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Aug 26-31: Weekday Reflections


Aug 26 Monday: Mt 23:13-22: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you  make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
`If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, `If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20i One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;21one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it;22one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.
The context: It is the third day of the original “Holy Week” in Jerusalem, a day of controversy and personal attacks.  Jesus is under fire, and he lashes out at the religious leaders of Israel for rejecting him as the Messiah.  In the text chosen for the Scripture reading today, Jesus pronounces the first three of the eight woes he levies against the religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and publicly humiliating them. The Judeo-Christians of Matthew’s early Christian community argued that the Gentile Christians should follow all Torah laws, oral laws and oral traditions. Matthew’s account reminds them of the criticism of Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage.
Sins of the Scribes and Pharisees:  Matthew 23 gives us Jesus’ scathing condemnation of the Jewish leadership, as he expresses the rolling thunder of his anger and sorrow at the hypocrisy or double standard of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus levels three accusations against the Pharisees: 1) they do not practice what they preach, 2) they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and 3) they seek public acknowledgment and glory for themselves rather than for God. Jesus calls them hypocrites because i) although they know that the essence of religion is loving one’s neighbors, seeing God in them, they teach that external observance of man-made laws is the real essence of religion; ii) although they are zealous missionaries in inviting converts to Judaism, they overburden the converts with man-made laws and regulations as the essence of Judaism; and iii) they try to bluff God by misinterpreting the Law and misleading the people. Jesus gives the example of swearing and accuses them of cleverly evading binding oaths and solemn promises by falsified interpretations.
Life message: 1) What Jesus wants is a pure heart, with no element of deceit. We should not follow the dog-in-the-manger policy of the Pharisees by not keeping God’s commandments ourselves and not allowing others to keep them. 2)  Let us avoid frivolous swearing and oaths and all forms of hypocrisy and superstition in our religious life. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Aug 27 Tuesday (Saint Monica): Mt 23: 23-26: 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. 26 You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
The context: Chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel presents the rolling thunder of Jesus’ anger and sorrow at the blatant hypocrisy of the Pharisees, in the form of a series of eight denunciations. Today’s Gospel passage contains the fourth, fifth, and sixth charges: unauthorized extra tithing, exaggerated zeal for the Law and undue emphasis on external cleanliness as a cheap substitute for internal purity. For Jesus, the essence of religion is offering a clean heart to God, a heart filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Mere external observance of rituals without cleansing the heart is hypocrisy.
The fourth of the eight accusations is that the Pharisees practice non-required and silly tithing of herbs in the kitchen garden, while they fail to observe “the weightier matters of the Law, Justice, Mercy and Faith,” thus missing the spirit of tithing.  Tithing was intended to acknowledge God’s ownership of all our possessions, to support the Temple worship, and to help the poor in the Jewish community. The fifth denunciation is of their exaggerated zeal for observing the letter of the Law, for instance filtering the drinks to avoid unclean insects, while committing serious sins without any prick of conscience. The sixth indictment is of their exaggerated zeal for ritual, external cleanliness while they leave their minds and hearts filled with pride, evil intentions, prejudice and injustice and do not practice mercy or offer compassion to suffering people.
Life message: 1) Let us not be pharisaical in our religious life by meticulously practicing external observance of piety and devotion while remaining unjust, uncharitable, arrogant, impatient, cruel, stubborn, irritable, and judgmentalWe are tempted to hide the bad things about ourselves and advertise the good things.  So, the bad things grow, and the good things are dissipated. Let us try to have noble intentions for all our good deeds.  Let us learn to love God living in others by rendering them sacrificial service with ag├ípe love.  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Aug 28 Wednesday (Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church): Matthew 23:27-32: 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like white washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
The context: Today’s passage, again taken from chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel, gives the seventh and eighth accusations Jesus made against the Pharisees on the third day of the original “Holy Week” in Jerusalem as he addressed them in the Temple precincts. Jesus told them plainly that they were whitewashed tombs containing rotten stuff inside.
Hypocrisy exposed:  Jesus compared the scribes and Pharisees to the tombs on the sides of the road leading to Jerusalem. In preparation for the three major Jewish feasts, the Scribes and Pharisees used to whitewash these tombs so that the pilgrims would not be ritually defiled by unknowingly walking over one. In this seventh charge, Jesus accused the Pharisees of moral filth, of hiding injustice and immorality inside themselves and covering the corruption with “whitewash” — the pretenses of piety and religious fervor. In his eighth and final indictment, Jesus also criticized their false zeal in decorating the old monuments and rebuilding new monuments for the past prophets who had been persecuted and murdered by the forefathers of the Pharisees because these modern Pharisees had neither learned nor been changed by the messages of the now-dead prophets.
Life message: 1) We need to be men and women of integrity and character without any element of hypocrisy in our Christian life. We should not make a show of holiness and religious fervor when we are not internally holy. Here is St. John Chrysostom’s (4th century) comment: “You have been counted worthy to become temples of God. But you have instead suddenly become more like sepulchers, having the same sort of foul smell. This is dreadful. It is extreme wretchedness that one in whom Christ dwells and in whom the Holy Spirit has worked such great works should turn out to be a sepulcher, a place for death, carrying a dead soul – a soul deadened by sins, a soul paralyzed – in a living body.”   (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Aug 29 Thursday (The Passion of Saint John the Baptist): Mk 6: 17-29: 14 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. 18 For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  22 For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her….29
The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last scene of a tragic drama with three main characters, Herod, Herodias and John the Baptist. Herod was a jealous and weak puppet-king with a very guilty conscience, who answered to Rome for his rule of one section of Israel, at that time a Roman subject-province. Herod feared the prophet John because John had publicly scolded him for divorcing his legal wife without adequate cause and for marrying his sister-in-law Herodias who was his niece, thus committing a double violation of Mosaic Law. Herodias was an immoral and greedy woman, stained by a triple guilt. She was enraged by John’s public criticism of her: 1) She was an unfaithful woman of loose morals. 2) She was a greedy and vengeful woman. 3) She was an evil mother who used her teenage daughter for the wicked purposes of murder and revenge by encouraging the girl to dance in public in the royal palace against the royal etiquette of the day. John the Baptist was a fiery preacher and the herald of the Promised Messiah. He was also a Spirit-filled prophet with the courage of his prophetic convictions who dared to criticize and scold an Oriental monarch and his proud wife in public.
God’s punishment: After the martyrdom of John, Herod was defeated by Aretas, the father of his first wife. Later, both Herod and Herodias were sent into exile by Caligula, the Roman emperor.
Life messages: 1) Our sins will haunt us, ruining our mental peace, as happened to Herod and Herodias. 2) Brutal sins against others will not go unpunished (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Aug 30 Friday: Mt 25:1-13: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, `Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 …13
The context: Today’s parable, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, brings the usual warnings about preparation for the end of our own world, the end of our own times and our passage to another world.  The parable tells us that a searching, watching and growing heart is essential for a lively, dynamic Faith in God and asks us whether we are ready for these events and how we are preparing for them.
The parable: Since a wedding was a great occasion, the whole village would line up at the sides of the road to wish God’s blessings on the bride and groom in procession.  The invited ones would join the procession, which started from the bride’s house, and ended at the groom’s house to take part in the week-long celebration. Since the bridegroom might come to the bride’s house unexpectedly, the bridal party had to be ready at any time, with virgins carrying lighted torches and reserve oil in jars.  The five foolish virgins who could not welcome the groom’s party lost not only the opportunity of witnessing the marriage ceremony, but also of participating in the week-long celebration that followed.  The local meaning is that the foolish virgins represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah but were shut out from the Messianic banquet because they were unprepared.  The universal meaning is that the five foolish virgins represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives and for the Final Judgment. They do not put their Faith in Jesus and live it out by keeping his Commandment to love others as he did.
Life messages:  1) We must be wise enough to remain ever prepared:  Wise Christians carefully make their daily choices for God. They are ready to put the commandment of love into practice by showing kindness and forgiveness.   2) Let us be sure that our lamps are ready for the end of our lives: Spiritual readiness, preparation and growth come as a result of intentional habits built into one’s life.  These include taking time for prayer and being alone with God; reading God’s Word; leading a Sacramental life; cooperating with God’s grace by offering acts of loving service to others; practicing moral faithfulness and living always in loving obedience.  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

Aug 31 Saturday (BVM): Matthew 25:14-30 : 14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, `Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I  have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the  joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, `Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the  joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and  gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
The context: The three parables in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew (The Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Talents, The Last Judgment) are about the end times, the end of the world, and the end of our lives. The parable of the talents is an invitation for each one of us to live in such a way that we make the best use of the talents God has given us. Then, at the hour of our death, God will say: “Well done, My good and faithful servant! Come and share the joy of your Master.” The parable challenges us to ask the questions: Are we using our talents and gifts primarily to serve God? Are we doing everything we can to carry out God’s will? The story: A very rich person, about to set off on a journey, entrusted very large sums of wealth (talents), to three of his slaves, each according to his personal ability:  five, two, and one. Through skillful trading and investing, the first and second slaves managed to double their master’s money. Afraid of taking risk and lazy by nature, the third slave buried his talent in the ground. On the day of accounting, the master rewarded the two clever slaves (“Come, share your master’s joy.”), but punished the third slave whom he calls “wicked and slothful” (v. 26). Life messages: 1) We need to trust God enough to make use of the gifts and abilities we have been givenEveryone is given different talents and blessings by God. So, we should ask ourselves how we are using our particular gifts in the service of our Christian community and the wider society. 2) We need to make use of our talents in our parish. We should be always willing to share our abilities in the liturgy, in Sunday school classes and in social outreach activities like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting the sick and the shut-ins. 3) We need to trade with our talent of Christian Faith: All of us in the Church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of Faith. Our responsibility as men and women of Faith is not just to preserve and “keep” the Faith but to live it out daily and pass it on faithfully to the next generation in our family and in our parish community. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19