July 15-20: Weekday Reflections

July 15 Monday (St. Bonaventure, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): Mt 10:34–11:1: 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 ..11:

The context: Jesus makes the controversial statement that he has come to inaugurate a series of divisions in families and in the society as a whole between those who accept him as Lord and Savior and those who oppose him, his ideas and ideals.  Then he concludes his great “missionary discourse” with an instruction to his twelve Apostles on the cost and the reward found in the commitment to be his disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus is about the behavior expected from his disciples, and the second half is about the behavior of others towards the disciples.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me….” : What Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God.  In other words, we cannot condone immoral practices even in members of our family. Jesus is not speaking against the family, but rather reminding us that we are part of the larger family of our fellow-Christians and, hence, we have more responsibilities. We must be ready to lose our lives for Christ: By “losing one’s life” Jesus means that we must stop living for ourselves alone.  Instead we must spend our lives for others and care for those who are sick and hungry.  We are to give hospitality to strangers in Jesus’ name. (“offering a cup of cold water”): There are four main links in the chain of salvation: i) God who has sent Jesus with His message, ii) Jesus who has preached the “Good News,” iii) the human messenger who preaches Jesus’ message through his words and life, and iv) the believer who welcomes the message and the messengers. Hence, giving hospitality to a preacher or a believer is the same as welcoming Jesus himself. The basis of all hospitality is that we all belong to God’s family, and that every person is our brother or sister.
Life message: 1) We need to be hospitable and generous: Hospitality allows us to encounter the presence of God in others, usually in those in whom we least expect to find Him, and to share our love with them. We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves to others. ( L/19

July 16 Tuesday (Our Lady of Mount Carmel): Mt 11: 20-24): Mount Carmel is a mountain in northern Palestine about twenty miles from Nazareth, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, three miles south of Haifa in modern Israel. 1 Kings Chapter 18 describes how the prophet Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel for rain was answered and how he defeated the 450 pagan priests of Baal on the same mountain. He challenged them to bring fire from Heaven to burn the sacrificed bulls placed on the altar, and he proved that only Yahweh was the true God. According to the most ancient Carmelite chronicles, the Order had its origins with the disciples of the prophets Elijah and Eliseus on Mount Carmel. They lived very ascetic lives in caves on Mount Carmel honoring the “Holy Virgin” of the Messianic prophecies who would give birth to the promised Messiah. When the Apostles started preaching Jesus, the pious ascetics of Carmel accepted the Christian Faith. In the 13th century, a group of pilgrims who followed the Crusaders was impressed by the lifestyle of the disciples of Elijah. Hence, they set up a religious community on the western slopes of Mount Carmel and started living very ascetic lives. This was the beginning of the modern Carmelite Order, whose members started leading a contemplative life under the patronage of Mary, honoring her as the Mother of God and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The people began to call them Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Pope Honorius III approved the order’s rule in 1232 (or 1236?) . Since the Turks had started conquering Palestine by 1235, the hermits decided to go back to Europe, where they built monasteries in Cyprus, Italy, France, and England. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite, became the superior of all the Carmelites in 1247. He helped the order expand and adapt to the times, patterning the order on the Dominicans and Franciscans. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted first for the Carmelites in 1332 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the approval of the rule of the Carmelite Order. The Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (OCD) resulted from 16th century reforms of the Carmelites by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and later by reforms made by the order Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) in the Kerala State of India
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown scapular: According a popular legend, Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, and gave him the Brown Scapular with the following words: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.” Mary promised her protection to all those who would wear the blessed habit and lead a life of prayer and sacrifice. Pope St. Pius X (1903 -1914) declared that that the common people could have the same blessings if they would wear the metal scapular medal carrying the picture of Our Lady of the Scapular on one side and the Sacred Heart on the other. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel challenges us both to imitate the simple and ascetic life of the Blessed Virgin Mary with her trusting Faith in God and her humility, and to seek her guidance and maternal protection in our Christian lives. ( L/19
July 17 Wednesday St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, U.S.A.): Mt 11: 25-27: 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
The context: Jesus knew that ordinary people with large, sensitive hearts, rather than proud intellectuals, were able accept the “Good News” he preached. Such people would inherit Heaven rather than the learned and the wise who prided themselves on   their intellectual achievements. Hence, in the first part of today’s Gospel Jesus prayed in thanksgiving to His Father, praising God for revealing Himself to the simple-hearted, and thus condemning intellectual pride. A person who is full of self-centeredness fails to perceive supernatural things.
Jesus’ unique claim of God’s perfect reflection: No one really knows the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). The claim that Jesus alone can reveal God to men forms the center of the Christian Faith. John records Jesus’ claim in different words which He spoke at the Last Supper: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). What Jesus says is this: “If you want to see what God is like, if you want to see the mind of God, the heart of God, the nature of God, if you want to see God’s whole attitude to men–look at me!”
Life message: We need to know and love God better by studying Jesus’ revelation about God his Father. We do it by daily reading the Holy Bible, especially the Gospels, by meditating on the passages read and by applying them to our lives. The more we study the Bible, the more we learn about the Triune God, and especially about Jesus our Savior. This knowledge will help us to love Jesus more, experience his presence in our daily lives, see his face in everyone around us and surrender our lives to Jesus by rendering humble service to everyone around us. ( L/19

July 18 Thursday: Mt 11: 28-30: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The context: In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers rest to those who labor and are burdened, if they are ready to accept his easy yoke and light burden. For the Orthodox Jew, religion was a matter of burdens, namely, 613 Mosaic laws and thousands of oral interpretations, which dictated every aspect of life. Jesus invites the overburdened Israel, and us, to take his yoke upon our shoulders. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood and were carved to fit the ox comfortably. The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Jesus’ yoke is light because it is given with love. It is the commandment to love others as Jesus did. Besides, the yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. So we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power. We are yoked together with Christ to work with him using his strength. By saying that his “yoke is easy,” Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
The second part of Jesus’ claim is: “My burden is light.”  Jesus does not mean that his burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid on us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light.  By following Jesus, one will find peace, rest, and real refreshment. We are burdened with many things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age, and a thousand other things. Jesus is asking us to give him our burdens and take on his yoke. By telling us, “Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest,” Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way. When we are centered in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens.
Life messages:  1) We need to be freed from unnecessary burdens: Jesus is interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us and suck the life out of us, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke and his burden, that bring to us, and to others through us, new life, new
energy, new joy. 2) We need to unload our burdens before the Lord. One of the functions of worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment, when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries and evil addictions on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass. ( L/19

July 19 Friday: Mt 12:1-8: 1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was his response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by Pharisees against his disciples who, on a Sabbath, to satisfy their hunger, plucked ears of grain from a field and ate the grains after removing the husks by rubbing the grains between their palms. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing and winnowing.
Counter-arguments: Jesus gives three counter-arguments from Holy Scripture defending his apostles. (1) Basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. Jesus cites from the Scripture the example of the hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, who gave them for food the “offering bread” which only the priests were allowed to eat (1 Samuel 21:1-6). (2) No law can stand against Divine worship. That is why the priests were not considered as violating Sabbath laws although they did the work of preparing two rams for sacrifice in the Temple (Numbers 28:9-10). (3) God desires that we practice mercy:  Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea to tell the accusers God’s words: “Iwant mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).
Life messages: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be 1) a day for rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries through participation in the Eucharistic celebration (for Catholics); 3) a day parents can use for teaching religious Faith and reading the Bible to their children; 4) a day for doing works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish; 5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors and fellow parishioners. ( L/19
July 20 Saturday (St. Apollinaris, Bishop, Martyr): Mt 12:14-21 14 The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name will the Gentiles hope.”
The context: The confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees reached its climax with Jesus’ “blasphemous” statement: “The Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus realized that he had more work of preaching and healing to do before his death. So, he withdrew to a less known place to avoid a premature arrest and asked people not to give publicity to his healing ministry. Besides, he did not want to be labelled a false messiah or revolt-inducer against the Roman empire. Jesus uses the occasion (quoting from the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, Isaiah 42:1-4), to teach his disciples and the people that his role as the messiah is not using crushing power to subdue people but sacrificial service to uplift them. Isaiah 42:1-4 directly refers to the conquering Persian king Cyrus (whom God used as His instrument to discipline His people), but indirectly and in its full meaning, it refers to the promised Messiah, Jesus. The prophecy teaches that 1) the Messiah will be anointed with God’s Spirit; 2) he will bring justice to the Gentiles in the sense that he will show them how to give to God what is due to Him and to men what is due them; 3) he will preach gentle and forgiving love; 4) he will bring his healing love of hope and encouragement to the Gentiles, although their Faith and witnessing are weak as a reed or feeble as a flickering lamp.
Life messages: 1) Let us have the courage of our Christian convictions in the face of opposition to our practice of the Faith. 2) Let us keep hoping in God and trusting in His mercy and justice in our pains and suffering inflicted by others. ( L/19