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment."

But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important which is eternal."

If we always realize these three truths, we will not let trifles trouble us, not be interested so much in the passing pleasures of the hour. We should live for the permanent and the eternal.

Three Point Plan

In our Gospel text today, Jesus gives us a three-point plan for handling disagreements in the community known as church. Jesus gives us a three-point plan for handling disagreements in the community known as church. This emphasis on community – and not individuality – is hammered home by the conclusion of the Gospel text today, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Community Standard

The post-resurrection writer of this Gospel ascribed to St. Matthew would have known about the various and sundry issues causing strife in the Matthian church – the church over which Matthew would’ve been leader. This manual for maintaining community standards was a way to keep the people of the community in harmony, and in addition to the levels of trying to reprove a sibling, these three steps dealt with the seriousness of issues – major schism making offenses would’ve almost certainly wound up before the whole of the community.

These instructions for, in plainest terms, church discipline – the maintenance of community standards for the good of the Church, and it doesn’t end very nicely, “If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew – the most Jewish of the Gospels – uses this language to say that when someone is in clear violation of the will, standards, and principles of the community the church community is to wash their hands and kick the dust of their feet. It’s harsh words that are meant to be harsh: the Church hearing this originally was young and schism was breaking various churches apart from the moment of the resurrection. The only way to preserve this new group of Jews and Gentiles following Jesus as Messiah was to keep the community together without personal petty conflicts – or heretical, schismatic ideas – was to have a form of discipline and way to expel people from the body.

Vending Machine

It is important to note, however, that it’s not a single member that calls for the expulsion of a member or two members or three members from the body. Before that step was taken, an individual, two additional individuals, and finally the whole church community must have first spoken to them. Before moving to the end of this text, I implore you not to hear that God is a vending machine whose buttons can be pressed if two people (or more) are pushing them. This requirement of more people is part and parcel of what is really the crux of this text: community. Jesus again underscores that in the conclusion of this selection from the Gospel, “For where two or tree are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Christ – and the early church mothers and fathers – didn’t intend for Christianity to be practiced in solitude. Full stop. Whether someone “believes in organized religion” or not, being together with others for the work and worship of Christ is part of this religion, and in the first century, it took the will of the community – bound together in tension of being human beings trying to do their best in the world – to expel members.

Blame Game

Students blame teachers for their poor results; children blame parents and parents blame children for family discord; while workers blame the management and the management blames the worker. Everyone is blaming each other, but nobody is prepared to shoulder the blame. Nobody is prepared to search within for their faults. And nobody is bold enough to admit their mistakes and do something about them. This is the reason for the misery which plagues our lives.

We speak of a thing as correct with reference to some rule or standard of comparison; as, a correct account, a correct likeness, a man of correct deportment. We speak of a thing as accurate with reference to the care bestowed upon its execution, and the increased correctness to be expected there from; as, an accurate statement, an accurate detail of particulars. We speak of a thing as exact with reference to that perfected state of a thing in which there is no defect and no redundance; as, an exact coincidence, the exact truth, an exact likeness. We speak of a thing as precise when we think of it as strictly conformed to some rule or model, as if cut down thereto; as a precise conformity instructions; precisely right; he was very precise in giving his directions.

Quality Control

In any industrial production process, a quality controller is on hand to ensure that the product being manufactured is up to standard. It is his responsibility to ensure that faulty goods are rejected and only the perfect products are packed for sale. Without this step, a company's reputation is likely to suffer. The same is true in life. By failing to assess our faults within, and by not taking appropriate measures to correct them, we are unable to live at peace with the world.

Hence, it is essential that we regularly pause and ask ourselves, "What are my faults? And what can I do to correct them." Only then can progress be made. This habit of introspection is important in every aspect of life. Consider a team - in football, cricket, baseball or any other sport - which performs below standard. Only by analysing and accepting their mistakes can individual players and the team as a whole improve. To help a player improve, the first necessity is for him to analyse his own performance and his own strengths and weaknesses. The second requirement is a good manager who gives constructive criticism.

The Selling Game

If real progress is desired, then introspection, admission of faults and steps for their correction are essential.  In the intensely competitive consumer market, companies which adopt a self-critical review policy succeed and progress rapidly. Those who believe, "no consumer is wrong," or "if anything is wrong, it is wrong with me," or "you can always improve" will be more capable of meeting their customers' demands and so increase their profits.

Regular Review

Until one reflects within, the intensity with which baser instincts have taken a controlling grip in one's life will not be realised. If one does not stop to reflect, one's actions will lead one away from God.

The same attitude of indifference and acceptance of sinful ways can be said about other sins that have gradually become acceptable within society by most of the people. These are the sins of divorce, common-law relationships, the removal of prayer from the schools, the teaching of atheism etc... All of these are perversions of the truth that lead away from God's Holiness and holy ways.

While some may be hesitant to speak up against the sins of others, saying, "It is none of my business.", or "They are protected under the Charter of Rights.", this is not so according to God. As a Christian, we have an obligation to make it our responsibility and we have an obligation to contact our representatives of the Government to ask that the Charter of Rights and the laws be changed to reflect the ways of God. Until such time as it is done, God will condemn us alongside those who live in sin!

Regular review, regular check, regular correction, examination is a must to make progress in our life. First of all parents are invited to show the right path to children, teachers are expected to correct children so that they may really make progress and achieve their goal. Management must review the condition or workers, and workers must review their work performance, so that they work as per their commitment they had made on the day agreed to work in that firm.

Practical Conclusion

Being in community requires putting ourselves aside – and our passions and factions aside. As St. Paul directs, “I come with Christians far and near to find, as all are fed, the new community of love in Christ’s communion bread. As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends. The love that made us makes us one, and strangers now are friends…Together met, together bound, we’ll go our different ways, and as his people in the world, we’ll live and speak his praise.”

As we gather around this table – we practice an act of community in sharing a meal together. As we gather around this Altar we affirm our belief in Christ as Lord, who breaks bread with us and causes proud divisions to end. As we gather around this table we meet with one another to share in this feast. When we leave from this table, though, we remain bound, tied inexplicably with the entire body of the baptized. Whether we like them or not, we have to live in a community of love with them…or at least try. And as we go our separate ways – with those we like and don’t – we must do the work and the worship of the Holy and Triune God.

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Thursday - 22nd Sunday - Year A - Luke 5:1-11

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Thursday - 22nd Sunday - Year A - Luke 5:1-11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ http://c0aa7onhjf0g0i3pxzhdndjfdk.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=JZBURNFAT MVMT Academy or Movement Academy is a gym that claims to offer fitness classes and personal training. On May 24 I called the gym and the owner (Liam Fisher) answered. Please note, that I noticed on his website, and you will also if you take 20 seconds, that all his staff are white anglo saxons; Or to put it another way, there are no blacks, asian, indian, hispanic, or middle-eastern. Of course I did not mention that because that would lead to a conflict. I asked him about 2 inquiries, The first was if I can be a customer of his fitness classes and the second inquiry was if I could use his gym to train my senior citizen friends. On the phone, the owner (Liam Fisher) said, absolutely and made an appointment with me. Then I rode my bike in heavy traffic and canceled an evening lecture for the appointment. When I arrived. Again. All the staff and CUSTOMERS, where all white, there are no blacks, asian, indian, hispanic, or middle-eastern. When I arrived, the owner (Liam Fisher), when we met, would not even shake my hand. He treated me adversely and told me that he is very booked up and it would be very hard for me (middle-eastern) to be a customer. Again. Of course I did not ask him, was it because I am middle-eastern, because that would lead to a conflict and everyone would blame me. I then simply said, what if I come to on your non-busy days? At that moment there were customers around so the owner, said reluctantly yes, that I could come to on his non-busy days. Then, he told me that he had to go and asked me to leave. However. About 1/2 hour after, the owner, called my cell phone. The first time I did not answer, and,the owner, was too afraid to leave a voicemail. So I decided to call him back. When I called him he was very hostile & said that I can't attend any of his fitness classes. When I asked why he did not give a reason. But when I told him that I will file a complaint and go public he called the police but they knew the truth and advised me to file a complaint. The community and the Better Business Bureau have zero tolerance to this kind of unprofessional and malicious conduct. It is mine and your responsibility to share my distressing experience so other consumers and citizens do not suffer like this. There are several gyms that treat customers much better and it is our obligation to encourage citizens to give their business to those businesses who treat middle-eastern customers with professionalism and respect. ….. Hello friends. I am new to North Van and i have a question. Please look at the picture. It is a picture of a personal trainer who is shirtless and is posing for a picture on a public walkway. If a mother and her child sees this it is at the least alarming and of course she has to go around him and hope that he does not bump into her or her child. Is there anything I can do? Are these kind of personal trainers allowed to do this? Can anyone do anything? What is your thoughts/advice? …. Very sad to see the corruption at the Vancouver Diocese. On Saturday June 18th is the annual Birthright Walk and fundraiser, it is only once a year, and they really need our support. However, the leader of Catholic After hours was assigned by Pavel Reid to be the PRO LIFE LEADER for the Vancouver Diocese. Pavel Reid did not care about her views on abortion or her hostile views about men. Please check for yourself, and see if Catholic After hours posted the Birthright Event. You will discover that it is not listed. How come? Is it because the leader of Catholic After hours is not pro life? But an infiltrator do neutralize the pro life movement? In the past she threatened a pro life man and Pavel Reid had no problem with that, which makes him more crooked and corrupt. Anyone who cares about babies must speak out and demand that Pavel Reid be fired. Either you are on the side of innocent babies or the side of Pavel Reid. Oh. We forgot, will Pavel Reid or the Pro Life leader he assigned, because of Cronyism be at the event on Saturday? Please don’t hold your breath. Bishop Miller does nothing about it and is willfully blind and makes excuses himself. Bishop Miller hasn’t attended a pro life chain in years. Shame and disgrace is ahead of them. Here is the poster http://oi63.tinypic.com/dxbtrm.jpg

ARTICLE: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: A

Jer 20.7-9; Rm 12.1-2; Mt 16.21-27

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:“I don’t believe that God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the customer. “Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist.

Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?  Would there be abandoned children?

If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.” The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument.

The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.

He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”

“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”

“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did,  there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that
man outside.”

“Ah, but barbers DO exist! That’s what happens when people do not come to me.” “Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! That’s what happens when people do not go to Him and don’t look to Him for help.

That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”

Change

Friends, nothing in this world will improve unless we change! Unless we change our thoughts, our words and our actions according to the Divine Will of God, nothing will improve. Prayers are fruitless when there is no sincerity of heart. As Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven" (Mt 7.21). 

Hard Work

Nothing can we obtain in this world without hard work. If people have made a mark, they have behind their success tireless efforts and constant hard work. Hence, it’s a hard reminder to all of us that we need to work, never give up and always look ahead with the hope that we can do it, we can achieve our goal and we are capable of reaching there. 

Today’s passage reminds us that suffering is a fact of life, but not necessarily unfortunate fact of life. How big is our perspective? Is meaning compressed in the matter of our own existence, in which case suffering is the darkness of 'lights out'. Or is the matter of our own existence just a vignette on the cosmic stage of meaning, in which case suffering is but a temporary shadow in the corner of the stage?

God's loving goodness and omnipotence are so great as to encompass painful and unpleasant circumstances in serving His ultimate good of drawing all things to and in Himself (Rm 8.28). 

Suffering Servant

The suffering of man has been taken up by the Divine Suffering Servant (cf. Is 52.13; 53.12). Jesus emptied Himself to become incarnated into suffering humanity (Phil 2.5-8). Denied His self; will to accept work of Suffering Servant (Lk 22.42). His resurrection reality is the victory over suffering (I Cor 15.57). Christians are incorporated into the suffering Person and work of Jesus Christ in the Body of Christ (Rm 8.17; II Cor 1.5; 4.7-12,17; Phil 3.10; Col 1.24; I Pet 4.13). Suffering has a beneficent purpose. Suffering is the birth pangs for the greater experience of life. In suffering life becomes more real than the superficialities of comfort. Suffering is analogous to the surgery required to heal the disease of our self-orientation (Mt 9.12). True love is strengthened and perfected by suffering.  

Christian responses to "suffering" has a positive value. This does not mean that Christians should seek, desire, court, invite, or pursue suffering or claim proud badge of courage in "suffering for Jesus" or develop persecution-complex or martyr-complex 

What is Needed

Mystery of Suffering

Acceptance of the situations of life and consider that suffering is not so much a problem to be solved rationally, but a mystery to be observed personally and spiritually. Only way to "see" the mystery is by the reception of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Thus we participate in the mystery of Christ (Col 1.27; 2.2).

Our sufferings, sicknesses and adversities are not happenings in themselves, but are defined by the effect we allow them to have on us. Entrust ourselves to God, His purposes and ways Recognize His sufficiency of grace in the situations (II Cor 3.5; 12.9).

Receptivity of God's activity – Faith

Persevere - Rm 5.3; 12.12; Jas 1.12

Endure - I Cor 4.12; II Tim 4.5; Jas 1.3,4

Entrust ourselves to God - I Pet 2.21-23; 4.19 

 

Practical Conclusion

Embrace your difficulties and appreciate them for providing new ways to grow spiritually. Try to think of the positive benefits and spiritual lessons that troubles can almost certainly provide. Here are some of them:

  • Very few people begin a spiritual journey because they are blissful happy. In fact, men and women are typically drawn to the spiritual path because they want help in dealing with difficulties. Each challenge in our lives opens the possibility of awakening our heart.
  • When we are going through dark times, we are better able to let go of egotism and arrogance. Difficulties can help us grow in patience, understanding, and humility; they can help us seek out meaningful connection.
  • This is an ideal time for self-reflection and an examination of those ways in which we have contributed to our own problems—our own misery. Are any of our current difficulties, for example, caused by our own carelessness and lack of mindfulness?
  • When our troubles seem overwhelming, often we can use this as a way of growing our compassion for others. Reflect on the millions of others who—just like you—are going through tough rimes right now. Empathize with these brothers and sisters with whom you share so many emotions

 

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

ARTICLE: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year: A

Is 22.19-23; Ps 138.1-3, 6-8; Rom 11.33-36; Mt 16.13-20

 

“I don’t Care one Bit”

 

The bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the early part of the last century was a great evangelizer who tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics.  He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship.  He would call them fools and other insulting names.  The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners.  The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him.  Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer, saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all.  I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.”  And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest.  “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me.  I want you to stare at the figure of Christ on His cross, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loudly as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  The priest said, “Very good.  Now do it again.”  And again the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  “You’re almost done now,” said the priest.  “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the crucifix, but the words wouldn’t come.  He just could not look at the face of Christ and say those words any more. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man.  That young man, that defiant young man was I.  I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.” 

 

The Context

 

The conversation between Jesus and Peter receives diverse interpretations and even opposite ones in the several Christian Churches. In the Catholic Church, this is the foundation for the primacy of Peter. This is why, without in fact, diminishing the significance of the text, it is convenient to place it in the context of the Gospel of Matthew, in which, in other texts, the same qualities conferred on Peter are almost all, attributed to other persons. They do not belong exclusively to Peter.

 

It is always well to keep in mind that the Gospel of Matthew was written at the end of the first century for the community of the converted Jews who lived in the Region of Galilee and Syria. They were communities which suffered and were victims of many doubts concerning their faith in Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tries to help them to overcome the crisis and to confirm them in the faith in Jesus, the Messiah, who came to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.

 

Who do People say that I am?

 


Jesus asks the opinion of the people and of his disciples concerning himself. The answers are quite varied. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets. When Jesus questions about the opinion of his own disciples, Peter becomes the spokesman and says. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”. Peter’s answer signifies that he recognizes in Jesus the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Old Testament and that in Jesus we have the definitive revelation of the Father for us. This confession of Peter is not new. First, after having walked on the water, the other disciples had already made the same profession of faith. “Truly You are the Son of God!” (Mt 14.33). In the Gospel of John, Martha makes this same profession of Peter. “You are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world” (Jn 11.27).

 

“Blessed are you, Peter!”


Jesus proclaims Peter as “Blessed!” because he has received a revelation from the Father. In this case also, the response of Jesus is not new. First Jesus had made an identical proclamation of joy to the disciples for having seen and heard things which before nobody knew (Mt 13.16), and had praised the Father for having revealed the Son to little ones and not to the wise (Mt 11.25). Peter is one of these little ones to whom the Father reveals himself. The perception of the presence of God in Jesus does not come “from the flesh nor from the blood”, that is, it is not the fruit of the merit of a human effort, but rather it is a gift which God grants to whom he wants.
Peter receives three attributions from Jesus. (i) To be a rock of support, (ii) to receive the keys of the Kingdom, and (iii) to be foundation of the Church.


  1. i) To be Rock

 

Simon, the son of Jonah, receives from Jesus a new name which is Cephas, and that means, Rock. this is why he is called Peter. Peter has to be Rock, that is, he has to be a sure foundation for the Church so that the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. With these words from Jesus to Peter, Matthew encourages the communities of Syria and Palestine, which are suffering and are the victims of persecutions, to see in Peter a leader on whom to find support, to base themselves concerning their origin. In spite of being weak and persecuted communities, they had a secure basis, guaranteed by the word of Jesus. At that time, the communities had very strong affective bonds with the persons who had begun, who were at the origin of the community. Thus, the Community of Syria and Palestine fostered their bond of union with the person of Peter. The community of Greece with the person of Paul. Some communities of Asia, with the person of the Beloved disciple and others with the person of John of the Apocalypses. Identifying themselves with these leaders of their origin helped the communities to foster their identity and spirituality better. But this could also be a cause of dispute, like in the case of the community of Corinth (1 Cor 1.11-12).

 

To be rock as the basis of faith evokes the Word of God to the people who are in exile in Babylonia. “Listen to me you who pursue saying injustice, you who seek Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. Consider Abraham your father, and Sarah who gave you birth; when I called him, he was the only one, but I blessed him and made him numerous” (Is 51.1-2). Applied to Peter, this quality of peter-foundation indicates a new beginning of the people of God..

 

  1. ii) The keys of the Kingdom

 

Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom to bind and to loosen, that is, to reconcile the persons among themselves and with God. Behold, that here again the same power to bind and to loosen, is given not only to Peter, but also to the other disciples (Jn 20.23) and to their own communities (Mt 18.18). One of the points on which the Gospel of Matthew insists more is the reconciliation and forgiveness (Mt 5.7.23-24.38-42-48; 6,14-15-35). In the years 80’s and 90’s, in Syria there were many tensions in the communities and there were divisions in the families. Some accepted Jesus as Messiah and others did not, and this was the cause for many tensions and conflicts. Matthew insists on reconciliation. Reconciliation was and continues to be one of the most important tasks of the coordinators of the communities at present. Imitating Peter, they have to bind and loosen, that is, do everything possible so that there be reconciliation, mutual acceptance, building up of the true fraternity “Seventy times seven!” (Mt 18.22).

 

iii) The Church

 

The word Church, in Greek eklésia, appears 105 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters. Only three times in the Gospels, and once only in the Gospel of Matthew. The word literally means “convoked” or “chosen”. It indicates the people who get together convoked by the Word of God, and who seek to live the message of the Kingdom which Jesus came to bring to us. The Church or the community is not the Kingdom, but an instrument or an indication of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is much greater. In the Church, in the community, what happens when a human group allows God to reign and allows God to be ‘Lord’ in one’s life, is rendered or should be rendered present to the eyes of all.

 

Fisherman Peter

 

Peter, who was a fisherman of fish, became fisherman of men (Mk 1.17). He was married (Mk 1. 30). He was a good man, very human. He was a natural leader among the twelve first disciples of Jesus. Jesus respects this leadership and makes Peter the animator of his first community (Jn 21.17). Before entering into the community of Jesus, Peter was called Simon Bar Jona (Mt 16, 17), that is, Simon, son of Jonah. Jesus calls him Cefas or Rock (Jn 1.42), who later becomes Peter (Lk 6.14).

 

By his nature and character, Peter could be everything, except pietra – rock. He was courageous in speaking, but in the moment of danger he allows himself to be dominated by fear and flees. For example, the time in which Jesus walked on the sea, Peter asks. “Jesus, allow me also to walk on the sea”. Jesus says. “You may come, Peter!” Peter got off from the boat and walked on the sea. But as soon as he saw a high wave, he was taken up with panic, lost trust, and began to sink and cry out. “Lord, save me!” Jesus assured him and saved him (Mt 14. 28-31).

 

In the Last Supper, Peter tells Jesus. “I will never deny you, Lord!” (Mk 14.31), but a few hours later, in the Palace of the High Priest, in front of a servant , when Jesus had already been arrested, Peter denied, swearing that he had nothing to do with Jesus (Mk 14. 66-72).

 

When Jesus was in the Garden of Olives, Peter takes out the sword (Jn 18.10), but ends fleeing, leaving Jesus alone (Mk 14.50). By nature, Peter was not rock!

 

But this Peter so weak and human, so similar to us, becomes rock, because Jesus prays for him and says. “Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers!” (Lk 22.31-32). This is why Jesus could say. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16.18). Jesus helps him to be rock. After the Resurrection, in Galilee, Jesus appears to Peter and asks him two times. “Peter, do you love me?” And Peter responds two times. “Lord, you know that I love you!” (Jn 21.15,16). When Jesus repeats the same question a third time, Peter became sad. Perhaps he remembered that he had denied Jesus three times. To this third question he answers. “Lord, you know all things! You know that I love you very much!” And it is then that Jesus entrusted to him the care of his sheep, saying. “Peter, feed my lambs!” (Jn 21.17). With the help of Jesus, the firmness of the rock grows in Peter and is revealed on the day of Pentecost.

 

On the day of Pentecost, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter opens the door of the room where all were meeting together, locked with a key because of fear of the Jews (Jn 20.19), he takes courage and began to announce to the people the Good News of Jesus (Acts 2. 14-40). And he did not stop doing it! Thanks to this courageous announcement of the Resurrection, he was imprisoned (Acts 4. 3). During the trial, he was forbidden to announce the Good News (Acts 4, 18), but Peter does not obey this prohibition. He said. “We know that we have to obey God more than men!” (Acts 4. 19; 5. 29). He was arrested again (Acts 5. 18-26). He was tortured (Acts 5. 40). But he said. “Thank you. But we shall continue!” (cf. Acts 5. 42).

 

Tradition says that, towards the end of his life, in Rome, Peter was arrested and condemned to death, and death on the cross. He asked to be crucified with the head down. He believed he was not worthy to die like Jesus. Peter was faithful to himself up to the end!.

 

Completing the context

 

Peter had confessed. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” He had imagined a glorious Messiah, and Jesus corrects him. “It is necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to die in Jerusalem”. By saying that “it is necessary”, he indicates that suffering has already been foreseen in the Prophecies (Is 53. 2-8). If Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, he has to accept him also as the servant Messiah who will be put to death. Not only the triumph of the glory, but also the journeys to the cross! But Peter does not accept the correction and seeks to dissuade him. The response of Jesus is surprising. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do”. Satan is the one who separates us from the path which God has traced for us. Literally, Jesus says. “Get behind me” (Get away!). Peter wanted to place himself in front and indicate the direction. Jesus says. “Get behind me!” He who indicates the course and direction is not Peter, but Jesus. The disciple has to follow the Master. He has to live in continuous conversion.

 

Practical Conclusion

The Word of Jesus is also a reminder for all those who guide or direct a community. They have “to follow” Jesus and not place themselves in front of him as Peter wanted to do. No, only they can indicate the direction or the route. Otherwise, like Peter, they are not rock of support, but they become a rock of obstacle. Thus, were some of the leaders of the communities at the time of Matthew, full of ambiguity. Thus, it also happens among us even today!

 

Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

ARTICLE: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

 

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year A

Matthew 15:21-28

And Jesus left there, and withdrew to the districts of Tyre and Sidon. And, look you, a Canaanite woman from these parts came and cried, "Have pity upon me, Sir, Son of David! My daughter is grievously afflicted by a demon." But he answered her not a word. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she is shrieking behind us." Jesus answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." She came and knelt in entreaty before him. "Lord," she said, "help me!" Jesus answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread, and to throw it to the pet dogs." She said, "True, Lord, but even the dogs eat of the pieces which fall from their master's table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was restored to health from that hour”.

Called to Preach to all nations

Jesus was sent by the Father to proclaim the kingdom of God. There are tremendous implications in this passage. Apart from anything else, it describes the only occasion on which Jesus was ever outside of Jewish territory. The supreme significance of the passage is that it fore-shadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers. For the Gospel there should not be any barriers.

Jesus withdraws himself to silence

Jesus needed some time apart from the usual crowds. For Jesus this was a time of deliberate withdrawal. The end was coming near; and he wished sometime of quiet when he could prepare for the end. It was not so much that he wished to prepare himself, although that purpose was also in his mind, but rather that he wished some time in which he could prepare his disciples against the day of the Cross. There were things which he must tell them, and which he must compel them to understand.

There was no place in Palestine where he could be sure of privacy; wherever he went, the crowds would find him. So he went right north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon where the Phoenicians dwelt. There, at least for a time, he would be safe from the malignant hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees, and from the dangerous popularity of the people, for no Jew would be likely to follow him into Gentile territory.

This passage shows us Jesus seeking a time of quiet before the turmoil of the end. This is not in any sense a picture of him running away; it is a picture of him preparing himself and his disciples for the final and decisive battle which lay so close ahead.

Get Rid of her

But even in these foreign parts Jesus was not to be free from the demand of human need. There was a woman who had a daughter who was grievously afflicted. She must have heard somehow of the wonderful things which Jesus could do; and she followed him and his disciples crying desperately for help. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her. The disciples were embarrassed. "Give her what she wants," they said, "and be rid of her." The reaction of the disciples was not really compassion at all; it was the reverse; to them the woman was a nuisance, and all they wanted was to be rid of her as quickly as possible. To grant a request to get rid of a person who is, or may become, a nuisance is a common enough reaction; but it is very different from the response of Christian love and pity and compassion.

Compassion of Jesus

But to Jesus there was a problem here. That he was moved with compassion for this woman we cannot for a moment doubt. But she was a Gentile. Not only was she a Gentile; she belonged to the old Canaanite stock, and the Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews. Even at that very time, or not much later, Josephus could write: "Of the Phoenicians, the Tyrians have the most ill-feeling towards us." We have already seen that, if Jesus was to have any effect, he had to limit his objectives like a wise general. He had to begin with the Jews; and here was a Gentile crying for mercy. There was only one thing for him to do; he must awaken true faith in the heart of this woman.

Children’s Bread cannot be given to dogs

So Jesus at last turned to her: "It is not right to take the children's bread and to throw it to the pet dogs." To call a person a dog was a deadly and a contemptuous insult. The Jew spoke with arrogant insolence about "Gentile dogs," "infidel dogs," and later "Christian dogs." In those days the dogs were the unclean scavengers of the street-lean, savage, often diseased. But there are two things to remember.

The tone and the look with which a thing is said make all the difference. A thing which seems hard can be said with a disarming smile. We can call a friend "an old villain", or "a rascal", with a smile and a tone which take an the sting out of it and fill it with affection. We can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus' face and the compassion in his eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness.

Second, it is the diminutive word for dogs which is used not to the street dogs, but the little household pets, very different from the pariah dogs who roamed the streets and probed in the refuse heaps.

The woman was a Greek; she was quick to see, and she had all a Greek's ready wit. "True," she said, "but even the dogs get their share of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." And Jesus' eyes lit up with joy at such an indomitable faith; and he granted her the blessing and the healing which she so much desired.

Woman of strange character

(i)First and foremost, she had love

As Bengel said of her, "She made the misery of her child her own." Heathen she might be, but in her heart there was that love for her child which is always the reflection of God's love for his children. It was love which made her approach this stranger; it was love which made her accept his silence and yet still appeal; it was love which made her suffer the apparent rebuffs; it was love which made her able to see the compassion beyond and behind the words of Jesus. The driving force of this woman's heart was love; and there is nothing stronger and nothing nearer God than that very thing.

(ii) This woman had faith:

(a) It was a faith which grew in contact with Jesus. She began by calling him Son of David; that was a popular title, a political title. It was a title which looked on Jesus as a great and powerful wonder worker, but which looked on him in terms of earthly power and glory. She came asking a boon of one whom she took to be a great and powerful man. She came with a kind of superstition as she might have come to any magician. She ended by calling Jesus Lord.

Jesus, as it were, compelled her to look at himself, and in him she saw something that was not expressible in earthly terms at all, but was nothing less than divine. That is precisely what Jesus wanted to awaken in her before he granted her request. He wanted her to see that a request to a great man must be turned into a prayer to the living God. We can see this woman's faith growing as she is confronted with Christ, until she glimpsed him, however distantly, for what he was.

(b) It was a faith of worship

She began by following; she ended upon her knees, She began with a request; she ended in prayer. Whenever we come to Jesus, we must come first with adoration of his majesty, and only then with the statement of our own need.

(iii)  Indomitable persistence

 She was un-discourageable. So many people, it has been said, pray really because they do not wish to miss a chance. They do not really believe in prayer; they have only the feeling that something might just possibly happen. This woman came because Jesus was not just a possible helper; he was her only hope. She came with a passionate hope, a clamant sense of need, and a refusal to be discouraged. She had the one supremely effective quality in prayer--she was in deadly earnest. Prayer for her was no ritual form; it was the outpouring of the passionate desire of her soul, which somehow felt that she could not--and must not--and need not--take no for an answer.

(iv) The gift of cheerfulness

She was in the midst of trouble; she was passionately in earnest; and yet she could smile. She had a certain sunny-heartedness about her. God loves the cheerful faith, the faith in whose eyes there is always the light of hope, the faith with a smile which can light the gloom.

This woman brought to Christ a gallant and an audacious love, a faith which grew until it worshipped at the feet of the divine, an indomitable persistence springing from an unconquerable hope, a cheerfulness which would not be dismayed. That is the approach which cannot help finding an answer to its prayers.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

 

ARTICLE: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year. A: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Year: A 1 Kgs 19.9, 11-13; Rm 9.1-5; Mt 14.22-33 

Door to successful living 

Thousands upon thousands of young boys grow up bouncing basketballs and dreaming of a life in the National Basketball Association - the professional ranks. But only a handful are chosen each year. Woe to the young man or young woman who is talented at sports but neglects his or her education! Thousands upon thousands of new businesses are started each year, but only a small number of people in our society become super-successful in material terms. The higher you go up the scale, the smaller the numbers become. Thousands upon thousands of young couples each year stand at the altars of churches like this one and pledge their love to one another, but half these marriages will end in divorce. Many couples will stay together only for convenience, for appearances or for the children. Only an estimated 10% will find true fulfillment in their marriages. The door to any kind of successful living is a narrow one. That is why Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel: "Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Successful living requires making hard choices. It requires dedication and sacrifice. How can Christian faith demand any less? 

The narrow gate 

Someone once said to Padarewski, the great pianist, "Sir, you are a genius." He replied, "Madam, before I was a genius I was a drudge." He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it. It is reported that after one of Fritz Kreisler's concerts a young woman said to him, "I would give my life to be able to play like that." He replied, "That's what I gave.” The door is narrow. Why should we think we can "drift" into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down. 

The Commitment 

Robin and Wilma loved one another. They decided to marry. Kids were born. Wilma gave up working because she had to take care of kids. As months and years passed the stress of life and distance between Robin and Wilma due to work resulted a strain in their relationship and commitment. Both of them began blaming themselves. Then they started blaming one another and finally they blamed God. As the kids were growing, unhappiness became visible among the family 

members. Wilma stopped communicating with Robin, Robin began sinking in alcoholism. Wilma began sinking in depression and doubt against Robin. Children began sinking in irresponsible behavior and addicted to bad friendships, smoking, and frustration. 

Life is a Blend 

Well, life is a blend of commitment, faith, patience, love, forgiveness and understanding. This blend can take a family a long way in spite of all the uncertainties and sufferings. But doubt can really sink us as it sank Peter, unless we call upon the Lord to help us we would drown all together in the ocean of insecurity and pain. 

 

Just look at Peter. Over enthusiastic, and wants to walk towards the Lord on water. At the Lord’s word he jumps. Then he begins to doubt himself, “can I do it”? Then he looks at the deep sea, and doubts the environment, finally he might have doubted the Lord. Well, then comes the helpless cry, “Lord save me”. 

 

To get into a boat 

 

Either they were afraid to return into the jurisdiction of Herod, or they were unwilling to embark without their Lord and Protector, and would not enter their boat till Christ had commanded them to embark. From this verse it appears that Christ gave some advices to the multitudes after the departure of his disciples, which he did not wish them to hear and went towards Capernaum, Matthew 14.34. John 6.16,17, or Bethsaida, see Mark 6.45. 

 

He went up to pray 

 

He whom God has employed in a work of mercy had need to return, by prayer, as speedily, to his maker, as he can, lest he should be tempted to value himself on account of that in which he has no merit-for the good that is done upon earth, the Lord does it alone. Some make this part of our Lord's conduct emblematic of the spirit and practice of prayer, and observe that the proper dispositions and circumstances for praying well are. 

 

Retirement from the world; 

Elevation of the heart to God; 

Solitude; and 

The silence and quiet of the night 

 

It is certain that in this Christ has left us an example that we should follow his steps. Retirement from the world is often a means of animating, supporting, and spiritualizing prayer. Other society should be shut out, when a soul comes to converse with God. 

 

Tossed with waves 

 

Grievously agitated. This is the proper meaning of the word plunged under the waves, frequently covered with them; the waves often breaking over the vessel. 

 

The fourth watch 

 

Anciently the Jews divided the night into three watches, consisting of four hours each. The first watch is mentioned, Lamentations 2.19. the second, Judges 7.19; and the third, Exodus 14.24; but a fourth watch is not mentioned in any part of the OLD Testament. This division the Romans had introduced in Judea, as also the custom of dividing the day into twelve hours. see John 11.9. The first watch began at six o'clock in the evening, and continued till nine; the second began at nine, and continued till twelve; the third began at twelve, and continued till three next morning; and the fourth began at three, and continued till six. It was therefore between the hours of three and six in the morning that Jesus made his appearance to his disciples. 

 

Walking on the sea 

 

Thus suspending the laws of gravitation was a proper manifestation of unlimited power. Jesus did this by his own power; therefore Jesus showed forth his Godhead. In this one miracle we may discover three.-1. Though at a distance from his disciples, he knew their distress. 2. He found them out on the lake, and probably in the midst of darkness. 3. He walked upon the water. Job, speaking of those things whereby the omnipotence of God was demonstrated, says particularly, Job 9.8, He walks upon the waves of the sea. intimating that this was impossible to any thing but Omnipotence

 

“It is a spirit” 

 

That the spirits of the dead might and did appear, was a doctrine held by the greatest and holiest of men that ever existed; and a doctrine which the cavaliers, free-thinkers and bound-thinkers, of different ages, have never been able to disprove. 

 

“It is I; be not afraid” 

 

Nothing but this voice of Christ could, in such circumstances, have given courage and comfort to his disciples. those who are grievously tossed with difficulties and temptations require a similar manifestation of his power and goodness. When he proclaims himself in the soul, all sorrow, and fear, and sin are at an end. 

 

Bid me come on the water 

 

A weak faith is always wishing for signs and miracles. To take Christ at his word, argues not only the perfection of faith, but also the highest exercise of sound reason. He is to be credited on his own word, because he is the TRUTH, and therefore can neither lie nor deceive

 

Peter-walked on the water 

 

However impossible the thing commanded by Christ may appear, it is certain he will give power to accomplish it to those who receive his word by faith; but we must take care never to put Christ's power to the proof for the gratification of a vain curiosity; or even for the strengthening of our faith, when the ordinary means for doing that are within our reach. 

 

When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid 

 

It was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder that those laws returned to their usual action, and that he began to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith

 

Jesus stretched forth his hand 

 

Every moment we stand in need of Christ. while we stand-we are upheld by his power; and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by which we are to be upheld; and then our faith is likely to stand strong. 

 

The wind ceased 

 

Jesus is the Prince of peace, and all is peace and calm where he condescends to enter and abide

 

Thou art the Son of God 

 

It is probable that these words were spoken either by the sailors or passengers, and not by the disciples. Critics have remarked that, when this phrase is used to denominate the Messiah, both the articles are used, and that the words without the articles mean, in the common Jewish phrase, a Divine person. It would have been a strange thing indeed, if the disciples, after all the miracles they had seen Jesus work, after their having left all to follow him, Messiah. That they had not as yet clear conceptions concerning his kingdom, is evident enough; but that they had any doubts concerning his being the promised Messiah is far from being clear. 

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza OCD 

 

Vancouver - Canada 

 

www.LivingFlame.ca

 

ARTICLE: Feast of Transfiguration. Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

TRANSFIGURATION

Matthew 17:1-9

 

The word "transfigured" is a very interesting word. The Greek word is "metamorpho" and it means to transform, literally or figuratively to metamorphose, or to change. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. The prefix "meta" means to change and the "morphe" means form. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. To change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. Jesus' divine nature was "veiled" (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the Shekinah glory of God incarnate in the Son. The voice of God attesting to the truth of Jesus' Son-ship was the second time God's voice was heard. The first time was at Jesus' baptism into His public ministry by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. This truth is emphasized for us in a passage in the Apostle Paul's letter to Philippians. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

There were three important mountains where our Lord proclaimed himself to the world.

 

On the one he preached the Beatitudes. On the same day perhaps he signed his own death warrant.

 

On the second he manifested his glory, the Mount of Transfiguration. He was shining with light. The disciples could not see that glory. Perhaps they were unconscious.

 

On the third he became the victim on Calvary. He lost himself and disfigured.

 

Jesus wanted to show his glory and at the same time correct the wrong notion of the Messiah they had.

 

We know from the Gospels that Peter had vehemently protested against the Cross.

 

James and John had been throne seekers.

All the three would later on sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony.

 

Therefore to believe in the mystery of Calvary they needed a powerful demonstration of his glory; therefore the need of the Mount of Transfiguration.

 

The event of transfiguration takes place when he was praying.

 

Prayer transfigures. It is prayer that is the hall mark of Christians. Every page of the Gospels speaks about the marvels prayer can offer us. In the life of Jesus we find the spirit of prayer always present.

 

At the transfiguration we find Moses and Elijah. Moses is the law giver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets.

 

They signify that Jesus did not come to abolish the ‘old’ but to perfect it. Prayer strengthens our bond, increases respect towards others as well as to rules and regulations.

 

Transfiguration:

 

The various events had been an experience of transfiguration.

The day of our first communion, the day we got married, the latter celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, jubilees etc., or celebrations of any other occasion The relatives and family members appreciating us for our sacrifice etc.

 

The desire and intentions of Peter who told our Lord:

 

“Peter said to Jesus, Master, how good it is that we are here! Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah? but he spoke without knowing what he was saying: (Matthew 17:1-9)

 

Peter was saying something without knowing what it was. He was intoxicated/filled with fear or terrified with the experience. It is a normal tendency in us to be terrified, filled with fear or awe inspired? Either with success, with good and pleasant moments, or joy, elation, victory, thrills, and so on. We make mighty promises to God. The problem is when the reality arises. When real circumstances come in our lives are we ready to take challenges?

 

Peter was the one who more than twice protested against the cross. He always wanted glory with out the cross. It is he who dissuaded the Lord from going to Jerusalem.

 

The temporary happiness is not lasting. Even sometimes the spiritual happiness we experience is not lasting. We pray, perhaps we have the joy of prayer only for sometime. What should be our attitude?

 

There are various ways by which we are transfigured:

 

Transfiguration through humiliating experiences.

Transfiguration through defeating experiences.

Transfiguration through failures.

Transfiguration through sickness, and bodily changes.

Transfiguration through the death of a dear one.

Transfiguration through community experiences.

Transfiguration through loss of name and fame.

Transfiguration through loss of friendship

Transfiguration through dark night experiences

 

The real transfiguration will take place when we ourselves die on the Cross of Christ. We are called to be lost. We need to fall to ground like the seed and die in order to give life. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone and cannot give life. Transfiguration when we are misunderstood. Jesus was misunderstood.

- Prayer helps us to become more sensitive towards God and neighbor.

 

When should we pray:

Let us look at the life of Jesus Himself:

 

- When the disciples came asked Jesus “Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1)

 

- He prayed in the evening after the multiplication of bread (Mk 14:23)

 

- Jesus prayed in the morning at a lonely place (Mk1:35)

 

- He prayed at night before choosing the disciples (Lk 6:12)

 

- He prayed without ceasing (Lk 5:16)

 

- Prays at his baptism (Lk 3:21)

 

- He prayed before calling his disciples (Lk 6:12)

 

- He prays before his transfiguration (Lk 9:28)

 

- He prays for Peters faith (Lk 22:31-31)

 

- He prays for the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:15-17)

 

- He prays before raising Lazarus (Jn 11:41)

 

- He prays at the triumphant entry to Jerusalem (Jn 12:27)

 

- He prays at the last supper (Jn. 17:1-7)

 

- He prays for his disciples (Jn 17:6-19)

 

- He prays for all believers (Jn. 17:20-21)

 

- He prays before his passion (Lk 22:39)

 

- He prays for his executioners (Lk 23:34)

 

- He prays when he dies: to the Father (Lk 23:46)

 

 

From all these life contexts we come to know that Christ prayed always without ceasing.

 

Means to genuine prayer:

- Daily use of the Bible

- Love of neighbor

- Silence and Solitude (desert)

- Free from inordinate attachments

- Practice of virtues

- Monthly recollection

- Discernment (Gal 5:22-23)

- Visit to Blessed Sacrament

- Rosary and Vocal Prayers

- Making our room a place of prayer

- Our table a place of prayer

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

 

ARTICLE: 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

YEAR A Matthew 13: 44-52

THE HIDDEN TREASURE

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure which lay hidden in a field. A man found it, and hid it; and, as a result of his joy, away he goes, and sells everything that he has, and buys the field."

Although this parable sounds strange to us, it would sound perfectly natural to people in Palestine in the days of Jesus, and even to this day it paints a picture which people in the East would know well.

In the ancient world there were banks, but not banks such as ordinary people could use. Ordinary people used the ground as the safest place to keep their most cherished belonging. In the parable of the talents the worthless servant hid his talent in the ground, lest he should lose it (Matt. 25:25). There was a rabbinic saying that there was only one safe repository for money--the earth.

During War Time

This was still more the case in a land where a man's garden might at any time become a battlefield. Palestine was probably the most fought over country in the world; and, when the tide of war threatened to flow over them, it was common practice for people to hide their valuables in the ground, before they took to flight, in the hope that the day would come when they could return and regain them. Josephus speaks of "the gold and the silver and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners treasured up underground against the uncertain fortunes of war."

Buried Treasure

Thomson in The Land and the Book, which was first published in 1876, tells of a case of treasure discovery which he himself came upon in Sidon. There was in that city a famous avenue of acacia trees. Certain workmen, digging in a garden on that avenue, uncovered several copper pots full of gold coins. They had every intention of keeping the find to themselves; but there were so many of them, and they were so wild with excitement, that their treasure trove was discovered and claimed by the local government. The coins were all coins of Alexander the Great and his father Philip. Thomson suggests that, when Alexander unexpectedly died in Babylon, news came through to Sidon, and some Macedonian officer or government official buried these coins with the intention of appropriating them in the chaos which was bound to follow Alexander's death.

Thomson goes on to tell how there are even people who make it their life's business to search for hidden treasure, and that they get into such a state of excitement that they have been known to faint at the discovery of one single coin. When Jesus told this story, he told the kind of story that anyone would recognize in Palestine and in the east generally.

It may be thought that in this parable Jesus glorifies a man who was guilty of very sharp practice in that he hid the treasure, and then took steps to possess himself of it. There are two things to be said about that. First, although Palestine in the time of Jesus was under the Romans and under Roman law, in the ordinary, small, day to day things it was traditional Jewish law which was used; and in regard to hidden treasure Jewish Rabbinic law was quite clear: "What finds belong to the finder, and what finds must one cause to be proclaimed? These finds belong to the finder--if a man finds scattered fruit, scattered money...these belong to the finder." In point of fact this man had a prior right to what he had found.

Second, even apart from that, when we are dealing with any parable, the details are never meant to be stressed; the parable has one main point, and to that point everything else is subservient. In this parable the great point is the joy of the discovery that made the man willing to give up everything to make the treasure indubitably his own. Nothing else in the parable really matters.

Lessons

(i) The lesson of this parable is, first, that the man found the precious thing, not so much by chance, as in his day's work. It is true to say that he stumbled all unexpectedly upon it, but he did so when he was going about his daily business. And it is legitimate to infer that he must have been going about his daily business with diligence and efficiency, because he must have been digging deep, and not merely scraping the surface, in order to strike against the treasure. It would be a sad thing, if it were only in churches, in so-called holy places, and on so-called religious occasions that we found God, and felt close to him.

There is an unwritten saying of Jesus which never found its way into any of the gospels, but which rings true: "Raise the stone and thou shalt find me; cleave the wood and I am there." When the mason is working on the stone, when the carpenter is working with the wood, Jesus Christ is there. True happiness, true satisfaction, the sense of God, the presence of Christ are all to be found in the day's work, when that day's work is honestly and conscientiously done. Brother Lawrence, great saint and mystic, spent much of his working life in the monastery kitchen amidst the dirty dishes, and he could say, "I felt Jesus Christ as close to me in the kitchen as ever I did at the blessed sacrament."

(ii) The lesson of this parable is, second, that it is worth any sacrifice to enter the Kingdom. What does it mean to enter the Kingdom? When we were studying the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:10), we found that we could say that the Kingdom of God is a state of society upon earth where God's will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven. Therefore to enter the Kingdom is to accept and to do God's will. So, then, it is worth anything to do God's will. Suddenly, as the man discovered the treasure, there may flash upon us, in some moment of illumination, the conviction of what God's will is for us. To accept it may be to give up certain aims and ambitions which are very dear, to abandon certain habits and ways of life which are very difficult to lay down, to take on a discipline and self-denial which are by no means easy, in a word, to take up our cross and follow after Jesus. But there is no other way to peace of mind and heart in this life and to glory in the life to come.

It is indeed worth giving up everything to accept and to do the will of God.

THE PRECIOUS PEARL

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who was seeking goodly pearls. When he had found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold everything he had, and bought it."

In the ancient world pearls had a very special place in men's hearts. People desired to possess a lovely pearl, not only for its money value, but for its beauty. They found a pleasure in simply handling it and contemplating it. They found an aesthetic joy simply in possessing and looking at a pearl. The main sources of pearls in those days were the shores of the Red Sea and far-off Britain itself, but a merchant would scour the markets of the world to find a pearl which was of surpassing beauty. There are certain most suggestive truths hidden in this parable.

(i) It is suggestive to find the Kingdom of Heaven compared to a pearl. To the ancient peoples, as we have just seen, a pearl was the loveliest of all possessions; that means that the Kingdom of Heaven is the loveliest thing in the world. Let us remember what the Kingdom is. To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God. That is to say, to do the will of God is no grim, grey, agonizing thing; it is a lovely thing. Beyond the discipline, beyond the sacrifice, beyond the self-denial, beyond the cross, there lies the supreme loveliness which is nowhere else. There is only one way to bring peace to the heart, joy to the mind, beauty to the life, and that is to accept and to do the will of God.

(ii) It is suggestive to find that there are other pearls but only one pearl of great price. That is to say, there are many fine things in this world and many things in which a man can find loveliness. He can find loveliness in knowledge and in the reaches of the human mind, in art and music and literature and all the triumphs of the human spirit; he can find loveliness in serving his fellow-men, even if that service springs from humanitarian rather than from purely Christian motives; he can find loveliness in human relationships. These are all lovely, but they are all lesser loveliness. The supreme beauty lies in the acceptance of the will of God. This is not to belittle the other things; they too are pearls; but the supreme pearl is the willing obedience which makes us friends of God.

(iii) We find in this parable the same point as in the previous one but with a difference. The man who was digging the field was not searching for treasure; it came on him all unaware. The man who was searching for pearls was spending his life in the search.

But no matter whether the discovery was the result of a moment or the result of a life-time's search, the reaction was the same--everything had to be sold and sacrificed to gain the precious thing. Once again we are left with the same truth--that, however a man discovers the will of God for himself, whether it be in the lightning flash of a moment's illumination or at the end of a long and conscious search, it is worth anything unhesitatingly to accept it.

THE CATCH AND THE SEPARATION

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net which was cast into the sea, and which gathered all kinds of things. When it was full, they hauled it up on to the shore, and sat down, and collected the good contents into containers, but threw the useless contents away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come, and they will separate the evil from the righteous, and they will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there."

It was the most natural thing in the world that Jesus should use illustrations from fishing when he was speaking to fishermen. It was as if he said to them: "Look how your daffy work speaks to you of the things of heaven."

In Palestine there were two main ways of fishing. One was with the casting-net, the amphiblestron (GSN0293). It was a hand-net which was cast from the shore. Thomson describes the process: "The net is in shape like the top of a bell-tent, with a long cord fastened to the apex. This is tied to the arm, and the net so folded that, when it is thrown, it expands to its utmost circumference, around which are strung beads of lead to make it drop suddenly to the bottom. Now, see the actor; half bent, and more than half naked, he keenly watches the playful surf, and there he spies his game tumbling in carelessly toward him. Forward he leaps to meet it. Away goes the net, expanding as it flies, and its leaded circumference strikes the bottom ere the silly fish is aware that its meshes have closed around him. By the aid of the cord the fishermen leisurely draws up the net and the fish with it. This requires a keen eye, an active frame, and great skill in throwing the net.

He, too, must be patient, watchful, wide awake, and prompt to seize the exact moment to throw."

The second way of fishing was with the drag-net, the sagene (GSN4522), what we would call the seine net or the trawl. This is the way referred to in this parable. The seine net was a great square net with cords at each corner, and weighted so that, at rest, it hung, as it were, upright in the water. When the boat began to move, the net was drawn into the shape of a great cone and into the cone all kinds of fish were swept.

The net was then drawn to land, and the catch was separated. The useless material was flung away; the good was put into containers. It is interesting to note that sometimes the fish were put alive into containers rifled with water. There was no other way to transport them in freshness over any time or any distance.

There are two great lessons in this parable.

(i) It is in the nature of the drag-net that it does not, and cannot, discriminate. It is bound to draw in all kinds of things in its course through the water. Its contents are bound to be a mixture. If we apply that to the Church, which is the instrument of God's Kingdom upon earth, it means that the Church cannot be discriminative but is bound to be a mixture of all kinds of people, good and bad, useless and useful.

There have always been two views of the Church--the exclusive and the inclusive. The exclusive view holds that the Church is for people who are good, people who are really and fully committed, people who are quite different from the world. There is an attraction in that view, but it is not the New Testament view, because, apart from anything else, who is to do the judging, when we are told that we must not judge? (Matt. 7:1). It is not any man's place to say who is committed to Christ and who is not. The inclusive view feels instinctively that the Church must be open to all, and that, like the drag-net, so long as it is a human institution it is bound to be a mixture. That is exactly what this parable teaches.

(ii) But equally this parable teaches that the time of separation will come when the good and the bad are sent to their respective destinations. That separation, however, certain as it is, is not man's work but God's. Therefore it is our duty to gather in all who will come, and not to judge or separate, but to leave the final judgment to God.

 Courtesy: William Barclay – Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel

Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

Vancouver

www.LivingFlame.ca