March 18-23: Weekday Reflections

March 18 Monday (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): Lk 6:36-38: 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The context: In today’s passage, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his followers to be merciful, non-judgmental, forgiving and generous. He condemns our careless, malicious and rash judgments about another person’s behavior, feelings, motives, or actions. St. Augustine explains it thus: “What do you want from the Lord?  Mercy? Give it, and it shall be given to you.  What do you want from the Lord?  Forgiveness? “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Reasons why we should not judge others:  1) No one except God is good enough to judge others because only God sees the whole truth, and only He can read the human heart; hence, only He has the right and authority to judge us. 2) We are often prejudiced in our judgment of others, and total fairness cannot be expected from us. 3) We do not see all the facts, the circumstances or the power of the temptation, which have led a person to do something evil. 4) We have no right to judge others because we have the same faults and often to a more serious degree than the one we are judging (remember Jesus’ funny example of a man with a wooden beam in his eye trying to remove the dust particle from another’s eye?) St. Philip Neri commented, watching the misbehavior of a drunkard: “There goes Philip but for the grace of God.”

Life message: 1) We should leave all judgment to God and practice mercy and forgiveness, remembering the advice of saints: “When you point one finger of accusation at another, three of your fingers point at you.” Let us pay attention to the Jewish rabbi’s advice: “He who judges others favorably will be judged favorably by God. ( L/19

March 19 Tuesday (St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary): Sm 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; Rom 4:13-14, 18-22; Mt 1: 16, 18-21, 24; Lk 2:41-51:
ST. JOSEPH IN THE HOLY BIBLE: We have the description of St. Joseph only in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke. They present him as Joseph, the just man and Joseph, the dreamer

(A) Joseph, the just man: (Matthew. 1:19). In the Biblical sense, a just man is one who faithfully does his duties to God, to lawful authorities and to his fellow human beings.

(B)-Joseph did his duties to God faithfully by obeying His laws revealed through Moses, through his king and through his foster son Jesus.
  1. He obeyed the Mosaic laws: i) by circumcising and naming Jesus on the 8th day, ii) by presenting Mary with her child in the Temple for the purification ceremony, iii) by making Jesus “son of the Law,” bringing him to the Temple of Jerusalem for the feast of Passover at the age of twelve.
  2. He obeyed his King’s law by taking his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem for the census ordered by the Emperor.
  3. He obeyed Jesus by respecting his desires and opinion. (Lk.2: 49)
(C)-Joseph did his duties to others faithfully:
  1. to his wife by giving her loving protection in spite of his previous suspicion about her miraculous pregnancy. He could have divorced her.” Pope John Paul II: St. Joseph protected Mary “discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.”
  2. to Jesus by training him in his trade, in the Law of Moses and in good conduct (Lk. 2:52).
(D) to his neighbors by being an ideal carpenter and handyman and good neighbor.
(E)- Joseph, the dreamer (like Joseph in the O.T.)
Dreaming in the Old Testament was one-way God used to communicate His will to men. Joseph received instructions from God through three dreams: i)Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife” (Mt.1:20); ii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave” (Mt. 2:13); iii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel” (Mt.5:20).

Life Messages: 1) We need to lead saintly lives by becoming faithful in little things, as St. Joseph was. “Bloom where you are planted” was the favorite advice of St. Francis de Sales. Let us love our profession and do good to others. 2) We need to consult God daily in prayer to know His will and to do it. 3) We need to be just, as St. Joseph was, by “giving everyone his or her due.” 4) We need to raise our families in the spirit of the Holy Family and to be responsible, God-fearing, ideal parents like Joseph and Mary. 5) Let us become protectors like St. Joseph, by keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that builds up and tear down!  We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” (Pope John Paul II). ( L/19

March 20 Wednesday: Mt 20:17-28: 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

The context: We celebrate the feast of James the apostle on July 25th. James was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, Mary’s sister (Mt 27:56). John the apostle was his brother. He was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples who were given the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane. Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder” probably because of their volatile character and high ambitions. Later, James was known as James the Greater to distinguish him from James the Less who wrote the epistles and led the Jerusalem Church community. James the Greater was probably the first apostle martyred by Herod in an attempt to please the Jews (Acts 12:1-3).
The Gospel episode: The incident in today’s Gospel describes how ambitious, far-sighted and power-crazy James and his brother John were in their youth. They sought the help of their mother to recommend them to Jesus in their desire to be chosen as the two cabinet ministers closest to Jesus when he established his Messianic kingdom after ousting the Romans. But they picked the most inappropriate moment to make this request because Jesus had just predicted his passion and death for a third time.
Jesus’ response: Jesus instructed them that it was the spirit of service which would make his disciples great because he himself had come” not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Life message 1: The leaders in Jesus’ Church must be the servants of all as Mary was (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”). That is why the Pope is called “the servant of the servants of God.” The priesthood of the ordained priests is called the ministerial priesthood because the duty of ordained priests is to give spiritual services to the people of God who share the royal priesthood of Christ by their Baptism (Rev 1:6; cf. 1 Pt 2:5,9). Church leaders must be ready to serve others sacrificially with agape love in all humility. In other words, leaders among Christians must be humble, loving, selfless and “the servants of all.” ( L/19

March 21 Thursday: Luke 16:19-31 “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22

The context: The main theme of today’s Gospel is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, including personal wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy, is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment.  The rich man’s punishment was not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.
Objectives: Jesus told this parable to condemn the Pharisees for their avarice (love of and greed for money), and for their lack of mercy and compassion for the poor.  He also used the parable to correct the Jewish misconception that material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishments for sin.  The parable also offers an invitation to each one of us to be conscious of the sufferings of those around us and to share our blessings generously with the needy.
One-act play: The parable is presented as a one-act play with two scenes.  The opening scene presents the luxurious life of the rich man in costly dress enjoying five-course meals every day, in contrast to the miserable life of the poor, sick beggar living on the street by the rich man’s front door, competing with stray dogs for the crumbs discarded from the rich man’s dining table.  As the curtain goes up on the second scene, the situation is reversed.  The beggar, Lazarus, is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man has been thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not doing his duty of showing mercy to the poor by sharing with the beggar at his door the mercies and blessings God has given him.

Life messages: 1) We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others.  God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many other blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.
2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25: 31ff), tells us that all six questions Jesus will ask each of us when he comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from him (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with others. ( L/19

March 22 Friday: Mt 21: 33-43, 45-46: 33 Matthew 21:33-46 : 33 The context: Told by Jesus during Passover week, the parable of the wicked tenants is actually an allegorical “parable of judgment,” accusing the Pharisees of not producing the fruits of repentance and renewal of life which God expected from them as leaders of His Chosen people. “I expected my vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?” The parable also explains the necessity of our bearing fruit in the Christian life and the punishment for sterility and wickedness. The meaning of the parable: As an allegory, this parable has different meanings. Like the Jews, the second- and third-generation Christians also understood God as the landlord. The servants sent by the land-owner represented the prophets of the Old Testament. They were to see that God’s chosen people produced fruits of justice, love and righteousness. But the people refused to listen to the prophets and produced the bitter grapes of injustice, immorality and idolatry.  Further, they persecuted and killed the prophets. As a final attempt, the landowner sent his son, (Jesus) to collect the rent (fruits of righteousness) from the wicked tenants (the Jews). But they crucified him and continued to lead lives of disloyalty and disobedience. Hence, God’s vineyard was taken away from His Chosen People and was given to a people (Gentile Christians) who were expected to produce the fruit of righteousness. The parable warns us that if we refuse to reform our lives and become productive, we also could be replaced as the old Israel was replaced by the “new” Israel.

Life messages: 1) We need to be good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church.  Jesus has given the Church everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing. Having already received the Gift of Life in Baptism, we find we also have the following: a) the Bible to know the will of God; b) the priesthood to lead the people in God’s ways; c) the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins; d) the Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food; e) the Sacrament of Confirmation for a dynamic life of faith; f) the Sacrament of Matrimony for the sharing of love in families, the fundamental unit of the Church, g) the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which the priesthood of Jesus in continued on earth and will be continued until the end of the world, and h h) Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, and particularly of the dying as God’s last blessing for us on this earth. We are expected make use of these gifts and to produce fruits for God. 2) We need to be good fruit-producers in the vineyard of our family. By our mutual sharing of blessings, by our sacrificing our time and talents for the welfare of all the members, by our humbly and lovingly serving others in the family, by our recognizing and encouraging each other and by honoring and gracefully obeying our parents, we become producers of “good fruit” or good vine-branches in our families. ( L/19

March 23 Saturday St. Turibius of Mogrovejo Bishop): Lk 15:1-3.11-32:  Tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering: «This man welcomes sinners and eats with them». So Jesus told them this parable: «There was a man with two sons. ……… But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad’».

The context: Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel has been called “the Gospel within the Gospel,” because it is the distilled essence of the Good News about our Heavenly Father. The whole chapter is essentially one distinct parable, the “Parable of the Lost and Found,” with three illustrations: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the lost son. These parables remind us that we have a God Who welcomes sinners and forgives their sins when they return to Him with genuine contrition, resolved to reform. In addition, He is always in search of His lost and straying children.
The lost son: This parable speaks about the deep effects of sin, the self-destruction of hatred and the infinite mercy of God. This is a story of love, of conflict, of deep heartbreak, and of ecstatic joy. The scene opens on a well-to-do Jewish family. With the immaturity of a spoiled brat, the younger son impudently extracted his share of the coming inheritance from his gracious father. He sold out his share and then squandered the money in a faraway city.  Then, bankrupt and starving, the prodigal son ended up feeding pigs, a task that was forbidden to a Jew (Leviticus 11:7; 14:8).  Finally, when he “came to his senses” (v. 17), he decided to return to his father, asking for forgiveness and begging to be given the status of a hired servant.  When he saw his son returning, however, the father ran to him, embraced him, kissed him and gave him a new robe, a ring and new shoes. The father also threw a great feast for him, to celebrate his return, killing the “fatted calf’” reserved for the Passover feast so that all might rejoice at the wanderer’s return.

Life messages: 1) We need to meet the challenge for self-evaluation: If we have been in sin, God’s mercy is seeking us, searching for our souls with a love that is wild beyond all imagining.  God is ready to receive and welcome us back no less than Jesus welcomed sinners in his time. We should also ask God for the courage to extend this forgiveness to others who have offended us.
2) Let us confess our sins and regain peace and God’s friendship. The first condition for experiencing the joy and relief of having our sins forgiven is to see them as they are and give them up. We have to be humble enough to recognize that we need God’s forgiveness to be whole. (