John 8:31-42. Are we free or slaves? The Jews were confident in saying, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” But, Jesus said to them, “I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” We don’t easily understand that sin enslaves the sinner. Sin can give us pleasure, but it can also enslave us. Often, we are so focused on the pleasure that goes with sinning, but we fail to notice the hand of the evil one whose only wish is to bring us harm. We don’t like to be controlled or forced by anyone. But that is what the devil is doing to us by getting us into the habit of sinning. Jesus offers us a way out: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
John 8:21-30. Do we belong to God or to the world? The “world” in John’s gospel does not simply refer to the material world, but to all forces and mentalities that oppose the Kingdom of God. Thus, to his Jewish accusers, Jesus said: “You are of this world, I am not of this world.” Jesus became flesh, shared our human nature, and lived with us, but he remained conscious that he has a Father in heaven to whom he is united and for whom he is doing everything. And this is also Jesus’ invitation to all of us: to live in the world without becoming worldly. God gives this material world to us. We live here and enjoy its good things. And yet, let us not forget that we belong to God and we have to use everything to promote love, joy, peace and justice, or simply, the kingdom of God.
Monday, April 7, 2014
John 8:1-11. Are we called to condemn or to forgive? The Scribes and the Pharisees were inclined to condemn not only the woman but also Jesus. They brought to the Lord a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to test him regarding the issue of retribution so that they could find something to accuse him. If Jesus said the woman must be pardoned, he would be held in contempt of the Law of Moses. If he said the woman must be stoned to death, he would be contradicting himself as a teacher of mercy. Jesus’ response showed the greatness of his mind and heart. “Let him who has no sin be the first one to throw a stone at her.” No one dared to cast a single stone because all have realized their sinfulness. “Neither do I condemn you”, the Lord said, “Go, and sin no more.”
Saturday, March 29, 2014
1 Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13, Ps 23:1-6, Eph 5:8-14, Jn 9:1-41
The gospel gives us an idea of two kinds of blindness – one is physical, the other is spiritual. The man whom Jesus encountered on the road was physically blind; his incapacity to see the physical world was inborn. While the Pharisees who questioned Jesus’ healing ministry on a Sabbath were spiritually blind; they were able to see the letters of the law, but they couldn’t see the serious need of a person and the salvific nature of Jesus’ action.
Physical and spiritual blindness are both deprivations. On the one hand, physical sight is essential to appreciate the beauty of the corporeal world. It is also an important faculty to find our way to things, people and places. Without physical sight, we can hardly reach destinations. On the other hand, spiritual sight is necessary to understand the deeper meanings of life, the interior splendor of people, and the invisible movements of the Spirit. It is likewise an essential faculty to find our way to heaven or to God, who is our ultimate destination.
Few people are physically blind, but many of us have some degree of spiritual blindness. Sometimes, for example, we fail to see the needs of people around us. What we usually see are our personal and domestic necessities, but not the needs of poor neighbors. Sometimes also we fail to recognize the goodness in people. We are quick to notice weaknesses and inadequacies of individuals, but not their strengths and gifts. Moreover, we easily observe the faults and failures of other people, but we do not easily acknowledge our own mistakes and sins.
However, the most serious kind of spiritual blindness is the inability to notice the silent works of God. How conscious are we of the Divine presence in our lives? Regularly, without us knowing it, God supports, protects and nourishes us with material and spiritual blessings such as food, water, air, comfort, joy, work, recreation, business, family and friends. How often do we fail to count these blessings? Instead of seeing graces, we normally see misfortunes. Instead of counting blessings, we often count misgivings. When we fail to appreciate God’s gifts, we would not be able to give Him thanks.
As we move through the season of Lent, let us humbly ask the Lord Jesus to increase our ability to see and acknowledge our sinful thoughts, desires and actions so that we will come to follow Him more closely on the road to Easter.
John Newton was a slave trader in the 18th century. There was a violent storm at sea that tossed his slave ship like a matchstick. Newton was terrified, and he cried out to God, “If you stop this storm, see me safely home, I promise to cease slave-trading, and to become your slave.” The ship survived, and Newton kept his promise. He became a minister of the gospel, and it was he who later wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
(The story of Newton is from 150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers by Jack McArdle)
Friday, March 28, 2014
Luke 18:9-14. What makes a prayer pleasing to God? The parable presents two people at prayer. One, a Pharisee, started his prayer with thanksgiving. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Wait, this is not a thanksgiving prayer but an act of shaming others. Isn’t it? “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” Oopps, this is not giving praise to God but to self. According to Jesus, God did not hear the prayer of the proud Pharisee. The other, a tax-collector, stood humbly and begged for mercy. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The tax-collector confessed that he is a great sinner and he knew that only God can justify him. Jesus said that God was pleased by the man’s humility, and He forgave him.