Jun 10-15: Weekday Reflections

June 10 Monday (Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church): Gen 3:9-15, 20; Acts 1:12-14; Jn 19:25-34): One of the most recent architectural additions to Saint Peter’s Square is the mosaic of Mary “Mother of the Church,” with the inscription Totus Tuus, yet another sign of Saint John Paul II’s great love for our Lady. On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Pope Francis declared that, henceforward, the Monday after Pentecost Sunday will be celebrated as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The Memorial will be observed annually and has been added to the General Roman Calendar, the Roman Missal, and the Liturgy of the Hours with the Holy Father’s wish that this new feast day foster Marian piety and the maternal sense of the Church. Pentecost was the birth of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ.
As mother of Christ, the Head of the Church, Mary is also the Mother of the Church, for she was with the apostles for that great event. In Catholic Mariology, Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae) is a title, officially given to Mary at the closing of the Second Vatican Council, by   Pope Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by Saint Ambrose of Milan.  The same title was used by Pope Benedict IV in 1748 and then by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. Blessed Paul VI made the pronouncement of the title Mother of the Church during his speech upon the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council on November 21, 1964: “For the glory of the Virgin and our consolation, we proclaim Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of the whole People of God, both the faithful and the pastors.” Later, the title was also used by Pope St. John Paul II and is also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that Mary joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” (CCC 963). “At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church.” (CCC 507).
Pope St. John Paul II used the encyclical “Redemptoris Mater” to explain how Jesus gave his mother to the care of John the apostle and how she became the mother of the whole church. The Pope said, “in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church.” Pope Benedict XVI addresses the issue of the relationship between Roman Catholic Mariology and ecclesiology quoting the theologian Hugo Rahner, SJ, that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary. The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. She is carrying the mystery of the Church. That is why in 2018 Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and that it be celebrated every year. The decree was signed on 11 February 2018, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, at the 160th anniversary of the Lourdes apparitions. The decree was issued on 3 March 2018.
As St. Augustine once said: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces Faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.” As St. Ambrose taught, “The Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of Faith, Charity, and the perfect union with Christ.” She serves as the ultimate role model for all Christians in her willingness to cooperate with God’s will. So, while we rightfully acknowledge her as the Mother of God, the Theotokos, we also acknowledge her sanctity and her willingness to do God’s will. This is why another ancient name attributed to her will officially appear on the Church’s calendar for the first time this year. “The Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mother of God   are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and lead us to Jesus.” (Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). Let us honor May the Mother of the Church by imitating her virtues of faith, humility ant total surrender. ( 2019

 June 11 Tuesday (St. Barnabas, Apostle): Mt 5:13-16: 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is taken from the Sermon on the Mount where, using two simple metaphors, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. The Christian’s task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding flavor, giving meaning where there is no meaning and giving hope where there is no hope.  Every Christian also has to reflect the light borrowed from Christ and radiate around him or her that light in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.
The salt of the earth:  In the time of Jesus, salt was connected in people’s minds with four special qualities. (i) Salt was connected with purity because it was white and it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. Hence, it was the common ingredient in the sacrifices offered to God by the Jews and pagans.  (ii) Salt was the commonest of all preservatives in the ancient world. It was used to prevent putrefaction of meat, fish and fruits in pickles.  (iii) Salt lends flavor to food items (Job 6:6). Salt was used to season food. (iv) Salt was also used sprinkled on charcoal or dried horse dung to keep fire burning evenly in an oven for a longer time.
The light of the world: (i) A light is something which is meant to be seen.  (ii) A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way.  iii) A light can often be a warning light, telling us to halt when there is danger ahead.  iv) Light is a source for warmth and heat.
Life messages: 1). As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity, holding aloft the standard of absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought.
2) As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption, injustice and impurity and making it easier for others to be good.
3) As salt, we have to preserve Christian cultural values and moral principles. As salt, we have to improve the tone of society (“season” it), preserve Faith, and extend the fire of the Holy Spirit through evangelization efforts. 4) As light of the world Christians are expected to reflect the Light borrowed from Christ and radiate that light in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service. ( 2019

 June 12 Wednesday: Mt 5:17-19: 17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The context: Today’s Gospel passage, taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, presents Jesus as giving the highest compliments to the Mosaic Law. Ironically, he himself would be condemned and crucified as a Law-breaker. Jesus says that the Old Testament, as the word of God, has Divine authority and deserves total respect. Its moral precepts are to be respected because they are, for the most part, specific, Divine-positive promulgations of the natural law. But Christians are not obliged to observe the legal and liturgical precepts of Old Testament because they were laid down by God for a specific stage in Salvation History.  In Jesus’ time, the Law was understood differently by different groups of the Jews to be 1) The Ten Commandments 2) The Pentateuch 3) The Law and the Prophets or 4) The oral (Scribal) and the written Law.
Jesus’ teaching: Jesus, and later Paul, considered the oral Law as a heavy burden on the people and criticized it, while honoring the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets. At the time of Jesus, the Jews believed that the Torah (Law given to Moses), was the eternal, unchangeable, Self-Revelation of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he did not come to destroy the Torah but to bring it to perfection by bringing out its inner meaning because he is the ultimate Self-Revelation of God, the Lawgiver. That is why the Council of Trent declared that Jesus was given to us, “not only as a Redeemer, in whom we are to trust, but also as a Lawgiver whom we are to obey” (“De Iustificatione,” can. 21).  Jesus honored the two basic principles on which the Ten Commandments were based, namely the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother In the first four commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother. The next set of commandments instructs us to respect life, the marriage bond, one’s personal integrity and others’ good name, the legal system, another’s property and spouse and one’s own spouse. Jesus declares that he has come to fulfill all Divine laws based on these principles. By “fulfilling the law,” Jesus means fulfilling the purpose for which the Law was given: that is, justice (or “righteousness,” as the Scriptures call it – a word that includes a just relationship with God).
Life messages: 1) In obeying God’s laws and Church laws, let us remember these basic principles of respect and reverence. 2) Our obedience to the laws needs to be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings. ( 2019

 June 13 Thursday (St. Anthony of Padua, Priest, Doctor of the Church): Mt 5:20-26: 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of  fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 ..26
The context: For the Scribes and the Pharisees, the external fulfillment of the precepts of the Mosaic Law was the guarantee of a person’s salvation. In other words, a man saved himself through the external works of the Law.  Jesus rejects this view in today’s Gospel passage, taken from the Sermon on the Mount.  For Jesus, justification or sanctification is a grace, a free, strengthening gift from God. Man’s role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it, using it as God means it to be used. Jesus then outlines new moral standards for his disciples.
Control of anger: Anger is the rawest, strongest and most destructive of human emotions. Describing three stages of anger and the punishment each deserves, Jesus advises his disciples not to get angry in such a way that they sin.
1)  Anger in the heart (“brief stage of insanity” Cicero)It has two forms: a) a sudden, blazing flame of anger which dies suddenly. b) a surge of anger which boils inside and lingers, so that the heart seeks revenge and refuses to forgive or forget. Jesus prescribes trial and punishment by the Village Court of Elders as its punishment.
2) Anger in speech: The use of words which are insulting (“raka“=“fool”), or damaging to the reputation (“moros” = a person of loose morals). Jesus says that such an angry (verbally abusive) one should be sent to the Sanhedrin, or Jewish religion’s Supreme Court, for trial and punishment.
3) Anger in action: Sudden outbursts of uncontrollable anger, which often result in physical assault or abuse. Jesus says that such anger deserves hellfire as its punishment. In short, Jesus teaches that long-lasting anger is bad, contemptuous speech or destroying someone’s reputation is worse and harming another physically is the worst.
Life messages: 1) Let us try to forgive, forget and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible.  St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger), but do not sin” (Eph 4: 26).  2) When we keep anger in our mind, we are inviting physical illnesses like hypertension and mental illnesses like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry and pray for God’s strength for self-control. ( 2019

 June 14 Friday:Mt 5: 27-32: But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body  be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.  31 “It was also said, `whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her and adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 
The context: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines a new moral code for his followers, which is different from the Mosaic moral code. He insists that adultery, the violation of the Sixth Commandment, is also committed through willfully generated evil and impure looks, and evil thoughts and desires purposely created and held in the mind.
Interpreting Jesus’ words about self-mutilation.  Our hands do not themselves sin, but are made the mind’s agents for sin according to what we touch and how we touch, in lust or greed or violence. Our eyes become agents of sins according to what they look at. In recommending mutilation of eyes and hands, Jesus is not speaking literally because we have more sins than we have body-parts. Besides, even if all offending parts were removed, our minds — the source of all sins — would still be intact, causing us to sin by thoughts and desires.  So Jesus teaches us that, just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body like an infected gall bladder, an inflamed appendix, cancerous colon sections, etc., in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to commit grave sin or which leads to spiritual death (the “near occasions of sin.”) Hence, these warnings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations.  Jesus recommends that our hands become agents of compassion, healing and comfort, and that our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness and beauty that are all around us.
Clear teaching on divorce: According Matthew’s account, adultery is the only ground for sanctioning divorce. Based on the NT teachings given in Mk 10:1-12, Mt 5:31-32; Mt 19:3-9; Lk 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, the Catholic Church teaches that Marriage is a Sacrament involving both a sacred and legal contract between a man and a woman and, at the same time, a special Covenant with the Lord.  “Divorce is also a grave offense against the natural law.  Besides, it claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death….”  Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society” (CCC #2384, 2385). ( L/19

 June 15 Saturday: Mt 5:33-37:: 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’  34 But I say to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
The context: Jesus outlines a new moral code for his followers in his Sermon on the Mount, different from, and superior to, the Mosaic moral code. According to the teachings of Jewish rabbis, the world stands fast on truth, justice and peace; hence, liars, slanderers, scoffers and hypocrites will not enter Heaven. The rabbis classified two types of oaths as offensive to God: 1) frivolous oaths using God’s name to support a false statement because this violates the second commandment. 2) evasive oaths using words like Heaven, Jerusalemmy head, because God is everywhere, and He owns everything.
Jesus’ teaching: Be righteous, be men and women of integrity and character. If one is honest in one’s words and deeds there is no need for one to support one’s statements and transactions with oaths or swearing. How forceful are honest words! (Job 6:25). An oath is a solemn invocation of God (So help me, God!) to bear witness to the truth of what one asserts to be the case or to the sincerity of one’s undertakings in regard to future actions. It is necessary and admissible to ask God’s help in the discharge of an important social duty (e.g., President’s oath of office) or while bearing witness in a court of law (“I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, God”). In other cases, Jesus teaches, “Say yes, when you mean yes and say no, when you mean no” (Mt 5:37). That is, He invites us to live in truth in every instance and to conform our thinking, our words and our deeds to the truth.
Life messages: 1) Let us be true to God, to ourselves and to others. 2) Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and heart and to form our conscience. ( 2019