16th week-July 22-27: Weekly Reflections

July 22 Monday (St. Mary Magdalene): Jn 20: 11-18: St. Mary Magdalene: 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my  Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
 The context: Today’s Gospel presents the great recognition scene in the New Testament when Mary Magdalene, at the tomb early in the morning, was not able to recognize the Risen Jesus until he called her by name. Gradual recognition, or misunderstanding, as a stage on the path to belief and understanding, frequently occurs in the narratives of John’s Gospel. [See, for example, the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus (ch. 3), and the Samaritan woman (ch. 4).]  In today’s passage, we find it once again: Mary thought at first that Jesus was the gardener.
Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus because of her false assumption that his body had been stolen. Her attention was concentrated on the empty tomb. Her tears of intense grief could also have blurred her vision. Once Mary had recognized Jesus, he gave her a message to be conveyed to his Apostles about His plan to leave them and ascend to his Father. Mary’s message to Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” became the basis and essence of later preaching and Christians’ witness-bearing. St Thomas Aquinas said that one old lady (una vetera), might have more Faith than a host of learned theologians.
Life messages: 1) We can be open to experience the presence of the Risen Lord in our lives through our prayer, our Sacramental life and our meditative reading of the Bible. These all enable us to bear witness to the Risen Lord in our daily lives.
2) It is our powerful conviction of the Real Presence of the Risen Lord, both in the Eucharist and in our lives, which gives us the strength to fight temptations and to serve our brothers and sisters in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. ( L/19

July 23 Tuesday (St. Bridget, Religious): Mt 12: 46-50: 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his mother and cousins came to take him to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that he was “out of His mind,” and would be arrested and put to death.
Jesus’ plain statement: Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled a long distance to talk to him.  But everyone in the audience knew how Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her, working as a carpenter. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it,” was indeed a compliment to his mother who always listened to the word of God and obeyed it.  Jesus was declaring “Blessed are those who have heard and kept the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58).  Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson in their relationship with God.  Being a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, is, first and foremost, being in a relationship – a relationship of love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children.  Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows us that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood.  God’s gracious gift to us is our adoption as his sons and daughters.  This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters.  Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and to his kingdom.  Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Jesus who fulfilled the will of his Father.   Life messages: 1) Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God.  Hence, we have the obligation of treating others with love and respect and of sharing our love with them by corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  2) We are also to be hearers as well as doers of the word of God as Mary did. ( L/19

 July 24 Wednesday St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest): Mt 13:1-91 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives us the parable of the sower, the seeds sown, and the yield depending upon the type of soil. It is the first parable of Jesus in the New Testament about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also a parable interpreted by Jesus himself. This parable was intended as a warning to the hearers to be attentive and to the apostles to be hopeful about Jesus’ preaching in the face of growing opposition to him and his ideas. The sower is God, the Church and the parents, the teachers. The seed sown is the high-yielding word of God, which has a cutting edge like “a sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), and a purifying and strengthening power like “fire and hammer” (Jer 23:29).
Soil type & the yield: The hardened soil on the foot path represents people with minds closed because of laziness, pride, prejudice or fear. The soil on flat rock pieces represents emotional types of people who go after novelties without sticking to anything and are unwilling to surrender their wills to God.The soil filled with weeds represents people addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy and greed. They are interested only in acquiring money by any means and in enjoying life in any way possible.  The good and fertile soil represents well-intentioned people with open minds and clean hearts, earnest in hearing the word and zealous in putting it into practice. Zacchaeus, the sinful woman, and the thief on Jesus right side, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Francis Xavier, among others, fall into this category of the good soil.
Life message: Let us become the good soil and produce hundred-fold yields by earnestly hearing, faithfully assimilating and daily cultivating the word of God we have received, so that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruits in our lives. ( L/19

July 25 Thursday (St. James the Apostle): Mt 20:20-28:  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 men exercise authority over them. 26 ..28
The context: Today we celebrate the feast of James, the Apostle.  James was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, the sister/cousin of Jesus’ mother, and the brother of John, the Evangelist and Apostle.  James was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. He is in the first three of every list of the apostles in the four Gospels.  Jesus called James and John “boanerges,” or “sons of thunder,”probably because of their volatile character and high ambitions. They once offered to use Jesus power to send fire down on the Samaritan village which had refused Jesus permission to cross through their village because he was going to Jerusalem. Jesus rejected the offer. Later, James was known as Jamesthe Greater to distinguish him from James the Less, the son of Clopas, who was leader of the Church in Jerusalem and wrote the Epistle that bears his name.  James the Greater was probably the first apostle martyred — by Herod in 44 AD, in his attempt to please the Jews (Acts 12:1-3).
The Gospel episode: The incident described in today’s Gospel shows us how ambitious, far-sighted and power-hungry James and his brother John were in their youth with their impulsive and hot-tempered Galilean blood.  They asked their mother to ask Jesus to make them the second and third in command when Jesus established his Messianic Kingdom after ousting the Romans.  They must have been shocked when their request prompted Jesus to make a third prediction of his passion and death, promising them a share in his sufferings.  Jesus told the apostles that it was only 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.” St. James is the patron saint of Spain.
Life messages: 1) The leaders in Jesus’ Church must be the servants of all as Mary was (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”). That is why Pope is called “the servant of the servants of God” and the priesthood of our pastors is called “ministerial priesthood.” 2) Our vocation as Christians is to serve otherssacrificially, with agápe love in all humility, without expecting anything in return, and our spiritual leaders must be humble, loving, selfless and serviceable, just as Jesus was, for he loved and served us all ( L/19
July 26 Friday (St. Joachim & Ann, parents of Blessed Virgin Mary): (Grandparents’ Day): Mt 13:16-17: 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The Bible does not say anything about the parents of Mary. The traditional belief that they were Joachim, a shepherd from the tribe of Judah and Anne from the tribe of Levi is taken from the legendary apocryphal source (Protoevangelium Jacobi) written more than a century after Jesus died. According to Protoevangelium Jacobi, Mary was born to her parents in their old age as a gift from God for their fervent and persistent prayer for a child. Mary’s parents offered her to the Temple, and as it was the custom, she was entrusted to the custody of pious widows who assisted the priests in the Temple worship. They taught Mary the prayers, hymns and psalms and services in the Temple until she became a teenager. Her parents then gave her in marriage to St. Joseph, the carpenter. St. Joachim and St. Anne continued their lives of prayer until God called them home to Heaven. They transmitted to Mary and helped her develop all her good qualities like trust in God’s providence, humility, love of the Word of God and spirit of committed and loving service. They faithfully performed their duties, practiced their Faith and established an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remained obscure. The Veneration of St. Anne as the patroness of childless women and miners originated in the East in the 6th century. Devotion to St. Joachim began in the eighth century. France and Canada possess the principal sanctuaries of Saint Anne: in France, at Apt in Provence, and at Auray in Brittany; in Canada at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in the Province of Quebec.
Life message: 1) Let us remember and pray for our grandparents on this feast of the grandparents of Jesus, gratefully acknowledging the lessons of Faith they taught us and the good religious training they imparted to us, directly or through our parents whom they trained. ( L/19

  July 27 Saturday: Mt 13:24-30: 24 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, `An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, `No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
The context: Today’s readings give us the warning that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate the “weeds” or so called “bad people” from the parish or society or the family on the basis of unwarranted and hasty judgment, because our compassionate God patiently waits for them to be converted into good people.
The parable of the wheat and the weeds: The weeds among the wheat in the parable are a variety of tares known as “bearded darnel.”  They resemble wheat plants so closely that it is impossible to distinguish the one from the other except when the heads of seed appear. By that time, their roots are so intertwined that the tares cannot be weeded out without plucking the wheat out with them.  At the end of the harvest, tares and wheat must be separated by hand, through examining the color difference between darnel and wheat grains. The darnel grains must be removed also because they are slightly poisonous.
Why we should be tolerant and patient instead of treating “weeds” as lost cases: The parable tells us why we should not treat others as “weeds,” i.e. evil or wicked. 1) Each one of us is a combination of wheat and weeds because there is a lot of good in the worst of us and a lot of evil in the best of us. Hence, it is impossible to separate the evil people from the good ones. So, we, too, must learn to be kind to the evil people, relying on the power of God to convert them.  2) Many evil people are converted at a certain time in their lives because of the grace of God. Our God awaits repentant sinners, giving them the strength to acknowledge their weakness. 3) Since the good example of practicing Christians can influence and occasion the conversion of evil people, it is the duty of all Christians to live exemplary lives, treating evil people with love, compassion and the spirit of forgiveness. Hence, let us grow up as healthy wheat in God’s field, leaving the weeds for Jesus to take care of. 4) There will be a separation of weeds and wheat, good and bad fish (13:47-50), sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46). But this separation will take place at the end of the world, on God’s timetable not ours. Hence, let us leave the judgment to God. ( L/19