Once upon a time, the devil enters a church during the service. His appearance causes a rumble in the church as people scamper and disperse from various directions including the officiating ministers. In no time, the church is empty of people except one man who sits at the back of the church. The devil comes to the man and asks why he is not afraid of him like the others and the man replies and says to him, “I have been living with your sister for 48 years, so it makes no difference meeting you today”.
The short story is indeed funny, but what we quickly learn from the story is that one of the strategies of the devil is to scare us and push us into wrongdoing (scampering and dispersing from God). St. Peter says that he comes like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The devouring here is not physical but spiritual and involves nudging us into disobedience and sin.
Jesus Christ and the Tempter
The Gospel Reading today (Luke 4:1-13) begins by relating to us that after the spirit-filled baptism at the Jordan, our Lord Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for a period forty days where he faced three-fold temptations by the devil after the period of prayer and fasting.
It will be essential for us to note here that Jesus was under the leading of the Holy Spirit and not any material or human drive. Furthermore, the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit could not shield him from the temptation of the devil. Moreover, the devil comes to him at the end of his forty-day fasting when one could presume it is all quiet and peaceful. Furthermore, the temptation comes shortly before the Lord begins his public ministry.
A Brief on the Person of the Tempter
Think of any person that is highly intelligent, thoroughly evil, slimy, deceptive, wicked, vindictive, and hypocritical; that is the devil. The Bible has many names for him, accuser (Rev. 12:10), adversary (1 Pet. 5:8), enemy (Matt. 13:39), evil one (Matt. 13:19), father of lies (John 8:44), murderer (John 8:44), thief, killer, and destroyer (John 10:10a), unclean spirit (Matt. 12:43), and others.
“If you are the Son of God, command this Stone to Become Bread.”
The first temptation of our Jesus Christ pertains to his immediate need, namely food. Remember that he was disembarking from a forty-day fast from food. It is also instructive to note that the devil starts by using a challenging statement that strikes on the identity of the Lord, “if you are the Son of God.” The devil often strikes by distorting the truth or raising doubts in our minds about what we know or believe.
Responding to the first temptation, our Lord directs him to the word of God in Deuteronomy (8:3) which says, “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Incidentally, that chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy talks about God’s instructions to the Israelites on the fortieth and last year of their wandering in the wilderness.
We learn from our Lord’s response that you don’t argue nor bargain with the devil. The only way to respond is to refer to the word of God. We could recall and appreciate St. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians (2 Cor.10:4), where he says that the weapons of our warfare are not human but have divine power to destroy strongholds and refute arguments and every obstacle that rises against the knowledge of God. The word of God is a potent weapon against the devil’s machinations.
I shall give You all this Power and Glory…If You Worship Me
In the second temptation, the devil takes our Lord up and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. He goes on to promise that he would give all of them to Jesus Christ if he bows down to worship him.
Here again, we see a deceptive move by the devil to fault our Lord. Temptations would always come with the promise of a benefit or gain. The devil’s gifts come with a condition and a lot of hidden charges. Furthermore, if there is someone who does not like to share that would be the devil. And to think of it that he would hand over all his kingdoms to anyone is a blatant lie.
Again, to the second temptation, our Lord responds with the word of God, “you shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Deut.6:13). Notice that the devil will not give up when he fails the first time. Moreover, the “benefit” of the second temptation seems to be more attractive than the first one.
If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down .…He will command his angels concerning, You to Guide You….
Again, the devil comes using his usual tact of challenging the identity of Jesus Christ, namely, “the Son of God.” Here the devil wanted Jesus to presume God’s protective love using a famous biblical text from the Book of Psalms (91:11-12). It is hilarious that the devil did not extend the quote up to verse 13 where it says, “you will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.” The reason is evident because the verse is against him; the devil.
On this temptation, the devil provides a scriptural text, and our Lord responds with another text which shows a context, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16). Every text in the bible leverages a context; otherwise, it becomes a pretext. Notice here that the devil came three times which in biblical understanding indicates completion. Here it means that our Lord faced thorough temptation, but the devil could not tamper him.
Moving Forward: Overcoming the Tempters Strategies
We all face one temptation or the other at various points in life. Life without temptation is an illusion because temptation is a significant part of our fallen nature and evident in our fallen world. Temptation comes when we experience the enticement to do something that is contrary to the will of God. Temptations come in many ways to make us revolt against God and please the devil.
Within the inauguration of our forty-day Lenten journey, there is the need for us to be aware of the following strategies of the devil to tempt us to sin.
As we continue to the march into Lenten Season, may God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9) remain with us and assist us to pass through the trials and ascend into triumph with our Lord Jesus Christ who overcame the temper’s machinations. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Have a fabulous week ahead.
The return of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is one of the narratives in the Gospel that speaks of repentance after an episode of wandering in the region of sin and disobedience. In the parable we learn that the father was hopefully looking out and waiting for the son to return from the distant country and seeing him from a distance, he runs towards him to welcome him and he goes further to restore his position in the household.
The word return has two basic meanings, to bring something or someone back to the right place, and to get a profit, yield, income or gain. These two meanings aptly resonate with the message of this Ash Wednesday which discloses God’s call for our return to Him.
Where did we Go and What have we Lost?
The First Reading today (Joel 2:12-18) begins with an invitation from God which says:
Return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.
One typically returns from somewhere to another place. From the passage, we understand that those who are receiving the message took a leave from God’s presence and wandered away. Their destination was the region sin and consequent disconnection from God. When we commit sin and stay in it, we take leave from God and stay far away from Him.
There are consequences that trail one’s departure from God; in fact, leaving God is the same as losing Him. In the event of our estrangement from God, we lost His protective love and mercy. To be without God is not helpful to our existence as our Lord Jesus Christ would say, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He knows that our estrangement would lead us to total annihilation beyond the present life and for this reason, God calls for a total return of all the people both young and old, priests, ministers, and indeed everyone.
The Ash and our Return to God
The ash is the result of committing anything to fire. From this description, we understand that ash indicates the vanity of human life and all the activities within it (Ecclesiastes 1:2ff). In the most passage in the Bible, people sat on ash or sprinkled it on their heads to indicate penitence and sorrow for sin (Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3: Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13).
During the ceremony of receiving the ash, the priests or the ministers would say one of the following: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Three important verbs in the two statements are, “Remember, Repent, and Believe.” We often forget the necessary things and remember the unnecessary ones. The ceremony challenges us to remember that no matter how long we live on earth our life is still short and we shall end up as dust.
The next instructional prayer tells us to repent and to believe in the Gospel. As we march into the Lenten Season, the message of repentance would be repeated especially from the oracle of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:4) and the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 13:3). Repentance challenges us to repose our faith in God which entails belief in God and confession. St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans (10:9) that if you confess that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Moving Forward: Living the Lenten Life
After receiving the ash, the Gospel Reading today (Matt. 6: 1-6, 16-18), challenges us to live the Lenten life through the introduction of the three pillars of Lent, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. The elucidation of these pillars of the Lenten Season helps us to understand that the season makes an expedient demand from us. We are invited to excel in charity (Luke 6:38). When we give, especially to those who are in need we become extensions of the hands of God who is always giving to us. Our charity, however, should not be materials for the public announcement; otherwise, we lose our heavenly reward.
Prayer is a very key and recommended activity for us this season. We cannot have a relationship with God without prayers. Our prayer should not be occasional, St. Paul says “pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Furthermore, our prayer should not just be for some petitions, that is for needs but for everything including thanksgiving to God (Phil. 4:6-7).
Finally, the Season invites us to practice fasting and abstinence. The need to fast is basically to mortify the body and elevate the spirit. In his letter to the Galatians (5:16-17), St. Paul tells us that the flesh is at war with the spirit and there is a need for us to live in the spirit and not to gratify the desires of the flesh. Fasting and abstinence help us at this moment to pay attention to the soul by denying our flesh those pleasures that are unhelpful to our spiritual growth.
As we answer the call to RETURN may we continuously keep our eyes on the need to Remember, Repent and Believe and may the three pillars of the Lenten Season, Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting help us to have a rewarding journey through the season.
God bless you and have a beautiful Lenten Season.
A famous quote with a little controversy over its originator says, “watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for they become your destiny”.
One of the things that differentiate us from animals is our ability to speak with clarity and logical reasoning. We use speech to communicate our thoughts and feelings. In the First Reading today (Sirach 27:4-7), the writer tells us that as the fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so does one’s speech disclose what is on the person’s mind and the passage goes on to instruct that it is wrong to praise someone before he (she) speaks.
It Starts in Our Thoughts
While addressing the crowds in the Gospel of Matthew (15:11-20), our Lord Jesus Christ declares that it is not what goes inside of a person that defiles the individual but what comes out from the heart where evil thoughts get their formation. The mouth, in turn, serves to let out the thoughts in words. From this description, we understand that the words that come out from our mouths are verbal expressions of our thoughts.
The description above helps us to understand the importance of actively monitoring what goes into our thoughts mostly from the external senses and how they influence our thoughts. If we keep the doors of our minds open for all kinds of distortions, then our thoughts would be filled with obnoxious things that would, in turn, form the basis of our speeches and actions.
Words are Powerful
From the story of the creation in the Book of Genesis, we learn that God created the world through verbal declarations, for instance, the Book of Genesis (1:3) says, “Then God said, let there be light, and there was light.” There is power in the words we speak; they can help or hinder, encourage or discourage, brighten or darken. The Book of Proverbs (12:6) says, “the words of the wicked are a deadly ambush, but the speech of the upright delivers them.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ relates how our words would determine our fate before God when he mentions that on the day of judgment you will give an account of every careless word you utter. He goes on to say that by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned (Matt. 12:36-37). To guard against unhelpful words, St. Paul gives the following advice to the Ephesians (4:29): “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful to build up as there is a need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
Action Speaks Louder than Words
In the Gospel of Matthew (21:28-31) our Lord presents an interesting parable to demonstrate the importance of action over mere words. The parable speaks of a man who had two sons. He goes to the first and asks him to go and work in the vineyard, and he says he would but later changed his mind. The second son did not agree to go but changed his mind and went. Among the two the one who accomplished the will of the father would be the second son who gave a negative response but later complied with affirmative action.
While the words we use are powerful, our actions could be more powerful. Action results when we dramatize our words. It is like saying “I will help you” and making it happen by helping the person. We often hear God demands actions from us beyond mere words. The First Letter of John (1 John 3:18) says, “little children, let us not love in words or talk but in deeds and truth.
Moving Forward: Mind the Plank in Your Eye!
Sometimes, we have the false feeling that we are better than others and we do not need any form of growth and improvement. It is on account of this faulty thinking that our Lord in the Gospel today (Luke 6:39-45), maintains that we notice the splinter in our brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam (plank) in our eyes. This happens when we are quick to blame, criticize, judge and deride other people while making ourselves “saints” and unimpeachable. From our “plank-studded eyes” we don’t lie, steal, cheat, gossip, nor hate. It is always “the others” not “us”. Note this very well, judging others does not define who they are, it defines who you are!
Life is not about making us appearing good while making others look bad. Life should be more about what God thinks about us. By its fruit, every tree is known. Good trees bear good fruits, and bad trees bear bad fruits. You cannot give what you don’t have!
Instead of wasting time pointing out the mistakes and misdeeds of other people, let us try to focus on our lives; especially on our thoughts to remove those evil thoughts, that produce offensive words, actions, habits, and characters in our lives. There is a constant need to examine and re-examine ourselves to remove the wooden beams that block us from critical self-examination.
May the Lord bless His words in our hearts, and may a fabulous week ahead be our portion. God bless you.
In my country Nigeria, there is a famous axiom in the broken English which says, “do me, I do you, God, no go vex!” In the formal English language, this would mean “if I pay you back with the same evil God would not be angry.” Everywhere in the world, various legal systems have predetermined punishments for the offences people commit against each other like murder, manslaughter, defamation, insults, and others. It seems that nature supports retaliation as a balancing factor in the melody of existence.
The First Reading (1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13, 22-23), we learn about King Saul’s relentless hunt for the life of David. He pursues him as far as the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men from Israel. As the search unfolds, the predator became a prey as David and his military assistant Abishai meet Saul and Abner his commander sleeping away at a vulnerable point.
Abishai, David’s assistant, offers to kill Saul with one thrust of the spear, but David would not allow anyone to harm nor lay hands on Saul; the Lord’s anointed. Standing on a remote hilltop across the place Saul and Abner lay, David wakes them up and shows them the spear and jug he collected from Saul’s head as indications that he had the opportunity to kill him as retaliation for all the evil plots against him. Consequently, David returned kindness for wickedness, he gave love in exchange for hatred. He overcame evil with good.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 6:27-38), our Lord continues the sermon on the plain (level ground) with some instructions that are not as plain as the location as he begins with the command to love one’s enemies and to bless those who curse us. Other instructions under the love for hate standard include non-retaliation and non-violence, unconditional kindness, mercifulness, and forgiveness, refraining from judging people and unfettered charity.
Looking at David’s benevolent reaction to King Saul who was out to kill him and our Lord’s instructions today in the Gospel, we notice what may seem like an “aberration” in the logic of human actions and reactions. However, God’s ways are indeed different from our ways, and his thoughts are different from our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In God’s ways and thoughts, the good should prevail over evil. In the Book of Proverbs (17:13), God says, “if anyone returns evil for good, evil will never leave his house.” In his letter to the Romans (12:17-21), St. Paul instructs that we should not repay evil for evil, but we should be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. He ends by admonishing that we should not allow evil to overcome us, but we should strive to overcome evil with good.
We live in an age and day in which paying back is a norm and returning evil for evil lies within the scope of social justice. However, the word of God today tells us to go beyond the social norm and to aim towards what God wants from us. In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, we should love our enemies though this may sound senseless for “any right-thinking person.”
In God’s design, however, it is sensible to love without limits even those who are out to kill us. We could recall the visit and the forgiveness late Saint Pope John Paul II granted to Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish assassin who shot and injured the late Roman Pontiff on May 13, 1981, in Rome.
You might be at a stage in your life where you might be hurting over something or someone and planning to retaliate or revenge. You might be “right” because you are not at fault. However, take a little time to think through what our Lord is telling us today:
As we march into a new week, let us continue to keep our eye on the Lord’s timeless instructions today as we also reflect on David’s rare act of mercy towards the one who wanted him dead by any means necessary. Keep in mind also that our God is kind and merciful to us and if He should keep a record of our failings, who will survive? (Psalm 130:3).
Have a graceful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.
Once upon a time, a boy was taking a walk with his grandfather through a park, and suddenly they come to a little bridge with a stream beneath meaning to cross over to the other side. Sensing that the little boy would be scared because of the shaky bridge, the grandpa says to the boy “come on! Joe hold my hand!” The boy replies and says to him, “grandpa you hold my hand instead!”. “What’s the difference?” The grandfather cuts in and turning to him the boy says, “well grandpa, there is a big difference. If I hold your hand and something happens, and I slip, I may let go of your hand. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go!” What an expression of trust!
Trust is one word we hear very often from parents, teachers, preachers, politicians, doctors, lawyers and marketers of goods and services. There is so much talk about trust, but we trust only to see ourselves in the trash. I have seen people who say they don’t trust anyone because of one experience or the other. Some people trusted their spouses and got the worst hit in their lives. Family and friends have betrayed some people, and they ask, “who can be trusted?”
Trust Brings Blessings
In the First Reading today (Jeremiah 17:5-8) we hear God making a very profound statement which among other things indicates that curse is on anyone who trusts in human beings, seek strength in the flesh, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. On the contrary, the oracle of the Lord states that blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. The prophecy gives more description of the two individuals. While the person who trust in human beings would be like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted beside the waters that enjoy a steady supply of water even in the seasons of drought.
In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 6:17, 20-26), we hear our Lord’s beatitudes where he ascribes “blessedness” to individuals with various spiritual and moral aptitudes. The individuals that are mentioned in the Lord’s enlistment in the beatitudes share one thing in common, and that is “trust in God.” It takes trust to go through poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, and insults and still cling unto God.
In life, we always choose as to where we put our trust and where we put your trust determines how far you can go in life. You may have numerous reasons for no servicing the virtue of your trust in your life. It could be because you lost your spouse, child, a close relative or a relationship you cherished. Yes, things happen, and there would always be one challenge or the other, that is life.
In all these things and more, a man called Job still trusted in God and exclaimed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). For this reason, God tells us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and He knows the end of your life from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Your trust could turn things around to blessings.
From your human calculation, the pitfalls in your life may be unreasonable. God often allows us to go through the University of adversity, where troubles are teachers and problems are professors. The Book of Proverbs (3:5) advises us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not to lean on our understanding. Your understanding may tell you that you can do it by yourself, that something is wrong with you or that God hates you, your knowledge may tell you that you are incapable! No, God loves you, and you need to trust Him.
As we march into a new week, there is an urgent need for us to revamp the level of your trust in God. Remember, when you stop trusting in God, you start rusting. Have a beautiful and a trust-full week ahead.
February 14th remains a notably remarkable date in the world conventionally known as Valentine’s day, St. Valentine’s day or more colloquially Val’s day. On this day most people seek after who would be their “Val” or “lover”. There seem to be so much craze around the world because February is 14th.
This craze had for a long time turned out to be a business opportunity for many to the extent that February 14th just like December 25th has been highly commercialized. Within a period of twenty-four hours most people lose their cool in an effort to ritualize what they cannot grasp it’s attendant reasons and values. Sometimes I sit and ponder if love that I know is seasonal (as some people would say it is the season of love) or February 14th bound.
There is no universally homogenous history of Valentine’s Day. What we…
View original post 891 more words
Do you know why some treasures are called precious stones (like a diamond, Sapphire, and Emerald) and precious metals (like gold, silver, and platinum)? They are found underneath the earth and to get them one must dig deep into specific rocks and soils. We consider some animals special because they are rarely seen around our living spaces but deep in the wild. If there is a tree that stands still through all the seasons of the year, know for sure that the roots are deep into the soil.
In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 5:1-11), we learn about the call of Simon Peter and his partners from fishers of fish to fishers of men, and foremost followers of Jesus Christ. The narrative reveals that a crowd was listening to our Lord preaching by the lake of Gennesaret and seeing two boats with the fishermen occupants washing their nets he requested for Peter’s boat as a provisional pulpit for his preaching.
At the end to the preaching, our Lord asked Simon to put into the deep and lower the nets for a catch. He replies and tells our Lord that they worked all night and caught nothing but at his command, he would lower the nets. When they put the nets into the deep, they had a huge catch to the extent that the nets were tearing, and they needed help from their partners.
Simon Peter could not contain the miracle and thus asked Jesus Christ our Lord to depart from him for he is a sinful man, but the Lord’s says to him “do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. Thereafter Simon Peter and others left everything and followed him.
Laboring Without the Lord is a Shallow Enterprise
The word deep refers to something that extends from the surface reaching down. In another sense, it refers to an extreme, intense, and thorough measure. The opposite of deep is shallow or superficial and when we compare the two words, we discover that deep is mostly positive while shallow falls to the negative side. For example, we can differentiate between a deep conversation and a shallow one.
Life could be deep or shallow depending on the way and manner we live it. A shallow life is a life without the active presence of Christ. The word of God according to the prophet Isaiah (29:13) expresses shallow life very well where it says:
Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.
The prophet Ezekiel (33:31), talks about the shallow people as those who come, sit and hear the word of God but refuse to do them. In the Gospel of Luke (6:48-49), our Lord Jesus Christ uses the image of building a house with a foundation and without foundation to describe a deep-rooted life versus a shallow life in God
From the event at the Lake, Simon Peter and his fishing partners labored through the night with all their tested and trusted fishing skills yet they were unable to catch a single fish. However, when our Lord Jesus Christ appeared the next day and asked them to put their nets into the deep, they had a great catch. With the Lord, we can do more but without him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
We see a similar situation with the encounter Isaiah had in the temple. The encounter with the glory of God in the temple, made Isaiah confess his shallowness just like Simon Peter would say, “depart from me for I am a sinful man”. When the angel touched Isaiah’s lips the charcoal he was renewed and equipped to go on the mission. And when Peter confessed his sinfulness, he was picked to become a disciple of the Lord.
Our life endeavors are meaningful and fulfilling only when we have God and obey His commands just as Simon did in the passage.
Moving Forward: Put Out into the Deep
Why do we stay on the superficial when we could aim deep? How deep you go determines how far you can go for anything in life. In the Gospel, we see Simon Peter and his partners washing their nets after a fruitless effort throughout the night. Washing their nets is a sign of giving up; they were done for the day. However, when Jesus appears, he lets them know that it is not yet over until God says it is over. What they needed to do was to put out into the deep as the Lord commanded them.
There is something more than what you might be seeing or experiencing in your life now and unless you go deeper you may not get higher. Let us also remember that our successes do not depend solely on our efforts but more on God’s presence in our lives and our readiness to follow him like Simon Peter and his companions who left everything and followed him.
Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week ahead. Remember to put out to the deep for a great catch. God bless you.
Rejection is a negative attitude of turning someone or something away or refusing to let in. The pain of rejection could frustrate and make someone look worthless. Have you ever experienced rejection that often leads to a total ejection? You may like to know the encounters some notable individuals had with the reality of rejection:
In the Gospel narrative today (Luke 4:31-36), our Lord Jesus Christ visits his home town Nazareth for the first time after the beginning of his ministry around the regions of Galilee. What ought to be a grand reception of their own turned out to be a rejection and even an attempted murder. The examples of people who faced rejection at some points in their lives show that they were striving towards some personal goals, but in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, he was rejected not for his gain but for bringing the good news and salvation to his people.
Going through the narrative intently, we understand that our Lord read the prophecy of Isaiah which contains the manifesto his ministry and concludes by acknowledging the fulfilment of scripture in their hearing. The people were more concerned about who said it than what is said, “the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
In the defective minds of the Nazarenes, the son of the carpenter cannot save them with the good news of liberation and restoration (Luke 4:18). For them, nothing good could come out of their town Nazareth (John 1:46). In their estimation, if there should be anything right, it should not come from the son of Mary, the humble lady without lots of material means.
Our Lord did not spare the people by remarking how their familiarity with his background is a hindrance to their faith and blessings from God. Our Lord’s reprisal infuriated them because they could not stand the truth and they drove him out of the town and tried to hurl him off the cliff, but he walked away through the midst of them.
The Rejection of Jesus is the Rejection of Love
When the people of Nazareth drove Jesus Christ away from their town, they were spiritually ejecting and rejection God who is love (1 John 4:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s gift of love to us (John 3:16). The rejection was not just about the son of the carpenter or the son of Mary but more of the rejection of God’s invaluable gift to humanity.
In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:1-13), St. Paul talks about the nature and character of love. Among other things, he mentions that love bears all things, endures all things and love never ends. When the people of Nazareth rejected God’s love through our Lord Jesus Christ, God did not withdraw his love but extended it to the people around Capernaum where our Lord continued his ministry.
Are You Rejecting Jesus Christ?
It would be difficult to hear anyone in the Church answer “yes” to this question consequently; we would likely hear a resounding “no”! But on a deeper level of reflection, we can discover that we reject our Lord Jesus Christ consciously and unconsciously when we fall into sin.
We reject Jesus Christ when we give hatred to others instead of love. We reject Jesus Christ when we close our minds and hearts to the commandments of God. We reject Jesus Christ when we plan and execute evil and fail to do good. If we at this point repeat the question “are you rejecting Jesus Christ? What answer would you give?
The opposite of rejection is acceptance. God is inviting us today to reappraise how we accept and return His unfailing love for us. Furthermore, there is the need for us to examine how we accept the good news through commitment and active participation in the celebration of the Word and the Sacraments.
We need to rise beyond the name “Christians” and thrive to live the Christian life. The Christian life consists of total acceptance and purposeful choice of doing the will of God in season and out of season. The Christian life also involves defending our faith even when we are confronted by trials knowing that He who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb would protect us from the siege of those who fight against us as the First Reading (Jer. 1:4-5,19-19) promises.
Have a beautiful Sunday and a gracious week ahead.
The story of the building of the tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis (11:1-9) is a negative narrative with some positive lessons. The story starts by indicating that the whole world had one language and the same word. At some point, the inhabitants of the world came together and agreed among themselves to build a city with a tower that would reach up to the heavens.
They were making progress in their work until God decided to come down and hack into their “linguistic software” by multiplying languages among them to confuse them. God said that they are one people with one language and there is nothing they propose to do that would be impossible for them. With the multiplicity of languages, they could no longer coordinate themselves, and they scattered and abandoned the tower project.
The critical elements in the story are one language, one people and possibilities. This illustration of the event at the tower of Babel reflects the message of St. Paul today in the Second Reading (1 Cor. 12:12-30). The apostle used the human body which consists of many parts that work together for the well-being the individual to describe what should obtain in the Christian community; the body of Christ, which includes components working together for the common good.
God is the author of unity as well as diversity, and we characterize God as a trinity of persons subsisting in one God. Differences exist to strengthen unity and unity, in turn, is purpose driven. God is the author of the different shades of humans and animal; it is no one’s choice or fault.
Once upon a time, three cats (black, white, and brown) were excellent friends and neighbors. One day, they argued on who has the superior color. The black cat starts by saying that with its black color it is easier to catch preys in the dark. The white interrupts, saying that white is fabulous and people like it a lot. The brown replies and says I am the best among us, not dark and not white so am the best color of a cat!
When they could not settle, they agreed to seek the opinion of a wise one. The wise one, in turn, decides to tell a story. When God was creating cats, the initial model was in the fire for a long time and came out burnt, that is the black cat. The second did not stay in the fire for a long time, that was the white cat. The last was halfway in the fire, and that was the brown cat.
The wise one continues by saying that God did not discard any of three shades of cats but gave each of them the same life. Finally, he tells them that the best thing they all have is their identity as cats which is more superior than their shades of color.
The Gift of Diversity
St. Paul’s example of diversified unity with the working of the human body perfectly describes what God intends by creating diversity. In the passage, St. Paul pointed out that the parts of the body depend on each other for the full functioning of the individual and when any part of the body is defective the other parts suffer.
God intends unity in our diversity that is why we have male and female, tall and short, black and white, rich and poor and other forms of differences like locations and languages. The diversity we have in the world is a special gift that we are yet to understand and appreciate. In the priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ before his passion and death, he asked, “that they may all be one as we are one. As you, father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17:21).
From these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we understand that unity establishes the presence of God in our lives. Furthermore, in the Gospel of Matthew (18:20), Jesus maintains that when two or more are united in his name, he will be in their midst. While diversity is not what we choose, unity is something we voluntarily attend; it is intentional, not accidental.
Unity and Obedience to the Law
Unity happens when different parts work together for a common purpose. However, working together can only take place when the diversity abides by prescriptions of the law. In the First Reading today (Nehemiah 8:2-4a,5-6, 8-10) the people in the assembly were touched by the instructions from the book of the law because they could see that they were not following the purpose driven unity prescribed by God.
The primary mission of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth was to reunite humanity to God after the friction caused by the sin of disobedience. Today in the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21), our Lord Jesus announced the manifesto of his ministry which summarily talks about returning the lost glory we had in God and bringing us back to Him.
Moving Forward: Advancing the Unity Project in Diversity
God says that our diversity can lead us to unity, but the devil tells us otherwise. The ultimate project of the devil is to counteract whatever God says. If we go back to the Book of Genesis (Genesis 3:2), the devil asked the woman, “did God say you should not eat of the fruit of the garden?”
Disunity is the devil’s plan against the unity that should come from our diversity. It takes the divine knowledge to understand that distinction does not impede a step towards purposeful unity. A beautiful mass is not just about the priest but the harmony that comes from various ministries performing their respective duties. The beauty of a great choir is the harmony of different voices.
Unity does not mean sameness. We don’t need to be identical to have unity. May we on this day take some time to look into our personal lives, families, and communities (secular and religious) to know the best ways to revitalize and resuscitate unity in our diversity.
God bless you!
Every wedding ceremony has its peculiar story. There are beautiful ones, and there are humiliating ones like where a bride refused to accept a kiss from the bridegroom. Some are weird, like the viral nudist wedding where the couple and the train appeared unclad at the location. There are others that are just normal without much drama. Couples take the time to prepare extensively for their weddings to make a harvest of good memories that would last for a lifetime, but sometimes the unexpected happens as we would see in this reflection.
The Gospel Reading today (John 2:1-11) tells us about a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Mother Mary was there, and Jesus Christ with his disciples was also a guest. As the ceremony progresses, the wedding feast ran out of wine and Mary approached Jesus his son to complain that they have no wine. Answering, Jesus says to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come”. Turning to the servers, Mary says to them “Do whatever he tells you.”
When Mary left, Jesus asked the servers to fill some six stone jars at the location with water reaching to the brim. Then he asked them to draw some out and take to the headwaiter. The headwaiter tested the water which had become wine and not knowing where it came, confronts the bridegroom for keeping the best wine for the last.
The Gospel narratives conclude with an end note that tells us that the miracle of changing water into wine was the first miracle Jesus Christ performed. He revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.
An Invitation to Jesus Christ
The Gospel account tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus was at the wedding feast and Jesus was also invited with his disciples. A significant aspect of every wedding preparation is the need to send out invitations to prospective guests, and every wedding feast would be as worthwhile as the people who are invited.
The book of Revelation (3:20) presents a picture of Christ knocking at a door and waiting for the house owner to let him in to dine with the household. When we make God the special guest in the events in our lives, He would, in turn, become the special host who would provide for us in times of need. In the book of Genesis (18:1ff), Abraham invited God to his house and God, in turn, blessed him with the fulfillment of the promise of a son.
They have no Wine!
These were the exact words of Mary to her Son Jesus Christ when the wine at the wedding feast ran out. Mary comes to Jesus at a very critical point. A wedding feast without wine is a disaster. A typical Jewish wedding would last for about five to six days, and they are not fasting days as food and drink would flow through the entire period. When the Gospel said on the third day, we may think of it as the third day of the wedding ceremony, and that would mean at the middle of the entire wedding event.
Mother Mary was concerned about the impending shame that would fall on the newlywed, and she goes to the son for immediate rescue. Mary’s request to her son shows her in-depth knowledge of her son and his mission on earth. Furthermore, it is a profound expression of her faith in the son’s ability to take care of needs.
In life, we sometimes run out of wine when we see darkness instead of light when life gives us several reasons to give up because of the challenges around us. We run out wine when things seem to be falling apart starting from our families to other areas of our lives. When we run out of wine may we remember that through Mary to Jesus Christ we can have a remedy beyond the normal
Faith Through the Revelation of His Glory
At the heart of the miracle of changing water into wine, our Lord Jesus Christ manifested his glory to his disciples who witnessed the sign. We could say that the miracle at Cana in Galilee is the culmination of a series of manifestations (epiphanies). Happening at the beginning of his ministry, it was very fitting that his closest disciples witness this manifestation for the strengthening of their faith.
More than two thousand years after the miracle at Cana in Galilee, we do not need another changing of water into wine to build and sustain our faith in the salvific power of our Lord Jesus Christ especially when we run out of wine in our lives.
The greatest gift from God to us is Jesus Christ the Emmanuel (God-with-us). God’s presence in our lives like the presence of Jesus Christ at the wedding feast is the greatest miracle in our lives. With our Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate guest in our lives, the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) comes to fulfillment as nations will behold our vindication and we shall have a new name as the new wine at the wedding feast.
As we make progress in the New Year, let us keep our attention on Jesus Christ who has the solution to every lack in our lives, and like his mother, Mary recommended to the servers, may we be ready to obey his words. I wish you a beautiful week ahead and may God bless you always.