Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Measure of Love and the Amount of Forgiveness

The reading for this Sunday, the eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time is centered on the theme of Forgiveness.  The first reading was taken from Samuel 12:7-10, 13.  In this passage through prophet Nathan, proclaims God's forgiveness to David.  God said that despite his killing of Uriah and coveting his wife, God has forgiven him because he has taken note of the David's repentant heart and desire to follow Him.  But despite of the forgiveness, God said that the sword shall never depart from his house.  This passage shows us that indeed God forgives sins because He is kind and merciful.  But He also revealed to us that He is just.  That sin can never go unpunished, and that there ought to be some restitution.  Later in the gospel reading we will see how Christ spoke about th amount of debts and the measure of love.  Thus, despite the overflowing forgiveness, as the prophet said to David, "You shall not die" because death is the ultimate punishment of sin.  But he proclaimed to him the restitution of justice - "The sword shall not depart from your house."  This thought brings us to our belief in purgatory.  This is the reason why we pray for the dead and we believe in indulgences.  Because as God forgives our sins and cancels our sin and the ultimate punishment of sin, He requires that there should be restitution.  Our non-Catholic friends may not agree with me on this regard.  But I think that this belief is very logical.  It gives us a glimpse of how natural law operates.  For whatever you sow, that is also what you reap.  But above all mercy triumphs over Judgement.

The thoughts that I have expounded above, is further affirmed by St. Paul in the second reading found in Galatians 2:16, 19-21. St. Paul speaks of the exceeding grace of God, the power that forgives and the power that makes us holy.  Obedience to the laws and rules, will not per se, obtain for us salvation because no human being except our Lord and our Lady, has ever perfected the will of God.  In fact we were all enemies of God. But the grace of God as revealed in Jesus has cancelled our debts and made us children of God, and friends of God.  This gratitude is expressed more eloquently in the verse "...and yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me, in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me."

The message of the gospel for today in Luke 7:36-50; 8:1-3 reveals to us that the amount of Love that we give to God is commensurate with the amount of Sin forgiven.  In this passage Jesus shows us that He is the one who reveals our thoughts.  The story of this passage tells us that Jesus was invited by Simon the pharisee to dine in his house [we note that even pharisees listened to the teachings of Christ and many of them were also His followers].  As they were seated on the table a woman came and begin to weep and knelt at the feet of Jesus and began to wipe his feet with tears and expensive aromatic ointment.  Now Simon murmured something in his toughts that if Jesus were a prophet then he would know what sort of woman it was and that he would have not allowed Himself to be touched by this sinful woman.  But Jesus, being the Son of God, revealed the heart of Simon.  In a reproachful manner, Christ chided Simon's lack of hospitality.  In Palestine during those times it was customary for hosts to wash the feet of their guests, or at least to offer them water to wash their feet.  It was also customary for hosts to embrace and kiss their guests.  Jesus told Simon that since the time He entered  his house he never gave Jesus water to wash his feet, and he never gave Jesus the hug and the kiss.  But this woman, bathed and kiss the feet of Jesus with her tears and wipe them with her hair.  That is why Jesus asked Simon, who would love the master more, the one who owed the master 500 days amount of wages or the one with 50.  Simon answered rightly, he said it was the one who owed 500.  In this scenario, it was apparent that the one one who owed 50 is aptly represented by Simon, who was a pharisee and who claims to be righteous.  Perhaps he has fewer sins compared to the woman who represented the one who owed 500.  Thus, without doubt, Christ revealed Himself as the one who forgives sins.  He told the weeping woman, "Your sins are forgiven! Go in Peace!  Your faith has saved you."  Let us pray too that we may have this grace in our lives.  For we cannot truly repent of our sins on our own, it takes faith, and faith is a gift from God.  Let us pray for this gift.

No matter what, remember that there is no measure in God's love and mercy.  We can never put a limit to His ability to save.  But the measure of our Love for God reveals the amount of forgiveness we have received from Him.  Here God reveals His unfathomable love for us.  A Father who is always willing to welcome the prodigal son.

Blessed Sunday to everyone.  God bless us all.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Can the Salt of the Earth Loose it's Savor?

 
In today's corporate world we always talk about productivity. Almost everyone is driven by that catch word, "productivity". Productivity is often measured in terms of profit and gain. Many times we think this is selfish. And indeed greed is not a virtue. But we can borrow the concept of productivity even the spiritual sphere. Jesus in his teachings often make reference to the principle of productivity. I am reminded of a popular but very meaningful verse in the Bible. This is found in Matthew 5:13 it says like this in the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome says "vos estis sal terrae quod si sal evanuerit in quo sallietur ad nihilum valet ultra nisi ut mittatur foras et conculcetur ab hominibus" [the KJ version reads: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." This verse tells us that our purpose in this world is to make this world meaningful, which otherwise would be ugly and dreary. And failure to be the salt of the earth we are in danger of being trampled upon. This "spiritual productivity" as may coin the term, is seriously dealt with in the teachings of Christ. In the gospel we read how our Lord was hungry and finding a fig tree was looking for its fruit. But finding none our Lord cursed the fig tree, and in the morning when the disciples saw the tree dried up and dead, they were amazed at the power of Christ. They exclaimed, is this not the fig tree that our Lord cursed, lo behold it is dried up. Our Lord said as it has no more use it is better that it be thrown into the fire (Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14).

When do we loose our saltiness? Let me enumerate for brevity sake:
1. We loose our interest and love for the liturgy.
2. The words of the gospel does not bring excitement anymore.
3. When we become callous and insensitive to sin.
4. The general feeling of lukewarmness for things that pertain to God.
5. Excessive interest in worldly affairs.
What shall we do then when we are confronted with these? The answer is simple, we have to go back to our first love. This may take an extraordinary grace from God, but we also must do our part. God has not clouded our intellect completely, but gave us the ability to reach out to Him. He has not deprived us of the means to come to reach Him. God forbid that we should abandon our "first love" (Revelation 2:4). Who is our first love? This is Jesus. Let us remember the day when Jesus touched our hearts, how it was set on fire with love for God and the zeal for the faith. Let us remember the consuming devotion and the love for others. And above all let us pray without ceasing. So that in His grace we shall remain the SALT OF THE EARTH.

Monday, June 3, 2013

FOR WE SHOULD FIX OUR GAZE ON HIM

The Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, not only did it offer us a splendid apologetics vis-a-vis the relationship of Jewish and the emerging Christian Tradition. But in a sense gave us a cosmological perspective of God’s plan of salvation and the history of salvation. Christ is the central figure in this cosmology. All converge on him. The typologies of the Old Testament, the temple worship and even the history of Israel points to Christ as the apex of God’s plan of redemption.

There is one verse from the Hebrews that impressed me. It says: “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:2, NRSV). I fondly remember that during our college days, I have memorized this verse by heart and would often recite this verse each time I am challenged or whenever I was tempted to give up. But as time went on and as I mature, I come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of this verse. And today I would like to meditate on this verse in reference to the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

The Eucharist is called the most Blessed Sacrament. Of all the sacrament this is the most blessed because it brings us the Body and Blood of Jesus in a real way. The Eucharist brings us to the foot of the cross on Calvary. It allows us to share in the benefits of the bloody sacrifice of Christ in an unbloody manner. Some people find it hard to believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. Lamentably this unbelief has distorted the meaning of this most blessed sacrament. The consequence is that the sacrament was viewed by the heretics as mere supper, or a simple memorial. The Eucharist is not a repetition of the last supper. The last supper was not the means by which Christ made perfect the redemption, it was simply the form of memorial that He would want us to commemorate his death. The redemption of humankind was made perfect by the Passion of Christ and His death on the Cross. Christ’s death was propitious. It appeased the anger of God over sin, and it paid the ultimate prince no one could ever pay except through the sacrifice of Christ. That is why and most often, and sadly in some churches, the crucifix is missing during the Mass, or to the most it is relegated to the side of the altar, when in fact it should be located in front of the altar, as the crucified Lord is the focal point of the Sacrifice.
I opined that if we understood the meaning of salvation history, if we are nourished by instruction and meditation about the life and passion of Our Lord, the more we will benefit from the Holy Mass. For as Saint Paul said, that we should pray with understanding. For the more we understand the more it will help us. For faith comes through hearing of the word, and that is the Word of God. Believing is facilitated by the message. And how can the message be delivered when there is no messenger. This is the reason why we need to pray without ceasing that the Lord will send workers to His harvest. Good catechises and instruction is what is needed in order for the faithful to truly benefit from the mass and be edified. The faithful does not need entertainment. Sometimes I find it in poor taste when some homilist would crack jokes, would tell non-sense anecdotes, or imitate the handclapping styles of televangelists. The people need not be entertained. What they need is a straightforward and serious discourse on matters of faith, doctrine and instruction. A well prepared homily, grounded in sound theology, biblical and sometimes even quoting from Patristic sources would certainly help. For as we hear the homily, we are hearing the Word of God. Faith comes from listening to the word of God. A good homily prepares our hearts to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. For as we gaze upon Him the author and finisher of our faith, we grow up in Him and are slowly moulded into His image, that we may be conformed to Him day by day until we sit with him in that heavenly banquet in the last day.
Should not the Holy Eucharist help us fix our gaze on Him. When we are confronted by doubts, when we need the consolation of the Lord, when we experience the “Dark Night of the Soul” as St. John of the Cross would have us understand, shall we not fixed our gaze on Him who offers us Himself in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Should not this sacrament move us to reconciliation and peace? Should not our gazing on the Lord, truly present in the form of Bread and Wine, move us to a higher level of faith? For us we receive this communion, it should move us to thanksgiving and heartfelt gratitude. As the Scripture aptly puts it: “What shall I give in return to the Lord for all the blessings that He has given me? I shall take the cup of salvation and give thanks unto the Lord!”. Indeed we exclaim, “O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and thanksgiving be every moment thine!”
Shall we not fixed our gaze on Him, who is the source of our life and happiness?
May our hearts be filled with thanksgiving and may He guide us into everlasting life. Amen.